Today on d20 diaries we’re taking a look at the lost.
You know the lost.
The abandoned, the deceased, the forgotten, the retired. The characters whose stories were over before they even started. Who began a journey that would never come to a close. Who died in action.
Not all of them, of course. Just one.
A character of mine who recently died in action. An inglorious end for an ambitious, (possibly deranged) woman with way too many voices in her head.
Today we meet Lara.
Lara Belfast had always had strange dreams. They were vivid, immersive… lasting, and always featured other people. She would wake, and for hours after have the feelings of these others inside her. Their hopes and fears and memories. It was like she had really been there. Lived through it. As other people.
It was normal, her parents told her. Dreams were just dreams, and they would pass. But they didn’t pass. They got worse. When they started to occur during the day, her parents finally began to worry. But when she woke up one day from a dream where she was a shipwright and immediately set to work building a fully-functioning wooden sailboat, she realized the truth. They weren’t dreams. They were people.
Lara was reliving her past lives. Not only that, she could learn from them. Her family moved after that. Got a fresh start. Her parents didn’t want their neighbours realizing she was odd.
As she grew older, Lara’s connection with her past lives grew. She learned new skills, saw new places, took up new professions, and felt things she had never felt before. She was wise and experienced beyond her years. And when one night she threw a chair across the room with her mind, or answered a question her parents had only thought — not spoken — they weren’t even surprised. Nothing surprised them anymore. Not when it came to Lara.
Lara always loved her Dreamers — as she liked to call her previous incarnations. She was an echo of them — all of them — and that’s what she started to call herself. Sure, they made it hard to have friends, and boyfriends, but her connection with them was so real, so… intimate, that she never regretted her powers. Not once.
Well, maybe once.
There were many dreamers, but one of them in particular had always come to her strongest. He was a shipwright, young, strong, and handsome. He had a sister named Gilly, and a girlfriend who he stole kisses from under the dock at night. Sara, was her name. And one night everything went horribly wrong.
A few men found them. They were drunk and rough. Her dreamer was punched right in the face. She could feel the pain, and hear the crack of her nose breaking. She could taste the blood. But that wasn’t the worst part… The worst was the screams of his beloved. That’s what got to Lara the most. That’s what made her cry. And the way her dreamer had felt… Helpless. Broken. Scared.
When the dreamer awoke, things were worse. Her dreamer and his beloved had been sold to slavers. Life on the ship was hard for her dreamer, but for Sara it was hardest. Her dreamer struggled, and planned, and when he could take no more he fought back.
She Her dreamer had to save Sara. He loved her, and she was in so much pain.
But, suddenly it’s not sorrow her dreamer feels, but agony. Her dreamer’s dying — his arm is broken, and as the first mate of the ship stomps his way across the deck…
STOMP, STOMP, STOMP…
Her dreamer hears another sound. His name: Benjamin.
Sara’s here… She can see him. Her dreamer looks up at the first mate — he’s tall, and strong, in nobleman’s clothes, with slicked back hair and a waxed moustache, not much older than her dreamer. The first mate smiles as he brings the blade down across her dreamer’s neck. Then everything spins and for a moment — a crazy, painful, terrifying moment — she can see her dreamer’s body.
He would be handsome if he still had his head.
There were plenty of other dreamers — the lumberjack, the warchief, the chef, the sickly child, even an old dame — but it was Benjamin who stuck with her most. Benjamin whose memories haunted her. He was the last, she knew. The person she had been before she was herself. Gilly, Sara, his killer… They might all still be alive. She had to find out. She had to know.
So she left home — barely a grown woman — to do research, and to find them. Sara especially. But it was the first mate she found first. Still alive, aged 46, and still working on slave ships. And Lara (Echo, she went by now) did the craziest thing she had ever done (which was saying a lot). She used her psychic powers to get hired as a sailor on his ship. She used them again to get close to him, and to make others ignore her when she snuck into his quarters. She had finally found his old ledgers when he caught her in his quarters. She tried to talk her way out of it, but it was useless. She would soon be joining Benjamin…
He drew his blade, stalked towards her…
And then the storm struck.
It tossed the ship so hard the both of them went flying. She struck her head against something hard — the bunk maybe, perhaps the floor — and when she awoke she was alone, shivering with cold, dripping wet, on a strange beach. The ledger was gone.
She would never know what happened to Sara.
Never get revenge against her beloved dreamer’s murderer.
But then another dreamer reared her head: the lumberjack. Echo was shipwrecked on an unknown island. She would need food, and shelter, and warmth. It would be a struggle just to survive. The lumberjack always was the practical one. But she was right. So Echo let go of her disappointment, and shame, and let the lumberjacks skills come to the forefront. There was work to do, and she didn’t plan on dying yet.
She wasn’t ready to be the next dreamer.
Echo was created for an online play-by-post campaign run by GM Fuzzfoot called Castaways. The premise?
