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Proposed Origins For a DnD Character

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Posting here due to it being too long for a PM even when chopped up ... this is one possible character concept for an upcoming campaign, and was written a very long time ago so it surely needs tweaking and editing.
Her earliest memory...

There was fear, and voices in the dark, mingled with the cold and hunger. She could not remember if things had ever been different, or if she had simply been created alone and frightened.
"Ah, th' poor thing. Get her up, Roger."
"Why? She be most likely dead, an' e'en if not y'know we canna be keepin' her. Better t'leave her be."
"Roger! She canna be more'n five or six."
"An' y'think she'll be makin' another year? Debbie, th' cruel thing be t'help her a little, an' give her hope."
"Listen t'her, cryin' like that. That be no corpse -- an' if y'won't be carryin' her, I will."
She was lifted up and moved somewhere, the voices complaining at each other the whole time.

Her next memory...

Now there was light and warmth, and central to it all was food. Roger and Debbie were two presences, still arguing. Debbie wanted Roger to take the girl in, to be his apprentice when she was old enough. Roger, though wavering, maintained that they couldn't feed themselves, so how could they feed a child until she was old enough to make her way?
If they couldn't feed themselves, she shouldn't be eating their food. She dimly remembered a voice chastising her for taking something not hers; was that why she'd been out in the dark and cold? She laid down her spoon and sidled towards the door.
She made all of one step before she fell with a thump. Debbie whirled to her side.
"Ah, poor chil -- oh, Roger... her leg!" Debbie gasped.
What was wrong, why were they staring? She looked at her legs, bare under her ragged shift. The right one was thin, but seemed normal. The other... the other was twisted and withered. How had that happened? She would remember if it had been that way before, wouldn't she? But she couldn't remember anything.
"That's settled, then, innit," said Roger. "She'll never do anythin' but beg. She'll be havin' t'leave in th'morn'." Debbie said nothing, just nodded slowly.

Her life after that...

Six year olds are quick learners. On the crude crutches Roger gave her before apologetically sending her out, she slowly made her way from her helpers' door. She never saw them again, nor knew where to find them, nor even whether she'd thank or kill them for what they'd done.
She spent five years begging. Urchins taunted her, calling her "Bess" after the old lame dog at the Soldier's Gold Inn, a place which did good business during the winter quartering of mercenaries and fell into disrepair for the rest of the year. Sometimes the urchins snatched her bowl of hard won coppers and ran, shouting "Heya, Littlefoot, catch me if'n y'can!" That practice ended when she learned to keep the bowl in her lap and smack the snatchers with a crutch, wielded not with strength but with vigor and precision. Still, she couldn't stop the name calling, and eventually even those who spoke kindly to her called her Bess Littlefoot. She dreamed that one day someone would give her a bezant, a gold coin, and she'd be rich and never have to beg again, and she'd call herself Lady Elizabeth, and be the grandest lady in the court other than the Queen.

And one day...

It was January. Bess the dog had died sometime before. Sam Ramey, innkeep at the Soldier's Gold, paused by the doorway where Littlefoot huddled with her bowl. She looked at him sullenly, as she looked at everyone. But, even though she wasn't the most cheerful of beggars, there was an air about her. He couldn't finger it exactly; it hung in part on her reputation for an unusual amount of honesty, and in part on her -- well, not pride, exactly, but integrity. She kept herself as clean as any beggar could, and she looked a man in the eye, instead of shifting about. He'd exchanged maybe ten words with her in the past two years, though he'd discussed her with patrons on a slow night. It was a source of gentle amusement to him that the town had two lame Besses.
When he seemed unlikely to speak or to give her money, Bess looked down again, burrowing her hands deeper into her armpits.
"Ah, t'hell with it," he said, throwing up his hands. "Come on, you." She looked up, silently. "I mean, th'place seems empty without old Bess in th'corner. If you'll be able to be choppin' up the vegetables an' ither, um, sit-down bits o'work, I'll gi'you a corner t'sleep in an' dinner each day." He held out his hand to her, and warily, she accepted his help in standing. He gave her her crutches -- not Roger's, she had long outgrown those -- and walked her to his inn.

So after that...

Bess became a fixture in her corner at the Soldier's Gold, mending the staff's clothes and preparing food for cooking. She also became more talkative, as she came to accept and mostly trust her good fortune. Yet, she still carefully weighed questions for motive before answering, and volunteered little information beyond her opinion on the weather. Sam's "dinner each day" was, while not extravagant, of much higher quality and quantity than she'd been accustomed to eating, and she filled out until she was slender instead of emaciated. However, her left leg barely changed. Above the knee, it was relatively normal, albeit slightly warped and low on muscle from lack of exercise; below the knee, it was as thin as her wrist, and as twisted as an old branch. She could not walk quickly, and when she did move about her gait was a lurching, dragging parody of a walk. One of the mercenaries had whiled away a slow two weeks carving her a pair of crutches of the proper height, with a swelling of the shaft for an easy grip, but these improved only her comfort, not her mobility.

And in her thirteenth year...

