From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Etain Echraide (properly pronounced EH-cheen EKH-ree-deh, though she gets called "eh-TAYN" often enough that she's relented) is an Irish legendary beauty, the Emerald Isles' version of Helen of Troy. Why she's in Paragon City, why she has the powers she has and fighting on the side of heroes, is a long and complex tale.
Etain Echraide was originally born in or around 1176 B.C. She was, at least at birth, an ordinary human, a member of the Ulaid tribe living in Ulster, what is now Northern Ireland. She has gone down in legend as the most beautiful woman ever to live in Ireland. It was said of her "Shapely are all till compared with Etain" and "Dear are all till compared with Etain". Her history can be divided into four "lives".
First Life: Fuamnach's Torment
Etain's story begins with a chance encounter with Midir, a prince of the Tuatha Dé Dannan, son of the great god-king Dagda and a powerful sorcerer. At the time Midir was under an enchantment by the evil sorceress Fuamnach, whom he had married, but upon seeing Etain he fell in love with her and the spell was broken. With the help of his half-brother Aengus Óg, Midir won the hand of Etain from her father, Ailill king of the Ulaid. Midir then divorced Fuamnach and married Etain. With her blessing he transformed her into Tuatha Dé Dannan so that she could live forever with him.
At this Fuamnach flew into a jealous rage. She of course cared nothing for Midir, but enjoyed adding his power to her own. She cast a spell on Etain which turned her into a pool of water. The water evaporated, out of which came a purple butterfly. Midir, being supernaturally clairvoyant, knew the butterfly was Etain and cared for her. Fuamnach then summoned a great wind which blew Etain around Ireland for seven years until she landed on Aengus Óg's clothing. Aengus nursed her back to health, intending to return her to Midir, but Fuamnach found her again and summoned another great wind to sweep her away for another seven years. Finally, exhausted, she fell into a goblet of wine. The wine and Etain were consumed by the wife of Étar, a warrior of the Ulaid. Etar's wife became pregnant, and Etain was reborn as an Ulaid about a thousand years after her first birth, in the Second Century B.C.
Second Life: Torn Between Two Lovers
When Eochu Airem ascended to the throne as High King of Ireland, the Mileisan provincial kings refused to honor a king with no queen. He then sent messengers to find the most beautiful woman in Ireland, and they found Etain. Eochu fell in love at first site and she became queen.
When Midir discovered that his beloved Etain had become Eochu's queen, he began a scheme to get her back. He cast a spell on Eochu's brother Ailill while the king was away, causing him to become sick and believe his sickness was due to unrequitted love for Etain. Etain agreed to meet with Ailill at his house, because Ailill did not want to dishonor his brother in his own home. But when she went to meet him, Midir put Ailill to sleep and took on his appearance. Etain, somehow sensing that "Ailill" was not who he appeared to be, refused him and left.
This happened three times. At the third such meeting Midir revealed who he was and told her of her past life. At this she remembered it all. But though she loved Midir, she felt her duty was to remain as Ireland's queen. Midir understood and let her go. He also released Ailill from his spell, and from then on the king's brother showed little interest in her.
But Midir conspired to convince the king to release his queen. He appeared in Tara, the seat of the High King. This was a cause for concern because even though the Milesians had conquered Ireland and drove the Tuatha Dé Dannan into hiding under their "sidhe" hills, they still understood that they were beings of great power and were to be feared. But all Midir wanted was to challenge the king to a game of fidchell, a Gaelic game similar to chess. Eochu agreed.
The two men played a series of fidchell games for ever increasing stakes. Midir kept losing and was forced to complete a series of tasks for the king. One such task was the construction of a causeway across bog of Móin Lámrige; this became the Corlea Trackway and still exists in present-day Ireland. Finally Midir suggested the stakes be an embrace and kiss from queen Etain. This time Midir won, and Eochu told him to return in a year to collect.
Eochu assembled a company of Ireland best soldiers to Tara, expecting trouble from the sorceror. In spite of the guard, Midir appeared suddenly in Eochu's home and demanded that he honor the deal. The king relented and allowed Etain to embrace Midir. But Midir then transformed them both into swans, and the two flew through a skylight and escaped.
