Home is Where the Backstory Is

After another fast-paced day, the four adventurers were sitting in the bar of the Dragon’s Dungeon Inn. Suddenly, they felt a change in the air as the geometric orbs of predestination ceased their tumbling.

“Well, the players must have gone to bed,” declared Yara. “We’re on our own for the night. Let’s have another drink.”

While the Fighter poured herself another shot, Griff turned to the newest member of the party. “Hey, Linn, I never asked you, where are you from?”

“I don’t know,” the shy, curly-haired Bard replied.

Yara spewed her drink across the bar “What?! Really?”

“Are you serious, Linn?” Morgana asked.

“I’m neutral, not chaotic, Morgana. Why would I make that up?”

“To be fair, that’s what Bards tend to do,” Griff said.

“You’re one to talk, you Rogue,” sniped Morgana.

“Well, I’m telling the truth,” Linn said. “I don’t know where I’m from. My player didn’t come up with much of a backstory for me.”

“But you do have a home, right, Linn? And a family?” Morgana asked.

“I don’t know. I really don’t.”

 “What’s your backstory, then?” asked Griff.

Linn sat up straight and recited. “My name is Aerlinniel Brook. I’m half halfling and half elf, and I’ve increased in power seven times. I’m five feet exactly, and have –”

Griff interrupted. “Skip all that, tell us about your family.”

“All right. I wanted to learn about my Elvish heritage, but my mom wouldn’t tell me. So I left home at 14 to be trained by a Bard. But the Bard only knew human lore. And now I joined you all, since Morgana is an Elf, and I thought she would teach me.”

“So, did you teach her, Morgana?” Griff asked the Wizard.

“Of course!” Morgana defended herself. “Well, sort of. I taught you that one elvish song, right? The Song of Courage.”

“You did. It’s pretty.” Linn sang a few bars, and Morgana nodded in approval. “Note-perfect!”

“And,” Linn continued, “after today’s fight with the Gargantuan Spider my abilities jumped up a level and now I’m able to understand Elvish. My player must have finally decided that my quest for my heritage was over.”

“So you found your heritage, then! Problem solved!” declared Yara.

“I suppose. But...”

“But what? Doesn’t that mean you’ve found your home?” asked Morgana.

“But it doesn’t mean anything to me. It just appeared in my head like all our skills do, usually after some epic battle. I didn’t struggle for it, I just suddenly knew it. And, as we all know, Intelligence and Wisdom are different stats. More knowledge doesn’t change who I am, or make me an Elf. I’m still just Linn.”

Griff thought for a moment, then said. “So, studying won’t work. Try remembering. What do you remember about your home, Linn?”

“What do you mean? I told you, I don’t have one.”

“Maybe your player didn’t give you one. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have one, Linn,” the Rogue argued. “Your player only brings you to life. But you live your life, fill in the details.”

“If you need your player to dictate your every move, what are we doing here, for crying out loud?! The players have gone to bed!” Yara slammed her almost empty glass down on the bar, ignoring the splashes.

“Like some people might need to do,” Morgana muttered.

“I heard that!”

Ignoring them, Griff addressed the little Bard. “So, Linn, do you remember? Are your parents living or dead?”

“Um, living, I suppose. At least they were when I left. I was only fourteen, you know. I haven’t seen them since.”

“Would you rather have a family, or be an orphan? Either makes for a good backstory!” Morgana tried to subtly smack Yara, but failed both in subtlety and against the Fighter’s strong Armor Class.

“Of course they’re still alive! I wouldn’t make my siblings orphans!”

“So you have siblings? Younger than you?” asked Griff.

“Yes. A sister, to continue on the family business, and a brother.”

“What is the family business?”

“Barrel-making. Halflings empty so many barrels, we ought to know how to fill ‘em! That’s what my father always said. Did I remember that, or just make it up?”

“Both. Don’t worry about it,” Griff grinned. “But tell me more about your siblings.”

“My sister’s going to be a barrel-maker, like I said, or at least she was when I left. She’s got the knack for crafting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she expanded the business past barrels. You think my Architecture/Engineering skill is high, you should have seen hers!”

“And your brother?” prompted Griff.

“He always wanted to study at the university, learning ancient legends of monsters and men, the rise and fall of kingdoms.”

“Don’t just describe your family, with stats, abi’ities, perfect’y planned lives, Linn!” interrupted Yara. “You got any mem’ries of them?”

“Stop pressuring her, Yara!” hissed Morgana. “Don’t you know this is hard enough for her? She doesn’t have any memories, remember?”

But Linn wasn’t listening anymore. “I do remember, one thing. It was the last time I ever asked my mother to sing me an Elvish song. She would always shake her head and leave the room, but this time, she sat down on the edge of my bed, stroked my hair, and sang in Common: ‘Till all is safe and peace is won. And till that time, I journey on.’”

“Wait, that’s the same song I taught you!” interrupted Morgana.

“It can’t be, that’s an old Halfling folk tune. It’s nothing like the one you taught me! And the words are in Common!”

“You said you know Elvish now, trans’ate it yourself!” commanded Yara.

Linn muttered the Elvish lyrics to herself. “You’re right, how can -?

“Sing it for us again, now, Linn” said Griff.

Linn sang,

              “I walk beneath the star-dimmed moon

              Rememb’ring flowering Astalune.

              Yet though she’s dear to look upon

              I won’t turn back, I journey on.

              The moon has often waned and gone,

              And many cyles of the sun

              Since last I ‘held that blessed tree.

              Across the mountains and the sea.

              Whether in sunshine, cloud, or rain,

              I shall not see her bloom again

              Till all is safe and peace is won.

              And till that time, I journey on.”

Morgana’s mouth had fallen open. “Wow, I knew there was magic in your singing, Linn – ”

“ –That’s literally what Bard means – ” sniped Yara.

“ – but it’s never been this strong before.” Morgana finished, glaring at Yara.

At the end of her song, Linn’s face had crumpled, and tears were rolling slowly down her cheeks.

“What’s the matter, Linn?” asked Griff. 

“I remember. I remember everything. The way my sister smiled when she was getting in trouble, my father’s laugh, arguing with my brother about the cause of the Cataclysm, and my mother... How can I have let three years go by? How did I not know them?”

“Where is your home, Linn?” asked Griff.

“Calaman,” she declared.

“Isn’t that on the border of the encroaching endless night?” Morgana pointed out.

“Yes. But that’s okay. Our quest is to stop that, right? And now, I have something worth fighting for.”

“H’ray, happy endings f’r all!” slurred Yara. “Now, then, I’m goin’ t’ bed. We got a long day of slayin’ tomorrow.”

“I’ll turn in too,” said Linn. “And, thank you.”

After the Bard had helped the Fighter stumble up the stairs, Morgana asked Griff, “Did she really just remember all that? Or was she making it up?”

He shrugged. “I’m a Rogue, remember? I was just trying to make her feel better. And Yara’s pretty far into her cups. Who knows?”

Behind them, the door opened and a teenage boy with curly red hair and pointed ears strode in, heading for the innkeeper’s desk.

“Hello, I’m starting at the university in the morning, can I have a room for the night?”

The innkeeper, Martha, looked down over the desk at him. “You’re a bit young to be traveling alone at this time of night,” she clucked.

“My sister’s only a year older than me, and she’s been traveling for years,” the boy said. “She must have made full Adventurer by now. And besides, history teaches us that the pen is mightier than the sword.”

“All right,” Martha said, pulling out her guestbook. “Can I get a name for the room?”

“Rollo. Rollo Brook.”