#2062

“You can watch them. But you can’t help.”

Dhashi leans over the Raven Queen’s stone basin, hands gripping the sides. Tears roll down her cheeks and splash into the water below, sending ripples through the image displayed on the surface. “Row…” she sobs, “Ilkan…”

Through the basin she watches her friends struggle to grasp what has happened. In the living world there is nothing left of her, only a smear of black ash, her staff, and Charlie the betta fish in his little glass bowl. Row kneels over the ashes, nearly hysterical with guilt and disbelief; Ilkan, tears even leaking from his own eyes, gently scoops up the fish bowl and cradles it in his giant calloused hands.

She watches Row smear a palmful of ashes onto the knitted scarf Dhashi made her. She watches as Ilkan and the priestess Solenna try to resurrect her, not knowing they will summon someone else into the aasimar’s body. A champion, the Raven Queen had said, sent as a ringer to ensure the party’s success against Bezos. Mage, the champion is called. But this Mage is a cruel soul, mocking and arrogant, and her presence only serves to rub salt in the wounds of Dhashi’s friends.

She watches as the trio travels on to the next temple, even more eager now to see this awful quest done. She watches Row try to drown herself in drink, in battle, in anything that makes her feel differently or not at all. She watches Ilkan shoulder Row’s grief and carry it silently with his own, just as he carries the little fish bowl with such care. She watches a stranger parade around in her body, someone far stronger and cleverer than she, and Dhashi wonders – just for a brief, lonely second – if her friends are better off with someone more useful than her.

Dhashi watches but can do nothing to comfort her friends, to let them know that she is okay, if not… okay. She can only hope they find the strength in their grief to keep fighting, to complete the quest for which she died. They do not trust the creature that inhabits her body and she does not either, but she knows she must trust the Raven Queen. The goddess is not unkind, after all; she told Dhashi she had done well by her friends, and Dhashi knows it was not the Raven Queen who made Row use the curse. Plus, she has already told Dhashi that she might return to the living world, albeit in the goddess’ service as another of her champions. The girl agreed without hesitation or question. She must go back as soon as possible. What will her friends do without her?

Eventually her tears are too many and she must turn away for a moment. But she will continue to watch. She will be with her friends even if they cannot see or hear her. She will become the Raven Queen’s champion, no matter what this means, and she will return to her friends. She will tell Row it wasn’t her fault. She will tell Ilkan he’s not as unfeeling as he pretends to be. They’ll keep traveling together and do good deeds and save the world again, maybe. Everything will be okay.

It has to be.

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#2059

Dhashi stared down at the tea the proprietress of the roadside tavern had set in front of her; while she wasn’t normally a suspicious person, and firmly believed in consuming whatever your host shares with you, even she was doubtful of the tea’s contents. She sipped it to be polite, though, covering the reflexive grimace at its bitterness with her tried and true smile. As she pretended to wait for the tea to cool she glanced around the tavern. This far from any established towns the tavern’s patrons were the usual mix of drifters, desperate travelers, and bandits slyly tracking anyone who might carry gold. In her bright pink traveling dress, complete with matching hair bow, the aasimar girl definitely stood out – but not as much as the goliath who had already put away half of the tavern’s ale.

Dhashi saw the inevitable collision too late to call out a warning. The goliath, leaving his seat to order another ale at the bar, bumped into a blind fire jenasi who was making her way from the bar to a table, a mug in one hand and her walking staff in the other. It wasn’t a particularly dramatic collision; neither fell down and only a few drops of ale splashed from the mug. All might have been forgiven if the goliath, not even bothering to glance back at the jenasi, had not muttered, “Watch where you’re going,” under his breath as he passed by. “Excuse me?” Despite the cloth covering her sightless eyes, the jenasi seemed quite capable of taking care of herself. Setting down her mug on the nearest table, she turned to face the goliath with her head held high. “What did you say?”

“You heard me, lady,” the goliath rumbled, his attention focused on his new drink. The jenasi snorted. “I think you’re the one who ought to watch where he’s walking, you bloody oaf.” This definitely got his attention. The goliath turned, glaring down at her. “You got a lot of attitude for someone who can’t even see.” The jenasi grinned and held one arm out toward the door. “Want to test that theory outside this charming establishment?”

“Yeah, sure, I’ve got two minutes,” The goliath downed the rest of his ale in one giant gulp. As if not to be outdone, the jenasi finished her own drink in a long swallow, then tossed down her mug and headed for the door. As the two disappeared into the yard beyond the wind carried in her smug reply, “I doubt you’ll be feeling so confident when I’ve shoved those axes so far up your anus that you can pick your disgusting teeth with them.”

