The faithful of the world still existed, though their numbers were rare enough that the general public considered them extinct. Finding a follower of the weakened gods wasn’t going to be an easy task. Especially considering the drifting natures of Lady Luck’s disciples. Still, fortune, or perhaps fate, dealt the teen a lucky hand as one of the few sources in Southgate she could trust did know of a follower of Avandra. The information on him was limited—almost as though Canna was learning about an urban legend as opposed to a person. He supposedly never stayed in any one location too long, but he was scheduled to arrive in Southgate in just a few short days. For a moderate fee, the fence could set up a meeting between the two parties. Now Canna was impatiently waiting outside of a shady tavern on the outskirts of Southgate, her fingers rapping against the bare skin on her upper arms as they crossed over her chest.
She sighed as she uncomfortably leaned against the wall of the Dreary Chalice. She scoffed as she forced her attention in various directions before her feet once again felt stiff and dead beneath her. She was just about ready to force her way into the bar when a brutish guard stuck his head out from the tavern’s thick oak door and motioned for the teen to enter. She eagerly entered the building, but her escort quickly stopped her as he looked her over several times. “You really sure you want to do this?” Canna couldn’t comprehend why she wouldn’t want to meet a fellow Avandrenean. Her escort shrugged before guiding her towards a lone table deep in the back of the tavern where she caught eyes with a charming Halfling comfortably relaxed as he scanned the beautiful red head as she approached.
The Halfling was handsome with an attractively messy of head soft auburn hair that turned blonde at the tips and a strong, pronounced chin. The skin on his face was slightly wrinkled and lightly tanned from years spent journeying in the wilds, but this only helped to add to his exotic presence. He was dressed in fine silks that casually emphasized his relaxed demeanor. His winsome smile took the teen by surprise as he elegantly motioned for her to take a seat with only the slightest motion of his hand. Cautious, but dumbstruck, Canna joined the Halfling as he confidentially studied her with his pale blue eyes. After a few moments of silence passed the Halfling seemed to have taken in all of the sights that he needed to and he called out to a nearby waiter. “Good sir! A glass of fine Elven wine please for myself and this enchanting young lady.” His words dripped with a suave charm as he placed a unique stressed inflection on his vowels as if drawing them out made each word more significant.
Canna was momentarily mesmerized in confusion, but before the waiter could depart Canna gained control of her sense. “No wait,” she half-shouted, “I’m not drinking anything tonight.” This was an important evening for the newest follower of Avandra, and there were some things that were so important you had to do them sober.
“No worries, my dear. It’s just a little Elven wine. It is to be appreciated as a fine masterpiece like a great work of art or the peerless beauty of a young woman.” The Halfling inched his hands closer until they rested on top of Canna’s hands. He examined the teen’s delicate facial features before gently massaging her palms. “There’s no need to blush. An ember haired enchantress like yourself must be used to these sorts of compliments.”
In the Halfling’s mind, Canna’s peculiar expression was due to her blushing at his flattering advances, but in truth it was an awkward curiosity. Canna wasn’t being charmed; she thought she was witnessing the village fool. She brushed away his sweet words without much thought, but when she heard herself referred to as an “enchantress” she couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle. The Halfling was taken aback. “Laughing? No, you’re not supposed to be laughing yet—I haven’t told a joke. Why are you laughing?” The Halfling tilted his head as he took a slightly wounded tone to his delightfully bouncy cadence.
“I think they must have taken me to the wrong table. I’m supposed to meet someone called Varner.” The Halfling withdrew his hands.
“I am Varner!” he shouted as his eyes widened, “What kind of admirer desperately wants to have a meeting with someone they don’t even know?” Varner’s question was unfortunately answered by the teen’s vacant expression. “You’re not an admirer are you? Oh poo…” Dejected, the Halfling quickly called out to the waiter again. “Nix the wine and just bring me a glass of whiskey.”
“What happened to that nice glass of wine as dazzling as a piece of art?” Canna teased as she failed to hold back a grin.
