Story of Niima and Charl
Story of Niima and Charl is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.
The Story of Niima and Charl
Images of Niima go beyond the usual renderings in paintings and tapestries or statues and bas-reliefs. She adorns many ships, serving as a figurehead, in the belief that she will keep them safe from Charl’s storms. Tall tales and sea songs called “shanties” tell of her beauty, her appearances, and her rescues of shipwrecked souls.
Charl though is often used as a favorite villain of the seas when portrayed in murals and other pictorals, as well as in composed music, where funereal, somber moods are struck. Daring ship owners might put a stylized stormy figurehead of Charl with his trident on their bows, in the hopes that he’ll be appeased and allow them to traverse his seas without incident.
The Unnamed One, Charl’s wife and Niima’s mother, is seldom pictured, though when she is, her incomparable beauty is prominent, even though her image appears more in the background.
The Beginning: Charl and the Unnamed One
As the creation of Elanthia and all its sentient beings came to be, one of those beings was Charl. His strength was evident, noted by his ability to tame wild storms and gentle harsh weather, as he could not bear suffering of any kind, be it drought and starvation or flooding and disaster. In his appearance, he was devastatingly handsome, golden in both hair and complexion. He attracted more than his share of admiration from both men, who often looked up to him like an older brother, and women with an appreciation for his solid, muscular form.
That was, except for one woman. Fair and delicate, she was often overshadowed by others of her gender more vibrant, and made their presence better well known. Carrying a shy countenance as she performed her duties, she went largely unnoticed, save for hair the hue of mid-day sunlight, and a complexion as pale as the moon. She gracefully moved through a crowd like a gentle zephyr and wore a radiant smile often accompanied with a musical, lilting laugh, which filled those nearby with warmth. A glimpse of her brought hope and a sense of well-being to those who saw her, and she often assisted Imaera, sharing a love for life of all kinds. Charl noticed the woman, and when his attempts to befriend her were met with a bemused mien, followed by a quick slipping away, he grew intrigued.
His amorous gestures rebuked, Charl began to outright follow the woman, which only caused her to laugh and run quicker. Soon, in her presence, his breathing would be taxed, his words forgotten, and his duties often put aside. He took to stalking her amid the shadows, learning her path and patterns, patiently waiting for the right day. It did not go unnoticed by the other Arkati, who teased him at first, then watched with fascination themselves, as the infatuation grew.
One day, Charl was so distracted by the woman that he failed to notice a particularly nasty storm brewing near a small, coastal village. Instead, he was engaged in yet another furtive chase for the elusive maiden that had seized his heart. As lightning and thunder began to build, and the sea started its surge, she rushed towards the scene to do what she could to aid the residents. Just as she reached the edge of the forest near the threatened beach, Charl stepped into her path. So massive was his frame that she could not successfully dodge him. Several failed attempts reduced her to misery, as she could see the waters rise and begin to swamp the village. Panicked, she met his gaze finally and demanded he let her pass with such an uncharacteristic fierceness and anger that a connection forged between them, enough to make both shudder inside as their eyes met and held. She seized this internal fire and continued berating him for letting his distractions steer him from his responsibilities.
A loud clap of thunder caused her to jump towards him slightly, and Charl took advantage of this, pulling her into a light embrace. They stood there, frozen momentarily, in the pouring rain, the force of their attraction giving way to awkward discomfort. They moved apart and, just as suddenly the storm abated, its grey clouds giving way to shining light, and the receding sea returning to a calm state. The village was spared destruction.
From that point on, they were often inseparable and evidently happy in each other’s company. Rather than be concerned, the other Arkati were intrigued, as Charl and the fair woman were first among them to engage in an intimate relationship. Koar blessed their union, binding them to each other for all eternity, and shortly after, little Niima was born.
