A Fragile Immortality
Once upon a time there was a young prince and son of princes named Matthew Doyle. Matthew lived in a wondrous land of old beauty and wealth named Georgetown with his father and mother and the servants who rarely spoke but took care of their home and grounds and cars. And life was good.
Matthew was born in a time of want for the masses, but never did hunger trouble his belly, nor did his clothes ever wear thin. Matthew lived in his great brick home upon the hill with other great homes, looking past the brick walls at them in his play. At times visitors would come, and at times he would be taken by Driver to other homes, to meet and play with other children as mother or father spoke with other princes of the land. And life was good.
Never did Matthew leave the tall walls and soft lawns of his homeland of Georgetown until he was six summers of age. He heard his parents speaking with other princes how a farmer had somehow taken the throne of the land and their assurances that the man would be disposed soon enough. In the fall of that year Driver began to take him not to other homes to play and practice the mannerisms of the princes, but to School. There Matthew attended and learned from Teachers along with the other children of princes. Even more so, Mathew learned of the others, his classmates, princes and children of princes like himself. He learned something of the world in class. He learned even more of it on the playground and in the halls, the games and jostling and competitions that arose amongst the scions of princes in childish reflection of the habits of their parents. Matthew learned that while he was not the smartest of them, he was clever enough to seem so. While quick, he was not the quickest, but this he could work around. What Matthew learned was that he had a tongue of silver and a creative mind of gold, able to speak words to draw others close and feed honeyed ideas to them with a smile and close touch. Some friends were made and used and discarded, but it didn’t matter. More friends could be made, and were, and Matthew learned to avoid those who could not be swayed with words. On rare occasions that he could not, he would rise bloodied from the clash and whether he left victorious or not would not matter, for sweet words of poison he would drop to his friends and their friends, to teachers and parents of friends, and those who would raise their fists would suffer once more. And life was good.
When eleven summers of his life had passed, his mother was suddenly taken with child again. A girl was born to her in the fall and the household rejoiced. His father and mother were aglow once more and the house hold welcomed home the princess, daughter of princes with much disturbance and celebration. And for Matthew, life was not good.
Never did Matthew leave the blessed land of Georgetown, even when his daily drive took him to School. Beyond its walls and river borders lay a land of savage conflicts, and he was ever warned against the brutal depredations of the barbarians who roamed the streets around the throne of the land. Save once per year. Each year, in the fall when the leaves were crimson and gold and the air smelled of distant earth settling for the winter, the classes of the scions of princes would travel through the city of the throne, braving the dirty streets and dangerous inhabitants to make pilgrimage to the most sacred of places, the Mall. They would walk on hallowed grounds, staring upwards to arching domes and massive pillars. Awed, in their younger years, but as they grew older it became a day of play, of relaxation from the rules of order that their lives were governed by. And so it was for Matthew as well, until they made their final stop of each year, paying homage to the great pillar, the Washington Monument. Always his favorite, always eager to arrive and loathe to leave, the prince and son of princes adoring that place, feeling more in awe of the sun shining off the white stone and the shadowed plates within than any of the other monuments. Not for this alone was the great pillar his favorite stop for his singular trips away from blessed Georgetown, for something happened each year during that visit, something that no one but Matthew seemed to notice. For with his first visit at the age of six, as he stared up from the center in awe for the first time, he caught sight of a lady slowly walking down the stairs. Dressed in an elegant suit of black and white, her face like alabaster, her hair as sable, even at that young age her beauty striking to the very heart of the boy. The stairs making a turn, her head looking down as she followed, her eyes piercing Matthew’s for just a moment, and then gone. Never did she emerge when the stairs turned around the interior of the monument again. Matthew had seen true beauty. And life was good.
Each year Matthew accompanied his classmates to the monuments. In the second year, he caught sight of her again, further down the stairs, closer to him, and was thrilled at the surprise. In the third year he saw her once more and darted up the stairs, a desire to see her more closely burning away any childhood shyness. But she was not to be found when he rounded the last landing. Every year Matthew eagerly awaited their pilgrimage, every year he eagerly awaited the final stop at the monument. Each year he saw the woman of beauty again, always closer, always too far to reach, never changing. In his eleventh year he saw her again, but not upon the stairs. As the crowd of boys and girls swirled into the monument’s base with their guardians, he saw her, standing in a doorway to the side, and a smile graced her lips when her eyes touched upon his. A slender hand rose, and she beckoned, but he hesitated. Beautiful, but a stranger. The world had grown more dangerous since the year he first saw her, even with the great king Reagan upon the throne. He hesitated, and a knot of classmates and guardians passed between the two, and she was gone. Later that year, his sister was born and the house changed. And life was not good.
