A few days ago Matty challenged me, the idea being that we would both write a back story for Rona Greenteeth. Her take on one of the Darkmoon Faire’s more interesting characters can be found here. Mine is below:
“And that’s how I wound up here”, the Nightelf paused, taking another mouthful of cheap beer. Her silvered eyes glittered like searchlights as she raked the rest of the group with her gaze, “come on, cowards, who is next?” No one moved, arms clasped around knees, faces impassive in the shadows, the motley collection of orphans and thieves which comprised the company of the Darkmoon Faire sat in silence. “Rona…. what about you, come closer to the fire and tell us your story”. Caught just outside the circle of bodies, the Undead froze. Scenting safety in numbers, the rest turned, encouraging, pulling her towards the firelight.
“I don’t know what to say. I don’t have a story… I don’t have a life outside the Faire”.
“Start at the beginning”, the Nightelf said, her voice tinged with mockery, “Here, I’ll begin for you…. Once upon a time there was a little girl called Rona”, her voice trailed off leaving a pause filled by nothing but the crackle of the burning logs and faint hiss of glowflies.
“Once upon a time there was a little girl called Rona who lived by a pond with her mother and sister. Every night, we’d come home from school and lie in the moonlight, our fingers trailing through the water. Distorting the reflections, rippling them til they looked three weeks drowned. Jenny, my sister, she loved the water even more than I did. It was almost impossible to tell what was waterweeds and what was her long hair streaming through the glistening and glittering water”. Rona sighed, her mind drifting back through the long damp years. “When we hit 12 or so, everything changed. I wanted to spend time with my friends, not to suffocate in the weeds and water with just my mother and my sister for company. Jenny though, she got more and more obsessed with the pond. Said it talked to her, promised her things, wanted things. It’s weeds were like fingers, always touching, always prodding. We managed though, we were a family at least …. until the children started to go missing”.
“Oh no, you can’t stop there. It’s starting to get interesting”.
“I’ll tell it at my pace or not at all”, Rona straightened her bony back and took the proffered bottle. “That summer was a frightening one. No more drifting home from school across the fields, no more lingering in the lanes or dawdling beneath the laden apple trees. They talked of monsters who walked the roads disguised as men and of things which are not quite as they appear to be. They planted briarthorn to keep away evil and hung wreaths of flowering garlic above the lintels and yet still the children vanished. My friend Lucy, she was the last to go missing. Lucy with her red plaits and easy grin, freckles melting into freckles. One minute she was there, laughing, her scarlet satchel swinging behind her and next …. nothing at all. Just an empty space. With hindsight though, I think I always knew. They’d almost got it right with their talk of disguises and masks. When you stare into a mirror whether that’s glass or freezing water, that’s not quite your face you see. It’s altered, subtly perhaps but still we see what we want to see. The good sister, the gentle sister, not what lurks underneath like weeds ready to drown you in the cold truth”.
Rona bit her lip and took a gulp of the burning liquid. “I couldn’t sleep the night Lucy disappeared. I tossed and turned for what seemed like hours but the air was thick, suffocating. I needed fresh air, a cool breeze on my face, to run my fingers through the pond water. Lying in the bullrushes, I heard them arguing. My mother berating Jenny, telling her to control herself, to be reasonable rather than choosing those too close to home. Jenny, yelling back, telling her that the waters couldn’t be denied. All to a soft soundtrack of lapping water. Peeking through the weeds, I saw them carrying a satchel back into the house and in that moment, my childhood sank in those black waters”.
The fire had burnt low, bodies were huddled closer now both for warmth and to ensure they heard every word.
“What I did next, I’ve regretted ever since. I had to know you see. I dived down into the depths, to where the weeds twisted like hangman’s ropes and even the fish darted in shoals rather than linger alone. I found her, laid out like a Queen. A coronet of sweet reed grass twisted in her hair and a bridal bouquet of stranglekelp clasped in her cold dead hands. She wasn’t alone though, oh, no my best friend Lucy would never be alone again, guarded as she was by six skeletons, one for each of the other missing children, their bones picked white by passing fish and water rats. Anger grasped at my heart with it’s long bony fingers, powering me through the water and then speeding me through the lanes to the town, barefoot and soaking in my heavy gown. At first they didn’t understand. Evil isn’t the neighbour, the girl you taught to read doesn’t steal your child away, the woman who makes your winter coat isn’t a murderess but truth is like a stone, it has a habit of shattering the accepted into tiny fragments, which when put back together show not the reflection but the reality.”
A sigh ran through the ensembled group.
“They burnt them, my mother and sister both. There by the pond and with each gust through the trees, the wind sounded like children laughing.”
Rona’s last words were punctuated by the fire breathing it’s last and as she stopped talking, the embers glowed red once before collapsing into black dust. “Oh no you don’t. What happened next?”, the Nightelf’s tone was indignant. “I told the whole story, an entire skeleton from my cupboard if you will, not just a finger bone’s worth”. Rona gave what passed for a wintry smile, “Patience my dear, patience. I thought you Elves were meant to have that in spades. Tomorrow night perhaps, when the wolves howl in the forest and the fire burns hot like my sister’s pyre, then I’ll tell you what happened next”. With that, the old woman rose and walked back into the shadows, leaving her audience gazing open mouthed after her.
Perhaps there is more or maybe Rona is just the Undead version of Scheherazade, desperate not to be thrown to the worgs. Only time will tell.