Character's full name: Rachel Hanson
Played By: Trilby
Character Type: Immortal
Hair Color: Dark brown
Eye Color: Grey
True age: 27
Apparent age: 22
Distinguishing characteristics: Small and slender, fair-skinned and graceful of movement, Rachel looks younger than her age and acts older. She is serious and thoughtful, quiet and still. She watches and listens more than she speaks, especially if she is unsure of the people she is with.
Any other languages: She speaks excellent German; her French and Italian are good but her vocabulary is very limited. She has a small amount of Russian.
Personality: Rachel is loyal and honorable, with a tendency to live and let live. She is remarkably accepting of other people and their differences. She is generally polite and reserved, but she has a streak of extreme stubbornness that catches many people by surprise. She can be beaten, and she can be forced to retreat; but she can rarely be made to surrender. Friendly and agreeable, Rachel appears on the surface to be easy to know, but behind the innocent, pleasant face are emotional walls built high and strong. A life of loss and abandonment has taught her that there is no one she can completely depend on, and that nothing nothing at all -- is forever.
Any special skills: Rachel is a trained and gifted singer of classical music, primarily opera; but as a performer, her greatest talent is the ability to erase her own sense of self and become, body and soul, the character shes portraying. Reserved and somewhat of a prude in life, onstage she easily and gleefully becomes a courtesan or a whore, a Countess or a peasant, a slave or a little boy. She has a natural fluidity of movement, and for years she studied dance, fencing, gymnastics anything that would teach her a skill that she could use onstage or in an audition. She has a quick mind and an excellent memory, which she has also worked hard to sharpen, but she has very little education. It is only in the 5 years since she became Immortal that Rachel has taken an interest in history or literature outside of how it could help her in her budding career; but her years of studying histories, biographies, social customs, and so on to build a rich character for performance have given her excellent skills at research. She did much of her growing up on a working apple farm, and has retained a good deal of knowledge about both small-plot gardening and raising crops on a large scale. Her years of experience with the animals common to life on a farm taught her about the care of several varieties of pets and livestock, and more recently she has spent time learning from a teacher who was a dedicated horsewoman.
Rachel came into the world in the projects in NYC, an abandoned newborn found alone and squalling her lungs out. She spent the first six years of her life in a series of foster homes before finding a long-term placement with Elmer and Joan Hansen and their brood on their sizable apple farm in upstate New York. Joan Hansen, the mother of a riotous and rambunctious herd of boys, was a little unnerved by the small, silent girl who watched everything with wide solemn eyes and said very little, and rarely smiled. Rachel might not have stayed as long as she did with The Hansons if she had not become so close to Elmer's father. Grandfather Hanson was fighting a long, slow battle with cancer, and to the surprise of all involved, the old man found that he enjoyed the company of the quiet and self-possessed child who listened attentively to all of his stories and sat with him on Saturday afternoons to listen to the live broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera. Over the years, Grandfather Hansen taught Rachael any number of useful thing that Children's Services would likely not have approved of, including how to put a bullet in the center of a target at 30 yards.
It was very early on in her years with the Hanson that Rachel began to sing. The Hansons were Lutheran: conservative, devout, and proud of their faith. They took Rachel to church regularly, and it was in the Children's Choir that Rachel's gift for music was first noted. Her voice was pure and true and naturally lyrical, and the choirmaster was soon assigning her small solos. Eventually he trusted her to sing before the entire congregation. It was the beginning of Rachel's future, and even as a child there was nothing that gave her a greater sense of joy and wonder and fulfillment. She became more and more sure of herself, and before the year was out, Rachel could be found on any Saturday evening standing on a stool to reach the kitchen sink, washing the big mound of dishes from the family's dinner, softly singing the melodies she had heard on the Met broadcast that afternoon.
Rachel lived with the Hansons for almost 8 years, and during that time she made it her business to be as useful as possible to the family, and especially to old Grandfather Hansen. Eventually, though, there came a time when Grandfather's illness was so advanced, and had become such a great financial drain on the Family's resources, that a number of cost-cutting measures had to be made; among them was to let Rachel go back to Children's Services. Rachel took the news quietly, solemnly, and without comment. It broke her heart to say goodbye to the man she called Grandfather, but deep inside she had always been prepared for this day to come. There was one truth, she had learned, that was immutable, unchangeable, and undeniable: nothing lasts forever.
