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Janissa the Widowmaker (Conan ally) (Dark Horse Comics) sneaking through a window

Janissa the Widowmaker


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Janissa the Widowmaker is a Conan character. She appeared in adventures of the Cimmerian published By Dark Horse Comics in 2005/2006. I seem to remember that she was intended to occupy Red Sonja’s niche if IP issues made it impossible to feature Sonja.

In any case, she’s badass and too cool not to write up !


Background

  • Real Name: Janissa.
  • Other Aliases: Deadliest bladeswoman of the Hyborian Age, The Widowmaker, Daughter of Bones.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Unnamed sisters, Lestario? (father, possibly deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: Servant of the Bone Woman.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile ; formerly Ceodiz, Zingara.
  • Height: 5’8” Weight: 132 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Black


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Powers and Abilities

Janissa is a brutal killer who fights with elegance and grace. Her durability, toughness, strength and probably also speed have all been magically enhanced. She is tough as nails and will quickly brush off attacks that would have killed lesser warriors. Janissa is quite possibly superhumanly strong for her mass.

She is trained in combat tactics and strategy and regularly uses various taunts, unexpected moves and other gambits to get the upper hand. Janissa also has excellent senses, and is remarkably skilled at stealth.

She can also climb walls as well as Conan. The Daughter of Bones has considerable acrobatic skill, which she employs to great effect in combat situations.

Equipment

The Widowmaker usually fight with a light sword with two distinct curvatures, similar to the Ancient Egyptian kopesh . When the fighting gets heavy she’ll draw her second kopesh to dual-wield. She also packs a large double-edged dagger as a backup.


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On an assassination mission she carried a garrote and a brace of slim throwing knives with a heavy spherical pommel for balance. Where she stores those is unclear.

In addition to her weaponry she carries a mystical wand that allows her to communicate with the Bone Woman over long distances. The Bone Woman has occasionally communicated telepathically with Janissa without Janissa using the wand. Perhaps the link persists for some time after use.

Janissa’s equipment might also include powders, potions and other trinkets provided by the Bone Woman to navigate a specific obstacle.


History

Janissa grew up in Ceodiz, in the non-Hyborian nation of Zingara. Her father had several daughters but no son. Thus, he had to prepare the best marriages he could get for his children. Young Janissa hated the idea, though. Unlike her sisters she wanted to live on her own and know the world.

She knew of a witch living in the hills – the Bone Woman. One night she sneaked away on a horse and found her.

The Bone Woman

The young and naïve Janissa wanted the witch to magically give her strength and fighting skill. Thus, she agreed to serve her for twice as long as the training would last. There was, of course, a catch. The witch threw her down in a cave and gave her a sword.

Janissa, Conan and villagers

Every night, demons would come and brutalise the soft merchant’s daughter in increasing numbers. Initially she could pose very little resistance. But having no choice she gradually hardened and learned to fight. When she managed to kill one, the witch started giving her healing draughts and advice.

Though the assaults and torture continued nightly, Janissa kept killing more of her demonic abusers each time before they could overrun her. The Bone Woman then started binding human bones to her “pupil”. Overnight the bones, which apparently belonged to long-dead fighters, fused with Janissa. Then the body part they had been lashed to held greater strength.

Only the strong

Still the ordeal continued. There eventually came an entire month where no demon could touch her, as she killed the entire nightly horde before they could take her down. The Bone Woman then left her out.

How long Janissa spent in the cave is unknown, as she soon lost track of time.

By this point Janissa was in an odd state of mind. She did not seem to resent the Bone Woman, whom she half-considered her saviour. Janissa also knew the witch had executed her part of the deal. Janissa just moved on to her new job as the Bone Woman’s red right hand, keeping to herself and working as a fighter and agent.

The Widowmaker worked as an international enforcer and hitwoman for the Bone Woman. The witch’s shady influence seems to reach all across the known world and who seems to aim to steer history.

Mighty thews

Eventually, the Bone Woman developed an interest in Conan of Cimmeria. She had Janissa drug him and arrange for his arrest. Janissa then offered her services as a bodyguard to Kalanthes, a priest of Ibis and enemy of the mighty Thoth-Amon.

As planned, Kalanthes and his men then came across Conan the Cimmerian, who offered his services in exchange for bail. Conan scoffed at the presence of Janissa as a bodyguard. He triggered a fighting match against Janissa, that ended in a draw.

Janissa the Widowmaker fighting many demons

Kalanthes was on a quest to destroy a nefarious gemstone coveted by Thoth-Amon. He was ultimately successful, in large part due to his extraordinary bodyguards. Janissa told Conan about her origins, and how she had bushwhacked him.

Conan eventually repaid her ambush by forcing her to be the one undergoing communion with the ancient nature god that could destroy the stone. The Cimmerian was himself too averse toward the supernatural.