Bess was in the stable, feeding an apple in small portions to one of the mercenaries' horses. She'd saved the apple from her dinner as an excuse to visit the beasts. Animals didn't laugh at her leg; they didn't even notice it. They liked her if she was nice to them, and that was an end to it.
"Ah, y'greedy thing, I'd be thinkin' yer man nivver fed you if I didn't be knowin' a mercenary's horse were his life an' limb," she murmered to the horse, a sturdy gray who whickered and snatched at the rest of the apple.
"Is old Ironhoof spreading tales about me again?" asked a voice behind her. She spun, bracing herself on the stall for balance. "You don't want to listen to that solidguts, or he'll have you feeding him all of Sam's pantry for pity on the poor skeletal thing."
The man who'd spoken was a regular at the inn, but Bess didn't know his name; she paid as little attention as possible to people outside the inn's staff. She groped for her crutches and fled for the door as quickly as she could, mumbling an apology for meddling with the man's horse. She could feel him watching every lurching step, and her cheeks burned. Bess had spent years learning to ignore the jeers, but he'd caught her in an unguarded moment.
"Hey," he said softly, "would you like to ride him?" She stopped, her back stiff. How had he known? She turned, anger at this invasion of her dreams releasing the long pent-up bitterness.
"You'd like t'be seein' that, wouldn't you, like t'be watchin' th'cripple climb on a great big horse an' fall off, y'think you'll be gettin' yer after dinner entertainment for free tonight. I hope yer saddle slips an' y'break yer neck!" Her fine speech was ruined by her inability to flounce out of the stable, and his easy smile.
"No, I just know what it is to want horses. I'll help you up, and Ironhoof won't let you fall. I promise I'll not hurt you."
"What kind o'mercenary be you? That be what mercenaries do, hurt people." She was speaking sharply, letting all the years of pain lash out at this man for the crime of being nice to her without benefit to himself.
"My name's Daniel Carver, though most call me Carver Danny, and I'm like any other man, good some ways and bad others. And I hurt no one without very good reason."
Carver Danny! Hearth talk had revolved around his skill in battle more than once. No stories had suggested that he left his viciousness on the battlefield. But he was talking kindly, and he'd offered her a dream... how much worse could he hurt her, if she remembered that it was bound to be a trick, and didn't let herself hope?
"Well, let's be on with it, then," she said defiantly. It was a less than gracious thank you, but he saddled Ironhoof and led Bess and the horse into the courtyard as cheerfully as if she'd given him a sack of gold and a commendation from the Queen.
"It'll do Ironhoof good to get some exercise, the lazy oaf, even if it is only walking around the courtyard -- don't look so disappointed, girl, I can hardly have you galloping into the winter countryside your first time on a horse."
"I weren't disappointed," she said flatly. "Y'think I'll be stealing yer horse if'n I get th'chance. Well, I know better'n t'try, seein' as how these horses be trained t'kill them as try t'thieve them." She stroked Ironhoof's nose as she spoke.
"Hell and damnation, I thought no such thing, you goose! Sam talks about your honesty as some talk about fine weather: a refreshing change from the ordinary run of things. But Ironhoof here'd be yours just for your feeding him apples. You ready?"
That suddenly, it was time. Bess looked about; no one else was in the courtyard, no faces peered out the door or windows to watch Carver Danny make a fool of a cripple. She nodded uncertainly. Danny set her right foot in the right-hand stirrup, supporting her as her left leg collapsed, and boosted her up.

"Now, you normally mount from the left," he said, "but I don't think that'll work for you yet." She barely heard him. She was on a horse! Ironhoof shifted under her, and pricked his ears back at her. The ground was far away, but she didn't care. She sat in the saddle and wished she never had to come down again. Danny mistook her still silence. "Hey, hey, don't be scared... I'll catch you if you fall. I'm going to walk him a bit, so hold on to the pommel."
Abruptly, Ironhoof was in motion. Bess swayed, clutching at the pommel for balance, and unawares she smiled for perhaps the first time in eight years. Carver Danny, glancing back, was astounded by the change in her face. Why, he mused, clean her up and dress her right and you'd never know she wasn't a young noblewoman -- always assuming she didn't say anything, of course. He led Ironhoof around the courtyard for ten minutes, then took Bess down and stabled the horse once more. The return of sullenness to Bess' face hurt him as even a sword thrust through his side two years before had not.
"Well, since you're such a help with exercising Ironhoof, I'd appreciate your help more often," he said. "The overgrown lummox needs walking twice a day, and you'll be a help just for passing the time with me while I walk him." Bess' suspicions flared again. A child of the streets, she knew what men expected in return for friendliness.
"An' what do y'be wantin' me t'do for you when you're not walkin' th'horse?" she snapped. Danny looked puzzled, then shocked.
"Good lord, girl, I can find grown and willing women for that! Where'd you get such a notion?"
"I --" at last, words failed her. She bowed her head to hide her embarassment, and mumbled, "I'll be seein' you in th'morn." She lurched her slow way out of the stable and back to her pallet. Sam, who'd glanced out earlier to see Bess and Danny, for once did not grumble about her long absence, but handed her a mug of cider and some mending to do.

From then on...

During the months when Carver Danny wintered at the Soldier's Gold Inn, he taught Bess Littlefoot to ride. "Though," as he confided to his friends, "there's little teaching to do. It's as if she were born to the saddle." When they ribbed him about his interest in 'babies' he only smiled. No one said such things in earnest, not to a man who'd more than earned the nickname of "Carver."
Bess never saw his dangerous side. He was her big brother, her mentor, and in her less guarded moments her friend. She learned to smile, and without her realizing it her speech slowly improved. She also took on more demanding tasks at the inn. Sam was amazed, and started paying her wages, saying that she was doing more than old Bess the dog ever had, and even old Bess had had food and a pallet out of him.
Bess didn't think she could be happier than when she rode Ironhoof. It was as if instead of a crippled leg, she had four healthy ones. When she learned to gallop, with Danny beside her on a borrowed horse, running free and graceful and faster than the urchins ever did, she thought her heart would fly off with the hawks and carry her with it.

In her sixteenth year...

