I have always been interested in Magic, The Gathering. I even played a little of the video games to gain some understanding of it. The variety of possible play styles, and the fun ways of making cards interact was more interesting to me than Pokemon or Yu Gi Oh. I actually considered starting a deck, but had no one to really play with. Now however, they have added a card and character to their Mythos that makes me think I shall find people to play with.
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Cool name, but its how she gets the name that is awesome. She is Magic’s first Trans character, born into a clan that favors glory in battle, she had no name until she gained her first kill. Seen as a young boy, she calls herself after her grandmother, and no questions are raised. Here is an excerpt of when she claims herself.
“It had been a day like this, a battle very much like this, when Alesha won the right to name herself. With blood running down her back where the dragon’s claws had raked her flesh, she pulled a spear from a dead man’s back and plunged it into the beast’s mouth, up into its brain. The spear shaft splintered, but the dragon died in an instant. She didn’t remember if she had been afraid as the monstrous head lunged at her.
What she remembered was the panic that came after. Earning her war name had been her only goal. When the fight was over, she stood silently among the other young ones who were boasting of their accomplishments and the bold, grisly names they would choose. Headsmasher. Skullcleaver. Wingbreaker—Gedruk had been among them. Some of them, mostly orcs, boasted of their ancestors’ deeds and spoke of their pride in adopting those ancestors’ names. She had been so different—only sixteen, a boy in everyone’s eyes but her own, about to choose and declare her name before the khan and all the Mardu.
The khan had walked among the warriors, hearing the tales of their glorious deeds. One by one, they declared their new war names, and each time, the khan shouted the names for all to hear. Each time, the horde shouted the name as one, shaking the earth.
Then the khan came to Alesha. She stood before him, snakes coiling in the pit of her stomach, and told how she had slain her first dragon. The khan nodded and asked her name.
“Alesha,” she said, as loudly as she could. Just Alesha, her grandmother’s name.
“Alesha!” the khan shouted, without a moment’s pause.
And the whole gathered horde shouted “Alesha!” in reply. The warriors of the Mardu shouted her name.
In that moment, if anyone had told her that in three years’ time she would be khan, she just might have dared to believe it.”
Notice something? Even though this bit is at a stage where she would have been seen as a young boy, the writer kept the correct pronouns. Its more than can be said of most media, which often ascribe Pre-Transition accomplishments to our dead names (our names given to us that we stop using) and use the wrong pronouns for anything Pre-Transition. The whole thing is very well written, and perfectly places issues with identity into a fantasy setting. Indeed, Alesha deals with one Orc’s own issues with his identity, but in another way. Said Orc originally leers at Alesha for berating him for failing to kill a dragon and not gaining a chance to claim his name and who he is. The Orc tells her “You tell me this? A human boy who thinks he’s a woman?” Its harsh, but the story expertly plays upon it.
Alesha surprises the Orc with her ferocity, smiling as she single handedly takes down a Dragon, allowing her to point out to him she knows who she is.Through out the battle, Alesha watches the Orc and sees while he never went for a killing blow, he saved others and provided openings for them. By the end she calls on the Orc tell his battle story, but he claims to have none, and hence no name to claim. So Alesha asks those around him, who all talk about his bravery in saving them from certain death, or providing openings for a killing blow, whilst never actually killing something himself. She scolds him again for not knowing who he is and reminds him she knows she is no boy. The Orc then comes forward and calls her Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Read the full thing here.
Its a brilliant story, that helps to show the importance of self determination, and even deals with how societies ideas of what identity is meaningful conflicts some people. Alesha and the Orc are Opposites. Alesha knows who she is and claims regardless of the views of others, the Orc probably knows who he is as well, but is conflicted as it goes against the Clans ideals. He strives not to be the killer, but to aid his friends, meaning by their laws he would never gain glory. Yet he is as glorious as the others. It is a well played story that deals with identity well by actually removing the issues of self determination from the Trans person. Frankly, I think its amazing.