Thursday, August 16, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Empty

It’s only about three feet deep, so how can it hold everything? Canna stared at her backpack curiously as everything she would possess in the next stage of her life was so carefully arranged inside. There were few spare sets of clothes, several sunrods to help pierce the undoubtedly hideous, dark lairs of the Drow, a month’s worth of banausic trail rations, a length of rope coiled tightly, a filled waterskin, and an inconspicuous black coin purse filled with a meager salary of gold pieces tucked tightly into the corner. She was preparing to combat the strongest army the world has ever known, and yet there was still room left in her backpack? She sneered as she thought how easy it was to obtain this equipment; proving the only thing stopping someone from taking up the fight was cowardice or complacency in the face of oppression. With a sigh she sealed her pack and tied her bedroll to the top before looking over to the enormous axe which rested on her bed. She bent over and slid her hands underneath the weapon’s handle just to feel the weight of cold steel in her hands. Instinctively her fingers tightened into a grip and her muscles tensed in preparation of an attack. There was nothing to fight inside of the humble Corbett home, but it didn’t keep Canna from swinging her devastating weapon about. Each movement stretched a muscle aching to engage, and the weapon now felt like a comfortable extension of herself as she arched it down with a restrained grunt. The blade hovered just inches above the ground when a sarcastic tone interrupted Canna’s trance.

“You’re expecting to do a lot of fighting during your pilgrimage?” Jude Corbett stood at the doorway of her daughter’s room, and her glower was enough to set another miserable tone to this exchange between mother and child.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Best Left Unsaid

Canna sat quietly in her room immersed in a deep meditation. She rested on her heels; her eyes sealed as she focused on maintaining a steady breathing pattern while going over her tenets once again. Years had passed since the violent vixen first learned of her destiny with the Unfettered Queen, and the angry teen was now an adult preparing for the greatest challenge in her life. In a week’s time she would be heading north to meet with Bryth Wyrmslayer about a scouting mission over the wall, although the lie she told her family was that in a week’s time she would be embarking on a pilgrimage to visit various shrines to Avandra all across the world. In the eyes of the inconsiderate avenger, she felt everyone bought the story. Now she would enjoy her last week at home mentally preparing for this daunting task while trying to spend a few precious moments with her family as she knew they could very well be her last.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Avenger

Several weeks had passed since Canna first learned of her divine patron, and the violent vixen had exhausted her miniscule resources pulling together any material on Avandra she could. The Unfettered Queen was not one of the more pronounced deities however, and her order’s nature to refrain from a uniform Church made it nearly impossible for her to find detailed recordings of Avandra’s tenants. She found several old texts that explained what any novice student of religion would know of Avandra, but the wisdom behind it was decisively missing. Canna had taken to a more peculiar method of investigation; she started asking around for a follower.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Chosen One

Canna’s hands hovered over the collection of holy symbols with a growing hesitation causing her hands to quiver as it floated just above the relics. The symbols of every good or neutral aligned god rested casually on her bedroom floor as the red-haired teen sat pressed up against her bed. She withdrew her hand as she waited for her nerves to settle, but even as she held her hand up to her mouth she felt her skin tingle in fear. For the fifth time since she arranged this set up, Canna took in a deep breath with the expectation being that she’d initiate this test as soon as she finished exhaling. However, once her breath left her she found herself rushing to get it back again, and the paralysis continued.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Light

Canna rested with her back pressed up against the massive oak frame that outlined the silk sheathed mattress behind her. It was but one luxury inside the lavish chamber known as the Gilded Scale Inn that Canna had called home for the past week as she recovered from her injury at the hands of her once infallible idol. Cormag had so easily shattered the bone in her leg into two, but a short prayer had enabled a cleric of Bahamut to undo the damages in mere moments. Despite the lack of pain, Canna still kept her leg tightly wrapped by bandages visible beneath clothes that had become tattered and shredded due to the teen’s frequent irrational outbursts. Her quarters bore the similar wounds as elaborate wall decorations could be found bent, shattered, or torn from their place and strewn about the floor amongst a disorganized collection of books.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Crippled

One, two, three, four. Canna proudly counted her earnings while wiping the sweat from her brow and stuffing the handful of coins into her pocket. The day’s work was over, and for the violent vixen it was time to piss part of her salary away at her daily sanctuary. She pulled her hand out from her pocket and caught sight of her palms for what felt like the first time in ages. Her skin was rough and defined alongside the slender contours of her fingers, and calluses armored her palm against the strains of her daily chores. She clenched her hand into a fist and smiled delightfully as she felt each muscle tense with power at her command. Her hands were still small and delicate as was Jude’s, but there would be no doubt that these were not the hands of a satisfied individual.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Paternal Cycles

Evenings in Arkhosia were said to have been beautiful in the years before the Drow Curfew. The torches that hung on the outside of Arkhosia’s most noble structures mixed a warm orange glow into the dusky night sky as the streets were warmed with an ubiquitous comforting heat as though the city itself were one large fireplace for the citizens to lounge in and gaze up into the gallery of lights that painted the heavens. The legendary evenings of Arkhosia’s past were now a myth, passed down by elders who can still remember those carefree days as the connotation of sundown in Arkhosia had become one of fear and panic. Only the cruelest of criminals haunted the alleys of Arkhosia in the pitch black night waiting for those who haughtily thought themselves exempt from the dangers of these hours. No victim would be ignored—with the exception of one fiery haired teen who had proven time and time again that she was not the vulnerable fool that these vultures preyed on.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Initiation

The goliath cobalt-skinned dragonborn rested against a withering oak; his claws rapping against the polished steel of his massive fullblade as it impaled the ground. The thin chime echoed only briefly beneath the warbling of the morning birds amd the soft rush of wind breezing across the wild field where Grash Company was set up. They were miles from their beloved city of Arkhosia and quite a distance from the nearest road, but they were far from lost. Instead this veteran gang was patiently waiting to ensure, without a shadow of a doubt, that they would achieve a flawless victory. Cormag’s tick was rhythmic and only served to pass the time, but the renowned mercenary was carefully absorbing his surroundings with his full attention so much so that he greeted the return of his scout even before the young dragonborn had come into view. “How’s it look, Marlow?”

