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Gaffyn Starlight: An origin story


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Gaffyn Starlight was born a half-elf to Araina and Godrick Starlight in a small town on the edge of a forest outside of the booming city of Emon.  Araina and Godrick were performers in a group of their surname, Starlight.   They were widely known across the realms.   Visual magic and song were the spectacle of their shows.  The wow-ed everyone that attended each performance with flashes of light, illusionary script and images, and vocals that were “worthy of the gods” (said by many critics).

The Starlight’s loved Gaffyn, but, due to their immense popularity, they often travelled the realms leaving little Gaffyn at home under the care of a long-time family caretaker, Martisque.  Little was known about the caretaker “Marti” by the locals, but both Araina and Godrick trusted their son’s life with her.  Marti was responsible for educating Gaffyn with lessons in poetry, song, and other performing arts.  Gaffyn’s favorite activity with Marti was her puppet shows.  Marti kept her little string puppets locked in an ornate trundle case inside the home.   During one of Marti’s shows, she began incanting and the little string puppets continued moving and dancing all on their own without the assistance of their master’s hands! Gaffyn was awed and inspired by this strange magic and asked Marti to teach him this same thing.   Marti grew tired after these performances and explained that she needed to rest, and she would begin teaching him this skill the next day.

Gaffyn did not have many friends, apart from Marti, but there was one child that he did develop a long-standing relationship with from early childhood.  She was an elf named Melodia (Gaffyn called her Mel).  Her parents were also bards in their small community, but only performed at the local tavern and other small community gatherings.  Mel’s parents were highly jealous of Starlight’s but did not interfere with their daughter's friendship with Gaffyn.

The two children would play for hours and hours, hiding in the woods, gathering berries for pies, and making up stories of grand adventures they would take throughout the woods.   When Gaffyn and Mel weren’t at home doing their studies, they could be found together playing, singing songs, or dancing around the forest.   They constructed a shelter inside the large trunk of a giant Rowan tree.  It was here that they would sit at a makeshift table and make up their stories by candlelight.  Gaffyn fell in love with Mel at an early age and, although she didn’t explicitly say it, she also felt the same way.   They would be soulmates.

On Gaffyn’s 13th birthday, Marti presented the teen Starlight with a puppet.   This one was not a small puppet attached with strings or a cross brace for controlling puppets.  Instead, this puppet was larger, about the size of a large baby, and had an insert in its back.   Marti explained that this ventriloquist figure was held in the arms, or rested on the knee of the performer, and the mechanisms on the inside were controlled using a hand inside of the doll.   Gaffyn was intrigued by this new performance tool and spent many days and many hours perfecting the craft.   Marti also taught Gaffyn how to expertly use his voice to make the puppet “talk”.   Gaffyn became such an expert at throwing his voice, that an unsuspecting person couldn’t tell that he was the one speaking.

Gaffyn would invite Mel over to his house and perform with the ventriloquist doll.   The doll would tell the tales of two adventurers fighting evil and protecting their home.  Mel recounted the stories from the doll as all the fun times she and Gaffyn had as children.  She loved how the doll gave specific details of the times they spent together.  Mel knew it was Gaffyn performing, but something was magical about the way the doll spoke. 

 

A few years later, news about a gang of evildoers ravishing the land spread quickly across the region.  Towns and cities were put on guard, but many faced the wrath of the blighters.   They were always after riches in each of the cites they came to.   When the leader of the evildoers learned of Starlight’s, they became their primary target.   The day came when the band reached the small town outside of Emon at the edge of the forest.  Gaffyn sought out Mel so they could hide away together in the forest for safety, but he was unable to find her.  The group’s leader demanded the Starlight’s come forward and held a female elf ransom until their demands were met.   Being that Araina and Godrick were away on tour, Gaffyn was the only Starlight at home.

