Character Profile: Zoorja
The cracking of a log in the flames in the inn’s hearth wake Zoorja, and her eyes blink open. She cannot remember falling asleep, and looks around the common room to try to spark her memory. The room is mostly empty, though Luigi is behind the counter, doing something out of sight. She glances down at her lap and sees that she has held onto the glaive that Dagoth shoved in her hand the night before.
She can feel it humming against her palm, the gentle wordless-voice calling to her soul, calling itself hers, whispering its name in her heart. She speaks its Loxodonian name in a quiet whisper–“Heartsoul”–and the blade sparks to life, pure white light pouring from the metal and beating back the shadows of the early morning. After a moment, she speaks the name again, and the light fades, softening to nothing as the blade returns to rest.
The door of the inn opens at her back, and a cold gust of wind draws her attention to the entrance. Three large figures duck their heads to enter, and her muscles tense seconds before the breeze carries the scent of her kind to her trunk. On instinct, she stands and turns to see them better.
“Mat’Selesnya be with you, Friends,” she says into the quiet.
“And with you, Child,” one of them says. “Walk with us.”
Behind them, the door remains open, the landscape beyond different from the one through which they’d entered the night before. It resembles the land of her birth, the Crystalsands Tundra, and though the windows in other walls of the inn show sunrise approaching, the sky beyond the strangers is riven with stars.
A creaking on the stairs, and Zoorja sees Venhana come into the common room, seeking breakfast. The ranger glances at the strangers, then back to Zoorja, one eyebrow raised in question. She says nothing, however, as Zoorja nods in ascent to the strangers, knowing she owes them the same deference she would her clan elders.
The robed Loxodonians exit the door once again, leading Zoorja into the night. They walk for only a few quiet minutes, and in time, Zoorja sees the glow of a bonfire. Sitting in meditation and prayer around the blaze are Loxodonians of all descent–mammoth, bush, forest, tropical, dwarf, mastodon, and more she cannot name–and the elf who was present in the Laughing Beholder the night before. The eldest of the Loxodonians sits at the head of the circle, wearing the regalia of a priestess of Mat’Selesnya, and gestures for Zoorja to sit across from her.
Zoorja does as she is told, bowing her head and sitting very still, hoping that she has not gotten herself in trouble. Her friends need her; to abandon them on account of such a foolhardy errand would be tantamount to betrayal, but she cannot seem to reject the call of this distant family.
“Sister Zoorja,” the priestess says, her sonorous voice soft but audible over the crackle of the bonfire. “You are in the Feywild, sitting with the Celestial Herd. Brother Silver Claw”–she indicates the elf–“has come to use with news of your troubled mind. We invite you to unburden yourself so that you may be the protector we need you to be.”
Zoorja blanches, though her russet skin hides the reaction. How the Celestial Herd learned of her inner turmoil, she cannot fathom. She clears her throat, and says, “I… I cannot protect these people. I have already turned my weapons on them once.”
“Do you truly believe that you did that?”
A flash of Magic, Honor, and their parents in the firelight in Palebank, then the sight of her friends rushing across the snow from Mama’s burning cabin, the way her hands shook on her greatsword as she tried to resist the power of the neogi before she killed one of her friends.
Zoorja’s vision clears, and she bows her head to look down at where her thumb runs over the stitching on Heartsoul’s leather grip and tries to still her thoughts, her body. “I thought the World Soul abandoned me. I thought…”
From each of the Loxodonians before her rises a ghostly, astral version of the monk in fighting stances. The snow around her fades to black, and neogi swarm across the darkness. The astral projections lock in battle against the horrifying creatures and the background resolves itself into a vast garden in a golden city, the stars around it shining brighter than she’s ever seen them.
“You fought these monsters before?” Zoorja asks, though it’s not a question, as she can see it before her. “Is that… Aeor? They took control of me; I cannot fight them again.”
“If you do not…” the priestess says, and the scene shifts from long ago to a scene that Zoorja knows within her soul has yet to be written. The same city lies in ruin and its pain tears into her. The scene swirls and changes, and a majestic ray lies rotting and swarmed by neogi with the ruined city upon its back. The beasts simultaneously dominate and devour the celestial creature.
The scene fades, and the astral Loxodonians fade back into their physical bodies.
Zoorja can do nothing else but swallow and nod, though one question still haunts her. “Can you tell me… Mat’Selesnya… she has not abandoned me?”
“She would never abandon one of her children, Sister Zoorja.”
“Then I will fight for her, for my friends, for the creature that carries Aeor. For Magic’s family. I will protect.”
The spectral monks appear again and bow, then fade as the Celestial Herd stands and disperses without another word. Brother Silver Claw stands alone and approaches, offering a hand.
“Shall we go Zoorja, favored of Mat’Selesnya?”