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Growing Wounds

“…and all I want is another cup!” The patrons of the Dragon’s Den were joined in an inebriated harmony; singing a treasured Arkhosian drinking song as the faint evening sun faded away to cast the City of Dragons in an ebon shade. The citizens of Arkhosia called these hours the “Drow Curfew” after the near pitch black darkness that the city became enveloped in once the sun’s meager rays disappeared. The pale moonlight could barely pierce the perpetual shroud that filtered the dawn into a fraction of its once reaching influence, and thus the City of Dragons became a chaotic playground for thieves, criminals, and vagabonds to hunt the streets looking for unfortunate prey. For the regulars of the Dragon’s Den they ushered in this sinister event with a pride filled chorus to celebrate the next few hours of drinking. After all, once the Drow Curfew began it was easy to justify settling in with a tall bottle to keep you company.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Chaser Blues

The faint red glow of the twilight sun cast Arkhosia in a ruddy shade to bring another day of life in the City of Dragons to an end. However as these final hours were drawing to a close the Dragon’s Den was only now opening its door for the rush of patrons and vagabonds crawling out from their holes and alleyways to celebrate, once again, another successful day spent staying alive in the slums of this mighty capital. Thin trails of smoke slipped through the cracks of the tavern’s weathered windowpanes as regulars shared stories of their turmoil or caught themselves deep in a reminiscing isolation with only a pale tan reflection staring back at them in their solace. It was by all accounts a normal day in this Arkhosian dive, save for the red haired human teen seen sitting alone near the back of the bar clad in nothing but a dingy white t-shirt that hung loosely from her shoulders and stretched down near her knees.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Arkhosian Discipline

The Dragon’s Den. It was a small tavern deep in the Arkhosian slums that not many knew about, and that didn’t care about attracting newcomers. From the outside it was unimpressive lot accented by smoke damaged windows and a sign that only read in Draconic. Though the thick scent of sulfur always hung in the air in Arkhosia it smelled particularly putrid around this establishment as the noxious fumes blended with the odor of cheap liquor to form a truly heinous stench. The company seen hanging around the bar were no more inviting either as shifty dealers and vagabonds passed by looking for any unfortunate mark to catch their eye. It was this low down den that Canna found herself drawn to having decided that she should dive head first into the belly of the Arkhosian beast. The meager coin she entered the city with was almost at an end, and before long she’d be sleeping on the streets though the prospect of that outcome only served to excite the wild eyed idealist. She wanted things to be challenging so there would she could claim no regrets after crossing over the wall, but now was the time for one last luxury.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Violent Meetings

“If you want to keep living in this house you need to understand that I know what’s best for you.” Those were the last words that Jude Corbett told her teenage daughter on that calamitous evening, and as far as Canna was concerned it would be the last thing ever said in their relationship. It was now approaching noon on the day after, and Canna was already miles away from her simple home in Southgate. She walked the long road to Arkhosia alone with nothing but the ragged clothes on her back, a handful of gold in her pocket, and a rusted old sword hanging from her hip. It was a meager inventory to be sure, but Canna wanted to make this trip without the temptation of luxury or the comfort of a safety net beneath her. It was a huge step forward for a girl who had spent the past few years learning the fundamentals of swordsmanship from the drunken vagabonds or ex-soldiers for whatever meager coin she could offer for their next drink. She was no longer a child who needed to hide her ambitions, and now she felt her chance to find her own future was before her—not that one could tell by looking at her.

The violent vixen had her usual grim scowl plastered onto her face, and her passionate eyes were drawn to a narrow state as though she were shooting daggers at everything she happened upon. Travelers of all sorts found themselves turning their attention away from the unruly teenager as they passed by, and not a soul paid her any mind. At least that’s how it was for the majority of her journey, but one unfortunate merchant sought to chance his luck with the dour dame.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Departure of Inspiration

Leon took a deep breath. Now came the moment he was dreading. “I’m going to be going over the wall. Going to see what they’re doing on the other side, and see if we can’t take some of our lands back.” It was Canna’s turn to fall quiet now. She was young, but far from stupid and she knew exactly what this meant. To Canna, her Uncle Leon wasn’t just a great guy, but rather a hero and inspiration. He was a guardsman in the strongest human military force left on the planet and a genuinely kind spirit. The young redheaded angel always adored the idea of being a warrior, but that concept was considered pure lunacy by her mother. Her Uncle was the only person who tolerated her attitude, let alone encouraged it. She didn’t love her uncle just because he was fun and treated her kindly—she loved him because he was the greatest influence in her life. As the realization he’d be leaving dawned on her all she could do was stand in disbelief as she felt her passion fade away into a pathetic somber emptiness. Leon dropped to his rear and embraced one arm around his niece’s shoulders, gently pushing her into a sitting position beside him. He knew this wasn’t going to be easy, and it would require tact, care, and a lot of luck to have this all work out for the better.

“Yeah, I’m going to be gone for a while. It could be a really long time. I’m sorry Can, but it’s something I have to do.”

“I’m going to be all alone.” Canna replied, futilely trying to hold back the upcoming sobs. Leon frowned, but knew this was an inevitability. He gripped her shoulder tightly; his firm grasp gentle but comforting. He knew it was impossible, but he hoped such a touch could help the veteran soldier transfer some of his strength to the broken hearted little girl.

“You won’t be all alone, Can. You’ll still have your mom and your dad who both love you very much, and very soon you’re going to have a little brother or sister who will love you too. I know that this hurts, and trust me it’s going to be hard for me too. I was looking forward to seeing you grow up in a bright, strong, and beautiful young woman, but I don’t know if I’ll be around during those years. Not physically at least.” Those last words caught Canna’s attention and a small flicker of hope lit up in her heart. She looked up at her uncle with her eyes circled by infant tears.

“Wha-what do you mean?” Canna’s words were lightly buried in a sob, but the brave little warrior-to-be held her tears at bay to keep this sadness from overwhelming her.

“Well,  I mean that I can still be there for you in spirit, and I can give you a few life lessons that you can take to heart. Consider them a code to follow, like a warrior’s oath.”

