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24 July 2013 @ 08:38 am
AU World-building Characters: Ren Ci of the 5th Noble House  
Yesterday, I posted about the 12 Noble Houses of the Fire Nation and how they were originally administered by the Fire Sages who once also ruled over the Fire Nation, before the Fire Lord usurped their control.  But, over the centuries, the political landscape has changed for a variety of reasons and the noble Houses are no longer under the care of sages.  None of the sages in Aang's time can trace their lineages back to any of the noble Houses which should be a indicator of just how far out of political favor they have fallen.



Ren Ci is a noble woman and a respected member of elite society.

She is the Head of the 5th most powerful House in the Fire Nation, known as "Head of Household", the "House Master", "Master Ren", or the "5th Matriarch". She prefers to be referred to as "Lady Ren".

She is a daughter of the 4th most powerful house. Her father was the son of the 4th House's Patriarch who married down because he fell in love with her mother. A notion Lady Ren has come to doubt since she considers her mother to be "completely unlovable". She loves and cherishes her father but thinks him a lustful, misguided fool. Upon reflection, he was forced to agree with her. In the past, she has sought relations with her 4th House family. But her father's dishonor has passed onto her as well as to her brothers and sisters. They have publicly refused to recognize her as one of their own because to do so would send the message that it was okay for him to reject his betrothal to a daughter of the 3rd House for purely selfish reasons. They do, however, treat her with respect insofar as they respect her public works as well as the fact that she is a capable business person. They are careful not to earn her ire because of her marriage to a powerful general from the 3rd House.

She is a daughter of the 3rd House by marriage.

She is not a bender.

She has never trained in the martial arts and has no natural fighting abilities. She has always been timid. Weapons frighten her and violence is very upsetting to her. Her husband, a soldier, knew of her fear of violence and he respected her by refusing to "bring the war into their home".

She is well-mannered and, usually, gentle and kind. She understands a great need for networking and building relationships that serve to advance her familial and philanthropic interests. She will approach a "diplomatic" situation with patience, pragmatism, and a soft touch.

She is discrete and private, never sharing personal opinions or political views for fear that such views may fall out of favor with powerful people who may seek to lash out at her family for expressing them. She is particularly fearful of the Fire Lord and his family, and will try to avoid him at all costs when she's at Court.

She is quietly controlling, passive-aggressive, competitive, mistrustful, and ruthless when pushed too far. She does not forgive easily and rarely sees the value in forgiveness. She seeks to better herself but often undermines her own attempts because of an unchecked seething hatred she has for those who have wronged her. To her credit, she can be made to see reason, but there are only a handful of people who can even reach her when she becomes unhinged and decides it's time to blackmail her "enemies" to bend them to her will. She uses her family's wealth against other members of the 5th House as a sword rather than a shield to keep them inline.

She is a philanthropist of the highest order. She believes it is the responsibility of the privileged to do good works that enhance the quality of life for the less fortunate and looks unkindly upon those who do not contribute to the well-being of others. She honors the memories and legacies of her deceased grandparents by running their foundations and endowments. She honored the memory of her deceased husband, a respected war general, by founding a charity in his name that provides financial support for families who have lost loved ones in the war. She frequently supports the good works of others, chairing several endowments, making financial contributions to worthy causes, and attending charitable events.

She is well-educated. She graduated from a posh private school on Ember Island with top honors, and earned her Doctorate in Business Administration from the prestigious Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (a real school in Beijing).  Her business degree has helped her better manage the financial affairs of her family's house and their endowments, as well as her own charities, and it has given her a unique perspective into the "politics" of elite culture and taught her valuable networking skills. She had frequently been seen at the Fire Lord's Court, networking.

She considers herself a student in all things academic, believing that it has been her lifelong love of learning that has granted her the wisdom required to run a tight house and keep her affairs in proper order.

She is a land-developer, putting the 5th House's lands and homes to work making money through commercial real estate development, flipping and buying and selling. Her family bulks at the idea that they can no longer live on these lands because she turned their vacation castles into museums, schools, a hospital, and two orphanages. Also, selling and buying land and rehabbing property (flipping) is something her relatives don't understand.  The Head of the House is suppose to hold on to what they have and try to grab what they can, not develop their land and sell it off. Then go buy someone else's land, flip it, and sell it off. They don't understand how this make their House more wealthy or powerful.




A TIMELINE OF IMPORTANT EVENTS


Ren was an "Oops Child". Born forty-three years ago when her mother was in her late 40s, fourteen years after her youngest sister, Ren was unwanted because her mother was not interested in mothering a ninth child when she should be thinking about retiring from public life and planning for her "golden" years when she would be traveling and relaxing. To be fair, Ren's mother didn't care much for the first eight, either. She had babies because that's what women of nobility do.

When she was six, her father died from a breathing disorder (he had an asthma attack) and she was left in the care of house servents until her mother returned home from a planned vacation three months later.

When she was seven, she went to visit her grandparents on Ember Island and never came home.

Her grandfather, the Patriarch of the 5th House, died when she was eleven. In an unrepresented move, he willed all the family's controlling assets to his wife, making her the sole executor of his will as well as the Matriarch of the 5th House. Typically, as dictated by tradition, these assets would have been willed to his firstborn child, the "expectant heir" to the House and all of it's assets. Instead, he left their six "lazy, greedy, selfish, ungrateful, worthless" children monthly allowances that, frankly, would be considered generous by most standards, but far below what they were accustomed to. Upon his death, many of their assets were seized since they belonged to him, anyway. This lowered his children's net worth values considerably.

