A Game of Thrunes
A man who loves the city as a living thing, and regards his life within it one of symbiosis.
At 42 years of age, there is no hiding the lines on Gaian’s face, nor the hair which, while fortunately remaining thick, is now more grey than its original dark brown. Still, along with the deep frown lines gained from the hardships of his youth, the creases around his mouth and eyes speak of generally good humour, and certainly he has had more reasons to smile than frown in the last decade. And while he makes no attempt to hide his age, he does use small amounts of makeup to accentuate some of his features as he learned in his brief time in theatre; in the same way as performing on stage, he finds that a bit of eyeliner and the like allow him to more easily express facial expressions to his “audience” on his tours, and this improves engagement and connection, and usually the coins he receives at the end.
Gaian dresses in what he would term ‘modest finery’. While his clothing lacks the richness of that sported by the nobility, his chosen profession running tours of the city requires that he look like a “typical” citizen of Kintargo. To that end he dresses in Chelaxian fashion in colourful clothing of the best quality he can afford (which is more than he really could if not for the fact that he can use his divine magics to keep the one set of clothing in good condition rather than have to pay for mending or replacement). His usual outfit is of dark blue silk leggings tucked into fine black leather boots, with a matching blue doublet with bright yellow brocade, worn over a crisp white tunic. A mantle of bear fur covers his shoulders, with a heavy blue velvet cloak worn over the rest.
While he feels comfortable in the city of Kintargo, Gaian has spent enough time on the streets to know that some level of caution is always prudent. He wears a dagger in obvious show at his belt, with another tucked away in a boot.
Gaian also carries a wooden shaft, topped with a small flanged head. He uses this frequently during his tours, holding it up for silence or to be seen over a crowd, or to point at various attractions. While it seems to most of his tourists simply and affectation used for these purposes, anyone with exposure to weapons can recognise that it is in truth a light mace.
Gaian is a figure recognised by many of Kintargo’s inhabitants, particularly those who live or work around the sites where he takes his tours. After all, he has been enthusiastically showing visitors around the city for roughly 20 years; most performers in Aria Park have no knowledge of a time without the affable man bringing his groups to their domain. During these tours it is not unusual to see him gesturing wildly as he tells some tale of Kintargo’s history, or climbing partway up a building or landmark to point out some feature. Indeed, it is these shows of enthusiasm that set him apart from others of his profession, and on which he relies for his income. That is not to say though that Gaian is putting on this show only for the coin; he genuinely loves the city of Kintargo, and delights in sharing its wonders with others.
As well as his enthusiasm for the task, he is served well by skills he developed during his upbringing, a stint with a theatre school being in part responsible for the way in which he presents his tours. With a strong knowledge of many parts of the city being complemented by his ability to quickly fabricate a tale when caught out by an awkward question. A good study of people, he is adept at tailoring his “performance” to the crowd of the moment, particularly those who appear most likely to throw a few extra coins his way if well entertained.
Friends, Associates, and Companions
When not running his tours, Gaian is most likely to be found at Belor’s Beer Hall. Indeed, he finishes most tours there these days, generally bringing a strong lunchtime crowd to Titus’ establishment. In return, the tavernkeeper treats Gaian to free meals and drinks; it is the type of relationship Gaian has always keenly cultivated in running his tours, and grants him a more comfortable life than he would have on the coin his tourists pay alone. Despite the obvious benefit of the arrangement, and a respectful acquaintance with Titus, it is not in fact for Titus that Gaian began bringing his tours here. That reason is the friendship he has developed with the bard Pavo Quintiselle.
As with many of the people in his life, Gaian met Pavo during one of his tours. Prior to moving the completion of his tour to Belor’s, the guide would always finish up in Aria Park. The main reason for this was Gaian’s own love of theatre and performance, and the feeling that in some small way he could be part of that world. He learned early on that by choosing where exactly he positions his tour group and telling them of the “standard” contributions society expects when enjoying this entertainment, he can influence to a degree the success of performers. He does his best to ensure that the talented ones who need a little help to “make it” are thus the ones he pushes them toward. He saw Pavo as one of these people, recognising the man’s undoubted talent, and the fact that drumming and oratory were far less common than the run-of-the-mill lutenists and harpists one mostly saw. After leading groups to the half-elf for a while they used to chat regularly, becoming more friendly over time. Gaian even began inviting the bard to dinner at his home periodically. Once Pavo began performing at Belor’s Beer Hall, Gaian wished to continue to support him, ensuring that he pointed his groups in that direction when Pavo would be performing there, and over time this burgeoned into his current relationship with the proprietor’s establishment.