Enraged, Eochu ordered his soldiers to dig up every sidhe in Ireland until his wife was returned. The Tuatha Dé remember this as a dark time and still resent Midir and Etain for bringing such trouble upon them. Finally they arrive at Midir's sidhe, at which point Midir tells them to return in three days and then he would return Etain to the king.
However, when they returned, Midir brought out fifty women, all of them looking like Etain, and told Eochu that if he truly loved his wife he should be able to pick the real Etain. Eochu makes his choice, but it turns out to be the wrong choice. Shamed in front of his own men and deciding that she had become more trouble for him than she was worth, Eochu released Etain from their marriage vows. Midir and Etain then lived in happily in hiding from the outside world until modern times.
Third Life: Slave of the Red Caps
As Etain tells it, the Red Caps began rounding up the surviving Tuatha Dé Dannan some time during the spring of 2005. In each case they would invade the sidhe, overwhelm the Tuatha family and magically transform them into the hideous beasts that one now sees in and around Salamanca. Etain and Midir were one of the last to be so transformed, as the Red Caps knew of his reputation as a powerful sorcerer. They brought along quite a few of the transformed Tuatha. At first Midir was able to keep them at bay, but when several of the beasts caught Etain and threatened to tear her apart, he relented and agreed to submit to transformation.
In this altered form their mind's had become clouded and they no longer had the ability to summon magic spells that would help them escape. In fact, they barely remembered who they were, only that they were Tuatha and hated the Fir Bolg. However, just before their transformation Midir was able to cast a probability-altering spell on his wife. If there was a way to be freed from the spell, she'd be likely to find it.
In the Misty Wood north and east of the University, Etain distinguished herself in battle after battle with the Fir Bolg, which pleased the Red Caps. Frustrated with the interference they were experiencing from the Cabal, the Red Caps transformed her appearance to mimic the Fir Bolg. They sent her to spy on them and the Cabal and to relay their plans back to her masters.
But the Cabal quickly found her out. They intended to enthrall her to their cause, and so began the ritual. Etain fought back, not wanting to betray the Red Caps for fear of losing Midir. But at that moment a University student, Melissa McBride accidentally stumbled upon the ceremony while out driving. The ritual was disrupted and Etain's body was turned to ash. Melissa wrecked and was killed in the accident, and coroners placed her body in the morgue.
While Etain's body was destroyed, her spirit was still tied to the physical world due to Salamanca's slow slide into the spirit realm. Furthermore the separation from her body removed all enchantments that had been placed upon her. She found Melissa's body and attempted to use her healing powers to bring her back to life. Though the body was reanimated, Melissa's spirit was long gone. Fearing discovery, she entered Melissa's body, but the shock left her in a state of severe amnesia.
Fourth Life: Superhero
Naturally everyone initially assumed that Melissa McBride had somehow made a miraculous recovery. She spent time with Melissa's family, then went to live in the Salamanca campus dormitory with her roommate, Ashleigh. It was thought that by slowly resuming her normal routine her memories might turn.
But then strange things began happening. First people noticed that she would cry uncontrollably when she heard a Tuatha howl. Then one morning she and Ashleigh woke up to find that all the plants in the room had made furious growth spurts during the night. The next night Ashleigh woke up to find Melissa's blankets on fire, and yet neither she nor her clothing were burned. When "Melissa" was able to heal a student's broken bones with just a touch, school officials called in an expert to determine exactly what was happening with her.
The expert was "memory archaeologist" Allison King. King was able to guide "Melissa" into a trance where she was able to help her remove the blocks in her memory. With her help she was able to remember that she was Etain Echraide of the Tuatha Dé Dannan, able to regain all her memories up to and including her capture by the Cabal, the failed ritual and possessing the body of Melissa McBride. After assuring her that she would not be held liable for Melissa's death, Ms. King advised that she was still not used to her powers enough to fight in Croatoa, no matter how much she wanted to try to rescue Midir. In fact, she might just find herself ripped in two by her husband! Instead, King advised that she seek out Azuria in Atlas Park for some training. And so Etain embarked upon a career as one of Paragon City's superheroes.
