Lissa was my very first Player Character (PC) – created for Neil Fraser’s Tharamaylor Campaign in the summer of 1984. In this campaign, she was a young apprentice mage on the run from her master, the wizard Zatarn.

In my Dungeons & Dragons campaign, Lissa is a Thyatian Mage, a member of the Magician’s Guild of Specularum and of the Church of Karameikos. She is the only daughter of Baroness Marianna (deceased) and Baron Phillip Vorloi, and is referred to as the “Rose of Vorloi”.

Lissa’s familiar is a female peregrine falcon named Talisman.


Background (Tharamaylor)

(one of my first creative writing efforts, nearly as old as I am, so be gentle)

Born in Roldin to the wealthy merchant Thomas Medici and his beautiful wife Rebecca. The younger sister of her father’s only son Tauron, sole heir to Thomas’ trading concerns (silk and fine textiles, spices, tobacco, wines, art, tapestries, treasures, jewels, hand-woven rugs, and master crafted furniture). Educated by priests (with her brother) in art, literature and natural sciences after acquiring the skills of reading, writing, and basic mathematics.

Lissa’s musical education was by a talented musician hired as a private tutor by her father. Lissa’s mother taught her the social graces befitting a young lady of her station, while Tauron taught her to fish, hunt small game and survive in the lands outside their home. Turon had no other brothers and few friends, so Lissa was his companion on his expeditions, much to her mother’s despair.

At 13 Lissa was betrothed to Stefan, the youngest son of a business associate and close personal friend of her father’s. Stephan’s father was also a successful merchant (although rumored to be a black marketeer and a member of a secret society dedicated to the overthrow of the ruling Prince in favor of the more radical faction of the merchant’s guild).

At 15 Lissa attracted the attention of a traveler who had come to examine scrolls and ceremonial daggers obtained illegally by her father for quiet resale to the highest bidder. The traveler was a powerful wizard who had come to examine the magical scrolls discovered in the caverns in the neighboring mountains. The wizard pretended to be impressed by Lissa’s brother Tauron and offered to take him on as an apprentice, knowing that Thomas would refuse, as Tauron was his only son and had a business to inherit.

The wizard then offered to take Lissa, as if she was half as clever as her brother, she would make an excellent magic user. Thomas and Rebecca decided this was a fine opportunity for their lovely young daughter and agreed to let her go, little knowing that they were under the wizard’s influence at the time.

Lissa returned with the wizard to his fortress in the mountains and became his apprentice, studying the arts of magic, alchemy, and astronomy, as well as the abilities of the mind in healing, ESP, clairvoyance, and telekinesis. To the wizard’s surprise, Lissa was intelligent, perceptive and quick to learn what he taught her. She became adept at any form of magic he cared to teach her, and their mutual fascination with things magical was the one thing that the wizard hoped to use to bind Lissa to him. He wanted her to eventually become his mistress, a challenge for his mind and a match for his considerable talents in magic and in bed.

Zatarn had found Lissa when she was barely out of childhood, had seen the promise in her face, her body and her mind and had decided to teach her the things he required in a mistress, starting with her magical abilities and then, when she was older, moving on to other arts. Zatarn had decided against simply charming Lissa with one of his spells, that would have been too easy. He wanted Lissa to come to him of her own free will, that being the sign of a conquest made with skills sensual, not skills magical.

As Lissa was too young when she first met Zatarn to understand his interest in her, and then too trusting to suspect, she completely overlooked this aspect of her relationship with her mentor. As each year passed Lissa yearned only for Stefan, and her short and infrequent visits home only made the pain of her separation from him more acute. The romantic love of her childhood had grown into a young man of exceeding good looks and considerable daring, having joined the Prince’s light horse cavalry and acquitted himself well in a number of border skirmishes. It was rumored he would become Captain at a very young age due to his courage and abilities, already displayed in the field.

Their parents had decided to postpone Lissa and Stefan’s wedding until Zatarn released Lissa from her apprenticeship, knowing full well the strain that distance would become in any new marriage. So, as Lissa approached the end of her fourth year with Zatarn she filled her days with lessons in the fantastic from her favorite uncle, her trusted friend, her only real companion, her guide and mentor Zatarn, and she filled her nights with dreams of Stefan, her first and only love, her knight in shining armor and her husband and lover to be.

