Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sketch in My Notebook: Marcus the Dispossessed

This week's Sketch in My Notebook is literally that.  I have no idea what to do next with this story.  At this point, it's just a character/concept sketch that I started by way of supporting an article for ENWorld's EN5ider Magazine.

Sketch in My Notebook
EN5ider is an online magazine that publishes freelance Dungeons & Dragons content under Wizards of the Coasts' Open Gaming License (OGL).  My article, which ought to be out any day now, is called "Priests of Misfortune".  It proposes a divine trinity of fate and the future--Fate, Fortuna, and Jinx, the goddess of misfortune.  It then goes into detail on the theology of Jinx and her priests while laying out what it takes to become favored of the goddess of calamity.

As you may imagine, I had some fun inventing my own religion.

I then invented this character, Marcus the Dispossessed, as a Jinxian priest, but...  Well, I just can't figure out what I want him to do.  Something nefarious, no doubt, but I've no idea what, exactly.

Got some thoughts?

Do me a favor, and leave them below.  Thanks!

Marcus the Dispossessed

“The Three hold the destiny of Mankind in their fingers.  Fate, the mother, goddess of time and the future.  Fortuna, the good sister, lady of chance and the nobility.  Jinx, the scarred sister, mistress of misfortune and the dispossessed.
“Glory to the Three!  All sing their praises!”
 -- Aldous Roccko, Lord-Commander of the Knights of Karma
“Marcus Vainer, you’re a hard man to find.  But I knew you wouldn’t miss the chance to see your family on the Sabbath, Marcus.  You’re predictable in this, if nothing else.”
I recognize the voice, of course.  Jocasta Shen-Tiu, senior captain of the Red Scorpions Guild, one of Cahokiantep’s many so-called mercenary companies.  More legitimate than some, but still looking to make a business out of what most right-thinking folks would term extortion or murder.  I let my hand drift slowly down to the headstone at my feet and mutter a few last words, but the truth is that Miranda’s not going anywhere.  It’s been years since she breathed her last.
It’s just as well that she’s not alive to see what my life has become.
I turn slowly then, left hand settling easily on the hilt of the Calamity Blade.  Jocasta’s there, hands clasped behind her back, standing patiently. Waiting.  Long black hair hanging loosely down her back; long white tunic covering an otherwise generously curvaceous figure.  Four Red Scorpion street-toughs hang behind her, truncheons out, looking considerably less patient.  It’s dark, but the blue-green disc of Toliver VI hangs high in the sky against an endless field of stars.  Toliver’s light is more than enough to see by, but it leaves everything tinged in an eerie blue.  Meanwhile, there’s ground fog rising around the tombstones, giving the night a ghostly cast.  Otherwise the cemetery is quiet.
“What do you want, Jocasta?”
“You, of course.”  No smile.  Her eyes are large and almond-shaped.  Dark like the heart of Hel.  Impassive to a fault.  “The Guild Commander wants to talk to you, Marcus.”
“Your guild commander can kiss my ass.  I’m trying to pay my respects.”
“I can wait.”
“You’ll be waiting a while.”
A theatrical pout.  “Oh Marcus, don’t make this harder than it has to be.”  
Her hands come up to her hips, and she strike a pose that emphasizes her figure.  A seduction play?  If that’s her plan, Jocasta much know less about me than she thinks.
I kiss my fingertips, lay them on Miranda’s headstone, and then do the same for each of our children.  They’ve been gone for years now, but the pain still sits in my gut like an open wound.  Jocasta watches impassively, but her boys are getting fidgety, and soon the branches of a tree limb begin rattling nearby.  I look up, see a Red Scorpion ninja standing nervously in the canopy.  A second ninja lurks further back, his feet set on a large branch that hangs some twenty feet above the ground.  
That makes six, plus Jocasta.  
Whatever Guild Commander Shen wants, he obviously wants it badly.  Or maybe Jocasta really has heard about me, and she decided to come prepared. Either way, the upside is that I don’t have to play it subtle.  
I drag the Calamity Blade clear of its scabbard, and with it, I can feel the eyes of the Lady looking down.  The Blade glows with its own unique light, deep and black, making the pale granite tombstones luminescent in the darkness.  Jocasta’s tunic lights up like a beacon, and it draws stares from her bully-boys.  They’re nervous, obviously.  They should be.  My lady is the Mistress of Misfortune.  If these fuckers knew what that meant, I doubt they’d have come.