At 14, Rachel took her small suitcase of belongings and moved from the farm to the suburbs. The Baums were her first foster family after leaving the Hansons, and that lasted only briefly; Mrs. Baum found Rachel with a blackened eye one afternoon, her face swollen and bruised; and the Baum's son Erik, age 19, had a broken arm. Both refused to explain. Rachel was quickly moved again, this time closer to the City; and soon after, she started high school. It was here that Rachel finally had a constant outlet and arena for her musical abilities, and she tentatively, hesitantly began to form friendships. She was at best an average student, but she quickly became a fixture of the drama and choral activities, and she was the happiest she had been since leaving the Hansons.
In the fall of her sophomore year, Joan Hansen - old-school in every way - wrote to tell Rachel that Grandfather had passed away, and what few remaining funds he had, he bequeathed to Rachel, with the hope that she would use the funds to study music. Her foster parents were agreeable, and at the suggestion of her high school choral teacher, they took Rachel to Juilliard. An adjunct voice teacher heard her, and called in one of the tenured staff. The instructor listened to one audition piece and accepted Rachel on the spot, and suddenly a whole new world opened up for Rachel: a world where her music mattered, and where someone believed that what she had was of value. For the first time in her life, she had a plan, an ambition, a purpose.
From that first week, Rachel took her future into her own hands. She worshiped her instructor -- Nellie Clark, a fixture at the Met herself in the 60's -- and she worked for Madame Clark harder than she had ever worked before for anyone, and that was saying something. And while she studied the Classical literature, waiting impatiently to grow into the Verdi and Puccini and Mozart roles that she coveted, Rachel made her own plans. She passed the GED, taking early graduation from high school -- proving to herself that when it mattered, she could learn quickly and with comprehension -- and the week she turned 17, she petitioned Children's Services to declare her an emancipated minor. With Madame Clark to vouch for Rachel's acceptance at Juilliard the next school year, the department acquiesced, and in the summer following her junior year, Rachel left foster care and was on her own. The money that was left from Grandfather Hanson's bequest was enough to pay for two years of her tuition, and to make ends meet, she worked two jobs that summer, cleaning rooms at the Sheraton Central during the day and waitressing at a nondescript diner at night.
But top schools are expensive, and even with scholarships to stretch out her funds, three years at Juilliard were all that Rachel could afford. She was twenty now, old enough to start auditioning for internships and apprenticeships; and the very best programs were in Europe. Armed with audition CD's and a letter of recommendation from Madame Clark, she contacted several companies in Germany and Italy, eventually accepting an offer from the Aachen Stattsoper. She would be a member of their Young Professionals program, singing small roles and with the opportunity to study stagecraft, ballet, and fencing. Regretfully, but with an abundance of hope, Rachel left Juilliard and Madame Clark's tutelage for the unknown.
It was, professionally, an excellent move. Aachen's opera house was small, with excellent acoustics, perfect for a young woman with a young voice; and they were prepared to help their students find menial employment, if need be. Rachel arrived in Aachen with her assigned roles memorized, her few belongings in her backpack, and a willingness to work as hard as she needed to. Professionally, she was prepared and confident.
Her personal life was another story.
Rachel had always been solitary, and her abuse at the hands of Erik Baum left her wary and suspicious of men. The high school boys in Choir and Drama Club had seemed so young and harmless compared to Erik that she didn't fear them; but the young men she sang scenes with at Juilliard and now here in Aachen were a different story. They were usually friendly and flirtatious, and they treated her like a lady, which Rachel had difficulty adjusting to -- most of her life, most people had seen her either as a child or as a functionary. She was completely unprepared for life as a young adult woman. She was unprepared for Keith Alden, two years older and with a fine tenor voice. When he told Rachel he loved her, just two months after she arrived in Aachen, she believed him.