“Well one of us might as well be getting wet tonight,” Varner mumbled as he reached out for his drink. “So, you’re not here to spend the night with me, and you’re clearly not here to kill me based on the fact I’m still alive. So tell me, girl, why are you here?” Canna reached into her pocket as she examined the room. There were many patrons inside the Dreary Chalice, but they were invested in either company or drink. Still, the teen was careful to seal her hand completely as she assumed she would probably capture the attention of any onlookers if the caught a glimpse of the glowing medallion she clenched tightly in her palm. She slowly lifted her arm onto the table and extended her hand towards Varner. She just slightly opened her fist and revealed the faint glowing light emanating from the holy symbol to Avandra. She expected Varner to jump back in shock, but he rather nonchalantly absorbed the news. “Oh, that’s it?” He took a casual sip of his drink. “Ah, marvelous. Elven wine might be crushed beneath the feet of virgin elven priestesses, but this whiskey is true art—for about an eight of the price.” He savored his drink before catching a glimpse of the teen’s expecting face. “Oh don’t get upset. Yes, the whole spiel of women being masterpieces might be a bit facetious, but women, in my experience, tend to get terribly angry when you say liquor is better than they are.”
“I don’t care about your fucking drink!” Canna shouted as she quickly shoved the medallion back into her pocket.
“See? This is what I mean. You’re yelling at me. Whiskey never yells at me. Ergo, whiskey is a better companion.” Varner could see the veins starting to form on the teen’s forehead and realized he would need to adjust his charm slightly to ensure he didn’t end up being forced to finish his drink through a straw. “Okay, perhaps we’ll save that discussion for a later time. You came to see me because you only just recently discovered you’ve been chosen by Avandra and you needed someone to teach you about our matron, correct?”
“How did you know that?” Canna eyed Varner suspiciously, but he merely stared back utterly confounded.
“Because I can put two and two together—how drunk do you think I am? I assure you the rumor of Halflings being unable to hold their liquor is a vicious lie!” Varner took a deep gulp on his drink with an expression of firm satisfaction sketched onto his face. After a moment passed he remembered where he had veered off from the conversation’s natural path. “Ah, yes. I am a Cleric of Avandra. I spend most of my time traveling around the lands helping the lost find their place in the world and preaching her wisdom to those who need it. I only rarely return to cities—generally only to resupply and occasionally indulge as necessary though I suppose that’s not happening tonight.” Varner seemed particularly irritated that by that fact, but he was quick to leave it to his own thoughts. “The fact you managed to get in touch with me so quickly is very impressive. You’ve gotten very lucky.” He began pulling his drink up for another taste, but stopped right when his lips were about to meet the rim of the glass. “Although I suppose it’s not really luck now, is it?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Canna asked as her curiosity peaked.
Varner held up a finger as he swallowed his whiskey and gave the flavors a moment to dwell on his tongue. “Ah. What I mean is that you’re a follower of Avandra now, so when fortune comes your way it’s not really so much ‘luck’ as it is ‘divine guidance’. I mean we of the Unfettered Queen believe—“ Varner abruptly ended that thought. “Actually, tell me girl, what do you exactly know about Avandra?” The Halfling sat back with an expectant gaze in his eyes.
“Well, I know she goes by a few different names. The Unfettered Queen, Lady Luck, Mistress of Fortune”, Canna paused as she tried to recall everything she knew, “She doesn’t have many churches. Mostly road shrines and—“ Her explanation was mercifully ended there.
“Okay, so you picked up a book meant for children and remembered the bullet points. That’s what I needed to know.” Canna scowled at the Halfling, but he was apathetic, and even a bit exasperated, by the teen’s quick turn to anger. “Oh please, wipe that look off your face. I wasn’t expecting anything more, and you shouldn’t have either. Fifty years since the gods have been locked away makes it difficult to get a proper education.” The Halfling took another drink and gave the taste a moment to settle before continuing. “Well, then if you’re another faithful of Avandra then that makes you my sister, and I would look like a pretty bad brother if I left my sister in ignorance. So, I can take a reprieve from my drifting ways to give you a bit of an education for some time.”
Canna was taken aback. She came expecting to find guidance, but certainly not a teacher. Especially one who agreed to this job so easily. “Why would you be so eager to teach me?” Canna asked, not sure of what answer to expect.
“Because I imagine you only learned to channel Avandra’s power after seeing a dream of some kind, correct? Well I experienced the same thing a decade or so ago and I’ve been spending all my time looking for a purpose for being chosen. I imagine that purpose would be you.” Canna opened her mouth as if to ask for a greater explanation, but Varner responded before she could ask. “I already told you. I help guide the lost.” Varner flashed a genuine smile as he finished his drink and sat back. “So, let’s not waste any time then, shall we? First lesson. Avandra holds influence over three aspects of our lives; the first of which is luck. The common saying among Avandra’s faithful is that ‘luck favors the bold’. A lot of people seem to have trouble on this one though. Some tend to think this means that worshippers of Avandra can succeed at anything, but that’s not the case. Avandra helps those that help themselves—hence the ‘bold’ portion of the quote. Take risks, and Avandra’s favor will smile upon you.”
