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Marion: Origin Story

More nerdiness revealed.   The origin story of one of my characters from a D&D campaign.

When her brother Maddox left Brookshire as a journeyman, Marion turned to the castle guard to continue her sword training.  Learning from the guard captain wasn’t quite the same– Maddox was a patient teacher who believed in her natural ability, whereas the guard captain merely humored her until she left him alone.  Despite this, by the time she was thirteen, her skill with a blade earned her a reputation amongst the soldiers that actually garnered her father’s attention, though not in the way she hoped. Immediately Lord Barinor threatened less pay for anyone who continued to train his daughter with a weapon. “What man wants a wife who can defend herself?!” he bellowed. Undaunted, she went every day to bully someone, usually a wet-behind-the ears recruit, into giving her a lesson. Threats and withdrawn meals didn’t stop Marion from stealing a pair of breeches, tying her long red hair back, and heading for the garrison whenever she could.

The day she turned fourteen years old, a knight named Sir Garth, hailing from southern Brookshire, arrived at the manor. Marion was excited by the prospect of a real-live knight—they rarely came this far north and if they did, they never stayed long. Marcus, the oldest of the five Barinor children, made sure of it. He excelled at making people feel unwelcome, and ever since he was denied knighthood, he didn’t much like anyone who had won his shield. Fearing the knight’s visit would be short, Marion waited diligently by the stables, dressed in her brother Mathen’s clothes (Maxim, his twin, promised to beat her into rubble if she took his again), her fingers curled around the pommel of a guard’s sword.

“You’re pathetic.”

With a sigh, Marion turned around to face her brother.  “Marcus, do you spend your whole life waiting around a corner to say something smart?  Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“I could ask you the same question.” Marcus unfortunately took after their father, which meant that even if he did manage not to stoop like a hyena over prey, he could only charitably be described as five and a half feet tall. He wore a black cloak with large shoulder pads and a stiff collar, his hair, more orange than red, spiked and wild. “You know why he’s here, don’t you?”

“Because Father thinks his own sons aren’t worth shit?”

Marcus tried to grab her by the front of her jerkin and missed. Marion backed away and brought her sword up. The darkness passed from his face and he laughed. “Go ahead. I hear Sir Garth likes women with a little fight in them.  It’ll make it all the more fun for him.”

“What are you talking about?”

Marcus turned away with a dramatic twirl of his cloak (she hated when he did that) and walked briskly toward the manor, calling over his shoulder, “Oh nothing. How many days do you think Father will lock you up when I tell him where you are and what you’re wearing?”

“Marcus, you dripping pile, I’ll-”

“Mari, don’t.”  A strong pair of hands gripped her shoulders, keeping her from a charge. “Let him go.”

Marion grit her teeth, but obeyed, watching her brother jauntily head inside. “Pom, he’s going to tell on me!”

“Let ‘im,” spat the stableboy. “He’s a coward and yer father’ll prolly give him a smack for being a snitch.  He’s over twenty for Lord’s sakes.”

“I just wanted to spar that knight, just once, and he’ll probably leave tonight and I’ll never have the chance!”

Pom shifted uncomfortably.  At first glance, he seemed typical stableboy fare: tall, gangly, straw-haired.  But under the bad haircut, the maddening acne, and the faintest whiff of horse, he knew things. There was only one reason why a single knight with a lot of land came to a manor that happened to have one daughter just turned marriagable age.  He watched his dear, earnest Marion, taking practice swipes with the stolen blade.

“Why is Mucus such a bastard?” She ranted. “I can’t do a damn thing around here without him interfering in my business. He’s supposed to be the lordling, you’d think he’d have better things to do than prance around in that sissy cape.”

“Seems to me he’s doing exactly what a lordling should be doing.”

“Ha!”

“Anyway if you ask me, I’d be less worried about Mucus and more worried bout what’ll happen to you when Maxim finds you’re wearin’ his breeches.”

“They’re Mathen’s. ‘Sides, I think I look better in ’em than he does.”

“I think you look prettier in a dress.”

Marion sheathed her blade with a smirk. “Oh what now? You gonna kiss me again?”

“Only if you deserve it,” he said, smiling back.

“Only if you can catch me!” Marion took off across the courtyard, tossing her hair, beckoning. He chased her, the girl with breeches and a sword on her hip.

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Marion

My nerdiness revealed.  Here is a little character sketch I wrote based on a D&D campaign.

