|Full Name:||Stephen Morrison, PhD|
|Weight:||172 lbs. (78.02 kg)|
|Quote:||"I'm the guy who makes all the hard decisions, even if I have to make them alone."|
Stephen is, at his core, a very caring person. He's always been empathetic, capable of a great depth of love for others and the world. He was raised to believe that love meant sacrifice, that to care for someone meant to put their needs before one's own. This has led to a deep streak of martyrdom in his nature, not out of a desire for attention or affection, but out of an honest belief that if he cared about something, he needed to do all in his power to ensure that person, creature or organization was healthy and happy, regardless of the consequences to himself.
Unfortunately, he's only human. He has a hard time admitting to his own needs and has a tendency to take excessive blame on himself. Over time, and after too many instances of losing people he's cared about, or feeling taken advantage of, he's become quite cynical. While he'd like to believe in an innate goodness in human nature, he tell himself that he knows better. People are, by and large, stupid and selfish and cynical. Most people just aren't worth investing in, and likely to take advantage of someone that's willing to sacrifice for them. A truly good person would return that sacrifice... but how many truly good people are left in the world?
The problem, of course, is that he doesn't honestly believe all of this. Deep down he still thinks people are basically good, just all too often misguided or defensive. He blames his own martyr streak for causing his internal suffering, gets mad at himself for caring about things, and then feels guilty for not doing or caring enough. Which only causes him to be upset at himself for being too much of a martyr. Obviously, this psychological cycle needs to stop, and his progress as a Mage has suffered as he's been too caught up in his personal problems to go after enlightenment.
Outwardly, he comes across as cynical and blunt, with a dry, barbed wit that's become darker in the past few years. He holds people at arm's length, and his students and colleagues would likely be stunned to see how emotional he can get when alone... the grumpy, jaded professor doesn't seem like the type to cry at movies or pamper his cats. But then, the grumpy, jaded professor is mostly a protective mask.
The world is alive. Energy flows through all things--through living things, of course, but also the soil beneath our feet, the air we breathe, the water we drink. As a Mage, Stephen can see and manipulate those flows. To him, everything is part of the Lifeflow that Verbena speak of. In non-living patterns, the flow moves in an endless loop, its energy ultimately becoming stagnant. The energy of living beings flows in such a way that it can connect outward to other living beings, creating bonds, affecting each other. Mages can even connect to the patterns of non-living things and shape them, shape the Lifeflow itself, or the Timeflow he doesn't remotely begin to understand.
The flows of each pattern weave together in the grand Tapestry of reality. Ultimately, everything is connected through this Tapestry, it is being woven as time moves forward. Perhaps there may be a way that a certain thread is supposed to be woven--this is Fate--but the past has been made and the future is fluid. It is here, in the present, at the edge of the completed Tapestry, that Mages can affect the flows of energy that run through all things.
- Physical: Strength 2, Dexterity 2, Stamina 3
- Social: Charisma 3, Manipulation 2, Appearance 3
- Mental: Perception 3, Intelligence 3, Wits 4
- Talents: Athletics 1, Sensitivity 3, Vigilance 1
- Skills: Animal Ken 1, Crafts 2, Research 3, Survival 3
- Knowledges: Academics 2, Culture 3, Linguistics 3, Lore 2, Medicine 1, Occult 3, Science 4
- Arete: 3
- Spheres: Forces 2, Life 3, Matter 1, Prime 2
- Backgrounds: Avatar 3, Library 4, Resources 3, Sanctum 3
- Willpower: 7
- Merits: Prodigy (2), Prestigious Mentor (1), True Love (1)
- Flaws: Obsession (Divination) (2), Sphere Inept (Time) (5)
- Attributes: Stamina: 5 (Total: 5)
- Abilities: Occult: 2, Science: 8 (Total: 10)
- Advantages: Forces: 7, Arete: 8, Resources: 3, Sanctum: 3, Willpower: 2 (Total: 23)
- Merits: +4
- Flaws: -7
- Total Freebies Spent: 35
Specialties & ExpertiseEdit
- Never one to be caught unaware, Stephen seems to come to the correct decisions and have the right resources for any problem that comes his way. Furthermore, he seems to say just the right things in social situations to make the right impressions.