“Um, is anybody going to…” Dhashi glanced around the room, expecting someone to step in and deescalate the situation, but none of the patrons seemed to have even noticed the exchange. She frowned in moral disappointment. “No? Okay… guess it’s up to me.” She took a deep breath to steady her nerves and followed the ruffians outside. “I hope you’re going easy on me,” the jenasi was laughing as she dodged one of the goliath’s hand axes, “or this is just depressing!” The two seemed evenly matched, speed versus strength, and if Dhashi had paused to assess the situation she might have suspected they were both enjoying themselves. She didn’t, however, because fighting isn’t the proper way to solve a disagreement and she felt honor-bound to bring things to a peaceful conclusion.

“Excuse me-” Dhashi tried to get their attention but her voice barely carried above the sounds of the scuffle and their casual banter. “Excuse me, sir, miss-” She stepped closer, one hand raised in a half-wave. “Excuse– HEY EXCUSE ME!” This time they heard her; every animal within a two mile radius did. The jenasi, her hearing unfortunately quite acute, staggered at the sound. “Am I experiencing an auditory hallucination,” she asked her opponent, “or is there a chipmunk yelling at us?” The goliath shook his head and eyed the tiny girl. “No,” he grunted, “just some kid wearing about ten pounds of ribbons.”

“Excuse me,” Dhashi approached them now that the dust had settled, hands on her hips and wearing her best Disappointed face, “why are you fighting?” The opponents looked at each other, then shrugged and answered simultaneously, “Why not?”

“Why n–” Dhashi huffed. “Because you shouldn’t, that’s why! What if you hurt each other? Or cause damage to public property?” Now her finger was out, pointing and jabbing for the full lecture experience. “Can’t you just settle your argument using feeling words to communicate your emotions in a non-accusatory manner and come to a mutually beneficial solution?”

“Do you have emotions?” the goliath muttered to the jenasi. “‘Cause I don’t have emotions.” She shook her head. “Nope. Can’t say that I do.”

“Of course you do!” Dhashi let out an exasperated sigh. “Come on, we’ll all sit down with a cup of milk and discuss things rationally.” She reached out and grabbed their hands – or at least in the case of the goliath, a finger. He tried to yank his hand back but couldn’t seem to break the aasimar’s enthusiastic grip. “I…” He tried again without success. She simply wouldn’t budge. “I can’t pull my hand away.” On the other side the jenasi tried as well. “Neither can I; how is she this strong?”

“Oh,” Dhashi grinned as she dragged then back toward the tavern, “and my name is Dhashimri but you can call me Dhashi! It’s so nice to meet you, I know we’re going to be great friends!”

#2058

On Character Development, or: It’s (Apparently) Okay to Kill Assholes

I did a bad thing, folks… See, our DM and I contrived to have my current DnD character, Dhashi the bubbly magical girl of just sixteen years, die during the party’s quest to save the world from an evil god. She’s going to come back at some point, I promise! … but in the meantime, the other PCs are mourning her loss pretty hard and my wife (who plays one of them) will barely talk to me. All of this is technically fine – our DM loves torturing us and I love killing my characters, so we were both super stoked to launch this surprise on our friends. Over a 24-hour DnD slumber party extravaganza Dhashi died, her party members scrambled to resurrect her, and instead they got a totally different person (my psychopathic character Mage) back in her body. My wife was PIIIIIIISSED and it was great fun. 100% would do again.

But.

Here’s what’s weird. I, like… feel bad? For Dhashi? True, it was absolutely evil of me to contrive to have the other PCs slowly come to love Dhashi and think of her as a daughter before we killed her, but that’s not what I feel bad about (sorry, guys). I… feel bad that I killed Dhashi. I feel bad that I’m making her suffer, that she has to watch from the underworld while her friends try to complete the quest without her. I feel bad that when she’s finally resurrected she’ll be at least a little messed up and never again her unfailingly positive self who believes in the essential good of every living thing. I feel bad that she’s going to forever after be burdened with the ability to predict the deaths of anyone she meets.

