My Characters: Vilimzair Aralivar

Vilimzair Aralivar is a child of the ocean. Born over a century ago amid the bloody, splintered wreckage of a ship crushed by a mighty kraken’s tentacles, Vilimzair took his first breaths as the ship broke up around him and sharks worried the corpses of the dead and the near dead.

Days later, a passing merchantman discovered the infant alone in a small open boat bobbing amid the wreckage. There was no clue to his identity in the boat except for the name Vilimzair Aralivar daubed in blood on his blanket. Naked but for a shark tooth’s amulet hung around his neck, Vilimzair was near death.

With no other clue to his identity, his rescuers named him Vilimzair Aralivar (although in truth this could have been his father’s name, the name of the person to who the child should have been delivered and so on).

The merchantman—a kind, widower named Arun Barrolson—adopted the young elf and treated him as his own. For the first 20 years of his life Vilimzair lived with Arun aboard his ship Wave Strider and travelled widely. However, eventually Arun died of old age and his brother—jealous of the young elf’s place in Arun’s affections—cast Vilimzair out with little more than the clothes on his back.

Thus has Vilimzair wandered alone for decades. Never staying in one place for more than a few years, he has learnt much in his travels. He has held many jobs and learned many things including (but not limited to as he likes to tell anyone who will listen):

  • A sailor
  • A carpenter
  • A scribe and cartographer
  • A fisherman
  • A rat catcher
  • A crab fisher
  • A fisherman
  • A siege engineer
  • A cook
  • An acrobat in a traveling troupe of entertainers
  • A circus entertainer
  • And more!

Vilimzair travels light—not bothering with much in the way of possessions—but craves knowledge above all things. Two things particular intrigue Vilimzair: magic and song. While he has working knowledge of many things and many professions, he loves singing and knows a vast array of sea shanties and poems.

A nameless compulsion to wander the ocean drives him ever onwards and he has served as crew aboard many ships. The chance discovery of a book washed up on shore a year ago particularly intrigues him. Untitled, but with a ragged pale blue cover and pages treated to resist immersion in water the tome speaks to some primal fibre of his being. He believes the book to be a spellbook of unknown origin, but thus far it has resisted his attempts to unlock the secrets lurking within.

For the last few years, Vilimzair has been the leader of a band of roving performers. Under this protective wing and wise guidance, the Buccaneer Bards have become sought after performers. As the adventure begins, the troupe are coming to the end of their residency at the Formidable Maid in Port Peril…

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

12 thoughts on “My Characters: Vilimzair Aralivar”

  1. Vilim what? Who? Ohhh, yeah. I think I hearded him once. Liked the sound o’ his own voice from what I kin tell. I did like a song ‘e did called Brandy, though. Catchy.

  2. Ahhh how can I forget the first time I heard the Vilimzair. It was quite an interesting experience as I’ve never got so much information about Sea Shanties than in that song. Me being a dwarf I do not know anything about the sea anyway but his lyrical flow was almost like the waves of the sea themselves. It almost put me in a trance like state. Before I knew it I had downed 6 pints and I was drunk as a orc on a horse. Good times indeed…

  3. “Is it not strange, that those of us who do not know our own stories seek so desperately to tell the stories of others instead? Perhaps in some way it takes the sting out our own incomplete nature. ”

    The elegantly dressed Drow produces a card from thin air with a small flourish.

    “Here, take my card. If you are ever in the port city of Varro, go to the Bard’s College I have founded there. We have need of talented students.”

  4. Beloved Ielihm,

    Recently I had a stop at the RoseBud, a decent establishment, downtown Calimport. Not too bad ale, the food was edible, wenches were kind enough to pinch and it was clean.

    What did catch my attention was that elf lad on the stage. Managable voice, a bit too high a pitch and unbalanced bass but surely there is potential there. I did had an urge to school him (and this speaks volumes about his skill) but my current schedule speaks otherwise.

    Be him lucky, he could reach my standards.

    To prevent your inevitable question, of course I was incognito, one can never be too careful these days. Plus, I needed some time off.

    Well, back to standard practices I guess.

    I fare you well,

    Arethos The Red
    Artist Extraordinaire, Divine Voice of Milil

  5. Out in the bay, the ships are jostling in the evening breeze, a sea mist speckling their pale masts and the brightly clored buoys. Back on the dock, in the low-lit warmth of the Sea Siren Tavern, a bard called Vilimzair Aralivar has just had his name announced, and he walks up to take his place on the little corner stage: a rootless wanderer, an itinerant young elf that obviously is not a professional bard, wearing a mix match of the garments of a sailor, and those of a land lubber, a mix of styles, with the high top comfortable, soft leather boots of a scout or hunter, looking entirely ordinary until he starts to sing. “Let your harbour lights keep burning,” he begins, a rich, stirring sound. A man in a ship captain’s hat, stops stock still in the middle of the tavern, clutches his tankard to his breast and cocks his head. “Send your beam across the way,” Vilimzair sings on. “Some poor faint and struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save.”

    Now in its tenth year, the Sea Siren’s International Sea Shanty Festival draws hundreds of people to this idyllic corner of the busy port town. Organized by the local shantyers, and with proceeds donated to the Island’s Lifeboat Institution, for three days the port town is transformed. From the Custom House Quay down to the new harbour-front development, and all through the taverns that line the shore, some 20-50 shanty groups or individual bards perform each year. Some are dancing, some in costume, others armed only with a pint of grog, but all of them are singing songs of the sea.