At 19 Lissa’s situation changed dramatically. One evening after dinner Lissa and Zatarn were sitting in his study warming themselves near an open fire. Lissa was trying to make sense of yet another lot of arcane scribblings from an old crumbling parchment, while Zatarn was sipping the last of a few too many glasses of wine. Looking at Lissa in the glowing firelight, Zatarn decided that the time was ripe to begin another set of entirely different lessons. The combined heat of the fire, the wine, and his passion had finally driven Zatarn past his limits of patience and into the realms of his desires.

He very carefully placed his glass on the small table by his chair, too close to the rounded edge, not that he noticed, and walked towards Lissa. He bent over her, grabbed her roughly by the shoulders, dragged her to her feet and into a heated and passionate kiss. If Zatarn had been Stefan he would have met more than his match in heated passion and unquenchable desires, but he wasn’t. He was the man who had been Lissa’s surrogate father for the last four years, her mentor and the last person she would have expected to betray her like this.

At that moment the unbalanced glass toppled to the floor and broke with an explosive shattering of glass fragments halfway across the room. Zatarn, momentarily startled, let go of Lissa and took a step toward the noise. Astonished and angry, Lissa struck Zatarn across the face, then fled the room. Hoping to put as large an obstacle between herself and Zatarn as she could manage, she locked herself in the central hall behind two of the thickest solid wooden doors in the fortress. Knowing that any magical barrier she put up would be immediately torn down by Zatarn, Lissa waited behind the closed and bolted wooden doors with the slim hope that Zatarn might not find her in the hall.

A sudden flash of blinding light and a wave of intense heat and power knocked Lissa to the floor. When she stood up and opened her eyes again Zatarn was standing on the other side of a pile of glowing embers and molten metal, his fists clenched, his eyes blazing and Lissa’s handprint red against the side of his face. He stepped over the smoldering ruins of the hall doors and advanced towards Lissa.

“After all I have done for you, all that I have taught you, the patience I have shown toward you, this is my reward.”

“How can you do this to me? For four years I loved you like a father, trusted you, admired you, how dare you do this to me.”

“It’s not half as bad as what I’m going to do to you.”

Zatarn stopped and closed his eyes, his rage appeared to subside and he grew calmer. Lissa trembled, recognizing the calm before the storm, the eye of the cyclone. Then he said very quietly, almost to himself, “help me with this one thing, and I’m yours forever.”

There was silence in the hall. Lissa dared a breath. Zatarn opened his eyes. The stranger that looked through them was black, cold and heartless. Lissa almost fainted. The strange black eyes in the familiar face glanced along the paintings on either side of the hall. They rested on the painting of a falcon in flight, a peregrine falcon. Lissa had loved that painting from the first moment she saw it. Looking at the falcon always stirred her heart. As if he could read her thoughts, the stranger smiled slyly with Zatarn’s lips.

“Well, my flighty young thing, where will you go now?”

And with that, he raised his hands and without touching Lissa he pushed her through gates of fire and pain, into pits of blackness.

Time passed. The blackness receded. Pale light filtered through Lissa’s opening eyelids. The floor became a hard, cold surface beneath her body. The pain had gone, or was it just beginning again? Lissa floundered into consciousness and became aware of Zatarn’s body lying crumpled not far from her. He appeared to be dead. Lissa hoped he was and tried to concentrate on the weight that was pushing into her back, pushing her into the floor. Her bare legs, arms, and shoulders were cold but her torso was warm. So was her back. Lissa tried to sit up, but something heavy attached to her back prevented her from sitting up on the floor. Somehow it hurt as if something was bending the wrong way, like fingers.

She tried standing up by dragging her feet under her. That she managed, but the weight on her back was difficult to counterbalance. Out of the corners of her eyes, she saw shadowy shapes on either side of her, and the light coming from the hallway through the ruined doors cast Lissa’s shadow on the wall before her. A chill of recognition reached her soul and she looked upward at the painting of the proud and beautiful peregrine. No, not this. Lissa wished it was her lying dead on the floor, not Zatarn. Deep within she knew there could be no magic strong enough to undo this travesty of nature, none but the caster could undo the spell. Lissa never wished to meet that particular spell caster again.

She looked down at herself. The feathers began just above the contours of her breasts and ended just below the curves of her hips. The wings were the worst part. They made her shadow taller than any person she had ever met, taller than Tauron, her father or Stefan. Stefan.

He could never love her like this. What man alive would want to hold this thing, to encircle it with his arms in a warm bed on a cold night, to whisper that he loved it? What parents would point to it and say that it was their beloved daughter? What brother would take it hunting and stop and show it how to make pan pipes out of hollow reeds? Lissa collapsed on the cold stone in despair, her sobbing threatened to tear her apart and the pain began anew.