Canna stared back, confused. “I don’t get it,” she muttered as she tried to process the tenet. “So Avandra wants us to always try the impossible?”
“Oh absolutely not,” Varner objected as he placed his drink gently back on the table, “the phrase is ‘luck favors the bold’, not ‘luck favors the stupid’.” He sighed as he rummaged through the inside of his robes. “Allow me to describe it like this,” he explained as he pulled out a die from his pocket, “imagine if the success or failure of every single action in your life was influenced by the roll of the die. You could be quite competent at something, but there would always be a one in six change of your attempt ending in horrible failure.” Varner lightly tossed the dice onto the table where it rattled against the thick oak surface before eventually stopping with a single black dot facing upwards. “This is where Avandra comes in. If you take a chance and place fate into the hands of these dice,” Varner said as he slowly ran his hand over the die. As his hand passed over the die its’ face turned to six. “Well, then Avandra’s influence will favor you.”
The teen took a moment to be amazing by the magic before her, but found herself more enchanted at the idea of a matron who could help make the impossible a reality. “Luck favors the bold,” she whispered aloud, “I like that.”
“I’m glad you do,” Varner sarcastically responded as she tucked the die back into his robes. “Her second aspect is freedom. Avandra believes that every soul on this planet regardless of their race, gender, age, sexuality, and religion has an inalienable right to freedom. Everyone deserves liberty, and as followers of Avandra it is our duty to ensure that people have it. If they don’t, then we must help them get it either by convincing them to fight for it, or fighting for it on their behalf.” Varner was about to return to his drink when his eyes widened in horror and he quickly continued the lesson. “I must stress this; we are not revolutionaries. Absolutely not. People used to get the idea that followers of Avandra were anarchists who went around the world ending all forms of order. That’s absolutely not the case. We believe in law and chaos equally. Both can affect freedom positively or negatively so we only combat what we know is an attack on freedom. Can’t forget that. Zealotry rarely helps a cause, you know what I mean?”
Canna nodded a bit hesitantly. “If I ever see someone suffering from oppression, I help them.” She wasn’t sure why such a simple and catholic answer needed such a broad explanation, but she wasn’t going to question her new teacher’s wisdom. Varner seemed very relieved when she answered in an appropriate manner.
“Good. The last thing I need as your teacher is to hear about you inciting riots just because a few citizens couldn’t pay their taxes. I mean the anarchy alone would be bad, but it would reflect rather poorly on me in general.” Varner waited a moment before getting agitated. “That was a joke! That’s when you’re supposed to laugh! Oh forget it.” The Halfling momentarily pouted before returning to his lesson. “The final aspect is change. You see, change is inevitable. We can’t stop change—and we don’t want to. Change is evolution and the continuing progress of humanity! Trying to impede that would be like trying to stop the natural order of existence. No, our job however is to ensure that change always happens for the better.”
“How do I make sure of that?” Canna asked with a lofty goal already in mind.
“Well it can require patience and understanding. Not all problems have the same solution. Sometimes you can facilitate change via diplomacy and negotiation, and other times it needs a more violent approach.” Canna scoffed at that remark. She knew very well there was no diplomatic solution to her problem with the Drow, and she wasn’t hesitant to make that clear. Varner frowned as though he took that offense very personally. “There you go laughing at the wrong time again! It’s possible not to scowl every problem to death you know! Paladins are taught to use their words before their sword.”
“Wait. Are you implying I’m going to be a Paladin?” Canna asked, her eyes eagerly lighting with the strong, passionate fire that her uncle always complimented.
“What?” Varner was speechless. “That was meant to be a sagely piece of advice you carry on in your heart and use to warm yourself in moments of self-doubt! Are all students as difficult to teach as you are?” Varner sighed as he contemplated the merit of his pupil’s question. He studied her intently to find her physical and mental limitations. After a few moments he had an answer. “No, “ the Halfling bluntly answered, “you’re not a Paladin. Your arms are too skinny, and you don’t exactly exude charisma either. You’re too old to be taught those things now, so Paladin is definitely out of the question, and you don’t really seem like the wandering healing type either. I’m not honestly sure what you are.” Varner pressed his thumb and index finger against his lip and pondered what path Avandra intended for this violent teen. A small thought crept into his mind, but it seemed so unlikely he ignored it initially. All the while Canna had difficulty exhaling as she waited for her future to be revealed.