Niima: Early Life
Niima's early life might seem like an idealistic dream to us, and perhaps even she thought it was, given all that transpired since those first years. Memories of immense happiness and love were first, and then later often cut through the darkness of tragedy like a bladed ray of sunlight, only to dissipate when storm clouds gathered again.
She had two parents who were very much in love and shared that love with their daughter, during a time when drakes wheeled about in the sky, creating massive shadows across the land with their long wingspans. Niima sensed a special relationship between the drakes and her Arkati parents — Charl and the-name-left-unspoken — but was too young to fully understand it. Though many hours were spent in servitude to the drakes, joy in service and affection for the great beasts were evident to the child.
Two in particular were devoted to this Arkati family. Dusky blue scales with an iridescent patina covered the larger male, his back crested with twin rows of silvery spines; he was known as Wyan’Goethe. His drake partner was much smaller and more delicately hued, a female with scales of lavender-grey and, depending on the light, either pale like the dawn or jeweled like the sunset. Pier'Anthyia's crimson talons and single row of spines glowed with a rich sanguinity. The group of four -- adult Arkati and drakes – were constant companions, with little Niima doted on by them all.
Their idyllic existence often mixed with long moments of darkness, exile, and a great war – the peaceful relationship of the Arkati and the drakes disrupted by the invasion of the Ur-Daemon. Niima did not fully comprehend the scope of the devastation during the beginning of the incursion, protected as she was from much of the truth, at first by her parents, then by the other Arkati that were all sent to Liabo. Charl and his wife did much to give their daughter a sense of normalcy, but sadness and guarded whispers soon shadowed their lives.
One evening, at the apex of the night, the child heard her parents arguing, careful not to raise their voices overmuch, but the conviction on both sides was very strongly evident. Charl was vehement about obeying the wishes of their winged masters not to aid them, as he knew no other way to keep his family safe from the evil consuming their beautiful world. His wife was adamant that the Arkati should join forces with the drakes and render assistance. She was a fiercely brave woman with a strong sense of loyalty, pained by the increasing deaths of the drakes. Having bonded with the gentle Pier'Anthyia, Niima's mother grew more and more agitated with each report of dragonkind casualty.
At an impasse, Charl and his wife embraced and agreed to put aside their difference in favor of sleep. Soon all was quiet again, but tensions still crackled. By the time dawn's ghostly pall arrived, Charl was already raging, having awakened to find his wife gone. The other Arkati gathered quickly, trying to calm him and help find the spirited woman, but they were unsuccessful. It was Jastev the Soothsayer who foresaw the woman's attempt to reach Pier'anthyia and fight alongside the drakes, having convinced one of the younger winged beasts to transport her to the battle site.
There it is said that Charl's wife searched and finally found her beloved mistress engaged in drawing off some of the Ur-Daemon army, splitting their forces so that the other drakes had a tactical chance.
Calling out, she distracted the creature from her goal and left her vulnerable to attack. As Pier'Anthyia banked and swooped, to gather up the woman and bear her to safety, one Ur-Daemon rushed in from the opposite direction. Wheeling about, the Arkati saw the inevitable strike approaching and turned back, leaping up to grab the long neck of her beloved drake, taking the deadly thrust first before it passed through and penetrated the leathery hide of Pier'Anthyia's belly.
The two fell to the ground, dying simultaneously as they lay entangled, limb and wing, the humanoid hand slowly stroking the pebbly snout, tears from both commingling and forming a crystalline globe that glowed with a blue light. Wyan’Goethe arrived as quickly as he could, having dispatched his own Ur-Daemon pursuers, just in time to see his beloved and her servant take one last breath. The globe hummed at that moment with an eerie tone before it grew silent.
Grasping the body of the woman gently in his huge talons, Wyan’Goethe returned Charl's wife to Liabo, laying both body and globe before the mournful gathering of Arkati. It was the last time the drake would see the people that had so joyfully served him. Alas, he had his own grieving to do and he would see that through, before the Ur-Daemons claimed his life as well.