In the twelfth year of his life, Matthew Doyle was discomforted. His routines disturbed, servants who tended him called more often to tend to his new sister, his quiet times with mother gone, the evening walks with father when he would learn things that princes should know coming rarely, and the boy was discontent. A prince and son of princes does not complain though. Does not fret. He watches. He considers. He plans. He uses what strength he has. But what strength was to be had against this crying child? What good would sweet and pleasing words be to draw back his rightful due of consideration that his parents were paying another? In such a mind it was time again for the pilgrimage to the monuments. With a stirred heart and newly rebellious thoughts in mind, Matthew stepped into the monument. As last year, she was there, within the doorway, paces away, and only Matthew seemed to see her. Again she smiled, warmer than last year, welcoming and beautiful enough to stop the heart. Her hand rose, beckoning, and Matthew answered. In that doorway, shadowed against the sunlight the dimly made its way down from the tip of the pillar, she spoke in a voice like the singing of the spheres. She knew Matthew. She knew his life. She knew of his talents and strengths and praised him for the prince he was becoming, commiserated with him on the unjust intrusion of his sister. In a rebellious mind she caught him. In a heart pierced by beauty, she came upon him. She asked if he would like the world to be right, to be the only prince and heir, to truly learn and one day inherit more than he ever imagined. For once his silver tongue failed him, and mute he nodded, his sheltered life understanding her meaning not at all. A slender hand was offered to him, and his young, warm fingers wrapped around her elegant, cool ones. With barely a touch she pushed open the door and drew Matthew through it into a cool, dim wood smelling of wild life and musty death. And life stopped.
The Lady of Starlight Under the Branches. Her name… her name was The Lady of Starlight Under the Branches. And she was so beautiful, her skin was, was, wasn’t even skin, it was like night sky, it was so black and endless, not even there, just emptiness that held itself together. Soft light, like starlight when there’s nothing else around picked out her features, like chalk dusting on black paper, but that’s not it, that’s not even close. She was so beautiful. I hate her so much. I hate her. I hate her. I… I hate… I miss…
She called me her Beloved Heir.
I remember… I remember the house, always dark, always shadows shifting and just the hint of starlight, not enough to see much by, more… more just enough light to show you just how dark it was. She said she would teach me, said she… Said she’d make me worthy to inherit someday, that… that I was… that there was just the night, always the night, anything else was a dream… I just… I fought it at first. Remembered sunlight, remembered blues and greens and yellows and she… and there was nothing but my memories to say she wasn’t right. I argued that my mother had yellow hair. And that was the first time she punished me. She… I, I still dream about it, wake sweating, covers torn, the feeling of her slap. The feeling of slivers of sharp darkness pushing into my skin. Feeling them wiggle and squirm under my skin. Feel them cut me and cut me and cut me and cut me and cut… I was crying, I know I was crying. I remember her cradling my heard, stroking my hair with those sharp fingers of night and telling me she was there. That Mother would make things alright. That she would make me perfect.
She hurt me in my head. I… it took a night, but it was always night. Always spring. Always chilly. And whenever I slipped, forgot, she would slap and the cutting would start, skin flaying from beneath and I just… I called her Mother. And then I started thinking about her as Mother. And I just… I just forgot that I knew someone with yellow hair.
She did teach me, she did work on me. Practicing walking for what felt like days till every swing of leg, every turn of shoulder, the tilt of my chin was perfect. Practice speaking, reciting poems and stories and lies and not knowing after a while which was which was which. A stumble and she would pull my tongue out of my mouth, leave me screaming, bleeding till the slender hands of the servants would pick me up and force my mouth open and someone, somehow would stitch my tongue back in. Those were the good days, the mild days. Sometimes she would decide I needed to look more princely. I still dream about those nights, too.
I remember that it was always the same night. Time didn’t pass there, didn’t have a hold. It would be darkness and nothing but darkness and suddenly She would be there, servants following with a cake lit by sparks of starlight. Happy birthday, she would tell me. You’re thirteen now. Old enough to act like a man. I lost count after ten or twelve thirteenth birthdays.
