Shadows of Esteren
Colleen Mac Innes
A shy woman devoted to the Blade Knights
Colleen was always such a big and bumbling sort of child. On a smooth path, she would trip over her too-large feet; in a just-tidied room, she would invariably knock over the largest vase of flowers with her uncontrolled elbows; the sleeves of her custom-made society dresses always rode above her wrists; and she most certainly would never make a lady of Gwidre if her spelling and stitchery didn’t improve (so said her tutor).
To which she would hotly reply, “Who cares? You all stink!” Colleen wasn’t noted for her repartee.
So, for the most part, Colleen galumphed and gambolled her way through her early years. (Either purposefully or ingenuously), she remained oblivious to the conventions and the politics practiced by her extended royal family and she appeared unmindful of the discontent fomenting in the land-barons of Abundance, who constituted her paternal side and whom she physically resembled.
All of this came crashing to an end in her twelfth year. Her father, a distant Luciard cousin, and some others were all found guilty of treason and executed. In the eyes of the gentry, and painted with a broad brush, Colleen’s whole family became suspect. Painfully shy, Colleen found the whole situation unbearable and retreated further into herself, emerging only to bloody the nose of those foolish enough to insult her family within her hearing. It was with relief to all concerned when Colleen began her year of service a bit earlier than expected.
Then the real work began. In spite of her size, stature, and temperament, Colleen was still at least two years behind her companions in terms of arms training and experience. As well, the politics she so abhorred intruded in her life once again. Already noted for her piety and feisty character, Colleen was initially to serve in a clerical order. However, to minimize future power and opportunity– her family has produced four Hierophants thus far – and to keep an eye on her, Colleen was assigned to a Sigires’s unit instead. Unused to the hardships of barrack’s life, the constant cold, crude and rough companions, and a Keeper of the Faith (Commander Sylvia Creideamh) biased against perceived traitors, Colleen found every moment of her service to be a struggle. But she was stubbornly determined not to give in to the woman or her situation and served as faithfully as she could, being loyal – to a fault – to her religion and to her country.
At fifteen, however, she was determined to escape the oppression and paranoia of the Sigires; but she was also loathe to abandon her hard-won martial skills: none who met Colleen later in her life would ever guess at her klutzy and awkward childhood, except maybe for in her continued shyness. Attracted to the chivalry and muted pomp of the Blades, Colleen forsook all her past affiliations and embraced the Temple as a Blade knight. In place of her family coat-of-arms, Colleen wears the Temple’s hexcelsis on red.
But even amongst an order more suited to her temperament, Colleen still struggled. During a winter training accident, she fell through the ice and almost drowned. Found hours later, it took her many weeks to recuperate and her lung capacity never recovered to its original expanse. But in some ways, all of this was secondary to Colleen, for it was in almost dying that she attained her ecstasy with her God. In the moment that she should have died, when all things should have been going black and dark and the icy water filled her lungs, a sudden light blossomed across her being. It buoyed her, froze the darkness and the doubt, and gave her the strength to reach for air and life. And so, at the age of sixteen, was born Colleen’s first Miracle. Hardship continued, but it was with purpose now. The harsh years of the Sigires had honed her body and her near-death experience had honed her faith.
Colleen’s second near-death experience was less rapturous. In the last year of her training, and arriving at the tail-end of a bandit attack, Colleen had rushed into a burning building to save a young child trapped in an upper floor. Just after throwing the swaddling girl into the reaching arms of her companions, the roof collapsed upon her. Being close to the window had saved her life – she was thrown free – but she did not emerge from that fire unscathed: neither in body nor in mind. The child had died within hours of its rescue still struggling for breath; Colleen had burns to her nose, mouth, and face and continued to cough up black phlegm. Her right leg had been broken, and her sword arm burned. It would take her many months to recover. And after that, things just seemed to get worse.
In this year, it was her brother (following in the fine footsteps of their father), who was found guilty of treason and sentenced to Corvus Abbey for 20 years. Even having forsaken her family and politics, the black brush of speculation reached out to affect Colleen. While her other companions were being posted around the country to important and action-packed locations, Colleen found her recovering and recuperating body shipped off to Taol-Kaer and tendered to the unpredictable ministrations of Rector Arctor Luciard, another disgraced family member.
Two years protecting the small flock of Baile Den-Tur has not dampened Colleen’s disappointment. Sometimes not even allowed to wear armor or wield a weapon, Colleen struggles to remain optimistic. However, she does find some solace in the exactness and repetition of the many rites, services, and ceremonies of the Temple. And, even though grudgingly, Colleen is also allowed to remain in fighting trim by sparring with the Duke’s men. These things help stave off some of the boredom and inaction.
And the memory.
The memory of that cold and glorious light and the gentle pressure of faith that remains perfect and frozen in her mind’s eye.
Colleen’s Family Tree
Collen is King Dalenverch IV second cousin, once removed.