In the interest of ensuring I have a more solid argument and better research on the subject I touched upon last blog, I’ll be postponing the upload of the second part of the Records of Grancrest War Analysis until next week Tuesday.
So, in today’s blog, I’m going to give you a backstory. A backstory for a character I played in a Dungeon and Dragons campaign some number of years ago. To preface, the campaign had been titled “Campaign Commoner”; much like the name implied, we were to start by playing first level commoners.
As a writer, this presented a unique and exciting challenge: to create a character backstory that was intriguing, fascinating and enjoyable, yet limited in scope as to what I could insert into the backstory to offset the fact that we were starting the campaign as first level commoners: literally the weakest of the weak. As well, additional challenges were instilled into us as we were informed that the world we were playing in was, by far and large, magicless. Or, at least, perceived as such in the country and surrounding lands we were to start our quest in.
Of course, we were allowed to become magic-casting classes at later levels when we were to substitute our Commoner levels for Adventurer levels, and the campaign had started with a party size of 8 players. This afforded me a lot of freedom to play whatever character I wanted without worrying about the limitations of making a balanced party. Indeed, we had overlap in several categories that lead to an abundance of, specifically, combat-centric characters.
So I planned to be the party healer.
For those familiar with 3.5 ruleset, and specifically the Miniature Handbook, you’ll probably remember the Healer class. Much like the class name implies, all the class does is heal people with magic. And very well. Of course, there are some limitations on what the class can do otherwise, and since those limitations are pretty strict, it basically makes the class very useful as a healer, and nothing else. I was interested in playing up a particular aspect of one of the class restrictions, which was that a Healer was basically bound by a “kill no living thing” rule, which I took to the logical extreme of “pascifism”.
Once the party weaned out to 4 players (the DM started a second campaign since DMing for 8 people is unreasonable. I speak from experience for having DM’d a campaign for 11 players for far too long), suddenly we found ourselves in the unique position of completely specialized party roles. More-over: the party we had was very close-knit and, personality wise, perfect foils for one another. The RP of the campaign became crucial and I remember with great fondness the moments we had simply bantering about this or that. I could go on in detail, but I’d be at this for hours reciting stories (which I might do sometime since they are pretty good stories).
But, without further ado, I will attach below the backstory for my Healer: Jillian Faradora Caesar, shepherdess and healer for the city army. Enjoy!
Born to Serve (Early Life)
Born to the Markus and Victoria Fardora, a family living outside the village of Tremming to the north of the City-State of Truth, a life of hard work and struggling to get by would become something the young sister to five would become accustomed to. The Fardora family, largely being an independent house-hold, was at least a 15 minute walk to the nearby village; the need for lots of land to raise and breed the beef cattle outweighing the need for protection from the wilderness around them.
The Fardora family, while not exactly famous for their cattle, were at least known in the region. They raised good, hearty cattle that were somewhat notorious for their meat being a bit tougher than the other farmer’s. Come times of winter, however, it would be a small blessing in and of itself, for the tougher cattle survived the colder temperatures better than other stock.
Of course, being the daughter of a farmer, Jillian would be expected to help on the farm from a very early age. At first, she was expected to help her mother in the house. The cooking, the cleaning, the clothing washing and repairs; this became Jillian’s life for the first year. She never took well to it, however, her older sister Delilah would often belittle her for not being able to keep up or do well enough.
The constant pestering would cause her to retreat outside, usually to the cattle pens to keep company with the animals, who never seemed to mind her for who she was. She wasn’t very brave, or good at much of anything, she would often tell the cows. Her stitching would fall to threads, she burnt the potatoes all the time, and always seemed to miss dirt on the floor when scrubbing.
But, after perhaps a year of this life, her eldest brother, Markus Jr., noticed she was good at one thing: being with the animals. Speaking to his father, they both decided that perhaps a better use for Jillian would be to keep watch on the animals while they tended the crops and the hay fields. Few felt this was a bad decision, especially Delilah, who reminded Jillian that she was just as useless as a cow upon her first day at her new task.
Jillian took rather well to watching the cattle in the fields. Though her mind might wander a bit, she never strayed from her vigil, and on more than one occasion startled off a pack of coyotes by banging a pot and a rock together, saving a calf from an unpleasant fate. In truth, it was of great relief to Markus that Jillian took to this task as well as she did.