Mel’s capturers held her at the blade and demanded the riches of the Starlight’s be brought in exchange for the elf.   Gaffyn appeared with the townsfolk in the center of town where Mel was being held.   The two soulmates locked eyes.  With fear in her face, she discreetly shook her head trying to tell Gaffyn not to do anything rash.   Enraged, Gaffyn used his vocal-throwing abilities to demand Mel being let go.   The leader was becoming more and more frustrated that the voice’s source could not be located.  Mel saw the anger growing in Gaffyn and that he was ready to attack.  Seconds before Gaffyn broke through the crowd, Mel screamed to distract her capturers and began trying to escape.   Terror befell Gaffyn as the silvery-steel blade of a scimitar pierced through the chest cavity of the young elf.  It took everything he had from screaming out and revealing himself, as her limp body fell to the ground.

The townsfolk screamed in anguish and quickly dispersed.  The evildoers began destroying the town and burned down most of the homes.   Gaffyn fled deep into the woods to hide inside the Rowan tree where once he and Mel spent countless hours together.   He waited for days, feeding on the berries of the tree, until he finally emerged to investigate the damage done at home.   The town square was ghostly quiet.  Small fires still burned in ash piles where businesses once stood.   There, laying by the stone fountain, was the bloodied body of a small female elf.   Gaffyn slowly walked up to her and knelt down to wipe her ashen face.  He cupped his hands and brought water from the fountain and let it dribble through his fingers across her face.  Gaffyn was in anguish and lamented that he was unable to save his love.   He picked up her lifeless body and carried her back in the direction that was their home, hoping that something had survived the attack.

Gaffyn was also fearful for Martisque.  Had she survived as well?  His heart pounded faster and faster the closer he got to home.   He could see wispy plumes of smoke rising from what once was his childhood home.  Walls crumbling, piles of ash, and stone surfaces were all that were left.   Gaffyn gently laid the body onto a fallen tree stump to further investigate the ruins.   He found no sign that anyone was home during the incursion.   Gaffyn looked in the spot where he learned his mother and father kept their most prized possessions and gold for when Gaffyn was at the right age to receive.   Only an empty chest, smoldering, was left.  He remembered the ornate case where Marti kept the marionette puppets.   Surprisingly, the case was still intact, but was tarnished by the soot from the fire.  Gaffyn brushed off the debris and carefully opened the box.   Gaffyn’s eyes filled with tears when he saw the doll that was gifted to him many years ago, still in the same condition before it was last used.   The smaller stringed marionettes lay beside the doll, lifeless and still.   The memories flooded back to his mind of the fun shows that Marti had put on in the home.   His eyes welled up with tears once more, desperately hoping that Marti had survived.

Gaffyn closed the box and strapped it to his back using some vines that were lying about the yard.   He walked back over to Mel’s corpse and ever-so-gently picked her up, as if she was merely sleeping.   He decided it would be best to bury her body at the Rowan tree where she would be most comfortable.  It took him about an hour to walk to where he and his childhood sweetheart spent most of their time.  Going over and over the stories they shared, songs they had sung, and adventures they created, trying to muster up some kind of joy from this tragedy.   Little joy was found in that moment.  Slowly walking up to the great Rowan tree, Gaffyn heard a voice.  “Boy.  What happened?”

Gaffyn froze.   He couldn’t make out the figure through his misty eyes.  “Come.  Closer,” the voice beckoned.  Gaffyn felt familiarity in the voice, although it sounded older and diminished.   He moved closer to the figure, and with a free hand, wiped away the tears in his eyes.  It was Martisque! Gaffyn fell to his knees in front of Martisque, still holding the lifeless body of Mel in his arms.   “She’s gone, Mel,” the half-elf sobbed.  “I tried saving her, but she sacrificed herself to keep me safe.  She was my best friend and wanted to spend my entire life with her!” Tears of sadness and anger began to pour out of him.   Gaffyn could feel the hot tears streaming down his flushed cheeks.  He looked down at the lifeless face and wept.

As he wept on the ground, Marti noticed the trundle case strapped to Gaffyn’s back.   “You found my case.” Through streaming tears, Gaffyn slowly and carefully slid the ornate case from his back.   “Yes, it was the only thing that survived,” he explained, “Your marionettes and my doll are in there as if they were just used yesterday as if nothing had happened.”

“I suspect that it would have survived anything,” said Marti.  “I placed a very protective spell on the case over 150 years ago.”

