Matarisvan's Backstory

“This cell contains the child?” asked Lemwich.

“The demon,” replied Gaedren. “Blue of skin.”

“Blue is a curious color, as skin goes,” Lemwich replied, “But I hardly think it makes a boy a demon.”

“All the same,” replied Gaedren. “You’re fixing to buy him still?”

“There are tests to perform,” said Lemwich. He pulled a thin dagger from his cloak and tested it against his thumb. Still as sharp as ever.

Lemwich opened the door to the cell and was hit with a wave of smells, none of them pleasant. There was the stink of bodily excretions, sweat, urine, and nightsoil. Layered below that was the smell of fear. The body was gagged and bound by chains to a small ring that hung from the wall. His skin was a light blue, as advertised. His eyes were a plain white with no pupils or irises. Jet black hair had been hacked at inexpertly with a dagger. The child skittered away from the light, though the cell was small enough that it did no good. His legs and arms were small and skinny, and he screamed past the bandage at the sight of Lemwich’s knife.

“Hush,” said Lemwich. “Still yourself. I’m not going to hurt you. I’ve come to take you away from this place.”

The boy quieted, but his posture didn’t change. Lemwich stalked forward, and the boy shied away, but he was trapped in a small cell and bound in chains. It was the work of a few seconds to prick the dagger into the boy’s arm, just deep enough to draw blood if Gaedren was trying to sell him an imposter. Instead, the wound began to weep a liquid as clear as spring water. Lemwich turned to look behind him, where the Gaedren was standing wringing his hands. The man was a monster, greasy and hook-nosed, but he had found what Lemwich had been searching long years for.

“I’ll take him.”

~

“You are not a boy,” said Lemwich.

Mātariśvan sat in the stagecoach with his hands and feet bound together. He had been bathed, given a large meal, plenty to drink, and fresh clothes. The moment
they’d put him in the coach he had leapt forward and burst out the door on the other side. He was weak from his confinement though, they tackled him to the ground in Barker’s Alley. Lemwich traveled with two large men who hadn’t given their names, and both had been cast from the same mold, with scars aplenty and thick muscles. They were surprisingly fast.

“You are not a demon either,” said Lemwich.

Mātariśvan kept a blank look on his face. Gaedren beat him for scowling, or for smiling, and the best way to avoid it was to appear empty inside, like he’d been scooped out.

“There are three principle parts to any thinking creature,” said Lemwich. “The body, the mind, and the soul. The first two you have, yet the third you lack. Samsaran, they call you. Death is the sundering of the soul from mind and body, yet a Samsaran does not know death, for there is no soul to sunder. Destroy the body, crush in the brain with a mace, rip out the heart, and scatter the entrails, and still the samsaran will not be truly killed. The samsaran doesn’t regenerate like a troll, he reincarnates. No soul means no ability to die, and the samsaran is thus impervious to death.”

Mātariśvan said nothing. He had a treasure trove of past memories from previous lives, but that treasure was distant, viewed only in with great difficulty. In all his lives he had never known such cruelty as at the hands of Gaedren, and from the things that Lemwich said he did not suppose that it was likely to get much better.

~

They bled him, and he screamed.

“No soul,” said Lemwich over his plaintive cries. “No animus behind his voice. Body and mind but nothing true, a purity of essence to him untainted by a soul. Drink!”

Men and women came forward, perhaps a dozen of them in all, each with small silver cups that they would place beneath his dripping wounds. Mātariśvan felt dizzy and nauseous, but they had given him nothing to eat for a day in preparation, so that he would not spoil the ceremony by voiding his bowels or puking. The silver cups filled with his blood, pure and clear as a mountain stream. Mātariśvan’s voice grew hoarse, and no one seemed to care.

“This creature’s false blood will weave a tighter bond with your own soul,” said Lemwich. “Purified life, mind and body, the false blood will bond itself to you, and draw your own soul closer.”

Mātariśvan had passed out, and awoken back in his cell. They were on a manor of some kind, a commune led by Lemwich, and he was their prisoner. It was by far a better place than the dank filth and chains that Gaedren had put him in, but it was a prison all the same.

Two months later, they bled him again.