No weather would force Jillian from her watch. At the end of the day, she would come inside drenched, or looking closer akin to a snowman than a little girl with the changing of the seasons. Indeed, even in unpleasant weather, if a cow wandered off, Jillian would chase the silly animal and herd it back to where it belonged, on more than one occasion coming back covered in cuts and bruises from falling off a ledge she hadn’t seen.
All in all, life was all that she had wanted. True, she had no friends outside of her immediate family, but that suited her fine. She made her family proud, and she had her cows. Life was quite good for her.
A Fractured Family (Age 8)
As with all stories like this, tragedy was inevitable. Fending the farm from a pack of wolves could be a harrowing task, though a manageable one with a father and elder brother around. A couple of coyotes could be handled with a few loud implements at hand, and a fierce winter could be survived with adequate preparation and trade with the nearby village. But a highway robbery gone wrong can rip worlds asunder.
At age 8, Jillian was more than settled into her life, and on a particularly dreary September afternoon, a rapid degradation of the life would begin. A traveller came by the Fardora homestead, asking shelter for the night. Wary, but accommodating, Markus agreed, if he was to help with some of the chores about the farm. The traveller was not a strong looking man, but said he would be willing to do light labour to help.
The traveller helped on the farm for the afternoon, as he said he would, and as the family settled in for the night, they had settled in for bed. Soon as Jillian’s head was nuzzled into her father’s chest for comfort, the door suddenly was forced open. The homestead was but one common room, and three thugs dressed in furs and leathers burst in, cudgels and axes drawn. Markus immediately stood to defend his family from the intruders, who demanded that they turn over all their money.
In no position to disagree, Markus began to slowly move to the dresser where the coin purse was hidden, but there was a sudden flurry of motion at the door. The thin traveller who had been sleeping in the barn had snuck up behind the thugs and stabbed into the one in the back. The man must have died shortly after the blade ripped into him, for he exclaimed in pain but then was motionless. However, surprised by the sudden noise, Markus spun about quickly, surprising the already alarmed thug nearby him, who swung the cudgel into Jillian’s father’s head.
What transpired that Jillian can never be quite sure, for she closed her eyes and began screaming and sobbing so loudly that nothing else could be seen nor heard by her. After a time, she felt someone grab her arms firmly, and she flailed as best as she could. It was her eldest brother, and after he calmed her down, she began to understand what the result of the incident was.
Two of the thugs had been slain by the traveller, who disappeared to follow the third who fled with their coin purse. Her father was breathing, if unsteadily, but was unresponsive. Markus Jr. had a grievous wound in his side as well, though did his best to look strong for his family.
The identity of the traveller would never be learned by Jillian. She could only presume that the highwayman had escaped with the coin purse, which left them in a tight bind for the coming winter.
Worse yet, as the days turned to weeks, Markus never awoke. The local priest was brought in to pray for the man to awaken, but he would not. The Fardora family could not afford any of the apothecary’s treatments, and any chances of anyone being able to go to the City of Truth for any measure of help was impossible. Every hand was needed on the farm stead to keep it operating at a barely minimal capacity.
Jillian would change what her task was as well. She no longer watched the cattle; she instead kept vigil over her sleeping father. Very seldom would she leave his bed-side, frequently asking him to wake up. But he would not, and in the early days of November, he would pass away.
Worse yet, the wound that Markus Jr. suffered got worse. It began to become infected, and impeded his ability to walk properly. In the winter, it got worse, and by time the snow was beginning to melt, Markus Jr. would have to have his leg amputated to stop the spread of the infection.
The costs of the procedure cost more than the family had. All the cows and some of the farm land was sold to afford the procedure, but this left the Fardora family in dire straits; unable to afford food for the entire family, Victoria made the hardest decision a mother could.
A Parting of Paths (Age 9-11)
The reality was, either Victoria could keep her family together but watch her children stave and die, or she could sell some of them as slaves and arranged marriages. Delilah was married off to the son of the Tremming mayor for temporary grants on the land taxes, two of Jillian’s elder sisters were sold as servants to a local lord, while Jillian was sold to a travelling slave trader. At age 9, Jillian parted ways with her family, tears streaming down her face, pushed into a crowded wagon with other slaves for sale. Taken to the City of Truth, Jillian was placed on the raised slaver’s stand with no marketable skills.