Animal Ken: Felines and Birds
- Stephen has always found himself fond of the company of domestic animals. His favourite by far has always been cats, but he has on occasion fancied birds of various sizes as companions as well. As such, he has knowledge of taking basic care of such creatures.
- Growing up with the Verbena led Stephen to find some art form that he found enjoyable. He found that working with his bare hands gave him a sense of pleasure and took up sculpting. The feel of the clay and the slow process with which the piece comes forth fascinates him.
- Having a PhD in Ethnobotany, Stephen has taken many classes that detail the ways humans have interacted with the environment throughout the ages.
Culture: Ethnography, Idioms, Folklore
- Stephen has traveled to many places, learning the lore, divinatory methods, and healing practices of various peoples throughout the world. He is an ethnobotanist, and so he not only travels but researches when he isn't traveling. He prefers to speak to people in their native tongues, or failing that, at least using English terms the locals will be more likely to understand, and so he also has a particular interest in their idioms.
Linguistics: Spanish, Japanese, Swahili, Inuktitut
- Stephen learned Spanish when he was younger, and it served him well when traveling Central and South America. He learned Inuktitut during his time with the Inuit, learned Swahili as a good "lingua franca" for traveling Africa, and learned Japanese due to his interest in both Shinto healing and divination, and the Okinawan people, who are some of the longest-lived on Earth.
- Having grown up as a Verbena, Stephen has always been steeped in the lore, though he focused his attention more on practical matters than esoterics and history, and so he is not an expert in this field.
Science: Expertise: Botany, Biology, Chemistry; Specialty: Practical Applications
- Again, Stephen's schooling (both higher and home levels) has taught him many things about plants of all variations. For this, Stephen knows many uses for many flora that he finds.
- As the child of two Awakened Verbena and raised by a coven of Mages, Stephen Awakened when he was eight years old. His training did not begin until he was 13, but by then he had already learned a few small insignificant tricks and was very interested in the actual composition of effects.
- His cousin and mentor Samantha Palmer was a very well known mage among the Verbena when she took Stephen under her tutelage. After giving him the understanding and training he needed to go his own way she continued to assist and guide him along. It was a horrible loss to Stephen when she passed away.
- Stephen met Michelle Buchanan when he was beginning his graduate studies. They instantly clicked and, over time, they fell in love. Despite the betrayal and other hardships that pressed on their relationship Stephen continued to love her. She too "passed away" six years ago, but deep down Stephen still has strong feelings for her and tries to make himself believe that she isn't dead as presumed by the authorities over five years ago.
Sphere Inept: Time
- After his first seeking, Stephen devoted much of his time to vigorous research into the various Spheres so as to at least have a general grasp of their meanings. Most came easily enough, but the entire realm of Time was lost to him. Try as much as he might, he could not grasp time as a fluid thing. Wondering how to overcome this block he went to a Verbena who was very proficient with Spirit and had the witch scan him to determine the problem. The outcome was dire: Stephen's Avatar had undergone some violent ordeal in a past incarnation and lost the ability to fully grasp the sphere of Time, thus closing it off to Stephen. Perhaps with the assistance of a Master or higher level of Spirit it could be healed, but people of that nature are few and far between in this realm of existence.
- When he was told that his Avatar was damaged to the point of never being able to progress in the sphere of Time, Stephen threw all of his efforts into finding other means of deciphering the future. Over time, this handicap became an obsession that still exists. The tarot, rune casting, crystal balls, lost prophesy, anything that can help Stephen learn of what will happen is gold to the man. Whether these methods are sound or even remotely accurate in their rulings is another matter entirely.
