General Cassius Freeman
General for Alianorian army and royal advisor
tw: rape, slavery, violence, death, war
He was never a man of violence, yet it always seemed to haunt him, like a poltergeist.
He was born human, in South Carolina, to a mother who only had him as a means of escaping her bonds, condemning himself and his siblings to a life of bondage. He recalls the faintest memory of his mother, her expression of sorrow. She wept for him. For the damnation, the violence, the horrors she knew the innocent baby would be exposed to. She gave him one name: Cassius. It was the only thing that was his own.
They were separated as soon as he could walk freely, and he was sold to Virginia, where he grew to be sturdy and muscular. He was taught that his body was not his, and that all his worth was his body. His skin, his size and strength singled him out for a life of field work.
At first, he refused. He had always been too strong, too brave for his own good. He learned the lesson that "no" was not a word in his vocabulary. His master carved the lesson into his back with a whip.
He did not say no again. In fact, he rarely spoke again. His life, for 23 years, became one focused only on tobacco and survival. Cassius walked into every day knowing that his time was not his own. His body was not his own. His labor was not his own. He was not a man, and he could not own anything. He was chattel.
His master was bad enough, but his son was a demon. He was sadistic. He whipped and raped for the fun of it, and Cassius-quiet, gentle, handsome Cassius, was one of his favorite targets. He used him, tore into his body, and Cassius could not scream out. When Cassius could not walk the next day after he had has his way with him, he whipped him for his inability to work, his “laziness.”
It went on for years. At 23, he befriended a group of slaves, like himself, who were bent on going North to join the army. They planned in the dead of the night, no light but the fire of freedom that burned in their hearts. They said the new president would free them from the bonds soon, but he needed their help. To fight for freedom.
His newfound brethren and himself ran under the cover in the night, stealing away, ever fearful of the white man. They ran far, and fast, losing a few along the way, but eventually they reached a Yankee camp. Never in his life had Cassius been so glad to see white men.
The Civil War had just begun, and his brotherhood went to the enlistment office when President Lincoln called for men. They were turned away, all of them. Instead, they were made to work in camps, to clean up bodies, to set up camps, to sew the clothes of the white men. It was …not ideal, but in the service of the future of the country. The Northern white men still hated Cassius for his skin. They spat at him, kicked at him. Cassius worked on. For liberty, for brotherhood.
Two years, he and his brothers traveled with the Union Army, working to pick up their mess. It was dirty work. Disease began to pick them off, white men and brothers alike. He himself got sick, but the disease did not kill him. He was lucky. Again, and again, he was lucky.
“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State… shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
Free. He was a free man, at long last. Cassius wasted no time enlisting in the army once again. They asked for his surname. He replied, “Freeman.” They gave him a uniform and a gun, but they gave him more than that. Not only was he now a man, but he was a soldier, a protector. A citizen.
He had seen horrors, lived through horrors before, but never had he killed another man. It was not easy. It took a toll on him. He saw their eyes-the men he killed, when he tried to sleep at night. More and more of his brothers fell, some to disease, some in battle, and soon, all the men he had run away with were dead. He lived every day knowing he could die. Some days, he wanted to die.
He strode over the bodies of dying and dead men, and ambivalence soon took hold of him. Nothing was more terrifying than watching from inside, watching his hands take over the gun, shooting men in cold blood. And taking animalistic pleasure in it. Not for the right reasons- but because he wanted to. He did not love war, but war loved him.
He questioned everything. His reasons for dying and killing, his own worth, his faith. War shook him to his core. But he had weathered the worst, and was still left standing. Surely, there had to be a reason.
When the war ended, he had nothing left. A few dollars earned in the service of the country, a keepsake from a dead brother, some food and clothes. But nothing worth staying for. Cassius decided to go to Atlanta, to help rebuild after General William Tecumseh Sherman tore through on his "March to the Sea." He knew not how to read, nor how to write. He knew only labor. He became a construction worker, and for years, he worked to rebuild, hated by all the former confederates. They made their contempt for him evident, but he was a stoic. It wasn’t until a lynching attempt 7 years after the war’s end that he finally gave up on trying.
It was a friend he met in Atlanta, Remy Cailloux, who suggested they go to Lairea. It was only on vacation, just to get away from the nightmares they shared living in the postwar era. They landed in Samavia, a few dollars to either of their names. They took the train to Alianor, wanting to see the castle where there sat a black man on the throne. It was there, in Elverum, where Cassius was bitten.
She came at him from behind, while Cassius was on a stroll in the woods. It was only a few seconds before the fury in her eyes turned to fear, then finally settling on horror. She was so young, just a girl, wide eyed and afraid. The pain was intense, but he stayed awake, just long enough to see more and more people surround them. His attacker was pinned against a tree, another werewolf choking her. Another woman, the leader, seemed pained when she ordered one of the men to kill her. Cassius stood, bloody and beaten and barely conscious, and told them to stop, placing himself between the girl and the rest of the wolf pack. He locked eyes with the leader, and asked her, as the victim, to spare his attacker’s life. She conceded the girl’s life, but she would be Cassius’ responsibility, if he were to survive the bite. The pack departed and Cassius collapsed.
He woke to the poking and prodding of the girl, who introduced herself as Taraji. He had no idea what to do with the child. He had promised to be responsible for her, after all. He took her back to where he was staying. Explaining her to Baptiste proved difficult.
