Natalie Rachel Shipley
A runaway who fell in with the "wrong" crowd, but now is a ward of the "right" crowd.
This character’s campaign never actually happened, so I never actually “built” her (also why she’s listed as only level 1). She would be a thief-style rogue, though. High Dexterity, maxed-out larceny-related skills, you know. Have fun. And don’t forget to give her some skill at singing.
Natalie Rachel Shipley grew up in a bustling coastal port city. Her father was a merchant-trader, and did very well for himself and his family. When she was nine, a foreign peddler offered her father a draught of exotic booze; her father developed quite the taste for it, and began importing it regularly – occasionally to the exclusion of anything else. He retained enough of his wits to remember to sell more of it than he drank, lest he not be able to afford more, but he slowly succumbed to addiction and to the violence it begat within him.
When Natalie was eleven, she watched her mother get beaten to within inches of her life for accusing her father of valuing the alcohol over his family. The accusation was not without merit – he had long ceased to care about spending profits on anything other than getting more alcohol – but Natalie knew right away that if she stayed, she would eventually say or do something that would make her the next victim. She tried to convince her mother to run away with her, but to no avail. So Natalie waited until the next time her father was able to sell off some crates of booze, stole about half the money from the sale, and made her escape.
Natalie fled to the capital, and then away again to another town over – in her mind, if her father was going to hunt her down, he would start by looking at the capital. She lived honestly for about three weeks, then looked in her pouch and realized her money wasn’t going to last very long at that rate. She then began using her feminine wiles as a distraction while she nicked apples or bits of cheese from farmers in the market, saving her money for lodging. Eventually her purse got thin enough that she began sleeping in doorways instead.
One afternoon she made a particularly daring attempt at thievery, nicking sausages out of a butcher’s window. She made her way down the street with her prize, and noticed someone following her. Panicked, she ran, and found herself chased into a maze of alleys near the city wall. Her pursuer overtook her easily then, tackled her against a wall, and said that all he wanted was to warn her that those particular sausages weren’t cooked, and they’d make her sick if she ate them right away. He also said that if she was willing to share them, he knew of a fire she could use to cook them.
Her newfound “friend” was Sebek, an older boy who then introduced Natalie to his colleagues – all of them young men and women her age who had been taken in by “Mr. C”. After hearing Natalie’s story, they invited her to come back closer to sundown, and they all slowly scattered. They were true to their word, though, and that evening brought Natalie to a two-story villa not far from the market square.
Mr. C was a handsome middle-aged gentleman who welcomed Natalie warmly, and said that his work in life was to provide shelter for wayward youth until they could start a life on their own. In return, he expected them to go out and do what little work they could in the town, and bring that money to him as reasonable recompense – a minimum of 2 silver pieces per day for lodging and two meals – or to do some of the harder chores around the house if that much money could not be had. Natalie was quite dazzled by his charming nature, and willingly agreed to the arrangement.
Sebek quickly familiarized Natalie with the unspoken rules of the house (goods were acceptable payment if cash could not be had), and which explicit rules were not normally followed (tenants were not supposed to hoard money in excess of the minimum, but everyone did it anyway in case they had hard luck the next day). It took quite a while for Natalie to realize she might be in with a gang of thieves, but by that time she had gotten used to them, and been quite taken in by their philosophy that it was impossible to ever have a good life unless you were born into it – honest work got you nothing but honest heartache, and things like gambling or larceny were quicker. Still, Natalie had discovered some talent for singing, and would always start out her day by busking in the square, hoping to keep herself at least a little honest between her talent and her looks.
Several months later, both Sebek and Natalie had a horrid run of bad luck. Sebek’s usual knack for the dice failed him, nobody seemed to care for Natalie’s singing, their housemates’ antics had left all potential marks on high alert, and their personal stashes had been frittered away on previous bad days. Afraid, they made their way home. Mr. C listened to them both, then leaned close to Natalie and whispered that he had very particular “household duties” in mind for her, and that he would even forgive Sebek’s debt that day if she would agree to it. Natalie shivered, but Mr. C was not a repulsive fellow, so she consented.
Natalie went on as Mr. C’s “paramour” for nearly a year, during which time he became less loving and more demanding of her. He never once laid a hand on her in anger or abuse, but Natalie was forced to do things she found revolting, and was not allowed to go back to busking for money instead. In fact, she was rarely allowed to leave the villa’s second floor. One night, she had the notion to go out and possibly cut a purse while Mr. C was asleep, and present him some of the money to buy her freedom for a short while. She slipped out of the house two hours before dawn, and saw to her delight that some lamps were flaring near the town’s inn – someone was hitting the road early! Reckless with glee, she readied her sharpest knife and burst into a run.
The job was not as smoothly successful as she hoped – she was able to sever the purse strings and make off with the pouch while still at a run, but she did not go unnoticed. She heard shouting behind her as she fled…and suddenly could not move her feet. She tried to scream, but her voice was just as immobile. All she could do was listen to the footsteps walking quickly up behind her, and feel the hand yanking her head backward by her hair while another hand clapped over her mouth.
A second voice, low and soothing, also approached her from behind, saying calmly that it was okay, they weren’t going to hurt her, he just wanted his purse back. And if she felt like talking about why she had to do that, it was fine, and they might even be able to help. She saw a balding older gentleman walk up and gently take the stolen purse out of her hands, and felt her limbs begin to move again as the other man let go of her mouth and hair. Panicked, Natalie took off at full speed, but made the mistake of looking over her shoulder as she fled and ran smack into a wall. Dazed and hurt and horribly mortified, Natalie sank to the ground and began crying. She felt a light touch on her head take away some of the throbbing pain in her cheek and ear, and when she looked up to see the old man looking at her with the same concern that Sebek or her mother might have shown, she began to cry even harder. The old man held her and soothed her with some more magical words, and Natalie found herself able to tell him all about her life up until that point. The bodyguard clucked his tongue and mumbled something to the old man about trading one sort of paternal abuse for another, and she was not irredeemable. None of that made sense to Natalie, but she did see the bodyguard smile a little when the old man suggested that she come back to the capital with them, and how the bodyguard had been lamenting a lack of damsels to rescue on their latest voyage.
As they bundled Natalie into their wagon amid piles of gear, the old man told her that he was a priest of Leeyah, and his bodyguard was a paladin of Leeyah. They told her that the sort of arrangement she’d been living in with Mr. C was a very dark perversion of how it was “supposed to work”, and she was invited to enter a similar arrangement with the Church back at the capital, and most importantly would be free to leave after three months if she was not happy there. Natalie spent every day of those three months waiting for what horrible things they would start doing to her, but three and then six and nine months went by without anything horrible happening. Natalie still considers the Church her home, gladly helps keep house, and is still baffled by the kindness that is constantly shown to her by Leeyah’s clergy.