Admittedly, I don’t feel bad enough to retcon any of this – but the feeling is still there and I don’t know what to do with it. I never feel guilty about killing my characters. Never. I love killing my characters. Tanim and Daren have died so many times that I literally couldn’t count them all. Even Mage dies from time to time. It’s just what I do. I love causing pain. So why do I feel so sad about Dhashi? She was just supposed to be the silly magical girl character I used to irritate my friends’ characters for a single DnD campaign, not an entirely new character fleshed out with a backstory, complex experiences, and an uncertain future. That wasn’t the deal! She’s a cliche, a paper doll, she shouldn’t have the ability to give me such FEELS. But here we are.

I think what this partly comes down to is the fact that Dhashi is pure good. There isn’t a mean, selfish, vain, jealous, angry, or lazy bone in her body. She is the epitome of Lawful Good and always does whatever is in her power to help those in need. My other characters? Not so much. My other characters are assholes. Tanim is an asshole; Daren is an asshole; Mage is an asshole. I write assholes, and I guess on some level I feel like that makes it okay to kill them or otherwise cause them to suffer horribly. Not that they necessarily deserve every bad thing that happens to them, of course. They just… deserve it more than Dhashi does.

I knew from the beginning that Dhashi would learn some harsh lessons during the campaign; anyone as naive, hopeful, and trusting as her would, especially in a world where survival of the fittest seems the only law. She needs to learn those lessons, though, to face the ugly truth in her world, just like every anime magical girl must face the darkness of her own. I just didn’t realize that by having a character who was so good, so innocent, so ready to save the world despite all its sorrow and brutality, it would hurt like fuck to watch her learn those lessons the hard way. She’ll come out stronger for it, because that’s what magical girls do, but she won’t come out the same.

And I feel BAD about that.
Wtf.

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Meet My Characters

 Or: I Don’t Always Write Assholes (But Mostly I Do) 

Thought I’d give new folks the TL;DR overview of the characters I sporadically write about. More in their respective tags, of course.

Remr: Tiefling scientist with poor impulse control. Huge fucking nerd. Has no social skills but somehow managed to help save the world. Just so gay and nerdy. Find her in the DnD tag.

Dhashi: Lolita aasimar magical girl who believes good always triumphs over evil. Leaves a trail of glitter everywhere she goes. Died but came back. Very cute. Very positive. Very annoying. Find her in the DnD tag.

Mage: Asshole pirate queen with too much time on her hands. Always trying to destroy the good guys. Enjoys arson and petty vandalism. Kinda half-monster maybe? Find her in the Mage tag.

Tanim: Rich asshole who loves drugs, alcohol, and sex with strangers. Falls in love with Daren. High class angst with a side of sadomasochism. Find him in the Tanim and Daren tag.

Daren: Mentally unstable asshole. Falls in love with Tanim. Less angst, more monotone sarcasm and completely serious threats of violence. Really really likes knives. Find him in the Tanim and Daren tag.

#2055

The Power of ~*~ Friendship ~*~

“I need your help!”

Dhashi would have helped the pretty dryad no matter what, because helping people in need is the right thing to do, but the compulsion spell convinced Ilkan and Row faster than her puppy-dog eyes would have alone. The three therefore set out to retrieve the magical item which would help Mali the (apparently kind of careless) dryad heal her dying tree. As they walked down the forest path, they passed signs of the tree’s effects; everywhere plants grew brown and stunted, and black pitch oozed down the trunks of many trees. The cute woodland animals who had flocked to Dhashi earlier were nowhere to be seen now, and the only bird calls heard were those of distant crows.

Finally, they reached a set of worn stone stairs which lead to a sparse hilltop. There they found the three intersecting fairy rings, just as the dryad had said, with the rune-covered stones standing in each. The first stone bore the word ‘book’, the second ‘shield’, and the third ‘sword’. Where the circles intersected were three smaller stones, almost like altars. These bore the rune for ‘friendship’. In the center of all three sat an even smaller stone with the rune for ‘flower’.

“So,” Row tapped her staff on the ground as they stared at the stones, “what now?”

“Um…” Dhashi shrugged hesitantly and nodded toward the book stone. “I guess we could try… putting a book on it?” She reached into her pack and produced one of the diaries taken from the followers of Bezos. Standing on her tip toes, she just managed to set it on top of the stone. The runes began to glow faintly. “Okay, progress!” She turned to the next stone and set her shield atop it, but nothing happened. “Maybe it’s a metaphorical shield?” she hazarded. “Something that protects?” Row’s hand went to the pendant of the goddess Selune hanging around her neck. Wordlessly, she removed the necklace and set it on the stone. The runes glowed brighter. Row’s scimatar then lit the runes of the ‘sword’ stone and a possibly magical breeze drifted over the hill. Dhashi clapped and bounced in place. “Yay teamwork! Okay, what’s next?”

