How had it all changed, so fast? Only a few months ago Rilianna had been one of the most powerful women in the neighborhood, the wife of the most revered ninja master and trainer in at least a hundred-mile radius. Young men came from all over the countryside to train with him, to gain honor and strength; she served as surrogate mother when they felt homesick, and did her best to heal them when they were injured. Together, their efforts were respected, hailed as revolutionary, even. No one had ever combined hard training and nurturing to produce men worthy of the title of ninja, and yet their proteges were some of the best.
That was all before now. Before some idiot novice from a rival training school thought he'd get honor for his master by killing his "enemy." She had awoken to a silent house, and a trail of blood leading over the second-floor balcony just off their bedroom...then, horror scrubbed her mind clean of all thoughts. No one could have gotten inside their house except another ninja; the fact that the novice bragged about his successful hit only confirmed what she already knew.
Her husband slain, Rilianna felt empty, aimless, somehow drained. What would happen now? She could not carry on her husband's work, nor would she try--the young men needed someone who could train them as quickly and efficiently as he had done, and she would not taint his legacy. After the funeral, nothing seemed to matter anymore, anyway; her life's work, its entire meaning, seemed unraveled before her, and the gray fog of depression began to steal over her mind.
But while the house lay in mourning, one by one the trainees gathered together in the village, determined to do something for the great lady who had cared for them. At last, they came up with an idea.
"Me? Lead you into battle?" Rilianna nearly choked on the words as she spoke them. "I couldn't possibly. My husband was your master--I cannot take his place!"
"Of course, my lady," the eldest one said, with authority. He had been very near to completing his training before all this. "But we have discussed it...you are the right one to avenge him. We pledged him fealty, and now that passes to you--you have been mother to us when we had none. It is only fitting that we fight for your honor now."
The younger students nodded in assent; Rilianna looked around the small group, surprised at how they all seemed to have banded together. There had been some mild competition between them, before, but now they seemed clear in their purpose.
"So...what do you, as a group, propose for us to do, then?" Rilianna asked, in her best diplomatic tone.
"Seek vengeance," said one of the younger students. "Destroy them." One or two of the others agreed. This was dangerous; they thirsted for revenge, and so did she, if she was honest, but she could not allow them to enact their own justice, not before the law could officially act. She had to be careful. These young men were very young, indeed, and could get into deep trouble with that kind of unbridled wrath.
"No, no," she said at last, shaking her head. "I can't let you do that, not even for honor." She took a breath; this next bit was hard to say. "I, too, wish I could take vengeance, but it is not my right to kill, not before the law has had its say. If my husband taught you anything, it was that."
Who would have known, then, that "the law" Rilianna defended would fall on the side of the rivals? Every official, it seemed, believed that her husband had been involved in criminal activity, and that this was the reason he'd been killed. Never mind the novice's gleeful boasting, never mind all the character witnesses who testified that her husband was an upstanding citizen. To the courts, the case was open-and-shut, and nothing she said seemed to change their minds.
Cold anger froze into a block of ice within her; if the law could not catch her husband's killer, she would. But she would train herself within the bounds of Paragon City first, to learn to lead these young men and complete their training as she believed her husband would have done. Then, when she found the guilty party at last...well, she'd be ready.
Rilianna is partly a riff on fantasy Japanese culture, and partly an homage to my grandmother, Nannie Audell, one of the toughest women I think I've ever known. Nannie lost her husband, my Papaw Raymond, in 1974 due to a massive heart attack, and lived alone until late in 2000 when she passed away--but that didn't mean she didn't have people to help her. Tough as she was, she had also amassed a corps of people to help her out when she needed it; most of them were good friends of Papaw Raymond's and had grown to love and respect her through knowing him. (Not to mention that she was unafraid to name-drop if she needed to convince someone that she needed help!)
Rilianna is only slightly gentler; I did not want her to be a true villain, though she is a Villain archetype. But Rilianna is similarly unafraid to use her husband's name and all its attached respect to further her, now that she is alone.
The name "Rilianna" is a slightly tweaked version of a character name from an old story of mine; it seemed to fit the character I was trying to create, since it sounded regal and flowing.
As I bring Rilianna along, I plan to make her a self-sustaining Mastermind, able to heal and buff her little ninjas and keep them alive so that the main healer of the team does not have to worry so much about her. I also hope that as she levels up, she can become a good solo character, too.
As for how she can function within a team, I'm already seeing that Rilianna should probably not be the main healer of a team, since she's got to look after her pets first. But as a secondary healer, I think she'd be perfect.