I let the memory of my family fall away and feel my face go slack.  I am a machine now.  I serve the will of Jinx.  
“Are we gonna do this or what?”
“This is not why I’m here, Marcus.”  Jocasta shakes her head, and I catch a flicker of disappointment that soon dims to resignation.  “Take him, boys.  Try not to bash in his skull too badly.”
The bully boys advance but slowly.  They’re still plenty nervous.  You can see it in their eyes.  The fight hasn’t even started, and already there’s been magic at play of a kind that they can’t possibly have come prepared to face.  Guys like this, street toughs, they won’t have seen anything even remotely like the Calamity Blade before—not up close, anyway.  The ninja are faceless and harder to read, but I know how to handle them, too.  The key is to keep this group off balance.  Make them react to me.  
I look up, and a branch breaks, sending the nearer of the two ninja tumbling to the ground.  He lands on one of the street-toughs, and they both go sprawling.  The bully boys curse and leap back from their comrade, who’s now a jumble of broken bodies and twisted limbs.
“Bad luck, boys.  Isn’t that always the way?”  I let a smile play across my lips, but it’s little more than bravado.  The will of Jinx is rarely funny.  
“Cheap theatrics,” Jocasta replies.
She’s pulled a whip from somewhere, but right now she’s just clutching it, holding the handle in one hand while the free end plays through her fingers.  Her boys look back at her, obviously questioning, but she’s back to that impassive stare, leaving them with little choice but to advance.  I let them, giving an impassive stare of my own, and you can see that it gets in their heads.  They’re kids mostly, if big.  Pimply-faced teenagers looking for a place in the world.  It’s just bad luck that they were born on the wrong side of town.  
It’s going to be a pain in the ass making sure that I don’t accidentally maim or kill any of them.
They spread out, still looking uncertain, while the second ninja moves up through the trees.  I look at him, see him pulling some kind of straw-like cylinder out of his pockets—probably a blow-gun.  As a result, I don’t have time to be subtle, but that’s not exactly news.  Even a gaggle of teenaged street-toughs will eventually bracket me and leave me without any good choices.  Like I said, I don’t want to start dropping bodies just because a bunch of kids had the misfortune to fall in with the wrong crowd.
Another look, and one of the street-toughs slips on a patch of wet grass.  More bad luck.  I lurch forward into the space of an instant’s hesitation, bang the Calamity Blade off a second street tough’s truncheon then whirl back and kick another kid square in the midsection, launching him back into the tree.  That leaves two, one of whom is only just getting back to his feet.  I brain the nearest kid with the flat of my blade then grab the other’s arm when he charges, whipping him around in time to take the dart from the ninja’s blowgun straight in the neck.  He collapses just as the kid I kicked is getting up.  There’s still another ninja to contend with, but overall, I’m feeling pretty good about myself.  
Jocasta’s whip snaps, catching my ankle.  I’d forgotten about her, and as my mistress teaches, “Pride goes before the fall.”
I tumble just as the second ninja starts to advance.  I look up, grab frantically for the power of my patroness, and feel the briefest moment of resistance before the second ninja goes down with a turned ankle.  It’s too late, though.  I feel right then that I’ve pushed it too far.  Jinx may be the Mistress of Misfortune, but she’s a bitch about karma.  Abuse her power, and she’ll make sure you get what you have coming.  I try to scramble to my feet, but now my own footing slips, and I land face down in the mud.  I make it onto my back in time to block the last thug’s truncheon with the Calamity Blade, but then there’s the whip again, catching my hand and yanking my sword free from my grasp.  I kick the thug’s legs out from under him, but Jocasta is already advancing, a pair of brass knuckles wrapped around one fist.
“I didn’t want it to be like this,” she says.
She smashes me in the temple before I have time to cover up, and that’s the last thing I remember.
What now, eh?  I was gonna do something with Space Vampires, but my heart's not in it.  
Got any ideas?

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