~

As near as he could figure, he’d been seven years old when Gaedren had sold him off. It wasn’t until he was sixteen when he made his escape with Charlotte. She was Lemwich’s daughter, and often charged with his care.

“What does it taste like?” he asked one day when they were both around ten years old. He spoke rarely, and only to you.

“It’s sweet,” she replied. “And metallic. But mostly it doesn’t taste like anything at all.” There was no need for her to ask what he was talking about, and she made no effort to pretend that she hadn’t had her own cupful of his blood, every other month for the past four years.

Mātariśvan liked her. She was one of only two people he was allowed to see, and Lemwich was always ready with either a sermon or a knife, sometimes both. Charlotte was sweet and kind to him, and full of questions, either about him or about the world. In the beginning he hadn’t answered, and she would go on talking all the same, thinking up her own answers. He was chained to the bed during her visits, which would sometimes last for hours, but after a time he looked forward to feeling the cold irons being clamped down around his wrists.

As the years and bleedings passed by, Mātariśvan became docile. If he fought or kicked, or tried to escape, Lemwich would sit him down for a conversation, and say that he’d been thinking of shifting Charlotte’s duties to someone else within the collective. Lemwich was too sweetly for threats, he would only make suggestions and hints. Surely the only reason he’d allowed his daughter in the same room as Mātariśvan was to have this leverage, but Mātariśvan found that he didn’t care why he’d been given the gift of her company, so long as it continued.

She first kissed him when they were twelve. In the original arrangement that had been established when they were seven, she’d been placed on the opposite end of the room from him, well out of reach so that he couldn’t lunge to the full extent of the manacles and strangle her. In those early days, another member of the commune would stand outside the door and peep in every handful of minutes, but as the years passed, the guards grew less inquisitive, until eventually there was no guard at all. Charlotte had gotten closer to him as time wore on, until eventually she was reading books to him right beside his bed. She’d been reading him a book about an inquisitive sheep when she suddenly moved forward and kissed him on the lips. She was back in her seat moments later, and the only proof that it had happened was the blush in her cheeks and a guilty grin on her face.

Their relationship progressed as they grew older. Charlotte would lay beside him and press a damp cloth to his head in the days after a bleeding. In the days before one, they would talk about escape. When Mātariśvan’s healing powers developed, the time it took for him to bounce back from a bleeding was cut down from weeks to a matter of seconds. He kept the power hidden from everyone but Charlotte, until the day that Charlotte broke her leg. Mātariśvan hadn’t thought twice about setting it and healing her back as good as new.

Lemwich had strode into Mātariśvan’s room the very next day.

“You can heal yourself?” asked Lemwich.

“No,” Mātariśvan replied.

“Liar,” said Lemwich. “I should have realized that you had the power. The bleedings will commence daily from now on.”

Lemwich was good for his word. The guards came back. Charlotte and Mātariśvan were never left alone, and the door was removed from its hinges. Every day, Mātariśvan was bled, and every day he was forced to heal his own wounds. He refused, on two or three occasions, and they would simply let him collapse into unconsciousness. If they valued his life, they did not show it. It was the most difficult of

“Come on, we’re leaving,” said Charlotte in the middle of the night. Her trembling fingers worked at his manacles, nearly dropping the key.

“Lottie?” Mātariśvan asked. His eyes were bleary, and he was only slowly waking up.

“I poisoned the guards, I think they’ll be okay,” she said quickly. “But we have to run, we have to leave now.” The key finally clicked into place, and Mātariśvan was free of his chains for the first time in years.

“Your father,” said Mātariśvan.

“We’ll run,” said Charlotte. She kissed him on the lips. “We’ll hide. He’ll stop looking for us eventually.”

Mātariśvan nodded, and they ran.

~

Charlotte became an alchemist, and Mātariśvan became a healer. They traveled often, trying to stay one step ahead of Lemwich and the other members of the commune. When they’d left, the commune had nearly a thousand people, all of them in Lemwich’s thrall. The bleedings had been part of the daily life, Mātariśvan’s blood was drank like water. Mātariśvan could bleed out three pints before getting too dizzy, and he could cast healing spells five times a day. Taken together, the result was a lot of blood. It had been good to escape.