Canna’s attention was pulled in by the idea of a “warrior’s oath”. She’d heard stories about noble soldiers who only fought in accordance their code of ethics or the religious champions who lived by a set of commandments their gods placed on them, and these valiant souls were as painted as disciplined heroes worthy of praise and adoration. Canna wanted to be like those grand idols; a stalwart example of virtue, but more than that she wanted to be like her uncle. She took a deep breath and clenched her teeth as she wiped the tears from her eyes so as to ensure all of her senses could fully absorb these fundamental truths. Leon grew a warm smile in response before digging into his life and pulling out the most important lessons he could depart.

“Can, in this life there are three things you have to remember. First: family is the most important thing in your life. We don’t get to choose who our families are, but remember that your family is a group of people who can to love you regardless of what you do. There are going to be many people you’ll meet in your life: friends, colleagues, romances, but for all of those people you have to remain a certain way for them to love you. It’s always great to have those people, but when it comes to family always remember that their love is unconditional. No one in your family is ever going to stop loving you no matter what you do, and the same is true in reverse. Now you’ve got a little brother or sister on the way and it’s going to be your job to protect them. Always look out for them and keep them safe. Can you do that?”

Canna nodded her head in agreement as a strange feeling of pride swelled up in her stomach. “Second: always be yourself. Don’t let people tell you what you can’t do, and never accept another person’s plans for you if it’s not what you want.” Leon could already feel the piercing gaze of Jude staring daggers into his back from this sentiment. “You have free will in this world, and you need to use it. There’s going to be a lot of hard times in your life when you’ll feel lost, but remember to stay true to yourself and you’ll find your way. And third…” Leon paused.

“And third: if you change yourself, you can change the world.” This sentiment was the most important thing in Leon’s life. It was the motto that became the crux of his entire existence after his father once said those words to him when he was at his lowest. Leon never told anyone about his darkest hours; the ones spent contemplating a meaningless existence for a talentless individual with nothing but will in his favor, but these words gave purpose to that passion. Leon could only pray that Canna would take the same from it. “Never accept complacency. Don’t just let the world dictate your life. If you have a goal you have to take risks for it. Luck favors the bold as they say, and sometimes you’ll need to make some mistakes before you do something right. Just make sure you always do something. You’ve got an amazing passion, Can, and I know that one day you’re going to do amazing things. Don’t let somebody stop you from changing this world. Okay?”

Canna nodded her head, putting on a brave face as she committed each word to memory. She watched her uncle’s proud grin slowly slip into a bittersweet frown as their moments together were now quickly coming to an end.  Leon stared out into the distance, absorbing this nostalgic view one last time before turning back to his niece and extending a hand. “Remember what I taught you, right? Whenever you’re meeting somebody or saying good-bye you should greet them with a firm handshake.” Canna responded with an uneasy grin as she placed her tiny palm against his massive paw. The two shook hands, but as always Leon was not quick to let go.

Canna laughed as she tugged to free her arm before eventually shouting out the words that Leon would demand for release. “I yield!” she cried. “I yield!” But Leon didn’t let go. Canna’s giggles trailed off as she looked to her uncle who’s head was hung in shame as a series of tears dropped from his cheeks to the cold stone ground beneath him. Not letting go had always been a part of this game, but at this moment Leon felt a swell of emotions overtake his body. He realized that this handshake was the last memory he was going to have with his beloved niece, and he didn’t want to let go. It was so easy for Leon to tell himself it would be simple and that it would be worth it, but once he felt the warmth of her touch, heard the sweet tone of her voice, and saw the hope in her eyes it stopped being a matter of will. He couldn’t restrain his emotions any longer, and they came rushing to the surface without the slightest bit of control. Leon tugged on his arm and pulled the young girl into his chest where he wrapped his arms around Canna in an embrace. The feeling of comfort he had at this moment was one he never wanted to end. For Leon Corbett, this was the best and worst moment of his life.

“Thank you for being born into this world, Canna.” He wasn’t Canna’s father, and he knew that. He would never be that person in her life, but for this lonely soldier whose life had become one long crusade against an unconquerable foe, he found someone he could share himself with. And now, he had to say good-bye.

Leon returned Canna home later that night, and the next morning he left for his venture over the wall. Days without hearing any word back about his fate turned into weeks and then months. After a while Jude gave birth to Darek, her second child and the family’s attention turned to him—with the exception of Canna who continued to wait for any news back. Unfortunately, no news ever came back about the optimistic soldier with the seemingly ever present smile, and after a full year he was declared dead by the Corbett family. This brought about a violent change in Canna who turned to anger at the slightest provocation and locked her face in a bitter scowl that no one could budge. The subject of her beloved uncle brought out the worst in Canna, and so Jude decided that Leon’s name or presence would never be spoken of again. All that remained of his memory was buried in the heart of his niece; the young girl who lost the guide for her passion and the inspiration in her life.


And thus ends the Leon Arc. Is it an arc when it’s only three pieces? Fuck it, I’m calling it an arc. But yeah, this is the end of the whole relationship between Canna and Leon, and it’s a rather sad one. Canna is a lot like Leon when he was younger, but with a lot more aggression. The tragedy here isn’t just how a man had to leave behind someone he thought of as a daughter, but for how we know Canna’s story turns out… at least to a certain point. We don’t know her ultimate fate and maybe there’s a happy end to this story, but the reality of this story is that Canna’s life is very different because Leon left. When she was with her uncle Canna was restrained and calm. Leon was similar as a child and knew how to direct and develop Canna’s more aggressive nature which means that had he stayed behind Canna might have grown up to be a completely different person. Would that be for the better? Who knows, but it’s something to contemplate. A lot of the pain she goes through growing up could have been prevented.

When I build a character in D&D I try to put a piece of myself in them and for Canna it’s that feeling. Not to start the sob story, but as many of you know (or don’t) I grew up without a dad for most of my life. My grandfather (we called him Poppi) was the male influence in my life and the man I respected the most. Sadly, he died when I was five, and that void never really got filled. I often wonder how different my life would have been had my grandfather been around as he was a tremendous presence in my life. He likely would he gotten me involved in more sports and activities as a child which might have meant I probably never would have become an anti-social kid who grew up glued to a television and video game console. No one can know for sure, but it’s something I contemplate from time to time and I wanted to explore that with Canna. As I mentioned before the handshake is something my Poppi did with me, and the mountain this scene takes place on is called Validus Mountain in a reference to Validus O’Toone, a character I based off of my grandfather in another story I did back in high school. So this part is a whole lotta Poppi.

