Character Backstory

I’m playing in a D&D one-shot adventure tomorrow night, and I wrote up some background. I like this character story a lot, and I would love to find time to play more. We will see.

Born as lightning struck the temple the town fathers prayed at, Abigail was marked from birth by the townspeople as cursed. Luckily for her, she didn’t spend much time in town – she grew up in the wilds, moving cattle from pasture to buyer with her parents.

Out on the drive, there wasn’t much reason to worry about “boys jobs” and “girls jobs” – everyone needed to get the herd to the buyer or no one ate. Abigail learned to ride and rope just like her brothers, and her nimbleness on a horse was apparent from an early age. It also turned out that being able to sneak up on a wayward calf or hit a rattler between the eyes from 20 paces were pretty handy things, too.

That didn’t mean she didn’t have a chance to learn about the ways men and women made it in the world, though. When she was 17, Abigail’s brother returned to camp one night with a woman who’d run away from a “stifling” life in court. Being the only two women anywhere near their age on the trail, Abigail and Maree bonded, and they exchanged skills – Abigail taught Maree how to ride and make sure the herd got to where it needed to go, and Maree taught Abigail all about the rules of being in town and spending time with the gentry.

A couple of years later, Abigail’s family passed through the biggest city she’d ever seen. A few nights of hot baths and having the chance to put on some clothes that weren’t weathered leather taught her another thing about herself – while the road would always be home to her, there was something about the city that she needed. The skills Maree had taught her helped Abigail not embarrass herself when she was in taverns and inns with people who’d grown up with city money, but it was her unpolished edges and the sense of humor one can only develop during a lifetime on the road with nothing but family and cows for company that helped her catch the eye of a local merchant.

He was older, and bored of the world he’d grown up in, and Abigail was a strong breeze of something new. They had a whirlwind romance that led to a slightly – but not overly – scandalous trip down the aisle. Abigail had an understanding of commerce, having helped her parents buy and sell cattle for years, and her new husband Poul was more than willing to let her help out with his business. They quickly added to his fortune, and as is always the case with money, it opened doors. Soon they would dine with lords and ladies one night, hash out a lucrative business deal the next, and then hop on horses for a ride out to her parents’ new ranch the next.

Unfortunately, new money and new fame also can bring unwanted attention. Abigail and Poul made money and friends in high places, but they also made enemies, some in even higher places. Some of that, to be fair, was because Abigail and her husband had discovered that the dexterity needed to kill a rattler was pretty much the same as that needed to swap out a bag of gold coins for a bag of copper pennies, and that her skill with a dagger translated pretty well to opening things that other people didn’t want opened. They were having fun, getting rich, and rising in court, and what more could they have wanted?

As it turned out, what Abigail could have wanted was for her husband to stay alive longer. One too many locks picked led to one too many angry bankers, and one night they discovered that Poul’s wine had been poisoned. It would have been Abigail’s wine too, except that she had just discovered that she was expecting and had decided to abstain.

When Abigail realized what had happened, she got furious. Sure, she and Poul didn’t much care for the notion of other people’s property, but they’d never actually harmed a soul. This was taking it way too far. She couldn’t stay in town long – whoever had killed Poul would soon try again to get her, and she had a child to protect. Abigail loaded up her wagon in the wee hours of the morning, grabbed their two fastest horses, and made her way out to the wild where her family was. Not before torching her house, though, and their store. She wasn’t about to let anyone get their hands on what they’d made – or taken – not after murdering her husband.

Abigail told a version of the truth to her parents – she didn’t want them rushing in to find Poul’s killer and getting themselves hurt, but she told the whole story to Maree. She knew Maree would understand, and she knew that Maree would understand why Abigail would have to leave when she could. The wrong word getting to the wrong ear could put her whole family in danger. Maree and Abigail’s brother’s inability to have any kids of their own made that part simpler, and when her son was born, she stayed around long enough to nurse him for a couple of months and then left him with his new parents. He’d learn the truth someday, maybe.

Twenty-three when she rode away from her family, Abigail is 26 now. She’d had enough money left over to outfit herself well and tuck away safety money in a few places, and she never stayed in one place for more than a few weeks. At home in a dusty barroom and at the side of some man who thought she was charming, or witty, or just available, most anywhere she went was somewhere she could fit in. Things that weren’t sufficiently locked down still found their ways into her hands, especially if those things had been previously owned by someone she could have imagined poisoning her and Poul.


#ThursThreads, week 486


Gulliver rolled over in his sleep, almost crushing a dozen small forms, scurrying out from under his huge bulk. The general called out her orders from her elevated perch, regrouping her troops. Damn the giant, she thought, not for the first time. He seemed to have a preternatural sense of danger, and she knew that if he ever woke and saw what she was doing, it wouldn’t matter that his most vital organs might not be the targets of her assault. She didn’t know a way to tell him that she was trying to help him.  

His breathing calmed again, settling into deep snores that shook the ground, and the general sent out the signal to begin again. She watched as the footsoldiers erected the towers, rising as high as any structures they’d ever built, until a woman on the top would be able to look down on Gulliver as a giant herself. 

