An intinerant herbalist, charlatan, and street performer looking to avenge herself upon her former lover.
Drive: To atone for what she’s done, and to rebuild her family’s fortunes.
Prophecy: Heir To The Blood of The Witch Queen
Initiation: The Witch Queen’s Student
Description: Fair of skin, with a light smattering of freckles on her face and a shock of messy bright red hair Isobel is pretty in an unconventional way. The only blemish on these good looks is a black A upon her check and neck, placed there by Lady Fiona’s men for her adultery with a fictional common-born man. She’s petite, weighing around 110 lbs and standing only 5’4, but carries herself with a quiet assurance that makes her seem a bit taller than she is.
Powers (New Powers Start at 4):
That Olde Black Magic 7 (Side Effects DD, Flexible A, Limited: There’s Always A Price D). The Witch Queen and her heirs were masters of the dark and ancient art of witchcraft. Now that Isobel has begun to hear the Queen’s teachings in her dreams, she has unwillingly soaked up some of this forbidden knowledge and the powers that come with it.
Gran Taught Me All About Wortcunning 5 (Flexible, Side Effects (D), Customizable, Single-Action Defense. Power Up To: Rank +1, Delayed (Advantage) if Ultra Slow (3 Actions to Use) is applied). Isobel has an encyclopedic knowledge herbs and their properties, beneficial and baneful. Now that magic has returned to the world, she’s realized that most of the old folktales her Ma and Gran used to tell her have some validity, and she’s picked up a knack for brewing various potions and elixirs as a result.
I’m a Damn Good Shot 4 (Armor Piercing, Requires Equipment) Isobel picked up more than a few tricks with a crossbow from Akul, and since joining the Alehouse Trio has proved an able student of knife throwing from Matteo and Duncan.
One Step Ahead of the Game 6 (Automatic, Defensive, Against foes whose motives she can analyze). Living as a fugitive requires a good head on your shoulders and fast reflexes, and Isobel has both, sharpened by her life as a charlatan with the Alehouse Trio. Given some indication of what a foe is about, she can hazard a guess at what they’re about to do next and make ready a countermeasure (or else just get the hell out of the way).
Schticks (New Schticks Start at 5):
Never Again 6 (Limited to Preventing Atrocities D) Isobel is at her heart, a gentle soul, but her taste for vengeance and the wild magic of the witch queen’s spirit proved too much for her, and she committed a horrible crime as a result. Upon realizing that what she did was not just some horrific dream, she’s committed herself to making sure that no one (not her, nor anyone else) has the chance to perpetrate such horrors.
This schtick aids her in seeing when carnage or suffering is about to be experienced on a massive scale, and might give her some idea about how to prevent or lessen it’s effects.
Witch Queen’s Whispers 7 (Side Effects DD) Isobel has the spirit of a long-dead Witch Queen whispering in her head- a dread influence that after the Night of Fire she’s bent on resisting at all costs. But having the spirit of a long dead witch bound to your heart has it’s advantages. Isobel can consult the wealth of knowledge this spirit has accumulated over the ages regarding subjects macabre, esoteric, and arcane with just a subconscious request.
But as the Witch Queen famously warned her in her dreams “Power Has A Price”. All too often, when she consults her ancestor she loses something (a memory, years of her life, a loved one’s affection) in exchange for the information gained.
Sweet Talkin’ 5 Isobel has an open and familiar attitude with everyone she meets, greeting and talking to them like they’re an old confidant or drinking buddy. It’s a rare sort who isn’t charmed by Isobel’s attitude, and if they aren’t they’re likely to be taken in by the “poor innocent Dorset farm girl” routine.
Fast Hands 5 Years of applying poultices and salves to panicked animals and coarse farmhands has given Isobel incredibly quick and deft hands. Her years since with the Alehouse Trio have only refined this, and made Isobel a capable sleight-of-hand magician and pickpocket.
(Impressive) Bullshit Mystical Lore 6 Her mother was fond of almanacs and phony spells to get the more superstitious amongst her clients to listen to her instructions (along the lines of “chant this name three times at noon and then take these herbs, and your fever will disappear”), and Isobel has picked up on the power of superstition to awe, to entertain, and to deceive. Some of it might even turn out to be valid when magic comes back into the world.
Cold Reading 5 Given a casual conversation, Isobel can learn enough about a person to fool them into believing she’s possessed of genuine magical powers, or simply gain enough ammunition for a long-con or blackmail.
I Can Speak The First Tongue 5 (Flexible A) The Witch Queen hails from a time when the civilized races lived in kinship with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, a time when the Fae could conspire with the woods and bear messages on friendly winds. Isobel’s picked up some measure of this ancient tongue, and while she’s ignorant about the labyrinth of pacts and etiquette that surround it’s use can use it to converse with beasts, with the elements, and with inanimate objects and ask favors of them.
Folk Healing 5 Isobel didn’t have a University medical education, but she got the next best thing from her mother and learned how to treat a wide range of ailments all the way from broken bones, to gout, to poisoning, to venereal disease. Given enough information about an unknown malady, she can usually figure out an herb or combination of herbs that would solve a similar problem.
Always a Friend In the Biz 6 (Power Up: +2 Rank if willing to trade a favor): As one of Roger’s “Men”, Isobel can call upon fellow agents of the Tyrant King for supplies, information, and assistance.
Thieves and Scum 5: As one of Roger’s agents, Isobel is accorded some degree of respect by smugglers, bandits, cutthroats, and the like. Rare is the outlaw who wants to piss off the Bandit King.
Monsters, Fiends, and Broken Things 5 Isobel has taken on the mantle of the Witch Queen, and with that mantle comes some glimmer of the ancient sovereign’s authority over outcasts both human and otherwise.