Danny was two weeks late returning from the summer campaign. Bess fretted, asking Sam over and over if there'd been any word.
"Damnit, girl, I liked y'better when y'didn't talk," he fumed, exasperated, as he had any number of times over the last few days.
There was a clatter of hooves outside; Bess looked up quickly, but turned away from the door when she realized there were several horses. Danny always came in alone. There were the sounds of horses being led to the stable, and of someone entering the common room. Then a touch on her arm, and Danny's voice.
"Hey there, you going to sit about or you going to come give Ironhoof his welcome-back walking?" Bess turned, eyes narrowed.
"That's it? Two weeks late and no word, and you say nothing more than that?" But he was already ducking out the door, and she couldn't stay inside, not with Ironhoof out there needing her, and her not having ridden for months. She felt as if she only lived in the winter, and she couldn't put off her rebirth another minute. Awkwardly, she got to her feet -- and wasn't that just like Danny, to forget how hard it was for her to get about on her own -- and dragged herself out to the courtyard.
Danny wasn't there, and neither was Ironhoof. She sighed in frustration, and continued her progress into the stable. There the pair stood, looking smug, and two new arrivals stood nearby. One was a roan mare, the other a young black male.

"And who are these beauties?" Bess asked.
"Well, Littlefoot," he replied, using her nickname with his usual fondness, "the roan is Nimblytrots, and she was my friend Brian's 'til I won her at cards -- we're still friends, he won enough money in the rest of the game to buy a better horse -- so I'm going to sell her at market."
"And the black? He's lovely; did you win him, too?" Bess was a bit sharp on this last, as she had long rebuked Danny for his gambling; to her way of thinking, it was a foolish way to lose money or a dishonest way to earn it.
"No, there's a story to him. I was at the siege of Breston these past few months, and when the town fell it turned out the garrison'd been keeping the horses away from those as wanted to eat them. They were planning a sally which never came off. So, since no one person could claim capture of the horses, they went to auction with the rest of the general booty. Turned out this fellow was a bit weak in one leg, and too young for immediate use besides, so no one bid against me. I'm late coming back because I had to go slow enough for him."
"And why'd you bother? You can't sell him honestly for what feeding him's already cost you."
"Well, it's just that he reminded me of you, what with his bad leg and all, and you're always so stiff the first few days in the saddle when I come back, that I thought you'd like to have a practice horse during the summer." He said this diffidently, but with a slight grin at the corners of his face, as if certain she'd be pleased. Pleased? How was she to pay for this beast?
"A practice horse! With a weak leg, he couldn't be bearin' my weight! And I've no saddle b'sides t'be a'ridin' him with!" Danny noticed the slip in her grammar, and knew she was truly upset. Must she always be perverse?
"Now, Bess, he maybe can grow out of the weak leg. You don't weigh much anyhow, and since when do you of all riders need a saddle? He won't be big enough for one for a while anyway, you'll want to let him get his growth before you use all that leather to make something that won't fit. If you really don't want him," he continued, "I can sell him to the knackers." She stiffened and stepped between him and the black.
"You will do no such thing, Daniel Carver, and you know it. He's perfect just as he is, and I'll pay you for him some day, I swear it."
"Pay...? He's a gift, you goose. He's yours, now and forever, and all you have to do is promise to take care of him. I'll arrange with Sam about the feed and stall space."
Incredulously, she reached to stroke the little horse. He lipped at her fingers and tossed his nose up under her chin. She smiled radiantly, forgetting everything but the miracle in front of her, barely hearing Danny ask,
"What's his name, then?" The answer was obvious at once.
"Bezant," she said, still focussed on the horse.
"Bess, he's black. You don't name black horses with golden words." Bess shook her head, speaking into the horse's mane.
"His name is Bezant. I used to dream someone would give me a bezant, and I'd be rich and grand. I didn't know how little one gold coin would buy, or how hard it'd be for a beggar to spend one without being named a thief. And now someone has given me a bezant, and I feel richer than the Queen." Slowly, she continued. "You know, Danny, in all these years, I've never said thank you. Well, I say it now. Thank you for my Bezant." She turned and hugged him, then limped out as quickly as she could to hide the tears he'd never seen in her before.

For the next few years...

Bezant's weak leg did firm up, and Bess trained him to the saddle and bridle. When the two were completely confident together, Sam crustily told her that as long as she was going out riding, she might as well earn her keep by carrying messages for him. Soon she was a familiar sight about the town and nearby countryside, known for speedy delivery and honest dealing. She earned enough to pay for Bezant's upkeep, and had enough left over to buy her room and board from Sam. Sam, however, wouldn't hear of it.
"Nivver charged old Bess for her corner, why should I treat y'differint? B'sides, you be bringin' in th'business for me, that be payment enough." And it was true: people in need of a courier came to the Soldier's Gold, and more often than not stayed for a drink or meal after Bess was dispatched. They told their friends about the reasonable prices and decent food, and for the first time in memory, the inn did a reasonable business during the summer months.
Bess carried her crutches with her, slung on the saddle, and once in a while used them to good effect against would-be bandits. When Danny at length found out about this, he was livid.
"Wood sticks against bandits? You're madder than any mercenary ever was!" He went out that very day and returned with a sword, drilling her ruthlessly both on foot and on horse. When she protested that she need not learn to fight on foot because if unhorsed she was dead anyway, he only snarled and pushed her harder. She at last caught a glimpse of the violence of which he was capable, and began to push herself as well. By the time she

was twenty, Bess had gained enough balance to walk with one cane instead of two crutches. Bezant having been trained along with her, Danny declared that he wouldn't like to fight her on foot and would flee screaming if she were riding.
She scoffed at the idea of his running from anyone, and he informed her that he'd have been dead before he met her if he were unwilling to run from bad odds. She accepted this, but still scoffed to think he would scream as he ran.

And finally...

