Ash Barklow, Procurement Officer of Barklow's Books Character in Cathedris | World Anvil

Cathedris Themesong

Ash Barklow, Procurement Officer of Barklow's Books

Ash Barklow:
Procurement Officer of Barklow's Books

Collector of fine books and antiques; Seeker of secrets

Don't even get me started on He'an.   I could tell tales til your hair goes as gray as mine.
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Ash Barklow

Procurement Officer of Barklow's Books
Alright, fine. If you insist.   Fun fact about He'an -- before The Seven Day War, they were the most worshiped and most loved out of all the gods. Some think that's part of the reason they were assassinated and blasted into space -- jealousy. Unfortunately for their assassin, humanity's love for our moon has only grown since then. You'd be hard pressed to find a single human on Cathedris that didn't hold some love for He'an in their heart.
— Ash Barklow

Born and raised in a famine stricken war torn part of Artazia, yet escaping to Russin at a young age, Ash Barklow is a lover of lore, a collector of facts, and a delver of history. Their early life was full of both difficult trials and compassion through storytelling, which has instilled within them a great respect for the past, and the part it plays in personal growth.   Ash spends the vast majority of their time poring over ancient tomes, immersing themselves in stories long gone, working to absorb as much knowledge about the world as they can. This goes hand in hand with the family run business operated by Ash and their mother Caroline; Barklow's Books, the premiere location for literature and antiques within Russin's bustling merchant district known as Market Shores.  

Time in Artazia

Ash's early years were marked by famine and plague; born as Ashley, along with their twin brother Evan, the two of them became orphans before they even reached their first birthday. Food was hard to come by, and their birth parents had been able to make ends meet. Months of low rations, difficult physical work, and near constant sickness meant death for them. Miraculously, Ashley and Evan survived, being relocated to an orphanage not soon after their parents death.   Here though, fate smiled on the twins; while short supplies made caring for a pair of children a daunting task, partners Caroline and Hannah adopted the twins mere weeks after they entered the orphanage, becoming the kid's new mothers.   Caroline worked for the Artazian government, translating, copying, and editing important documents -- this governmental position afforded her some small luxuries that made caring for children seem possible. Meanwhile Hannah worked as a part-time librarian, and full-time storyteller. It had been the women's dream to adopt kids to raise, and despite the difficult circumstances, they were determined to provide a happy home to raise their children.  

Learning by Doing

With Caroline, the kids learned reading and writing skills. She'd sneak spare pens and pencils into her bag, stockpiling loose sheets of slightly blemished paper, and bring them all home for Ash and Evan.   Together, the two of them would draw and practice their letters, slowly learning from their mother the basic skills needed for further learning.

Learning by Listening

While Caroline was at work, Hannah would fill many of the kids waking hours by telling story after story of times long gone by.   The twin's favourite stories were always of the gods, before they became husks -- the God-husks terrified them -- and so Hannah would tell them of the peaceful times when the gods interacted with each other on a constant basis.
He'an's Hind
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Ash Barklow (they/them)

Follower of He'an
5' 7"
Kesnel, Artazia
Eye Colour
Hair Colour
Russin, Russin
Favored Deity
It's common for many people across Cathedris to have 2 or 3 favourite God-husks. One is almost always the God-husk most assosciated with the country in which they reside, while the others might be God-husks that the individual feels more connected with on a personal level.     For Ash, there is no love within them for Avartarian, the God-husk of Artazia. And while there's respect for Sharenskus whom can often be seen from the upper windows of Barklow's Books, there is only one God-husk held in Ash's heart -- He'an, the solemn moon of all Cathedris.

Sibling Similarities

Ash and Evan were as close as twins could be, similar in almost every way. There wasn't the luxury of being able to separate boys and girls activities; the kids all played together. It was even said once or twice that "young Ashley's quite the tomboy, eh?". Gender in Cathedris is a journey, one of discovery that everyone must take as they grow up -- and just like many things in Cathedris, some look to the gods for guidance. Thus Mama Hannah would occasionally begin calling Ash her "little He'ash", named after the beautiful genderless moon god, He'an.  
Making Difficult Choices
For years, the four of them managed a happy, small life within Artazia. Yet all the while famine and plague had begun to sow the seeds of dissent among many citizens. Food supplies continued to dwindle, and anyone seen as above the common folk, or tied to the failing government, often became the target of all of this unrest. Because of this, Hannah and Caroline made the difficult decision to flee the country. They'd bypass the Cradle of Ice and board a boat heading downstream River Artazia to Port City, where they could leave the continent and make their way to Russin.    

