This is Part 3 of a rather long journal entry I wrote recently and decided to break into 3 parts. Part 1 provides some background information that may be helpful for understanding this and the previous part. Part 2 introduces 2 characters who seem to represent aspects of my psyche that need to learn to work together: the Healer and the Wounded One. In this post I describe how I would like to see their relationship progress, particularly in terms of my character’s (the healer’s) role and development.
Most of the scenes I’ve been coming up with have to do with my character learning to love the Deathknight – I hate to admit it, but it’s kinda like Beauty and the Beast. At first they are too caught up in their own conflicting emotions to really think of their mate as a person to empathize with; they need their friends to help with that. (One of those friends has an Exaltation that was corrupted by the Yozis; he can relate better than anyone to the Deathknight. Seeing my character’s reaction is adding to his fear that, if he ever finds his Lunar mate, they will reject him. So, this has provided some great opportunities for awkward conversations, character development, and bonding!)
Fortunately, my character has had some time and help from their friends to move past feeling like they are stuck with defective merchandise. A recent experience of being able to relate to the Deathknight, at least on some level, has expanded their perspective as well. While they still want to ‘fix’ the ‘broken’ Exaltation, they also want to help the person with that Exaltation heal … and since they found their mate, they might as well at least try to get to know them. This person did save them from falling out of a tree, after all.
There are several factors (I know of) that make interactions between my character and their mate awkward at best, that I have enjoyed and look forward to role playing. One is that the Deathknight is hideous – 0 on a scale where 1 is ugly, 2 is about average, and 3 is gorgeous – as a result of being horribly and repeatedly tortured. Caught off guard my character is likely to react to the Deathknight’s appearance with disgust; in their most loving moments they must fight back tears at the reminder of how much their mate has suffered. Even at the best of times they cannot bear to look at them for long. I haven’t talked to the other player about this, but I imagine his character will interpret these responses as some form of rejection.
Another factor is that, thanks to the bond, touching this individual causes my character to have intense feelings of love and awe toward them – the way it was initially described, “You feel like Luna touched you.” (I don’t think the storyteller realized my character is in love with Luna.) Even if they had ‘gotten their Solar’ this would be intimidating, as it has the potential to give their mate a lot of control over them. Trusting a Deathknight is unwise at the best of times, never mind allowing oneself to be vulnerable with them, and those intense feelings quickly become overwhelming. But there is no way they are going to tell the other character this! They can try to control their response if they anticipate the touch (e.g. a handshake they initiated), but even then they will often need to pull away. I think anyone would find that confusing.
Other factors have to do with the trauma the other character has endured, perhaps some of my character’s trauma as well. The Deathknight sold their soul to Oblivion for a reason, but that reason is unknown because they have been tortured to the point where they have lost most of who they were (including their memories). They do not know love, they have no social skills, they are confused by their sudden inability to heartlessly murder someone (never mind feeling protective of this person). They are about as darkly and deeply depressed as it is possible to be, and yet they persist – driven not only by vengeance, but also by the tiniest glimmer of hope.
Oh, and they need to drink blood, surround themself with trappings of death, visit the Underworld, and do other things most living people consider unsavory. No matter how accepting my character tries to be, some of these factors are going to make them feel uncomfortable. As skilled at social interactions as my character is, they are not accustomed to hiding their feelings – and doing that can cause all sorts of other problems.
As time goes on my character will become less awkward around their mate, and the Deathknight will feel less of a need to hide themself. The other player and I co-wrote a combat scene in which his character is overrun and my character rushes in to protect them. The Deathknight reveals that they have been holding back because they do not want to scare my character, who is pleasantly surprised to learn the extent to which their mate will go to ‘protect’ them. Their response – “that’s sweet, but it’s going to get us both killed” – frees the Deathknight to fight more proficiently, using all the terrifying tools at their disposal. My character intentionally touches their mate to tap into the very feelings of love they had previously found overwhelming in order to fight more fervently. The two then move gracefully around each other, as though in an expertly choreographed dance, eventually achieving the impossible. (Well, they had already achieved the impossible when they killed a Primordial, but that was thousands of years ago and neither of them remembers.)
But as long as my character loves their mate in the hopes that doing so will make the latter better – as long as they still want ‘their Solar’ – they cannot truly love the Deathknight the way either Exalt needs. It is only when they come to love the Deathknight as they are, complete with the defiled Exaltation, that both characters’ wounds can truly heal. When my character finally sees that their mate is already the person they can gladly spend countless lifetimes with because of how that person has consistently chosen to act – when they realize that the love, reverence and awe they feel is genuinely for that person, not merely the result of a supernatural bond – then … well, that’s the thing. According to Exalted canon, no one can redeem a Deathknight – not even the Unconquered Sun. The Deathknight must redeem themself.
The only thing my character needs to ‘fix’ or change – and ultimately, the only thing they can – is their own perspective.