From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
It is with a heavy heart that I inform you all that Stripling's player has unfortunately passed on due to cancer. Please send your thoughts to his family, and remember him fondly.
Stripling is my second real attempt at a fully-realized RP character in the City of Heroes game. Influenced by multiple sources including (but not limited to); Peter Parker, Kurt Wagner, Carl Jung, and several of his students. He was designed to fit into The Artful Dodgers.
Supergroup: The Artful Dodgers
Normally Stripling is a mass of conflicted emotions. He never lets anyone close enough to see them, except for Jack Travers, (Jacquelyn Diana Travers), with whom he has a deep feeling of love for. Jack is unwilling to return the feeling, so he remains isolated and rather stunted emotionally. He is very well educated and talks on an adult level, peppering his conversation with references to classical literature. But he has no concept of money or of modern culture.
Stripling escape from the Carnivalle du Synn was prompted by his development of a small power that enabled him to vanish, unfortunately killing two men in the process. He has since begun to utilize that ability, the manipulation of "Dream Stuff", or the actual energy found in human mental images to create physical manifestations. He draws on the collective unconsciousness of the city, and with that energy produces his 'ghosts.' There is no rational explanation of his abilities, as he uses no normal magical or mystical symbols, rituals, or spells. It is assumed his powers are natural to him, as if he were a member of one of the "Unseely", or the "Fey."
Physically Stripling has no real abilities in fisticuffs, and is hardly a prime physical specimen. It is assumed if he were pressed he might be able to deliver a punch that could hurt. But the reality is most all of the damage the boy produces is illusionary. Having been the victim of S&M performers, Stripling is incapable of actually hurting someone.
Stripling was used as an S&M 'prop' during his time in the Carnivalle, and has a first hand knowledge of pain and suffering. He draws on the target's desires to cause pain and produces a sort of "Imaginary Agony" based on his own experiences. Many times it seems that the targets of his attacks are covered in whip cuts, which fade as they pass out.
In a time of desperation, Stripling tried to mold the "Dream Stuff" into something more solid. The result was a trio of non-solid, unfinished, but very effective warriors, many times modeled on someone near to him. These Phantoms cannot actually hurt someone, but they can make them believe they are hurt. At this time he cannot keep them in existence for more than a couple of minutes.
When he summons these warriors, he often finds he cannot control them very well. They have been a hindrance at times, and had to be dismissed in the middle of a battle. They often have minds of their own.
This construct of his consists mainly of a sort of self-regenerating Dream Form. It takes much of his power to produce this being, and the Phantasm is not entirely under his control. It is summoned using the images the surrounding populace have of Heroes in general, and is therefore subject to greater or lesser strength because of the beliefs the populace has.
The Phantasm is a fully realized entity, however it will cease to exist if it cannot remain in close proximity to Stripling. Often it will fly off to battle some horrible enemy only to dissolve once it reaches the limit of it's available distance. Stripling firmly refuses to try to control it further. He feels it is "Human enough to make up it's own mind."
Deceive was the first and remains the most used power he has. Stripling can, in the right circumstances, convince nearly anyone that those around him or her are the enemy. No amount of rational argument will stop this paranoid delusion. He has found only one group that seems, (at least for the most part,) immune to this type of mental manipulation; Nemesis. The training they receive seems to negate this skill of his. He is working to find out why.
(The most recent studies of his made hypnotizing the Nemesis troops much easier. He still has trouble with some, but for the most part he has made it possible to manipulate them. He has simply learned to mimic the "Voice of Nemesis.")
Blinding Flash is produced by convincing the victim's nervous system that their eyes are in almost total darkness, and then releasing that hold in an instant. The result leaves the victim blind and helpless for a brief period. Unfortunately, this may only be used in a very short range situation. Stripling is not built to take much close range damage, so he uses this rarely.
His ability to blind a single opponent is much more useful to him. He found that he could blind and deafen an opponent temporarily by applying the same mental controls he used on a group target and concentrate them on a single one. The result can actually cause severe discomfort and some damage to a victim.