The party turned to considering the smaller stones which bore the ‘friendship’ rune. “Maybe they represent us,” Row suggested. “Ilkan, you’re certainly not a book. You could be the friendship of sword and shield. Dhashi, you could be book and shield, and that would make me… book and sword.” Each stepped into their respective intersection; the wind increased and the air tasted of ozone. Dhashi gave a victorious bounce. “Yes! We are so gonna save this forest!”

With six stones down, the final one seemed easy. They gathered mountain wildflowers growing at the edge of the hill and placed them on the middle stone. The magical wind picked up again, but this time to gently blow the flowers off the stone. “Okay,” Dhashi frowned. “Maybe it’s a different kind. Can anyone make a folded paper flower?” Row grimaced but nodded. “I can try…” Dhashi handed her a piece of Hello Kitty themed parchment and the jenasi folded it into a little pink petaled flower. This time the wind didn’t knock it off – a little blue flame burst from the stone and turned the paper flower to ash. Row pursed her lips. “Well fine.” The party returned to considering the fickle stone. And considered. And considered. And considered.

“Bloody hell,” Unable to roll her eyes, Row gestured derisively to emphasize her frustration. “We probably have to hold hands or something disgusting like that.”

“OOH!” Before Row could take it back, Dhashi reached across to grab her companions’ hands in a surprisingly strong grip. “Go on!” she urged. “Hold hands, just try it!” Equally uncomfortable, Ilkan and Row grudgingly took hold of as little of each other’s hands as possible. To Row’s eternal chagrin, the definitely magical wind swirled even faster around the center stone and the three adventurers felt a massive pulse of magic sweep through them. With a burst the pressure and wind died away, leaving in their place a single white jasmine flower laying atop the stone.

“OH MY GOSH. We did it! Our friendship solved the puzzle!” Dhashi pointed to the flower. “I bet that’s what the dryad needs to heal her tree!” As she carefully collected the faintly glowing flower, Row and Ilkan remained silent, each desperately pretending nothing had happened. The endeavor was to be pointless, however, because Dhashi would never let them forget that friendship and teamwork had saved the day.

The end!!

#2051

“Dhashi, breakfast!” At the foot of the stairs, Joe listened for his daughter’s reply but met only silence. Stepping onto the first riser, the halfling called again, “Dhashi, breakfast!” with what he was sure was a much sterner tone. The teenager still didn’t stir. Finally, his husband Paul pushed him out of the way and bellowed up the stairs, “Dhashimri, you get your butt down here or you’ll be having dried turnips for breakfast instead of waffles!”

“Coming, Dad, coming!” Rapid footsteps heralded Dhashi’s graceless arrival in the kitchen, hair unbrushed and pajamas still askew. Neither father could blame her, though; of course she would want to sleep in on her last morning at home, especially when she’d be sleeping on the cold, hard ground tonight. Waffles, however, especially those served with extra strawberries and whipping creme to mark the occasion, could always be relied upon to get Dhashi out of bed. As could the threat of turnips.

“So are you nervous, sweetheart?” Paul asked as they ate, watching his daughter add sprinkles, powdered sugar, butter, and syrup to her waffles. “No,” she replied between giant bites, “just excited!” She went back to attacking her plate as if she hadn’t sneaked down to the kitchen for a midnight snack just hours before. “Because I was going to say,” her father continued as if she hadn’t spoken, “if you are, there’s no shame in waiting a few more days… or months…” Dhashi’s head shot up with a look of horror and she swallowed her current bite. “No, Pop! It has to be today! The oracle said the morning of the first new moon after my sixteenth birthday. If I don’t leave today, I might miss my magical destiny!” Her bright blue eyes wavered with unshed tears, and despite caring for the aasimar girl for almost all of her sixteen years neither father could tell if she was faking them or not.

“Joe,” Paul set his hand over his husband’s, giving it a sympathetic squeeze, “we talked about this…” Joe sighed and gave his husband an equally watery smile. “I know, I know. It just feels like I blinked and now she’s all grown up! The house will be so empty without her.”

“Our pantry won’t be,” Paul winked at his daughter as she loaded another waffle onto her plate, and even Joe managed to laugh.

– – –

“Do you have everything?”

“Yes, Pop,”

“You have your waterproof cloak?”

