Recently, the board games group we go to decided to start up a Dungeons and Dragons game. This involved creating characters for ourselves to play, which was great fun, mightily confusing and, most happily, involved creating a backstory.
It only really needed to be a vague sort of background. So obviously I wrote a 1300 word first-person perspective story.
And then failed to print it out and share it.
Soooo, I figured I’d stick it on here instead for your entertainment. My character is called Akta Despair and she is a 5’2″ Tiefling (a human with demonic ancestry) who has curled horns like a sheep, purple-black hair, olive skin, a whip-like tail similar in colour to her hair, and eyes like silver with devilish pupils. I have tried to sketch her horns/face. It would help if I had some kind of artistic skill, but I am going to share it anyway just to give you a vague idea. I didn’t even try to draw her body…
Thankfully, I write better than I draw. Or at least I think I do.
Here is Akta’s story, told in her voice, up to the starting point of our first dungeon adventure…
I haven’t always been called Akta. I picked that name on my fifteenth birthday just after I stole myself a pair of silver daggers off an orc who had just stolen them off a dwarf that he had beaten senseless outside a bar.
I wouldn’t have had any presents if I didn’t steal myself some and I didn’t feel bad for stealing off the orc because he was a bad tempered oaf. I’m pretty sure he’d beaten the dwarf up for arriving at the bar first and no other particular reason, and he was too busy downing his celebratory bucket of ale to notice me lifting them back out of his belt and vanishing down a side alley. Idiot.
I left town that day because I heard that my brother, Iados, had figured out where I was staying. He’d overheard my name on the streets somehow. Probably one of the dusty little urchins who couldn’t keep their trap shut about who’d been stealing food for them. I knew then that I needed a new name and that I needed to leave.
Velavia Despair might still be lurking in the back streets of Guthram for all I know, but a rogue Tiefling called Akta hasn’t been back there for years. She left with nothing but a pair of stolen daggers and a burning desire to never return.
I chose to keep my last name. Despair is a reasonably common one for Tieflings but it carries a bit of weight and reputation – handy when you’re trying to talk your way into free bed and board for the night. I persuaded someone to forge a signet ring for me once – it looks really impressive and with a bit of charm and stories of the Despair ancestry and noble grandsires, it’s got me out of a pickle on more than one occasion. Nobody wants to mess with a potentially high-ranking Tiefling. Not if they like breathing anyway.
But why was I hiding from my brother in the first place?
Mostly because I like being alive. But it’s not just him I was avoiding. It was our sister, Kallista, too.
We’re triplets. Non-identical, obviously. Not a very common thing, Tiefling triplets, so we were always brought up being told we were special. Destined for great things. Blah, blah, blah. Iados, Kallista and Velavia Despair, the silver-eyed Tiefling Triplets of Guthram. Ugh.
Well, Kallista and Iados took all that as a challenge and by the time we were seven they had already built us a fearsome reputation (I got included through association alone). They’d killed people. Other kids. For not getting in line and doing what they were told, stupid stuff like not handing over their lunch on demand. They didn’t always kill them, torture was fun too. They almost liked that more, if I’m honest.
I never killed anyone.
I hated it all. I hated the way people flinched when they saw me and made excuses to be anywhere but where I was. I hated that sometimes other kids thrust their lunch at me before they fled – I didn’t want their food, I had plenty of my own.
Then we turned eleven and something changed. It stopped being us against the world all of a sudden, and Iados and Kallista stopped ignoring the fact that I never joined in with their ‘games.’
Suddenly it was a competition. Life, was a competition. Who was the ‘best’ Tiefling? I swear they got a higher dose of demon than me. They went from being vile to being evil. Funny the difference swapping the same letters around can make to a word.
When I refused to join in with their power-shows, they tried to kill me. I woke up one night to find them both stood over me clutching kitchen knives, their silver eyes shimmering in the darkness and teeth bared like a pair of snarling wolves.
Thankfully I’m smaller and faster than both of them. I managed to squirm out from between them and escape the house. I laid low for a while, hiding in a barn with some goats on the edge of town, but there’s only so long you can survive on goats milk. I needed real food.
That’s when I started stealing to get by. Stealing, hiding, lurking in shadows. But I tried my best not to steal from people who didn’t have enough themselves. The ferocity of my siblings’ behaviour made me ashamed and I promised myself I’d never be like them. I wanted to be the opposite of them, to deny my demonic side.
That’s kind of hard when you have horns and a tail and eyes like moonlight on a lake, but I do my best. I’m not very good at being actually good though. I have killed people, now and then – but only if I had to. I don’t get a thrill from killing, but the rush from taking what doesn’t belong to me, or persuading people to give me things for much less than they are worth so I can sell them on? That’s my favourite thing. Along with sneaking around places I shouldn’t be. I might not enjoy murder, but being a demon-shaped shadow in the darkest corner of somebody’s home, that’s a whole bucket of fun. Especially if that home happens to have some valuable trinkets I can acquire whilst I’m lurking.
Anyway, I digress. Iados found where I’d made my den, so I changed my name, hit the road and began to work my way around following rumours of riches and avoiding any whispers of my sibling’s names.
Though honestly it’s been so long now, I don’t even know if they’re both still alive or if they killed each other off.
Sometimes I team up with other people like me, sometimes I work alone. I’m not very happy in gangs though – the whole waking up to find your siblings trying to murder you thing gives you trust issues. It takes a while for me to let my guard down enough to truly feel part of any group.
That’s what happened with the Redbrands. I’d come to the town of Phandalin because I’d got a tip off that there were plenty of folk there who had so much stuff they wouldn’t even notice they’d been burgled, and sure enough there were. And the Redbrands were a band of vagabonds doing just that, so I bit the bullet and offered my services.
It took some time but eventually I felt safe with them. We worked hard and stole so much we were never hungry or cold. We were a team. I even went so far as to consider some of them friends.
Then history repeated itself and I woke up to find people trying to kill me. People I thought were on my side. Some bastard had set me up and Glasstaff, the wizard at the top of the Redbrand ladder, put the kill order out on me.
They almost managed it, too. I let my guard down and it almost cost me my life. It did cost me almost everything else though, apart from those two daggers I stole on the day I changed my name. They never leave my belt, so when I ran, grabbing nothing but my backpack, they were almost all I had left.
Well, those, plus a sudden primal burning desire to make Glasstaff and whoever set me up watch each other slowly bleed to death whilst I cut them up into tiny pieces. One little chunk at a time.
Because I might not be my siblings, but I’m still part-demon. And I am so fed up of people trying to kill me when I’m asleep.