The physical wasn’t bad if She wasn’t there, or if She was pleased. I just never knew what would please her outside the moment. Learning to walk and talk, learning to make up stories and riddles and compliments and promises. Learning to fence and play games, Learning to oversee staff and… defend my place. She… Mother said I was her heir. Her only. And, and then she brought another there, another boy. She could only have one heir…
Every birthday she would appear with starlight cake and servants and would celebrate with me, and every birthday she would tell me what I had been doing wrong. She would teach me what was right. So very simple. All I had to do was love all creatures, never harming one. And then she brought in another boy like me… She could only have one heir, and the other could not live. All I had to do was never speak above a whisper. Yet weeks later, after practicing and teaching myself not to speak loudly, I found Her pinned beneath a fallen case, the servants no where to be found. I had to shout for help, I had to scream for help to save her. All I had to do was love Her and respect Her as my Mother. I swore that I could, that I could be the perfect, dutiful son. I strove to be the embodiment of honor, respect, decorum, loyalty. Endless nights later as I lay down to rest she slid into my bed. Those sharp hands stroked along my skin, hot as fire, and I… we did things no mother and son should ever do. Time and again she taught me what was right. Time and again I had to break those teachings, I had to disobey her to please her. And she punished me the worse every time.
It wasn’t long after my last birthday with her that the household grew more active. She was attending a ball in the Great City, her whole household to accompany Her, and I to attend as Her perfect heir. I remember the servants folding shadows and dusting away starlight, packing darkness into chests of black willow wood. Mother and I leading the procession. I remember traveling long, though the night never faded till we grew close to the city. I saw… light. Real light for the first time since I took her hand. I saw the faces of the servants and found that while they were plain or homely, there were not shadows at all. They were mortals like me.
The light and the recognition of others around me shook my mind, but I would still be there with Mo… with the Lady of Starlight Under the Branches if not for the city itself. If not for the Obelisk of Beginnings. Every time I look at the Washington Monument, I see the Obelisk over it, soaring into the sky to warn it away, gleaming white in bright light. And seeing it there, I had the reverse, seeing the Monument, the memory of it sudden and searing and bright in my mind. White stones. Green grass. Blue sky. A woman with yellow hair who I called mother. Brick home and a father smelling of paper and scotch.
She left me to settle the household into the guest home. I like to think I put her lessons of pleasing speech and smooth expressions to good use against her, but I don’t know. Maybe she was growing bored of me? Though she never seemed to be waning before that. Or maybe this is another lesson of Her’s and soon She’ll be coming. But She left, and servants looked wide eyed at me as I wept and remembered and craved home. I wanted a home with light and colors again so badly. She was gone for the moment, and I Her trusted heir. I knew nothing else, but I blindly followed my memory to the Obelisk, the place that looked so like what I remembered. Focused upon it, aching with all my soul to be there again. I dream fragments of serpent things being convinced that I belonged there. Of wrenching open a door and stepping into thick woods with brambles growing between every tree. Running, pushing, seeking any trail, any path, anyway Home. Bloodied and crawling and stumbling upon a wide, smooth road paved in dull silver. Tripping, running, staggering down it till I could see a white pillar upon a hill.
I pushed out and ran into the wall of the Monument.
Dropping out of narrative now, to address the situations with Matthew post-Return. I’d like him Returned pretty much as late as possible, and that will still work with Scott’s starting date. I’m figuring he’s been back from Arcadia a max of 3-6 months.
Matthew was taken in 1983 at the age of 12. He’s returning in 2009, almost 26 years later, at an age of roughly 15. This is a physiological age for the boy, not a time dilation. I’ll leave the particulars up to Scott, but Matthew spent at least a dozen and a half years in the home of his Keeper.
He’s a few inches taller than he should have been, his Keeper deciding that he needed a “lordly and impressive bearing” for his duties. Months spent in torturous devices, being worked on by chiurgeons and fed strange goblin fruits resulted in a boy who is tall and strikingly beautiful for his age. While he emerged from the Thorns bleeding, exhausted, and in serious need of vitamin D, he was over all fairly healthy.