Outside of his tours, Gaian now spends several evenings most weeks at the establishment, sometimes with his family in tow. Initially this was because his daughter would beg him to take here there to watch Pavo perform, but after several visits his wife also came to enjoy the venue. As such, any regulars to Belor’s are familiar with the tour guide and his family.
Gaian has several other associates throughout the city, mostly those with whom he has established mutually beneficial relationships in the course of his tours, as well as some of his neighbours. He even has a contact in the Greens, although observers may wonder why he continues to regularly visit a clearly muddled elderly man whose days of influence have long since passed.
Gaian is always happy to chat to his friends, sharing his enthusiasm for the city with them. He particularly enjoys discussing new shows of all kinds, as well as his family and his rather eccentric passion for elven culture, but always avoids giving string opinions on politics or religion.
Gaian is very dedicated to his family, they being the only thing he loves more than his city.
The story of Gaian’s courtship of his wife Ereniel, whom he had met during his time at theatre school, is one he happily shares with close friends. That is not to say that their romance was one born within the walls of the theatre, as so often happens. In fact, she was barley a passing acquaintance of Gaian’s during that time, her passion being in costume design rather than performace, and Gaian’s own dedication to his studies being casual at best. However, during the early years of running his tours Gaian came into contact with Ereniel several times. She now made a modest living making elven-themed props for minor theatre companies (she hoped one day to be in the employ of a major company, but had no luck with that to date) and had a small workshop in Redroof. Gaian later was to discover that she owned both the workshop and the small residence above, having inherited a sum of gold from the passing of a relative. Initially it seemed their paths crossed at random, but later that contact was deliberate on Gaian’s part as he pursued the lovely elf; Gaian had been interested in elves and their culture since childhood, and that as well as his being a young man with a young man’s usual desires made her intriguing. He had been persistent and enthusiastic in courting her, and despite her station being a little higher than that of family Vespinus, who had fallen on hard times following the uprising several generations ago, he eventually won her over and they married. While Gaian runs his tours, Ereniel continues to make her elven props and costumesfrom the workshop below our home, having a collection of genuine, original elven weapons, clothes, and items on which to base her work. This also gives Gaian great joy, and he spends much time with her while she works indulging his fascination with the elven items she has.
Gaian and Ereniel now have three children; their daughter, 12-year-old Raiia, and their two sons, Alaost and Revin, aged 7 and 3. Gaian’s relationship with his daughter is particularly close, and so far has managed to remain so despite the increasing awkwardness of her age. Raiia is keen for a career in theatre herself, and while a keen student her parents have pushed the focus of her studies toward other areas, knowing how difficult it is to succeed in the industry. Despite this, Raiia undoubtedly has some talent in entertainment. And so, while agreeing with Ereniel that there will be time for her to develop this later, Gaian on occasion does not walk his daughter directly to school. Instead, and unbeknownst to his wife, he takes her on his tours, or rather, stands in the back ground while she takes his tours. Aside from giving her an outlet for her theatrical talents, her tours often bring in a few more coins than his own. Interestingly, Gaian has forgotten that in fact it was Raiia, not he, that first took his tour group to see Pavo when finishing at Aria Park, the bard’s first performance happening to coincide with one of the days she was running it. Even if he did recall that, he no doubt would proudly point out the girl’s ability to identify talent when he heard it. Never would he consider that his daughter was old enough to begin becoming interested in men, no matter how innocently. And in addition to his talent and innate charisma, the nature of Pavo’s mixed race heritage would have obvious appeal to a girl of similar birth searching for her own place in the world. But despite his usual good awareness of people’s motivations, in this he was blinded by a combination of his adoration for his daughter and her own acting talents, and thus remains ignorant of how his friendship with the bard was truly built, or the fact that Raiia’s desire to see him perform was born of anything but appreciation of his performance and a desire to become more “adult” by going out of an evening.
The Real Gaian Vespinus
While the version of himself he portrays to the world is true enough, there is far more to the story of Gaian than his vague descriptions of his background involve. He carries many secrets and scars, but he has never spoken of them even to his family, as much to protect his them as himself.
Perhaps the least of these, at least to his own mind, is the fact that Gaian Vespinus does not, in fact, exist. The Vespinus name was a fabrication of Gaian’s own creation, a device concocted entirely to make him more socially appealing to Ereniel. He had forged documents of ancestors going back to the civil war to establish this identity; a couple of generations was easy enough to invent believably, and who would be surprised if anything pertaining to his family beforehand had been lost during the unrest? The trick, of course, had been to make it believable, and so he had kept his station below that of his future wife, but far closer to it than was the truth for the former street-dweller.
