We All Wear Masks

Chapter 1: Leap of Faith

Text format

"Out-of-character/ out-of gameout-of game ("<span style=\"font-weight: 400;\">Out-game : Things that happens outside the story space, to explain it or is coming from the player not the character.<\/span>") speech"

In-character/ in-gamein-game ("<span style=\"font-weight: 400;\">In-game : Things that happens inside the story space of the game. Related to what the character can live\/ sense.<\/span>") speech

Action and description in this format is what the in-game characters does. Action and description in this format is what is actually done by the character out-of-game.

Music accompaniment

To play during reading : Sean and Dean Kiner - Postulate 5

Lorena McKennitt - The Mask and Mirror - The Mystics Dream

Well, I am committed.

I am in the car. No way to go back.

I hope Sophie knows what she is doing.

I sat in the back seat, looking out to the farms along the highway, bathed in the summer evening lights. I only had a vague idea where we were going. Sophie told me it was an acting game for a whole weekend, or at least that is what I understood. And if I tried to understand what she and our driver, an older player that was named Valinor, clearly a strange name, it was a lost cause. They spoke in an arcane language and could have been speaking a totally different language and it would have made no difference. Anyway, they made no effort to include me in the conversation. The warm sun heated my face and arms, lulling me to sleep.

It was the last day of the school year, Friday June 21st and the start of summer vacation for me. Or as I call it, the boring season. But I wasn't thinking about that now. I drifted to sleep heated by the warm sun and lulled by the drone of the conversation.

I woke up only when we slowed to a crawl, turned and hit a pothole. It was pitch black outside, except for the few lights that came out of a stone building, not unlike a manor, a few flame torches, flashlight and the car's headlights. I was a bit groggy from the sudden wake and it took me a time to adjust. Sophie was babbling non-stop, a ball of energy and enthusiasm. We drove along a gravel road, with shadowy persons walking by on each side. After a minute or two, we arrived on a field littered with tents, cars and people. Valinor parked next to an empty spot.

"I think we are a bit late to do our setup, so let's costume ourselves, register and then go to the opening meeting." Sophie said.

"Well see you  in-game Terra." Valinor said to Sophie and then left to find friends with his equipment.

"Terra?" I asked her questioning.

"Ya, that's my character's name, and thinking of it, you should think of a character also." Sophie said while we started building the tent.

I had no problem with that part, having long years of camping experience. Of the whole weekend, that was the part I had the least problem with. I kept to myself while we built our tent. What did I want to play, I didn't know exactly what my options were. She told me she already had a costume for me.

As we finished and I was placing my mat and sleeping bag, Sophie enters and closes the tent door. Then without warning, she starts removing the t-shirt she was wearing, I wasn't expecting that at all. And then she turns her back to me.

"Could you help me unclasp my bra?" She casually asked.

I am totally unprepared for that. I am an only child and never even saw my mother like that. I knew Sophie was bold, but that, I was beyond my comfort zone. I hesitate for a time.

She turns her head towards me. "Come on Mathieu, we don't have all night, we are late and I don't have that kind of time to protect your shyness. Could you do it now?" She said a bit exasperated.

I extended my hands, unsure about it and deeply blushing and uncomfortable. I wasn't at all planning that happening during the weekends. Her bra detached and she thanked me.

She kept her back to me and fished out of her luggage a green robe and a leather bustier. She put on the robe and bustier, and then, under her robe, she removed the pants she was wearing. Then, she fished out jewelry, earrings, and a velvety green cape to add to the ensemble. She had never worn any jewelry, or at least never any that large. They were small dream catchers. Finally, she took a makeup case and took out two pairs of latex elf ears, a vial of glue and golden makeup. She put on the ears and applied make-up to add a golden shine to her face and hide the ear seam. She arranged her blond hair in a braid, and added the finishing touch, a floral crown. Then she turned toward me. She had transformed form the relatively small tomboy teenager with no real desire to be pretty, to a mystical mix between a valkyrie, a dryad of the forest and Tauriel from the Desolation of Smaug movie. It was a total transformation from what she usually wears. I was totally transfixed by the change.

She gave me a small smile and went rummaging in her baggage. She took out a pair of dark brown leather breeches, a raw linen shirt laced to close it, belt and pouches and finally a brown cape or something. She put the bundle in my arms and waited, staring at me. After a time she interjected. "What are you waiting for? Go change ! We don't have time and I have to put your makeup while you dress. Off with the t-shirt."

Under pressure, I removed my t-shirt and she insisted that I put the linen shirt first. Then, while I stripped down to my skivvies, she pinned my somewhat long dark brown hair with bobby pins to clear my ears and started gluing on the second pair of latex ears. I felt a bit self-conscious and I tried to lift my butt to allow me to pull up my breeches but she kept me in place.