Old Life Situation:
This part has been fairly brutal for the boy just returning. After a couple of terrifying weeks, he made his way back to Georgetown and to the family home. He couldn’t even make it past the front gate. He has discovered since then that his father died in the 1990s of a widowmaker, and that his mother still lives in the house with his sister, her husband, and their three children. Attempts to communicate that Matthew is back have been met with jaded rejection, as her son Matthew is approaching 40. There is one bittersweet bright spot, though. Matthew also attempted to make contact with his grandparents. While grandma died a while back, grandpa is still hanging on and is in an upscale nursing home. While he is frail and approaching 90, he didn’t blink when Matthew came to see him. Alzheimer’s disease has set in, and grandpa sees nothing wrong with his twelve year old grandson coming to see him.
The thing left behind to live as Matthew Doyle has done very, very well for itself. On marriage number two at the moment, it works as a prominent lobbyist on behalf of the defense industry. Since 9/11 it has also become known as a talking head on the morning circuit as an expert on national security and defenses against asymetrical warfare. Matthew has been asked a few times about his fetch, and easily found that out about him, as well as finding he lives somewhere in Old Town, but hasn’t bothered going any further, despite the slowly swelling anger.
Holding off on this pending some group conversation. Unless assistance is forth coming from motley or freehold members though, he’ll be living in an almost grifter lifestyle, using sob stories, bravado, and social engineering to try and find a safe place to sleep and people to surround himself with.
In short – seriously fucked up. His Keeper deliberately erased all his old anchor points and substituted her own. She then systematically forced him to break those new laws of behavior over and over and over again, viciously punishing him for the transgressions she forced him into. If you’re using the Keeper archetypes from the Autumn book, think of a mix of Parent and Paramour, and you start to get the picture. Finding his way back to Earth, he is a teen boy with no clear moral compass, no ethical boundaries that are hard and fast. His sense of right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate has been screwed with so often that he’s just trying to fake it to get by. Behaviorally he’s very fluid right now, unless a trigger gets hit. Triggers? They include utter darkness, birthdays, and older women. All he really has right now are Wants, not even refined enough to be called goals.
Who is he?
He was born Matthew Sheridan Doyle.
His Keeper called him her Beloved Heir.
Since his return he’s taken up the name Sid Stella.
What does he want?
Even Sid isn’t sure what he wants. He knows what he thinks he wants, and then there are needs he isn’t even aware of.
He wants a family again.
He wants a safe, secure, comfortable place to call home.
He wants friends and a tight social circle.
He wants to do what he wants, when he wants.
He wants to be respected.
He wants to be liked.
He wants to hurt them like She hurt him.
He wants to grow up enough that no one can tell him what to do.
He wants to keep anyone else from getting taken away.
He wants the life he should have had.
He wants to forget about the darkness anyway he can.
He wants to figure out what he wants.
Silver tongued walking wounded with a thousand paths before him
Sid wants to feel safe, but he cannot because he still fears this is just a trick to break him.
He needs to learn and accept that this is truly real, and that what happens here and now has consequences.
Sid wants to feel loved, but cannot because he cannot trust without a pledge.
If he has any chance of healing Sid will have to learn to trust again, how to build real relationships and not social games for fun and profit. He will have to learn how to let himself hurt.
Sid wants to be popular, but the need to keep secrets keeps him from the sharing that true popularity demands.
The inability to have people over, to participate in simple things like birthdays, the need to hide half his life from others keeps him from building a solid social circle.
Sid wants to grow up, but he isn’t sure how.
Physically Sid will mature, but he’s already a few years behind in someways and horribly scarred in others when it comes to emotional and mental maturity. He needs an example, a role model, someone he can respect and look up to for that example of how things should be.
Sid wants to grow strong enough that others cannot force him to act as they please, but cannot right now, he is too young, too weak, too new.
It may seem like the standard in games, but Sid will wind up focused on power, influence, and might of all types. How that comes about, and what limits he might place on himself in pursuit of that power will be up to the course of the RP.
Sid wants to sleep, really sleep deeply, but his fear of the dark disturbs him every night.
Sid is afraid of the dark. Its that simple. He hides it, crushes it, shoves it away, but its there. And when he’s drifting to sleep and his guard drops it comes rushing back at him. So there is no peaceful darkness, lights constantly kept on when he’s trying to rest, which has the consequence of keeping him from getting long, solid blocks at once. How he aches for a night of undisturbed sleep…