by Cat Voleur
WIP - Rough Draft - Character Backstory
Beatrice Rigby fell asleep working long hours at her desk, with the expectation she would wake up to the same position of power she’d had while drifting off. Sure enough, she awoke to the chaos of a cluttered work space and a list of tedious things that she’d have to do. At least the prospect of boredom no longer bothered her as it once had.
Copying out papers, signing off on documents that would go unread and allocating the town’s limited funds would make for a dull day, but at least it would keep her safe and sound in her office. She had the creeping suspicion she would miss that level of security when she was gone.
And I will be gone soon.
The thought was, at best, bittersweet. Part of her would be happy to be free from the task of caring for people who seemed neither to appreciate nor understand her actions. That was the same piece of her that had been eager to leave from the very moment she stepped foot into the town, having instantly perceived that it was the sort of place she would never be accepted.
“That’s for the best,” her father had told her bluntly before she had set out. “You don’t want to be one of these people, Beatrice.” He had emphasised the name to remind her who she was supposed to be during her trip. “You were bred better than that, and you will achieve so much more. You’ll have to, if you want to earn your spot in the Parliamentary.”
At the time, she had believed every word, right down to the notion that earning a spot in the Parliamentary was something she should want for herself. She came from two impeccable bloodlines and had been raised well. As a child she had attended the expensive city schools, and most of her life had been grooming for a place so much more coveted than the position of small town mayor. She had only been stationed there until she could prove herself. If her father told her she was better than a town full of people whose ancestors had died arguing about what to call the patch of dirt where they had settled, then who was she to question him?
All of that fancy schooling and I’m just now learning how to think for myself.
At first, the antics of the natives had all but confirmed her father’s parting words to her.
Beatrice’s favorite pastime was curling up with a book, while her citizens seemed content to drink every night away in a tavern that named its drinks simply after what color they were. She enjoyed fine art, while the curator of the only local museum chose to display nothing but gas masks. The historical tome that sat in her office documenting the high number of poison attacks in the area had been illustrated like a children’s book and contained no words longer than two syllables in length. The townspeople were different, yet, but she was no longer convinced that made her better.
The place had grown on her rather unexpectedly. It had a quaint charm about it. It was the sort of place where the temperamental nature of the residents often provided unintentional amusement, where the teachers had to literally round up children each day, where government subsidies were paid to men who punched fish professionally, and where the farmers grew crops that looked like carrots but tasted like grapes. It was a town where the abundance of strange customs and surprising wonders made up for the lack of an official name.
These observations had, over time, made her desire to leave falter. The town hadn’t exactly become home to her, but in the months she served as mayor she started to wonder if it ever could become home, if given enough time. For whatever else the place was, it had to be better than what was waiting for her back at the Parliamentary.
Of all the things Beatrice had learned from her father and then been forced to unlearn, the hardest one to wrap her mind around was that the Parliamentary was not in fact good. Growing up wealthy and connected she’d always heard those around her singing the praise of their altruistic overlords - the powerful leaders who served only their people to make life better for each and every individual. For as long as she could remember, she’d been hearing stories of the defiant Resistance, rebels who had been portrayed as evil, vile creatures that were barely human. The Resistance wished to tear the world apart and opposed the benevolent Parliamentary for no other reason than to see civilization burn.
She had never expected to be so thoroughly deceived by her own father, and so it had been all too easy to miss the lies.
Her own political career, though brief, had opened her eyes to the ways of the world. Nobody could bring contentment to each and every one of their people, no matter how pure their intentions. Once she had started to question the government’s ability to do what they promised, she had started to question their motives as well. That had broken her faith and shattered even her most basic sense of morality. Pulling at the ethical thread of right and wrong seemed to undo everything she’d ever known, and for the first time Beatrice had seen the world unraveling around her.
That had been the first time, but it had not been the last.
Her citizens were good people despite all their quirks, and it hit her hard to realize she was surely the villain in their story. The whole town was likely to be condemned because of the beliefs of a few hidden Resistance members. All the while, Beatrice, the person that had elected to protect them, had turned out to be nothing more than a glorified spy for what she now saw as a corrupt organization. The monstrous rebels were actually the heroes all along.
