Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Real Character

If I hadn't mentioned it previously, Matt has started up a 4th Edition AD&D game. He's GMing, and we're playing with Braz and Adin and my friends Jenn and Brian, who are apparently desperate enough to game that they're willing to drive all the way down from the far side of Richmond for it.

I was a little dubious about the system, but we're all new to it except Matt, so we're all dragging through the unfamiliar rules together. So far, my impression is that there's a lot to keep track of and it's oodles less realistic than the 2nd Ed I'm used to, but it's so much more well-balanced.

Anyway, we're playing in Forgotten Realms, which is where the Meadehall was set, so on a wild hair, I sort of... well... Shall we say my character has some very interesting family, back home? And then, of course, I had to write a back story for her. Because that's what I do, you know. (I swear, I should post an advertisement offering to write character stories on commission...)

But Matt really liked the story I wrote, so I thought -- hey, a lot of my readers are old Meadehallers, and this isn't really a story that belongs over on my writing site (no romance here), so I'm going to share the story with you! Here's her character description:
At first glance, Zoyanne seems quite normal. She's tall -- about 5'10" -- and thin, but not excessively so. Her skin is pale and creamy, her hair a rich auburn, her eyes an unsettling stormcloud grey. Her clothes are well-made but undecorated and utilitarian, linen and wool and leather. There is a dagger in her belt, but its immaculate sheen suggests it sees little use. The staff is more worn, but is likewise unremarkable. She speaks Common with a Cormyrian accent and is a surprisingly earnest and capable drinker: she admits to a taste for Sembian brandy, Moonshaen whiskey, and Dwarven ale, but is happy to drink whatever the house has on tap -- anything except meade.

She carries several books in her pack, each lovingly wrapped in oilskin and studded with bits of foolscap to mark significant passages. Her fingers are often inkstained, and she often spends her evenings in reading and study. Sometimes, instead, she writes letters. Some of those are bound for her hometown of Marsember, to assure anxious friends and family of her continued well-being. Others have more mysterious destinations in store, being addressed to locations all over the world, each more exotic than the last: Candletown, Kara Tur, Maztica.

Inside her tunic, wrapped in paper and felt and oilcloth, Zoyanne carries four locks of hair, each tied with a bit of colored string: several long strands of snow white; a short, curled lock of chestnut brown; a thin braid of mixed black and copper; and most curiously, a finger-length lock that must have undergone some strange mishap to turn it that shade of grass-green. She does not particularly try to keep these secret, but she doesn't go out of her way to show them off or speak of them. In fact, though she talks readily enough, she rarely actually says anything.
And here's the story:
"Mother?" The girl's voice rings out in the still silence of the hall, but the woman does not turn from the window, does not even move to indicate she has heard.

The woman's waist-length braid is as white as driven snow, her thin shoulders bowed with age and long years of being hunched over her books and experiments. Her hands are still as they rest on the windowsill, her eyes seeing something that cannot be there.

"Mother!" The girl stamps a foot, impatient with her mother's daydreaming.

Finally, the woman turns, and the grey eyes, so like the girl's, focus once more. "What is it?"

The girl holds out a book, accusation in her every movement. "What is this?"

The woman takes the book, affecting not to notice the girl's anger, and flips through a few pages. "It looks like one of your father's old journals." Involuntarily, her eyes seek the window again.

"It says." The girl pauses to take a deeper breath. "It says he was in Seng Wa, in Kara Tur, during the White Lotus slave rebellion."

"Ah." The woman knows, now, what the girl has come to say. To ask. "Yes. He was." She looks down at the journal so that she will not have to look at her daughter's face.

"That was in the spring. And I was born that winter."

"So you were."

"He's not my father." The girl's voice breaks.

"He loves you, very much."

"He's not my father!" the girl yells, angry that her mother has not denied the charge, explained away the inconsistency with some tweak of fate. She eyes her mother's midriff -- too thin, as it always has been -- with suspicion. "Are you even my mother? Or am I some foundling that you took in because you--"

"Stop." The woman holds up a hand to underscore the command, and her eyes flash. "I know you're upset, but there's no need to descend into melodrama. Of course I'm your mother."