For only the second time, Danny was late. He'd even missed her twenty-first birthday (they'd long ago arbitrarily chosen November 26, the day they'd met, as her birthday), and he'd promised the previous spring to be there in time, as he'd promised every spring before since the first time he'd been late. That time he'd returned with Bezant; what was his excuse this time? Certain that only something very important could keep him away, Bess continued her courier's rounds. Sometimes she was away for days, and Sam always fussed on her return, worried about bandits and the like.
"For all this place be peaceful enough, Bess, y'know there be a war on. Out o'luck soldiers go bandit fast enough, 'specially since th'war's gone on so long." She'd just smile and pat her sword, and Bezant if he were close enough.
So when she returned this time, she wondered why Sam did not come bustling out to greet her. She took Bezant to his stall, promising him a walk-down in a few minutes, and limped into the common room. Sam was sitting at the hearth, head bowed. The regulars were all quiet, the casual customers likewise. Bess paused, then clumped over to her usual seat at the fire, laying down her cane and stretching her hands to the warmth. She looked at Sam with concern, wondering if the inn had suffered some financial blow. Slowly he raised his face to her, eyes bright, and choked out the words.
"I'm sorry, Bess. Carver Danny be dead."
She sat numbly, certain she had misheard. Her voice went on without her.
"Dead? You know that's impossible, Danny's charmed, he's just late, is all. He's not -- "
"He is. I seen it meself," spoke up a man at the bar. "I were there, an' I seen the arrow hit him in th'throat where his mail were torn, an' I seen him fall dead on th'spot, an' I'm th'one what brought th'news, an' I be no liar or may Danny's fate be mine." There was a note of ghoulish pride in his voice: the one to see Carver Danny fall! The listeners muttered, and it was certain that the man would receive many drinks in the coming months for the telling of his tale.
In shock, Bess limped back to tend to Bezant. Safely alone in the stables, she let herself go, sobbing so hard it seemed her throat would be torn out. She hadn't been in love with him, but she'd loved him as the family she never had, and she owed him too much for him to die before she could begin to repay him.
She finally re-entered the common room, which had resumed more normal tones now that the news had been delivered to the one most affected. She sat silent, and Sam and the staff were silent as well, as the inn grieved for someone who'd been family.
Bess went about her duties with a new determination. She wouldn't go off to war -- she couldn't bear the thought of dying senselessly for another man's cause as had Danny -- but she would in all other ways live up to Daniel Carver's high opinion of her.
The name of Bess Littlefoot would, she vowed, come to equal that of Carver Danny.
That February, a scullery maid woke Bess in the pre-dawn light. "You'll want to be a'comin'," she said. "It be Sam."
Bess hurried to Sam's room. He had died in his sleep, and suddenly Bess realized just how much Sam Ramey had meant to her.
"Thank you, Sam," she whispered. "I'll do the same for someone as you did for me, someday. Thank you, father."

Which means...

The Soldier's Gold Inn was sold to pay funeral expenses and wages for the staff while they looked for new work. Bess Littlefoot became a full-time courier with no fixed abode; she stays with those who receive her messages. And next? Who knows?
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Posted Apr 17, 15 · OP
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Here's the sketch I did of Bess back in 1989. Man, I wish I hadn't lost all my drawing skills.

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Posted Apr 17, 15 · OP
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AHAH I found the Shadowdancer origin, it was filed in a folder under the GM's name! Phew, no retyping needed. So here is the second concept to offer (I'm sure some of the references were to the game world, details may well not work in the upcoming campaign):
Jenny drummed her fingers in an intricate tattoo upon her thighs, trying to capture the tricky rhythm switch Soladar had shown her last night. Her feet twitched as she considered how best to move in the dance to highlight the switch. She wanted to have a new step ready to show her friends that evening; Minryl had promised to loan her a handkercheif-hemmed skirt sewn with tiny bells that Jenny had coveted for months.

"Jenilyn Smallsmith!" cracked her mother's voice. With a start, Jenny focussed again on the table before her, where her mother had spread out a collection of gold links and small gems. With an aggrieved sigh, her mother pointed to the scraps. "I *asked* you, how would you arrange those to draw attention to the wearer's collarbones?"

Jenny heaved her own sigh. "Ask Davil, why don't you? He actually enjoys this stuff ... " Across the room, her brother looked up from his own table, jeweller's loupe giving his glance a lopsided look. With the superiority of a young man looking down on his sister, only fourteen and thus two years younger than him, he smirked and shook his head. He had never been her ally -- that was Maglen, her eldest brother, now nineteen and apprenticed to a blacksmith. Maglen had gotten out of being a jeweller like their parents by dint of being huge. His fingers were deft enough, but not delicate enough for fine work, so now he was doing intricate wrought iron pieces. Jenny's fingers were plenty thin and nimble, as was the rest of her.

Mother was settling into that dangerous silence that suggested Jenny had truly transgressed. As she had, yet she was so unutterably bored with jewellery. It meant sittting cramped over a tiny space, working to make pretty things so rich people could show off. She wished no one had ever learned to mine gold or gems. And she wished she could just leave home and join the elves, who danced all the time. At least, Soladar did. And he had told her he'd come into possession of a new flute, that he would show her tonight.

And Mother was still staring at her, tight-lipped. "Um, I dunno -- " offered Jenny, "turn the links into a chain and hang the gems from it?" She glanced longingly at the door. Mother followed the glance and shook her head. "Oh, no, Jenilyn. You're not going out today. Or tonight. Or tomorrow. Or this month. Or ever, until you settle into your responsibilities and take your studies seriously. You are not a dancer. You will not be a dancer. Dancing won't put food in your belly and clothes on your back, not with your abysmal lack of business sense."

This was an old argument, but it still ran hot whenever it erupted. "I will so!" yelled Jenny. "And you can't keep me from seeing my friends -- that's slavery!" Mother yelled right back, it went downhill from there, and ended -- as usual -- with Jenny in her room sobbing into her blanket and Mother sending Father up to talk to her.

Father didn't flare at Jenny the way Mother did, but he was just as adamant about the need for focus and discipline. He worried about the friends Jenny kept, what with their wild and footloose ways. She would never follow their wilder habits, having grown up in a family that sternly disapproved of thieving, let alone worse crimes. But she had no way to tell him that without making herself too vulnerable to his concern.

