Zea has thick black hair, and large brown eyes that always seem to be watching people for some part of them that even they can't see. Her skin is a warm, rich brown, and with a wide smile and quick hands she brings comfort and certainty to others that she herself cannot find. She has the look of a woman who doesn't quite know where she is, as though she only just arrived in the world and hasn't quite resigned herself to the fact that she's stuck there.
Leggy and lanky with a grin fit to split her face wide open. Cinnamon-colored fur shades to dark grey along the back and tail. Her relatively short fur makes her look smaller relative to shaggier wolves.
Zea thinks of all social relationships in terms of favors to give and repay. All relationships between equals must be founded in reciprocity or everything just ceases to make sense and is all crazy-like. Most of her formative social relationships (other than with her mother) were with the dead, and in her life… the dead work on favors. Things can be gotten from the dead, but the dead expect favors in return.
This works with people as well. Zea believes in returning the spirit of a gift to her, which means that if someone else's generosity results in her benefiting in unexpected ways, she still owes them for those unplanned benefits. If she helps a spirit and they benefit in unexpected ways, what they owe her increases.
It is near-impossible if not actually impossible to deter Zea from operating on this system of exchanges. After so long dealing in favors back and forth with the dead, she's quite solidly fixated on this as The Way The Universe Works.
From the beginning Zea was always a quiet, serious-minded child. She lived with her mother and her mother's extended family, but they were not particularly interested in her because her father was… well, he was a lot of things they didn't like. He was an American, he was black, and he was a "military contractor," or at least that's what his business card said. Zea's aunt called him a mercenary and feral dog of war, and maybe it was true.
Zea didn't care. She had her mother, and she had stories about her father. A fun-loving wild sort of man, much like her mother. It was clear even to Zea that Quinn loved him, in her way. Unfortunately Zeke was not the settle-down type; his job and his temperament prevented it. Quinn said he'd have made a terrible father, but that didn't mean he wasn't a good man (of a sort).
From Quinn Zea learned self-assurance and self-reliance, never giving over her freedom to anyone, even for love. From Quinn's stories of her daughter's father, Zea learned about integrity and honor; she learned that her word was far more important than any external measure of morality and what Zea agreed to do she always did. How could she not? It was the only memory of her father she could call her own, except of course… for the blood in her veins.
When Zea was fifteen she broke up with her boyfriend at the time. The situation was… a bad one. No teenaged girl wants to learn that her "first" was only dating her because he wanted to get in her pants, and when that teenaged girl is a werewolf there are… consequences. It was after Zea had killed and eaten most of the boy that she told her mother what had happened.
A couple more nights of Zea's Phase and there wasn't enough left of the boy to identify, though his brothers always did suspect she'd had something to do with it. It was her first shift, and while Quinn had hoped her daughter hadn't inherited this particular trait of her father's, she had honestly expected it.
She expected it because Zea had other problems to deal with, and always had. She saw things, things no one else did. Heard things no one else believed. Felt things no one else could touch. Doctors said she was hallucinating, shook their head in dismay that someone so young could be struck with such delusions. Unfortunately their medicine didn't help.
The man helped. She saw him sometimes, but mainly she heard his voice over the others. If she paid attention to him, if she showed her gratitude and gave him her time and energy, he would make them be quiet. He told her his name was John the Conqueror, who could vanquish and silence the others.
It was with John that she got through her early years, her school years, her graduate education. Her degree was in botany, but her true obsession was death. Religion after religion, she devoured their stories and their rituals trying to find that spark of truth that could help her make sense of the world she lived in that no one else seemed to see.
It wasn't until she was doing her postdoctorate research that she had anything more than faith to hold onto. The laboratory was doing research on creatures that were not human, creatures who were what she was. They created a drug that could suppress the remarkable gifts of these people, these creatures, and Zea began taking it herself. It didn't matter who suffered to develop it, not to Zea. Every great advance was made on the backs of the broken victims of progress, and why should this be different?
