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Name: Ember Faunsdale Homeland: Eastern Rohesia Age: 67 (25 on a common scale) Height: 3’8” Hair: Black Eyes: Blue Occupation: Itinerant warlock, “lockling” Personal History: The Halflings of Naissus live for the most part in a land they traditionally call Rohesia but which is commonly called The Fens, tucked away in the middle of the continent. After the collapse of the Halfling empire, the four most powerful families – Darrow, Fyffe, Traskwood and Veldt – moved into The Fens, each settling in a separate part of the land. The Traskwoods lived in the west, though they died out many generations ago. The Darrow in the south, known for their woodcarvings, are the societal leaders, if such a people can be said to have leaders. The ever-lucky Fyffes in the east pride themselves on being salt-of-the-earth folk while the Veldt in the north are, in the opinion of everyone else, just a bit off (“madder than cut snakes” is the common term). In his eastern village (which is a grand name for a set of huts built on a marsh island), Hart Fyffe enjoys a comfortable existence as a first among equals. Though he was warned of the probable disastrous outcomes, he courted and wed a young girl called Isis who came from a very minor, detached, generally acceptable branch of the Veldt. The locals said that it was only by the grace of his Fyffe luck that the match didn’t lead the whole village to ruin. The Veldt family runs strongly to twin births, usually a boy and a girl, and Isis bred true to her name with her first children, Bryte and Briar. When the next pair, Cedar and Challis, was just starting to walk, Isis bore a lone girl and they called her Ember. While not strange to their neighbors – refreshingly normal to them, actually – the singlet unnerved her mother. Isis quickly produced two more children to combat ill fortune – Flicker and Fennel – and though she loved Ember, the singlet was never her favorite child.
Just after the youngest started babbling, Isis’ mother came to live outside their town of Faunsdale (she was a stubborn old woman and refused to live in a Fyffe town – crazy, the locals called her). Juniper Veldt saw the way her daughter treated her singlet and found it ridiculous; though not one herself, her brother Jupiter had died in an accident when they were young, so she was familiar with the northern superstitions. She counted Ember lucky to be in Faunsdale where she was normal, despite her unfortunately straight-laced surname. Growing up, Ember was always just a little bit different; Juniper, who never had a problem finding someone to blame, laid the guilt at Isis’ door but Ember herself never did. She has never felt ill used by her parents—she understood her mother from an early age and did not blame her for her fears. Ember was the only one of her siblings that wasn’t terrified of Grandmother Juniper. Bryte swore he wasn’t afraid but he’d never go up the hill with her to visit; Flick was open about his distaste, but loved daring Ember to antagonize the old hedgewitch. Ember loved spending time with Juniper; she was exceptionally curious, even for a Halfling, and though her grandmother was a crabby old half-hermit she told excellent stories. She also began to teach Ember what she knew of herbs and simple charms when the youngster began to show interest in them. Hart thought it a harmless hobby, so he calmed Isis’ worries and all was well.
One day in the adolescence of her 20s, Ember was hanging herbs in her grandmother’s garden when her attention was drawn to a small shrine set into the late summer flowers. It was a small figure of a tall woman in a black cloak, her face hidden by a deep hood and her hand casually extended toward the black bird that sat at her feet; this was the Raven Queen, goddess of death, prophecy, winter and war and the spinner of fate. Ember had never seen any idols before; though the elders talk about the gods from time to time, there is no temple in Rohesia. Juniper appreciated her granddaughter’s interest and shared with her what she knew. Ember’s affinity for the arcane became evident to her grandmother soon after she discovered the old idol. Even for a Veldt, Juniper was not entirely comfortable with the subject, but she appreciated new experiences and she loved sticking it to the traditional Fyffe. When they got to the study of prophecy, Ember tried to scry like the books said but she could only ever see flames. She abandoned the study, relying instead on the shoi, a Halfling tendency to slight premonitions, nudging impulses that push them toward actions that they heed or don’t heed, as they will. The other children in her family and village showed more interest than then adults, but for the most part the subject didn’t really hold their attention.