Heroes who would probably kill me if they found out why I came, or the name I was given at birth, or who my father actually is.
All the same, she wished she’d had the courage to turn herself over to the Resistance when she had learned who their supporters were in the town. She’d have made a valuable hostage for their cause, and it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility they’d find her knowledge of The Parliamentary’s inner workings valuable. That had been too big of a step for her at the time however, but neither had she found it in her to turn them over. When her superiors had asked for her report, she had lied. Protecting rebels was a punishable offense, lying an even greater one - and doing so had put her in grave danger.
So then why did I do it?
The answer was simply she had done it because no one expected her to, so she knew deep down she could get away with it.
Beatrice needed more time to learn, to sort things out for herself. She needed to answer questions she had about the Parliamentary, the Resistance, and herself. She needed to realign her moral compass. Yet in lying, she had accidentally robbed herself of the chance to do so.
When she submitted her falsified report to cover the tracks of the rebels, her bosses took it to mean that her very presence in the town had scared them off. As a reward, they had offered her the very position she had one sought.
I’ll have to leave this town. I’ll have to go back to a cause that I no longer seem to believe in.
She had no illusions as to what a big part she would play upon her return, either. It would not be pushing papers and counting coins like she was doing now, it would be a vital piece of the destruction of the right side of the fighting.
Of course, she didn’t have to go. No one could make her take the position. Perhaps she could come clean to her people, and to the resistance leaders among them. If she was honest, maybe she could be forgiven. Perhaps she could be at peace and even get protection. It was nice to believe that her people would defend her, if only she had the guts to ask.
But then what? War? The Parliamentary would never let me stay here - declining their offer would be too much of a grievous insult to their power. Would it be them against us? We’d never survive? Would even come to that, or would the Resistance sell me out, as I so nearly did to them?
The questions made her head spin. She didn’t think she’d like the answers to any of them. More than likely, she couldn’t stay. Turning down the Parliamentary would likely mean her death. Even if it came to an all out war…
Is dying for the right side better than living on the wrong side if I take so many innocent people down with me?
She had never learned true morals, and so she didn’t know. What she did know was that she was running out of time to make a decision.
If I linger here much longer, it will be suspicious, and I’ll be doomed in any case.
If the Parliamentary thought she was plotting something, all they would need to do is leak the secret about who she really was before she could, and she knew the town would turn on her. Even the few who preferred the current government to the ideals held by the Resistance were suspicious people by nature, and it wouldn’t do to have a liar in charge of their town. The fact that she was technically a double agent would not be well-received.
And it’s not like my father will help me. If he sees me falter in his plans, he might very well kill me himself.
The truth of that stung. Even before she had seen him for what he was, Beatrice knew that his love for her hung entirely on his hopes of her ability to carry on his political legacy. Turning her back on that work would make her a traitor and an orphan in his eyes.
I’ll likely be killed before I decide. It wouldn’t be hard. The Parliamentary could kill me in a heartbeat, and no one would ever even know.
The town had lost a lot of mayors, and she would be far from the most beloved of them. She doubted that she’d have many mourners.
Maybe the rebels will come sweep me away and I can redeem myself that way, maybe even survive this ordeal.
It was a nice dream, but that’s all it was. The Resistance had been quiet lately, made cautious by the Parliamentary sweeps that she had intentionally sent to the wrong location. Though Beatrice honestly believed she’d be a valuable asset to their cause, she doubted she’d ever get a chance to test the theory.
She would have to get herself out of the entire mess, though she had not the slightest idea on how. Thinking about it was making her head ache, so she turned her attention to a problem that she could solve; subsidies.
The town had been particularly excited by the annual subsidies lately, though the paperwork for it was a nightmare. Many records seemed to be missing and the ones still present seemed to have been folded into clumsy, swan-shaped travesties that now littered her desk.
