13: Lady Greidania vu Laarja

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Lady Greidania vu Laarja is a talented kahlnissá entertainer from the central riverlands of mainland Schelk. Standing 5’6 and weighing 127 lbs., Greidania has an uncanny ability to adopt the appearance, voice, and mannerisms of others, and has shown incredible sleight of hand. She is a studied craft entertainer among the Laarja company, a group of character performers who employ elaborately made masks whose moist, inner-layer adheres to the face and anchors to the lips with post-like piercings to appear almost perfectly lifelike. Greidania spent over a decade with the traveling company, riding their riverboat from town to town throughout central Schelk and out to the coast. The Laarja were one of many performing guilds in Schelk well recognized for their talents and venerated among the nobility, but they disbanded when most of their equipment was lost in a riverboat shipwreck near the docks of the Treufluch township. In that shipwreck, Lady Greidania encountered the stone that would change the course of her life.

Background

The Lady Greidania was born Greidan Molu vu Parvular, reflecting the Schelk mainland tradition of naming that denotes one’s given name, the name of the neighborhood community in which one identifies and contributes, and finally the name of one’s settlement of birth. Parvular is a small village in the central riverlands of Schelk that is home to a diverse group of people. The village was settled by foresters and farmers from the many neighboring townships and cities, people who sought a more secluded home further in the forest. Parvular sees many regular visitors from the cities given its central location in the forested lands, and the neighborhood of Molu is a community of socialites who provide for all the children of the village. Greidan grew up there with her two sisters, where the three would wander through various social gatherings meeting all kinds of travelers from the central settlements.

By the time she was thirteen, Greidan was already performing in the rhymer’s plays of Molu, acting out the stories of the provincial nobility and the politics of the Empire, as well as embodying the legendary and cautionary tales of ancient Torlish history. She spent nine years as an actor of various roles and became something of a celebrity in Parvular for her considerable talent at adopting the personality and mannerisms of the characters in her control, as if she could conjure their essence and bring them to life. Her believable nature contributed to her ability to carry on disguises in more social functions off the performance stage, as well as bluff her way out of difficult situations. She seemed to have a gift for manipulating reality.

A traveling charmer began following Greidan’s performances and was moved and impressed by her skill and method. The man approached Greidan after one of her shows and handed her a scroll. Its wax seal bore the symbol of three faces, the central joined to each outer face by sharing an eye. She broke the seal and began to read the scroll as the man bowed and took his leave. It was an invitation to join the Laarja–a neighborhood performer’s guild in the nearby city of Noll. The scroll recognized Greidan’s considerable talents and the guild’s willingness to recruit her. She had only to travel to Noll and show this scroll to the long hall in the north of the city that bears the symbol of the three-faced mask. After a final performance in Molu, Greidan said farewell to her adoring audience and her sisters, then made her way to Noll along the river.

Laarja performers are more than skilled entertainers; they are dedicated to strict methods of clever disguise. There are not many members of the guild, but each performer adopts numerous characters depending on their setting to the point that few people outside the guild know how many Laarja there actually are. Greidan was surprised at how much she began to learn in just the first few months of her training among the Laarja. At first she performed a circuit of traditional rhymer’s plays throughout Noll, which were successful at introducing her new stage name, “Lady Greidania.” But as her training continued, she learned about the intricate disguise techniques of the Laarja, and soon found herself initiating in the process.

The Laarja initiates are given twelve piercings–two in each ear at the top and bottom, two on the inside and outside of either eyebrow, two on the right side of the lips in the top and bottom, and two on the left side of the lips. The pierced initiates wear posts in their piercing holes that crest as small, round metal balls like a plain sort of jewelry in odd locations. Few know the true purpose of the specifically-placed piercings. And after three years of wearing the piercings, Lady Greidania had earned her place among the inner circle of the Laarja, where she learned the art of elaborate mask-making. The Laarja craft intricately and precisely detailed masks out of pig skin and other materials. The masks are designed with a moist inner-layer that helps the treated skin remain supple and stick to the wearer’s own skin in a believable manner. The piercings that the initiated Laarja wear serve to anchor the lifelike masks in position around the ears and lips, allowing the speaker to move their face and emote authentically. The Laarja are sworn to secrecy about their masked techniques, and most who see their public performances simply assume theirs is a well populated troupe.

Lady Greidania spent over a decade among the Laarja, convincingly performing as other characters both on the stage and off. Her technique with disguises, accents, and masks became rivaled only by her sleight of hand, and like many Laarja before her she would use her skills to swindle unwitting nobles out of a considerable amount of coin. The Laarja traveled up and down the central riverlands and out to the coast, performing in townships and cities along the way until tragedy struck and disbanded the guild.

Their riverboat was old but study, which is why many believe sabotage led to the ship sinking in the river outside Treufluch. As they approached the docks of Treufluch–their third time making their way to that city–a deep creaking snap shuddered the ship from bow to stern. Screams broke out from below deck, and Lady Greidania rushed toward the cabin to see river water flowing inward like an upside down waterfall. Minutes later the boat toppled to its side with some of the Laarja still trapped below. Greidania tried to swim down into the cold waters to help her friends, but when she came back up for air the ship was nearly submerged. All that the Laarja were and had worked for was falling to the bottom of the Treufluch river pass.

Only five Laarja survived with Lady Greidania, and all their equipment was destroyed. But in the commotion while Greidania was swimming beneath the waters to help her friends, she found a radiant purse she did not remember being among their holdings. Catching her breath, Greidania dove deep to grab the item, and then made her way to a drifting piece of wood she used for a raft. Digging into the waterlogged bag, she uncovered a radiantly glowing trinket set beautifully in precious metal, as well as numerous other precious gems. The moment she touched the pale stone, however, her mind flooded with dancing visions of the Treufluch temple, inside which she felt the presence of more stone like the one she was holding. She felt drawn to the trinket, and given the tragedy of the shipwreck, it was the only thing that gave her a sense of comfort in the face of all her loss.

The Laarja returned to Noll by caravan, but Lady Greidania decided to say farewell for a time to stay in Treufluch and explore more about what her stone trinket was communicating to her. She found a local butcher and inquired after when the next pig slaughter might be. Once she learned more about her surroundings, she sold all of her gems and outfitted herself with the gear she would need for her travels, but kept her special pale stone trinket in hand. Spending a few more threnns, she procured pig’s skin and began crafting a few masks for her journey. She could feel that her connection to pale stone would lead to great and wondrous mysteries just waiting to be uncovered. The only question was where she would travel first.

013-Lady-Greidania

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Fractalform is the gaming handle of Bret Woods--ethnomediologist, author, and lead developer of Augur's Lore RPGs. Bret is Thing 1 at http://descrypt-studios.com.

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