The loss of his beloved was too great for Charl, and his once shining and pleasant demeanor turned embittered and black. He gathered up the body of his wife, ignoring the attempts of comfort offered by the other Arkati, and when one of them spoke her name in prayer, Charl gathered the growing darkness around him, threatening that those who spoke her name would rue doing so again. From that time on, her name became less than a whisper, for it is said Charl could hear it from the farthest reaches.
Niima had watched the sad scene unfold, sensing it unwise to tempt her father’s ire, and only as the other Arkati moved off together to mourn after his departure did she come forward and, taking it up in both tiny hands, clasped the crystalline globe to her heart. The hum returned, increasing in volume and expanding the vibrancy of the pale blue light within, until the aura surrounded Niima before dissipating.
Myth says the teardrop vessel contained the essence of both Niima’s mother and the felled drake, Pier'Anthyia, passing special powers onto the child. Other stories say the child already had her own untested abilities, and that the globe merely carried the whispers of both mother and beast, encouraging the girl to keep the ideals of love and compassion prominent above the art of war.
Coming of Age
Charl wandered far from the encampment of the Liabo Arkati, barely tolerating Jastev's shadowing. Whenever he returned, a rainstorm would precede him. He fought to put aside his grief when near Niima, listening patiently to the child's excited babbling and relishing her affection, despite the ache it created in his heart. Sometimes the girl would sense that all she needed to do was embrace her father and sit quietly in his lap, letting the scents of storm and sea wash over her, as his mood changed from violent storm to a muted grey fog.
The War continued for an eon, yet in the age of an Arkati, it seemed like only a short time had passed. Driven back to their own plane, the Ur-Daemon were gone, but so were almost all of the drakes and several Arkati. It was now up to those who remained to heal Elanthia, and so they did, in each their own way. But Charl took the seas, as their untamed nature suited his dark moods and provided him way to continue to mourn.
Niima was still a young girl and not seen as one needing to pick up a responsibility. Yet, the young Arkati spent much of her time following the others around, watching, listening, learning, and of course, asking way too many questions, as children do.
She observed closely as Phoen, Imaera, and Lorminstra took up all that made the seasons unique, and was entranced by the magic a simple touch or step across a field would wield. Slowly she began to experiment, but with great caution, as the lesson of her mother's death due to rash action was still painful. She was most awed by the giantman that Imaera graced with immortality, watching Kuon lumber through forest and meadow, flowers springing up in the steps he'd taken.
Niima tried to think of what she could do that would add to the beauty of the planet and bring her closer to her father. Sitting by a small pond one afternoon, the young girl thought of her mother and the colorful dragonkind that she once knew. Her hand lightly trailed in the warm, clear water and the colors in her mind ran down through her fingertips. Spinning off in lacy swirls upon the surface, tendrils began to form into tiny, spine-finned shapes that leapt and dived playfully.
Niima was surprised at first, then elated. Brightly-hued fish in shades of orange, blue, and red danced in their new home. Wanting to proudly show her father what she had created, she raced off to find him, only to find herself standing upon a ravaged shore, watching his immense form guiding a storm-tossed sea.
This was not the loving, yet sad father she knew -- this creature was clad in blue and grey, his wild hair and beard of seaweed flying in the raging winds. A giant trident in his hands stirred the waves into frenzy, their white-capped tips foaming as they scaled higher and higher. The same dusky blue and silver scales that once adorned his companion drake now encased the lower half of his body. Niima's tears were lost in the sea as it splashed around her feet, threatening to knock her down and drag her into the current. Falling to her knees, she wept, cold and shivering, her prone form battered with each violent lap. Her pleas to Charl were swallowed up by the whine of the storm.
Soon the water was at her waist, her gown heavily weighted with the briny sea. She felt the sand give beneath her hands, slowly pulling away with the ebbing tide, and her silvery tears continued to come. A large tangle of seaweed brushed against her knees and she gripped it reflexively, like a lifeline. So lost in her despair, Niima did not notice that she no longer risked drowning, nor did her body feel the rage of the ocean.
