Real World History
Tess was my first Shadowrun character, existing entirely during the First Edition rules. She was created in the fall of 1990, based on the Street Shaman archetype. Over the summer of 1991, I gave her a makeover of sorts, writing a story which radically changed her appearance and installed various cyberware.
Tess was killed by a couple of huge insect spirts during a gaming session on 24 Nov 1991.
She is presented here, updated for Third Edition.
Tess is a Taoist, more concerned with the harmony of the universe than with personal peace. She considers it her job to personally act as balance to the rest of the modern world, which she considers excessively on the chaotic side. While her companions hurt, she heals; but, for everything given, something must be gained. Healing services are never given for free, although the payment is not necessarily monetary. She heals her fellow Shadowrunners, for example, for no payment because they protect her in combat.
Attacking is not a part of Gabrielle's nature. She will never shoot first. She will only fight when there is no other option (which, it seems her, happens all to frequently in 2050) and only rarely uses magic in combat. She will try for a non-lethal way to stop her assailants.
Gabrielle holds highest respect for Winnie the Pooh, the ultimate Taoist. This Taoist animal idea, as well as her discovery of her own magical ability, has lead her to develop her own path involving a melding of Taoist theory and animalism. She runs the shadows to test herself against this ideal as well as to gain enough economic standing to support exposing the public to her ideas.
She feels that keeping secrets is unnatural and will go to great lengths to discover the secrets of other. Once discovered, she rarely does anything else with the information.
Apart from her large chest, Gabrielle looks like a post-pubescent boy, or possibly an effeminate man. Her straight hair is kept short and she never wears make-up. Whenever possible, she wears men's clothing, especially suits. Her lineage is 25% Japanese, 50% American, and 25% Souix, so her features are slightly Oriental and her blue eyes (which she now sees as another indication of her magical nature) are slightly out of place. She rarely speaks without being spoken to first, and when she does, it is usually some gem of philosophy about something that has just occurred.
Gabrielle Zicalte has lived in the streets of Seattle for as long as she can remember. She has had vague, recurrent dreams about being in lavish room in a tall building, and thinks that she may have spent the first couple years of her life there, she cannot be certain. Where she came from is irrelevant to her, as it does not affect her current situation.
Life in the streets always seemed quite natural to Gabrielle. She lived by killing rats for food and scrounging through garbage, and -- for much of her life - didn't think about anyone doing otherwise. She never dealt with anyone as a child, fearing the larger people of the streets. She hid alone. She wasn't harassed until, when she was about 10 years old, she got caught sleeping in a street gang's turf. They put a collar on her, keeping her as a pet. Although she was fed well, she was often beaten and raped repeatedly. After failing many attempts at escape, she was discovered by another gang during a turf war. During the final firefight between the rival gangs, Gabrielle helped disrupt the gang that was holding her and turned the tide of the fight. The other gang, thus winning the turf war, made her an honorary member and giving her the name Tess.
During this period, under the relative protection of the gang, Tess taught herself how to read with some educational tapes she had found in the trash. She also took to masquerading as a male to help avoid rape.
When she was 15, and just beginning puberty, she found a book called the Tao of Pooh and instantly became fascinated by the Taoist philosophy. While she was in the process of reading this book, she and some gang initiates underwent a gang ritual that, among other things, involved smoking Peyote. The drug was poorly mixed and those who smoked it became deathly sick, except to Tess. Mer mind expanded, exposing her to things she had never seen before. She walked out of her body into a new realm of colors and thought. She looked down to see some gang members frantically examining her body for signs of life. She reluctantly put her mind back into her body and showed everyone that she was all right saying she had just been to "a most wonderful place." Much later, she discovered that the wonderous place was called the Astral Plane.
The drug eventually wore off, but the euphoria of the Astral Plane had not. Tess tried to recreate her state of mind to project again, and found it quite easy to do so. She told the gang about this and they didn't believe her, so she turned it into a game, detecting lies told by the gang, seeing what was transpiring in the sealed room next door, etc.. When some members said that her face changed when she projected into something "well... kinda snake-like," the gang leader, Buck, had enough sense to take Tess to a woman that the gang was "protecting."