Of course, he did carry a greater social position, or at least would have done in different times or a different place. For how does one identify the social standing of a priest, when that priest if of an outlawed religion, and he himself does not know anyone else who follows it, nevermind whether his peers know of him? Such was the unsurety of following Calistria in modern Cheliax.
Gaian was born in the city of Kintargo to parents who were members of Calistria’s clergy. As a child they moved around regularly within the city, presumably due to the risks inherent in following their outlawed religion. This could range from living on the streets for short times, to staying in wealthy estates, to the more usual very small abode in some out-of-the-way place. Gaian was naturally indoctrinated into the worship of the Lady in the Room, despite knowing of no organised following of the Goddess. The only priest of hers he knew of outside of his parents, or at least suspected to be so, was an old elf who used to visit every now and again, often soon before the family moved.
Life was unusual for the young Gaian. One or both parents were away most days, and sometimes he wouldn’t see one or the other for extended periods. He never knew what specifically they were doing, but he had little doubt they were serving the Goddess in some way in the shadows. As a child Gaian always had faith that their situation would soon change, and all the moving and suchlike seemed more a game to him than anything. He remembers his parents often speaking of the fact that it likely wouldn’t be long before they could come out of the shadows and be in strong positions within a re-established Calistrian church. They had found it amusing that the House of Satin Veils had become Abadar’s House of Golden Veils when the Thrunes had won the civil war and outlawed Caistria’s worship; clearly this was in fact a ploy of the goddess herself. There was no way that Abadar’s clergy would have learned all of the hidden ways in and under the templeand when the time came Calistria’s worshippers would be able to walk in and help themselves to the wealth of Abadar’s followers to aid them in their vengeance. Unfortunately, the triumphant return never occurred, and at age 10 Gaian’s life would begin to spiral downward and out of his control.
It started with his mother becoming ill, and passing away after only a short period of time. This was a terrible blow for the boy, but seemed to have a worse impact on his father, who became far more negative, losing his sense of humour and becoming increasingly frustrated by having to serve his cause in secret. He would often curse angrily, and voice the opinion that if we had been living in the Temple, as by rights we should have, my mother never would have met the fate she did. He was home less often, rarely being gone for less than two or three days at a time. Then, one day, he didn’t return. Given his increasingly anti-Thrune attitudes, and the fact that Calistria’s worship remained outlawed, it seemed likely that he had run afoul of the city’s rulers. Gaian subsequently spent several months searching for some sign of his father, but found nothing. With no guidance coming his way, he was somewhat at a loss for what to do, and ended up on the streets as there was nobody paying the rent on his meagre accommodation.
Gaian managed to survive on the streets through his early teens; fortunately his grounding in the teachings of Calistria, mistress of Trickery, Lust, and Revenge, was useful in such an environment. He did anything and everything he needed to survive, and while he was managing enough food, drink, and shelter to live, he was smart enough to notice that those practicing these sorts of trades did not seem to live long. He decided he needed to ply his skills in different ways.
It was thus that Gaian began putting on solo performances of parts of famous plays for tourists, mostly in Jarvis End, rather than thieving, begging, or prostituting himself. While he wasn’t as naturally talented at performance as some, it was enough to put some coins in his pocket. One day while doing this, a clearly wealthy but artistically uninformed passerby decided to sponsor Gaian to attend a small college for performing arts in Villegre. This included his accommodation, meals etc, and allowed him to get off the streets, and to try to forget some of the things he’d had to do in the past. Unfortunately he spent that year indulging his new comfort rather than trying to make the most of the opportunity. At the end of the year he had not done enough to earn any further such patronage, nor was he good enough to make a living at this. Thus he returned to the streets, but performing his marginally improved plays rather than the more seedy professions, he went.
While making his modest (at best) living doing this, Gaian was often approached by visitors to the city with questions about landmarks, local customs, and the like. Given an idea from this, he put what little coin he had aside into some more impressive clothing, and began running city tours. He used the interesting knowledge and insights into the city that he had gained living on the streets, and was quite adept at inventing things when required. His tours became increasingly popular, and soon he had a regular enough income to rent a small room on an ongoing basis and never fear being hungry. The small amount of divine magic granted to Gaian in his continued secret worship of Calistria aided in his success, whether by giving him a little more luck, allowing him to disguise himself effectively to gain information he’d not otherwise have access to, or simply allowing him to keep his clothes in a good state of repair. It sometimes feels to Gaian like the only boon from his service to his Goddess; he still has no involvement with anyone else of her clergy here, doesn’t actually know how to contact anyone, or know if any of them know about him. And while this is probably for the best as far as safety for he and his family go, it frustrates Gaian nonetheless. Any visions he had had of a certain old elf walking up to him one day with a new sense of purpose have long faded, and such an overture would nowadays prove unwelcome.