Origami, they called it. It was the sort of delicate art form that Beatrice would have truly appreciated, back before her name had been Beatrice and she had been at the top of her class at private school. Now she found herself thoroughly put off by the deformed paper birds.
It’s just some stupid trend, chosen to plague me. By the end of the day or week everyone will hate these damned things as much as I do, and something else will be banned or popular and filling up my office.
Then another sad thought came.
If it even is my office by then.
She turned to the wall behind her to take comfort in the portrait that had been painted in her likeness. Whatever troubles lay ahead, she was, in the moment, safe. She was Beatrice Rigby, the most recent in a line of small town mayors.
Only, as she looked at the line of paintings she saw that she was not the most recent. On the left was a painting of her predecessor, hanging next to her as he always had. On the right was a picture of a man she didn’t recognize, and who had surely not been there yesterday. She stepped forward with the intention of getting a better look, but was not given the chance to do so.
All thoughts of portraits, subsidies, swans and even the Parliamentary were pushed from her mind when the wail of an alarm hit her ears. Forgetting the first rule of the town she rushed from her office, remembering to grab her back on the way out, but not her gasmask.
In all the commotion, she made it a few blocks into the packed street before she realized her mistake. People were trying to go in too many directions all at once. There was shouting, crying, and thick clouds of what was probably poison. Even that didn’t scare Beatrice until she saw the bodies, all without their masks. That was when it finally hit her that she couldn’t breathe.
She expected to fall to her knees, and so she did.
She put her hands to her throat and looked up in horror at the mess of people around her. Those who were still moving all had their noses and mouths covered to filter out the air from the poison. The others who had forgotten or been caught unprepared were also on the ground, dying. She could feel a tear running down her cheek. She did her best to come to terms with all the impossibilities of the world; the stupidity of her mistake, her mortality, the freedom that would accompany her death, the immeasurable fear within her.
I can’t hold my breath forever.
She expected that this was true, that any moment her lungs would start to burn and she’d be out of time with which to wrest the unfathomable horror of her own passing. She expected that she would need to continue breathing, and so she struggled to prepare for a moment that did not arrive.
Minutes passed. Chaos continued to surround her, but still she did not feel starved for oxygen. It came to her in waves, the realization that she had not inhaled so much as a single time since she had woken up. She hadn’t breathed in to center herself or to show irritation or to stay alive or anything.
I’m not breathing.
The idea brought on a panic that normally would have caused her to hyperventilate, only that didn’t happen. The notion that her expectations had, in a single moment, ceased to hold any power was more terrifying to her than anything that she could imagine. It was more than she could handle, and so she forced herself in inhale.
The air tasted of chemicals and stung her throat, but not half so badly as the foreign feeling of her lungs expanding. It felt wrong, as if her body had fallen out of practice.
When her mind was forced to let go of its preconceived notions about her existence she felt lighter. She felt so light, in fact, that she was convinced she was empty. Life as she had known it, was over.
How long ago did that happen?
She recalled the man in the painting to the right of hers, the man she now knew was her replacement. She had no idea how long it would have taken the townspeople to replace her, or how she had woken up if she was dead.
I expected to wake up there, and so I did.
She hadn’t expected to be dead though, and again she marveled at how easy it was to be deceived when you’re not looking out for the signs.
Panic was thriving all around her still, through her in some cases. Her corporeal form began to flicker as her physical connection to the world began to doubt itself. Life just kept moving on as she struggled to come to terms with her new existence.
She wasn’t sure if she was invisible or shunned, or just overlooked because of everything else that was going on. Surely no one would expect to see their deceased, former mayor crumpled up and fading in the street.
Do they know I’m a ghost even? Was there a body or did I just vanish and they moved on without asking questions?
In the grand scheme of things, she supposed it didn’t matter.
It seemed cruelly unfair that everything could just carry on without her. She hated that everyone else could just keep going right in front of her like it was all the same, as if her entire being hadn’t just become irreparably different. Her own people couldn’t see that she was still among them somehow.
Only, they weren’t ever really my people, were they?
They hadn’t been, not truly. That part at least was no great surprise.