Escape from Artazia

Ash put one foot in front of the other, the way they'd been doing it for the last 5 days, as an "emigration guide" lead them across the treacherous mountain slopes. The goal was to avoid getting too close to the Zone of War, as Avartarian had been on a tear lately, endlessly rampaging. Ahead of Ash was Momma Caroline, and trailing a short ways behind them was Mama Hannah, and with her, Evan.
  Mama Hannah had been making the trip almost tolerable for the entire group with her constant story-telling, despite the harsh weather and utterly exhausting journey. Ash had wanted to rent some Glacier Crawlers, but Momma Caroline gave Ash such a look that they decided to never bring it up again. So instead they trudged through deep snow, listening to Hannah's tales of long past battles, wonders of the ancient world, and how the gods used to meet and interact and work together... before they all died, of course.   At the moment, Hannah was telling Evan all about The Seven Day War. It was Evan's favourite thing to learn about, almost always pestering Hannah for more information on it.   "Do you think Avartarian could've survived if he had attacked Qur earlier?" Evan's question drifted up to Ash.   Ash liked hearing about the Seven Day War as much as any other young historian, though not nearly to the extent that Evan did. Ash also did not get his fascination with Avartarian -- frankly, the patron God-husk of Artazia gave them the creeps. Even just thinking about the titanic monster now made Ash tremble -- though they weren't totally sure if that was from cold, or from fear.   Or was the rumble originating from somewhere else? The trembling wasn't really coming from inside of Ash as they had initially thought, it was instead reverberating up their legs, coming from the ground below.   BOOM.   The ground shook, as what sounded like a massive explosion burst through the air.   Ash looked up from their feet, and saw everyone in the small traveling party glancing around too. As the echo faded, the icy air grew deathly calm once more, despite the rumbling from underneath. Caroline looked to their guide for instruction, and Hannah and Evan, who were a stretch behind still, called up to them.   "What was that?"   BOOM.   A second massive impact shook them harder than the first.   "He'an help us," swore the guide. "It must be Avartarian! Shit! Blasted snake sold me lies-- he's near, he... he must be just on the other side of this mountain. We're WAY too close -- we've got to get into cover, now! Follow me to the overhangs!"   BOOM.   A third impact shook the entire mountain on which they stood, and it was accompanied by a titanic screech echoing over the valley -- inhumanly deep, filled with rage, pain, and suffering. The rumbling grew cacophonous.   Ash looked up just in time to see the the avalanche that would change their life forever, as it brought the mountainside down upon Hannah and Evan; still too far behind, still out of reach, unwittingly standing directly in the path of death.   In moments, they were gone -- but there was no time to grieve. Caroline grabbed Ash's hand, and they ran to follow the guide.
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Ash Barklow

Procurement Officer of Barklow's Books
This is why I never want to go back to Artazia. This is why I hate Avartarian.   It really was him that caused this all, too. We later found out that the Legion had been doing drills near by, and it had attracted Avartarian's attention, enraging him. The Legion cleared out as quick as they always do, but Avartarian remained and tore the mountainside to shreds.


New Life

It... took a long time to reach any sort of "normal" once we got to Russin. Momma and I each blamed ourselves for what'd happened.   I needed a refresher for myself. Russin is when I officially shortened my name -- Ashley had died on the journey with Mama Hannah and Evan. Ash is what remained.
— Ash Barklow
    Times were tough for Ash and Caroline, once they reached the metropolis of Russin. The guilt at times became almost too much for either one to bear.   Their guide had set them up in a cheap inn near the harbour district, and gave Caroline a few leads on work; Ashley, now Ash, was too young to be working full time and remained in the inn most days. They'd fill the long gaps of solitude by visiting a local library; at first the stories reminded them too much of what they'd lost, but after a while it became a comfort instead.      
Stories of He'an intrigued Ash the most. In Ash's pain and suffering, the tales of absolute unconditional love were a balm; they felt forgiven, and they felt kinship. Ash had always liked He'an the most. In Ash's adolescence, they had gone out late at night to stare up at the moon god among the countless stars; "He'an is just like me," Ash remembered thinking.   Those thoughts pushed them to join a local Church of He'an, and with that, try to find some much needed peace. Ash used the calm to be there for their mother Caroline, and together, with stories that reminded them of Hannah and Evan, they were able to properly heal and move on.

