N is for Nia MacGavan #atozchallenge

English: Belgian Congo Postage stamp, 1925 iss...

English: Belgian Congo Postage stamp, 1925 issue, 50c (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Way back in 2002, my husband Thomas ran a GURPS Call of Cthulhu game for us. It was one of the creepiest and most entertaining games I’ve played, and I think he made up most of it as he went along. We started out in Massachusetts (of course), ended up in Louisiana fighting Deep Old Ones, “died” and woke up in giant clay jars in a landscape from Dante’s Inferno—literally. After a particularly harrowing experience summoning somethin’ they had’n’t oughta summoned, Drs. MacGavan and Nelson consummated their relationship. Nia got pregnant, and when Danny found out, he punched Kent in the mouth. Nia had morning sickness along the way. Great way to fight monsters. We ended up completely off track in Africa (and my dear husband allowed us to do so), traveling all the way to the Belgian Congo for no good reason. To this day, we refer to “going to the Belgian Congo” when characters are off track or in danger of becoming so.

Here’s Nia’s starting biography (see I is for Intricate Backstories). She and Kent married and had a baby girl (if memory serves). No, the baby did not have tentacles.

Nia [Niamh] Áine MacGavan, Ph.D, was born May 1, 1900, in Mulranny, County Mayo, Ireland to a devout Catholic couple named Caoilte and Áine MacGavan.  Her sister Caitlin was born two years later, and Brenna came along in 1904.  Caoilte’s mother Medb also lived with them until her death in 1912, but Medb’s tales of the Fair Folk and her superstitions stayed with Niamh the rest of her life.  She gave her granddaughter a locket with a four-leaf clover in it that she always wears, believing it to help her see through faerie glamour.

Niamh’s life was chaotic.  Her father, a day laborer, was passionately involved in the fight for Irish independence.  Toward this end, he moved the family frequently to wherever there was trouble or the possibility of stirring up more.  He taught his daughters to fire a rifle in self-defense—or offense, if necessary.  Niamh’s light sleeping tendencies and milder nightmares grew out of this constant uncertainty and risk.  Caoilte also believed strongly in women’s education, and he and Áine made certain that Niamh and her sisters studied.  Niamh had a flare for languages and an interest in ancient cultures that took her mind away from the terrors of daily life.

Caoilte successfully eluded the authorities despite his terrorist activities until 1916, when they moved to Dublin.  He was preparing a bomb in the kitchen of their home during the fighting that followed the Easter Uprising.  It exploded unexpectedly, killing him and his youngest daughter instantly; the ensuing fire took the lives of his middle daughter and wife.  Niamh was away at the time and returned just as the fire was being put out.  The terrifying nightmares about fire began shortly thereafter.

Caoilte’s older brother Arthur, who lived with his wife Muriel in London, took Niamh in.  Arthur and Muriel worked at the University of London and, with very little convincing necessary, persuaded Niamh to enroll in the School of Oriental Studies, where she studied Near Eastern languages and linguistics.  Her aunt and uncle were infinitely more liberal in their outlook on life than Niamh’s parents, and introduced their niece to a social scene unlike any she had ever experienced.  She gradually came to view her parents’ religion with scorn, contrasting the teachings they supposedly espoused with Caoilte’s love of violence and chaos.

Innately superstitious (she leaves cream out for brownies as she has since she was a child and really believes in the power of her necklace), Niamh became interested in the occult through acquaintances of Aunt Muriel’s.  One frequent guest of the MacGavans was Phillip Parnell, a medium who offered to teach Niamh about the occult.  The intensity of their year-long relationship alarmed Niamh’s aunt and uncle, who, after she graduated with honors in 1924, strongly urged her to apply for positions in America.  Arthur called in a favor and soon Niamh was hired by Blackstock College in Massachusetts to teach linguistics.

Despite Prohibition, in America Nia, as she is now known, has explored the taste for carousing she developed in England, although she does it discreetly to avoid censure by the school administration.  Her beauty has caused one scandal, when the dean cornered her in the cloakroom at the Christmas party and his wife walked in on them kissing.  As she finishes her first year of teaching at Blackstock, Nia has begun to use her beauty to her advantage and has become something of a tease.  She has become friends with a student, an aspiring movie stuntman named Danny, who accompanies her to speakeasies and roadhouses to indulge her desire for carousing.

Nia teaches Introduction to the Study of Language, Introduction to Linguistic Analysis, and Elementary Akkadian.  Her research interests include Akkadian and Sumerian literature, particularly incantations and magic.  She has developed a crush on Kent Nelson, the serious archaeology professor ten years her senior, and has made it her mission in life to encourage him to loosen up and relax.  She is somewhat in awe of him and his accomplishments, and would love nothing better than to go on a dig with him.

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  1. I found this post so interesting telling more about the faerie world in an unusual story. It’s nicely written and I enjoyed the intrigue when reading. Thanks for following me, I followed back. Michelle @ http://www.writer-way.blogspot.

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