Zatarn’s moan of pain startled her into silence. The efforts of his magic and his contact with the dark stranger had rendered him unconscious, not dead as Lissa had thought. She had to flee the fortress before Zatarn mustered his magical powers again and continued his revenge on her. She crept quietly past Zatarn, out of the hall and down to her room. Here she picked up her traveling pack and half filled it with clothes, although what use these garments would be to her now, she did not know. She took a blanket from her bed and went downstairs to the kitchens. The servants were asleep in their rooms behind the kitchens, so Lissa stealthily took some food and filled a small water bag with water from one of the barrels.

As she was placing the food and water in her pack she thought of how she might have some small measure of revenge against Zatarn. Nothing that she could do to him could possibly even the score and she was still too weak and unfamiliar with her new body to attempt any spellcasting of her own. However, in Zatarn’s study were a number of magical items that may be of use to her in the future, especially an amber stone that Zatarn prized above all his possessions. Lissa had no idea of what the stone was used for, or of its origins or how the stone came to be in Zatarn’s hands, but she knew its loss would pain him greatly.

Lissa hoped to be well on her way to some hidden part of the world, far away from prying eyes before Zatarn could organize his troops and follow her. She went back up to the study and took a potion of longevity, a scroll of protection against lycanthropes and a ring of protection. The scroll pleased her as she now had protection from the howling creatures of the night that Tauron used to tell her about when they shared the warmth and light of their campfires. Lissa lifted the amber stone from its velvet casket and began to feel a little calmer, and a little more confident about her chances of surviving her current situation.

She put the stone in her pack and went downstairs to the courtyard. The sentry on duty was asleep at his post, snoring loudly when Lissa slipped past. At his feet was his sword and shield, a half-empty bottle and his bracers, which he had removed so that he could fold his arms comfortably while he slept. Lissa returned and took the bracers. The sword and shield would have only been encumbrances, and Lissa was not trained in their use, so she left them at the feet of the sleeping sentry. She slipped through the entrance to the fortress and then turned south. Lissa had decided to go south as this was the opposite direction to that which would have taken her home, as she was never going back there until the curse upon her body had been lifted.

Some weeks later far to the south of Zatarn’s fortress, Lissa was sharpening her skills at felling rabbits with the sling she had made. She used pebbles from the ground and her sling to hit the rabbits in the head, killing them instantly. She then gutted them and roasted them over a small fire. This satisfying conclusion to her hunting was achieved only after an exercise in patience and forbearance while she crouched quietly in the shadows and waited for her quarry to emerge from its warren.

This day was going to be a little different. Suddenly a dark shape sped towards the warren, just barely clearing the ground. The talon’s of a peregrine falcon reached out and snatched Lissa’s meal from within inches of the safety of its home, and then the bird flew off, disappearing between the trees. Lissa was stunned by the beauty, the power and the effortless grace of the bird of prey that was the inspiration for her own wretched condition. The physical torture of her transformation and the emotional instability she had since suffered had played havoc with her abilities as a magic user, but now she calmed her mind, relaxed her body and began to concentrate on the falcon.

She could see it in her mind’s eye, skimming the treetops with its dead prey still clutched within its claws. Lissa reached out with her mind and her heart and found her familiar, her Talisman, and she was no longer alone. Talisman returned to Lissa and dropped the dead rabbit at her feet, and then landed on the ground a few feet from where Lissa stood. Lissa walked over, squatted down and began stroking Talisman gently on the chest, feeling the warmth of her feathers and watching her dark eyes. Talisman climbed onto Lissa’s arm which was protected from her talons by one of the sentry’s stolen bracers, and with her other hand Lissa picked up the rabbit, and then she walked toward a small clearing between the trees.

Lissa put the rabbit down on the ground at the center of the clearing and gathered wood and dry leaves for a fire. All the time Talisman was perched on her outstretched arm, watching her intently. With the success of her find familiar spell raising her confidence in her returning strength of mind, Lissa decided to try a more difficult but far more spectacular method of lighting fires than the friction and dry leaves method that Tauron had taught her. She raised her arm and pointed at the pile of twigs and dry leaves on the ground, and the flame that leaped from her fingertip ignited the leaves.

The small rabbit shared mouthful by mouthful with Talisman was the best meal Lissa had ever had. She complimented Talisman on the excellence of her company for dinner, and Talisman complimented Lissa on her fire making, even if it meant that the meat was a little too well done for her tastes.