Gaffyn’s head whipped up to meet Marti’s gaze.  “One hundred and fifty years ago? How old are you?? You don’t look a day over 60!” exclaimed Gaffyn.

Marti went on to explain… “My kind has seen many, many decades.  We are sent out as protectors, keepers, guardians, and educators.  I have been with your family for many years.  I even helped to raise your mother to become what she is today.  When she met your father, she, too, was young and I knew it was fate that they belonged together.  I looked at you and Melodia and saw the similarities between you and your parents.”

A single tear trailed down Martisque’s cheek.   “I’m truly sorry for the fate that has befallen her.”

The two sat together at the base of the Rowan tree and rocked back and forth, as if to calm a sleeping babe.  Gaffyn, exhausted from the events of the day and past week, fell asleep with Melodia still in his arms.

A few hours later, in the middle of the night, Martisque gently woke Gaffyn.  Gathering his senses about him, Gaffyn asked “What are we going to do?”

Marti began, “Do you remember when I would put on those magical puppet shows?”

Gaffyn nodded.

“And do you remember how tired I would become after each performance? You were so excited and wanted more, but I had to rest.”

Gaffyn nodded a second time.

“You see,” Marti explained, “I can animate life, but at great sacrifice of my own.   These small marionettes do not require much lifeforce to animate, and I was able to rest, but they still took a small piece of me every time.   You enjoyed them so much; I did not want to bring up this fact.  It’s almost like a transference of souls.   My former master and teacher was able to once bring back a life that was lost…”

Hearing this story, Gaffyn understood what she meant.  Through a hopeless face, a glimmer of hope spread across him.  “Could you bring my Melodia back,” asked Gaffyn desperately?

Martisque looked longingly over the boy.   She recalled the moments seeing him and Mel running and chasing each other through the forest, the conversations he and Marti had about Mel, and the joy it brought him.

“I can certainly try.   Like I just mentioned, it would be at a great cost and require great sacrifice,” explained Marti.  “This would be the largest attempt at transference I have ever done.  I would need your help.”

Gaffyn looked puzzled.  Marti had only taught him basic magic and wondered how he was going to help in a feat such as this.  Willingly he agreed.

“While I can perform the magic, the sacrifice would have to come from you, as this is your request,” Marti further explained.

Gaffyn looked around himself and wondered what he could possibly sacrifice since he had just lost everything dear to him during the towns raid.

“What gives you joy,” inquired Marti? “What are you best at?”

“Well,” Gaffyn started, “I’m a performer of arts, I guess.  I loved dancing, singing, telling stories, and the doll you gave me on my birthday has allowed me to bring joy and laughter to others.”

Gaffyn’s face wrinkled in confusion and deep thought.

“The doll is just made of wood, and mechanical components.  I can’t sacrifice those.”

“But you give the doll life,” said Martisque.  “Your gift of speech and technique is what brings the doll to life.”

Gaffyn pondered a moment.  “My voice?” he uttered slowly.

“Precisely,” agreed Martisque.  “It is the only thing you have left that could be sacrificed to make this work.

Gaffyn looked longingly at Melodia.  Her pale face no longer had rosy cheeks due to loss of blood.  He desperately wanted her to return.

“If this is what will work, I am ready to continue.” Gaffyn said.

Martisque nodded and took the lifeless Melodia from Gaffyn and propped her up inside the trunk of the giant Rowan tree.

“Bring me the doll,” Martisque said. 

Gaffyn opened the trunk and carefully lifted the doll from the magical case and handed it over to Marti.  She sat the doll in the opposite side of the table where the two children played for hours and house.  Marti then instructed Gaffyn to sit down between the two figures and place his hands on each of the bodies.

Gaffyn closed his eyes and did exactly what was instructed of him.

Martisque lit the candle on the table and began reciting a strange language that Gaffyn had never heard before.  It sounded very old.  As she continued her incantations, the wind began swirling around the Rowan tree.  Leaves were picked up and encircled the tree’s mighty trunk.

Martisque began drawing strange symbols in the air with her hands.  Gaffyn could feel the air beginning to change, but did not dare open his eyes, for he wanted his Melodia to return.

