I have this nasty tendency to enjoy tormenting my characters considerably and watching how they develop through their suffering before I give them any sense of peace, and ultimately a happy ending (that last is very important; I am a huge sucker for a happily ever after). Tei'serin is the third character I have created for Standing Trials, and she was created specifically for this purpose. As a result, there are several contrasts built into her very nature.
Slavery vs. Freedom
The first contrast is slavery verses freedom. Tei'serin is a free woman. She was never sold into slavery. Nor does she bear the brand of a slave. But in spite of all that, she might as well be a slave.
As a very young child, Tei'serin knew the freedom of growing up on a Biqaj trading vessel. Her mother and adopted father lived on his family's ship, and in her first few arcs of life, Tei'serin had been to more cities than many have the chance to see in a lifetime. As such, she could be said to be freer than many, enjoying the freedom to travel, and see the world.
But all of that changed when she was five arcs old. Her family's ship sank off the coast of Ne'haer, and with that one event, her world shattered. Most of her family were lost at sea, and she lost the few who did survive soon afterwards. She was left in the hands of a man named Thorin.
Thorin...has issues. He needs to be in complete control of everyone and everything around him. And if he isn't, he can be incredibly cruel as he lashes out in his attempt to take control. From a young age, he conditioned Tei'serin to obedience. Now, at 18, she literally cannot even imagine disobeying him. The terror at the thought of his rage (and the punishments that would come of it) keep her from even trying to escape despite the fact that she lives alone on a farm he bought for her, and visits only when it pleases him to do so. Tei'serin is utterly convinced that even if she did try to flee, he would find her, and bring her back...and that the punishment for the attempt wouldn't be worth the brief illusion of freedom that she might obtain. Even without her guardian's constant presence, Tei'serin obeys any command that he gives her as faithfully as any slave. After arcs of conditioning, she simply isn't capable of anything else.
And for all that she doesn't bear the mark of a slave, Thorin has marked her as his own. His claim of ownership, though not acknowledged as such legally, takes the form of the many tattoos he has forced upon her over the arcs. Thorin chooses what to mark her with, and where the tattoo will go. In doing so, he has taken the Sev'ryn people's love of tattoos, and twisted it into something that brings Tei'serin nothing but pain, and shame.
Isolation verses Companionship
Deep down, Tei'serin is a very lonely girl. If she would ever allow herself to admit it, she longs for friendship, and to replace the family that she has lost. But Thorin has shattered her ability to trust others. Tei'serin fears people, men especially. And as a result, she can never have the family she secretly longs for unless she can somehow manage to learn how to trust again.
Even as a child, Thorin kept her isolated on her small farm near the village of Treth. She went to school as was required, but her teachers and fellow students were told that she was sickly, and frail. The teachers told the other children to let her be in order to protect her. Tei'serin was seen as being different from her peers, and children often fear what is different. So they either tormented her, or ignored her, depending upon their own natures.
Because of this, Tei'serin never learned the social skills that would allow her to get along with others. She doesn't understand people, and that contributes to her fear of them. Even if she wasn't afraid, she doesn't know how to relate to people. As a result, the people of Treth do not truly accept her as part of their community. She works in Treth, and is known by the people who live there, but as things stand now, she will never be seen as anything other than an outsider.