Shadows of Esteren
Rational, ingenious, and charismatic
Theodosia is not very tall. Curly dark brown hair and freckles, oh so many freckles. She is slender and not very strong.
She is quite pretty. At rest, she has a pensive and sad expression on her face. She can rapidly shift to engaging and convincing when she wishes to. She is empathetic and understanding and quite persuasive.
She has a lame leg from what looks like an extensive and fairly recent wound. It pains her at times and keeps her from moving very quickly at all. She does not complain about it, ever.
Theodosia is Tarish. She grew up in a close knit family of tinkers and traders. They were itinerant, never staying long in one place, moving wherever their fancy and the promise of work or trade or good gossip took them.
Theodosia was a happy child, and her family loved each other greatly. She had two older brothers and a younger sister. Their ‘wagon train’ consisted of her family and one or two or even sometimes THREE other wagons, usually full of cousins of all shapes, sizes and temperments. The number of wagons depended on the time of year, the danger (or wealth) of the countryside they travelled through, and the whims of her seemingly numberless cousins.
Being Tarish was never something that confused Theodosia. Family was family, and anyone else was not. The bad looks and harsh whispers that gaijin cast upon her and her family were meaningless. Who cares what gaijin think? Theodosia and her family travelled, and gently cheated, and maybe ‘shared’ a sheep here or a chicken there without technically being offered, but mostly gave good value to good people. They saved the best, most creative and most fun cheats for those gaijin who really seemed to deserve to get taken down a few pegs.
So Theodosia grew: Happy and loved, adventurous and protected. She learned sharp bargaining from her mother and aunts, and learned a smattering of tinkering from her father and uncles. Her whole family observed how sharp she was and encouraged her in reading and writing (the better to deal with gaijin of course). She knows how to travel and take care of horses and donkeys, and how to camp in the woods and how to be either unobtrusive or flashy in towns, depending on what is called for.
At sixteen, Theodosia was considered a woman. She felt like one. Some of the male cousins had introduced her to kissing (which she liked) and tried to possibly show her more (which she avoided, having had “the talk” from her mother and auntie). At the spring gathering her family announced they had chosen who she would wed. Theodosia was lucky. Riley her groom to be was a distant cousin. He was handsome, and clean, a nice man, and he was not stupid. They married at midsummer, and by midwinter Theodosia was in love. She was also with child.
By the time she was nineteen, Theodosia’s life was perfect. Her daughter Queenie was healthy and happy. Riley was a good husband, father and provider. They had acquired a puppy for Queenie, who the precocious child had insisted was to be named “Rawnie” (which means Princess).
Theodosia had blossomed into a very sharp trader indeed. She understands people very well, their motivations and their moods. She knows a little bit about a great variety of subjects, picking up knowledge and book learning wherever she travels.
All of Theodosia’s perfect life came to a crashing halt one perfect day in the summer of her nineteenth year. The wagons had pulled aside at a perfect camping spot beside an idyllic stream. It was cool in the shade, perhaps a bit too cool, but the change was welcome after a hot day on the road. Everyone was setting up camp and getting ready for a cool dip in the stream. Perhaps they would linger here an extra day. There was no hurry to get to the nearest town. Baile Den-Tur was still a few days away, and was in no urgent need of their services.
As night crept in a fog rolled in. Most of the wagonfolk ignored it and went about their chores. The puppy crept up to Theodosia. Frustrated at his underfootedness, she put him up in the wagon with Queenie.
Theodosia can’t remember much of what happened next. The world erupted into confusion. Screams of the other wagon folk mingled with the panicked cries of the baby and the inconsolable howls of the puppy.
She remembers flashes, pictures of horror. Her father, bending to grasp a flaming brand from the fire, and instead falling boneless into the flames. Her husband slashing his knife at some formless shadow, and falling back with his guts falling out of his body. Her baby… She can’t remember her baby, she only remembers the pain on the back of her head, and falling forever, and the puppy scrabbling under her body.
The next night, she awoke to pain in her head, and agony in her leg. A large slash in her leg had crippled her, but a flaming log had fallen on the wound, mostly cauterizing it.
In a daze, she searched the camp but could only find blood and burned wood. Of the people and animals, only she and Rawnie remained. Tears cleaned tracks in the dirt on her face as she sat sleepless in the ruin of the camp for the rest of the night. At dawn, with the puppy anxiously licking her hand, Theodosia finally got up and slowly gathered up the remnants of her family’s livelihood into a pack. The coins, some of the tools, some of the trade goods, were salvageable. She took mementos of her family. Her husband’s second best knife. Her baby’s favorite rattle. Her mother’s tarot deck.
Theodosia limped her way to Baile Den-Tur. She was looked at askance for her appearance and her race, but was able to rent a room at the inn and eventually a small house readily enough when she showed her coin.
She has gone through the motions of life since that day. She has healed as best she could from her physical wounds, though she has not healed well from the psychological ones. She was once bubbly and full of life, and now she is silent and pensive unless she makes an effort. Rawnie is the only recipient of open affection from Theodosia.
She has established herself as a tinker and tradeswoman as much as she has been able to here in this town of gaijin. But she is alone. The memory of what happened haunts her nights. She wants to know what happened. She wants revenge. Those things might help her carry on; though she knows she can never have what she really wants – her life back before that horrifying day last summer.