Truly, in her situation, far worse a fate than what transpired could have occurred. A peddler purchased her as a cheap apprentice, where she found herself in a similar circumstance as to when she helped her mother in the house. She was drilled on how to properly present merchandise, how to speak politely to potential customers, the cooking and cleaning she already knew and other minor details necessary to make the peddler’s job easier. She was fed, if barely, and her sleeping accommodations often included sleeping alone, curled up under the peddler’s cart.
As a year passed, an incident occurred when the peddler’s crass words to her caused her to run away from his cart. She wandered off and into a nearby flock of sheep that were being held in a village’s pen. At first, the animals were rightly cautious of her, but after a time, they allowed her in. There, she stayed with the animals until another shepherdess found a young girl sleeping while hugging one of her sheep.
Surprised at how well the sheep had taken to her, and hearing of Jillian’s status, the woman, Melody Caesar, approached the peddler and offered to buy the slave-girl from him. After negotiations, the peddler agreed and waved Jillian off, satisfied with the profit he had brought in from the girl.
Jillian, however, was simply satisfied to be back with the animals that understood her best, and under the tutelage of a woman who treated her far better.
To Watch my Flock (Age 11-14)
Life began to come together for Jillian; she was in her natural element. She was content to be away from the masses and from disgruntled merchants, back in the companionship of someone she could call a friend and the animals who didn’t mind her sitting in silence. Her experiences were consistent and common by nature: she helped Melody guide her given flock to safe pastures, frightened off wild animals that would threaten them and kept her old watchful gaze over the animals she was entrusted to watch.
Years such as this rolled by, days and nights often blurred together to form one seamless memory. At first, entrapped in her shell, Jillian had little to do with people outside of herself and Melody. Her tutor often poked and prodded, slowly trying to get her to open up to the world around her.
It was true, there was a small part of Jillian that wanted to be more open to people, but then the memories of those like her elder sister and the peddler reminded her that there were those who would only cause her harm, especially those like the thugs who had ripped her family apart all those years back.
Changes also began to affect Jillian’s life as she grew up. Her body was changing into that of a woman, and while she never wished to concede to it, there were some lessons that the peddler taught that she kept up as habit. Personal grooming and etiquette being part of it; she noticed that she would catch the eyes of some of the boys her age when she and Melody entered a town.
At first, embarrassed by the attention, she tried to ignore it, but steadily she grew to a point where she acknowledged the attention she was drawing and how best to wave it off. More often than not, ignoring the looks was enough, other times, she would become a bit more abrasive and that usually dissuaded interested parties.
However, there were advantages to the way she drew attention; on more than one occasion gaining the attention of a stable master’s son and ‘humouring’ him would gain Melody and Jillian better accommodations for their flock. And it could even be supposed that on more than one of those occasions Jillian might have actually enjoyed the attention.
But, the flock came first to her, and such relations would always be short lived as Jillian and Melody would wander off to green pastures. Such was their life, and such was the way Jillian would live until the day came where she would become her own shepherdess.
The Meisner Matter (Age 14-17)
Bidding Melody farewell upon her fourteenth birthday, Jillian approached the nearby plantation and inquired with the masters of the Meisners if they had need of a shepherdess to mind their flock. Arrangements were made, and Jillian found work breeding and keeping the sheep for the prominent family.
It was by no means a bad arrangement. On the contrary, from her past experiences, working for this family was quite good to her. While there was room for her to stay inside, she often found herself sleeping outside with the sheep as they grazed in the penned fields. In truth, the number of hired hands and those the family owned was a bit intimidating.
And, oftentimes, rambunctious. It was, after all, a house-hold full of young boys, all of which younger than her, who would wander off on adventures into the nearby woods, coming back looking like sheer hell. Usually following these events she would be called inside to assist in the healing process of the wounded, having had some experience with mending minor injuries when her flock would be surprised by a wolf or similar, translating the skills over to healing humans was a fairly simple task with enough practice.
Overall, though, Jillian hadn’t much reason to complain. With time she would warm up to her new environment, and start to express herself more freely. One night, after discovering the wonders of ale, she shortly following discovered the wonders of dance and occasion where human companionship was appreciated.