Niima rose up above the tossing sea, dodging the cataclysm her father created. Two silvery dolphins were tethered to the length of ropey sea grass and Niima held the slick rein tightly with her hands, knees balanced along the backs of the sleek mammals. She circled around Charl, calling out to him until he stilled and saw his child riding the silvery creatures, then buried his face in his hands. Softly, Niima comforted him, watching as the storm died and the sea calmed. She did not chastise or scold, nor express her disappointment. Instead, she acknowledged his pain and shared her own grief, letting her oft-hidden tears run free. Charl watched as the tiny droplets of silver slipped into the sea and turned into a school of smaller dolphins. For that night, Charl remained at peace, and spent the rest of the evening in a better humor with his daughter. Niima knew it would not be lasting, for his grief and guilt still ran deep. But for the moment, it was enough.
Niima learned how to talk to waterborne creatures, and spent hours watching their playful tricks. The larger ones she could summon on command, mostly when she wished to find her father or just ride the waves for pleasure. The other Arkati would often see her clinging to the back of a single dolphin, or astride a brace of them, holding onto nothing more than a glistening rein of seaweed.
As she was often the only one, besides Koar, who could reason with her father, she bravely suffered his devastating storms. Honoring her mother's strength of spirit and calm demeanor, Niima could only attempt to balance the havoc resulting from her father's rancor, often rushing in to save those near-drowned by Charl. Compassionate, she would ride out to rescue the sailors that were aboard the ships that had become unwitting victims of the ocean's sudden rages. As she matured though, it was always the most handsome and young men that caught her eye and she would save them first.
Ever playful and mischievous, when the rescued would ask her who she was, she would respond that she was merely an apparition – a mirage induced by a play of light and shadow on the sea. Other times she would tease and say she was a sea nymph, before depositing them ashore and disappearing amid the dancing waves.
Niima continued the balance of adding beauty and joy to a scarred Elanith, alongside the other Arkati, while serving as her father’s keeper. She would often wade out to hip depth and slowly twirl and dance, fingers splayed, sending out vortexed ribbons of color that magically took form. Streams and rivers ran with flashes of brown, gold, and green as the scales of dark shapes frolicked in the rushing waters. Still pools of crystalline turquoise blossomed with colorful fish that mimicked the tropical blooms of the surrounding jungles.
The other Arkati were pleased with her contributions, and encouraging, but it was her father’s praise she longed to hear. Standing on high bluffs, rocky breakfronts, and battered shores, she’d sadly watch as Charl targeted unwitting ships for destruction. She’d learned not to try to stop him, for it could have even more disastrous results for the vessels. Instead, she would temper his rages with gentle song, soft words, and her faithful love. Slowly his anger lessened and the storms became less frequent, though the smashed monuments of his actions were scattered like skeletal remains upon the needle-like outcroppings and sandy spits along the shores.
When the first fishermen netted and killed her creations, she was naturally upset. This was her first inkling about the darker emotions her father often occupied, and Niima struggled not to succumb to them. Gradually she recognized the difference between those who hunted out of necessity for food (Brughan Halflings, for example), and those who indulged in slaughter. Niima formed a sad respect for gatherers, but the wasters discovered their numbers reduced as her rescues of them became fewer.
And so they were, much like the night and day, father dark and brooding, daughter light and full of laughter — a most odd pairing. Even when the tumultuous Charl was at peace with his troubled heart, Niima would walk the shores, watching over the sailors at sea. Long sunlit hair woven with garlands of tiny shells and eyes the hue of tempestuous oceans, her slender form was clad in a scaled gown of blue-green. Many of the shipwrecked took her to be an illusion — and a welcome one, when she would bear them safely back to shore. Sometimes, in the quiet of the night, she would silently ride alongside ships, finding amusement in the banter that the sailors indulged in about her.