Twenty years ago, two semi-retired superheroes decided to start up their adventures again, and flew off to fight crime. Never mind their six children, ranging in age from two to fifteen. They wanted to live their heroic lives again, and they were tired of the brood of kids weighing them down.
One by one, each of their children was quietly shipped off to a boarding school here, a training program there. But by the time they got to their youngest daughter, they were impatient to set off for their new life beyond Paragon City. They hurriedly settled for leaving her in the wilderness outside Paragon City, apparently hoping that some compassionate travelers or nearby family would care for her.
When they left the child, it was getting close to nighttime, and as darkness slowly fell around the weeping girl, mindless terror overtook her. Vague black shapes of low tree branches became terrible, towering monsters; the full moon above was a merciless spotlight, trapping her. It was only when she ran out of the forest, close to dawn, that she found the tiny brick building with a group of strong soldiers, all dressed in black fitted suits of technology armor. They took her in, gave her food and water from their supplies, and tucked the toddler up in one of their bunks.
...At least, this is the version of the truth Salartha got as a child, and it's the one that fed her power as she grew up. Raised by the Arachnos Council since she was two years old, Salartha heard the story of her abandonment and rescue over and over again until she could recite it from memory--in her memory now lies the shadows of those trees, sharp branches reaching for her, and the overwhelming desire to hide and swath herself in darkness, with moonlight foiling her plans. But the people at the Council base were kind, and taught her how to use that need for darkness to summon more powers than she could have ever imagined.
Among the officers there that early morning was an elderly scientist, who saw the young girl who would become Salartha, and recognized her potential as a weapon for their campaign against the heroes of Paragon City. After all, the child had survived a night outside the city without going insane or dying; she was truly made of strong mettle. With the scientist's help, Salartha trained her use of dark powers through chemicals and experiments, slowly understanding where exactly her powers came from so that she would be able to hone them for eventual battle within Paragon City.
Of course, no one in the Council base spoke of Salartha's parents, except to tell her the story of her rescue, or to curse their names for turning away from such a brilliant child. No one spoke of the twin metal boxes buried nearly nine feet below the base, each holding a complete human skeleton covered with rotting scraps of brightly-colored spandex and silk. No one spoke of the five other children that were captured--after all, four were quickly destroyed because they were simply too old to train. And as for the fifth child, well, she was busy being reprogrammed as an assassin...just like her little sister, in a way.
Salartha knew none of this for most of her 20 years--the Arachnos kept its secrets well. As far as she knew, her supposedly heroic parents abandoned her and left her to die in the forest, and only out of the compassion in the officers' hearts did she survive. Her personal mission was to teach Paragon City that its heroes aren't the romanticized “good people” the citizens think they are. After all, she should know, since her erstwhile parents were supposedly two of its finest.
But this illusion shattered some weeks after Catarinya escaped. In the wake of their ultimate weapon's disappearance, the Council was in a frenzied state of panic and disorder. In an attempt to help stabilize her workplace, Salartha began to research in the older archived files about "Claws" (now calling herself "Catarinya"), to see if there was a way she could trap the weapon or get it to come back. In the process, she discovered a classified file with several photos in it--one she recognized as a baby picture of herself, but it was on a page with seven other people who looked very much like her. Salartha's picture was the last one listed--she was denoted simply as "FEMALE--TWO YEARS OF AGE", right beside an older girl with the words "FEMALE--EIGHT YEARS OF AGE". Underneath the older girl's picture was the word "CLAWS" in what Salartha recognized as General Pystov's hasty printscript. Underneath Salartha's own picture was written "REPROG. COMPLETE."
Salartha nearly dropped the file, her hands trembling. This older girl...she and Salartha could have been mirror images at the same age. This was one of her family members...and she had been made into the weapon "Claws?" By her OWN serum?!
A few minutes later, several chemical experiments exploded in the science lab, followed by the discovery that Salartha was no longer in her dormitory. Indeed, she was a few miles away, flying at top speed in a "borrowed" Council helicopter. She was off to find the sister she had been mutating and torturing...she was going to find her, join up with the heroes if she had to, find out who her family really was. Certainly, the Council was not her family anymore.
When my boyfriend told me about the Mastermind he had created on City of Villains, I knew I wanted to create a Villain to play alongside him on redside. But I also knew I didn’t want a villain who was evil just to be evil. I wanted a female villain who had depth and believability, who was human and who had been simply twisted by her indoctrinated upbringing.
Enter the Arachnos Council-tainted backstory, and the terrible story Salartha has heard all her life about her parents. The poignant tragedy of it all makes Salartha almost a pitiable character rather than a fearsome character; she does evil because that is all she has heard and all she has been trained to know. As I created her, I had the feeling that if she were exposed to true good, she just might have a change of heart.
I chose the Dark Blast and Dark Miasma power pools to suit her villainous beginnings--literally, she harnesses the power of darkness, but she still heals and supports her allies. In a way, this reveals Salartha to be quite the pleaser personality; she works very hard for her allies, but she has been trained to do so to please the Council leaders who have come to rely on her strength. As a villain, she's more pitiable than fearsome because of this. (This character feature also made it possible to transfer her over to heroside--more about that in "Character Development."
The name "Salartha" was actually quite random--it popped into my head as I was messing around in the Character Creation screens, developing my new Science Corruptor. I wanted something that had a little more foreboding sound to it, as if to say "you don't mess with this girl," and yet be feminine enough to suit the character's wounded-little-girl side that has never quite grown up.
The complicated backstory and humanized reactions made it easier to play Salartha as a villain, since I didn’t really like playing a character who’s just pure evil for the sake of it. Adding in the heroic sister in Paragon City (Catarinya) made things even more twisted, since both have been manipulated by the Council, but one sister chose to break free, and the other was so trapped she didn't realize she was being manipulated.
However, when the Going Rogue expansion came out for City of Heroes, it opened up an opportunity to finally take Salartha heroside. To that end, I wrote the next part of her backstory, about her discovery of the Council's lies and manipulation, spurring her to break with all that she has known in an almost nervous-breakdown rage. All of a sudden, she learns the people she has been raised by, trained by, and loved by have been lying to her about her family all along. She no longer wants to please them--she wants to get as far away as possible, and go to Paragon City to learn what her family was REALLY like. This leads her to eventually transfer herself from villain to hero, and to finally reunite with the sister she never knew she knew (the Council's mutated weapon).