Russin, Russin

Russin is a massive city-state, bearing the same name as the country in which it resides. It's one of the most populated cityscapes in all of Cathedris; serving as a major port, and home to a rich, vibrant culture. Native Russinians only make up about 60% of the actual population of the city, so it's something of a city of immigrants as well, serving as a beacon to those wishing to start a new life somewhere different.  

Harbour District

While not nearly as busy as Market Shores within central Russin, Harbour District to the north still saw significant foot traffic through the area, to and from the docks. Passengers, workers, people of all sorts made their way through the area.   Within a 10 minute walk of the inn which Ash and Caroline first stayed were 12 churches, 2 libraries, 6 book stores, 3 lumber yards, and 8 other inns -- along with a myriad of other separate shops.
Days in Harbour District when Sharenskus slowly made his way past were the best; so many people were out and about, celebrating seeing their God-husk.
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Ash Barklow

Procurement Officer of Barklow's Books
I didn't know it at the time, but Sharenskus is actually pretty consistent with the loop he trudges around Russin. He manages to make the roughly 8,000km journey 4 times per year; often enough that the days in which he passes by are deemed to be a public holiday.   It's been that way for hundreds of years, though I hear they only recently made the holiday official and all that. Something about "it's not like people were getting much work done anyways".
— Ash Barklow

Barklow's Books

With the two of them settling into their new life, things finally began to reach a new normal. Caroline's work as a copy editor brought in enough money that they were able to save up and eventually buy a small run-down old shop in the heart of Market Shores.   During Ash's time spent exploring the city, including its many libraries and book stores, they had begun to make personal connections across town. Soon a small group of friends formed, centered around Ash; some were librarians themselves, while others were trades workers or dock hands, but all had one thing in common -- a love for books and for history.    
  With their combined experiences, and with Caroline helping to pay for material costs, they were able to restore the shop to something far more presentable. Ash continued to rely on their friends and the other various connections they had made in order to begin purchasing stock for the new store; and before long, Barklow's Books was officially opened.
We had hardly any stock in the early days. It pains me to say, but for the longest time, the only things we were able to get in bulk and actually sell was that drivel, the God-ship series.
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Ash Barklow

Procurement Officer of Barklow's Books
Okay, sure, yes, I might have kept some of the more rare ones...   If they were in especially good condition...   Or if they included He'an....
— Ash Barklow

Present Times

I've now lived in Russin for longer than I was in Artazia. This place has let me grow into the true version of myself, the real me.
— Ash Barklow
  These days Ash spends most of their time in, or around, the bookshop that they and their mother run. Due to the painful past, Ash prefers to stay close to Caroline, finding it uncomfortable to be away for too long; which works out fine, as Barklow's Books very quickly became one of the busiest bookshops in all of Russin.   Ash can usually be found managing the inventory of the shop -- pouring over old books, determining their worth, and ferreting out old secrets. They consume history and lore like no other; compiling it all in their mind, using it to chase leads on more old historic texts. Ash has built themselves a fairly comprehensive network of information gatherers and document retrievers. The group jokingly calls themselves "Ash's Spy-ders", after a joke involving an arachnid infestation in the early days of setting up Barklow's Books.  
Even when they're not actually working in the shop, Ash can generally be found bent over some old book -- staying up far too late, becoming lost in stories from other times. Because of this they're almost always tired; it's very common to find Ash with a cup of fresh coffee, their favourite drink for a multitude of different reasons.   Ash is relentless in their search for the next piece of history they want to collect, and stubborn as can be when it comes to admitting defeat or faults -- something despised by competing store owners, and lovingly teased about by friends.