The communion worked, the stone was destroyed and Thoth-Amon had to fall back. Though Janissa was furious, she knew that Conan’s betrayal was repaying her own and that they were now even. She left to continue her work for the Bone Woman.

Demon’s blood

At an unrevealed point the wise Kalanthes again worked with Janissa and Conan against Thoth-Amon. One suspects that the evil wizard had sought vengeance against the three, urging them to ally.

Janissa fights with her kopesh swords

The three adventurers had to flee, chased by an immense demon horde. But they made a successful stand until dawn in a random village after two other villages fell to the demons. Hundreds had been killed over the night, but Thoth-Amon had again been thwarted.

Later still, Conan (again working for Kalanthes) and Janissa (working for the Bone Woman) invaded the horrendous Tower of Tara-Teth and its many magical protections within minutes of each other. Having come through different apertures, they did not realise each other’s presence until, having overcome all defenses, they met fighting the final guardians.

They prevailed through teamwork. Though Conan was at that point in marginally better shape than the mauled Janissa, he cleft the prize in two. This way they could both fulfill their mission and once again part as peers.


Geographical/linguistic context

Since the Conan-verse is a remarkably static place there are lot of geographic and cultural connections to be made between the Hyborean world and the modern one. The great cataclysm changed coastal borders and created new seas, but the peoples and cultures remain much unchanged to modern times.

A comparison of the maps of the Conan-verse before and after the cataclysm shows that Zingara includes the modern Iberian peninsula. Names like Zamora and Ceodiz (modern Cádiz ) are hints at the fictional connection. Janissa would thus be an ancestor of the later Hispanics.

Janissa vs. Conan

A proposed list of some of the old Hyborean languages, which are all supposed to be very different to each other, would consist of the pre-languages of modern Basque, Maltese, Turkish, the odd languages of the Caucasus and the Uralic languages. These were all present in larger Europe before the arrival of the indo-europeans (“the sons of arya”)

Of course, a lot of other Hyborean languages would also have dissappeared almost without a trace. Since Zingara is basically very early Spain, Janissa’s native language was possibly a form of early Basque.

More notes

This is in contrast with the origins of Red Sonja, who is supposedly the template for Janissa. Red Sonja was from Hyrkania, which would equate the original Turkish homelands. Red Sonja, the original turk, would have spoken a pre-language of Turkish.

The name Janissa, resembling the word janissary, might be a homage to Robert E. Howard’s writings and the origins of Red Sonja (who was from Hyrkania, the original Turkish homelands).

As to Conan himself, it is, unfortunately difficult to determine what he, being from Cimmeria, which equates to southern Sweden, Denmark and Scotland, would have spoken. Cimmerian is characterized by a strong accent and would have been a language that was spoken before the introduction of Germanic in the area. As to his culture, it’s clear that Conan came from the Beowulf area.


Description

Although she is a slight woman, Janissa’s strength is equal to Conan’s. She has raven-black or brown hair and pale skin, marked with scars from her battles. Notably, her attractive facial features are marked by a scar running from the right edge of her left eye to the left edge of her mouth.

Janissa is usually clad in a style somewhat similar to Roman warriors in brown leather. She never wears anything that hinders her movement and so usually doesn’t wear too much.

Her body language shows utter and complete confidence ready to handle any situation. On the rare occasions that she smiles, she smiles like a demon herself. She’s not a large person, and her physical power is out of proportion with her stature and mass. Casual onlookers will usually assume that she can’t be a serious threat.

Janissa’s eyes are often drawn with abnormally large black irises, or completely black. This seems to be artistic license, as no character in-story ever notices those. Still, it is possible that is an exaggeration rather than a metaphor, since the highly observant Conan perceived that something that off about her without being able to pin it down.


Personality

Janissa is a very bitter warrior. She has a caustic and brutal sense of humor. Only in the midst of the roughest of combat will she have a wry smile on her face – almost as if engaged in something very familiar and pleasurable.

At all times she displays a warrior’s calm and apparently nothing, including monsters, demons, predators etc. can scare her. She is a very quick thinker in combat situations. Given her unusual background she is probably used to the bizarre. Much like with Conan, only magic rituals seem to disturb her sense of peace.

Janissa also radiates a sense of danger and power. Those who have seen her fight even once will have developed a deep respect for her abilities and will likely leave her alone. Janissa is starting to get quite the reputation in the Hyborian world.

On the rare occasions that she tells her story, she will become very angry if she is pitied. Janissa’s religion is unknown, but she has made references to Ishtar and Akkad.

Janissa uses a telepathy wand

Janissa knows full well that she can handle any threat – she has met the worst the world has to offer and slayed them all. Given her exceptional abilities she sees nobody as her equal. Only Conan has managed to get her respect as a warrior and Janissa will help him out as long as it doesn’t clash with her orders from the Bone Woman.