Varner skeptically perked an eyebrow as he leaned closer to the teen. “Have you ever killed anyone before?” The Halfling expected the conversation to fall quiet, but Canna was quick to respond.
“Yes.” There was no regret, fear, or hesitation in her voice. She didn’t sound proud, but it was clear that the notion of taking a life was not foreign to her. Varner simply shrugged. It wasn’t the answer he expected, but it was the answer he needed to confirm his gut feeling.
“There is a sect of religious vocations that is not widely known about,” the Halfling muttered subtly as he hushed his voice. “It is said that the gods would, on rare occasion I must stress, employ less public figures to do their work. They called these agents of justice: Avengers.” Canna felt oddly comfortable hearing that word as though it were something she had always grown up hearing despite never knowing of this order of faithful until this moment. It was as though someone had been whispering that word to her in her sleep for years now. She clenched her hands as she anticipated more information, but her new teacher was brief on the subject.
“If you were meant to be an Avenger, you’re going to be in some trouble. Even before being locked away they were rare. All I have on them are a few scrolls that lay out the doctrine and a few lessons. Much of the wisdom is lost and even with my help there will be a lot you’ll have to learn on your own.”
Canna sat silently for a moment as she let the flavor of the moment savor. This was it. This was the opportunity she’d been waiting for all her life. The power to crush her foes, change the world, and avenge those lost. The difficulty of learning this new calling in life only accentuated her anticipation of embracing it. Her smile accepted the challenge. “Good,” Varner responded as he finished his drink. “Though I should note this particular line of work does require a significantly larger weapon than the ones you’re used to using. Also you’ll probably want to stretch a bit before meeting me here tomorrow morning. To my understanding Avengers are prone to very strange movements.” Even Varner seemed confused by that sentiment, but he brushed it off all the same as he called for another drink.
“Oh,” Canna replied, shuffling nervously in her seat. “I don’t think I can do tomorrow. My mom is really careful about how much time I spend out of the house recently, so she’ll probably be pretty strict on me leaving for most of the day again tomorrow.”
Varner was dumbstruck. “You won’t come because you might get grounded by your mother? That is not luck, freedom, or change! You’ve been a devout follower of Avandra for only fifteen minutes and you’re already a heretic!” Varner shook his head slightly as he reminded his new student of her new tenants. “This life you’re signing up for is going to require a lot of sacrifice; physically, mentally, and emotionally. You’re going to face tests much greater than just disappointing your mother and you have to be ready to task a risk, grasp at freedom, and make a change. Can you do that?”
Canna leaned back in her chair as an old, comforting voice echoed in her head. Her uncle’s voice was always such a soothing listen, but hearing him explain his first rule felt more like a stern lecture than the words of wisdom they were intended to be. The teen loved her family despite her differences with them, but this opportunity could be her only chance to do the things she dreamed of. If she had to sacrifice her relationship with her family to ensure change for the rest of the world, then she would do so. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Canna had an eager grin on her face as she felt her muscles tense and her fists clench in anticipation. However, this decision unknowingly started a schism in the Corbett family that would never be repaired.
Ahoy hoy! This was a long one guys, so I’ll be brief down here. This entry and the previous entry were placed to explain a bit more about Canna’s relationship with Avandra. Canna isn’t exactly what I imagine when I think of a Divine character. Unlike Eli or Vega, Canna isn’t a character brought into the faith early on—she’s only been considered faithful for the past 5 years. Her relationship with Avandra is weak, and Canna really considers herself more of a divine mercenary that a student of faith. That will likely change in time, though we shall see.
I had a lot more fun writing Varner than I should have considering I only brought him up here and he’ll never show up again outside of Peter having the option to use him as an NPC. Still, I modeled Varner entirely off of Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones and that made him entirely more entertaining than the “one-note charmer” he was originally supposed to be. Since he’s never seen again, I’ll just say that Varner taught Canna for two or three years how to be an Avenger the best he could, then left her to her own self-discipline. Also he probably purchased a hot air balloon that he used to crash into fancy dinner parties. Yeah, that’s the ticket…
Only two pieces of her backstory left, and I’m currently at a loss for what to do after that. The remaining two pieces will be devoted to Canna’s parents. A piece of Kaevyn, and a final piece of Jude that will establish why Canna stands on the outs with her parents. I’m excited for these to pieces. Have been for a while now. Should be a “shit ton” of fun. Regardless, I’ll cut off here. Enjoy everybody!