So when he sat in the chair near her bed and rested a hand upon her arm, she violently turned away, shutting out his calm, measured tones. He was a smallish man. That his children were all so tall was generally laid at the feet of his greatgrandfather, who by all accounts had been huge. But unlike many small men, he had cultivated a reasoned demeanor rather than an aggressive cockiness. Perhaps it was the awareness that he still topped the height of most of the races, or perhaps it was just his nature. In any case, Jenny wasn't in the mood for reason.

Yet something about the quality of his sigh as he leaned back drew her attention. "I need you to look at me, Jenny," he said. "I've something important to tell you, and I need to know you heard it." Jenny exhaled sharply and flopped back over with an annoyed grunt. Father gazed at her for a long moment. "It has become obvious that you don't fit in here. You don't care for our traditional work. You and Mother are like oil and flame. Part of that is just your age, but part of it is that you are utterly lacking in discipline."

Jenny began feeling queasy. This sounded like a goodbye speech, like Father was about to kick her out in the cold to fend for herself. OK, so it was high summer outside, but still. Her parents couldn't hate her that much, could they? Just because she liked to dance and they didn't? "I'm sorry!" she gulped. "I was just working out a rhythm change and I got distracted and I didn't care about some rich girl's collarbones and I'll go back in and arrange the links just don't -- " Father held up his hand to stop her spate of words.

"You're no jeweller, Jenny. You'll never be a jeweller. Yet I must be sure you will make your way in the world, that you will be fed and clothed and watched over. Therefore, I have made arrangements to send you to a school that will give you the discipline you need. A teacher from that school will arrive tomorrow to escort you. I suggest you pack tonight. If your friends inquire, I will let them know what has happened."

This couldn't be happening. They were selling her off to some school to be chained to a desk and have her knuckles rapped for any and all offenses. They were cutting her off from her friends without so much as a goodbye. They hadn't even mentioned this before, when they must have been working on it for weeks at least. Jenny stared at her father, betrayed. He easily read her face, and wavered a bit, then straightened up and stood. "Start packing, Jenny. One day you'll be incredibly grateful for this opportunity. Until that day, you'll have to go along with it because I told you to. You're a good child. You'll be a great woman. But I'm not the man to accomplish that." He leaned down and kissed her forehead, then walked away.

Jenny honestly thought she was going to throw up, she was so scared. Then white-hot rage foamed up, warming her and steadying her stomach. "Oh, I'll pack, all right," she muttered. "But I'm not waiting until tomorrow to leave." Furiously, she gathered together those things she couldn't live without. That was pretty much everything in her room. She snorted, and began sorting through the pile to try to make a bundle she could carry. Mother glanced in at one point but wisely moved on.

Come the evening meal, Jenny's bundle was ready to go. Stiffly, she marched to the table, eating in utter silence without a glance at her family. Awkwardly, they acted as if it were a normal meal. This only added to Jenny's anger -- they couldn't even act like they cared she was leaving? She retreated to her room and waited for dusk to fall, staring blindly as she sat upon her bed.

Finally it was dark. As she had so many times before, she eased open the shutters and slithered silently out, then hooked the shutters closed with a stick. Shouldering her bundle, she stepped across the cobblestones of the courtyard her family shared with other craftsfolk, towards the alley to the main street. This was the last time she would do this ... she turned, briefly, for one last glimpse of home, then turned back to the way out.

And gasped in shock. A man stood not five feet from her. No way could he have done that in the moment she'd turned away. He wore dark, loose clothing tied up here and there with sashes. He was a thief! She should shout the alarm! Hit him with her bundle! But as she stood frozen, he grinned broadly. "You are eager and you leave early. That is excellent," he told her. "Huh?" she responded. He strode to her home's door and rapped lightly. The door opened, Father peering out. The man bowed politely. "Valid Smallsmith, you may tell your wife that the student has been accepted. She and I depart for the School now." Father looked past the man at Jenny, quite obviously aware of what she'd been trying to do, then nodded at the man. "Thank you, Brother. Lisel Smallsmith will be pleased to hear it. We look forward to Jenilyn's progress reports."

The Brother raised one hand. "There will be no reports. She cannot learn if she is distracted. The School will be her family while she studies. I believe this was explained?" Father looked pained, but nodded. "At least may we assume that while there is no news, she is still studying and in good health?" The Brother bowed in farewell. "You may."

Then he pulled the door shut and turned back to the still-frozen Jenny. Father hadn't even said goodbye. He'd barely looked at her. Now this strange man was going to take her away. How could Father and Mother know she was well, not sold into slavery? He'd said there'd be no reports ... in fear for her life, Jenny spun and ran. She'd go to the dance hall. Soladar and Minryl would be there, they'd help her. She splashed through puddles, dodging around corners and ducking through fences. The stranger couldn't keep up with her, not here where she knew every inch.

Yet somehow, he did. She slewed around one cormer much like any other, and he was standing before her, still grinning, and not breathing hard even though he must have run like a demon to get there. Panting, gasping, she backed against the wall. He bowed slightly "I am Brother Koray of the School of the Dancing Moon. Follow me, Novice."

Jenny stuck out her jaw. "Why?" she challenged. "Because you asked so nicely?" His grin never lessened. "Because the student must follow the teacher," he asserted. Having caught her breath, Jenny dodged left to run again. The man matched her move. However she stepped or dodged, he was there, grinning. At some point she realized she wasn't trying to get away anymore -- they were dancing, as she'd never danced before. When they stopped, in mirrored poses, she breathed "who are you?"

"I am Brother Koray. I am your teacher. Follow me, Novice." He turned and strode away as lightly as if he'd just been resting for an hour. Suddenly Jenny's legs were rubber, her side killing her. She was having trouble focussing on Koray, as if he were merging with the shadows of the night. Still, she resettled her bundle and determinedly trotted after him. If the School of the Dancing Moon gave her just one dancing lesson a year such as she'd just had, she'd do anything to study there.

************************
Of course, she didn't stay quite so accomodating on the journey to the School. Koray infuriated her with his endless good humour and his odd remarks, and she responded with tantrums punctuated with stiff silence much as she had at home. Koray refused to use horses or wheeled transport, for "you cannot know you have made the journey if your feet have not touched the road." He saw to it she was fed, but on the plainest of fare, for "indulgence of the senses is a distraction to the mind." She barely even saw a bed as they travelled, let alone slept in one, for the same reason.

It took two weeks of walking to reach the School. Jenny had many second, third, and fourth thoughts, but always they came back to this: where else could she go? Who would take her in? And, at least *one* of the teachers there knows how to *dance*. So finally, although with trepidation, she passed through the gates of the School by her own choice.
*************************

Over the next few years, she endured rigorous training. Sometimes the tasks and challenges made no sense, sometimes they seemed impossible, but Koray was always there, showing her how, urging her on. The School was a monastery, whose students withdrew from the world to perfect their minds and bodies. Jenny grew stronger than she could have in her old life. She grew more graceful, despite her great height. She learned that her hands could remain delicate and nimble, yet they could also split boards and stun opponents.

To train the nimbleness, the monks taught her juggling. To free her mind in meditation, they taught her the pan pipes and the drums. And to train her body, they taught her to dance. Gradually she grew out of her temper tantrums and sulks. Gradually she embraced the Dancing Moon's philosophy of serenity combined with joy in life. She no longer craved spices in her food or soft beds in which to sleep, for even the plainest of fare was nectar to the tongue that knew how to taste it, the self that could feel the food fueling the body, and even a hard wood floor provided a platform on which to rest the body while the mind flew free.

When she was nineteen, she underwent the ceremony to invest her with her School name. They had called her "Rabbit" for her skittish nature, but for her School name they drew on an old tongue and called her "Leyla," meaning born on a dark night, as that is how she first danced with Koray, whose own name meant ember-moon. To honour the School, she added "Katinmah," meaning of the House of the Moon.

Then they let her know there was a school within the School. They believed she might do well as a Moon Dancer, for she was so at home with the shadows of the night. Though she was younger than usual for induction as a Dancer, she already possessed several of the basic skills as well as the vitally necessary instinct for the dance. Koray's hand was plain in this, for he had guided her in her studies. Having learned patience, Leyla took time to meditate and consider her choices. At last, she informed them that she would be honoured to continue her studies in the direction they had offered.

Yet she hoped they might allow her one visit home. She still regretted how she had left, and it seemed to her that this regret was a rope holding her back from full commitment. They smiled and agreed. Leyla walked the week and a half's journey back to her home town -- only then realizing how she had slowed Koray's steps -- and came to her parent's doorstep shortly before the evening meal.

She stepped into the shop that occupied the front of the house. Davil stood behind the counter; he greeted her as civilly as any customer. Leyla realized that he did not recognize her. "Davil Smallsmith," she offered, "I would speak with your parents." He frowned. "I am sure I may assist you, miss. They no longer run this shop." Leyla smiled. "Daviiiiill. I wish to speak to Mother and Father."

His jaw dropped. "*Jenny*?" he gaped. "Leyla, now," she grinned. "Are they in?" They were, and they were as surprised as Davil. They pressed dinner on her, and questions, and plenty of hugs. Through it all she maintained her ready smile and her serene manner. Finally, she apologized for the last time they'd seen her, and told them that sending her to the School was the best thing they could ever have done for her. Father actually started crying at that.

Mother's tears came the next morning, when Leyla told them she must return to her studies. It had been five years, surely she had learned what she needed? Leyla gently kissed her goodbye, and asked her to let Soladar and Minryl know she was well so that they might tell anyone else who cared. Mother wanted Leyla to stay long enough to tell her friends herself, but the School and its mysteries were beckoning, the last tie holding her back undone, and Leyla simply started walking.

By the time she was twenty, she'd been inducted into the first rank of Moon Dancers. And because "you cannot join the shadows until you have met them," she was sent to the Children of the Written Word to assist them with tasks that would ensure Leyla met the shadows.
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Posted Apr 18, 15 · OP
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And old pics of her (original poorly printed out of early Photoshop work done on internet images, now photographed with my tablet, so ... yeah).

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Posted Apr 18, 15 · OP
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More concept art! First is the Lame Messenger, this one looking less Elizabethan, the rest are the Runaway Bride (I'm still trying to find her origin story, I'm sure it's written down somewhere). Ignore the water/fire woman, that's unrelated doodling, and the woman peeking in the dressing room is actually another character Kittifish (semi shapeshifter concept) that I for some reason decided to toss in).

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Posted Apr 18, 15 · OP
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Woo, I found Bree's old character sheet! A -lot- of it won't apply to the current world setting, I'm sure, but here it is (sans the stats and the careful list of every single possession, what it weighs, and where it is packed on her person/horse).
"Bree" (Briavanna Solterno di Luccitano-Medici)

Background: Bree grew up in luxury, the youngest child of the di Medicis, an old-wealth (but untitled) family. Naturally muscular, she trained with an arms master (Bencini Cavacaccio) from age 10 despite parental protests. Worried by Bree's lack of concern for familial duty, her parents spent some months arranging her marriage on her 19th birthday to Antonio Luccitano, a member of a family with which they wished an alliance. They did not tell Bree of this until the night before the wedding; she promptly locked herself in her room. They used the legal practice of marriage by proxy, slid the ring under her door, and awaited her return to reason. Unable to abide an arranged marriage, that night Bree secretly packed and left on her warhorse. She rode to the next town, purchased goods, and headed for the Ogre March. She still knows nothing of her husband; yet, though she suffers from guilt for fleeing her legal marriage, she will not voluntarily return.
Bree's Family Tree, as of her 19th year:

_(Piero della Fresca di Medici) of _S. della I-Fresca(Y) + _V.M.di Medici
P. della F. di Solterno-Medici
+
_(Bencina Avadro Solterno) of _P.R. Avadro(Y) + _B.E. Solterno
B.A. di Solterno-Medici(Y)

_(Piero di S-M)
P.Solterno di Medici-Boccarini, 24
+ (8 years ago)
_(Selena Battista Boccarini)
S.B. di Medici-Boccarini, 26

_(Bella di M-B), 7
_(Angelico di M-B), 3
_(Ovanni di M-B), 1

_(Liovanni di S-M)
L.Solterno di Ghirello-Medici, 23
+ (4 years ago)
_(Bianca Francesca Ghirello)
B.F. di G-M, 20

_(Santelli di G-M), 2

_(Isabella di S-M)
I.Solterno di Medici-Cenamelli, 22
+ (1 year ago)
_(Domenico Govvi Cenamelli)
D.G. di M-C, 23

Isabella will die bearing twins in 2 years; 1 will survive

_(Maria di S-M), 22 (twins w/ Isabella; is a Cleric)

_(Briavanna di S-M)
B.Solterno di Luccitano-Medici, 19
+
_(Antonio Briesti-Luccitano)
A.B. di L-M, 19 (1 week younger)

General Rules for Naming:

Names are hyphenated when a noble modifier (di or della) is involved; the modifier goes before the two last names, unless both names are noble.

The younger of the couple suborns his/her name to the older. I.e., since Bree's mother Bencina is younger than her father (Piero Sr.), she drops her middle name "Avadro" and puts "Solterno" before "Medici" in the hyphen. Their children take the new last name, becoming [given] di Solterno-Medici. When the children marry, Solterno becomes their middle name, and Medici takes first place in the hyphen if they are the younger and second place if they are the older of the couple. The "Solterno" will drop from the grandchildren's names.

For example, Antonio is younger than Bree by 1 week. Thus, if they have a child, it will be named: [given] di Luccitano-Medici (Solterno is dropped and Luccitano goes first). If the child marries an older person, s/he becomes: [given] Luccitano di Medici-[x] (Luccitano becomes the middle name and Medici goes first). Any grandchildren would then be [given] di Medici-[x] until married; assume to a younger noble named [a] (b) della [c], so the grandchild becomes [given] di Medici della [c]-[x], and great grandchildren will no longer bear the Medici name, as they will be [given] della [c]-[x].

There is therefore intense jockeying to have at least one of your children marry a younger person, so that your family name can continue. Obviously, the Boccarini's must have more influence than the di Medici's, as Piero Jr. was married at the age of 14 to a girl 2 years older than himself. Piero Sr. was quite happy to get Liovanni married to Bianca, so the di Medici name can continue through their son Santelli. This took the pressure off of Isabella, Maria, and Briavanna, which is why Isabella could marry Domenico for love and Maria could take clerical vows. The only reason Briavanna was forced to marry was that the di Medici's and Luccitano's needed to seal an alliance -- and Piero Sr. and Bencina felt that their tomboyish daughter needed a man to settle her down.
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Posted Apr 18, 15 · OP · Last edited Apr 18, 15 by Donari
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(( This is a work in progress and far too long already. Ideally I'll pare it down to the essential beats. For now, however, time presses and I still have to write the second part before I head out to Avengers. So here's the excessive exposition leading up to the actual point of the tale. ))

Camping was never her favorite way to spend the night. On the general scale of uncomfortable things, however, it filled a spot far to the bottom of the list. Especially when she had everything necessary for the task. So long as one could term servants and palatial stretches of canvas and actual furniture under the canvas as less than necessary … which she’d learned to do.

Tonight Bree settled for, and even appreciated, a dry area in a pine copse well layered with fallen needles and only a few rocks and roots. A rise of land to the southwest side blocked the night breeze and let her small fire burn evenly to supplement the three quarters light of the moon. Allegro dosed nearby with one hind hoof cocked up. Though displeased with the lack of forage, the stallion had had to learn along with his lady that one couldn’t have everything. He’d put up with becoming her pack horse between battles rather than staying specialized in the art of war, for her life no longer allowed the luxury of keeping a lighter mount for travel and a stodgier one for gear as well as her warhorse.

No, she could be in far worse straights than camping on a late summer night, spiced stew simmering in a pot upon the fire, still whole of body, purse heavy with the coin of a successful campaign. Ha, and hadn’t she done well, fighting strong and smart and brave, enough that Milano the Fist had offered her oath-entry into his Breakers. They were a good unit, as mercenaries went, more disciplined than most and no less fair with pay than one might expect.

But oaths were not lightly taken, nor did she wish to settle in one findable loca – Allegro snorted, head coming up, ears swiveling, and Bree was on her feet with greatsword shedding its protective sheepskin travel sheath even as another horse whickered from down slope and a man called, “Hello the camp! Might I join you?”

Polite enough, and Allegro’s ears pointed only there, not to anyone flanking. “By all means,” she replied, settling her blade back along her shoulder, non-threatening yet still ready to swing lethally. The man walked into her firelight with a smile of greeting. Handsome enough, at least in this light, and just turned twenty meant she still noticed. Even if there was cursed all she could do about it. He looked vaguely familiar, as well, perhaps someone seen in passing on campaign.

Oddly he wore his plate rather than keeping it bundled, and it was fashioned in an old style. Sometimes plate was made to look like that of olden heroes out of the superstition that it would give an edge in battle. But then she’d kept her good coat of chain on while walking here, seeing no reason to burden Allegro with the weight when no hurry pressed her. And if she could have armor made to look like old dwarven work, well, she might allow a touch of superstition in herself in the name of having something that nifty. “’tis good to have company. Had I known, there’d be more stew. But at least there’s some.”