It was a few weeks later that the same woman, the leader of the wolf pack, came to visit him. She came alone, and introduced herself as Imani. She was a Lairean noble, second daughter of a duchess. She came to say that Taraji was her niece, her late sister's daughter, though Taraji herself never knew. Imani offered to take Taraji off of Cassius' hands, to hide her from the pack and place her with capable people. Cassius refused. He had come to care for Taraji, in a fatherly way, which was utterly unfamiliar to him. They decided to let her stay with Cassius, as long as Imani could visit. She trained both of them to control their shift. It wasn't long before Cassius found himself smitten with Imani. She was strong, stern, but kind, and utterly beautiful. When she kissed him in the moonlight, he knew he would never go back to America.
They were married, and within the month, she was pregnant with their first child. They moved into her sister Lilith's mansion in the Alianorian countryside, with all its rooms and yet only two children: Shamir and Deja. They were not a warm people, but Cassius and Imani brought warmth and revitalized the cold, dark place.
It was such bliss. Soon enough, their first child was born. Mubarak was a gorgeous boy, with dark skin and dark eyes, and strong like no other. Next came Brutus, the wise and troubled, then young Normani, mischievous and spoiled. And through it all, Taraji lived with them. She was adopted legally, given Cassius' last name, and he found himself with a family he loved and never wanted to leave.
The Lairean war began, and the era of bliss ended. The family wasn't in any danger, nor was he, but he felt the call. The war called to him, and after all Lairea had given him, he was loath to deny it. He enlisted, and because of his prior experience and clear leading skill, he was given the rank of Sergeant. It was a low rank, but he took it very seriously. He made sure his men were ship shape, responded respectfully and obediently to his superiors, and showed extreme calm and exceptional capabilities in battle and under duress. He had become quite adept at military strategy, and soon rose through the ranks and became a respected colonel. He showed no fear. His soldiers followed their stoic leader everywhere, learning to trust his instincts and heed his words. He knew how soldiers thought, how they moved, and where to aim when they needed to be killed. He made it clear that killing was a last resort. He didn't like losing soldiers who didn't need to be lost.
He fell into the familiar war patterns he knew all too well- ambivalence and survivor's guilt. This time, though, it was different. He had a family to live for and protect. They made every day of suffering worth it. Every letter he received from Imani renewed his faith, every picture of Normani growing older made him fight that much harder to get back to her. He needed to win. He had to come home to them.
After the news of Thais' fall, it wasn't long before the war was over. He didn't stick around to celebrate with the soldiers. He broke into a run upon hearing the happy news, running as fast as his feet could carry him to the train station, and not waiting for a carriage to take him the last stretch. He ran, he ran all the way home, and there they were. All of them, so grown-Taraji, a woman, Mubarak, a very muscular young man, Brutus, lean and tall, and young Normani, who he had last seen as a baby, he could see now had inherited her mother's looks. And then, she was there. Imani, not a day older, looking brighter than every star in the sky.
He fell on his knees and began to weep into her skirts, letting loose a torrent that had been bottled up underneath his armor of stoicism for years. His armor came off the instant he saw her, and he began to feel again. They all embraced him, and he felt whole again.
He thought life would return to the antebellum status quo, but he had missed much. Normani hardly knew him at all. He had missed Brutus' most formative years. They held the most resentment for him, and though they understood, would never completely forgive him no matter how much effort he put in.
He was made a general and royal advisor at the behest of King Charles Calvert, and Cassius knew he could not refuse the King. Sharing his time between Elverum and his home in the countryside was not easy. They moved into a house in Elverum, and began to become a family again. Brutus was so like himself- in looks, in personality. He was lean and muscular, proportioned like his mother, but he was quiet and contemplative. He could never tell was going through the boy's beautiful head. Mubarak was huge Goliath of a man, and soon swelled to beyond even Cassius' size. He was jovial, and did his utmost to seem as masculine as possible. He made Cassius proud every day. Normani was sly, and strong like her mother. And Taraji was, well, Taraji.
Everything has been terrific for Cassius. He knows that he's lucky, and that he survived this long for a reason. He wants to help people, and he is in a position to do it. His traditional Southern values are starting to present as problematic, and he's trying his best to learn.
He can sense a war brewing. The air crackles with tension. He knows not where it comes from, nor when, but he can only hope to protect his family and the people in country that accepted him into its loving arms.
Stalwart: Cassius is brave, extremely so. He will put his life on the line for people he thinks deserve it, which is everyone, really. He is sturdy, strong, stoic and valiant, like a knight of old. He is uncompromising in the face of fear, and firm, and tends to be hardened and stern. He shows as little emotion as possible.
Traditional: Cassius was born in the 1840s, in the American South, which is to say he was raised in an extremely conservative environment. While he is free of slavery, he internalized much oppression, without realizing it. He is very much a victim of W.E.B. DuBois' idea of "double consciousness": he sees himself through the lens from which white people see him. This is why he tries his utmost to look and adhere to white male standards for clothing and manners. In addition, he is a devout Catholic. He doesn't understand many things. It is hard for him to accept the concepts of homosexuality and feminism, as well as the developing ideas of black masculinity. He is learning, though, and trying very hard -his daughter Taraji is learning him in the feminism aspect, while his son Mubarak is gay. His nephew Shamir and himself have long talks on black male masculinity, and his ideas are very slowly changing. He's just an old man trying his best to live in a world he's not at all used to.
Strategic: Every movement, every word Cassius speaks is carefully thought out. He has always been like this. He thinks more than he speaks. He is always thinking and overthinking-of every possible outcome of every possible action. This, in addition to his genuine care for lives, is why he is such a good military strategist and royal advisor. He knows how people think and react, and adapts easily.
Caring: A side of himself not so easily accessed because of the walls he has built around himself to strangers, Cassius has a good soul. He is a man of the soul as much as anyone can be, deep and spiritual. He cares, about people, about everyone, so deeply. Every life he has taken weighs on him. Every life lost needlessly weighs heavy on his already burdened soul.