The lady knight rubbed the balm on her cracked and weathered hands and thought of her mother. Her mother’s hands were calm, cool and soft, except for that sewing callous on her index finger. Once, Marion bought her four silver thimbles for the Harvest, one for each finger. She was six years old. She had had to win a lot of races against the boys to get the coin for those thimbles and when she gave them to her mother, wrapped in a colored scarf, her mother had laughed. That was before Martin.  All the silver thimbles in the world couldn’t cover what the knight had done to her own hands and she had a feeling that they wouldn’t have had much effect against who (and what) Marion had had to kill.

She could hear the rest of the band outside her tent, settling down after a day’s journey. Bahb was swigging beer, loudly clearing his throat and hoping to drown out Isis’s wretched fiddle-playing. Leah was gently, patiently trying to play along on her lute. Marion really didn’t understand elves’ tolerance. If she had tried to play that cursed instrument that way at home, her brothers would have put her face through it.  Zefania had started taking long walks since Horace joined the group.

Horace may be an extraordinary bastard, but the man knew battle tactics, weapon technique, military discipline. King Dominic’s gracious bestowal of knighthood was more than Marion could have ever dreamed for herself, but it wouldn’t replace the training in the palace that she missed as a wandering warrior, learning the sword from those she paid. It wasn’t that Marion had no compassion for Zefania—the thought of her own mother’s body, cold and bloodied, made her hands itch for her blade.  Martin had taught her a lot about men, more than she would ever learn as a woman, and Horace was a different breed, to be sure.  More disciplined, less rash.  But Marion knew arrogance when she saw it and his religious fervor made him self-righteous (second ear down from Bayon, donchaknow).  All the better.  Let him show her up, again and again.  Beat her with his practice weapons, cluck when she failed.  In between the humiliating illuminations of her lack of formal training, she was learning.  Oh, was he good.  She would get faster, stronger, better.  Sometimes the best way to beat your enemy is to become him.

Replacing the lid on her balm, Marion quickly rose and immediately regretted it.  Suppressing a yelp, she forced herself to stretch her protesting muscles.  She could almost feel the bruises on her arms, legs, and middle coloring deeper.  Horace had obliged her a sparring lesson during the midday break.  She perhaps should have paid attention to the rest of her companions’ warnings (blah blah blah treaty blah blah).  She also probably shouldn’t have called Horace a grub-eating priest-licker.  She was paying for it now–his teaching skills went into serious decline when he was angry.  And sitting on that damn horse across a rocky beach for the rest of the ever-loving day really didn’t help her soreness.  What a bastard.

The salty air soothed her sun-scorched face as she emerged from her tent and slipped her feet into her boots.  She squinted against the sharp wind and sun’s last rays glaring off the choppy ocean.  Leah was attempting to explain music theory to the wizard, which had convinced Horace to join Bahb in drinking.

Marion watched Leah, her slender hands caressing her instrument, her silvery hair cascading down her shoulders instead of tied up neatly as usual. The elf’s lips betrayed a smile at Isis’s humor, her eyes creasing in silent merriment.  The men eyed her, though they pretended they weren’t.  There was just something about a pretty female, Marion supposed, no matter what you did in this life, that’s what everyone noticed first.

Annoyed, Marion turned her gaze back down the beach to the small fishing village.  They had passed it earlier before deciding to camp upwind, a decision finalized after witnessing the fishwives gutting the day’s catch.  Rubbing her fingers into her rough palms, she headed toward the cluster of buildings.

“I’ll be back,” she called over her shoulder. She hoped that Horace hadn’t noticed her favoring her right leg.

A particular shop had caught Marion’s eye when they passed through earlier.  Women in dresses streamed inside, and out wafted the scent of cinnamon and secrets.  She knew it was the sort of shop that her mother would have visited to buy perfume, after expressly promising her father she wouldn’t.  Now Marion stared into the window, her hazel eyes filled with the beautiful things that lined the walls—hats, scarves, and shifts made of velvet, linen, cotton, dyed in all the colors. There were racks of feathered hairpieces and cloaks. There were mirrors and shells everywhere.  You won’t beat Horace wearing one of those dumb bonnets, thought Martin treacherously.  The shop was mostly empty except for three women, maybe sisters, who were laughing and chatting.  One was playing with another’s long black hair.  Marion watched them for what felt like a long while.

“I’m just going to look,” she said finally.  She secured her belt and sheath and straightened her green linen tunic.  Steeling herself, she opened the door, which jingled.  Marion inhaled the scents of perfumes, candles, and potions.

The three women turned and looked at her.  Three sets of eyebrows raised.  One of the women, who wore a magnificent purple robe, wrinkled her nose.

“Can I help you?” The woman with the long black hair sounded like chocolate.

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