Zoorja does not correct him, though she cannot believe she is favored, not when others have been shown to be much closer to the World Soul, but she takes his hand and stands. “I will put down two gold pieces that Dagoth is already itching to leave.”
The elf chuckles. “I’ll not bet against that. The World Soul does not abandon her children like a fickle child. She knows your heart. I hope hearing it from the Celestial Herd has helped ease your thoughts.”
He leads the way toward a nondescript hut on the near horizon, and it isn’t until they’re much closer that Zoorja sees the Laughing Beholder sign above the door. Silver Claw opens the door, and Zoorja sees beyond into the common room.
“Thank you,” she says, unable to comment on his last words, though she silently promises the Celestial Herd to think on it.
Silver Claw says nothing, only nods and wanders away as Zoorja looks to the group of her friends hovering over the breakfast selection like a horde. Kirin waves from where he flies above the table, too short to see the selection otherwise, and Dagoth grunts a hello through the mouthful of food. Venhana and Kasdon are both in the corner with Mane, petting the griffon and talking to Mila, who holds the small drake, Sparky to her chest like she might a cat. Dagoth lunges at a bowl of puffy, white treats, and Aella gathers handfuls, mumbling about s’mores and mallows of the marsh as she rubs the sleep from her eyes.
“A freehold can nourish body and soul,” Kirin says as she steps up to grab a plate. “I hope you found what you needed.”
Zoorja smiles down at Kirin and wonders if walking back in was what she needed instead of walking away. “I believe I did. Now, tell me what’s delicious.”
“What isn’t?!” Kirin crows, and Zoorja laughs, trying a bit of everything, even the marshmallows Dagoth hoards like gold.
Zoorja was the second character I created. I wanted to experiment with choices far different to my choices with Clanless Nala. It’s funny to look back and remember that, because I clearly have a type, and those two are not as different as they seem.
Name, Race, Gender, Description, Et Al.
Zoorja is a Loxodon, a humanoid elephant. I opted to add my own flair, and decided that her herd is comprised of wooly mammoth Loxodonians, being that they are from the icy north. She, like most of her sisters, is generally quite calm and slow to rise to anger, but when she does, she is a Fury come to life. She is 7’7″, towering over her friends, and though she is hardly an adult for her species, she is much older than her friends, by decades at the least. She has not had the chance much lately, but she enjoys sculpting tiny stonework figurines and jewelry, preferring the delicate work to the larger scale masterpieces of her species.
Her fierce loyalty once rested solely with her herd, but when she was called upon to help the nearby village of Palebank, her bond with the people there and with her companions snapped into place almost as soon as she shared a drink with them. This comes from her deep well of emotion that allows her to find compassion for everyone around her, whether they be friend or foe. That does not mean she will not bring those who wrong others to justice–no one is above the law, though the laws she follows are those that preserve life in all its many forms, not the words written on the page.
Despite her fierce belief in the connection of all the world and her place within the beautiful tapestry of fate, Zoorja is convinced that she is unable to connect deeply with the World Soul, Mat’Selesyna, and every sign to the contrary goes unseen as she sees her flaws much faster than she would anyone else, her compassion always turned outward.
Backstory & Family Life
The Crystalsands Herd is a tight-knit mammoth herd with the matriarch being the 431-year-old Ajji, Zoorja’s great-great-grandmere. The entire herd is one large family, and though of course there are multiple family lines, the herd behaves as such, calling one another Sister and Brother, Aunt and Uncle, Grandmother and Grandfather as is fit.
Within Zoorja’s direct family, her mother Jasoo and father Berov are a mated pair that were blessed thrice with calves. Zoorja is the youngest, with her elder brother Heruj coming first, and her sister Vessun coming second. As she was growing, Zoorja’s closest friend was Irij, only five years her elder. They have remained close, though their paths diverged as they were reaching their adulthood; Irij found her calling in the glass gardens, and Zoorja with her weapons.
Initial Class & Changes Made Over Time
Zoorja was a level two Fighter at the start of the campaign, and has not strayed yet from that path. She wanted to be able to defend her herd from dangers, and it has come in handy on her adventures thus far. She is proficient in two-weapon fighting, and thanks to her great strength, was able to teach herself to wield a glaive in one hand and a greatsword in the other.
When she became a level three fighter, I chose for her to take on the Champion archetype, given that Zoorja’s focus has always been to protect her friends, to be a Champion for the people who need her. Since that means becoming the best she can be, it makes sense for her to focus on perfection in her fighting.
She is now a level five Fighter, having taken a Feat at level four and gaining an extra attack at level five that makes her deadly. I’m not sure what will happen in the future; Zoorja is driven by her need to protect and nothing else, so will choose what her friends most need. If that is a fierce fighter, that is what she will be.
Background & Previous Careers
Zoorja was a Selesnya Initiate before she became a fighter. Her herd is built around an enclave within the great white tundra and the mountains surrounding them. She did her best to learn the ways of harmony with nature and to live the life the Worldsoul reveres, but Zoorja could never still her own soul.