It lasted less than a year; and when Keith took up with another new arrival, Rachel was devastated, and she had very few tools for dealing with her grief. She had sheltered herself all her life by keeping herself apart, by not forming attachments; and the few people who she had let past her guard -- Grandfather Hanson, and Madame Clark -- had never treated her badly, let alone cruelly. To be abandoned by someone she had trusted, and to know that she had been used by someone who had never cared for her, not really, was more than Rachel could handle; and when one of the other students -- perhaps meaning well, perhaps not -- had put a rum and Coke in her hand, she drank until she passed out.
It was the beginning of what Rachel eventually referred to as The Year of Living Dangerously. With enough alcohol in her system, the hurt and the doubt went away; and before too long she had been introduced to cocaine as well. She began waking up in strange beds with strange men; and she began missing rehearsals, even performances. It wasn't until the Statsoper Board of Directors wrote her a letter threatening to revoke her internship that Rachel came to her senses; but by that time, the damage to her reputation had been done. Some of the conductors and stage directors she had worked with had offered her small jobs here and there, but she was still too young to make a full-time career of performance. She was only 22; it would still be several years before her silvery soprano voice had matured and become a strong instrument, able to perform multiple roles a week, unamplified, without damage. She needed a few more years as an intern in a place where she would be able to perform, and learn, and grow; but she was no longer trusted at the Statsoper, and she had done that to herself.
It was time to go home.
It was Owain Glyndwr, master fight choreographer, who told her that the Seacouver Opera had lost a soprano. "Beautiful girl. Beautiful voice. Horrible technique," he said. "She's on vocal rest, had to give up her contract. I was just out there to stage "Fanciulla" and they're looking for someone. Not oozing money, but it's not cash-poor, either, and they have a few regular benefactors. It's a good program."
By that fall, Rachel was back in the states, though on the other side of the Continent, with a signed contract for the Seacouver Young Artists. Her first role with the company was Lauretta in "Gianni Schicchi", quite a coup for a young unknown. Her second role was Frasquita in "Carmen"; and Rachel was beginning to feel that her life and her career plan were both back on track again.
It was during the run of Carmen that Rachel was attacked on her way home, took her bag, and left her unconscious on the sidewalk. She couldn't tell the police anything helpful at all -- her attacker wore an overcoat and a hat and a scarf that covered his face; he was tall, and big, and very strong; he choked her with only one hand until she passed out completely. No, she couldn't identify him if she saw him again. For the next few nights, until her landlord had the locks changed, she slept at the opera house at night, and for a time she was afraid to set foot outside alone. Even worse, she began to experience sudden waves of dizziness, with her skin prickling inexplicably, and she had no idea what was causing it until one night a tall, dark-haired man with a red-haired boy her own age in tow came backstage after curtain. He said all the right things, complimenting her on her singing and her stage presence; she thought he was just another opera patron until he took a step closer to her and said very quietly, "You were hurt. Was it recently?"
When Duncan MacLeod finally told her about Immortals, she didn't believe him; but eventually, in the absence of any other way to explain what was happening to her, Rachel accepted Immortality as a fact of her life. It took more courage and faith than she had believed she had, for as an Immortal, she would never age. She would never grow. Her voice would always remain just is it was, and she would never, ever be able to sing the music she had dreamed of. In the beginning, all she wanted was to die, and it was only the memory of Grandfather Hanson and his years-long battle against cancer that made her ashamed enough of herself to turn to MacLeod and his offer of training. McLeod demanded much, and Rachel worked as hard as she had ever worked in her life. She was determined to master everything he was willing to teach her. Through MacLeod, she also met Joe Dawson, a gifted blues musician. Of the small group of friends Rachel made during her time of training, it was Joe alone who understood, truly understood, the magnitude of what Rachel had lost as a musician, and little by little he began encouraging her to explore other ways to use her voice; before long, he was calling her up to the stage at his bar to sing Gershwin and Sondheim and Rogers and Hart. Rachel began to learn a new and deep respect for the American sing tradition.