Stripling's experience with pain and wounding has given him the unusual ability to remove such wounds and pain from his companions. At first this ability seemed limited to himself, but it has broadened to any and all in his immediate area. He also seems to be able to absorb or even simply re-direct the pain of others at rather long distances, as well as revive fallen comrades. Not too long ago these acts cause the network of scars on his back, the legacy of his time in the Carnivalle, to open and bleed as if fresh. Now, he seems to simply feel weak at times.
Stripling learned to use the energy of the Dreamstuff to fly early in his time in Paragon. Of all his powers this is his favorite. He feels a great sense of freedom when flying and enjoys the thrill of diving and swooping over the city.
Related to this power, (which after all is simply convincing everyone he can fly, and therefore he can,) is his ability to fold the real world like a travel map and pull a friend through to another location without passing over the intervening areas. He has jokingly called this "reality origami."
This same method of folding perceived reality is used to convince those villains he fights that can fly that they can't. He has often grounded airborne enemies.
The ability to make himself invisible to almost anyone or any thing has been a godsend to Stripling. The only things he has a lot of trouble convincing they cannot see him are Rikti Drones. This may be to the alien nature of the devices. He is looking into that difficulty.
The Time Before
He was left in the care of The Good Shepherd Home at a very young age. Most of the children were larger than he, and although he was a very good-looking and very polite child, he was always alone.
The orphanage attempted to place the pale skinned, blue-eyed blonde in a lot of homes, and the boy believed he would be adopted if he were perfect in every way. This need of approval was his downfall, as most of the couples who took him in found a child more than willing to do housework, to stay clean, and to act and talk like an adult. This tended to unnerve most of the families that had expected a normal boy. He would insist they give him a name; they give him a birthday, and that he act as much like one of them as possible. He was always returned like an unwanted Christmas gift.
A woman using the name of LeBeau adopted him, after proving she owned a vast estate and was well financed. In truth she was the Ringmistress of the Carnivalle du Synn, a traveling show that specialized in the forbidden and depraved. She raised the boy in her own way, first using him as a living advertisement, the beautiful child she was corrupting, and later as a prop in her performances. After teaching him all she felt a boy needed to know, including several things he was far too young to understand, she had him surgically altered to make him look more exotic. This also served to further isolate him from the world around him. She also allowed him to see the source of her power, a kind of Voodoo magic that she practiced.
He killed two of the star performers and escaped the Carnivalle in New Chicago, the area rebuilt after the Ritki war. He made his way to Paragon not knowing the Ringmistress was looking for him. She had chosen the boy for more than just a plaything, and needed him to complete a magic she had been working toward all her life.
He lived hand to mouth for some time in the Atlas Park, finally concocting a story to tell the Hero Registration Office that did not include the Carnivalle. He has since corrected that record.
It was then, in Atlas, that he found a flyer in a laundry that advertised The Artful Dodgers. He contacted them, and joined.
Stripling stayed out of the Dodger’s base for a long time. He was leery of some of the Dodgers, and he knew that any connection to him could get back to the Ringmistress. However that did not keep him from meeting and beginning to have feelings for Jack Travers. He and Jack met while patrolling the city, and he felt most comfortable in the presence of the strong, opinionated girl.
His staying out of the Dodgers base came to an end when Juvie went missing. The erstwhile leader of The Artful Dodgers was lured away by the Circle of Thorns and nearly killed. Stripling became a close support member of the team that rescued him.
At this time flyers containing a picture of Stripling and address to contact showed up in Paragon City. Also several agents of the Carnivalle were sent to find the boy. Within weeks those agents became victims to violent attacks mimicking the Spectral Wounds that Stripling used. The Kings Row Police and several other offices started investigation and attempting to bring him in for questioning. Stripling took up living in Salamanca, outside the jurisdiction of the police.
