This is the next in the series of profiles of characters who will appear in the Shine Cycle, my fantasy-series-in-preparation.
Elva – Knight and a low-ranked bureaucrat in the Imperial Service. Besides winning the amateur division of the Imperial Cup’s cross country competition about every other year until she was knighted, she also declined several promotions in the Imperial Service in favor of others she thought more deserving. Her low rank in the Service is also attributable to the Palace’s attempt to keep her and her sister Octavia together, offering major promotions only when two of a given position opened up.
A slender but athletic woman of medium height, she usually keeps her light brown hair tied back and out of her way even when not on the athletic fields. Rather than the robes that are popular in the Imperial Service, she favors a unique costume that she considers both more functional and more comfortable as well as easier to move in. Most of the time she wears it in dark colors.
Elva is fiercely devoted to her sister and passionate about her physical condition and athletic and combat skills. On the other hand, she works diligently to build and preserve a professional reputation of which she feels she can be proud, in general and in specific specialties she finds interesting and important, rather than using her time in her job to serve her “hobby.” And she spends about half of her evenings, after shorter days on the practice courts, strengthening social ties with friends and colleagues. But she spends her afternoons and the remaining evenings training for her next race or maintaining her sharp combat skills, often alongside and with the help of her sister.
When she arrived in the Empire, Elva joined several of her peers in taking a cultural orientation course offered by the Imperial Service. A few months into this course, she learned about the Imperial Cup amateur athletic competitions, and found herself inspired to win the Cup in at least one long-distance running event.
After the intensive schedule of the orientation course ended, she began training herself to get back into what she thought was “competitive condition.” At the next Imperial Cup, she ran in several races, and though her times were close to what she had usually achieved “in her prime” on Earth, she found that she did not even beat half of her competitors in any of the races.
When the government announced that it would begin tapering off the renumerative stipend it had offered to all of the Earth-natives who had abruptly found themselves in the Empire, she looked for work and took a position as a clerk in the Imperial Service. A year later, when her new job brought her material she found interesting but almost so foreign as to leave her deviously perplexed, she began taking classes at the Academy to give her further background for her work.
Once she found her stride at the Academy, she began to take advantage of the athletic training facilities and coaches it offered in conjunction with the knighthood-training concentration; over the course of the next year and a half, she improved her performance to the point that a Cup victory now looked almost within reach. Her instructors there encouraged her to investigate arms training and martial arts for self-defense and as another possible avenue for athletic competition. When she did so, she quickly took to the arts, finding them interesting and enjoyable, but she also realized that she would probably never reach a nationally-competitive skill level.
In her work in the Imperial Service, soon after that Elva was transferred to an administrative office in the records division of the Imperial Service that dealt with various vital statistics; in this capacity, over the next several years, she came to know nearly everyone in the Imperial Service in the capital, and heard many of their struggles and successes.
The following year, she competed in the Imperial Cup competition, focusing her training on a single race; she medaled for the first time, but did not win.
That same year, in the course of her work, she heard a great deal from and about one acquaintance in particular, who had been laboring mightily in obscurity in one of the poorer neighborhoods of the capital. His story moved her deeply, and she took it upon herself to champion him, arguing for his promotion in the Service and an increase in his budget, even at the cost of her own chance for a promotion that year and a partially-corresponding reduction in her own budget.
A few years later, she was transferred to a more public-facing position in the Imperial Service, where she became the face of and spokeswoman for the Service’s ombudsman office in the capital. While she served in that office, she worked and studied to become knowledgeable, at and slightly beyond a most basic level, about the matters that came before the office, and to help her colleagues achieve their professional goals.
About five years after she accepted that position, she won the Imperial Cup in the three-mile footrace for the first time, bringing her to national prominence. She took third the following year, won again the year after that, and in the year after that took second in that distance and also placed third in the five-mile race, which she won the following year. This pattern of winning the Cup in one long-distance race every other year continued until her knighthood prompted her to resign from competition.
As she gained prominence, she increased her involvement in the Academy’s martial-arts courses. After she participated in some mass-duel exercises, she also began to pursue the strategy and tactics sections of the curriculum. She proved competent but unexceptional in those areas.
Her advisor eventually pointed out to her that she had completed all the coursework of the knighthood-training concentration, and suggested that she follow the path to completion. So she took a leave of absence from the Imperial Service and found a knight-master who agreed to train her. Under his tutelage her combat skills improved from “minimally-competent” to “competitive,” and her general conditioning also improved, which helped her to medal in two Imperial Cup events in the same year for the first time. After the alloted time with him, she was knighted, and (the war being very recently over) returned to her work in the Imperial Service.
After being knighted, she did not really feel herself eligible to compete for the Imperial Cup as an amateur anymore, so she officially resigned from formal competition, and adjusted her training to please herself now that she had no reason to strive to meet a particular competitive standard.