She learned a great deal from Duncan MacLeod, but she was barely with him two years before she was Challenged by the Immortal who had taken her life that night on the street. Burned badly in a fire before he was Changed, he had but one good hand and one good leg. He had murdered Rachel so that he could later take an easy Quickening, but in a fight on the bottom floor of a Seacouver parking garage, Rachel had killed the man who had taken her life. Slipping her rapier through his guard was hard enough; hacking his head off with the slender blade was horrendous, but she did it. She had taken her first head.
And Mr. MacLeod told her it was time to leave. His voice had been thick, and perhaps not entirely steady; but he was adamant. Rachel must go, and to her surprise, it was flighty, mercurial, quicksilver Amanda who gave her a direction.
"Just because Mac can't train you, doesn't mean that nobody can," she said with a brilliant smile. "Have you ever been to Portugal?"
Alaina Delgado was not especially a friend of either Amanda or of MacLeod, nor did she often take students; but for some reason, she was willing to take on Rachel Hanson. With the air of someone discharging a debt, Alaina met Rachel at the airport and drove her out to her estate, where Rachel's second phase of training began. Where MacLeod had been patient, Ms. Delgado was curt and abrupt; where MacLeod had been encouraging, Ms. Delgado was contemptuous. Rachel had worked herself to the point of exhaustion to live up to Mr. MacLeod's opinion of what she could do; she worked just as hard for Ms. Delgado, but to prove that she was wrong about Rachel, and not just in training. The Delgado estate was always referred to as the Hacienda, as it it were nothing but a humble stucco shack; in actuality, it was more than a thousand acres of vineyards, with a stable of horses that needed tending to and a herd of cows that needed attention as well; and the house was a huge mansion, modern and gracious, with sweeping vistas of windows and gardens, with an Olympic-sized pool. Right from the beginning, Delgado had Rachel fighting with a long knife in her left hand, and there were many, many other differences. Where MacLeod had given her weights to lift and laps to run, Ms. Delgado gave her bales of hay to relocate, buckets of feed to distribute, and calves and foals to help deliver. She taught Rachel to treat and stitch the inevitable wounds, and to tell the difference between a break that will heal and one that will not. And in between, she taught Rachel so many things that MacLeod never could have: how to fight in stiletto heels, how to use an opponent's greater height against him, when the judicious use of tears or a smile has a chance of unnerving a man.
The estate was isolated and self-sufficient, for Alaina Delgado was suspicious and distrustful of most of her kind. There were a few servants that worked for Alaina, families that had served her for generations; she had two adopted sons, both Immortal, who visited now and again; and occasionally a former husband -- those still on good terms with her -- would drop in for a few weeks. She was older than MacLeod, older by a few centuries; and like him, she chose her friends carefully. There were few visitors to the estate, and it was for that reason that the residents of the hacienda, human and otherwise, succumbed to the Plague long after the rest of the world. It was inevitable, though that an infected bird or fish would eventually find its way to the estate; and one day Alaina and Rachel rose again from the dead after a few horrible days of illness, and they stood on the patio, looking out over the bodies of animals that could not be eaten and servants that would never rise again.
They did what they could to try and ease the suffering of the animals that were not yet dead, slitting their throats as gently and as painlessly as they could, and Alaina drove Rachel silently into the small town an hour's ride away. "I'm going away," she said. "Sandor will take you anywhere you want and then he'll join me. I don't care where." Sandor was a champion sailor, with centuries off experience; he could take her home, across the Atlantic.
But where was home? Where did she belong?
At first, Rachel was at a loss. Where would she go? Who did she have in her life besides Mr. MacLeod and Ms. Delgado? She got along well enough Sandor and Rui, Alaina's sons; and she genuinely liked one or two of the ex-husbands, but she couldn't call them friends.
But there was Joe Dawson. He wasn't her teacher, or just some friend of a teacher. He had always been her own friend. Her only friend, in so many ways. When she was trying to believe MacLeod and Richie about being Immortal he had helped her understand. When she had taken her first head -- her only head so far -- it was Joe she had gone to, willing to cry in front of him but not in front of her Teacher. They had kept in touch over the years, at least until the Internet went down, Joe was in Colorado. In Boulder.
So then. Boulder it was.
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