    The festival draws a diverse crowd – music fans, seasoned cagoule-wearers, ale-drinkers, women in Breton-striped tops. They fill up the tap room and join in on the choruses, tales of fair Nancy left behind, of liquor and maidens and days spent a-roving and stamping-and-hauling.

    The sea shanty began as a work song, its rhythms marked by the various tasks undertaken at sea: raising anchors, hauling ropes, the emphasis falling on particular syllables. Most followed the pattern of call and response, with a shantyman calling out the line and the men joining in on the chorus – usually coinciding with a heave. They helped synchronise a team and chronicle their adventures at sea and ashore.There are various types of shanty — among them the steady-rhythmed, narrative capstan shanty, performed while raising the anchor. There is the halyard shanty, sung during the raising and lowering of the sails; and the pumping shanties, sung as the sailors pumped the handle of the windlass. Musically, the shanties vary, some sharing features in common with the gaillard or work songs. There are regional variations, too — the shanties of each nation’s coasts being slightly different.

    As well as shantymen from the ships in the harbour, there are several singing groups and bards from nations near and far that take part taking part this weekend — some profesional bards, some talented sailors, all hailing from from all the points of the compass. As the sky darkens and the wind picks up with the night breezes as night falls, Vilimzair finishes his first song, and after enthusiastic applause, he sings with a more melancholy tone to the way this elf sings, a series of bleak, beautiful verses, tales of the this island and of the sailors raised here.

    After he finishes, Vilimzair wanders around, and at some point in the evening we sit rogether and we talk, he has many travel tales, and he seems to have done a great many things. How many are true, and how many are exaggeration, I know not. I asked him about his local island song, and he had this to say:

    “It’s traditional to sing of this island,” he explained. “In the early days, there was no other entertainment, so they sang, and some of the local song are quite good. Theirs were traditional fishermen’s songs, reflecting the island’s history of whaling, and catching what the locals refer to as the “little scampi.” There are waltzes and polkas, and the recognizable themes of staying at home when a husband heads off to sea, or leaving loved ones behind. My current favorite, the one I preformed, is a little song about the time that 800 barrels of wine and whisky were wrecked on the beach. Imagine, just one poor fisherman going down to the beach and seeing all these barrels in the sea washing ashore. He thought is fortune was made, but he drank himself senseless in celebration, and he woke up to find the rest of the locals had discovered his bounty and they let him with only the empty bottle of rum he had celebrated with. That song speaks to many, for fortune’s wheel spins and you never know if you will end up high or low…”

    My impression is the voice remains key to the shanty sound. Some sing entirely without accompaniment; others bring in instruments (the fiddle, tin whistle and mandolin); others rely on the squeezebox. Each nation, Vilimzair had mentioned, has a different, characteristic tuning. Most play only their native style, while being wave found, he have none, so he play them all equally well.

    As I look back, the highlight of Vilimzair’s performance came about midway through: a rendition of The Sea Is My Home. “And no one will ever move me from this life,” he sang. “Until the sea lord calls me to sit at his hand/ For this is my Eden/ And I’m not alone./ For this is my life/ And this is my home.” A rather large, tough looking ordinary sailor sitting beside me in with a large tankard nearly empty wipes his eye, turns and whispers to his friend: “Oh my, mately,” he says hoarsely. “I’m getting a bit misty now.”

    Vilimzair Aralivar is a rare talent, in song and verse, and personality. He can cause a young girl to bush, or make a strong man cry. If he ever comes to your town, or you run across him in your travels, you should listen to him sing, and share a pint or two with him after. He is a rather entertaining fellow, with many an unlikely tale. I like him.

    ~ Sir Bernerd Blade, former Royal Guard Sergeant Major, and currently Lieutenant of the privateer Tigershark, captained by Sharhara Redblade.

  6. Any way to delete the above? It was a first draft and I accidentally posted it too soon. Below is the completed, final version.

  7. Wake up rough one morning, head pounding and stomach churning from too much drink. Have to cross the river before noon that day to make an appointment, so I stagger down to the ferry dock. Ferryman’s seen me before and knows I’m not conversational even at my best. Takes my coin and leaves me to find my own way forward. Then just as he’s pushing off, up comes this elf running like a pack of hell hounds is burning up his trail, though given his dainty good looks, I’m betting it was more like a pack of angry husbands. Hops from the dock to the deck like he’s done it a hundred times before and tosses his fare to the ferryman with a jaunty little flip of his hat. (Yes, hat. Weird place to keep coin if you ask me.) And wouldn’t you know it, even through there’s naught but the two of us aboard and near thirty feet of open deck, he waltzes right up and plops down beside me. His arse has barely hit the boards before he’s telling me his name – I can’t pronounce it – asking mine, wanting to know where I’ve been, where I’m headed, who my people are, why I paint the haft of my axe red…

    Blasted dandelion-eater didn’t shut up for the whole trip. Tried to pry words out of me for the first half of the way, then gave up and started singing some high-pitched nonsense about love on the waves. Or of the waves, maybe. Either way, felt like a horde of rats trying to burrow into my skull through my eardrums…

    So yeah, people say he can sing. As to how good he might really be, I can’t say. But he’s definitely no good for early mornings after late nights.

  8. “I must say, I was rather cross with Vilimzair after I thought that he had stolen my good name. Then I was cross with him when I thought he had stolen my ladyfriend (I later discovered that even if he had, he would have done me quite the favor). But once I heard him sing ‘The Harpy of the Mists’ with such passion, I knew he couldn’t possibly be that terrible of a person.”

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