Saturday, October 5, 2019

Character Exploration - Bosabrieln's Grief

In our long-running D&D campaign, my Bard's mentor, lover, protector, was killed in battle.  Interested parties can read about it in the campaign write-up over at Obsidian Portal.

Their relationship was odd and wrong. When crafting my character many years ago, I fashioned him (Bosabrieln, "Bosie") after Lord Alfred Douglas - vain, conceited, fabulous, eventually evolving into the sociopath he was always destined to be - and his mentor/lover, Vianibrar, was flavoured with a heaping dose of Oscar Wilde.  I am nothing if not predictable.

Their history, in brief:  Bosie is the bastard half-elven son of a wood elf, who for political and spiteful reasons all his own, brought this poor infant back to their heavily xenophobic and isolated elven city after the human mother died in childbirth.  Fast forward through a little over a decade of Cinderella-esque maltreatment, and Bosie is rescued by his father's friend, Vianibrar, an iconoclastic Bard adventurer, also of this awful community, but free of their hatred.  Making good on some bargain he and Bosabrieln's father had made years ago, he takes the child under his wing, into his home, and begins schooling him in the Bardic arts. Skip ahead but a precious few years more, and they have become lovers and entered into this truly fucked up romantic relationship.  Vian is well over 300, and at the time Bosabrieln is 16 or 17.  It is squicky.  It is uncomfortable.  But gods, if it isn't the best thing that has ever happened to Bosabrieln ever, and it enables him for the first time to hit back at the community that raised him so cruelly, because have no doubt that his father and his father's family despise this arrangement.  From there, after Bosie ventures into the world to start making a name for himself, Vianibrar is always but a letter, a Sending, or a Dreaming away.  A constant resource, even when Bosabrieln's own skill begins to approach, match, and exceed Vian's own.

And now he's dead.  The session where he died was devastating and beautiful.  I cried actual real life tears (helps having a DM who is especially adept at creating mood and giving description).  It was everything I could have hoped for in this awful chapter for this character.  I know I'm not alone in revelling in masochism for my OCs.

We're playing again today, picking up in the aftermath.  In part to get myself back into that devastating headspace, and in part hearkening back to some of my theatrical training in character study because it just sounded like fun, I thought on the five stages of grief, and how each one manifests for Bosabrieln.  I present those to you now.  There's a lot of reference to in-game people, places, and happenings, which I will not detail below, though I'll again direct you to the Obsidian Portal wiki if you'd like to learn more about this campaign!

Bosabrieln does not dwell in denial for long. As the battle ends, the sounds of battle cease and the square stills, he looks around briefly for Vianibrar. He'd heard him, though his voice has been silent throughout it all, which is so unlike him. There's a moment where he thinks, Where did Vian fuck off to now, already making sure someone knows, that diva? At last his gaze settles on the crumpled coat over the harp and rapier. Though his brain cannot parse it, he knows, his stomach suddenly feeling bottomless, like falling. Those moments, minutes (hours?) become a blur. Maybe Gloomblight says something – they were fighting side by side after all when it happened – most likely Moridal, for he loved Vian too, in his way. Bosie makes his way to the effects across the square as though slowed by some unknown spellcaster, the world around him goes silent and all that exists are himself, the clothes, the Bardic weapons, and all that damn dust. So much dust, on the ground, in the air, in the folds of Vianibrar's coat. There's a brief moment where he instinctively moves to pick up the coat to shake it out, and that's when it hits. What the dust is. Who it was. Carefully, gently, purposefully, he folds up the coat, preserving as much of that fine grey powder as he can, wrapping it again in the travel blanket that he pulls from his pack (or did Moridal hand it to him?). This precious bundle assembled, he sets it back down, placing rapier and harp atop it. Still on his knees on the cold hard stones of the square, he throws his head back, looking to the heavens if he could only bring himself to open his eyes, and howls, abundant tears creating tracks through the ash that has caked onto his face, onto all their faces. This is the only time he cries for others to see.

He masks it well, can't let his public facade crack, he's got to be on. Privately, though, and this is where the Mansion becomes more a refuge than ever it had been, he's unhinged. Safe within the extradimensional walls of his design, Bosabrieln rails against the universe. He didn't realise he was doing it at first; although the Shields are all afforded accommodations in Scandshar following the Solstice tragedy, sleeping in the Mansion at this point seems comforting and familiar, the manifestation of his own mind creating this literal safe-house around him. He breaks things, throws them, rends tapestries, knowing they'll all rematerialise again the next time he needs them. The ghostly servants make no move to intervene, standing silently by until they are needed. No food is prepared.

Anger drives all of his actions for a time, when it is all so fresh and new. Biting arguments with Peacock and Drow witnesses (and others besides) during the Parliamentary inquest. His general conduct is tinged with bitterness. And of course, especially, the trip he makes to Nainimdul to inform their kin of Vian's demise, to memorialise him there, to make sure they don't just know, they understand it, and they own it.

He visits temples. Corellon and Bahamut. Corellon, to beseech Vianibrar's rest and comfort, his return if only their deeds were good enough. They drove the Drow back under, fought valiantly for good causes, and their lives, his and Vianibrar's, were ever focused on beauty and perfection, and if all of this isn't enough for Corellon to see fit that Vian might return to life, what more can he do, what greater deeds would be enough?

Bahamut's temple visits are different. The first, of course, is to ensure that the Claws' effects are brought home – if he does not escort these things himself, he certainly follows up in the days that come to pass. The subsequent visits are of quiet contemplation. He'd met the old man before and, as he reasons with himself, Bosabrieln has proven to be a formidable force in the world, one worthy of a visit. Should they ever meet again, he'd only want to drink and talk.

When he is a god, he promises himself, he'll find a way.

Depression and Isolation
As with his anger, there's not a lot of his outward face that belies his internal journey in this regard. He eats less, sleeps less. His is not a restless insomnia, wracked with thoughts of what could have been, what might have been done differently. Instead Bosabrieln begins to fill his nights with reading and learning, with music, acquainting his fingers, hands, and arms with Vian's harp, learning her weight, her sound, her idiosyncrasies. Sometimes he walks. If they're in a city, he cloaks himself to remain unknown and unbothered. If they're out in the world and he's not on watch, he'll beg his watchful companion's pardon, and set off in any direction. If they insist in sleeping in the Mansion he still slips out, returning by the morning.

He seeks out Valna, portaling to Argent if need be. They speak of gods, of life, of death, of responsibility. Sometimes they lie together companionably, quietly, hands intertwined. Looking up at the stars, just different enough this far North. He calms his mind, if only briefly, combing her hair, braiding it, pinning it. Things he'd do for her back when their lives were so much simpler. Of course, he never gives voice to any of this.

He never accepts it, not truly. He acknowledges it, of course, recognises the reality of Vianibrar's passing. But acceptance, in this, is not in his vocabulary.

There are firsts, and each one hits like a dragon's tail to the chest. The first time he thinks to contact Vian for advice. The first time he starts a Sending. The first time he finds himself reflexively smiling at a memory. The first time he thinks of Vian and it doesn't ache. The first time he dreams of Vianibrar, at first so like their Dream couplings, when they were both fully aware and present, but eventually deteriorating into incoherent nonsense in the way that only real dreams do. From that he awakes, still aroused, confused, and devastated, knowing that things between them will never be the same again, for there is no “between them”, there is only Bosabrieln.

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