When they were seventeen, Charlotte became pregnant. Mātariśvan wanted to keep them moving, but Charlotte had insisted that they settle down. There hadn’t
been so much as a whiff of Lemwich following them, and they were quite distant from the commune. Mātariśvan had reluctantly agreed. She had the child in spring, a pink little creature with not a trace of blue, and by fall they had been found.

~

“Hello father,” said Charlotte.

Lemwich stood at the doorway, with two muscular men standing behind him. Mātariśvan had the baby behind him, ready to die to save her life.

“I brought wine,” said Lemwich with a smile.

Charlotte gestured for him to have a seat.

“You’re an apothecary now?” asked Lemwich. “It suits you.”

Charlotte set two glasses down in front of them, and Lemwich poured the wine.

“If you’re here to ask us to come back, it’s not going to happen,” said Charlotte with an even voice. She took a sip of wine. “Peach wine from the arbors of Korvosa if I’m not mistaken.”

“It’s where I originally pulled our good friends from,” said Lemwich, gesturing towards Mātariśvan. “I thought he would appreciate the gesture. No wine for you, my blue friend?”

Mātariśvan said nothing.

Lemwich smiled. “No matter. My darling daughter, the wine was poisoned. I have the antidote, but without it you will die. Come with us. Mātariśvan, tell your love to do as I say if you want her to live out the month.”

Charlotte laughed.

Lemwich frowned at her. “Have I said something that amuses you?”

“There was poison in your glass,” said Charlotte.

Lemwich opened his eyes wide for a moment, then set his face. “It appears we’re at an impasse. Very well. We’ll exchange antidotes and find some better way to resolve our differences.”

Charlotte smiled. “And would you happen to have the antidote on you?” she asked.

“No,” replied Lemwich. “It’s back at the commune.”

“Then there’s nothing to discuss,” said Charlotte. She watched her father closely. He pulled at his collar. “When I poison I don’t fuck around.”

His two goons entered the room when Lemwich began to choke, and Mātariśvan pulled a sword from his daughter’s crib and went to meet them. He was struck on the collarbone and the thigh, and his blood flowed freely, but he had spent much of his life bleeding, and the wounds didn’t bother him. One of them he stabbed through the gut, and another he pierced through the roof the mouth. When they were dispatched, he spun on Lemwich, but he was already dead.

“Are you okay?” Mātariśvan asked Charlotte.

“Yes,” she nodded. “You were right, poison wasn’t the way to go. You should have just taken the sword to them.”

“Can you undo the poison?” asked Mātariśvan. “We can sample the wine and try to find out what was in it.”

“We can try,” nodded Charlotte.

~

Charlotte made an antidote for the poison that afflicted her, but as time passed it became clear that either it hadn’t worked completely right, or perhaps had done some lasting damage. Every month or so, she would have a coughing fit, spitting up a pint of blood or more with thick clots. Mātariśvan’s healing seemed to do nothing to help.

When their daughter Maria was six years old, Charlotte had a coughing fit that simply would not end. Mātariśvan did his best to heal her, but it quickly became clear that it wouldn’t be enough.

“Give my love to our daughter as she grows,” said Charlotte. She spat up a thick clot of blood. “You’ll have to raise her yourself.”

It was only of the great tragedies of mortals that they only got a single life.

~

When Maria was ten years old, she ran away from home,

Mātariśvan had not been the best father, and raising a child alone was difficult, but he hadn't seen the gulf that was growing between him and his daughter. Unfortunately, he had taught her to prevent herself from being tracked, and her trail was difficult to follow. He eventually found her in Korvosa, the city that he'd been a prisoner in for his early life. When he heard that Gaedren was still alive, he knew that was where he had to go.

By the time he arrived at Gaedren's keep, everything was already over. Gaedren lay dead, and Maria lay dismembered in a small room. Mātariśvan cried over her body, but knew that there was still hope. The child of a samsaran grew up looking human, but on their death would reincarnate with the blue skin and clear blood of their samsaran parent. Somewhere in the world, his daughter would be reincarnated, and it was only a matter of finding her.

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