The Ringmistress upped the ante by attacking the Dodgers and in particular Jack Travers. Jack had gone to the Rogue Isles to find information on the Carnivalle and to seek out her brother and father. A former pet of the Ringmistress, (Gray Albert, who was believed to be dead,) attacked her. He wanted to make sure Stripling was so angry he would attack the Ringmistress and kill her. Jack escaped, but the villain decided to go to Paragon and provide the ‘handle’, an object to use in mystical curses, for Stripling to use.
Stripling decided not to kill the Ringmistress. If he had done so he would have taken her place. He realized the Ringmistress had a source; a well of power, and his plan was to overflow the well, to flood her with the evil she had collected, and leave her powerless for a while.
He and Jack chose the Freaklympics as a location where the most violent and desperate emotions could be found. The plan seemed foolproof. Stripling would go in invisible, set up a circle in the center of the most powerful emotions, and work the spell. Jack would remain outside and bring in the cavalry if he was discovered.
But the well of power did not contain pain and fear like he thought. Instead it contained souls. The fantastic amount of energy he sent and the returning force overwhelmed him, burning most of the connections he had to the Carnivalle, including his scars, and destroying him. Jack lead a quartet of Dodgers into the building, fighting their way in, and dropping the Freakshow like nine-pins. Jack tried to revive him, finally kissing him, and in the process transferring some of her regenerative power into him.
From that time forward Jack has shown various powers that seem to have an origin with Stripling, as though she got a permanent connection to his powers. Stripling shows no such connection to her yet.
The Ringmistress disappeared, however it is assumed the people of the Carnivalle she kept in thrall with her power tortured her. Later she is assumed to be in the possession of the other ‘prop’ that survived the show, Gray Albert.
For the next two months Jack and Stripling shared an apartment in Kings Row. The relationship remained Platonic, and although Stripling loves her, he knows Jack cannot commit to any thing or anyone until she finds the answers to the quest she has set for herself. He has told her he is willing to just be near her for the time being.
The Book of Alfar
Stripling and Jack had very little time for a normal relationship. In the back alleys of King's Row a new religion started, the worship of Alfar. It was not evident from the beginning, but the homeless teens, outcasts of society, and the occasional upper-crust member of the worshipers had fixed on Stripling as the earthly representation of their god. The first evidence was found by Wylde Hunt and Cannonball Kid on a routine patrol in Perez Park. An altar with candles, salt, bread, and a bowl of hard candies. Also there was a blurry photo that could only be of Stripling.
The worshipers began meeting on a regular basis, led by a teenage girl and an upper-crust teenage boy in abandoned areas of Kings Row. Each added worshiper brought Alfar that much closer to inhabiting Stripling's body. In his sleep he would float above the sheets murmuring in a dead language. Jack Travers was staying with him when this happened once, and became so freaked out she could not talk to him. This forced separation nearly drove Stripling mad and he sought her out, asking for her help.
They planned a way to have Wylde Hunt film and record one of the nightly events. Wylde had become so close to Azuria of MAGI that she provided him with a computer of his own, making this kind of observation simple.
Before this, a girl who had met and eventually shared an evening with Stripling was suddenly considered a "saint" to the worshipers of Alfar. Her boss, the head of the Active Mythology Department in Salamanca, asked her to get close to the cult to find out just what was happening. She was found later in an apparent suicide, if one could believe the evidence, she hung herself and then, in her death throes, disemboweled herself.
As well, several posters of members of The Artful Dodgers Began showing up in local record stores. These posters caused an upswing in popularity with many of the members of the group, and influenced a number of kids to dress like the Dodgers. It also caused a number of injuries and fatalities as the criminal element attacked non-powered children thinking they were The Artful Dodgers.
Stripling was left alone for a few days as Jack followed a few more leads in her quest to find her brother. Over these nights, he began to travel to Founder's Falls in his sleep and attack Circle of Thorns groups holding rituals there. But oddly enough he did not attack all the groups, just some of them. He also began to alter his appearance upon beginning these raids.
His powers began to change, and the few hand-to-hand combat skills he had learned vanished. He was becoming Alfar, the Old Norse Godling, demigod of Nightmares, half elf, half god.