The Road to Ash

Most of Ash's basic schooling happened in Artazia; much of their learning was done under the guidance of Hannah and Caroline, but Ash did attend a public school until age 14. Upon arrival in Russin, Ash would take up some specialized classes every now and then, but mostly learned by self study within any of the countless libraries and bookstores they found.   With their varied past and propensity for self study, Ash has become a very quick learner, with a surprisingly strong ability to work out secrets. This in combination with their stubbornness occasionally leads Ash to trust their conclusions too much, sometimes resulting in large mistakes with varying levels of consequences.
The worst mistake I've made? I'd like to say it was letting a certain friend see a certain collection of books that were intended to be private. Momma would probably say it was the time I dropped that really expensive vase and broke both it, and my foot, though.
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Ash Barklow

Procurement Officer of Barklow's Books
I never did tell Momma just how valuable that vase was, either.   It was an incredibly rare piece, from the time before The Seven Day War -- a period we don't have many artefacts from. It was located in southern Kazcallen, within some Ruins located within the Kazcallen Desolation Plains.
— Ash Barklow



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Jul 1, 2022 12:26

I love them. Such an interesting and well-rounded character! I share their love for He'an and distaste for Avatarian as well, I feel like I could invite Ash for a coffee and listen to them talk for hours. They sound like they have A LOT of amazing stuff to tell.   It leaves me wondering what happened when this "friend" was let know about the private collection. Sounds like I will not like that person.   Amazing article all around!

Jul 4, 2022 05:01 by Stormbril

Thank you so much Nae! <3 I'm slowly getting more confidence with writing characters (that aren't big dead gods xD). I'm glad you like them, and I agree, I think they'd be lovely to spend time with!   As for the friend, they've definitely never been trusted with sensitive information again >:| I haven't really decided what ACTUALLY happened, but it's fun to leave up to people's imagination!

Jul 1, 2022 13:11 by Simo

I want to know the story of the vase too!

Jul 4, 2022 05:02 by Stormbril

Let's just say that Ash very often over-estimates how well they're holding onto something, which also very often results in said thing they're holding being dropped, and smashing D:

Jul 2, 2022 12:40 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

This is such a beautiful and well done character article. I love the extra little bits too that you can click on.   I'm intrigued about the 'friend'.

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Jul 4, 2022 05:03 by Stormbril

Thank you Emy! They were really fun to write, even if it took months to do. I'm proud to finally have it done :)   I mentioned it in another reply too, but I haven't actually really decided what really happened there... it's fun to leave it up to the imagination :o

Jul 2, 2022 22:56 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Great article, you've made incredible work with it :D I really loved following Ash's journey and getting small excerpts directly from their voice.

Jul 4, 2022 05:04 by Stormbril

Thank you so much Amélie! I'm glad all the work paid off :D   I got a lot of inspiration from Q's Amelia article for those direct voice excerpts. I'm so looking forward to placing those all over Cathedris >:)

Aug 28, 2022 22:45 by JRR Jara

I love them! I enjoyed how you tell their story through different elements. The mix of explanations, prose, and trivia worked together very well. The little secrets gave me a better insight into how Ash is as a person. Of course, the design of the layout and art is beautiful!

Creator of Hanzelot and many more.
Nov 16, 2022 00:45 by Stormbril

omg I just noticed I missed this comment, I'm so sorry Julian D:   But thank you so much!! I'm really proud of Ash, and I'm glad you liked them. It's been a joy using those secrets to really showcase their personality and have fun with them talking to the reader :D

Mar 7, 2023 13:50 by Chris L

I love this look at the life of a relatively normal person in your world of god-husks. I particularly enjoyed the bit of first-person writing and the cool interactives that you built with CSS. Your work is always amazing.

For your consideration, my submissions for the WorldAnvil Worldbuilding Awards 2024. (I've also included some of my favorites other worldbuilders.)

Mar 7, 2023 18:06 by Stormbril

Thank you Chris! It's always so much fun to delve into the lives of people after spending time developing the big and wild things of a world, and seeing how that affects their lives. Thanks for the comment <3

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