It granted her some measure of peace, though her neglect greatly angered John. However, the research subjects eventually broke out of the lab, destroying Zea's supply of the drug. Certain that the werewolves from the facility would have nothing to do with her, they were nonetheless the only ones who might understand her. Assuming she was forsaken by them, and certainly forsaken by the familiar spirit whom she had angered by suppressing her ability, Zea fled. Once her last dose wore off, she languished for more than a day. Lost under a sea of voices, drowning beneath their pleas and shouting and the touch of their hands and the desperation in their faces, John finally pushed them back long enough for her to claw her way to the surface.
- Quinn Simon (mother)
- Zeke Mazuo (father, missing)
- John the Conqueror (familiar)
- Fynn Callaghan (deceased)
Things Zea believes about ghosts and why she believes them:
The first one is that ghosts need to fixate on something, someplace, or someone in order to remain ghosts. Sometimes houses are haunted because ghosts are stuck on the location. Sometimes objects are haunted, which gives them a reputation for being cursed. Sometimes people are followed by relatives or other loved ones. The thing in common here is fixation (which, incidentally, is why Zea hasn't noticed her own Fixation's Calling yet; compared to a ghost she doesn't really have one).
Dead people who cannot fixate on something will generally just pass on, because frankly most people don't have it occur to them to do otherwise. It's just, "I'm dead, what now, oh I gotta go." If they say, "I'm dead, what now, I gotta look out for my kid," or "I gotta get revenge on this person," or even, "I don't know I'm dead and I gotta keep going to work," then they probably end up as ghosts.
Ghosts can pass on basically at any time, but while they're around they have something else in common, also known as Zea Belief Number Two.
Number two is that ghosts thrive on attention. Zea first had this idea come to her because of all the cultures who make a special point of commemorating their dead in some obvious and special way. The Chinese do it, the Pagans do it, the Japanese do it, the Catholics do it, Vodoun practitioners do it, etc. All these practices center on the idea that ghosts may be dead, but that doesn't mean they don't have needs anymore. They don't need food or warmth or vaccinations anymore, but they do need something to live. It's not necessarily love, either, since there are ghosts who do nothing but terrify and abuse the living, since… well, hell, at least it's better than not being noticed at all, right?
Ghosts that receive a lot of attention can become something more than a simple sad remnant of their former existence. Zea theorizes that this is why there are so many cultures that make a point of ancestor worship. If you pay attention to your ancestors, they pay attention to you, and they become more than mere shades of themselves. Ancestor spirits, Gede, etc. are not "alive" anymore, but they're leading a unique existence with its own limitations and advantages. The danger of giving ghosts a lot of attention is that they're less likely to want to pass on. Zea figures this is especially true of attention from Necromancers, who can focus more intensely and more clearly on the dead, and whose attention is therefore of higher tastiness value.
Ghosts that do not receive a lot of attention may pass on, but they may experience something worse. You know how a lot of hauntings are little more than noises in the night, a sudden chill in the air, an unusual smell, or the image of a person at the window? Hard to say that these are spirits which have passed on, because if they had… well, there wouldn't be a haunting. But the full person was so much more than the fading echo that now remains.
Zea's supposition, given this, is that they have faded. A ghost that doesn't pass on but isn't sustained by directed attention from the living may lose memories, a sense of self, and finally the last remnants of its existence. This is tragic as all hell even compared to the original death, so Zea generally encourages even the spirits she trafficks with to pass on before this happens.
Those are the beliefs that Zea has about the properties of ghosts, about what makes them what they are, and how they can develop over time, given (or denied) attention from the living.