Gaian’s efforts at shutting out the worst memories from his childhood have been successful, and indeed this has allowed him to develop the love of the city that he has today, this great city that allowed him to raise himself from its streets to his current enjoyable life. He does know there must have been some rough times over those years, and finds it a little odd that he remembers so little, but he can conjure nothing but a vague sense of unease if I try to recall anything from that time. It is as if those memories have been locked away from his consciousness, or belong to another person.
Attitudes and Opinions
Consider your views on:
Social classes: like elsewhere, Kintargo has upper, middle and lower classes, each divided by various sub-classes (nobles, gentry, merchants, working, homeless, etc).
Gaian has no particular issues with social classes, as long as people are able to move up and down within them based on actions or ability. In practice the upper echelons are unlikely to be reachable by those of lower birth, and those of the nobility that would oppose others of lower station rising, or would protect their own in spite of their poor actions, he regards poorly. However, if someone is homeless because they have no interest in making the effort to help themselves, he’s happy for them to stay that way. Gaian made his way up from the street, others should be able to do the same if they are worth more. Of course, sometimes there has been no opportunity for such self-advancement, and if he thought someone simply needed a little initial help and would then be able to make something of themselves he’d be happy to give a little help where he could. Of course, Gaian has also forgotten the worst aspects of his life on the street, and as such has a slightly distorted view of how his life progressed. More concerning at present though is that merit is determined within the framework of an oppressive rulership with set ideals to which everyone must pay homage, and thus those that do move across social stations do so by their actions relative to House Thrune rather than to the city of Kintargo.
House Thrune: the official government of Cheliax, ruled by Her Infernal Majestrix, Queen Abrogail II, has brought peace and stability to the land, but also its infernal religion as well as somewhat oppressive methods.
Any love Gaian may have had for House Thrune has never been allowed to flourish due to the outlawing of his religion. While of course this occurred before his birth, and he could have chosen not to follow that religion (difficult though that would have been with his upbringing), the fact of it remains. And in general, as above, he believes in station based on merit, something he still believes the city offers to a degree in spite of the Thrunes.
On a more personal level, Gaian holds House Thrune complicit in the deaths of his parents to varying degrees), and his own situation living on the streets. While Gaian has never lived in Kintargo while not under the rule of House Thrune, he is confident the city would be better off without them.
The Asmodean Church: The followers of the Prince of Hell preach that the strong should rule the weak. Everyone at least pays lip service to the church.
Gaian wouldn’t have too much issue with the Asmodean belief of the strong ruling the weak, were it not for the fact that they have self-determined that they are the “strong”. As long as there is an opportunity for others to become “strong” (whether intellectually, financially, through physical might etc) he’d be fine with it. However, when the situation is one of crushing everyone else down to ensure no threat to the status quo, he finds it distasteful.
Of course, knowing this is the case, he wouldn’t be foolish enough to openly make an issue of this; far better to build strength in secret, so they are unaware of until ready to challenge. If one were inclined toward such things, of course. Gaian have a family to think of, and has found his way to live within Asmodean rule (while of course worshipping Calistria in secret).
Other religions: despite the government’s promotion of diabolism, most of the major gods remain popular, but many religious groups operate clandestinely.
Gaian wisely practices his worship of Calistria in secret, and has done his best to ensure that nobody, especially his family, know of his standing with the Lady in the Room. There is a very small shrine in his home to Asmodeus, which he and his wife agreed to put in place for the sake of appearances, though neither of them subscribe to his teachings. Gaian does, however, use the shrine to secretly pray to his goddess, thinking that it would amuse her for him to do so, and to his mind the small, crude winged statue represents one of Calistria’s winged servants rather than a denizen of Hell.
Gaian has little interest in other religions. He is far from happy with the servants of Abadar for having accepted the former House of Satin Veils as their temple when the Thrunes took control, but is sensible enough to realise that they would have been foolish not to do so, and it would have made no difference to Calistria’s worship regardless. He is no longer sure of his father’s stories about secret ways into the temple only known by the Calistrians, but it certainly seems feasible. And in that case it may yet prove to be advantageous that the building was repurposed as it was.
Slavery: although technically legal in Kintargo, the freedom-loving people of the city frown upon slavery and those that keep slaves do so quietly.
Gaian has mixed views on slavery. A set period of indentured service for breaking a law he has no issue with, provided of course it is a law with which he agrees, and the punishment does not seem excessive. However, he strongly believes nobody should be born a slave, not should slavery result from circumstances beyond their control, due to his belief in meritocracy. He would not be against aiding a slave he felt was being blocked from reaching some great potential if he felt certain he could do so safely.