A couple of game sessions ago we had a sketchy encounter with an ooze. All the characters survived, thankfully, but I took the opportunity to add some details to Thrush's story. Since it is a game and not a novel, the parts son't have to stick together in quite the same way. As players we keep track of important developments in the lives of each other's characters and sometimes collaborate in various ways. As our session ended before the fight was over, this glimpse into Thrush's life is set as a "flashback" between turns.
Also, there is a bit of a story telling agenda around the poem "The Lay of Lake Beltran". In the game it is a spell called "Soothe". It is a healing spell that is meant to be a bit spooky. One way to inhabit a spellcaster at the table is to give the spells more individualized names. Since I cast it twice as often as any other spell (we are always close to death, after all). I thought it needed a cooler name and a bit of a its own backstory as well.
Thrush lands with a thump on the hard stone floor next to the well. Looking to his left he sees Laera, totally messed up and as the pain registers in his slight form he begins the brief incantation taught to him by the Baronness so many years ago…
“This will keep you safe, my child.”
“Will they keep trying to kill me?”
“Yes. Of course.”
The tone is matter-of-fact, like the answer to “Will it rain again? Or “Do we need to run?”
Auntie gently removes the bandages over young Thrush’s face, trying not to cause any more pain than necessary. To the right of them stands the Baron, his eyes scanning between the door and the window, the two dead Hobgoblins at his feet, and his still-bloody sword.
“There will be more, my boy.” he says, his breath still ragged from the exertion. “Some like these and some from the depths of Hell and some family too, though I hate to say it. Being a member of a noble house of Chelliax is a curse. Either they try to kill you or you give them your soul.”
“Shush,” says Auntie. We will keep you as safe as we can as long as we are able. Now, do you remember the poem I taught you? The one about the great pools beneath the earth?”
“Yes,” Thrush says, and he begins to recite it again in the strange language of the dark elves.
“Far beneath the close tunnels of Nar Voth
In the quiet reaches of Sekamina
I sought refuge from Grimlocks
By the shores of Lake Baltran
Do not look for it.
I will not tell you its place.
But my heart seeks its goodness in a land lit by fire”
As Thrush speaks, the cuts on his face start to close. He can feel them! The pain lessens as well. The Baron looks on approvingly and the Baroness speaks again.
“You got the meter slightly wrong on ‘Grimlocks’ so there will be a scar.”
“That is of no consequence,” says the Baron. “Scars on a noble--at least of our type--are expected.”
The baroness rises from her place next to Thrush and brushes her husband’s own scarred face. “Quite fetching, too. Gather the remaining family. We must go home. They will be back.”
That was the first time Thrush remembers someone trying to kill him. It was not the first attempt, just the first memory. As evidenced by his current pain...it was certainly not the last. So many in his family are gone. Killed by unseen forces or enemies in battle, or by others in the southern faction of this own accursed clan. As he got older he got better at doing his own healing and his own killing, when necessary, eyeing his classmates for signs of ill-intent, affecting an easygoing...uselessness...after his uncle died and keeping his actual friends close. He had always been that way, but as he got older he became more practiced and more aware.
But now, back in the present...by the well and covered in black ooze...he is alive. As he once again casts the “Lay of Lake Beltran” he looks over to Laera and wonders how anyone--even someone as powerful as the ancient elf--can live so damned long in a world of constant decay.
A few years ago my intern and I began a D&D game for our church youth group. I wanted to get back into Tabletop Roleplaying games that I had played extensively as a kid and then off and on (eventually with my own kids) over the years. Anyway, fast-forward to now, I am gaming a lot and have become interested in the spiritual dimensions of the game as well as it's ability to spark the imagination about this world and other worlds.