Many years ago, I offered to run a PbEm (Play by Email) game of Call of Cthulhu for Corvys. The only catch? While we both understood (vaguely) the concept of cosmic horror, gritty role-playing and so on, neither of us knew the Call of Cthulhu system at all. I think we were both slightly aware that it was percentile rolling, but that was about it.
So we agreed to play the game in the World of Darkness system. We both knew it (Corvys far better than I), and it had a lot of elements that we thought would make for a good horror game.
We had a great time, even though the game was relatively short – it died in it’s infancy, as so many online games do. And I’d like to talk a bit about horror role-playing, and thought this would be a great place to start. So I’m taking a pack of the emails and posting them up here for perusal and fun. At the end of the series, I’ll start posting a few thoughts on horror role-playing.
This first post was technically not an email: it was the character backstory of the woman Corvys played. It was GM-written, which I think was very trusting of C, but I happened to know he had a fascination with fairies in mythologies, so I was fairly certain he’d love it.
And so, without further discussion or procrastination, might I present Miss Naomi Proteor:
Disclaimer: This was written many years ago, but the writing style has been preserved for the sake of posterity and my laziness.
Naomi Proteor: Character Backstory
Naomi Proteor was a normal 7-year old when she went playing with her brother Doug (8) in the garden one day. Her parents, normally quirky but good suburbanite working-class folk, had one failing: untidyness. This extended to their garden, which was overgrown with weeds, vines and untrimmed hedges, bushes and trees.
As they were exploring their 'jungle' world of a back garden with a 'sword' to clear away the brush (actually, a stick they found on the ground), they pushed aside what they assumed was a bush, only to find that it was a thin leafy covering over a mound. When they went in closer to examine it, several small, winged people emerged.
Their wings were beautiful, with large, brightly coloured shapes and blobs that changed as they flapped them. In a soft voice, the leader of the group (a woman by the shape of her tiny, naked body) asked the children who they were, and why they had disturbed their home.
Naomi was ecstatic! Fairies from her books, from her bedroom wallpaper, alive in her back garden! As she reached out a hand to offer her guest a place to sit. But as she reached out, Doug swung his 'sword' at them, declaring them to be 'evil bad guys' in his make-believe way. The stick caught the little woman hard, and sent her flying, broken, to the floor some meters away.
At this, the other two flying creatures emitted a ululation: “Elehi-li Elehi-li!”, it sounded almost like song, jingly and sweet, but their faces, contorted in rage, showed that it was no gesture of forgiveness.
Dozens, hundreds of the fairies emerged from various holes, about the size of a golf-ball, in the mound. As they all swooped towards Doug, they bared sharp, barbed teeth, and wielded wicked claws where fingers should have been. Naomi had been so excited about seeing them that these details had completely eluded her.
As the first landed on her brother's shoulder, he reached up and crushed it in his hand. They were about four inches high, and their bodies were not powerfully built – though even as he retracted his hand, Doug began to cry. As he opened his hand, palm up, Naomi could see his own blood streaming out from the tiny, sharpened skeleton that had pierced his palm in a dozen places.
Before he could do anything else, a dozen more had leapt upon him. With a morbid grace, the first took a mouthful of flesh from the side of his neck. Doug shrieked, and slapped it away. This one hopped away before his hand made contact, and his hand swung through fresh air.
A hundred tiny eyes turned to her, and stared. For a moment, the world was still. One bold figure approached her from the crowd. Another naked woman – most of them, she could see now, were male, and none were clothed. As it walked up, through the long grass that reached up to it's head, towards her bare feet, it held her gaze. It had a fierce look about it's eyes, and as it reached Naomi, it bared it's teeth and lunged at her foot.
Blood began to pour out of a series of minuscule puncture wounds on Naomi's foot before the pain began to set in. Agony, shooting up and down her right leg, like it was on fire one second and the next numb.
The stick caught the tiny attacker with as much vicious power as Doug's young frame could summon. His high-pitched bellow as he began to assault the wave of tiny fairies that descended upon him moments later still wakes Naomi today, crying for her brother who disappeared that day.
Limping away, feeling powerless and terrified, Naomi managed to get back to the house. Slamming the door shut, then hiding in the closet, she spent hours hunched in a catatonic ball before her parents found her.
They chastised her because she couldn't tell them were her brother was – she was to spend the day playing with him, and she had instead hidden in a closet to avoid playing his rough games. Days later, her parents changed from angry to curious – they had spent days and sleepless nights searching for her brother, and all she could say when they asked her about her brother was that 'the fairies took him'.
Naomi Proteor, Today
Years passed. Naomi, now 34, despite what psychologists might think, did not erase these memories, process them as childish fantasy, or forget all about her younger brother.
She isn't a quirky suburbanite, either. She is a ruthless tidier, and a damn excellent lawyer. Her steel-and-glass home is kept spotless, and she insisted upon purchase of the property that the garden be demolished, flattened, and built over with concrete. Her obsessiveness in regards to neatness goes to anti-social extents – when someone does not clean up after them, she will deride them for bringing chaos into the world that she lives in. Because of this, she has yet to find a man who will put up with her for long enough to become a lover.
She's intelligent, and stunning (in a severe way), but her childish insistence that fairies are real and murdered her brother means that Naomi will probably never be taken seriously by the world at large. Thankfully, her clients don't care about her personal life – her ruthless tidiness has lead to an excellent career in law. She takes cases that are convoluted and difficult, and tears through complications and technicalities with an almost violent glee. A partner in her firm at 32, she's gaining more respect with every case she takes.