Known only as Jana, the woman proved to be an important influence to Tess. Buck brought Tess to Jana, telling her "You seem to know `bout `dis magickal shit. Have a look at her." Jana said nothing, just watching Tess walk around the apartment, looking and the herbs, feathers, crystals, amulets, and other mystical paraphernalia about the apartment. Tess immediately opened a file cabinet drawer filled with boxes, took a single box and opened it, saying to Jana "This is hissing at me. What is it?" Jana was impressed. Tess had gone out of her way to get to a Snake Totem that was making noises only Tess could hear. Jana was so impressed, in fact, that she offered Tess the totem for free, something which any self respecting Talismonger would never do. Even then, Tess insisted on offering something for it, and negotiated with Buck to get Jana's monthly "protection fee" down to a quarter of what it had been.
Tess talked often with Jana about magick. Tess trained herself in the use of sorcery, as Jana could do very little magic, but Jana helped Tess considerably by exposing her to what magick could do, as well as getting a client to help guide her through her first conjuring. She occasionally used magic to gain income to supplement the the occasional resale of weapons looted from street battles.
Eventually, Tess made a deal with a church run shelter. It basically amounted to her performing magickal healing for room and board and, most importantly, privacy. The clergy didn't relish having someone chanting to the city spirits in their shelter, but it was a good deal financially for them.
Shadowrunning allowed Tess to achieve her early goals, especially initiation, but when it seemed as if she and her comrades were running out of luck, she postpone Shadowrunning for a time. She decided that, for now, Seattle had taught her what she needed, but was now void of lessons. She travelled to Chicago, then to Denver, but neither gave her what she wanted.
Her Journey took her to the city of Pueblo in the Pueblo Corporate Council. She found it peaceful and much to her liking. She built a Lodge and fasted for a Dream. It came, revealing a way of spell casting unknown to her. She began to practice it and became better at controlling spell energy.
In the PCC, she met with two other Shadowrunners, and they helped her with some of her meatworld concerns, as well as becoming strange bedfellows. During an information gathering outing, Tess was severely wounded, necessitating the installation of cyberware. This, of course, lessened her magical ability, which confused her, as she was convinced that she had been on the Path.
She sought out Snake on his home Place. Already suffering from wounds, the Quest almost killed her, but she did meet Snake. Before Snake could speak, Tess suddenly realized what had happened. She knew that she was not immune to balance. She knew that the information gathering mission failed because she had thought it central to her Journey. It wasn't. Her Path was clear, and Snake nodded.
Gabrielle is miraculously stable and self-confident for someone with her childhood, and seems to possess an almost inhuman perspective of the past. She is not concerned about who her parents were are why the left her in the streets. In fact, if a couple came up to her and said "Hi. We're your parents." She would probably respond "Oh. Nice to meet you. Do you know where the bus station is?"
Her actions are nothing but practical, and she fears very little. She sees little point in sex not used for reproduction, and still has aversion to sexual intercourse for any reason and tries to avoid attracting or getting close to men, which may be one reason why she still dresses in men's clothing.
Recently, however, Tess's feelings on this subject have changed. Her more carnal emotions have been allowed to surface, if only for short flashes. Her dress is now a bit more feminine, a bit more Amerind, a bit more Snake.
"Snake is a wise healer who dwells in many places and knows many secrets. Snake is a good councillor, but exacts a price for her advice. Snake is adaptable and can confuse the senses of enemies." The power of the snake gives Tess aid when she is trying to heal of friend or find and confuse her enemies. The snake is not a violent beast, and thus the Snake steals power from Tess if she cast of spell during a fight. Tess's particular totem also seems to give her more power when she summons a City Spirit.
Snake and Tess have a ravenous appetite for information, especially secrets. Tess will often go to great lengths to learn someone's secrets.
Tess really enjoys being in Astral Space. It would not be too far off the mark to say that she is addicted to being there. She seems to regard it as a dream-place, where everything is pure and honest (and, thus, a fitting escape from the real world.)
She has thrice come face-to-face with Snake in the Astral Plane. Once when she was first beginning her magickal path, and once a few months after her first Initiation. While they answered many questions which confused Tess, both contacts confused her on other ideas. The third time was after she had been wounded, where Snake set her on track.
Often, especially during Shadowruns, Tess will feign meditation to use her sense of Astral perception to see who is really around her and what their aura reveals about their actions. Although she does practice meditation, it is not essential to her and is more often used as a mask for the public.
Tess wishes to expand her magickal abilities and eventually write a thesis. She hopes to teach her philosophy to others and encourage its distribution. She also is considering summoning a mid-power Ally to help her Journey.