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Selkana's Saga #7: the problem with Kitha

Posted by Michael O'Brien on 24th Oct 2018

Selkana’s Saga is a Chaosium blog series by Ellie and Scott Akers, following a long-format roleplaying campaign using the RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha system.

Ellie here: I am taking over this installment of Selkana’s Saga to talk at some length about my character Kitha. Kitha is an unsubtle allegory for living with non-binary sexuality. The choice between loving the way your heart tells you is right, and the rules that society places on you is a soul-defining one. Like many people with nontraditional sexualities or genders, my coming to understand who I am has been a slow process. Kitha – both in this campaign and the prior one I lifted her from – has always been a way for me to explore my own feelings about love. The Kitha of Selkana's Saga is tragic, torn between wanting to live up to the world’s expectations for her and being a happy, fulfilled person.

Kitha by Kalin Kadiev

Ellie: As the story unfolds Kitha will have to reevaluate the very nature of her soul to come out intact. Such personal explorations can be dangerous and many people find themselves lost for years at a time just trying to figure out what makes them happy. Gaming can be a wonderful way to explore one's own psyche in a safer environment, and that is exactly what I use Kitha for.

Like all good stories, at its heart, Selkana’s Saga is about people finding their place in the world. Selkana is a castoff from her family, and not expected to be useful for much other than an advantageous political marriage. Laak’s clan considers him cursed and he has wandered rootlessly for a decade, never finding the thing that might make him stay. Meplep lost his family to Lunar purges of the ducks in Sartar. But out of our whole party, no one is more lost or more damaged then Kitha. Kitha hasn’t just experienced trauma and isolation like her companions. Her life is so broken that she is a risk to those around her and to her own soul. As our party enters Boldholm, the problems that surround Kitha are going to quickly mount.

As we talked about in Selkana's Saga #3, your cult defines your role in society. Kitha is an initiate of Humakt, the god of death, honor, and separation. She has sworn to her god that she will live a life that follows his values. To do otherwise is to upset the cosmic order of things, and risks yourself and society at large. A follower of Humakt must live a half-life, always ready to accept death. Humakt is a particularly difficult god to serve because his followers live outside the normal structure of clan life and while respected, are also feared by other Orlanthi. This means Kitha struggles to form bonds with non-Humakti, but her discomfort with death also leaves her unable to bond with her fellow cults' members.

Most Humakti have a deep calling towards the Death god, but I decided that Kitha was an anomaly, and had never felt that personal calling to him. While people in Glorantha have opinions about which gods they want to serve, the gods do not always respect those wishes. It was Humakt who came to her, Humakt who pulled her outside the stead and Humakt who called on her to fight with him against the enemies without. Humakt explained to her that her clan had made vows to him, vows that she must now fulfill. Kitha had never intended to initiate to the god of Death and be his follower, but when the gods appear to you, only a fool ignores their demands. Her cult, which many see as a source of support , is Kitha’s cage and captor. Kitha desperately tries to live up to the expectations of her cult and god, but faces a huge dilemma: she loves Selkana.

Selkana is the center of Kitha’s world. After her family died, young Kitha was sent to live with house Hulta in Nochet. Only Selkana would spend time with the grim, traumatized girl who didn’t speak a word of Esrolian. They became friends, and as they matured their bond grew to become physically intimate as well. When Kitha completed her initiation to Humakt she clung to that bond, and it was not cut as it should have been. Kitha is, ultimately, not ready to accept the solitude of death. Selkana is the living embodiment of life and creation and that bond is fundamentally at odds with Kitha’s religion. Kitha knows she must let that connection go but Selkana represents the final threads of Kitha’s life, her last connection to vibrancy and happiness.

So what happens when you do not accept the tenants of the very real god that you have sworn your soul too?

Kitha can see only two options before her. She can sever her bond to Selkana, play the role that society and her authoritative god want of her. To do so would leave her with a hollow half-life. She would see the woman she loved and feel nothing of that love for her, but at least she could continue to serve at Selkanan’s side as her aid and bodyguard. She could instead choose to renounce her god and embrace life, but doing so would cause spirits of reprisal to haunt her constantly. She would have love but everyone around her would be exposed to vengeful spirits of death. Kitha has hidden the depth of this inner turmoil from Selkana but knows that she will have to cut this bound eventually. That it is the only right and honorable choice, but she delays, and has delayed for years now, while the schism in her soul grows a little wider each day. She will need to chose and soon or she will go mad.

Kitha may be problematic as a Humakti, but as a character, I find her wonderful. Deep complications of the soul make excellent fodder for heroes. Kitha’s dilemma — her reason for living, versus her life and sanity — make for a powerful call to adventure. Kitha is in many ways fleeing Nochet, and thrusting herself into the fray as a way of avoiding her choice. While she thinks she only has two options, Argrath, full of mystic secrets, will see another path for her.

Kitha for obvious reasons is a deeply personal character for me. It is emotionally risky to put your personal journey out publicly like this. But it is my hope that in writing Kitha for public consumption, that I will reach out to others who may be facing similar journeys of their own. There is hope yet for Kitha and for all of us who dance a little bit differently.

Humakt, God of Death, Honour, and Separation

Next the installment we are finally in Boldhome proper, make some new friends, and of course, go to Geo’s!

Art by Kalin Kadiev