One Shot: Gwyneira
Game: Before the Storm
Theme Song: Black Sea by Natasha Blume
Keywords: Charismatic, Coquette, Unyielding
A long time ago, some vain prophet declared that the Stormsworn would come across the land to conquer Iriya and Andar. So determined were the Iriyans that fate and destiny be true that they saw a conqueror in a potential friend, and war broke out. The Stormsworn, with their preternatural grace and ephemeral, cloud-like bodies, conquered Andar without a struggle. Then they came for Iriya. As it had been predicted, so it would be.
The ardent love of Destiny, and it's religious and cultural importance, was the focus of our game of Before the Storm. We had fate weavers, people who spun to tell the story of fate, and who could manipulate fate (secretly) with their weaving. All of the characters in our game were from Ardan or Iriya. Except my character. My character was a captured royal from the Stormsworn. She was beautiful, dangerous, and full of mirth. In every way, she was opposite of those other people at the dinner table.
If you're not familiar, Before the Storm is a game about a group of adventurers who sit down for a last meal before a great battle the next day. They've adventured together before, to get the sword of destiny (or light, I think it is), in order to possibly beat back the tide of Stormsworn who have come to conquer them. The part about prophecy comes from the game itself. The fate weavers and spinners were just part of our game and how we made our characters. These adventurers are sitting down to dinner, on their last night, to heir their grievances and take a bite out of each other since they will die the next day.
I created Gwyneira, meaning White Snow. She was a regent and commander of the Stormsworn when they conquered Ardan. At that time, a religious leader of Ardan managed to get the upper hand and captured her. For a few years he tortured her, interrogating her and seeking to convert her to the Ardan faith. He told her it was her destiny. The Ardan and Iriyan people believed, intensely, that destiny was pre-determined and unwavering. It was in their religious and cultural beliefs, and any who questioned that were living outside of the culture and thus hated.
Gwyneira was one of these people. She didn't believe in destiny after she had been captured, because she had been told she would be a queen of her people and lead them to victory. When she didn't, when she became a prisoner of war, her faith fractured. Years of torture and exile left her still herself, but with a new flavour of bitterness embedded into herself.
After traveling with the others for a time, the group disbanded and Gwyneira did the one thing she had wanted to do the most since her capture: go home. As she walked across the boundary into her own land, she remained as she was. Her grace was gone. She no longer had the same power, the same abilities, or the same talents that the Stormsworn had. The rain fell on her and she could not stop it. The royal woman broke. There was nothing left for her anymore.
Yet she was filled with resilience. Her own people would not have her anymore, and Iriya hated her, but she returned there anyways, hid away in one of the major cities and began to craft futures for people. While she was not a fate spinner, she was a skilled weaver and began to sell spun fates to the Iriyans. It wasn't because they were actually gaining fate, but because she hated them and wanted to show them how full of lies their beliefs were.
Stormsworn spinning is different. It is more elaborate and intrinsic than Iriyan or Ardan weaving. To the people in the city, the weaving looked exciting and different. Gwyneira lived a quiet, small life for a few years, having only her bitterness and her anger to keep her going. Until Hayden, one of the original adventuring party, showed up and told her Iriya believed the prophecy was coming true. The two ran off, found a fake sword to call a magic sword, and made the final stage of the prophecy come true because Hayden was under threat from nobles.
The night before the Stormsworn arrived, Gwyn tried once more to reach out to Neema, so they could be together. All Neema could say was that she was fated to die, and that seeing Gwyneira was too painful. At that moment, Gwyn knew they wouldn't be together. She knew Neema's love of destiny was more than she could bear in the future, and closed her heart to Neema.
Their dinner was a beautiful, awful night of revealing truths, some reconciliation, and many stories. Gwyneira knew she would be going in to battle with nothing worth surviving for. I had made sure as I played her that she took every moment to emphasize how stupid her companions were, how blind they were to their faith, and how they had become unable to see just how much the fate spinners had duped everyone. They could change the future. They could lie about it. They could manipulate it and the past. It was all a lie.
It was a power they had but it was not that the future was certain. It was simply that they could alter what was happening, what would happen, or what had happened. Gwyn had seen it, and had felt it, and knew that what guided Iriya was full of shit. She also knew that she wasn't the enemy. That the Stormsworn had come here as friends, seeking peace, was lost in time and in the story of fate. Iriya believed the Stormsworn would one day conquer them, as had been told by the prophecy, so when they appeared on the horizon, the Iriyans and Ardans attacked.
The Stormsworn, stronger, better organized, and with numbers unknowable, retaliated. The war began. Gwyneira knew the truth because she had been there in that moment and had witnessed the first attack. Part of her had only blamed the religious elite of Iriya and Ardan, but with time, she came to understand that the entirety of their collective peoples were so entrenched in the past they could not understand possibility.
Even the Stormsworn, who also valued fate, knew it was changeable and shifting, like the storm. But Gwyneira had learned the hard way she wasn't going to buy into how the chips fell. She was going to forge her own god damn chips and toss them however she wanted. The clever, manipulating, and dangerous side of her was ever present as she wielded her stories like a weapon at the table and in battle.
When I was playing Gwyn, I wanted her to be different than the others, because she was different. They were dour, serious, and grim. Gwyn was light, laughter, and sexual. A battle tomorrow was no different than the rest of her life. I also made sure when I was playing her that she answered things vaguely and with double meaning, unless it suited her purpose. There was an overall sense of boredom as she listened to the others, and called them on their idiotic beliefs.
For a conqueror, I wanted her to appear disinterested and amused by their petty worries. There was definitely a different culture we all came from, with Gwyn being one of the only people who wasn't a lowly peasant or religious archetype. This wasn't intentional, but it played out really well at the table. I had no particular challenges for myself with Gwyn, but I knew I wanted to play the villain who was likeable, compelling, and whose death would be sad.
Except they wouldn't let me die. People kept giving me black cards (meaning I would live) and other people kept sacrificing themselves in the final battle to ensure the Stormsworn regent would survive. I found this really interesting, as she wasn't one of their people, and had been likeable enough that the heroes threw themselves down to let her survive. She fought by their side, using a sword (not the sword), like one of them, instead of using storm like her people. They didn't know it was because she had lost some of her gifts.
The game ended with Hayden, Neema, Gwyneira, and Telar (the fate spinner) surviving. Gwyneira had killed the priest who had captured her. She killed him once the battle was done and he wasn't paying attention, he trusted her finally. It was his downfall. Neema tried to kiss Gwyn, but she stepped back and walked away. Hayden made sure the noble who threatened him had died. And Telar went on to have a child and teach her brat the fate spinning ways. And Gwyneira? Well, she went and found the real singing sword and was going to destroy it all. The Ardans. The Iriyans. And the Stormsworn. It would all burn before her. She would see the madness of fate ended.