My gaming group has just started up a 7th Sea campaign. For those of you who don't know what that means (and shame on you if that's the case!), 7th Sea is a swashbuckling game set during the Age of Exploration on a world that is basically Earth but with the serial numbers filed off.
Oh, and there's magic.
And the European nations are arranged according to coolness factor, rather than chronological accuracy. So you've got Pre-Revolution France butting up against Inquisition Spain, while post-Thirty Years' War Germany exports mercenaries to both sides. Ivan the terrible runs Russia, Vikings plunder Dutch trading guilds and the United Kingdom is made up of Elizabethan England, Robert the Bruce Scotland and Ireland has its own king, which never EVER happened.
In this universe, the Irish are called the Inish, and there are faeries everywhere. And I don't mean Disney fairies, either, I mean terrifying inhuman kind. In fact, Inismore and Avalon and the Highland Marches are called the Glamour Isles, and the place is just drenched with magic and superstition.
My character is Inish, and male (it's easier to play male roles in 7th Sea, in my opinion, especially in a pirate campaign), and... well, see for yourself.
(Apologies to those folks who have no clue what I'm talking about. Lie back, close your eyes, and think of home. I'll be done in a moment.)
The Tale of Jack
He doesn't remember his name any more.
It's been so long, and he's gone by so many aliases, that for the life of him he simply can't recall the name of his birth. When he tries to remember... things... happen. Very bad things. No, it's better just to let the past lie, and ride the madness instead of fighting it.
We can call him Jack. That's a nice name. A good strong Inish name. Because even if he doesn't remember who he is anymore, he knows he's Inish, by Theus. Call him an Avalonian and he'll bash you in the delicates until you stop whimpering and pass out from the pain.
What Jack does remember, though, is being poor. Poor, and cold, and starving, with a family to feed, and the harvest having been so poor on account of the drought. Desperation drove him to do the unthinkable: poaching small game in a forest claimed by a Sidhe lord. And it worked, for a while.
But he was caught, as the heroes in these tales always are. Now, Jack was never a particularly strong man, or fast, or even smart, but what he had in spades was a quick wit honed to a razor edge through desperation. And as the Sidhe lord prepared to slay the filthy poacher, Jack uttered the words that would change his life forever:
"Fancy a game of riddles?"
For Jack knew well the love of games most Sidhe possessed, and this one was no different. "Now just to make this interesting," he continued, "we'll put a wee wager on this game. If you win, then you kill me, and everything that is mine becomes yours." Jack was pleased by this last bit, because even if he failed, his family would fall under the Sidhe's protection, and they'd never starve again. "But if I win.... then I get your magic. It's life for livelihood, you see."
The contest, as the bards would say, was epic. It lasted far into the night and well into the morning. The Sidhe was immeasurably old, and incredibly wise, but rather lacking in imagination, and Jack had nothing BUT imagination. It was a duel for the ages.
Sadly, Jack can't recall the winning riddle. The contest had been going for hours, and he was exhausted, fluttering into and out of the half-sleep that separates our world from the next, and it within those borders that genius and madness meet and have loud, riotous sex. The spawn of their coupling was a riddle that was so complex, so maddening, that the Sidhe was unable to answer.
"So you're admitting defeat?" he asked. No, said the Sidhe, it would prefer to think about it for a while. "Suit yourself," said Jack, who promptly lay down and started snoring.
Come the morning, the Sidhe was still there, looking more perplexed and frustrated than it did before Jack's nap. "Far be it from me to lecture you about the rules of the game," Jack offered, "but I've given you more than enough time to answer, and truth of the matter is I'm more than a bit peckish and rank. So if you don't mind, I'll just be toddling off now..."
NO, said the Sidhe. A BARGAIN IS A BARGAIN. TAKE YOUR WINNINGS, THIEF.
Jack felt the power come upon him, Glamour coursing through his body. And so much more! He was becoming stronger, healthier, handsomer (teeth started to grow back)... he could even recall an education he'd never had. The Sidhe had given him more than just Glamour. But why? Part of him worried about this unexpected generosity, but he was more concerned with returning to his family and sharing with them his good news.
The miles melted away under his feet as he ran home, and threw open the door... to find the Sidhe lord sitting at the table, taking breakfast with them. Jack's family looked up at him with unrecognizing eyes, startled by the strange man who burst into their hovel. And when the Sidhe looked at him, Jack could clearly see the cold malevolence burning in his eyes, and he fully realized the bargain he'd struck.
They had traded lives. The Sidhe now had his family, who all loved him instead of Jack. And Jack, in becoming the Sidhe, not only gained his powers and memories, but also his debts. Sidhe live for a very long time, you see, and acquire many enemies over the course of eternity, and now every single one of them was after Jack to collect what was owed them.
Jack did the only thing he could think to do, which was Go Very Far From Here Very Quickly. He joined the crew of the first ship leaving the first harbor he found, and he has spent the past twenty years at sea, and he hasn't aged a day.
He's done everything, from hunt whales and leviathans in the icy Vendel seas to the lowest forms of piracy imaginable. He's been shipwrecked, marooned, imprisoned, pardoned, and once even mutinied against. He likes to tell stories about being on Berek's crew during the sinking of the Castillian Armada, but the truth of the matter is he was sick as a dog with dysentery the whole battle.
He's an excellent topsman, with a sense of balance that borders on eerie and a thorough grounding in the basics of sailing: rigging, knotwork, and even swabbing the deck. His keen eyes make him an excellent lookout, on the occasions when he's not thoroughly shitfaced on rum. These occasions are rare.
Jack is a functional alcoholic, however, and even when he's utterly smashed he's a competent sailor. But he drinks to keep the madness at bay.
Madness, because over the years he's forgotten nearly everything about his family, or his life before the Gift. His memories have instead been replaced with maddening visions of Bryn Bresail,of living a life he knows isn't his in a world that makes no sense. He has a thousand years of experience crammed into a brain that can barely handle a hundred. His dreams are haunted by a woman, beautiful and blue as ice and green as the sea, and as cold and deep and murderous as either. He's not sure if she's his wife, or his mother, or his sister, or if she wants to help him or kill him.
Theus help him, he thinks it's all of the above.
Extra! I rather imagine Jack looks and sounds like this, only Irish instead of Scottish: