Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Navere, Whose Bones Sing of The Mountain

Is it whose or who's? I dunno. Whatever.

The following is a background for my wild elf druid Navere that I am currently playing in the Curse of Strahd 5th Edition module. It's the first background I've created for a character in literal years, so it didn't exactly exit my brain hole easily and I am a little rusty, which I think shows. It was written as a sort of fireside conversation. As if Navere and the other characters were seated around the fire and started asking each other for their life stories and how they became adventurers and whatnot. Some of Navere's defining characteristics are that he was raised by wolves, not elves, and that he is very focused on flight or flight instincts and predator vs. prey relationships. Here it is:

“My first memories have always been of blinding white snow beneath a glaring sun, glittering coldly like frozen gems. These memories are swiftly followed by ones of cold, a cold like a frost-rimed metal fist gripping my bones. This makes sense, as I grew up on a mountain called Cold Mountain in the Spine of the World. A cold, but beautiful place. Full of stormy winters full of thunder and lightning. I always loved the storms, the howling wind, the thunder rumbling in the distance, thumping in my chest like a second, stronger, heartbeat.”

“I was the youngest of six. My father was the head of our fairly large and extended family, he was strong and harsh, but a good father. My mother, the fiercest and strongest hunter of our people, ruled at his side.”

Navere smiles briefly, his lips quickly returning to their normal stoic flatness.

“I was a small and sickly child. Weak and pale and slow. Nearly blind, half deaf, not only the youngest of six, but the weakest. My siblings were always faster and stronger and tougher. Even as small children I could barely hold my own against them, and that was only because they pitied me and feared our mother’s wrath. I briefly knew an uncle that thought I was too weak to survive life in our harsh land and should be cast out to die on the side of the mountain. I say briefly because one winter, she dragged him by the scruff of the neck out to the side of the mountain and he never returned.”

Navere smiles sadly and says, “In his defense, his points were of merit. I was a burden to my family. But. I was family, and I was loved, and as I grew older I was occasionally useful. I could barely speak, but I could still make my family smile.”

Navere grins as he says, “I remember when I was still young, but no longer a child, the seasons had changed and ice was melting and the snow was heavy but still solid enough to pack. Snow perfect for snowballs. I had a cousin, big for his age and willing to throw his weight around, even if he was just throwing it at a cripple. We got into it and my father broke us up. I was of course the worse for it, black and blue and scratched up from head to toe. But I would not lay down in defeat and pain, and when my cousin turned to return to his siblings puffed up with pride for knocking me down, I hurled the perfect snowball right up his asshole. He yelped and bolted into the forest, and my antics and fine aim garnered a single bark of a laughter from my father.”

Navere shrugs, “Perhaps it is not so funny now, but at the time I thought quite well of myself.”

“I couldn’t fight or hunt well, but I was tricksie and that entertained many of my family members, especially the youngest of our people. When my siblings and parents hunted, I would care for the younger members of the family and make sure they stayed in our home where it was safe. I rarely hunted, but when trespassers came to our lands and my people went to war, I would distract them with my crude noises while my family encircled them and herded them away from our home and dealt with them.”

“Our lands were fairly secluded, so we had few trespassers, but all of them, save one, were met with bloodshed.”

“The one exception that my father allowed to live in our lands was an old thing. He’d lived on our lands as long as I could remember. My mother told me once he’d been on our lands since her own mother was young. He was small and bent, his skin wrinkled like a walnut and burned from wind and sun. He made his home in a broken down circle of stone. He dwelled in a crude lean to set up between the ancient monuments, a drafty thing of snow and ice and hides and damp timbers We had very little to do with him, and he never sought us out, but my father allowed him to remain on our lands because he was a healer. When I was at my sickest, my parents would take me to this bent old trespasser and he would use herbs and very occasionally magic to help me survive another season of poor hunting or bad weather.”

Navere pauses, thoughtful and quiet, before saying, “As a youth that was almost an adult, I was foolish and took risks with little care for consequences. My siblings, though stronger and faster and older, were cursed with the same youthful behavior. We were troublesome to the old healer. He was a trespasser, strange and alien to us. That fact that he had saved my life several times over and was under the protection of my father and mother had little impact on our behaviors.”

“When we were bored and he was away doing whatever it was he did with his time, we would rifle through his belongings, knock about his furniture, dig at his garden of herbs and roots. Childish things that did little harm and only served to annoy an elderly healer living far beyond the edges of civilization.”

“It was on one such immature excursion to the healer’s icy shanty that I discovered my magic. We had nosed around in his personal belongings, gnawed on the tasty roots her grew in his root cellar. Two fallen stones made up the sides of his small dwelling. The stones were grey, darker than the other stone of the mountain, and ancient beyond reckoning. They were chipped and worn and frosted over, and vague designs could be seen on them, too obscured by grime and the slow march of time to be legible.”