While I’m at it, the whole first paragraph is a memory I have of a place my family used to go to when I was a kid called Peter’s Mountain. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen a snake in the wild, and I have more than a few memories going up on that mountain and throwing rocks with my cousins at old soda cans other hikers would leave behind that my uncle would set up into targets. Good times, and even though I hate that opening paragraph (a common theme you’ll find), I do enjoy using those memories.

Some of you who listen to Weekly Manga Recap might know that final line Leon says to Canna. I wish I could take credit for it, but it’s actually from Skip Beat. I don’t normally lift quotes directly, and originally I just had a simple “I love you, Canna.” in its place, but I just couldn’t think of a more appropriate and beautiful line for that sentiment. Oh boy, I have to hand in my man card now, don’t I? Maybe I’ll get it back once the Cormag stuff comes up.

So about Leon, as I said last time I like adding depth into the mentor figures so we know what makes them tick, and I got into that a bit with Leon. There are a few factoids about the guy I didn’t openly state, but some others might pick up on them. However that would insinuate I have talent and subtlety as a writer, so not likely. I really do like Leon’s character and what he means for Canna. However at this point his story is out of my hands and into Peter’s (MechaGM’s). I told him about Leon and Cormag and gave him free reign to do with them as he pleases once they crossed the wall. I told him it was completely kosher to kill them off or keep them alive as it was appropriate, so we’ll see what Peter plans. Maybe there’s a happy ending for Leon?

Up next I’m going to get into Canna’s life in Arkhosia, and what prompted her to leave her home. Honestly were a few standalone stories I wanted to tell in between, but I didn’t want to drag this series out due in part to something secret I’m working on. I’ll be vague, but I’m planning on doing something bigger than this backstory series based on whether people seem to like reading my writing, so if you do leave me a comment. What I’m planning is something I’ll keep in my back pocket for now, but it could be extremely awesome (see: magnificent failure).

Alright, so I think that’s all for this week. If ya’ll have any questions or thoughts lay them on me (no homo) in the comment section below. Peace!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: All That Matters

It was a rare sight to see the normally chipper Leon Corbett dejected and confused, but such was the case as he made the less than enthusiastic approach towards his brother’s home. It was the afternoon, though not that one could tell beneath the perpetual shroud cast over the land, and the gentle breezy autumn weather couldn’t do anything to lift the spirits of the embittered soldier. Thousands of scenarios had gone through Leon’s mind in the past week, but few of them brought any sort of comfort from the immense weight that dropped his shoulders to a slump. The Corbett brother could navigate the shortest routes through Southgate without any difficulty, but today his trek was deliberately inflated as he spent every precious moment debating what to say and how he would say it. Thick beads of sweat cascaded from his brow and down his sun-beaten face as he approached the thick mahogany door with his muscles numbed like the day he took his first life. He raised one fist up to alert his family to his arrival but found his body paralyzed in that moment; doubt infesting his thoughts as his heavy worries became more threatening. For the first time in years Leon was experiencing a fear he had felt since he was a directionless child with his arms quivering in their static motion. With a deep inhale he overpowered his crippling fear just long enough to knock on the door a single time, but the forceful rap was enough to notify the residents of his arrival.

“Uncle Leon!” The voice coming from the opposite side of the door belonged to Leon’s beloved niece and hearing her all too familiar squeal erased all the concern from the soldier’s battered mien.  His earnest smile returned, and his eyes lit up with enthusiasm as he watched the doorknob before him shake back and forth in an erratic fashion. Leon gently grasped that doorknob from his side and gave it the most gentle of twists before dropping to one knee so that the eager tyke could pull the door open and embrace her uncle with the warmth he had become fervently smitten with. The hug lasted a few joyous few seconds before Leon leaned back and looked his niece up and down. With every day Canna was becoming more of a spitting image of her mother with her soft pale skin, distinctly delicate cheekbones, and long hair in the same vibrant scarlet hue. More than that though, Leon looked into her eyes and still saw that fiery passion emblazed in her lenses; raw and unfocused yet unyielding in its conviction. They were the same eyes Leon found so awe inspiring when he first held her, and seeing a youth with such an immense will humbled a man who often felt his kind were a dying race in a world becoming increasingly tolerant of complacency. He became so lost in his jubilation that he didn’t notice Canna’s outreached hand until she spoke up. “Aren’t you going to shake my hand?”

The young girl’s face was curled into a disappointed pout until the old soldier eclipsed her tiny hand with his massive paw. The two shook hands as any two friends or acquaintances would, but the real excitement came once several seconds went by and the handshake hadn’t ended. Canna grinned as she got to test her strength by trying to pull her arm free of the guardsman’s grasp, but with a sly smile and tiny exertion of his well-trained strength Leon’s grip remained steadfast. Canna desperately tried to pull herself away, but when that seemed futile she brought her other arm in as she tried to pry off her uncle’s thick, coarse fingers. Leon loosed his grip just slightly so that the tiny toddler’s strength began to budge through her uncle’s titanic might though he was quick to tighten it once again when it seemed she might break free. The young girl started to giggle as she cried out for her own release, but Leon was quick to remind her of the rules of their game. “If you want me to let go you know what you have to say.”

“I yield!” she cried with a laugh before pulling her hand back and lightly rubbing her wrist. “How do you get so strong?” Canna asked after her laughter died down to a chuckle. Leon reached down and scooped his niece up into his arms before carrying her into his brother’s home.

“Well, it took a lot of work. I had to train every day, eat all my vegetables, and of course, never misbehave.” He flashed his niece a grin after that last statement, but the astute five-year old wouldn’t be so easily duped.

“That’s a lie.” She bluntly pointed out, eyes narrowing in her deductive prowess. Leon laughed before setting the girl gently down on a chair beside her father who sat and watched in silence.