“And for that I thank you!” The fellow set his horse near Allegro; by the stallion’s reaction it was a gelding and perfectly willing to give Allegro precedence. The man’s gear looked plentiful and well kept. “I can offer a share to make sure neither of us is hungry. The Fist was generous, hey?” And with that she placed him, he’d been in Milano’s other wing, seemed handy enough in the fight, though she didn’t recall him wearing plate.

“He certainly was. Rohger, right?” Bree sat back down to tend the simmering pot. “Bree.”

Rohger smiled again. Nice teeth. He worked on detaching his plate; a squire would help, but neither of them led a life that included squires. Conversation roamed around the recent campaign and some campsite hijinks while he settled his things. As he stacked his armor neatly to the side, something in it caught Bree’s eye. That shimmer when it angled when he set it down, that was the hallmark of – it couldn’t be. Yet in the life she’d left behind, she’d studied history, and willingly so when it came to matters of military interest.

If Rohger noticed her sudden distraction, he gave no sign of it. She might be wrong, in this light. Better to wait for morning and certainty before she made herself look foolish with fervent questions about a mere replica. The banter continued. He was as good as his word at sharing, seeming even better supplied than Bree. Eventually conversation trailed off, the two warriors settling into their bedrolls on opposite sides of the low-banked fire. Bree smiled to herself as she drifted off. Yes, she could be in far worse straights …
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Posted May 3, 15 · OP
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(( Here's part two! ))

The scrape of her pot on its little set of supporting rocks roused her. She left her eyes closed a moment, savoring the idea that someone else would be making breakfast. But then they slitted open, and she blinked in bewilderment. The sky bore less than a hint of eventual dawn, and further sounds suggested camp being packed up. She sat up, stretching. “Rohger?”

Shit,” came the response. Along with the shiiiing of drawing steel. That pulled her from doze to full alert, key facts imprinting her awareness in an eyeblink. Gear and supplies bundled to the side, hers mixed with his. The horses saddled – Rohger must be good with them, they’d not fussed, Allegro hadn’t fussed – and most importantly, a sharp sword thrusting for her chest.

Reflex sent her rolling away, fighting a blanket determined to maintain its loving embrace about her legs. Rohger pressed the attack; Bree kicked up, his next thrust pierced the blanket and she twisted, pulling his blade from his grasp. Before she could scramble to take it up herself, he fell hard on her, impact dazing her briefly as he smashed her back to the ground. The horses shifted their hooves in alarm, Allegro huffing a challenge, but strong calloused hands were at her throat, Rohger’s eyes cold and determined, and nothing in the warhorse’s training would help in the next crucial moments.

By Torm’s saving grace Rohger wore only his gambeson, as did she. Donning plate was no quiet process. And he’d vastly underestimated her strength as men often did despite her height, seeing a still youthfully rounded face and thinking that meant softness elsewhere. She boxed his ears with sledgehammer force; his hands loosened and she grabbed his ears to yank his forehead into hers.

They both saw stars, she never remembered to duck so the foe’s nose would hit her brow, and he was tough enough to roll away and up to his feet. She did likewise. By luck his sword lay in the pine needles behind her, but he had all the rest of their gear close by and, curse him, he wore boots while she had only her hosen. “Why?” she growled. “You have plenty enough.”

“How do you think I got it?” he snarled back. “Not all of us get riches handed to us,” and she gave a sardonic snort. How little he knew, but his anger at her for her educated language, her decent manners, that was real and so was his intent to slay her for her gear and for her horse. Her horse, her only constant since she’d fled the luxury he thought she still commanded.

Bree’s own anger rose. She took a long step back and crouched to grab the betrayer’s sword, ignoring the stray rock that dug into her heel. “I’ll hand this to you,” she promised in an iron voice, but he’d taken the moment to pick up her greatsword. A moment passed with the two assessing each other, realizing neither was as familiar with the weapon they held as they’d like, and then Rohger stepped into a sweeping slash.

Bree blocked, shorter blade held in her preferred two handed grip with the point down along her body. She rose on her toes at the moment of impact, knowing she could not absorb the blow; instead, she let it shove her three skipping steps sideways before she strode inside his reach, his weapon’s momentum lost. Her left hand splayed across his face, pushing his head back, and she rammed the sword through his throat.

That quickly it was over, though the horses yet nickered and danced. Torm had long since granted her freedom from the shakes many felt after a fight, even seasoned veterans. She pulled the corpse well away from the horses, leaving it and anything on it for the crows after a few brief words of prayer. She’d nothing against spoils of war, but she felt the need to make a point to the dead man that one could get by without taking everything others owned.

Not that she’d leave all his gear behind. He’d an eye for quality in his robbing, so it seemed, and to waste the things his victims had lost seemed a sin. Allegro needed no more weight – and Rohger’s horse, had he really never said the gelding’s name? Well, she’d no means to care for two horses, so she’d be finding a new home for the beast in the next town she came to.

That left the plate. In the growing light of day, free to look closely, she ran her fingers over the metalwork’s shimmer, rapped it with a pommel to hear the almost-chime it gave. Her breath caught. Had Rohger known what he’d stolen? For this was nothing anyone would gift a mercenary.

“Eisenklippe,” she said with reverence. Made by the dwarves of Mithril Hall, rejected by the dwarves of Moonshae, lost in the wilds and surfacing only now and then through the years. It didn’t matter that she was taller than Rohger, differently proportioned, this would adjust to that, this would turn killing blows to love taps, and this, this was armor she’d dreamed of since she was a little girl. She’d do it far more justice than that honorless bastard ever could.

As she led the two laden mounts away from the camp, Bree’s heart soared. Still alive, still whole of limb and soul, and gifted with the armor of her dreams. The dead man she left was a reminder of what could be, but for now, she was in good straits indeed.
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Posted May 3, 15 · OP
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