She does not regret her time as an initiate, given that she perfected her work with mason’s tools and learned to speak the language of the conclave, but regrets that she could not fit into that life. She does not realize that none of her family resent her for it, but see her as the strongest of them, for listening to what the Worldsoul told her was her purpose. Zoorja believes it was rather the opposite; she believes that she listened to her own self and turned away from the Worldsoul, and fears that her connection to Mat’Selesnya was forever broken by her choice.
She still carries her insignia, and will use the shelter of an enclave for her friends alone, never for herself, too worried that the Worldsoul will see her too clearly.
Daily Carry & Weapons of Choice
Being a wooly mammoth, Zoorja does not much feel the cold, but on her first mission with her friends, they were walking into the arctic. She would have swapped the cold weather gear out, but found she loves the weight of the heavy fabric. She has her glaive and greatsword, gifted to her by her mother and father when she decided to train to be a fighter. On the trip into the depths of Eiselcross, she gained possession of an Ardent Glaive and fell asleep with it in her hands. When she awoke, it had told her its name was Heartsoul, and she has begun to favor using it with her dominant hand with her standard glaive–which she dubbed Celestial on that same morning–in her off-hand. Her greatsword is most often sheathed at her back, with hand axes bristling from the futon of the crossed straps that hold her glaives when she is not in need of them. Her quiver of arrows rests at her lower back to remain out of the way of her other weapons, and is large enough that she can put her longbow in it as well. She is bristling with weapons.
After a run-in with a warlock in Palebank, she helped relinquish the dead-raiser of two Ioun Stones, and the group decided that she should receive one: the Stone of Protection. The rose-colored prism orbits her, granting her extra protection so that she may wade into the depths of battle and draw dangers away from her friends.
She carries the typical adventurers gear in her backpack, complete with a bedroll and healer’s kit. Preparing for the journey into the arctic meant she opted to pack a chest full of supplies that might help them, including climbing gear, rope, lanterns and oil. A tent they discovered in Eiselcross has been repaired and stored should they need it again. Her shield has taken up residence in the chest, given she hasn’t wanted to give up the ability to strike twice with her weapons. The chest itself can be pulled on a sledge, but she discarded the one she made on Eiselcross the moment they had returned to civilization and will make a new one when she needs one.
Feats & Stories
At level four, I decided to take the Sentinel feat for Zoorja. Defense of her friends is her biggest concern, and being able to stand guard over them was something she needed. Being able to react to an attack against any of her friends or to stop a creature from leaving the fury of her blades was something she desperately wanted; the feat just fit.
Important Moments in World
Zoorja and her companions were called to Palebank to help investigate the outbreak of a horrifying disease in which the infected slowly freeze from the inside out–later, discovered to be named the Frigid Woe. Investigations in town lead the group to a cave system wherein a local gang leader had been hiding out with one of her lieutenants, guarding a chest. Zoorja, in an attempt to find more about the sickness, opened the chest during their investigation, releasing a fine blue powder that infected everyone in the room with Frigid Woe, except herself.
Being that her purpose in life is to be a protector, she took sole responsibility for the error and carried the weight of it throughout the journey, worried that her misstep would mean both the death of her friends and of all the residents of Palebank, if the disease could not be contained. She sublimated this burden by tending even more diligently to her friends’ needs on the journey, taking it upon herself to arrange for all of their supplies for the journey to Eiselcross, and even divising a method by which to carry more than they might need by burdening herself with a packed chest of rations.
This mistake only haunted her further later on. While traveling across the ocean to Eiselcross, the ship was beset by another and while engaged in battle with the attacking force, both Zoorja and Dagoth were taken under the control of neogi, horrifying beasts that can enslave a creature. Neither Dagoth nor Zoorja could free themselves from the control of the beasts, and both of them were shell-shocked by the experience when their friends solved the problem by destroying the creatures. Zoorja did not trust herself to sleep until they reached land, and curled deep within herself with shame at ever turning her blades on her friends. The fear of having it happen again is at the root of many of Zoorja’s nightmares.
Zoorja and her friends succeeded in retrieving the cure for the Frigid Woe from Eiselcross, despite many hardships, but when they returned to Palebank, they found that a young girl named Honor is trapped within a magical forcefield that none can penetrate, the mayor’s wife has disappeared, the sky is darkening, and the undead are attacking. Not a single one of them feels they can leave the village to fend for themselves, and they’re already on the case.
Zoorja will need to contend with her protective streak and see that it does not end up suffocating those she loves. She will also need to forgive herself for turning her weapons upon them when she was under the control of the neogi. She’ll tell no one, but she still has nightmares of losing control, and counts her friends under her breath to be sure she does not lose any of them.
5 August 2022 character-profile dnd