How Zea interacts with ghosts:
First off, Necromancers are the only ones who can see or hear ghosts to any degree according to the rules as I understand them. This leads Zea to believe that all successful shaman-types who interact(ed) with spirits must be werewolves who are just being careful about who knows it. This also leads Zea to believe that non-werewolf living people who report ghost sightings or experiences… didn't have them. It was their imagination, their superstition, their mistake. (This also conveniently allows for Rift's ghosts to diverge from the ghosts of folklore if we need to, since it allows for those sources of information to be incorrect.)
Now that that's out of the way… seeing and hearing ghosts is one thing. I reckon the average Necromancer can do both to some extent. Zea would guess that hearing ghosts would be easier than seeing them, since she expects visual "hallucinations" are easier to peg as out of place than aural ones (AKA people who hear voices are more likely to accept the new input than people who see stuff that shouldn't be there). She may or may not be correct here, and it doesn't really matter whether she is.
Some Necromancers can see something of the ghost, but not a full opaque representation of the ghost. A lot of this also depends on how strong the ghost is, Zea figures. There are some ghosts that are strong-willed enough to manifest fairly completely (such as the ghost of one late Necromancer she has had interaction with), but there are some which can only muster what amounts to a vague facial expression or a hand or a voice. (Note: Obviously this bit is highly variable, and people writing should always keep in mind what's most interesting or entertaining for the story, since I guarantee that any visual or auditory manifestation to a Necromancer can be made to make sense within this framework.) How a ghost is sensed by a Necromancer is so variable based on individual circumstance and the fact that the ghost isn't limited by material reality anymore.
Speaking of the limitations of material reality! Kes has commented, "ghosts are without the "shield" of a body and thus all emotions and memories are insanely powerful and aren't blunted by a body, thus those who are susceptible to ghosts (ghost talkers) sometimes get pulled into memories and emotions as if the talker is living it." That about explains it, so yeah. What Kes said.
Kes has written that this kind of thing can happen even if the ghost is not aware that they are transmitting this emotional information, which makes it follow that ghosts could theoretically induce such a situation if they wanted. They'd have reason to want it because it's a great way to get attention from a Necromancer that you don't have to share with any other ghost. Deaths are personal. Getting someone to relive yours after you die probably gives ya a good boost, y'know?
Zea's difficulty with ghosts comes from the fact that her interaction (particularly if she's close to or on her Phase) goes beyond the two senses of sight or hearing. A ghost of sufficient power can actually touch her. She categorizes this as poltergeist activity (and again assumes that any non-Necromancer who reports it is mistaken or lying). Part of the reason that she can interact with them this way is that she has very little by way of a natural barrier between her existence and the existence of the ghosts, and part of it is that she hasout of necessity, and not entirely consciouslytrained her power in this direction. I won't share details here for why, because you proooobably don't want 'em. =P
How ghosts interact with each other:
The short explanation here is that, mostly, they don't. If a ghost needs to fixate on something in order to hold itself together, what in the hell use is hanging around with other dead people? Quite frankly, it's probably difficult to even properly think about anything other than one's own object of obsession, which makes other ghosts a nuisance at best unless they are helping (or hindering) the attachment to one's chosen Special Haunted Thing.
But there are cases when ghosts will notice one another and actually do something about it. Zea's familiar (whom she categorizes as one of the ghosts-turned-Gede/ancestor-spirit type beings who are no longer simple shades) will occasionally block out or dampen the access of the others to her by taking a priority space and functionally claiming her where they all can see. He is more powerful than they are because concentrated, frequent, and occasionally carefully-ritualized attention has been directed at him, and that gives him some ability to bully the others away from her as well.
In short, Zea's attention gives him some vague echo of her own power, which he likes and other ghosts undoubtedly hate if what they're trying to do is get unlife-sustaining attention from Zea and John is getting in their way.
The point I wanted to get across is that these interactions are, at least in Zea's experience, very very limited. When talking about beings that probably can't even properly think about or remember anything but the object of their obsession/fixation/haunting, we're not going to see complex post-mortem relationships.
Obsession. Discussed above in Personality section.