“Maybe, but you should do all of that anyway. If you’re good, maybe I can show you a few exercises you can do every day before I leave.” Leon turned his attention to Kaevyn who sat back in his bulky wooden chair with the same impassive expression that was always seemingly painted onto his face. The elder brother gave his brother an acknowledging nod, but Leon would not tolerate such a paltry greeting. “Come on Kev, I know if you say more than fifty words in a day your throat would probably dry up, but you can’t muster up an actual hello for your brother?” Kaevyn sighed lightly before standing up from his chair to give his brother a hardy handshake before sitting back down and reverting back to his motionless state. Leon couldn’t help but laugh to himself. “Kev, I really think you should have been a monk. Free food, peaceful atmosphere, and that vow of silence would be a breeze for you.” Leon snickered to himself before his attention was drawn to the tight white bandages wrapped carefully around Canna’s left knee. “Hey Can, what happened to your knee?”

Canna didn’t have the chance respond once her mother gracefully entered the room and answered for her. “She got that when she was out rough-housing with the older boys in the neighborhood which I distinctly told her not to do.” Jude stated in her chiding maternal voice. “Oh, and Leon, her name is Canna. You know I hate it when you shorten it.” Jude was still an astounding woman, but now her more angelic features were highlighted by a maternal glow. She stood with elegance despite being eight-months pregnant, but her tongue was still laced with the venom that could tear a man’s self-esteem into shreds.

“Sorry about that, Jude.” Leon said as he rubbed the back of his head. Jude stared at Leon with a peculiar glare that the idealistic soldier knew all too well. It was the same condescending and judgmental stare she always had when she was thinking about her husband’s “directionless clown of a brother”, though Jude would never use those words in public. Leon knew her true feelings well enough though, but he always kept a smile up in the face of her harsh opinions with the proverbial mantra of “family is family” acting as the constant for his endurance. Within moments Jude’s critical expression faded away into her faux face of hospitality with allowed her to grin and give her brother-in-law a welcoming hug into her home despite her actual desires to see him leave.

“You’re looking good, Leon.” Jude’s compliments were sweet and earnest—a rare act of kindness from a woman who was easy to disappoint.

“Thanks. I’ve been putting a lot of extra hours into training recently. Got a big assignment coming up and uh…” Leon nervously scanned the room before realizing he wasn’t yet ready for this conversation and thus quickly changing the topic. “You look fantastic by the way. How far along are you?”

“Eight months.” Jude gently responded as she tenderly caressed her belly while dreaming of the undoubtedly beautiful child that will soon bless her life. “He’s going to be due very soon.”

“He?” Leon reflexively responded. “How do you know? Is my brother just imprinting that into your mind because he wants a son to help out at the forge?”

Jude chuckled lightly having legitimately found that remark amusing, which was not an often occurrence when it came to Leon’s brand of humor. “No,” she replied, “we were traveling in the city last month and we met a diviner of Sehahine on the street, and she said we were going to blessed with a strong, handsome son…” Jude’s voice trailed off into a faint whisper with those final words as she started thinking of her unborn child with endless affection in her eyes. Leon bit his tongue so as not to ruin the moment, but he knew all too well that Jude had been duped. The god’s power was at a mere fraction of their once immense power, and the number of the followers have dwindled to a handful of true faithful. Even if they had met a priestess of Sehehine she wouldn’t waste her goddess’ limited power performing trivial fortunes, and in all likelihood she had been tricked by a conman. Still, there was nothing he could do now that would fix that situation, so he opted to instead let her keep her peace of mind and instead silently prayed that his sister-in-law got her wish of a “strong, handsome son”. Jude came out of her wistful thinking and realized the real reason she actually came into the conversation. “Canna, I need you to help me with the stew.”

“But Mom, I don’t like cooking. It’s boring!” Canna whined, crossing her arms and huffing. Jude didn’t speak; she simply stared at her daughter, eyes slowly narrowing so that her misbehaving child would know this intimidating stare was meant only for her. Canna, full of a wild will, responded with her own passionately defiant glare, but Leon wouldn’t sit idly by and allow this confrontation to continue.

“Hey Can,” there was a momentary pause before Leon remembered the reprimanding he just took, “--na, go help your mom in the kitchen. I have to talk to your dad about something anyway.” Canna didn’t initially move, though her rebellious expression began to fade once her attention turned to her beloved uncle. “Do it, and maybe I’ll tell you a story after dinner.” The promise of one of Uncle Leon’s stories was enough to motivate the young girl into hopping down from her chair and following her mother into the kitchen, though Leon could tell from Jude’s face that his promise of more “stories” was not going to be well-received by the Corbett parents. Still, he intervened to avoid a potentially disastrous situation for his darling niece, so a few more cold looks from Jude was worth enduring. Leon took the seat beside his elder, though neither one turned to face his brother, and again the room became silent once Leon and Kaevyn were left alone.

“She’s uh… getting really big. Strong too. Should probably try to find something for her to focus her energy on though.” Leon rambled. “Maybe she could help you at your forge. Not like all the time I mean, but like just a little bit. I mean she’s strong, and pretty brave so I don’t think she’d have a lot of trouble.” Leon’s long-winded thought trailed off to an awkward end before Kaevyn lightly grunted an apathetic response. Leon lightly chuckled to himself. “Come on, Kev, for once in your life have an opinion of your own.” Though those words were said with Leon’s usual innocuous tone there was a bit more truth to it than normal as it seemed Canna’s departure was causing the immense pressure of his decision to return. Already he could feel the beads of sweat forming on his brow, his muscles tensing as if to prepare for an impact, and his foot uncontrollably tapping a nervous, erratic rhythm against the floor. Kaevyn was a quiet, unassuming man, but he was not stupid.

“What’s on your mind, Leon?” Every time Kaevyn spoke it seemed he didn’t waste a word as if one had the worth of gold, but for the first time in years Leon heard legitimate concern in his brother’s voice. It would have been a touching moment for the younger brother to recognize the humanity of his sibling, but the matter at hand blocked out nearly every other thought leaving only the intimidating truth. Leon had to say it now while he had the chance, but earnestly he’d rather march into a thousand wars before saying these next few words.

“I’m going to be going over the wall.” Leon’s words were quick and quiet—he didn’t want the women in the kitchen to know this truth yet, but he was panicked to realize his fear hadn’t yet subsided.