"Stop worming around, it needs to set first."She exclaimed.

"Why the ears? I haven't chosen anything yet !" I interjected.

"You will need my help this weekend and it will be easier if we play the same race in the same group. You could be my brother maybe, so you would have a reason to be here. And if you don't like it after the weekend, you can change character without penalty" She proposed.

"It's fine, I will play..." I hesitated thinking the right answer. " An elf?"

"A sun elf, long lived protector of life, freedom and justice. A bit Goody two-shoes. Magically, knowledgeable and nature inclined. We have the best NPC, Ariathan, or Martin if you prefer. He is so kind, and gentle, caring and fun to play with. Really a great NPC." She answered, putting makeup on my faces, while I finish putting on the breeches.

"An NPC, what is that?" I asked

"Oh ya, you don't know the terms. An NPC is a Non Player Character. The people that bring the story are also playing the monsters, enforcing the rules and all those things. They are also called Actors or Trash Mobs, depending on what they do. We are players, so we only have our character to play and can essentially do anything within the limit of what our character knows, can do and would do logically considering there class, races and values." She lectured While I finished passing the belt and pouches.

Finally, she took the cape, which had sleeves, like a Jedi robe. I spotted the leaves embroidery detail along the hem all along the hood. She closed the front metal clasps. "Well you only need your weapon and you are good to go. It's in the car and then, we shall register."

The sky was without any Moon, dark except for some distant building lights, flaming torches and and flashlights. It was a strange combo. She gave me one of the things in hand, clearly sword shape, but it didn't felt the right weight. She took the other thing and beckons me too follow her, turning on a flashlight. We trudged our way through surprisingly tall grass, wet from the dew. We shortly arrived on a gravel road, most probably the one we came in on. There were shadows and shapes walking the other way, shadowy shapes, only barely distinguishable. I was out of my depth, clearly making my first step in something unknown.

We shortly arrived at the manor/ castle I glimpsed on our way in. There was more activity around here. A cacophony from which exuded happiness, anticipation and excitement. It was a welcoming feel. On the way to the line up, Sophie, or Terra I should say, greeted a lot of persons, total strangers to me. We only waited a minute before it was our turn to register. We were the last ones to do so. We paid our entry fee and then were ushered to the character creation basement.

It was a dank, but overly brightly lit room, computer on one side, with a flurry of activity, and on the other, a mash of costume and characters, in different states of dress. It was clear they were waiting to finish the remaining persons to start the show. I was finally able to see what i was holding in hand. An elven looking curved sword. With elvish writing on it. But the sword was made of foam, so not to hurt someone with it. Sophie was holding a staff, looking like a wooden branch with feathers, beads and other trinkets hanging from it.

Eventually, it was Sophie and my turn. Sitting behind the registration table was a beleaguered looking person, approximately early thirties, sallow skinned with muddy dark brown eyes that sparkled for a moment and cleared, then he looked at Terra.

"Hi Terra, a bit late? But thank you, you made your character update, so, I shall print it. And who is with you?" He said interested, a bit energized by my presence.

"I am Mathieu, a new player, friend of hers . She essentially dragged me here, so honestly, I don't exactly know what is going on." I honestly answered, both making fun of Sophie and sharing my out off depth feeling.

"Well I am honour to welcome you to our LARPLARP ("<span style=\"font-weight: 400;\">LARP : Live action role-playing game : a theatrical game where the player plays and disguise itself in a character inside a created universe They can improvise and make decisions within the confines of rules of that universe. The organisation prepares a story and creates that universe and rules. The NPC populates and incarnate the universe character and creature.<\/span>"). I am Simon, but call me Arkad in-game. What's your name and what do you want to play? I see you are already costumed as an sun elf. Sophie's suggestion I guess?" He asked.

"Ya, well, I am Mathieu St-Laurent, and well, I don't exactly know what I want to play. Something relatively easy to learn I guess? And yes, it's her work." I answered unconvinced.

"I think I know what you could play : an elven ranger. So a light fighter with an emphasis on stealth and information gathering. In any case, next game, if you come back, which I hope, You can change everything without penalty. If you allow me, instead of telling you all the choices and taking a lot of time to explain it, I will build you your character sheet to be versatile and relatively optimized. There isn't much choice at your level." He started typing on the computer and then turned to his left, a geeky introvert looking guy, dark blonde hair with elven ears who was putting golden makeup on.

"Daniel, could you prepare Terra's stuff and also a new character kit?" Simon asked, still working on the character sheet.