Beatrice’s concept of time had dwindled with her person and by the time she found the strength to pull herself off the ground, the crisis had ended. Night had fallen and the streets of the little no name place were still and silent.
Out of habit, her legs began to carry her toward her office. She stopped when she remembered that it was someone else’s office now. He would probably still be there, dealing with the excitement from whatever had happened earlier. It would be a long night for him, and she wasn’t exactly in the mood to meet her replacement.
She turned to the inn, but hesitated.
How will people react to see me? They might not care, but on the other hand…
It was almost funny to imagine how they might take it. The thought of the whole town screaming and running was just enough to bring the ghost of a smile to her lips as she started walking. Perhaps they wouldn’t remember who she was straight away, but maybe that was what made the idea of scaring them so sweet. It would be a small taste of revenge, and with any luck it would be enough to quench the bitter taste that dying had left in her mouth.
She was more certain of herself and her plan with every step, but as she entered the inn she saw something that gave her pause. Dozens of candles were set on the bar, surrounding what appeared to be a portrait. As she approached silently she could see it was a charcoal rendering of her. Beside it was a note.
We learned so much from you.
Paper swans suck. We hope you are with birds, but real birds, not fake birds like the swans. They suck.
We will never fold paper again. For you. Letters are hard to do now, but it is law.
You will be missed.
The fury in her died. They had written out everyone instead of all signing, which was typical of them and charming. The letter had not been eloquent, and she wouldn’t have chosen her annoyance at origami to be remembered for, but it was enough to know that she would be remembered all.
I don’t need revenge. It’s not their fault I died, and I wouldn’t want to ruin their memory of me. I might be nothing more than that memory now.
And sure enough, as she exited the bar quietly she could feel the very concept of who she was fading away. Beatrice Ribgy, and the girl she had been even before that, were becoming ghosts.
So what does that make me?
She only had to think about it for a minute before she had her answer; Sawov.
She didn’t know exactly what a sawov was, but the word came to her easily. She knew from old ghost stories that they were akin to spirits, but had physical ties to reality. She had heard whispers of them in a far away town that she had once considered home in what had literally been another life time. She doubted she’d ever see that place again.
That chapter of my history is best left forgotten. I’ll need t take on a new identity I suppose. Invent a new history and a choose a new name.
She tried to focus on these things as she walked, but her mind was running circles around sense. She simply had too many questions to be ignored.
As she turned the corner on her trek, she saw a figure in the dark. They were the one dressed in robes, sneaking around in the shadows suspiciously, but upon seeing her they fled.
Boo, she thought.
A chill ran through her at the word, and she stopped right where she was, rummaging through her bag right there in the center of the alley. There were many things she would probably need to start a new life, but at the moment there was only one thing she cared about; her book.
Her heart swelled with relief when her hand closed around the cover and she pulled it out to hug protectively against her chest.
It was a curious sort of book that had been signed by so many people on both the cover and the title page that she couldn’t read who wrote it, or even what it was called. All the same, it was her favorite book.
It took place in a world without magic and followed the lives of three children who were trying to pass the summer - but it was about so many other things as well. It was about tradition, loyalty, bravery in the face of injustice, and even the different colors that humans came in - something that was apparently a much bigger deal in a world that had no dwarves, elves, sawovs or halflings.
Although he had been absent for most of the book, there had been a character named Boo who had always left an impression with her. His real name had been something else, but the children had all called him Boo, because he had been a ghost. She had been drawn to his self-imposed isolation, and now that she was a ghost herself, she found she related to him all the more.
She flipped through the pages until she could look down at what she expected would be her new name.
This is just a little backstory piece that I wrote up for my Tabletop character, Radley. I get to role-play as her every Friday in a campaign that the DM and party leader are turning into Youtube series that I show up to co-star in after the first several episodes. I'm work-shopping the piece right now because, pending the consent of the DM, it's going to be used as a cross-promotional item to spread the word when the show launches.
For those of you who would like more information, I am in the process of compiling that here:
"Becoming Boo - Annotations"