I should really know better, but I've started another D&D campaign. While I continue to play a heroic imbecile (Scarlett Knight) in one session, and a bloodthirsty beefcake (Rott) in another, I still have time to live my own life. Well, not anymore. I'm taking on Carmilla Rose, a dhampir witch, and I've already fallen in love with her, background and all. Or, I should say, background and that's all. We haven't actually begun playing this campaign yet.
You might be wondering what brought me to love Carmilla Rose so dearly and in such a short amount of time. Well, it all comes down to Greek mythology. My inspirations show themselves in her backstory.
Now, let me say I'm not here to tease anything but my Anelisha Knight trilogy (coming out at the end of 2018!!), so I've included my writing on Carmilla Rose's backstory below. But before we get to that, I'm just going to come right out with it and say, I've cracked D&D backstories. All this time, with Scarlett Knight and Rott, I've been hyping up the wrong characters. No matter what you write into your player character's backstory, they're still going to begin the game at level 1 with all the other player characters (for the most part, anyway).
One way to give your characters a backstory with impact is to make up a legendary ancestry. Like Greek heroes, born from the gods. In a way, even Herakles started out at level 1, but he was the son of Zeus, so no one cared. Plus, this allows you to have some impact on the world your DM (or GM) creates for you if they're on board, and gives your character motivations, relationships, and expectations which help round them out. So there you have it. Pro-tip.
Carmilla Rose was born to the princess, Helen Emyr, who was said to be the most beautiful human to have ever lived, renowned throughout the lands. The coveted daughter of a king, youngest of her sisters but most loved of all. From her youth, she gained appeal in noble courts not only for her delicate beauty, but also for her fine words. She settled disputes and calmed hearts when no other could. When it came time to marry, princes and noblemen arrived from far-off kingdoms to vie for her hand. They competed in jousting tournaments and suitors’ games, attending her father’s decision. The whole world seemed to be talking about her, and the buzz around her glorious name attracted the attention of older beings.
The ancient vampire lord, Vladimir Faustus, arrived in the dead of night to ask for her hand, not from her father, but from Helen herself. She was not so easily seduced and remained loyal to her father’s wishes for a political but agreeable marriage. Even so, he intrigued her, and with Vladimir’s beseeching, she agreed to meet him again before her father made his choice. Many times they met, and every time, she denied his proposal, but her heart grew fonder. He became her sole confidante, a comfort endeared to her and so unlike the many suitors she regaled in daylight.
One night, a servant stopped her on her way to their secret garden. Her father summoned her to meet the elven suitor he had chosen for her husband, Prince Corus of a rival country. Their marriage would mend ties long-frayed, but Prince Corus was known for his wrath and the treasury that came with it. Certainly, he was not the man Helen had entrusted her father to choose.
Everything happened fast after that. Helen departed with Prince Corus to his country for the wedding without any farewell to Vladimir. They were married, and it was much as she might have expected from an elf like Prince Corus. She slept through her days and walked the gardens at night to avoid her own husband. There, she would relive moments long gone. On the anniversary of her first meeting with Vladimir, she found she wasn’t the only one reliving the past.
Vladimir attended her in Prince Corus’ gardens and met her with lovely words just like before. For once, she had the proposal, and Vladimir obliged, whisking her away from Prince Corus just for one night. She knew to return come morning, all too familiar with the wrath her husband might turn against any he suspected complicit in her disappearance. When she left Vladimir, she commanded he never visit her again, and when she returned to Prince Corus, she was with child.
Carmilla grew in her mother’s stomach, a half-vampire. Prince Corus discovered the truth and resented his humiliation. It was only when Carmilla was born that he took the action he had so craved every time he looked upon his pregnant wife.
Word spread of the beautiful Helen’s passing, dead during delivery, and the infant daughter who followed soon after. Gifts of condolences arrived aplenty upon Prince Corus’ doorstep. The people assumed it was grief which drove him to wage war on vampire-kind, razing nests and covens throughout the lands in search of their lord, Vladimir Faustus. The people didn’t realize Prince Corus had suffocated his wife and sent the newborn Carmilla with his most trusted servant, Beor, to die by exposure along the riverbed. There, Carmilla cried under the discomfort of sunlight. She cried so loud and so long, she woke the ancient tree by the river.
The old cottonwood dryad, Chrysopeleia, took one look at Carmilla, and accepted her as her own. The tree nymph sheltered her from sunlight in the den formed by her roots. Maternal and gentle, Chrysopeleia took on the abandoned dhampir infant and reared her on the riverbed. When Carmilla cried under the light of day, Chrysopeleia calmed her with reassurances. The prettiest flowers bloom at night. She taught Carmilla to overcome the evil urges of her vampiric blood and to revel in the boons of nature as dryads do. She provided Carmilla with a comfortable life apart from civilization, knowing only each other for near two centuries.
One night, there came a terrible storm rolling in over the riverbank. The world darkened under black clouds when a strange creature caught Carmilla’s attention. The creature drew her away from the riverbed she called home, taking her farther than she had ever ventured from Chrysopeleia's tree. It was a black cat, but it spoke of patrons and witchcraft and called itself Yaga. When Yaga finally allowed Carmilla to touch her sleek fur, a spark blazed between them. In its wake, a bond had been forged, unbreakable and powerful.
When Carmilla returned to the riverbed with Yaga, the storm had raised the water, tearing over the bank and the old cottonwood alike. No matter how she dug into the bark of the fallen tree, she couldn’t pull Chrysopeleia from its trunk. The boughs drooped in the sludge of the flash flood, dead. And Carmilla was alone.
Yaga seized this moment of devastation and reared her clever head. She spoke of power, boons, and magic. Blood, madness, and chaos. All of it existed on the path ahead, should Carmilla take the first step. And so she did, returning to the city in which she had been born with no idea what history lay behind her birth, or what foes she had made only by surviving.