“Standing close to the stones, you could sense their power, a vibration you could feel in your bones. We would dare each other to stand close to them, the one that got closest and stayed there longest was proven brave to our adolescent minds.”

Navere smirks as he speaks, “This was one game I regularly won. For whatever reason, I could stand closest to the stones for the longest. So close my nose almost touched them. Once I did so for so long it was the old healer that forced me to leave with bellows of rage and an oaken stave.”

“The story is simple, we had had our fun among the healer’s possessions and began are feats of daring. I slipped and broke my nose upon the cold stone. My siblings said I flailed wildly and screamed and fled to find our parents. All I felt was lightning. Like a bolt had speared me from the sky and ground its way through my spine down into the ground, chewing through every nerve in its path, leaving them ragged and torn in its wake.”

Navere shivers a little as he recalls the pain, but he continues, “I woke to my mother dragging me away from the stone. When I became aware enough that I could stand, I found I could sense something. It wasn’t anything I could see or hear or smell, it was more subtle than that. I found that I could sort of feel the undercurrent of life flowing through everything. I could sense it in the rapid and worried breathes of my mother as she kissed my head. I could sense it in the way the river flowed over rocks. I could sense it in the way the wind howled as it wound its way across the face of our mountain and the way it whirled through the leaves of the trees of our forest.”

A note of pride begins to creep into Navere’s voice as he speaks, “Once I could sense this energy, this pulse of life, and feel how it moved through the world, I learned to manipulate it and reshape it. I could heal, I could command fire, I could speak to my family in a way I never could before. I could shake the earth and call the wind to my aid. For the first time in my life, I could hunt with my people and help them fight off trespassers.”

By the end of it, Navere is smiling almost smugly. But it is short lived and his expression flattens and he continues.

“I am an elf, and we are long lived, and eventually my brothers and sisters and parents and even my younger cousins passed away. My father slunk away from our lands to die alone and in peace. My mother died hunting a bear, refusing to bow to the wearying grip of age and death and instead dying in the heat of a fight, with a foe’s blood steaming on her face in the cold air, her death serving to strengthen the pack.”

Navere smiles as he says, “My mother was, as I said, fierce.”

“I continued living among my people for a decade or so, slowly feeling myself growing more and more distant from them, until I decided to make my home between the old stones where the healer had lived, for he too had passed away at this point. I hunted with my people, made war with them against those that trespassed upon our lands, but they had no real purpose or need for me and my time was mostly my own. There came a time when I found youths in my tiny cave of packed ice and ancient stone, rummaging in my few meager possessions and stock of foodstuffs. They scampered off quickly, clearly delighting in their mischief, and I realized that I had become as much a tolerated trespasser as the old healer had been. I was more involved with my people than he had been, but I had become little more than a tolerated fixture of their lands, rather than a contributing member of our people.”

Navere pauses for a moment, his eyes distant, before refocusing and saying, “For one raised always among family, this was a terrifying realization. Living life as we did, fear was a constant friend, its prickly fingers constantly caressing your neck. We fight or flee, that is our life upon the mountain, and fear is there to remind us of the consequences of choosing wrongly when deciding which course to take. This fear that fell upon me, this fear was not an ally guiding my actions, this was a brutal foe paralyzing me with indecision.”

Navere pauses and looks away from the fire before returning his gaze to you all and saying, “There is no shame in fear. If we did not fear, we would foolishly spend our lives on pointless battles or hunting prey far beyond our skill. But this crippling fear, this alien dread that I felt so long ago, it is shameful and not something I wish to ever experience again.”

Navere pauses to take a swig from his waterskin before continuing.

“I overcame my dread and decided I would leave the lands of my people. I knew little of the lands beyond the mountain we made our home upon, but the old stones and the forest and the mountain whispered to me of life and magic and I knew I would either find my way or find death. With that sense of dread still fresh in my heart, I was unsure which would be more welcome.”

“In short, I gathered a few provisions, including some armor and a blade that had belonged to the old healer, and I came down from the mountain and found civilization. The first few years were...awkward. But I survived.”

“I learned of money and other races and peoples of the land. I lived among them being of use as a hunter and healer.”

He smiles as a self-deprecating tone creeps into his voice while he says, “I discovered what currency was and immediately discovered what gambling was and that it was not something I was talented at. I also discovered that liquor was a fine thing that led to many poor decisions regarding currency and gambling.”

“I survived though, and the shine of civilization wore away after a time and I realized that the fringes of civilization were more suited to me, so there I stayed. I continued my trend of wandering and gaining work as a healer and hunter. As I grew more competent I began finding work hunting more dangerous beasts, and occasionally men. This eventually turned into the life of an adventurer, and only a few short years later I find myself here at this fire with the five of you.”

So there it is.

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