From the towers came the ropes, creating a tenuous connection high in the air. The general knew that the ones who would cross the ropes were her best and her bravest, and she said a short prayer that they would survive today. 

Finally, all was ready, and the only part left was the thing itself. He might not ever appreciate what she was doing today, though she hoped that if her team was able to find what caused him such pain the rages and the howling would stop. She had to try, for everyone’s sake. 

248 words



Mid-week Flash Challenge week 223


“Jennie, are you there? Are you listening?”

Jennie was listening, but she wasn’t there. At least not how she had always thought of herself. Jennie had been one of the most solid, most *there* people in her circles. If someone had a problem, Jennie could help. If there wasn’t enough time in the day, Jennie found more. If something absolutely, positively had to be done, and done right, Jennie was the person who did it. That was her identity, that was how she presented to the world.


“I’m listening, doctor.”

The doctor smiled. “Okay. What did I ask?”

“You asked if I was listening.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“You didn’t ask me anything.”

“I asked – again – if you were here. I almost feel like I can see through you.”

Jennie looked down at her hands, folded haphazardly in her lap. They weren’t really hands anymore, of course, not as people normally have hands. They were the idea of hands, the suggestion of hands. If you looked enough, you’d think “hands,” but if you had to describe details, you would be unable to. There was something thin about her hands, about the way they existed.

“I guess it’s good that I’m wearing clothes, then, otherwise you’d have to look at this ugly couch.”

“Jennie. Where are you?”

She shrugged. How to answer that?

The doctor shifted in his seat, shuffled some papers. The answers weren’t in there, though. They weren’t really anywhere. He paused, looked at the ceiling above where Jennie sat, such as she did. “Do you want to be here?”

The doctors had been trying to figure out where Jennie was going, why she was going, how she was going for so long that no one had thought to ask her that, as if whatever was going on was a choice. She hadn’t chosen to become this whatever this was, had she?

“How do you mean?”

“Do you want to return to the life you used to have? If we knew what was going on and could pull the magic lever, do you want to be the Jennie you were a year ago?”

Jennie’s breath caught in her throat. Her hands flashed from ephemeral to real, and in that moment, she felt the pain. She’d forgotten the pain.

When you carry everyone, who carries you?

Even if you just think you carry everyone. Who can you rely on? Can you rely on anyone? What does that even mean?

The doctor saw the pain, saw the fear in her eyes. “It’s okay. Breathe. Slowly. That’s not real pain, not today.”

“You don’t remember how you came here, do you?”

Jennie shook her head without having to think. There was before, and there was now, but there wasn’t a path from one to the other. There hadn’t been for a long time.

“We’ve been talking about whether to tell you. Most of the other doctors think we should. I do not. But I agreed to ask you. Do you want to know? Do you really want to know?”

Jennie looked down at her thin hands again. She remembered the pain. She didn’t want to know what caused that pain. She nodded anyway. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you want.

The doctor sighed. He nodded back. “Do you remember the school bus?”

“The school bus?” And then the world exploded.

Yellow yellow yellow red yellow Jennie is late to the meeting she has to be at the meeting she’s the only one that can make the deal everyone is depending everyone needs everyone needs she needs no she can’t need she needs everyone needs yellow she is late red red her phone is buzzing her other phone is ringing red RED RED YELLOW YELLOW YELLOW


Too many words, too many images, too many thoughts. Jennie started to cry.

But there wasn’t enough of her left to cry, not in this thin state. Not when she wasn’t *there*.

It started in her stomach and spun outward. Where there had once been someone who tried to be everything to everyone, there was nothingness. Lines shot through her skin, shattering what was left like a dropped hardboiled egg. Jennie raised her hands. Looked at them. They were there. Then they weren’t. Then all that was left were her eyes.

Jennie looked at the doctor. He looked in her eyes, raised a hand in farewell.

There was a smile in Jennie’s eyes. It was over. She wasn’t there anymore.

746 words




“The Muses Don’t Like Mocha”

The two dead men materialized in the coffee shop in the pause between moments. It wasn’t their first visit here, nor their second, nor their hundredth. Not because this is where history changed, though it was. Been there, done that, saved the world, tried the mocha.


They were here because of her.

Corner table. Mousy brown hair. Laptop covered with activism stickers sitting mere inches from her nose as she typed, furiously, as if there were too many words and not enough fingers.

The rest of the place was busy, but not this corner. It was as if she emitted an aura of repulsion – people walking past the table took a step away without thinking about it. Sound even seemed to dissipate quicker, something the men noticed as they pushed through the aura and sat down at the table. Maybe it was even dimmer.

She kept typing for a few seconds, then slowly registered the interlopers and stopped, a grimace twisting her face.

Straightening her back, she fixed them with a cold stare. “Gentlemen, if you are hoping to find some company for the evening, that’s not why I’m here. I have an important –“

“Important book to write.”

“We know.”

“That’s why we’re here. Well, again. We tried this before.”

“Before? What before? Tried what?”

The dead men looked at each other, then back to her.

“Look, do you want to live? I mean, past tonight?”