Hey, I finished my thesis last night! Which means I am sleeping most of today. Probably. But I wasn’t going to leave you with nothing. Here’s a set of 20 questions that I answered for an Essentials game I’ll be playing in soon. I’m going to start going over each of the 20 questions in the next few months, looking at what they’re for and how you can use them to tell a story about your character. Check out the wiki for the Essentials game too, Vale Tales. Anyway, on to my 20 questions!

1. What are three things that stand out about the way you look?

Thanks to the magic of prestidigitation, Simon’s affection for the finer things in life isn’t sullied by his desire for adventure. He wears fine clothing and often alters the colour and fit of the garments with the cantrip, in order to suit the occasion. Growing up among the aristocracy of Gebonneauvais has made him accustomed to finery, and as his father always says, “It never hurts to look one’s best.”

Simon is missing his left pinky finger, thanks to an encounter with a trap while exploring with Kelonnath’s Decree, a band of adventurers. Travelling incognito, he hired on as their torchbearer and ventured with them into Selas Dolra, the ruins of an ancient magus’s fortress. As they delved deeper he grew braver, until Adara the Green-Eyed, their rogue, set off a trap. As blades arced through the hall, the quick reflexes of Sir John saved Simon’s life, but as he was yanked to the floor, his pinky caught on one of the blades, and was sheared clean off. It was a lesson in caution that he’s never forgotten.

The wild elves of the Harken Forest take partnerships very seriously. The prophetess Tyana said “When the branches of two lives grow together, they will weather any storm.” Rings, like the humans use, are mere trinkets. It doesn’t take any devotion to trade a trinket with someone else, and the trading of such shows no commitment. No, when the Woodsinger tribe marries, the couple are branded. Simon and Thalia were married, they paid tribute to both their heritages by setting a thin layer of white gold in the brand. His brand is just under the left side of his breastbone, an ancient sigil meaning “Horizon”.

2. Where are you from?

Simon hails from Gebonneauvais, a city-state south of the Vale. A thriving metropolis of intrigue and magic, Gebonneauvais is ruled by an Eladrin aristocracy who control the powerful wizard’s guild. More specifically, he was born into House Falas, a family of powerful merchants and mages. The second son of Urion Theraseth Falas Moonseeker, he was always at odds with his father, unwilling to settle for life in a musty tower as an archmagus. Rebelling, he travelled for quite a while, finally settling in Fallcrest and making a home there with his wife, Thalia.

3. What is your social and political background?

Raised among nobles and merchants, he’s used to life among the bourgeoisie.  Still, the nobles of Gebonneauvais aren’t cruel taskmasters minding feudal fiefdoms, but enlightened aristocrats abiding by an ancient constitution. As a diplomat, Simon is highly political and the constitution is one of his favourite documents in part because it protects the rights of common people. It’s right there in article 1. “No person of Air, regardless of duties, shall break faith with those who make pact with the Earth.” People of the air are the ruling clas, administrators and generals, while those who share the bond of the earth are the farmers, the foundation on which progress is built.

4. What are five things about your history or personality that are essential to getting to know you?

Simon is married to Thalia (Lia) Dawnstar, an elf of the Woodsinger tribe that he met six years ago on a diplomatic mission there for the Lord Warden, to renegotiate a trade agreement. She found him lost in the woods, cursing up a storm, and graciously offered to escort him to her people, so long as he ceased acting like a child. Over the next few years, he kept finding reasons to go back there, becoming an essential part of their negotiations. Thalia travelled a bit, an accomplished huntress herself. She works with the Lord Warden’s master of the hunt now, as well as serving as a guide for ventures into the Cloak Wood and the Witchlight Fens on occasion. The pair were married two years ago, and while she isn’t entirely pleased with Simon’s wanderlust, she respects his goals…Most of the time.

Simon is an explorer. He has an insatiable urge to go where no one ever has, just to see what’s there. This leads him to leave home more often than Lia would like. He takes diplomatic missions when he can, but does his fair share of dungeon delving as well, though he’s much more at home in a political campaign than a military one.

Simon is committed to his values. Valuing order and the well-being of others, he works to build better ties between the cities of the Vale, in the hope that they will rise to greatness again. The gods, he maintains, don’t help those who help themselves. They help those who help each other. He believes this wholeheartedly, and seems to genuinely not understand people who prefer to take advantage of others.

Simon is a diplomat, committed to negotiating before any other kind of action. Often, settlements can be reached without the use of swords, and once swords are drawn, there’s no going back to words. Conducting trade and diplomatic missions for several nobles in the region, he also consulted with Patrick Miller on his last campaign, writing several speeches for him.