"Ya I will after I finish this. I am almost there and you know how much I am not good at it. I in opposition to you, stayed an elf and so have to put makeup on, while you mister the human, only have to put your costume on." Daniel answered cheekly. They started to banter between themselves clearly showing that they were long time friends. Eventually, Simon printed out my character sheet and Daniel gave us our stuff. Sophie indicated to put it in my different pouches so that it would be more "In-game".

When we exited the basement, the darkness of the night was total, and the change of light furthered our total blindness. Sophie fished out her fashlight and directed us back the road. The only persons left around the manor were older looking persons, probably NPC, preparing for the start of the game. Sophie hurried us toward a picnic shelter in the middle of the out-of-game camping site. There were around a hundred people gathered under it, loudly talking among themselves, waiting for the starting speech. Sophie guided us toward a group of persons. I could recognize that they were Sophie's friend and also were elf or elven friends, based on their costume style, all natural, welcoming, a bit arcane/ magical. I was a bit overwhelmed by the crowd and stayed back, observing/ not intruding. Sophie introduced me as her new player friend, playing a ranger elf.

After some time, a spirited late-thirties man climbed on a picnic table. He was dressed has a mix between a shaman, a mage and a buddhist monk, all with a sun elf look. His angular jaw helped the look. He projected a calming aura. He projected respect and compassion. Without saying anything, everyone silenced and turn toward him.

"Welcome all to Terra Magika." A roar of applause and cheers resonated.

"I know you are happy to be here, but we are running a bit late and I both want to keep it short and and the sound down for the neighbors sake. As the main coordinator, I want to welcome all our new players coming for the first time " A cheers coming from around thirty person cut him off, resonating with force, but with a tinge of restrain. "And our returning players." A resounding roar came, without any restrain.

"I want you all to give a round of applause to our fantastic actor team that have prepared your weekend." A enthusiastic applause came, with persons peppered in the crowd bowing, waving or thanking the gesture.

"And on that note, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and I let the stage to Myriam for the synopsis of the weekend." On that, he gracefully jumped down the table, but still stayed near the impromptu stage. A stout women, in full valkyrie armour climbed on stage and took out a rolled parchment. A still silence swept across the crowd. With a thunderous and imperative voice she read.

"Last season, you fought the great dragon Rasham and united to defeated his reign of terror. Peace and prosperity on the realm of Ryvnel could finally be dreamed of. But the political infighting between the four Baronies is starting to come back to haunt the realm. Between the courageous Bran, the sage Leinel, the mystical Cornnack and the proud Araus who shall prevail? Does peace prevail? And with the end of Rasham, what power will want to fill the void made? Rumors talk of a new force, freed by the end of the Fiery one. He has not shown his face yet, but the echoes of his maneuvers can start to be felt. There is balance and cycle. Is Ryvnel strong enough to take itself out of it or is this time only a new turn of the wheel? Only time will tell." A round of applause surge afterward, the stage being set for what to come. She stepped off the table and Simon took the stage.

"Hi all as the rules coordinator, I will remind you some of the rules. I know most of you know them, or think they know them, but there are new players here and I want to be sure you all know the same thing." And he started enumerating some basic rules of the play. I listened carefully since I had no idea what they were. It took sometime and the crowd started to become agitated and a bit bored. Simon sensed it and cut it short, reminding the main objective : have fun while fair.

On that note, the crowd divided itself between more or less four groups, each with one barony. I followed Sophie and we joined the Leinel group. In the crowd there was the first speaker, the "main coordinator" of the game and also Daniel. Most of the group that I met before the speeches were also there. We numbered around 30.

The First speaker took a step forward. "Thank you all, I am Martin Bilodeau, but you should call me Ariathan. I am the Baron of Leinel and I will be your main NPC for the weekend. Daniel here, or Elladan, will help me. If you have any questions or need help, you can ask either of us. Now, to at least know a bit who is part of the group, let's make a short turn around the circle and each give your character name and what your character does." Each person around the circle gave there character name and what they did. I didn't remember any of it, apart that most of the members were either priest or mages. Then came Sophie's turn.

"I am Belldandy Luna Terra Stella Liadon, Arch elementalist of Leinel and Student of Ariathan. You can call me Terra." She said in a booming and authoritative voice. She surprised me. I knew she was capable of that, having seen it in private, but it was the first time I saw her show that part of her.

Next was me and a spark of inspiration took me. "I am Aether Liadon, ranger and protector of realm, member of the Watch of Leinel." I said with assurance and certainty I didn't know I had in me. Neither of the two titles I gave were true, but I though they fitted. Ariathan looked at me with an impressed and approving look, clearly taking good note. The circle ended and we made our way in-game, into the Realm of Ryvnel, of magic and fantasy to await.

Author's Note

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Thank you to my Editors and First readers