|Growing up in Caliphas, in the haunted nation of Ustalav, Mios Uriev learned that monsters can look like anyone, but they normally look like the rich.
Mios was born poor in the city of dark excess. In a place where disappearances were the norm, their parents raised them with a strict but protective hand, shutting the door to their meager home firmly at night. Mios took solace from this grim upbringing in knowledge, diving into whatever books they could get their hands on and seeking tales wherever they could find them, resulting in an eclectic education. One month, they memorized religious hymns from Andoran; another, they’d rush to finish their errands so they could see a presentation on medical practices from Qadira. It didn’t matter the subject, so long as they could dig into the knowledge the world of books presented to them. They had few friends, but that mattered little in the face of the company their learning provided.
Grown into a young adult full of studied confidence, Mios found work as a night coach driver—though they aspired to something loftier, opportunities were limited for a young worker of their means. Night after night, through pounding rain and choking fog, they drove their charges from grand homes to lavish parties and more often than not, their patrons gave Mios the chills. Perhaps it was the unnatural pallor of their faces or the glint of too-sharp teeth, but Mios became increasingly convinced that a number of Caliphas’s elite were monsters. And one night, their fears were proven true.
That night, under the light of the full moon, Mios drove a young noble to a banquet at a secluded mansion. The man seemed agitated, restless, fidgeting and twitching and pulling the blinds tight. A shiver laced through Mios’s stomach as the carriage began to shake. An enormous roar split through the night as the foolish noble tore through his finery, the transformation taking him. Scrambling, Mios pulled the cart to the side of the darkened road, grabbing their lantern.
The wolf leaped forward with dripping maw, tearing at Mios’s leg with yellowed canines and letting out a sickening crunch as tooth hit bone. With a swing of their arm, Mios shone their lantern in the creature’s face, shouting to drive him off. The beast recoiled, almost seeming to remember himself for a moment, the lantern’s light illuminating his feral form. The creature dove from the carriage and scrambled into the night, leaving Mios bleeding... but alive.
A werewolf bite, they thought grimly as they drove home, barely hanging onto consciousness. Countless cures written in dusty tomes or purported by local folk healers, but none proven, none reliable. No hope, most might think. But Mios believed in knowledge, believed in the power of the written word and the passed-down tale. Over the next month, they nursed their near-shattered leg, which would heal but never be quite the same, always requiring a brace to hold it steady. While their body recovered, they stretched their mind, reading every text they could get their hands on, apocryphal or not, and trying every reported cure. Herbal remedies, blood sacrifices of small animals, and stranger, they tried method after method, hoping one would stick. When the full moon next came, they drove into the woods and waited in terror for what all said was inevitable. The moon rose painfully slow, each moment an agonizing wait for the pain to begin, for the cracking of bones and sprouting of fur and claw. But the night waxed on, and the moon reached its anticlimactic zenith. Mios sat in silence. Could it be possible? Had they found a cure among the dozens of methods they tried? It appeared so. Which cure had actually worked, they’d never know, but their dedication and desperation had paid off. They had fought off the bite.
After their miraculous escape from this dark fate, Mios’s everyday life, ferrying others back and forth along the same wagon tracks, seemed devoid of meaning. They had discovered an incredible truth: fates weren’t sealed. Their learning, their dedication, it made them more than just a driver. To continue with their previous life felt like a waste of the gift they were just beginning to realize they possessed. Because the world was full of dark things, the powerful preying on the weak. Their lantern, which once shone the way through darkened streets, could shine a light on creatures of the night and bring hope to those in need.
And so, Mios set forth on a life of adventure, knowledge as their weapon. The unknown, the dark, all could be illuminated by the right source: their wit, their determination, and their lantern’s unfailing light.