"But not Father," sulks the girl.

"No," the woman sighs. "No, he didn't come home that time until you were nearly crawling."

"And he left here at least a year before I was born," prompts the girl.

The woman nods, watching her daughter from the corner of her eyes. She is coiled, ready to contain an explosion.

"Gods." The girl eyes the journal still in the woman's hand, as if wondering whether it might hold the answers she seeks. "Does he know?"

"He can do math as well as you. Maybe even better."

The girl rolls her eyes. "I mean, does he know who my real father is?"


"Do you even know?" She means it to be impertinent and hurtful, a lashing punishment for her mother's having kept this secret from her. She is startled to see the look of resignation that comes over her mother's face, and then horrified. "You don't know!" She backs away.

Angry now, the woman gestures, and the door slams shut of its own accord, blocking the girl's retreat. "If you will ask the questions," she says, folding her arms across her thin chest, "you will hear the answers. Sit down."

An hour later, the door opens and the girl emerges. Her eyes are red, but no longer weeping. "I'll leave in the morning," she says.

"So soon?"

"Why wait?"

The woman gestures helplessly toward the window. "Your father--"

"May be home tonight, or next month, or a year from now," the girl interrupts. Or never, she might have said, but didn't, and in that omission, her mother knows that she is forgiven. The girl's eyes linger on the window, but then her shoulders square and her mouth sets mulishly. It is in this mood, her mother reflects, that she looks most like her father.

Whatever her parentage, the girl came by her wanderlust honestly. The mother was younger than this when she embarked on her own adventure. Can she really blame her daughter for wanting the same? Especially now? She sighs and bows her head in assent. "If you need anything," she begins, but the girl is already gone.

The woman returns to the window and her vigil, but she is unsettled now, memories stirred that she had thought long since faded into dust. It is a long time since she was even a footnote amongst the machinations of the gods, but that dubious honor has crossed her threshold once more. She had not much enjoyed the implacable hand of Fate when it rested on her own shoulder, and she had hoped to spare her daughter from its weight; but it seems that is not to be the case. After a time, she leaves the window in search of her cloak, and for the first time in months, company.

What do you think? I quite like the way it turned out. There was some further information that I gave just to Matt, as the GM, but I don't think you have to know it to get the story. Heck, I don't think you really need to know the 'Hall character here to get the story, though that does rather enhance its meaning.


Rachel said...

Love it! Makes me miss the Hall as well. Well mostly being able to do that with you guys :) I wasn't sure who the character was but I definitely felt the flavor of the Hall in the story.

Liz said...

Glad you liked it, Rach! The mother in the story is Zoya; the daughter is my new character for the D&D game. Obviously, time has passed and things have happened since the last real Hall sessions.

Rachel said...

Ahh yeah if I had to have guessed I would have guessed her :)

Gris said...

HEH. And perhaps even MUA.

Two of those locks of hair are bloody obvious, I'm fairly sure of the third, and have my guesses on the fourth.

And yes, time certainly has passed. This post is uncannily timely-- I just got an email reminder from my long-neglected gaming calendar that Saturday is Duriel d'Nache's birthday. (Gloss and Val's son will be seven.)

Maybe you need to add another tied lock of hair to her cache? ;) (His hair is dark green, if you're curious. (I had to go look it up.))

Liz said...

Possibly not as obvious as you'd think, Gris, given that apparently I messed up and the "grass green" should have been dark green. (I couldn't find it in my brief search, but remembered it was green, so I just assumed it matched. Or maybe it has lightened with age, as in-game this would be a solid 15 or more years removed from the Hall as we knew it.)

Feel free to email me your other guesses, though, and I'll let you know how you did. ;-)

Lynn said...

I was under the impression that Zoya was infertile, but I might have missed something changing in the Zoya/Marten stories, which I never followed quite so closely.

Liz said...

Lynn: She is. This is explained (...sort of) in the GM information I handed off to Matt separately. (Also, events of Matt's D&D game are not to be considered Hall canon. Probably.) ;-)