"Yes, the ears are real, no, I'm not expected to get any taller, and no, I cannot take you seriously in that coat."
Bard, level 3
Background: Entertainer (instrumentalist, singer, storyteller)
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Weight: 120 lbs.
Ideals: Honesty, Creativity
Bonds: The “common folk”
Personality: Independent, satirical, fun-loving, impulsive
Flaws: Dismissive of authority, manipulative, chronic liar and thief
Traits: Whenever I come to a new place, I collect local rumors and spread gossip.
I once satirized a noble who still wants my head. It was
a mistake that I will likely repeat.
Allies/Affiliations: Bard College of Lore, The Niebal Underground
The sound of pounding feet throbbed in her head like a pulse and air was a choking lack of a commodity in her chest. She dove sideways into a twiggy bush, one thankfully enough in bloom to conceal her – hopefully – if she managed to silence her ragged breath. She shoved herself against the tree growing abreast the brush, and held her breath, despite the sharp protest of her lungs and sudden yellow dizziness blotching her vision.
How did she get here? Days ago, life had been as it always had been – she’d performed for a local tavern, well enough for the innkeeper to ask her to return, but not well enough to be asked for by name by anyone, say, worthy of note in His Pompousness’s court; then she’d ducked into the shadows and let them lead her room that week. Ariani had been waiting for her, she’d remembered – she wanted to keep her from her second… performance that night. Ariani had to know there’d be no convincing Serah to reconsider, but always she tried anyway. They’d traveled together for years now, but as a human, Ariani had the privilege of working in the kitchens instead of the stables of the fields or wherever else hired help worked. Serah’s only saving grace was her way with her instruments, the viol in particular. With a tender touch to the servant girl’s cheek, Serah was out the window, costume donned, eager to spew her hate to and incite the hidden wrath she knew the commoners of the city had in hopes of coaxing them into rebellion.
It hadn’t worked that night, of course, just as it hadn’t any other night. But King Karnival, as she liked to call him, was growing noticeably inflamed by her antics, so at least he was finally taking her words seriously. But the crackdown on the people wasn’t her fault – that she knew for certain. Though never short of a tyrant, he had at least been tolerable to his kinfolk. But soon after he began the war, he’d grown assailing, impossible to please, and a mess of other adjectives forbidden for a King of the Royal Court to embody. He’d locked people up for offenses as simple as being born, and had others exiled for mistakes as simple as overcooking his dinner. But Serah always had a knack for sensing magic – it was what drew her to the music on which she now made her living – and she could sense something magical emitting from the castle. She knew something more than simple tyranny was making its presence in the country, and had for some time. She’d seen evidence of it – and the horror of King Karn’s rule – everywhere, and now she was finally in the capital, fully intending to rally the people and finally put an end to the King’s reign.
That night, after a frustratingly unsuccessful attempted riot which ended in another chase and narrow escape from the city guard, Serah met with her small band of underground resistance only to have her heart shattered. They had decided, without her, to disband, for fear the search for them was getting too hot. Something finally snapped Serah into action that night, and she decided to confront the snake directly… by indirectly sabotaging whatever secret plans he was certainly formulating up in his cozy chambers in the castle. Anything to convince her group to continue the fight, to not give up hope.
Serah had never been a person to regret much of anything, but sky above, did she regret her decision that night.
Hiding in the depths of the shadows – one of my only two true friend these days, she remarked to herself – she snuck her way into the King’s chambers, on alert for something, anything, to aid her. Like a prickle inside her heart, she sensed in the corner of the room, atop a bedside dresser, a strange idol, its face carved into something like death. Eyes wide, she slowly approached it, tentatively reaching out… and upon physical contact was bodily struck with an overwhelming shock of fear and dread. She knew exactly what this was. It sung the song of some kind of demon, or lost god, long corrupted and intent on spreading its dark lifeblood to the world through the dreams of whomever was unfortunate enough to possess it. This had to be what amplified of the King’s actions in the war, against the citizens, everything, and it was then Serah decided it was no longer his to keep. As if on cue, a hard grip on her wrist and a harder voice jolted her out of the hazy vision, demanding that she release the idol and surrender herself. The guard knocked the mask off her face, and Serah realized she had a choice: comply to the guard’s demand and surely die for attempting to steal both the idol and the power from the King, or run.
Serah had never been a stranger to split-second escapes, so she ran.