When she was eighteen, she was married to Colonel Lao Fu, a man thirty-six years her senior, a confirmed bachelor who was finally ready to settle down, and a nobleman from the 3rd House.

When she was twenty, she earned her undergraduate degrees in accounting and public relations from the University of Ember Island. She then proceeded to get the 5th House's finances in order and take over the financial responsibilities of her grandparents' foundations for her elderly grandmother.

When she was twenty three, she graduated with honors and a premiere distinction in Business Administration.

When she was thirty one, her grandmother, a woman well past the century mark, died. Upon her death, the controlling assets of the 5th House were willed to Ren, making her the 5th Matriarch or Head of the 5th House. It was at this time that Ren began putting the House's money to work, developing their lands, investing in business ventures with good potential for returns and entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to turn her family's already massive fortunes into something even greater.

Her husband, who was by then, a retired general, died from an unknown illness (cancer) when she was thirty four (he was 70). Because he was an only child, and because his parents were both dead, he willed his own assets—gifts, lands and items he had purchased with his own money, and the assets his parents willed him--to Ren, making her one of the single-most wealthy people in the Fire Nation.

When she was thirty six, she was honored by Princess Ursa with the Red Heart, the Fire Nation's highest honor for volunteerism and civil service, a lifetime achievement award of sorts given to honor her twenty years of impeccable service as a true patron saint of the less fortunate. This is where she met Zuko and Azula for the first time. It was an "interesting" meeting. Ursa spent the next month apologizing for it.

At thirty seven, she was ordered by Fire Lord Ozai to become the Chief Financial Officer for his late mother's charity and told to "get its books in order".

When she was thirty eight, her nephew, Yao Ci, came to spend the summer with her. He never left. She's spent the last five years raising him as if he were her own son. Because Ren controls the family's assets, her sister never puts up much of a fight when Ren refuses her demands that he be sent back home.

At forty, she, along with the whole of the Fire Lord's Court, and the War Council, were ordered to witness Prince Zuko's first Agni Kai. She was so horrified at watching Ozai burn Zuko that she tenured her resignation as the Chief Financial Officer for Ilah's charity and stopped coming to Court, citing "illness" as her reason.

She's spend the last three years living in virtual seclusion with her nephew. Together, she and her oldest brother, Deng Ci, manage their House's affairs as well as her many charitable obligations from her palatial estate just outside of Caldera City...


I'm still developing Ren and the important members of her House. Comments and criticisms are welcome.
 
 
loopy777loopy777 on July 24th, 2013 11:09 pm (UTC)
Interesting character. Quite complex in her life, but with a functionally simple psychology, which I think is the best way to have a character.

I was surprised that she started a charity for war widows, since she seemed to not like to think about the war, but I guess her aversion was limited to the actual violence. With that in mind, her charity for 'war widows' is actually much more 'sanitary' than something that would deal with wounded veterans.

The part Ren's first meeting with Zuko and Azula got a chuckle. I can't help but wonder what happened, but it's fun to speculate.

What's her relationship with Yao Ci like? Does she truly love him, or is he just an appealing potential heir?
SCplushulala on July 25th, 2013 01:46 am (UTC)
Interesting character. Quite complex in her life, but with a functionally simple psychology, which I think is the best way to have a character.

Aw, thanks. :)

I was surprised that she started a charity for war widows, since she seemed to not like to think about the war, but I guess her aversion was limited to the actual violence. With that in mind, her charity for 'war widows' is actually much more 'sanitary' than something that would deal with wounded veterans.

She does work with charities that deal with wounded veterans but there are a lot of those. She tries to create charities based on need. The veterans are well cared for. But when soldiers die, the needs of the families aren't always met, particularly when one is talking about a husband who dies in the line of duty and leaves a wife and children without his income to support them.

She doesn't oppose violence on moral grounds unless we're talking about straight-up needless violence like someone calling an agni kai to settle a land dispute, or the Fire Lord setting his thirteen year old son's face on fire. She finds people who commit these types of violent acts frightening and "evil". She also thinks that mindless violence is the tool of the weak-minded and dim-witted.

She understands that the war is a complicated thing and that she lives in a military culture. Because she can't seem to overcome her own fears, she has respect for people who face down their fears on a daily basis to serve the country and protect "weak" people like her. Her fears over violence are really the kinds of fears that a lot of women have about being violated or hurt.. And she can't overcome them in an environment where she could be taught to defend herself against an attack. She's squeamish. People in her own family think her cowardly and weak.


The part Ren's first meeting with Zuko and Azula got a chuckle. I can't help but wonder what happened, but it's fun to speculate.

Of course Azula was a perfect little angel during that encounter. ;)

What's her relationship with Yao Ci like? Does she truly love him, or is he just an appealing potential heir?

She adores him! Plus, she recognizes that having him in her life makes her a better person because she wants to make him proud of her. He has so much influence over her. Ren can't have children of her own and his parents sent him away to a boarding school when he was a little boy. He wanted a mother who would actually love and accept him, and she wanted a child she could love unconditionally.