The magic in the air almost felt like static.  The hairs on everyone’s head began to rise slowly.  Gaffyn could feel a pressure in his throat, but he was still able to breath.

Martisque continued to chant the ancient spell.  Gaffyn’s head was whipped back, now facing the roof of the room they were inside of the Rowan tree.  The tightness grew inside his throat.  He could feel something moving upwards through his esophagus.   His mouth flew open and a ball of magical energy escaped him.  His eyes opened, staring at this green ball of glowing mass floating above him.

He then saw all the other magical symbols floating in mid-air.  Purples, greens, and blues flashed around all of them.

Martisque then lifted her hand towards Melodia’s lifeless body and uttered words that sounded like a beckoning to come forward.  At this instant, a softly throbbing orb emerged from the chest space of the body.  The room went silent.  The rushing wind and leaves could not be heard even while they were still thrashing around the giant tree.

The only thing that was heard was a still small voice, just a whisper.  Gaffyn heard it and instantly recognized the still small voice. 

“Gaffyn.  I love you.”

Gaffyn’s heart filled with love and warmed his body.   He wanted to say it back, but the words would not come out.

The two orbs, the throbbing blue orb and the green glowing mass floated together and swirled together and created a blueish green orb.

Martisque directed the new orb over the doll’s using a gesture of her hands.  With her incantation coming to an end, she pushed the orb down into the dolls head.

The wind blew into the room inside the Rowan tree and extinguished the candle.   The room went dark.   Gaffyn heard Martisque fall to the ground.

Gaffyn rushed over to Martisque wanting to ask if she was ok.  But no words would come out.  He began trying to speak again, still nothing.  The withered woman pulled at his clothing.   He knelt beside Martisque’s face.  She began to speak in labored words he could now understand.

“Go.  Go find who did this.  Rid them of the world.  Be great, be brave, and stand for what’s right.”

With her final words, Martisque exhaled her final breath and lay lifeless on the ground.

Gaffyn began to cry silent tears over the now second lifeless corpse in his presence.   He lit the candle on the table and looked over at the still doll.  The long wavy blonde hair still in place as it had always been.  Tiny elvish ears expertly crafted on the side of her head.  The carefully sewn white dress ornate with golden threads and red sash belt around the waist adorned the doll.  Tiny black leather ballroom shoes covered the feet, attached to legs with white stockings, dangled in the air at the table.  The only moving body in the room was his own.

Gaffyn found a shovel against a nearby tree.  As he dug graves for Melodia and Martisque, a sense of disappointment grew over him.  He knew this would be a very difficult task for both he and Marti.  He understood that it may not come out the way he had hoped and that he would leave the woods alone and would have to travel by himself to find his parents, wherever they were.

He carefully laid each body inside the properly dug holes and recovered them with the earth that he extracted.   Around each of the graves, he positioned stones that circled the plot.  He fashioned two crosses out of some of the fallen Rowan branches and placed them at the heads of each grave.   The candle on the table was lit and placed atop the cross of Melodia’s grave.  Gaffyn opened the ornate trundle case and took out the marionette figures and hung them on the arms of the cross at Martisque’s grave.  As he turned around, he heard a tiny sound that reminded him of the puppet shows that she used to perform.  The tiny marionettes moved slightly in sort of a bow movement and then collapsed back to their hanging form.  Was this the wind or a final dispelling of the magic that Marti had poured into them?

Gaffyn returned to the dim room, lit only by the distant candle on Melodia’s grave.   He looked at the doll at the table.  Still nothing moved.  He wondered, still, if this was all for nothing.  Where would he go, what would he do? Would he be surrendered to live under the shadow of his parents and constantly reminded of the guilt of him not being able to save his best friend?

Gaffyn picked up the ornate trundle case and tied it back to his back using vines that were strewn about the forest.  He went back inside the Rowan tree one more time and reminisced about days gone past.  Gaffyn picked up the doll and carried it in his harms outside and began to walk out of the woods.

“Where are we going?” came a still small voice from the doll.

A single tear trailed down Gaffyn’s face as they continued out of the woods.

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