A few months after they go through the last charm book they could get their hands on, Juniper died on a sunny fall afternoon. Ember missed her grandmother’s company more than she thought she would and she spent more time with her favorite brother, Flick. Her grandmother left her significant wealth to her favorite grandchild; Ember took it and went to her parents, telling them that she wanted to leave to continue her arcane studies. She was technically still a minor and so needed their permission, but they put their collective foot down, refusing to let her leave. They didn’t do it hurtfully, but out of concern for her reputation and safety. Ember understood what they were saying and they had always been tolerant of her before, but as she put it, if they didn’t support her in this then what was the point of letting her learn in the first place? Isis said that Juniper bullied them into it and Hart gently protested that, “It’s not right for a Fyffe—”
Ember cut him off with an angsty, “To learn the Arcana?”
Hart glared at her, telling her not to put words in his mouth. “It’s not right,” he continued, “for a Fyffe to leave Rohesia. It is our duty, our birthright, to set the example for everyone else.”
Ember started to point out that they have six other children to set examples but Hart argued that times are strange and they all needed to stick together. Ember went away from their meeting dejected but with her mind made up. She felt that by learning the Arcana, she could bring back knowledge that would better life in The Fens. Three days later she left, giving a note to Flicker to give to their parents saying that she was going north to visit the Veldt cousins and then wherever the shoi took her, but she was leaving her name behind in their safekeeping so that it would not become tarnished in her travels, and that she would claim it again when she returned.
She did go northwest and stayed a night with the Veldt cousins then continued southwest into greater Naissus, marveling and enjoying every wretched experience. She traveled down to Myrval [or insert whichever would be the “city of learning”], a city mentioned in the books Juniper got for her; she found its splendor tarnished but the school was still there. They refused her admittance however, holding that a Halfling (a term she’d only heard outside Rohesia) hardly has the temperament for the Arcana. Her money could not convince them, but a sympathetic stranger tipped her off to someone who might be able to help her. That turned out to be a tavern owner who pointed her to a broker who pointed her to another tavern owner who pointed her to a man sitting drunk at a table. This man was Baden, and for the right coin he would teach the arcane to anyone that wanted to know. He laughed when she asked him to teach her but her coin was true and her story intrigued him and he let her come along. She didn’t altogether approve of him or his life choices, but he had a code of sorts and had consented to teach her; for his part, he took to calling this amusing little thing a lockling and appreciated her natural skill. During the time she was a Novice she was learning spells and the customs and life of the larger world, and was delighted and endlessly curious about almost everything she encountered. A few months into their partnership, Baden came to the subject of prophecy, one sacred to Ember’s godly patron. Despite misgivings, Ember tries again. This time she sees herself: older, world-traveled and with many strange items hanging from her pack, returning to her homeland, to Faunsdale to her family, and with her came fire and destruction and death, and in her vision The Fens burned. She shook herself out of the trance and though Baden asked, she wouldn’t to tell him what she’d seen and refused to try prophecy ever again.
When they’d traveled together for a little more than two years, Baden got himself killed in a bar brawl. Because she was so small, Ember escaped the place unnoticed with her companion’s few things, including his crossbow, Morningstar and grimoire. She can’t even read some of the things at the back of this book, but she feels that he would want her to have it. So she took off on her own, heading down the road to a new town called Portage.
Another of the wonderfully rich backstories, this one has been surprisingly difficult to work into the campaign specifically. But as with Avyx I’ve managed to focus on one or two elements and drop allusions to them in a couple places.
Outside of the specifics of the backstory Ember has become the easiest character for the players to relate to as a character, and not her real life persona. The other players are quick to jump in and suggest what they feel Ember would/should be doing in social situations as a character, and not a strategic asset. While Ember has tapped into existing tropes regarding Halflings (with a specific nod towards Kinder I’d say), she has managed to make the curious, piping voiced, talkative character a distinct entity, the one the only impulsive lockling.