Many of the things Simon does are directly because of his family ties. In some ways he’s much like his father, preferring words over warfare, unlike his impetuous brother Urion II. He doesn’t talk about them much, only to close friends and Lia, but they’re an essential part of his life. His mother died in childbirth, and his father buried himself in his work, leaving Simon to his tutors and the mercy of his older brother, who was a vicious boy. He hasn’t seen them in fourteen years, not since he left home with Kelonnath’s Decree, and sometimes thinks about going back, or writing a letter.

5. What is one vulnerability you have?

Simon has a bit of a temper, especially when the matter is ethical in nature. He loses his cool, sputtering and making angry arguments. It’s gotten him in hot water more than once, most often with Lia, whose woodwise sensibilities have left her ethics more flexible.

6. Who are two people you consider friends?

Relethas Stagheart, Lia’s uncle and an elder in the Woodsinger tribe. A kind elf of a hundred and fifty-two, he takes joy in hunting and warfare, though less than he used to.

Iolanthe Selassia, an attaché to Ernest Padraig, Lord of Winterhaven. A sharp and ambitious woman, she has her eye on the throne of Winterhaven, and thus on Lord Padraig’s son Thomas. That is, if his father would let him wed a tiefling.

Sir John Logan, paladin of valour, formerly of Kelonnath’s Decree. He’s retired now, married with four children and he’s a blacksmith in Harkenwold. Few know of his adventurous past, and that’s the way he likes it.

Byron Arrowstorm, hunter, formerly of Kelonnath’s Decree. A dangerous archer, Byron makes his home in Hammerfast, and stands as the reigning archery champion, striking over a hundred bullseyes in less than six seconds at eighty yards. Living off his winnings, he spends most of his time drinking in the Foundation Stone.

7. How did you meet them?

Relethas was Simon’s first trade contact in the Woodsinger tribe.

Simon met Iolanthe when he was serving as an attaché to Councillor Rufus Morden, Fallcrest’s emissary to Winterhaven for their new year celebrations.

Sir John and Byron were both part of Kelonnath’s Decree, who Simon travelled with when he was younger.

8. Why are you friends?

Relethas insisted that Simon come with him on a hunting trip, in order to gain his trust. For four days the two men caught nothing, an embarrassing time for the Woodsinger, whose people pride themselves on their hunting skills. On the fifth and final day they spied a stag and, driven by hunger, Relethas raised his bow, but Simon stayed his hand. Charming the stag over to them, Simon gave Relethas the chance to make an apology to his name animal, and the stag bounded off into the woods. Since that day, Relethas has been his champion among the Woodsingers, though it also earned him the dubious nickname “Silvertongue”.

During a summit in Hammerfast, Iolanthe was delivering a ceremonial dagger to Trade Guild leader Fearghus Beardaxe on behalf of Lord Padraig. Her pass was expired however, and the guards, upon finding the dagger and learning that she was bound for Beardaxe manor, arrested her as an assassin. Simon, returning from discussing new domestic policy with Councillor Axebeard of the Lore Guild, rescued her. Approaching the guards, he convinced them that assassination wasn’t her goal, and instead of being escorted to the stocks, they were taken back to the Gate Ward together. Her arrest would have been a serious embarrassment for Lord Padraig, and certainly would have ended her career. She offered to return the favour in some way, but Simon declined. He’d rather be friends than a contact.

Simon travelled with Kellorath’s Decree for four years, first as their porter and then as their scholar as his magical abilities developed. He was Sir John’s squire, and studied bladework under him, though it was never his forte. Byron never did manage to teach him the bow but, not exactly a people person, he trusted Simon to negotiate his contracts and handle his logistics, most of which involve the procurement and management of considerable amounts of arrows.

9. What’s one secret that you have?

Simon wasn’t always such a nice guy. In his younger years, before his time with Kelonnath’s Decree, he would work small-time cons in the bars of Gebonneauvais, taking advantage of ordinary people. He didn’t need the money, but did it for the pleasure of beating them, of being smarter and more deserving. Not even Lia knows about this particular part of his past, he’s so ashamed of it. Travelling with the Decree, with Adara, Sir John, and Byron, he learned what it meant to look out for others, and why other people’s well-being matters, but at heart, he wonders if that’s really who he is, or just who he wants to be.

10. What’s one secret that relates to you, but you don’t know?

Simon’s tenure as a bachelor is over, according to his father.  He’s arranged an alliance with House Varyon, to be cemented with the marriage of his second son to Emridia Tanna’Res Varyon Daysong, the daughter of Alessar Elbereth Varyon Fireblade. He doesn’t know about Lia, or anything else about Simon’s life, but everyone sows their oats for twenty or thirty years before doing their family duty, and now it’s time to do that duty, moreso because Alessar Fireblade is the Warrior Prime of Genbonneauvais, and he never forgives a slight. Emri herself is a spirited eladrin of twenty-five, and for the past few years has been hearing stories of the prodigal son of House Falas, who stood with the Decree in the halls of the Underdoom, and who held the line against the darkness in the fields of Bhukir. These tales are somewhat exaggerated, thanks to Harlan Thomas, erstwhile writer and priest of Melora, the final member of Kellorath’s Decree. A councillor in Gebonneauvais, he imagines that this will be best for the young man he remembers.