As to the Bone Woman, she serves her with an almost humble attitude and will always follow her orders to the letter. She likely hates the Bone Woman for what she has done to her while at the same time she respects her unearthly knowledge, power and wisdom. She is likely grateful for all the exceptional abilities she has been forced to develop.

When her time of service is ended, Janissa will have exactly the freedom she craved for, but the cost might have been much too high, only time will tell.


Quotes

“Even if you could kill me, Merchant… do you think that would end it ? That you could escape her ? There is no escape from the Bone Woman, merchant. No escape for anyone.”

[Facing an army of skeleton warriors] “Ah, look. More of you. All eager for a dance, hmm ? Let’s to it, then.”

“Such a sunny, merry face. Is it the evil manifestations you like, or has our priestly host been telling jokes again ?”

“Two towns already have been overrun tonight, loud one, and all in them lie dead. Shall we ride for the next stinking cluster of hovels in this dark valley, and leave you to the demons ?”

Janissa, In a test of skill with Conan: “They’re all death-battles, Cimmerian. The wound is shallow, but you’ll soon be blinded by blood. Does it sting your pride, to be bested by a —-” [Conan hits her in the face ; she goes down, and hard — but just as swiftly —-] “Bones of Yokal ! You die now, grunting northern—”
Kalanthes the Ibis-Priest: “Ah-ah ! Calm yourself, my dear. This was a test of skill, as he said. And he is the first man I have seen to lay a hand on you — and to break your warrior’s calm, as well. I would not have thought either possible.”

Janissa: “Back, Cimmerian. If you’ve come seeking a bed-partner, you sniff at the wrong —-”
Conan: “No. Some of your sword-work, when we fought. I’d like to see it again —- to learn how it is done.”
Janissa: “Pff. I thought you could break me in two…?”
Conan: “And perhaps I can. But you have more skill than I’d expect of a woman.”
Janissa: “Most men wouldn’t admit to that. Then again, most men don’t live long enough.”

Mystic guardian, after Janissa is poisoned: “Know this, woman. You are dazed and weak, but awake. That is by design, that you might see and feel what comes next. Enjoy the fall.”
Janissa, half unconscious as she sneaks her sword behind the neck of the guardian with her leg before she starts to fall: “A-all right. I’ll enjoy it…” [guardian is decapitated and Janissa grabs the ledge with her other curved blade thus saving herself]


DC Universe History

The period of 8000 – 10000 B.C. in the DC Universe is a mysterious and little explored era. The Hyborean world fits well on the African continent – just adjust everybody’s ethnicity to match.


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Janissa the Widowmaker

Dex: 09 Str: 05 Bod: 05 Motivation: Mercenary
Int: 07 Wil: 07 Min: 08 Occupation: Warrior Slave of the Bone Woman
Inf: 08 Aur: 07 Spi: 07 Resources {or Wealth}: 003
Init: 028 HP: 050

Skills:
Acrobatics (Climbing): 08, Acrobatics (Athletics, Dodging): 06, Animal Handling: 06, Charisma (Intimidation): 08, Martial Artist: 07, Occultist (Occult knowledge): 02, Thief (Concealment): 06, Thief (Stealth): 08, Weaponry (Melee): 10, Weaponry (Missile): 08

Advantages:
Iron Nerves, Languages (Zingaran, likely several more), Lightning Reflexes, Schtick (Paired swords).

Connections:
The Bone Woman (Low), Conan the Cimmerian (Low).

Drawbacks:
Misc. (Janissa has sworn her allegiance or is magically bound to serve the Bone Woman in all her commands for the duration of at least two full years).

Equipment:

  • Kopesh (x2) [BODY 07, EV 04 (06 w/STR, 08 w/Martial Artist), Note : can be thrown in a pinch].
  • Backup dagger [BODY 06, EV 03 (06 w/STR, 08 w/Martial Artist), Note : can be thrown in a pinch].
  • Throwing Knives [BODY 02, EV 02 (03 w/STR), Ammo: 08].
  • Garrote [BODY 04, /STR/ 06, Limitation : /STR/ only in Grappling combat that starts with a Blindside Attack].
  • Mystical Wand [BODY 04, Telepathy: 05, R#02, Bonus: Telepathy has a Special +15 Range Bonus. Notes : Janissa activates the wands abilities by pressing the jewel at the base of the wand against her forehead. It is possible that the device will work only with her. It appears as if the telepathic abilities remain in use some time after the wand has been put back into its storage place. Bonuses & Limitations : Telepathy is Mystic Linked. Telepathy is limited to communication with the Bone Woman.]
  • Janissa might also carry a few mission-specific potions and charms.

By Dr. Peter S Piispanen and Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Busiek’s Dark Horse Conan issues 7, 9, 12-14, 28 and 39.

Helper(s): Conan wiki , Darci, capita_senyera, Frank Murdock.

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