Kaevyn was quiet for a moment, staring ever forward as though his neck was locked in that position. His upper lip only briefly curled as his brow lowered and his normal responsive grunt became a violent huff. “You’re really never going to be satisfied until your life reaches a violent, disappointing end, aren’t you?” Just as Leon spoke the truth, Kaevyn was finally speaking his candid thoughts—though very likely in the more eloquent words of his wife.

“I’m not suicidal, Kev. It’s for a scouting mission. The allied races are getting a small party together to go scout some things on the other side of the wall and do recon. We’re not there to kill Lloth herself. If all goes well I may not even have to draw my sword.”

“Probably good considering you’re a rather unspectacular swordsman.” Kaevyn responded with words far more harsh that he had ever spoken to Leon with before, albeit in a tone still layered in restraint. “You just won’t let it go, will you? You’re not going to change anything by going over that wall. All you’re doing with your life is throwing it away because you can’t accept a simple inevitability.”

Leon’s temper started to rise, but he knew that he wasn’t going to gain anything by engaging in a vicious argument over morals with a man who’s opinions came from his blinkered wife. “It’s all I’m good at Kev. I know you and Jude want me to leave the military and just become a baker or something. I know you think I should find some girl and start having kids. I know you want me to live the life you get to enjoy but it’s just not who I am. I’ll never be a husband. I’ll never be a father. But… I think I can be a hero. I think I can do something great, or at least try to, even if it costs me everything. It’s the only thing that’s ever seemed right.”

Kaevyn returned to his normal silence as he let his thoughts settle until a point when they all made sense to him again, and one enormous truth stood out in this maelstrom of thoughts and emotions. He blurted it out, maybe not realizing the gravity of this notion himself. “Canna is going to be heartbroken if you leave.”

Finally it hit him—the painful fact he had been dreading to face. Leon’s grin faded away only to be replaced by a disgusted frown as he contemplated the consequences of this matter. He hated everything that it meant for his young niece, but after seeing those strong hazel eyes once again he was reminded of the stakes of this war. “Yeah, she is. Trust me… I know. So, that’s why I need to ask you a favor, Kev. I want to be the one that tells her. Alone.”

Kaevyn vehemently shook his head, his teeth clenched and his lips curling in a barely controlled anger. “Absolutely not. Canna already misbehaves and acts like she’s a soldier. Jude will not want you taking her off and telling her anything you want just because you feel like being a martyr.”

Leon turned to his brother; defeated and desperate, he pleaded with his brother. “Kev, please… let me do it.” He paused he choked back a swell of emotion and stated the blunt, miserable reality. “Kev, she’s the only person in this world who will actually give a shit when I’m gone. I don’t have anyone else is the world to say good-bye to, and I…” Leon sobbed just once, his head hanging in a self-pitying shame. “We’ve never been all that close Kev, but I need this more than anything. I’m sorry I’ve been such a headache to you and Jude. I’m sorry if you think I’m a bad influence on your daughter. I’m sorry if the only thing I’ve ever been to you is a disappointment, but to Canna… I actually matter, and I just don’t want to leave without telling her what I need to say.” Leon let out a deep exhale as the toxic truth he held deep inside was finally released into the open; the pressure, fear, and doubt now washed away. His eyes were still watery and his breath was still short and stressed, but for the first time in weeks Leon finally felt relieved.

Kaevyn sat back and closed his eyes. “I never saw you as a disappointment Leon. You say you’ll never be a husband, and that you’ll never be a father, but, Leon, you’ll always be a brother. Don’t ever forget that. If it means that much to you, then tell her.”

Leon’s smile returned as wiped the sweat from his brow away with the palm of his hand, a light chuckle broken by the slightest inflections of sobs. “Thank you, Kev. I uh… just thank you.” Kaevyn responded, now returned to his basest levels of emotions, with an acknowledging grunt, and once again the room became silent.


There you guys go, the second part of this little arc regarding Leon. First and foremost this is actually the third time I’ve written this, because I hated how it read the first two times—honestly I still don’t love this version, but it feels a lot better than the first two drafts. I’ve been writing this bascially since I finished “Family is Family”, but ran into writer’s block several times which brought this to a stand still for a few days. I was almost going to just sit on it for another week, but I was in a shockingly clear mood today and pretty much ripped this one off in a couple hours. Am I proud of it… not particularly, but I hate just about everything I write so I’ll leave that all for you guys to judge.

This whole part is to reveal Leon’s secret about going over the wall and showcase the relationship he has with his brother. Family is a huge theme in Canna’s story, and I wanted to showcase why it’s such a big part to Leon’s as well. I’ve always been fascinated by character motivations particularly those of the mentor figures because often times we never see what brought them to this point. Though I could easily tell the story of Leon’s childhood that would be radically off topic and excessive, but I do still want to tell some very important facts which will then become important to Canna. So the big thing here is Leon’s look at family particular how he and his brother get along. Obviously, they don’t get along well at all, not because they hate each other, but because they’re two totally different people. In life these guys would never interact or even really be acquaintences, but because of their family bond they’re linked forever. I’ve always found this a pretty interesting relationship because personally I get along great with my brother and sister, but I had friends who barely ever talked to their siblings and that was always so alien to me. Still, family is an astounding bond, and obviously very important to both brothers.

I really wish I had the talent to draw because I really don’t know if the scene with the two brothers is done justice in text. A big part of the moment for me is the fact they’re sitting next to one another (something I probably should have spent more time explaining), and the fact they aren’t looking at one another. It’s symbolic of their relationship; distant and faceless despite who they are. Maybe I should start directing a television series and do it there. I’d call it… Rollo T’s Sexy Secondhand Saucy Sassy Showcase. Mostly for the alliteration.

Another small factoid is the handshake. It might come off as cheesy, but honestly this is how my grandfather shook my hand. He would grab it and never let go. Oh God, I’m a fat loser on the internet about to cry about my grandfather. Oh hurry, do something funny! Alabama Puppy Fart! Okay, phew, I’m good. But yeah, that was something from my past that I thought would be a nifty little thing between the two.