“Slavery in parts of Golarion is legal, but there are plenty who still abhor it. Working undercover – some as slaves, some as slavers – you are on a slave ship trying to discover the key players and document the slave routes in order to disrupt the business. Unfortunately, fate has another plan for you. A terrible storm strikes while the ship is deep at sea. You remember rain and lightning, and terrible thunder! The ship broke into two, and you were tossed into the sea. You were sure you drowned, and yet you find yourself washed up on a shore. Which shore? You have no idea.”
Applicants had to create third level characters, and wow were there a lot of good ones! Happily, of the twenty-one submissions, Echo was one of those chosen to play. Along with five other lucky unfortunates, she washed up on the shores of an unknown island. Wounded, confused, lost, but not broken!
Echo was joined by Pharithstillis Euduethistle, a chipper gnomish sorcerer who enjoyed making jewelry; Nathan Bensson, a kineticist with control over water; Celebeth Quinciel, a free-spirited elven unchained rogue (arcane scoundrel) who grew up on the frontier with her parents; Aki Mori, a multiclass ninja arcanist who spent most of her time in human form, but made excellent use of her ability to transform into a small fox; and Molothor the Bloodhound, a hobgoblin druid who had long ago become accustomed to his life as a slave.
Echo was a human woman in her early twenties with a lean body, pale skin, and blond hair. She’s attractive, intelligent and wise beyond her years. Her eyes are gray, and fathomless, the only feature she bears which belies her soul’s unknowable age. Her effect on people is varied, sometimes hypnotic and sometimes disconcerting.
Echo herself is kind and self-sacrificing. She’s obsessed with her past lives — most especially that of Benjamin — and not only learns from them, but lives for them. Her dreamers still visit her every night, but she is in control of her mind, and no longer loses herself to their memories.
Mechanically, Echo was a psychic with the rebirth discipline. Her discipline powers were past-life memories, which allowed her to make all knowledge checks untrained, and add half her psychic level as a bonus on all knowledge checks. Her second was mnemonic esoterica, which allowed her to choose a spell from another spell list she could cast each day (which she most often used for create water).
Her phrenic amplifications included defensive prognostication, which allowed her to see a glimpse of her future whenever she cast a divination spell (which could increase her AC for a round), and intense focus, which allowed her to gain a bonus on concentration checks.
For traits she chose dangerously curious, to allow her to make better use of magical devices, and self-reliant, which prevented her from taking penalties on craft checks made without the proper tools, and even make craft checks without tools at all. For feats she chose skill focus (sense motive), and magical aptitude, both of which played well to her backstory, particularly when coupled with her ability to detect thoughts.
Her spells were great fun to select, as Echo was the first (and only) psychic I ever made. Her starting knacks were detect magic, light, mage hand, prestidigitation, and telekinetic projectile, while her first level spells were burst of insight, mage armour, mind thrust, and true strike. She made the most use of burst of insight, which was incredibly helpful for both survival, and creating shelter.
Together the castaways struggled for survival, facing the elements, exhaustion, dangerous beasts, and ominous portents. They explored the beach and sunken wrecks for their gear and supplies. In time some of them met a young child, who spoke strange words and led them to his people — who unfortunately turned out to be cannibals. Echo and Aki were captured, but managed to escape without too much difficulty. Echo spent her time tossing telekinetic projectiles at her captors, while Aki simply transformed into a fox and slipped through the bars.
Eventually Aki returned to free Echo and they fled, but the cannibals were soon on their trail. They escaped, eventually running into the rest of their companions. Together they abandoned their camp and headed further into the jungle. But the cannibals knew these jungles far better than our heroes. They woke up one night to find themselves surrounded and vastly outnumbered. Captured again they were led back through the jungles — until a tribe of grippli attacked! The grippli ended up the victors, and brought the castaways back to their village. Echo and her friends spent quite a bit of time there. They learned the grippli’s language and what they could of the island. Eventually, they decided to help the grippli defeat the cannibals. The group made a plan, and the castaways set out to begin phase one. Unfortunately, fate intervened. While exploring a cave they came under attack by a massive lobster. Echo was slain within moments of the battle beginning, with Aki following suit soon afterwards. Nathan fell unconscious next and, with Malothor lost long before this battle, that left only Celebeth and Pharithstillis still fighting. Deciding to beat a hasty retreat they grabbed the bodies they could — Echo and Nathan — and fled back to the grippli village. The grippli gave up hopes of changing their fate, and Celebeth and Pharithstillis spent the remainder of their days among the grippli village.
We started our campaign at third level, and it came to an end at fourth. Echo was burnt and given a burial at sea.
Just another of the Dreamers.
As to who she became next…?
That’s a mystery for another time.
So ends the tale of Lara Belfast.
Thanks for joining us for our first ‘Ode to the Lost.’ I hope you enjoyed it!
Got an abandoned, forgotten, or deceased character whose tale you want to share? Let us know in the comments! I’d love to read all about them.
May you have better luck than Lara! (And your ghosts never come back to haunt you!)