Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Fire-Forged Queen of Damara

To help me understand my characters better, I find it fun and useful to write back stories for the more important NPCs in my module. Character backgrounds are often excellent inspiration for side quests. For this post, I've decided to spotlight Queen Christine of Damara, wife of King Gareth Dragonsbane. A submissive woman this lady is not. Even though she only has a small role to play in "Faithless," her strong character warrants a separate writeup on her.

Despite appearances, nothing that I write or show in this blog is a spoiler. Most of the information presented below may be read in the four TSR modules regarding the Bloodstone War; namely, Bloodstone Pass, The Mines of Bloodstone, The Bloodstone Wars, and The Throne of Bloodstone. A small part of this writeup is actually my conjecture on why some of the characters behaved the way they did. I believe that readers may discern the actual realms lore from my conjecture based on how I phrase some of the information.

The Years of the Bloodstone War
Christine, the daughter of Baron Tranth of Bloodstone, was only eight years old when the undead wizard Zhengyi appeared out of nowhere to establish a kingdom in Vaasa. Mustering an army of humans and monsters, Zhengyi set his sights on Damara in what was to be a twelve year war. During that time, the bloodstone mines were sealed off from the Damarans, and Christine saw her father's barony slip slowly into poverty.

For ten years, the Vaasans and the Damarans fought with neither achieving a decisive victory over the other. In the battle at the Ford of Goliad, however, King Virdin Bloodfeathers of Damara was slain. Immediately thereafter, groups of assassins killed the most powerful and loyal nobles of Damara in one fell swoop, leaving behind the incompetent and disloyal to sue for peace. With his coffers bare, Baron Tranth was not deemed a serious threat to the Witch King. The former kingdom of Damara was broken into autonomous baronies that paid tribute to Vaasa.

Before the arrival of Zhengyi, the domain of Bloodstone had grown wealthy from trade in the gems that gave the barony its name. Even when the war started, the barony's descent into poverty was not immediate. Christine grew up well aware of her family's high status, but she witnessed that status diminish to a ghost of its former glory. To most people, she is as cold and haughty as she is beautiful, but those who knew her would have seen the shame that fuels her passion.

Because her mother died when Christine was a baby, the only authority figures that Christine could look up to were male. Aside from her father, Christine often sought the guidance of the old druid Quillan, whom her great grandfather had hired as the barony's historian. It was from Quillan that Christine grew to love nature and attain some level of competence in the druidic arts. To her father's credit, Tranth did not seek to dissuade Christine from her worship of Silvanus despite the widespread worship of Ilmater in Damara. Instead, he schooled her in matters that he deemed most important in their troubled times -- the twin arts of diplomacy and war. Perhaps because of this, Christine became feisty and tomboyish. When a group of powerful heroes eventually answered Baron Tranth's call for aid, Christine had command over the village militia and fought alongside the rest of the Bloodstone army.

Lady Christine was eighteen years old when she first laid eyes on Gareth Dragonsbane, one of the heroes who answered Baron Tranth's call. Her icy demeanor must have melted at the sight of the dashing paladin. It is said that Christine often sought to draw Gareth's attention by strolling around in plain sight while Gareth was training the villagers or by sending him delicious lunches whenever he was nearby. Sometimes, she even invited him to "secret meetings" that turned out to be picnics by the lake. Perhaps the thought that death could come to her or Gareth at any time emboldened her to be forward with the handsome hero. War has been known to throw the usual rules of courtship out the window.

A year after they met, Gareth and Christine were wed. On the day of the wedding, Baron Tranth announced that he was abdicating his title in favor of his new son-in-law. Tranth must have known that Bloodstone Village needed a hero to fire up the hopes of its people. Gareth was their hero. As to whether Gareth could navigate the political snake pit that came with the title, there was no need for Tranth to be concerned. He must have known that his daughter was fully capable of handling whatever Gareth could not.

In the remaining months of the war, Lady Christine had busied herself with cementing key alliances among the baronies of the former kingdom. When Gareth eventually defeated the Witch King and sent his armies packing to the remote corners of Vaasa, Christine's groundwork had paved the way for Gareth to be crowned king of a united Damara, and its people enjoyed an unprecedented level of prosperity.

The Present Time
So what has happened to Queen Christine since then? Has she been living happily ever after, just like in the fairy tales? Well, despite being a fantasy world, Toril is no setting for fairy tales, and like in real life, no one there really lives happily ever after. I've heard it said that a comedy is a tragedy that has not yet ended. (I can't rightly recall who I heard that from. Maybe Jergal. Heh-heh.) Anyhow, conflict is at the heart of any story, and it simply won't do for our characters to be content with their lives.

At the start of "Faithless," Queen Christine is in her very late thirties. I believe that the back story that I presented above can suggest a number of ways to introduce further conflict in Christine's life. I'm not about to spell them out here, however. That would constitute a spoiler. Readers will just have to wait for me to release my module to find out what I have in store for her.

Hair and Makeup
I'd like to thank Barrel of Monkeys for Queen Christine's hair, which is taken from the hakpak Hair Extensions. Queen Christine's face is courtesy of the 3D artists at Obsidian Entertainment.


Liso said...

Queen Christine seems like an interesting character Frank. Great job on the back ground story. :)

Frank Perez said...

Thanks, Michele. Although her character was originally created by Michael Dobson and Douglas Niles in 1985, I did put a bit of my own spin in her personality. It was fun making believable sense of her character.