- Stephen's Avatar often takes the form of a large bird of prey, usually a falcon or a hawk. During his dreams and in his Seekings, this bird has been a scout or guide to some greater understanding or prize that leads to higher states of life. Often, Stephen will dream of being led to some obscure object in his dreams that may have no real connection to what he is actually being led to in the real world, but this is the nature of an Avatar, this is how Mages learn.
- Stephen's family has given him a large supply of works detailing how Verbena view the various spheres of Magick in order to give him an upper hand on become "the great Mage he is supposed to be." In addition to these works, Stephen has procured some rare sources of prophesy in order to fuel his need for divination.
- Stephen's family has always helped provide money, and research grants have funded his travels of the world. Because of an interest in the recent events in Crystal Springs and a desire to put more Verbena representation in the city, as well as his Avatar's insistence, he applied for and was accepted into a position in the University of Colorado's botany department. He's set himself up with a house in Lyons (thank the gods for bank repossession sales) and will be moving in shortly. He also has a small car (a hybrid of course) and furniture and the like, some of which is being shipped by his parents.
- One thing Stephen's parents taught him was that a Sanctum is an invaluable tool. Stephen always tries to find a small greenhouse as his Sanctum, in this building he sets up wards and settles his energies throughout. The house he bought has just such a greenhouse in its backyard. Plants in this building tend to thrive regardless of the environment outside and parasites avoid the fruits and vegetables.
Magick & FociEdit
Stephen's magickal style is fairly typical for a Verbena, though the brand of magick his family practices has similarities to Hermetic ritual magick. Stephen tends to work with elements in mind--earth, air, fire, and water--and uses many ritual tools, especially ritual blades. Blood is a central element, of course, as are herbs. He manipulates the flows of energy within all things, or manipulates their thread within the Tapestry.
The Art of Winds (Forces)
- (Discarded) To Stephen channeling, the forces of the universe is a direct manipulation of the powers of the winds and of the earth. Thus his foci for Forces magick is being outside. He has to be able to feel the air about him and draw upon the primal natures of the planet so as to use that energy in his effects.
The Art of Blood (Life)
- (Discarded) Blood is, naturally, his foci for this Sphere. He may prick someone's blood to diagnose an illness, use that same blood or his own to enchant a mug of herbal tea to help heal them, mix blood in with herbs for a poultice, or put his own blood onto a plant to help to grow. In some cases, sap may substitute for blood in effects that have to do solely with plants--as sap is the blood of the plant. He tends to think of and speak of illnesses and ailments as problems with the blood, and focus on healing as a matter of needing to stop bleeding or cause blood to coagulate and form a scab.
The Art of Crafting (Matter)
- The element of earth is Stephen's focus when it comes to this Sphere. Dirt, stone, metal, gems... all these are the building blocks of the world, with stable, set patterns. To affect non-living organic matter Stephen must still have some sort of "earthen" foci involved--setting herbs on a stone tray, or smearing muds on a piece of wood, for instance.
The Art of Power (Prime)
- Prime is the essence of the Lifeflow, the energy that runs through all things. Thus, Stephen's focus for this Sphere is that energy itself--or rather, his ability to see the energy. In order to manipulate the flows of Quintessence, he must be able to see them, either directly or indirectly. Pure Prime energy appears to be electric blue, but the energy may be different colours depending on the Spheres used in a spell.
The first sliver of the waxing moon was visible in the sky the night Cynthia Morrison gave birth to her first child. She was a Verbena, as was her husband Roger, and the fact that their child was born under such an auspicious moon without any magickal intervention they took as a positive sign for his future. Cynthia Morrison was part of a long line of a Verbena family, Roger was a strong willworker in his own right, and they hoped to continue the family tradition through their child.
Stephen was the boy's name, and he was raised in a small house in the Cotswolds, in southeastern England, surrounded by rolling fields and forests. His family headed up a coven of Awakened Verbena, un-Awakened Verbena sorcerors, and acolytes. The child's life was full of magick, such that he barely saw it as a separate thing from the rest of the world... it simply was. Some people could manipulate reality, some could not, and among those who could, there were varying levels of ability. He wouldn't understand just what the difference between Awakened and non-Awakened magick was until he was older.