I was asked if Leon and Kaevyn’s relationship is meant to reflect Canna and Darek’s, but honestly it’s not. The two sets of siblings are very different from one another. Probably the bigggest reason is that while Leon and Canna are very similar in personality, they’re roles in the relationship are reversed. Canna’s the elder in her pairing, meaning that Darek probably looks at her will to create change as an inspriation or something to admire, but Leon was the younger brother so his passion was seen more as immaturity. Leon and Kaevyn are just two guys who are nothing alike and don’t really have much to say. Their conversation probably could have gone longer here, but it have mostly just been Kaevyn grunting in approval. He’s just a quiet guy.

Canna and Darek on the other hand are pretty close. Since Canna never really held down a job and has never had a significant relationship she almost always spent time at the house, and outside of the year she spent in Arkhosia she’s always lived at home. Basically she’s been there every single year that Darek has been alive, so the two are pretty close. Even in a “silly person-straight man” way they’re different because Canna at least responds to Darek’s teasing. Kaevyn is just a quiet guy who never says much and lets his wife define most of his opinions, which we’ll get into more later. Trust me when I say that Jude will be a ridiculously big part of Canna’s life down the line, and I’ll have a lot more to say about her.

Anyway, that’s all for this CYCW. I’ll probably try another one maybe around the 18th or so. Sorry, the next one is probably the most important piece of Canna’s story, so I gotta give it proper dues. Thanks for reading, leave a comment if you had any thoughts on it (and if you didn’t I have to assume you’re a zombie), and keep it real losers. Erm… winners? Whatever. Get off my lawn.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Family is Family

Hey guys, big sexy Mr. T here. No, not that Mr. T; the fat white one. Okay it’s Rollo, let’s just go with that.

Anyway, I haven’t posted here in a while. Sad, but hopefully something that will change as I’m sure many of you have been desperately missing my posts (see: no fucks were given). I’m not returning with Inside the Koma or STFU (though one on the ME3 ending is sorely needed), but rather a new series called Change Yourself, Change the World. This series is a look at my D&D character, Canna Corbett and the different events that shaped her life. This isn’t a straightforward backstory into Canna (that you can find here), but rather a collection of scenes from her past to explain quirks about her character, and help explain who she is.

I want to start each entry with a little commentary about the piece. For example, this entry isn’t actually about Canna at all, but rather her Uncle Leon. See, Leon is a huge piece of Canna’s backstory as he’s her major inspiration and ultimately the reason why she’s such an angry person. I didn’t want to jump right into the events of his disappearance because the scene lacks weight when you don’t actually know or care who Leon is. That’s what this entry, and a few more future entries will help establish. I want people to see that Leon was an individual with his own flaws and strengths and not just a motivation for someone else. The major point of this scene is to get across Leon’s views on family and the wall, while at the same time hinting at the strong similarities Canna and he will have in the future.

Enjoy folks.


Today was a special day for Kaevyn and Jude Corbett as Kaevyn’s brother, Leon, would be visiting for the first time since the couple gave birth to their newborn daughter, Canna. This marked the first time the Corbett siblings had met in almost a year as Leon rarely had time to leave his post as guard for the human capital of Southgate, but when he heard his niece had been born he knew he had to come visit. Leon, like his brother, was well-built and tanned with large brows. The brothers shared their dusty brown hair and pronounced jaws, but the younger brother had a distinctively arched nose, matted down hair style, and a seemingly omnipresent smile. Leon had a way of radiating a jovial feeling as if there was nothing that could upset his attitude which had always been in sharp contrast with his older brother who was dry, stoic, and came off impassive. At first glance they were instantly recognizable as brothers, but those who got to know the two men would know they couldn’t be more unalike. Leon arrived still dressed in his chainmail uniform much to the chagrin of Canna’s mother who had gone through the effort of dressing up for the occasion. She’d be the first to blame herself however, as no one found Leon’s disrespect for formalities and lack of tact more repulsive than her. She didn’t know why she’d assume that Leon would treat today any different.

“No time to change, Leon?” Jude softly spoke in her all too common chiding tone. Visually speaking Jude was a breath taking woman for a commoner. She had strikingly vibrant scarlet hair, delicate features, and auburn eyes that gave off an assertive yet refined presence. Since having Canna she had started radiating an easing maternal glow, but most who knew Jude knew she was quick to state her opinion and not one to appreciate having it challenged. Still, she was friendly and courteous even in the face of what she considered to be an obscenely rude gesture as she didn’t hesitate to embrace her brother-in-law when he closed in for a hug.

“Yeah, sorry Jude. Thought about stopping home to change, but then I realized I didn’t really have anything nice to wear anyway. Compared to you I always feel like I’m arriving underdressed.” He chuckled after speaking, though he didn’t do it expecting anyone else to join in. Jude gave her brother-in-law a forced, but pleasant smile in response before the younger brother greeted his elder with a firm handshake. “Kaevyn, congratulations big brother! You’ve got two breath-taking women in your life now. I know guys back in the guard who’d give up their salary for the next five years to be in your position!” Kaevyn nodded firmly; appreciative, but casually reserved as always. Leon eagerly glanced around the room with a wide grin stretched across his face. “So where’s my niece at?” he said; voice brimming with enthusiasm.

“Right here.” Jude said as she returned to the room with her daughter wrapped gently in a soft pink blanket. Canna was only a few months old, but already resembled her mother in almost every physical way with soft delicate features and the same unique ruddy hue in her hair. The infant’s auburn eyes drifted across her familiar surroundings until locking in on the stranger with the comforting smile. “Careful” the mother warned, “she’s always fussy when she just wakes up.” After a momentary pause of hesitation Jude handed her daughter over to Leon who quickly cradled his niece with a look of bewilderment and amazement in his eyes. As a soldier Leon has been trained to always remain vigilant, but as he supported the youngest Corbett in his hands he felt his muscles relax for the first time in years. His tenderly watched as the infant reached up and tried to wrap her hands around the links in the soldier’s chainmail and experienced a feeling that no words could describe. However, as Leon was never one to dwell in silence he spoke the only thought that came to his mind.