“Yes, Pop,”

“And extra socks?”

“Yes, Pop,”

“And parchment to write to us?”

“Yes, Pop, yes! I have everything!” Dhashi slumped in exasperation, almost capsizing herself with the weight of her pack. “Look at the sun – at this rate it’s going to be noon before I leave!” Joe chuckled and pocketed the extensive packing list; he had checked her bag three times already anyway. “Okay, okay,” he conceded. “If you’re not too grown up, can you give your old pop one last kiss?”

“I won’t be gone forever,” The girl rolled her eyes with a teenager’s self-conscious smile, but dutifully bent down to give her father a kiss and a hug. After he had nearly squeezed her in half, despite being half her size, she turned to Paul. “Here’s a snack for the road,” he said, depositing a cloth wrapped package into her expectant hands. “Be safe, okay? And remember, not everyone’s so nice as the folks around here.” Dhashi gave him another eye roll, fidgeting with eagerness to be off. “I knoooow, I know.” They hugged, Paul slipped a few extra gold pieces into Dhashi’s dress pocket, and she stepped back with a quick wipe of her eyes.

“Okay,” Dhashi took a deep breath and turned toward the waiting road. “This is it: the first step of my new adventure!” She waved one last time to her adoptive parents, grasped her staff, and started down the path to fulfill her magical girl destiny.

#2048

In which a familiar face returns…

Our new Dnd characters are in trouble, folks. We have Ilkan the goliath, Ro the blind fire jenasi, and Dhashi my magical girl aasimar. During their first big quest the trio got themselves cursed by an evil god trying to come back into the world. To break the curse they need to obtain blessings from all the other gods. They started with Amaunator, who required a special stone be returned to him before he would give his blessing. According to Amaunator, the stone was being studied by the local university, so our fearless heroes went to check out the geology department. They stopped by the first open office they found, but no one was inside.

The Great DM in The Sky: You see a name plaque with a very long, incomprehensible name on it. It appears to be in the tiefling language, which none of you can read.

Me: YESSSSSS.

My wife: Oh no…

A door on the back wall opened and a young tiefling woman popped her head in. Remr, true to form, looked completely frazzled yet unfailingly cheerful as she spotted her guests. “Oh!” She smiled at the strangers. “Hi! I didn’t know you were waiting! Um.” She glanced back into the lab beyond, where dark smoke was starting to drift out the door. “Let me just deal with this one little thing and then I’ll be with you!” She disappeared back into the lab, followed by several loud crashing sounds. Quietly to Ilkan, Ro asked, “Does she look as ridiculous as she sounds?” Ilkan nodded. Dhashi, ever on the lookout to help someone in need, called out, “Do you need assistance?”

“Oh, yes, that would be lovely!” Appearing back in the doorway, Remr gestured into the lab. “So, uh, you,” she pointed to Dhashi, “put out the fire. And watch for the rats, they’re venomous. But don’t hurt them! I’m studying them.” As Dhashi moved to put out the fire, Remr spotted Ilkan and pointed to him. “Tall! Rats. They might not kill you. Or maybe just more slowly. Actually, if you do get bitten, let me know; I want to study the venom’s effects on you. Could I possibly have a sample of your skin?” Ilkan wisely stayed quiet but did assist. Ro did nothing, unless you count muttering sarcastically under her breath. That appears to be her superpower.

After the fire had been stamped out and at least most of the venomous rats returned to their cages, Remr focused back on her guests. “So! Hi! Great to meet you all. What can I do for you?” Dhashi explained the situation and Remr, again true to form, agreed to help without questioning any part of their story. “But,” she added, “I don’t actually work in this department. I’m just sort of borrowing this office for now.” When she received three varying looks of distrust and confusion, she added, “I just, you know, sometimes I need to borrow an office so I just bring my name plate with me and it’s fine, no one minds. It’s cool.

“…Do you even work here?” Ro asked, half certain the tiefling was some random crazy person who had wandered into the university from the streets. Remr laughed, clearly not catching the intended insult. “Of course! Come on, let’s find your fancy rock.” She led them to the main lab, where they found the stone resting on a velvet cushion inside a glass case. Without hesitation, she took hold of the glass case, tossed it on the floor with an explosion of glass, and handed the stone over to Dhashi with a grin. “Here you go! Good luck on your quest, and do come visit sometime!”

“She was nice,” Dhashi said with a smile as they made their way back to the temple. If Ro had had eyes, she would have rolled them.