His father was obsessed with plant life, his way to understand the Sphere of Life, which he wanted to master someday. Having a child was more Cynthia's desire, and especially when Stephen was young and unable to talk Roger was not precisely abusive but somewhat distant. Stephen was closer to his mother, and his cousin, Samantha Palmer, the daughter of his mother's sister. She was five years older than he, and like many in the family, Awakened young.
When Stephen was six years old, his parents finally conceived another child. At first the family was joyous, but soon complications became evident--something was wrong with the child. Rather than simply allow it to run its course, Roger insisted on trying to fix the problem. He and Cynthia together wove a spell to "cure" the baby... but it backfired. Too much vulgar magick, in too short a time, and the Paradox between the two rebounded upon them. The baby was killed and both were rendered sterile through the Paradox, a sterility incurable by any Mage they knew.
Suddenly, Stephen was forever destined to be an only child, the last of his father's line. Samantha could continue the family Verbena tradition as well... but it was up to Stephen to continue the Morrison name and its legacy of magickal work. Though his parents never gave him outright pressure, there were subtle things the child picked up on and internalized, including some of their own guilt for having killed the baby. Some of the extended family was not so subtle, and slowly Stephen began to feel that he must succeed, to please the family.
Two years on, Stephen would often hang around the outside of the coven's circles, and grew more and more interested in magic. It was perhaps inevitable that he would Awaken. He tried to figure out just what it was that his parents could see in the rituals that he could not, straining to really see.
One night, the coven performed a ritual intended to enhance the members' fertility, as another coven member wish to have a child. Though Stephen was supposed to be in bed (even Verbena have limits on what children should be involved in), he snuck out anyhow to watch. The magick, the thrill of doing something he wasn't supposed to, his own life lived among magick and different ways of thinking... something finally broke through the barriers, and he understood the difference. The un-Awakened could perform magic, yes... but they could not see what the Awakened could--the threads, the Tapestry that bound the ritual participants, the cords of magickal energy that they manipulated. And Stephen could see it now, the Tapestry, the true nature of the world.
That night he dreamed of a falcon, leading him along a path through a forest. He could speak to the falcon, and ever after it was his companion--his Avatar, faithfully leading him forward, encouraging him not to look back. If he came to a fork, he and the Avatar would choose one way, and the other would be forever lost unless the paths crossed once more--there was no way to go back. Never, ever look back.
The next morning, Stephen told his mother about the change in his view of the world. His parents were so ecstatic that he'd Awakened that they didn't even bother scolding him for sneaking out to watch the ritual. They encouraged him to continue his studies and his speculations, but insisted that magickal training would wait a few years, as they truly didn't wish to push him too hard.
Five years later, when Stephen was 13, his parents finally told him that he was ready for his training. His cousin Samantha, a good Mage in her own right by the age of 18, was his teacher. He was not sent away to boarding school as is so common in England for this very reason. Life settled into a comfortable routine: Stephen would go to school (quietly doubting much of what his teachers said about the way the world worked--he knew better), then come home and immediately start training. His mother insisted he break for dinner, and he took the weekends off to do other things--the family believed in a "well rounded" life--but otherwise his focus was his magickal studies. Not just that, of course, but lore, general occult knowledge, the sort of foci other mages might use. Rotes, countermagick (the theory before he could learn it), the nature of Paradox, and so on.
During this time, he and Samantha discovered a difficulty--he simply could not seem to grasp the Timeflow, the Art of Turning. Time was a relentlessly linear thing to him, moving in one direction--how could we see a future that hadn't happened, or affect the past without paradox? Samantha consulted with his parents, and they took him to a master of Spirit. After examination, he was told that his Avatar itself was damaged, likely from trauma in a past life. He would never be able to use the Sphere of Time, the Art of Turning, unless somehow the damage was fixed. Stephen refused to simply accept this, and began to study divination in earnest. Perhaps if he could understand mundane methods of looking forward and back in time, he could understand the magickal methods as well.
So his teenaged years passed. Stephen began dating, though he tried to confine dates to weekends--weeknights were for magickal study. He also began to finally find common ground with his father. Through his studies he took an interest in the medicinal uses of plants, and found the subject fascinating. His father was a botanist, the better to understand the plants he studied, and he began to take Stephen aside to help him learn the properties of the herbs and roots her was studying. Over a few months this became part of the routine, that his father and his botanical studies took up one and eventually two nights a week. His father was effusive with praise when Stephen decided he wanted to go to college and study ethnobotany.
He had his first serious girlfriend at 16, one of the other acolytes in the coven, and his studies began to include a sexual element, his girlfriend even joining him for certain sessions. It was perhaps these distractions--a girlfriend, magickal studies, botany studies--that kept his grades from being exemplary, but they were still good enough to land him a spot at the University of York. By the time he graduated from secondary school he had undergone a successful Seeking and reached the "Initiate" level in the Art of Blood.
The campus was perfect for a Verbena, with its abundant wildlife and greenery, and without the distraction of constant magickal study, Stephen was able to apply himself more fully. He found a coven on campus, took courses in botany, anthropology, and medicine, and generally enjoyed his college years. As graduation approached, he decided he wanted to see more of the world, and so he applied to various schools abroad. He chose Stanford for graduate school, and Samantha, joining him in this desire to see more of the world, moved to San Jose.
A few months into his graduate studies, while checking out a bar near campus, he met a girl named Michelle. She was an undergraduate student studying physics. She talked about her studies while he listened with rapt attention. She was smart, pretty, funny, she seemed to genuinely like him... and she seemed to understand something about the nature of timeflow that he had never grasped. And she was a Sleeper! Stephen knew he was in love that night.
Michelle had a boyfriend, but a year and a half of patient friendship led to a relationship. They moved in together soon after, and Stephen proposed n their first anniversary. The relationship seemed solid, and they were certainly very happy. Michelle seemed like the type who might be able to Awaken, although she'd be very technological for a Verbena. Stephen tried to subtly push Michelle toward Awakening, but he figured there would be plenty of time for that later. Michelle got into graduate school at MIT, and Stephen, finishing up his doctoral thesis, decided he would follow to study some of the Native tribes in the American northeast. The wedding would take place sometime during Michelle's graduate years. Everything was planned, and comfortable. Michelle graduated, Stephen completed and successfully defended his thesis, and they began to pack.
The last week before they were to move, Michelle started acting strangely. She met with a man she'd met online years ago, Jeff Rowland, and was out of the house a great deal. Stephen tried to ask what was wrong, but she wouldn't tell him. Hoping it was just a case of pre-moving nerves, he continued with the packing and the planning.
The morning they were supposed to pick up the U-Haul and start the move, he woke to a note on the pillow. Michelle was leaving--she felt stifled, she needed to "find herself." She was going to Las Vegas with Jeff. Stephen put the move on hold and followed, but he only managed to see her once in the three weeks he spent there, and she was acting even more strangely then. He gave up after three weeks, and went to San Jose, thinking his life was in ruins.
Samantha came through for him as always. She was supportive, comforting, assured him there would be other women--and that Michelle, in time, might see the error of her ways in running off with this man she barely knew. She encouraged him to go within to find stability, and Stephen went on another Seeking. He followed the falcon, and found resolve. He was on the right path... this was meant to be, something needed. They had to grow apart before they could grow together, and in the meantime he could not abandon his studies. After the Seeking, he took up the abandoned move--keeping Michelle's things--and went to Massachusettes.
Stephen's studies in the next few years took him south into the Virginias and Carolinas, north to Canada, even as far west as Alaska. He studied with the Metis of Canada and the Inuits in Alaska, learning their language, Inuktitut while there. Everywhere he went, he traded the more mundane knowledge he had gained as a Verbena for the knowledge of their ancient ways--for this, as many anthropologists have learned to their misfortune, is the only real way to get truthful answers from indigneous peoples. If one treats people as equals, as fellow students and healers, one will receive respect in kind. Treat people as research subjects, and they will make up nonsense to fill your scientific journals, keeping their secrets for those worthy. Stephen strove to be worthy, more concerned with true knowledge than journal publications--though he did publish several papers during this time. He also continued his obsession with divinatory practices, learning all he could of the ways of the people he met.
A year after she left him, Michelle got hold of Stephen's number and called him. Though he was bitter at first, he talked to her, andin time his feelings for her overcame his need to push her away, his need for revenge. They stayed in touch, and Stephen did his best to simply talk to her, though he didn't like the sound of some of the things she said she was doing with Jeff. Still, he had hope... life seemed to be on a good, stable path, he moved to New York, he had gained more magickal knowledge... and then Samantha died.
A dump truck driver had come in to work sick, had medicated himself, but ignored the "do not operate heavy machinery" warnings. He fell asleep at the wheel and ran a red light. Samantha's car was crushed... there was nothing to be done. The funeral was in England, and Stephen spent about a month there with his family before going home. After many long nights of drinking, he called Michelle. She came right away, dragging Jeff along with her.
When Michelle arrived, she revealed what she'd been doing for the past two years--just a week after leaving, she'd Awakened and was now a member of the Cult of Ecstasy. She'd been traveling about, learning magick, and seemed very handy with the Sphere of Time--which stephen hardly found surprising, and which rekindled all of his interest once again. They settled into being friends once more, but though he wanted to rekindle their relationship, and though Michelle seemed willing, Jeff (another Cultist Mage) was in the picture, and she didn't seem willing to leave him. Stephen detected some odd behavior there--some days Michelle seemed very different, far more devoted to Jeff, an angrier person than Stephen had known. Though Michelle might have been open to a polyamorous situation (and Jeff paid lip service to the idea), Stephen wasn't comfortable, not least because the more he got to know Jeff, the less he liked the man, especially the way he treated Michelle.
A year and a half passed, Stephen teaching classes now, somewhat settled, spending more and more time with Michelle. Finally, one day, she said she was going to leave Jeff. Not just that--she wanted to get married, to go back to the way things had been before she left. She'd figured herself out, and now she was ready to be with Stephen. He was beyond thrilled, of course. She left to tell Jeff, and told Stephen to expect her back that night with her things... but she never came back.
When Michelle hadn't returned after two hours and wasn't returning his calls, Stephen went to Jeff's apartment. The place was in disarray and there was no sign of Jeff or Michelle--though Jeff's car was still in its stall. He tried scrying them both, and even asked others to scry--but to no avail. Jeff and Michelle had disappeared. The missing persons case went unsolved, the police saying it was likely Jeff had run off with Michelle, possibly killed her.
Stephen fell into mourning, and for a time did very little. Six months later he heard word of Jeff again, that he was somewhere in the southwestern U.S., but no word or sign of Michelle. In desperation, he tried the thing that had helped before--a Seeking. But he was too distracted, and the Seeking failed.
So he went to more mundane methods to ease his pain. He began to travel the world, spending time in Africa, Asia, and South America. He soaked up culture and swapped tales along with healing and divinatory methods. He polished his Spanish, learned Swahili and Japanese, and though her still kept people at arm's length, the scars began to heal.
He finally felt that it was time to settle down, perhaps pursue more magickal training. He went to his parents, but started looking for a position in the United States--in the vague hope that wherever Michelle had gone, she might wind up there again. He heard of the incidents in Crystal Springs, the University there had an opening in its botany department, and there was a need for a Verbena presence in the city. More importantly, his Avatar was pushing him to go there, and he decided it was timeto listen to the falcon again. He got the position and bought a house, and began preparing to move,hoping for a new start and a better life than he's had.
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