11. What are two goals that you have?

The Black DogSimon didn’t just come to the Vale to find a new life. He came to chase the black dog, the spectre which stalks his dreams and waking life. Unsure what it means, he’s heard tales of such a dog being seen deep in the Witchlight Fens, and on the moors of Lake Nen. He wants to discover the meaning behind these strange visions that no one else seems to see.

Having settled here with Lia, he wants to build a safer Vale. This means encouraging alliances between the towns and bringing in more commerce, beating back the wild creatures of the frontier, and getting deep into politics to make sure that the people who live here have the protection they need.

12. Why do you have those goals?

He’s seen the black dog since his trip to Selas Dolra, and the dreams are especially strong on cold, autumn nights. Sometimes when he’s awake, he can almost feel his presence. It’s said to be a sign of death, but he doesn’t always feel threatened by it. It scares him but also intrigues him, piquing his curiosity.

Building a life in the vale means building a life worth having. Some day he and Lia will have children, and he’d rather those children didn’t get eaten by lizardfolk or die in a senseless war. The best way to do this, he believes, is in creating interdependence in the region, not just between the towns, but between all of the tribes and communities which live here. An interdependent community responds to threats as a united front, and has less internal struggles because everyone needs everyone else.

13. Who is one person who is hostile towards you?

Lady Ophelia Harkness, cousin of Baron Stockmer and matriarch of Harkenwold if there ever was one.

14. Why are they hostile towards you?

Three years ago, at a dinner party in Harkenwold, she offered Simon the hand of her daughter in marriage, hoping to strengthen ties with Fallcrest. He declined gracefully, but when his wedding to Lia was announced the next year, the Lady took offense. Not so much at his marriage, but at having her daughter (and her alliance)  declined because of “one of those filthy forest savages”, whose hunting steals food from the very mouths of human children. She has poisoned the ear of Baron Stockmer against him, and uses his Woodsinger name “Silvertongue” as an epithet.

15. What are your three most vivid memories?

His Naming Day. All Eladrin are given a soul name on their tenth birthday, the name by which they are known to the spirits of the feywild. The ceremony is held not in a cathedral, but in a grove, where the child must sit undisturbed for three days, waiting for the feywild to see them. At the celebration which follows, the child must tell the story of their vigil, and announce the name by which the feywild knows them. Every story is different. Some are taken up by the grove and pass the time in revelry with sprites. Alessar Fireblade reputedly spent his time as a slave in a Fomorian forge, returning with the marks of the lash on his back and defiance in his eyes. Time has no meaning in the grove. Some say they have spent years there, only to return to their family three days hence. No one knows if the experiences are real, or just a dream. Simon saw nothing. It was just a grove, and he meditated and meditated, remembering the mystical experiences he’d heard about. It wasn’t until the dawn of the final day when he saw something. He’s still not sure what it is, but at the celebration he described it as “My campfire was the dawn, a horizon in the dirt. Faint embers grew into the blazing light of the sun, and I knew two things. Something great can come from something small, and that finally, the night is over. It’s a new day.”

His first encounter with the black dog, when taking a watch deep in Selas Dolra with the Decree. It stalked out of the shadows, a mastiff black as pitch, its eyes glowing a dull yellow. It panted and bared its teeth, locking eyes with him. He couldn’t even breathe, let alone wake the others. Moments later, the spectral figure receded into the shadows, and it’s hunted his dreams ever since, watching, waiting, and filling him with unsettling coldness.

Meeting Lia. Her lithe form slipped in and out of the underbrush like she was a part of it, half deer in her own right but never doe-eyed. She’d check back to make sure he was keeping up, not that she needed to look, because the sound of him crashing through the brush was clear enough. Her hand touching his as they dangled their feet in a brook, tired from a day’s travel.

16. What’s a hobby that you have?

Simon loves to sing. He sang in the Gebonneauvais chorus as a young boy, and enjoys learning the songs of other races. He can get the sounds down, even if he can’t understand the language.

17. Why are you with the party?

Simon loves to explore strange new places, and travelling with a group allows him to do that much better, as well as allowing them to take jobs that make the Vale a safer place.

18. What strengths do you bring to the party?

Simon’s enchantment powers are useful both in and out of combat, but more importantly he lends his diplomatic skills and credentials to the party, making travel in towns and cities easier. As well, his network of contacts can often make them aware of opportunities or threats before others do.

19. What do you hope to gain from being in the party?

A good time, a better life, an answer to the visions of the black dog.

20. What is your name?

Selarion Elshann’ah Falas Emberdream (Simon Emberdream)

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