All the Tuatha Dé Dannan naturally have some inherent magical ability that is tied to their very soul. Their race is much like the mutant superheroes and supervillains once sees today, except their powers are derived from magic, not genetics. Etain's power involves using radiated heat, usually in some sort of healing capacity, though she has learned other applications as well.
It should be noted that these magical abilities appear to be suppressed in the Tuatha that are controlled by the Red Caps.
Somehow Etain has acquired an affinity with plant life. The usual theory is that somehow her plant-nature when she was transformed into a Fir Bolg was imprinted on her spirit by the Cabal ritual that went awry. In any case, she can summon plant life in her immediate vicinity to do her bidding. This usually involves rapidly growing vines to take hold and crush her enemies.
Etain had a chance encounter with Fuamnach in Paragon City and the evil sorceress tried to turn Etain into a butterfly again, but was only partially successful. Instead, Etain grew magical butterfly-like wings. While the wings granted her the ability to fly, which was useful, they also made her feel somewhat inhuman. However, recently through some concentration she has gained the ability to make the wings appear and disappear at will, meaning they only appear when she needs to fly.
Minor Magic Resistance
There's some thought, due to the episode above, that Etain may now have some small inherent resistance to hostile magic, that perhaps spells aren't entire successful on her. This theory has not been fully tested.
As any hero in Paragon City Etain has the usual rogues gallery. Recently she has tangled with the Warriors, Council, Family and Banished Pantheon. However, there are a couple of villains that Etain can claim as her own.
Fuamnach mac Bresal
The evil sorceress and former wife of Midir, Fuamnach still nurses a grudge against the woman who broke her hold on the Tuatha mage. She was recently sighted in the Rogue Isles, and Etain even had a brief encounter with her in Atlas Park. This surprised her, as she was assured by Aengus Óg that he had decapitated the sorceress around the time she was born for the second time.
Like most Tuatha, Fuamnach has a magical ability that comes naturally to her: the ability to summon strong winds. Through her study of the magical arts she has added other abilities: other forms of weather and the power to shoot electrical bolts from her hands.
For now sightings of Fuamnach seem to be few and far between.
Robin of the Red Caps
So far heroes only know a few of the Red Caps by name: Snaptooth, Broadkin, Wormtail. But Etain has informed M.A.G.I. that the most worrisome of all, apparently their leader, is the one innocuously named Robin.
While the Red Caps are quite intelligent and well versed in the dark arts, most are just maliciously mischievous, tormenting and killing travelers for fun. Robin, on the other hand, is quite serious, a schemer, plotter and mage of considerable talent. While Etain simply holds most of the Red Caps in contempt, Robin is the only one she genuinely fears.
Etain has also related that in some of her interactions with Robin, she was left with the impression that Robin does not carry out his plans for his own purposes. She believes that he has a master of his own. However, she has never seen him or her, nor does she know the name.
- The first two parts of history section are taken from "Tochmarc Étaíne" ["The Wooing of Etain"], a real-life text and one of the best known stories in Irish mythology. I basically stick with the script, but make a few minor extrapolations along the way.
- The character that eventually became Etain Echraide was thought up at the time Issue 12 came out. She was basically an excuse to make a plant controller. My original plans were to make her Fir Bolg, but my research turned up no one suitable from that clan. And the story of Etain really fascinated me, thus the "infiltration" portion of her back story. I wasn't originally going with Thermal as her secondary, but upon reading that one commentator (T. F. O'Rahilly) considered her a sort of Irish sun goddess, that secondary became perfect for her.
- The Corlea Trackway is quite real and has been identified by some as the causeway that Midir built for Eochu Airem.
- In game literature seems to indicate that it was the appearance of Eochai during the Halloween Event of 2004, the first time the Fir Bolg crossed over into the material world, that caused the Red Caps to fear their growing power and to bring in the Tuatha. The Croatoa zone was added to the game in August of 2005, and I assume that the Tuatha had been active for a little while before heroes began arriving. Thus I've extrapolated "spring 2005" as the time when Etain was captured.
- Allison King is actually a character in the game. She is a contact in Brickstown at coordinates (-760, 0, -775), and her description here as a "memory archaeologist" matches her in-game description.
- "Robin of the Red Caps" is based upon another real life legend. That's all I'm saying about him for now.