“She’s beautiful.” He said earnestly with the hint of an almost skeptical amazement in his voice. “It’s a good thing she got her looks from her mother.” Leon chuckled slightly at his own comment and his brother allowed himself a slight grin. Others might have found Leon’s remark to be insulting; a back handed compliment or a cheap shot, but Kaevyn knew his brother’s teases were his unique way of giving compliments. Leon obviously thought nothing of it as he went right back to watching his niece without a second thought, but it was in that moment that the uncle and his niece met eyes for the first time. The two locked lenses and stared at one another for a moment that felt lost in time. The veteran soldier was used to judging a person’s character just by the look in their eyes, but this is the first time he’d seen so much told in so little. He gleaned an attitude from just this solitary meeting and it caused an experienced killer to quiver slightly for the first time in years. “She’s got strong, powerful eyes. That’s great…” Leon was known for always carrying his heart on his sleeve, but right now his bliss was never more evident.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jude skeptically responded, curious what Leon could possibly see to have made him so elated.

“Oh it’s her eyes. I mean you can always tell someone’s character by their eyes, and her eyes are strong. That’s a great thing to have in this world. It means she won’t be complacent in a world filled with oppression.” To Leon those words were an astonishing truth that signified great things for this child’s future, but to Canna’s parents it was an awkward statement coming from a man they both believed was too much of an idealistic dreamer.

“How very kind of you.” Jude said with a condescending smirk hidden by her hand. After letting the moment pass she attempted to salvage the conversation and hopefully veer Leon away from his bizarre insight. “I’m surprised she’s this calm. She’s always cranky after waking up.”

“Maybe it has to do with the armor. Maybe little Canna is envisioning herself in a suit of this. Think about it: General Corbett, the knight from Southgate who tore down the wall with her bare hands. Doesn’t the sound great?” His last statement elicited a small smile from the infant girl which was reflected in the soldier’s face. “She likes that idea! What do you know Kev, you got yourself a little soldier!” Leon’s tone suggested it was another of his teasing comments, but there was an unmistakable hint of pride in his voice that assumed he might not be entirely joking. Regardless, Canna’s mother shook her head at such a thought.

“She’s probably laughing at that silly face you get whenever you start dreaming about that wall. Honestly Leon, you’d do a lot more in life if you let go of such fantasies and focused on your own future more.” Leon was quiet, but kept up his normal carefree smile. Inside he wanted to retort his sister-in-law—his conviction was never stronger than when he talked about destroying that wall, but he knew his family’s opinions on the matter. They, like too many he knew, were complacent in a life bound with restrictions. They tried to continue life as it was and make do with the best they had available as if to ignore the darkened skies that left their homes covered in a ubiquitous shade, but Leon remained adamant that a day would come when humans would take back the lands they had stolen from them. He stood there in a conciliatory silence as Jude gently took her child back. Within moments of leaving her uncle’s hands the infant Corbett began to wail and squirm in her mother’s grasp leading to an awkward laugh from Jude. “I told you, she’s always fussy when she wakes up. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go feed her.”

Jude quickly carried her daughter off to another room leaving the two Corbett brothers alone for the first time in years. Though their relationship wasn’t bad, the two brothers had so many different ideals that they rarely conversed outside of family matters, and before Canna was born Kaevyn could go for months without hearing any word from his little brother. Now that Jude, the personable component of the Corbett marriage, was gone the two brothers stood quietly in an awkward hush.

“So uh… how goes the forge?” Leon uncomfortably asked in an attempt to start a long running conversation with his brother, but Kaevyn, ever the soft-spoken stoic, just grunted in an apathetic response. Leon chuckled nervously to himself as he scrambled for another topic, but after coming up short he decided to talk about himself. “Things are going great with the guard. Found another bandit encampment the other day. Managed to arrest most of them too, so it was a pretty successful mission.” Leon waited for his brother to inquire about more details of the daring raid, but again he responded with a solemn grunt that killed the conversation right there. The younger Corbett ran his fingers through his hair and let out a sigh of exhaustion. Every day he put himself in life and death situations, but somehow trying to carry a conversation with his older brother was infinitely more difficult and stressful. Several more minutes of silence passed by before Kaevyn finally started up a discussion.

“Have you met a nice girl yet?” Though Kaevyn was the one talking, Leon knew those were Jude’s words.

“Nah, the girls in the city just aren’t really my type, Kev.” Leon sheepishly turned his gaze to the floor as he spoke. “And even if there were, I’m not much of a boyfriend type. Not many people want to spend their lives with a guy who dreams about going over the wall, y’know?”

“You could quit the guard. You could work with me at the forge for a few months until you can find a more honest line of work and then start a family of your own.” Kaevyn’s low but unimposing voice spoke those words far too nonchalantly for Leon’s tastes. Still, he choked down his strongest thoughts and instead responded in a far more civil manner than he truly wanted to.

“No thanks, Kev. I know you and Jude want me to work a more traditional line of work, but it’s just not who I am. I couldn’t wake everyday with a shroud of clouds blocking out the sky and just go to work like nothing is wrong. Wouldn’t want to raise a kid in a world like this either--it kills me just to know that Canna will grow up in a world where the Drow have taken her land, her gods, and her freedom before she was even born.”

“She’ll have a great life, Leon.” Kaevyn assured his brother. “She has two parents who love her and the Drow can’t take that. Throwing away your life against something you can’t fight won’t change that.”

Leon found himself quieted in the face of that argument. Kaevyn (or rather Jude) was not wrong in that assessment. Plenty of people had happy, healthy lives ever since the Drow attacked. It was certainly less than ideal with nearly the entire pantheon of gods being restrained and weakened to a fraction of their former power, but an army of the strongest militaries on the continent united under one banner were utterly crushed beneath the Drow’s power. What chance did one man (and an unspectacular one at that) have to make a difference against such power? This was not the first time Leon had faced this fact, nor would it be his last time, but he always came to the same conclusion. “Change is inevitable. Even if I do nothing, the status quo is going to change eventually. If I want to ensure that change is for the better then I need to make it happen myself. I can’t count on anyone else.”

Kaevyn sighed and looked at his little brother with heavy eyes. He could understand Leon’s desire for a better world, but he knew that the chances of Leon crossing that wall and coming back alive were slim to none. He had tried to sway his younger sibling for years, but the soldier’s conviction remained strong. Some part of Kaevyn hoped that seeing Canna might change Leon’s priorities, but that event confirmed his ideals more than ever. “If you had a family, you’d change your mind about that.”

“I do have a family.” Leon responded, looking at his brother with a comforting smile. Kaevyn grunted in approval, and once again the room became quiet.