Friday, May 22, 2009

An old character story

I was poking around in my writing folder and I came across this story that I wrote for a D&D character. It's fun sometimes to go through my old character stories, they remind me of games that never finished, and friendships that have drifted away. Bittersweet, perhaps, but mostly sweet. This file says last modified in 2006, but I think the story is a little older than that.

Null

Once, she was a dancer. In those days her name was Elysa, a name that she considered to be as beautiful and graceful as she was. Her grace was such that from a distance, only her height served as proof that she was not an elf. Her beauty was not exceptional, but it was enough, and her fame as a dancer served only to make her more attractive in the eyes of the people.

Everyone imagined Elysa to be as charming as she was lovely, but this was far from the truth. She was a proud woman, with an incredibly sharp tongue that she had no compunctions against using. She felt that her fame was her due, and that she deserved all of the best things in life, which she rarely got (her dancing brought her far more fame than money). Elysa constantly strove to find a wealthy patron who would reward her art with a shower of lavish gifts, but her arrogance drove most people away.

At the age of 18, she met what seemed to be the perfect patron. Vedorn was a young, attractive nobleman who seemed quite smitten by her. Elysa was dazzled by his masculine good looks and the promise of his wealth. Though she was seeking a patron, she ended up with a husband instead. Their wedding was a huge affair, with hundreds of guests and a huge celebration feast. Elysa left the city to go spend her honeymoon at his country estate.

When she got there, all of the illusions crumbled. The country estate was not as grand as Vedorn had promised, and it turned out that he had spent nearly all of his wealth courting her and throwing the wedding party. The happy couple came home to a small, run-down estate out in the sticks, and the happiness ended there. Vedorn learned what a sharp-tongued shrew Elysa was, and Elysa learned that Vedorn was not above raising his hand to his wife. Each learned that the other had a fiery temper, and they fought constantly.

In addition to their temper and greed, Elysa and Vedorn had one major thing in common; they were both too proud to admit to the mistake of their marriage. They stayed together and maintained the illusion of marital bliss. Elysa still kept her small home in the city, and danced whenever she could, bringing her money home to Vedorn.

Although they quickly grew to hate each other, the physical attraction remained, and make-up sex became the one good thing about their fights. It came as no surprise, then, that Elysa eventually conceived, and then gave birth to a son a little more than a year after they had been married. Their child actually brought a little calmness to the marriage, as they each discovered a spot in their selfish hearts where their was room for love for their son. As well, Vedorn was proud to have an heir and Elysa loved how her friends all oohed and aahed over her and her baby.

Even their shared love of their son wasn’t enough to fully bring Vedorn and Elysa together, however, and though they fought less often, they still fought just as fiercely. Elysa was adept at goading Vedorn to anger, constantly harping on him for being one of the poorest nobles in the land and “forcing” his wife to dance just to have enough money to raise their son. If he hit her, she would remind him of how the bruises marred her beauty, making it hard for her to get work dancing.

And so it continued until the night when things went too far. Elysa provoked Vedorn until at least he truly snapped. He yelled and screamed and raged as he always did, and hit her and threw things, as he always did. His madness didn’t become apparent until he threw an oil lamp at Elysa and laughed when it shattered against the wall and splashed burning oil everywhere.

“Let it all burn up!” he screamed. He pinned her against the wall and wouldn’t let her leave as the flames spread throughout the room. Through her anger and panic, Elysa tried to reason with him, tried to remind him of their child, but still he insisted that they would die together and end the farce.

Desperation lent her strength, and eventually she was able to fight him off. She ran towards her child’s room, but she never made it. A falling timber struck her, trapped her, and that she did not have enough strength to escape. The house continued to burn around her, and the suffocating smoke overwhelmed her. Her vision went black, and it was some time before she came to in a strange place.

By the time anyone arrived to put out the flames, it was too late. Much of the house had been consumed, leaving only stone and brick and debris. In amongst the men armed with buckets there were clerics of various churches, there to pray for the departed souls and offer what help they could through the magical creation of water and spells which boosted the strength and stamina of the erstwhile firemen.

It was a cleric of Ilmater who felt drawn to Elysa as the volunteers pulled her badly burnt body from the wreckage. Drawing closer, he saw that she was not dead. “This one will return with me to my god’s temple,” he said. He could feel the hand of his god guiding him to help her. There would be much suffering to ease.

He healed the burns just in time to keep her from dying, though her body was left quite scarred, and much of her hair was gone. The healing did not wake her, however, so he carried her the long way back to his temple, praying to his god for the wisdom necessary to help her through such a painful time.

Elysa awakened in the temple of Ilmater, disoriented and distraught. She demanded to know what had happened, and when she found out the truth, it crushed her. The house was gone, Vedorn and their child were dead. The flames had taken her beauty, too. She was left with nothing. For a time, she withdrew into herself. She did not speak, and she had to be forced to take those actions that would keep her alive, such as eating and drinking.

During this time, the cleric who had saved her ministered to her. He shared with her the doctrine of Ilmater, and also the personal pain that he had been through before he found peace in the church. As Elysa listened, she realized the folly of her life up until that point. Her vanity and pride had been her downfall, and it had cost her child his life. The cleric told her that enlightenment often came through suffering, and he was right.

When at last she finally spoke, Elysa stated that she was going to rededicate her life to Ilmater and his church. Deep inside, she did not feel that she was worthy to even presume to be a vessel of a god’s power, so rather than seeking to become a cleric or paladin, she stated that she would join the ranks of the monks she had seen practicing. Perhaps she would be able to channel some of the anger that she felt at herself into righteous violence.

Elysa realized that deep down inside, she was still the same person. Enlightenment was not instant, and she had much work to do. To ensure that vanity would never again be a problem, she refused to seek out any healing for her scars. Her outer appearance, she felt, reflected the ugliness that she’d always had inside.

It was her tongue that really worried her, so she took a vow of silence, swearing to not speak again until she achieved true enlightenment and inner peace. To remind herself of this, she had her tongue pierced with a sharp spike, its presence reminding her of the pain a sharp tongue can cause. To remind others of her vow, she took to wearing a tight mask around the lower half of her face, a sign that nothing would leave her mouth.

She said only one last thing before swearing her vow. “The woman that I was is dead. Call me Null, for I am nothing.”

Null trained in silence, and because she did not speak, she spent much time listening. She grew familiar with the doctrines of the church and pondered them always, growing wise in ways she had never been before. She learned when to end suffering, when to ease it, and when to administer it. Still, though, inner peace avoided her. She remained bitter and sarcastic, and as such, she remained silence.

She made no real friends at the temple. Not only did she not speak, but she never sought out the company of others. She never fully fit in at the temple, and so when it was suggested that she travel with a cleric who was scouting out a new temple location, she agreed with a sharp nod of her head. The journey to true enlightenment would be a long one, and it could not be completed within the temple walls.

4 comments:

mermaiden said...

good stuff, aj. you are a master at condensing without sacrificing detail.

AJ said...

Thank you! It's so nice to have some feedback on my gaming stories, because I wasn't sure if anyone was enjoying them or if they were just filler :)

mjlayman said...

Clerics doing magic, huh? Definitely a different kind of church!

AJ said...

Why do you think so many religious people dislike D&D? ;)

True story: When I first started gaming, my parents were hesitant about it, and said "Well, OK, as long as you don't play that D&D game."

Likewise, Chris had a friend growing up whose religious parents didn't want him playing D&D, but much like my parents, they had no idea about other roleplaying games and thus didn't mind that he was playing Rifts -- a game with as much magic and demons as D&D if not more, and drugs, too.