As time went on, she got accustomed to thinking of these lads as her friends, and as their absurd adventures continued, she almost thought of them as silly little lambs. They would bounce and play around, and needed a watchful eye to make sure they were safe. Never would this be truer than when the boys wandered off into the woods and happen across goblins. Suffering more serious wounds, Jillian treated them, behaving sharply to mask her worry.
Likewise, when the army would approach to the village to see if there were any possible recruits to have, reluctant to leave her flock behind, Jillian followed them into the army. Her concern for her human flock was greater than that of her flock of sheep, and so she enlisted into the army.
My Life for the King (Age 17-20)
While Jillian could be a sharp-spoken woman, she was by no means violent. The idea of enlisting into an fighting force brought fear to her, however, her flock was to serve, the best she could do was offer assistance as best as she could. Though the “wizard”, Radagastcar, claimed there was something more to her than anyone knew, his exact meaning was lost on her.
Finding her way into the physician’s corps, she decided best she could do to help her boys was to provide them care when they would return hurt from a mission. But as she began into this training, she learned something about herself. Simply helping her immediate flock wasn’t enough; she began to worry about everyone that came into the medical ward for treatment.
And one such case of a perfect stranger being admitted into the ward for treatment finally caused Jillian to fully understand what Radagastcar meant. The soldier had suffered a grievous sword wound, evidentially a training exercise had gone horribly awry, and he was fading fast. He seemed non-responsive, and his heart beat was fading fast.
In a panic, Jillian grasped both of the man’s hands and begged him to not die, to come back. Something odd happened; her hand felt a warmth and the man’s heartbeat stabilized instantly. Somehow, her touch had saved the man, and she couldn’t explain it.
Radagastcar could, however. Magic from the deities, a healing power that hadn’t been seen in the world for quite some time. At first, Jillian was awe-struck. How was it that she possessed this power? It was uncertain, but what she did know was that she had the ability to save lives. Perhaps even save men like her father who had been ripped from the world well before his time.
And so, her Jillian doubled her efforts, trained long and hard and studied everything she could to learn more about her talents and how to save lives. With time, she began to gain a more intimate knowledge of what she was capable of, she still favoured more mundane means of healing. Relying on her hidden talents would only be a last resort.
Of course, this wasn’t the only significant moment to occur in her training years. During her precious few off days, Jillian would spend a great deal of time down near the Infinite Sea, gazing out into it as the sun would set. It was a peaceful place, people who lived in the city state would not as often visit it.
It was when she was on her way, one afternoon, that she saw a gathering of people out front of the castle. A proclamation was being read, a new tax was being imposed on those who operated outside the city’s walls, and was going into effect immediately. While the finer details of the proclamation eluded Jillian, she understood the impact it would have on the individual farmers who needed the city state’s trade to survive.
She steeled herself the next day and approached the castle. Asking for audience with the magister, she began to implore him to at least delay the new taxes for a week to give the various farmers time to prepare adequately for the sudden changes.
Amused at her gall, the magister scoffed at her request, belittling her for trying to tell higher educated men how to do their job. This loud verbal thrashing caught the attention of the king, however, who summoned Jillian to appear before him and inform him as to what was so funny.
Slightly taken aback at finding herself kneeling before the king, Jillian explained once again what she had said before-hand, her calmed words concealing her utter embarrassment and fear. Expecting a similar response from the king, she was even more taken aback when he simply nodded as he listened. Then, when she had finished, he simply thanked her for sharing her thoughts and she was dismissed.
The next day, the proclamation changed to take effect in one week’s time as Jillian had suggested. It seemed she had said something… right. The king was a fair man, it appeared. Her interest in the man grew over the following years; attending his state speeches or sitting out near the castle during special events to maybe catch a slight sound of the music coming from within.
The King, far as she could tell, was a decent and just man, and one she was willing to serve. Hiring a local craftsman to fashion her the king’s emblem out of wood, she would often pledge her healing magic in his name. To this day, whenever she calls upon the divine powers that are needed to save lives, she grips the wooden emblem tightly.
Maybe one day she could come to serve the King more closely, to offer her abilities openly in his name. Though this was likely just a daydream, after all: what need could a king have of a shepherdess?
Soon, her flock would all be finished their training and she would likely be called upon to assist them with whatever endeavours would come their way. Her healing touch would be tested, she was sure. All she hoped was that she was ready for the trials and tribulations ahead.