Talia and Amond were a happy couple, very much in love, who wanted nothing more than to share their joy and affections with a child. Talia's belly swelled with the promise of a new life, but when the happy day arrived she found herself sobbing over the gray, lifeless mass of flesh in her arms. The couple mourned, but time mended their hearts and they resolved to try again. Amond treated Talia with the most delicate of care, forbidding her from strenuous work and feeding her the best of foods. "It would have been a boy..." Talia said as they buried the second tiny body beside the first. "His name would have been Greydon after his Uncle..."
Two winters passed and Talia again found herself with the signs of child. Taking no chances Amond and Talia went to the best clerical house they could reach for a consultation. After a lengthy examination the priestess took Talia by the hand. "There is nothing that can be done." As the couple left the temple clouds formed on the horizon, and it was not long before they were overtaken by the storm. Seeking shelter they came across a small hut far from the rest of the town. Knocking, a young woman answered the door and ushered the pair inside. "What are travelers doing in this weather?" "We were visiting the temple, my wife has a poor womb." The hostess nodded sagely, and examined Talia. "Your babe has no soul. A child cannot be born alive without a soul." "Is there anything to be done?" The midwife paused, and began speaking cautiously. "Yes, but you must promise this child will be the sole object of your affections and that you will never love anything so much as this babe." Talia and Amond hastily agreed, and had the woman perform the ritual.
Nine months later a healthy baby girl was born, named Snapdragon after her mother's favorite flower. Even as a youngling she was kind, beautiful, graceful, and adored by her parents to no end. "Would it not be sweet," Talia said to Amond, "if Snap had a little sister or brother for company?" Amond agreed. When Talia became pregnant she set off to the midwife's hovel. Opening the door the midwife observed: "I see you hold a babe within. I trust you want me to be rid of it?" Talia was shocked. "I came to you because I thought the child was not alive, why would I be rid of such a miracle?" "Because of your promise," said the witch, "I am warning you not to carry this child to term." Disgusted, Talia stormed away.
Talia gave birth to a second daughter, Aster, and again the couple rejoiced. Aster was no less spry or endearing as her older sister, and the pair grew in generosity and beauty together until Aster reached seven winters of age. The pair had gone nutting in the wood, but traveled too far and become separated and lost. Snap, being more clever by virtue of her additional years, was able to find her way back to the cottage before nightfall. Aster remained missing well into the dark. Talia and Amond fussed and fretted, and just as they were about to search the woods Aster returned. The pair scooped her up into their arms, cooing "Don't scare us like that again, we love you more than anything and don't know what we would do if we lost you."
Three days later haggard and soot-covered Talia, and Amond appeared on the temple steps. One clutched Aster, her face covered in blood-soaked bandages. The other held tightly to Snap, writhing in chains and bonds. The pair begged and pleaded to have the monster taken from them and their youngest spared, but the clergy refused to take in the child of profane magic or remedy the pain they had brought on their daughter. As they were cast from the temple steps a young, merciful acolyte rushed after them and suggested they journey to the monastery of the monks who are trained in controlling emotions and possess alchemical healing. True to the acolyte's word the monks agreed to take in Snap and healed Aster as best they could, though to this day she hides her scarred and terrible face. Released from the monastery upon her twentieth winter Snapdragon at first glance appears to be completely reformed, but those who spend any length of time with her can see the serenity is a paper-thin cover over a roiling ocean of hatred and anger.
Snapdragon makes an equally good ally as adversary. While as a companion she is not liable to randomly lash out she is far more susceptible to mental or demonic influences. She is intensely competitive in all matters and can become combative if vying for affection or approval. Her life is a constant struggle between her dark inclinations and her efforts to prove herself a good and lovable person.
Her actions and words demonstrate her fundamental disconnect with humanity despite her good intentions. For example:
- "Oh kitsune, if I were to crack open your ribs and rip your heart from your chest I'm sure it would beat just as red as mine!"
- "Dear sister, I could simply squeeze the flesh from your bones and crush them to powder I love you so."
- "Snap, what are you doing? You're only supposed to bathe in the cockatrice's blood if you were turned to stone."
During her time with the monks Snap was taught to redirect the uncontrollable rage caused by the gaps in her heart, and has developed a fighting style to match. While she is forbidden from initiating attacks she is fully capable of retaliating once attacks are made against her. She uses the momentum of an oncoming attack to unbalance the aggressor and render them prone, taking advantage of their surprise and vulnerability to mercilessly beat them.
Snap wishes to have the holes in her soul mended, though it is not something she actively pursues. What this entails could be anything from requited love to eating the heart of a celestial, even she does not know. Her main focus is on impressing her reformed state upon her family. Aster has accepted Snap with open arms, but her parents are distrustful.
- Rumor has it a stranger at the inn is a devil, now in town to tempt its inhabitants.
- Snap is on on a quest similar to your own, only at the insistence of the townsfolk that she prove her good intentions. She proves very helpful, right up until you must face the dungeon's demonic ruler.
- A 'horrendous monster' has escaped from the jail, and while it has not killed anyone yet the constable believes it is only a matter of time.
- Snap has gone missing and her monastery is concerned. Some fear she has lost control, but others believe it may have something to do with the arena pit fighters which recently passed through.
Additional Ideas (2)
I imagined that the "witch" (I use that term loosely, she is never referred to as a witch until she goes against the family's wishes) pulled together what parts of a soul were in the womb, and bound them together with Talia and Amond's affections. Over time this binding fused together the soul into a mostly viable person, but when the spell was broken there were large gaps left. Holes cause a combination of emotional and physical pain where an aspect of her (such as her capacity for empathy) once was while the parts there are (such as anger) attempt to fill what is missing. It's similar to those who feel pain in phantom limbs, which is caused by the brain overtaking the parts used to control the missing limb and applying them to different tasks.
These holes are not a terribly uncommon occurrence in people but the holes most have are small and get repaired with time or stoppered with something such as drugs or a new puppy. Unrepaired souls make a fabulous foothold for evil influences which is why there is usually some trauma associated with those who walk that path. What makes that route doubly tempting is that when someone is killed their soul momentarily passes through that of the killer and fills in those gaps for a few seconds. Beating a person within inches of their life brings them within touching distance and has a similar though less dramatic effect, as does intimate sex (though the conditions for that are difficult to meet as it requires nothing short of true love).
In effect, Snap's soul is filled with many large gaps and cracks making it a breeding ground for the essence of the nether realms. She's caught between the person she knew she was, and the person she feels she is. The monks taught her to manage the constant pain, the consuming rage, and the breeding evil, but none of it ever goes away. If she ever lets her guard down at least one of these will overtake her, and no one is sure what happens after that.