The only downside to her Charm spell was that her target would know exactly what had happened once it wore off, so she had a very limited window of time through which she could escape. Out the door, down to the castle’s servant’s quarters, she could hear the now un-Charmed guard calling for support. Without thinking, she tumbled out one of the castle’s back doors, and darted back to the inn she and Ariani worked this week. She shoved the idol and some supplies into a pack, fully meaning to escape without confrontation, only to nearly crash into Ariani on her way out the door. She panicked, and the next thing she knew, Ariani was asleep at her feet in a crumpled heap.
It’s been days since she ran, but she didn’t doubt she was still wanted. She was known well enough around the town for someone to put her name to her face, or maybe Ariani had exchanged information for coin. Serah knew her wits wouldn’t save her, not this time. She’d mouthed off to the nobles, the guard, even in the King’s presence before, but had somehow managed to talk her way out of trouble or disappear into the shadows. Not this time. She’d have to leave everything she’d known behind.
She’d heard of the pillaging of innocent villages all over the country, of monasteries and simple fishing towns completely obliterated by the forces of both the King and the Southern opposition for a claim no better than that of war, and even of giant, lizard-like monsters leading the charge. But she always managed to avoid it somehow. She considered herself comparatively lucky. As an elf, she ran the risk of getting caught and sold into slavery. She might have been able to survive in a war-torn countryside, but not without help (she was cocky, but even she knew she couldn’t charm her way out of everything). She’d never needed anyone, and she certainly didn’t want to start needing anyone now. But the sudden realization that’d she’d royally fucked up – that she’d never play for daft nobles or see Ariani again – gripped her heart and squeezed with a life-robbing ferocity.
And now she was here, crouched behind a bush, willing her body to melt into the tree digging into her back. The cold night numbed her insides and she could hear voices and the clanking of what sounded like chains not far from where she hid – she’d taken a dive off the only road she could find that went this far into the mountains, which, thanks to the lucky stars she rarely could to find, just happened to be a major highway.
The offspring of a noble human mother and a traveling elven performer, Serah had never been wanted anywhere. The gods had never come to her, nor did she want them to. She’d been raised at a bard’s college, the one at which her father had studied, perhaps – though none of the staff there were ever keen on answering her questions about him – until she was old enough to set out on her own; which, she may have admitted, may have been a few years too soon. Twelve was indeed a young age at which to declare one’s own independence, but there was nothing she could do about it now. She’d always made her own luck. She’d met Ariani on the road a few years after setting out alone, and that was perhaps the one lucky thing she didn’t produce for herself. The girls had lived and worked at various inns, taverns, and courts for six years now, never staying in one place for too long, but only now did it seem like Serah was losing something of great importance. She could never go back to her home country, however lacking the “home” aspect of her life had always felt, and she had nothing but the silence of shadows and the magic of her music to provide her comfort. But she supposed it’d be better this way. So long as she had her songs, she could survive anything. Her will was stronger than the wrath of any king or the persistence of any terrible fate.
She’d never prayed before, but tonight, she prayed to the gods she knew didn’t exist, to the sky, to anything that would hear her that she could not be found.
But just like the shadows she now considered her only friend, all were silent to her pleas. She’d have to do this on her own, just as she always had.
Serah isn’t actually Serah’s real name. It started as a joke; one of the singing instructors, quite young for his age, at the college in which Serah was raised started calling her that in reference to her self-important, entitled attitude. It became more a term of affection over time, and eventually the half-elf adopted it as her preferred name. She left the college by choice, but was sad to do so; if only because she came to miss Logan’s sweet voice and the soft touch of his lips on the back of her hand as he greeted her each day.
“Life presents us with good and bad circumstance, but at the end of the day, there isn’t a set ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. The ebb and flow of hypothetical virtues just… are. And we deal with the aftermath. Trying to reason why something happened doesn’t fix all the problems it causes, so it’s best to just take it for what it is, and move on. Regret is a dead man’s song.
“Music is the one thing, the only one, that truly unites us all. Whether we know it or not, we all have music, and therefore, magic, within us — be that a life force, or a jarring battle march, or a soft tune you might whistle when no one can hear. If we all embrace the song inside us, we will come together and coexist as beings of the world, and all artificial barriers we’ve created over the centuries will be destroyed.”
A demonstration of Serah’s lute-playing skills: