Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Changeling: The Lost - Venice - Character History: Clio (with painting)

A re-post of Clio's backstory. Thank you to Heather for creating such an amazing visual of my character!

Clio: Digital painting by Heather Sheppard of Dinobot Illustration.


Signorina Katerina Rosa Zenarro was born into a middle-class life in Venice, in the year 1734. Her father, Signor Giovanni Zenarro, was a glassmaker and a widower; Katerina's mother had died giving birth to her second a child - a son who was stillborn.
Katerina was a pretty child, but she was also a tomboy, lacking in airs and graces. As a teenager, she was shy and awkward at social functions - her father despaired that she was not ladylike. He loved his daughter dearly, but worried for her future ability to find a good husband. From her 18th birthday, Katerina was forced to attend etiquette lessons, in an effort to mould her into  a more acceptable marriage prospect. By 22, she was a fully-fledged young woman, at least by appearance, curtseying her way through parties and impressing the gentlemen. Katerina was always confused about her father's guidance - he wanted her to enjoy her life and be happy, but not to the extent that she would blindly follow her passions. He expected her to stand up for herself, but also obey her future husband's wishes, whatever they may be. This mass of contradictions caused Katerina to remain a quiet, almost passive individual, nodding and smiling to potential suitors and doing as she was told, afraid to take the wrong path. Despite this, no marriage proposals came to fruition, and Katerina's downfall came during a masquerade at Carnevale, thanks to an excess of wine and a strong sense of curiosity.

In the midst of the ball, Katerina was propositioned by a mysterious masked man, and escorted to a secluded room in the palazzo. The man, it transpired, was none other than Giacomo Casanova, who at the time was around age 32. The encounter, from Katerina's perspective, was mostly painful - she had assumed it would be, but knew that next time it would be different. Filled with a newfound excitement, she wondered if Casanova might call on her again. This did not happen, and Katerina felt dreadful for weeks, imagining how terrible she must have been for him not to visit her.

Two months or so later, Katerina was troubled in the night by agonising pain in her abdomen, and something wet soaking through her nightgown. Her father was working late, and alone in the house, she struggled to her feet. A shaft of light poured through the window; stepping forward, Katerina could see that her nightgown was stained red. Shaking, she reached to her writing desk, grasping a letter-opener, and tore the blade down the front of her skirt. The blood poured down her thighs, the pain escalating. Katerina cried in agony, the letter-opener clattering to the floor. She knelt down slowly, only vaguely aware of what was happening - she was with child, and suffering miscarriage. She clutched at her stomach as the blood continued to flow, and slowly lost consciousness.

She does not remember waking up; only the water, not surrounding her, licking over her limbs. But somehow filling her, even though she would never have imagined drowning to be like this. Her body felt... almost like nothing, like pins and needles all over. She could taste the water, salty, but she was not choking. Slowly, she regained feeling, starting with her toes and ending with the tips of her hair. She was soaked through - no, she WAS underwater. Her eyes opened, stinging through the murky depths, and it took her a few moments to realise she could hardly breathe. Instinct pushed her towards the surface, and finally her head rose above, oxygen reaching her lungs.

It happened this way every time from then on. Katerina was a nymph, created from the water itself. For much of the day she lay dormant, trapped, in the lagoon. At night, she would return to her human form and be watched by dozens of visitors through glass walls.
Her Keepers were a pair of twins with handsome, yet cruel faces and blue hair. They referred to her as The Siren, and she was instructed to perform for the visitors - that is, sit by the lagoon and sing for their pleasure. Katerina did not know she had an especially good singing voice, but here it sounded ethereal and majestic. The visitors would comment on this and her stunning looks.
She would beg her Keepers for release, sometimes crying tears during her siren song, but the onlookers would only say how much more beautiful it made her seem. She begged to at least be released from the water, even for a short period of time.
The twins, with their sympathetic expressions and soft voices, appeared to be understanding. They relented that yes, The Siren could be released from the water for three hours every night - but her body, during that time, would not belong to her.

Katerina was used as a whore during those three hours, by the Fae who had come to see her sing. The clients would drop coins into the lagoon, wishing for particular sexual acts or scenarios that Katerina would then be obliged to fulfil. First she would be sent to a secluded dressing room, provided with a wardrobe of beautiful gowns, and ordered to adorn herself fully, from corset and stockings up to powder and rouge. The wardrobe's contents may have felt familiar to her if not for the shimmering fabrics, the indescribable intricacy, the colours that she could not name. Sometimes she would be used by her Keepers - one of the twins was wild and vicious and wished her to lie there meekly, letting him do as he pleased. The other twin was gentler, instructing her to always be dominant over him. This was difficult for Katerina, being pulled this way and that, and she found it hard to keep up with these contradicting demands. Despite this, she still began to savour the evenings as her only time on dry land. The sensation of her body being violated for pleasure was ecstasy compared to swirling, inanimate, under the water. As time went on, she would look forward to the clients who paid for her - even looked forward to spending time with her captors. She developed a form of Stockholm Syndrome, forgetting who she was when part of the water, and knowing only that she was otherwise a whore. She gradually came to be completely unaware of where she originally came from, concerned only with her existence in this strange world. She never considered whether or not she truly belonged there - there seemed to be no question that she did.

One night, one of the visitors dropped a coin into her lagoon that triggered a long lost memory - the coin was a Venetian ducat, and suddenly Katerina felt a strong sense of something - recognition, familiarity, or deja-vu - that told her things were not as they seemed. Once the seed of doubt had been planted in her mind, it grew over the course of the evening - entertaining her guests, she knew that she was supposed to be somewhere else.

Escaping from her prison was surprisingly easy. She had only to wait until her last client had rolled over, asleep - she had at least half an hour until she had to go back to the water, and the twins did not watch her closely if she was with someone else. They had become complacent about her contentment in her new role, and her ability to adapt to it. She dressed herself quickly in the gown and shoes she had been wearing earlier - she had no other clothes. She crept up to at least a dozen doors, certain that at
least one must lead to a place outside captivity. There had to be an outdoors, somewhere. Behind some doors, she could hear laughter and music - she did not open those. Other rooms revealed silent expanses of darkness, nothing visible to the naked eye. The last door Katerina found was different - it swung open to show an avenue of tangled bushes, strewn with red and white roses. But the light was dim there, the breeze was cold, and the flowers were wilting. It was not an inviting pathway, but she knew now that there was no other choice. She could hear sounds in the corridor behind her - she stepped through onto the path and closed the door after her.

She stumbled along, occasionally glancing behind her at the door, until it faded out of view and she turned a corner down another, almost identical avenue. The sky above her was black, without moon or stars, but the low light seemed to exist still, coming from an unknown source. The breeze had become a wind, whistling and getting colder by the minute. The tiny dirt roads didn't look like a maze but they felt like one, as though they might continue on and circle round until she came back to where she started. Though disturbed by the idea of this, Katerina hurried on until something gave her pause. There was a slight parting in the bushes, a space where the roses grew more sparsely than anywhere else. Beyond the browning leaves, she could see a slab of wood almost camoflauged; the size and shape of a door, though it didn't seem to be attached to anything. Still, she could make out a doorknob.
Katerina considered a moment, listening to the wind howling around her and feeling it blister her ears; she was sure she wouldn't find the way back to the twins now, even if she'd wanted to go. She pressed forward, trying to avoid the thorns - she protected her face, but they caught on her hands, dress, ankles. Twisting the doorknob, she felt her gown tear as she forced herself through the doorway.

She came out in a tiny street, the door slamming shut behind her and a blinding light suddenly hitting her retinas. She was in Venice, but it took her a while to realise it, squinting against the sunshine and then recognising the dry, crisp air that was the city in February. People could be heard round the corner on the pavements, speaking in the Venetian dialect, but there were just as many English voices. Katerina wandered out from the alley and found herself on Calle Frezzaria, and she knew she should remember it, but it wasn't the same. Some of the buildings looked familar, but their frontage was different and strange. One of them even heralded itself as 'Hotel Casanova,' which both struck a chord in her heart and puzzled her. She accidentally bumped into people as she passed and apologised in Italian; they were dressed strangely, many were bundled into warm coats, but in styles she'd never seen before. Conversely, and even more confusingly, she saw people dressed in more familiar fashions, but they didn't look quite right. They held themselves in an odd way. They were wearing Carnival masks, standing on corners, drinking hot chocolate or wine.

As Katerina looked down, she realised that her gown didn't look as it had a moment ago. It looked closer to the costumes of the revellers before her - imitation silk with a cheap thinness that caused her to shiver in the  winter cold. The embellishments were mere shiny baubles. The colour was a pale green.
As she walked through the crowds it was easy for her to be noticed by other Changelings - despite the fact that she blended in with all the tourists in San Marco. Katerina was escorted to the House of Autumn with one of its members, the goblin-like Little John, and thus was given a lesson in what had happened to her. Although she stayed at the House of Autumn for a time, it was eventually suggested that she may belong better to the House of Spring. Katerina's new name became Clio, something she could remember from a Greek myth when she was young - the name of a water nymph. As she began to adjust to her new reality, she got a job at the Florian Caffe, and moved into a small apartment by herself.

Clio's appearance to mortals is the same as it was when she initially grew up in Venice, as she has only aged two years. She has lightly tanned skin, dark brown eyes and long, almost-black hair.

Her mien presents as silver-blue scales all over her body, webbed fingers and toes, and bright scarlet hair with blue eyes.She often dresses in something simple and black in a classic, yet demure cut, and stiletto boots or shoes, with minimal jewellery. She wears her hair tied back for work, and otherwise down.

Clio has retained some of her personality from before she was taken - somewhat quiet, though she will raise her voice if need be, and is still getting used to the fact that women are allowed to speak their mind these days. She is fairly comfortable at parties and displays a good sense of etiquette.
Aside from this, she keeps a lot of things to herself and does not often talk to anyone about her feelings.


Since arriving back from Arcadia, Clio has been trying to understand love, as opposed to lust, which she is already well versed in. She is aware that as a Changeling, she cannot become pregnant, and so she knows that a 'typical' family life is beyond her. This is especially saddening given the loss of her own child all those centuries ago. In lieu of this unconditional love from an infant, Clio began to dream of finding her true love, but she has started to realise the possible futility of this idea. She is hardly normal, and she fears that a mortal man might not be able to understand her, however much she can try to be who she once was.

Her decision to join the House of Spring was questioned for  a while by its members, since she did not often attend parties or seek any indulgences. But as she has relented and decided to show her face more often, she has begun to feel more like she belongs.  Believing that she has been scarred too much by her time in Arcadia, Clio is  currently unsure whether she can ever change and discover a 'normal' life, and the thought of devoting herself more fully to the Spring Court may be a natural progression.

However, this in itself may come with complications. After choosing to sleep with Malvolio, the new Duke, in order to gain his trust and unveil any hidden secrets he might have, Clio has found herself instead succumbing to his charms. Attending more regular orgies at the House of Spring, her 'favours' towards Malvolio and the other courtiers are becoming increasingly similar to her life in Arcadia. Additionally, there are some who are jealous of the Duke's recent favouritism of Clio, convinced that she is using him to gain her own slice of power. Only time will tell of Clio's true feelings and motives, and whether or not she will be ruthless in order to keep her newfound status at the Court.

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