Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fiction: Roy's Prayer

[The second of three stories I wrote about my Pathfinder character from the last year, a tengu bard named Roy Raven. 
In this installment, we were near the end of yearish-long campaign and I felt like Roy -- who began as a bit of a boorish smartmouth -- had made something of a personal journey. One of his friends had recently sacrificed himself for the group, and I was thinking of giving Roy a level in a divine class like paladin. Our Gamemaster Alex suggested that Pharasma herself -- she's a deity in the Pathfinder world -- might step in and offer something more drastic.]

I offer a prayer to Pharasma. 

I have never been a holy bird, so Lady honor me with your patience. I was alone when I was born, like most folk are. I've been on the receiving end of kindness now and again, but for the most part, it was up to me to figure out how to survive. That's how it was for a long time, and that's how I learned most of my habits. I've stolen from the living and the dead, and it's never made me particularly sorry.

When I wanted to give up that kind of life, yours was the first face I saw. This old dwarf gave me a job and a shovel. Well — he gave me the job, but he docked my pay for the shovel. His name was Bardin. We buried people. Humans, dwarves, orcs — we buried a tengu once. He was a young guy too, younger than me. We buried the dead, and we got paid a copper for it. It wasn't work I was proud of, at first. I made jokes. I pocketed some possessions that were meant for the ones I was burying. Old Bardin never caught me, or if he did he never made me stop. You made me stop.

I overheard a cleric reciting a prayer to you, in advance of the body being given to me and Old Bardin for the burial. I don't remember the words, so apologies again, but I do remember part of what he said. "The Lady shall keep it." I didn't know exactly what we meant, but also I thought that I did, if that makes any sense. I thought maybe it meant … well, I dunno. Not the soul, exactly. For whatever reason, I decided it meant all their worry. The world is hard, and it was nice to think that when some poor old folks were finished running around in it, when they've finally met their bloody end, that they could have some rest. That they didn't have to carry that worry around anymore, of going hungry or going poor, or being stabbed to death by some adventurer who wanted a name for himself. I thought that it mean that you would keep it, that worry, so that they wouldn't anymore. And I liked that.

Old Bardin died. I buried him in his own plot. Nobody paid me to do it.

Nobody paid me to bury anybody after that. I took what Old Bardin had left behind, which wasn't much. A book of myths or stories for dwarves, a banjo, a cloak, and a shovel. I burned the cloak. I left the shovel behind, and mine own too, so that whoever took the job next could at least start with a leg up. I read that book, over and over again. About dwarves who went down too deep. Did you know that every dwarven story is about that? Digging too deep and finding something foul. Or giving yourself over to greed. Or drink. Every dwarf story has the same lesson, Lady Pharasma. I started plucking at the banjo too, and after awhile I got not-bad enough that people stopped yelling at me to stop. They started giving me a copper or two to keep going, and that's a better way to earn it than digging graves.

Anyway. That's how I found these guys, the Bugbears. They're all right. I think their mostly good people. What I mean is, they're probably the best guys I've ever known, but you know. If I told them that they'd just make sure their coinpurse was still there. Which is okay. I have old habits.

One old habit is how I still feel about those departed folk. I know a body is a just a body, and that the soul moves on. That you keep their worries for them. But it still means something to me, and I don't think it's just because of my old job. A body is a holy thing itself, and that's one thing I've learned since those gigs in Ravengro. A body shouldn't be used how the Way wants to use them. I think they're real wrong about what they do.

But I didn't really mean to talk to you about the Way. They're bad, but I think we can handle them. I meant to talk to you about Muzgash. He was a real weird guy, you know? And he smelled bad, and he walked slow, and sometimes he would help the people who wanted to kill us. Help them not to hurt. But he was also real all right. And that thing I guess he did, to cleanse your temple? 

Well. All due respect, I guess you owe him pretty big for that. I hope you keep his worries for him. He had a lot, I think.

And I don't always know what to do, but if there's a thing I can, I want to do it.  I think Muzgash has the right idea. You've got to just do it all, all that you can. I don't have a soul worthy of cleansing a temple or anything, but I can be pretty good at shooting things. And I can play Bardin's banjo a little. So if there's something I should do, and you can see it and I can't? You tell me what it is. Okay?

The Lady shall keep it. Amen.
[After this, Alex and I role-played a scenario via email where Pharasma offered Roy the chance to give himself over to her divine mission. His feathers turned white and he lost all of his bard and thief levels, replacing them with levels of Inquisitor. I still played him with the same rakish personality, only know he was on a Mission from God, kind of like Jake Blues. It was a fun change, and it felt character-based and natural.]

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