The cult seemed to have hired killers to eliminate Jack Travers and one of the attempts came very near to killing her. Stripling rushed her to the hospital, and then went on a rampage, letting out all of the wickedness the Carnivalle had created in him. His chosen punishment for those that he felt were to blame was to release all the horrors he could imagine within their minds, leaving them to the mercy of hellish nightmare tortures. Jack recovered and stopped him on his way to visit hell on the Circle of Thorns, the group most likely to have been behind the cult. She convinced him that if he crossed that line, she could not remain with him. For her sake he stopped.
At this time Alfar, believing what his followers told him, began to attempt to take over the mind of Stripling. He found the boy had seen worse horrors than the godling could create in his own life. Like everything else mankind has taken from the world, when men found demons, they quickly learned to emulate and even improve on the horrors they found.
Jack disappeared about the same time Stripling and several of The Artful Dodgers found Dusty Travers, her brother, whom she had been seeking for several years. See the story of Jack Travers Sol Invictus for the reason. Stripling only found out the details of her disappearance after he found his friend Wylde Hunt had been beaten near to death and injected with a massive dose of Supradine, a drug known to cause mutations and in doses that size, death. Stripling then decided that the Circle of Thorns could be the only ones responsible for both those attacks, and turned on the Circle breaking his promise to Jack.
Unfortunately it was not the Circle of Thorns that took Jack, and his war with them, that culminated in a massive battle against the Envoy of Shadows nearly dragged four other Dodgers to their deaths. Stripling ran from the base at that time, only returning when he found Sydewinder, a villainess who not only told him she could find Jack for him, but promised that Jack would be safe IF the Dodgers could free her.
Sydewinder did keep her promise, but was caught and disposed of by Arbiter Sands. Stripling led a wild chase across Paragon to find her, ending in King's Row where a lab was holding Jack, and where she had used her leeching ability on herself, nearly dying in the process. The Dodgers got her back to the base, and Stripling volunteered his own life force to her, depending on the dreamstuff he gathers from the city to rebuild himself. Jack was returned, but the price was high.
Smoke and Mirrors
The story Smoke and Mirrors as found in the Guild portal of the Artful Dodgers. It is again told in the various viewpoints of several characters. However the last few chapters are taken directly form in game chat logs with the Artful Dodgers.
It was during the last story that Stripling took up meeting with the War Witch in Croatoa. The presence of the ghostly apparition of a fallen hero was somehow comforting to him, and her connections to the other great heroes of Paragon got him associated with Manticore and assigned to a certain task, to infiltrate and help break up the Carnival of Shadows.
To this end he allowed himself to be found and wooed by a member of the Carnival, Rire, an up and coming girl who had been assigned to find the boy and recruit him. The War Witch would have known it was happening, as she maintains a presence in the Pocket D where Rire cruised to find him. Manticore had convinced Stripling to let them recruit him, and to get as far into the organization as he could. The Carnival had a policy of not promoting male members, but as they rely on magic produced by the Circle of Thorns, they saw the value in having a least one male that could work magics for them. Stripling's past life made him a prime target. Stripling led a wild and twisted life with Rire, but Jack Travers felt he was cheating on her. he could not explain, and had left a method of breaking the news to her via a note on the bulletin board in the base, written by Wylde Hunt. Jack did not confront Sean but went after Stripling instead, and the argument drove them apart. Jack got the real story from Sean, who directed her to the War Witch. Jack then realized that Stripling was under cover and not trying to dump her as she thought.
Stripling took part in a raid on the hospital in King's Row, and was photographed by a security camera. The police began looking for him in earnest. He was out in Peregrin Island with the girl Rire until the night the Carnival had chosen to place the mask on his face and make him a member of their group forever. In a last desperate attempt he summoned the Dodgers to aid in taking down the Madame of Mystery, with the Artful Dodgers fighting it out and very nearly getting killed in the process.
More Coming Soon.