Boosts and Exp:
Isobel Has 5 Boosts and 1 Exp.
Duncan (A great big shaggy wolfhound mutt, given to her by Matteo)
Description: Weighing around 140lbs and coming up to Isobel’s midsection, Duncan is a formidable beast that looks part wolfhound, part wolf, part mastiff, and part unidentifiable mutt.
Gentle and affectionate in repose, with an almost comical placidity even in the most exciting situations. He turns into a veritable hell hound when Isobel is threatened, revealing a mouth full of huge white fangs and howling like a banshee.
Now that Isobel has accepted her birthright as an heir to the Witch Queen’s legacy, her magic has infected Duncan as well, rendering him smarter than any dog has a right to be and eerily connected to Isobel.
Great White Fangs 5
Canine Senses 5
Hunter’s Build (Movement) 5
Loveable Mutt 4
Familiar’s Bond 6
Boosts: Duncan Has 4 Boosts on him.
Hated By The Earth: Long ago, the Witch Queen sinned greatly against the powers of earth and stone, and their hatred affects all who bear her mantle and who have accepted their birthright. Pure (or relatively pure) Iron burns Isobel with a touch and she can’t use her magical abilities while in contact with it. Even extended contact with steel will cause rashes and mild burns.
Isobel also cannot cross a line of salt, or affect anyone with her powers who is behind a line of the same. Salt itself burns her just as iron does.
My Word Is My Bond: The Queen is a wild and amoral spirit, but utterly bound by her word, and now so is Isobel. While both the Queen and Isobel may still talk around the truth, be mistaken, exploit loopholes in an agreement, or refuse to answer a question neither may willingly and intentionally lie. If forced to do so by magic or other coercion, it will do great harm to both.
By this same rule, neither Isobel or the Witch Queen may renege on pledges or promises they have made.
Major: “The Scarlet Letter” Isobel is a branded Adulteress, and a suspected murderer by order of Lord Walter (Lady Fiona’s dimwitted husband). This, needless to say makes traveling in polite society difficult
Minor: “Rabble Rouser” Her escapades have made fools of the noble class, and might eventually become folktales for the common folk. A simple peasant girl who’s love made a fool of a powerful nobleman, who killed him and lived to tell the tale: that’s the sort of heady tale that might become a ballad one day. Might even start talk of revolution.
Minor: “A Heart of Gold” Isobel isn’t as cynical as she pretends to be. When there’s someone in need, everything her parents taught her kicks in and she rushes to help, so long as she can be sure it’s not bait for a trap. She doesn’t even check for a trap if doing the good deed would stick in the craw of a noble.
Minor: “Whiskey Rose” Isobel has taken on a few of Matteo and Fiona’s bad qualities, profligate drinking being one of them. Part of it is to deal with what she’s been through, while some of it can be chalked up to keeping company with rogues, mercenaries, thieves, vagabonds, and all around scum and villainy. Being in Thurgrim’s company on a regular basis hasn’t helped in this regard either.
If I decide to buy a Prophecy for her, I’m thinking something like this:
“And so it is written that one, kin to the earth and wreathed in fire will arise. She shall be called Witch Queen, Mother To Monsters, Delver’s Bane.”
She shall sit upon an Ebon Throne, and listen to the mute woods sing.
The Lords of the earth shall bring her a chalice but she will not drink.
She will pour it forth upon the earth, bringing fortune and death to the to the caged bird, to the workhorse, to the rat.
The hounds shall fall under the knives of their masters, or starve in their kennels.
She will hear their cries, and her tears shall live as vengeance upon the earth.
That’s all I’ve got thus far…more later.
Born the daughter of a yeoman farmer and a local midwife in a prosperous Dorset farming village, Isobel benefited from a more privileged upbringing than most of the youths in her village. Her father, Douglas was one of the more prosperous farmers in the area who hired out his neighbors as laborers to work the land during the harvest season, while her mother Isla’s herbal tonics, teas, and poultices drew folk from neighboring villages with sick children or lamed animals, hoping that the “miracle worker” of Gawan’s Rest would be able to soothe their ills.
Between this relative prosperity, and Isla’s unusual status as an only child (it was commonly speculated amongst the gossips of the town that Isla was barren, so it caused no end of speculation when she became pregnant with little Isobel) she was doted upon by both her parents. While she was still expected to help with the farm come harvest season, she spent most of her time alongside her mother, learning both the names and uses of the plants (beneficial and baneful), along with first-hand experience in how to run a business. Isla had a kind heart, and honestly cared for her customers, offering free treatment to poor migrant workers of all kinds (orcs, humans, even one or two giants) who came to her with a broken bone or a strange ague. But while her mother had a kind heart, she didn’t have a soft head-some of Isobel’s most vivid memories of her childhood recall her mother fending off a couple of would-be bandits with a stout cudgel and a powder that her mother said was Belladonna, but that Isobel was pretty sure (even as a child) was wild parsley.
This independent streak found a home in Isobel’s heart as well. She learned to shoot a crossbow at the hands of a former bandit, an orc by the name of Akul who wandered onto her father’s land looking for work. He told her of his service in King Roger’s army, his subsequent discharge by a spiteful commander, his rough and tumble life amongst sellswords, killers, and rogues. The two struck up an unlikely friendship, as the stories Akul told her both thrilled and repulsed Isobel-she marveled at his stories of the wider world, of battles fought and won but with her relatively sheltered rural upbringing was a stranger to the worst excesses of prejudice that plagued the cities and towns of the realm. With that in mind, she convinced her mother to take Akul on as a bodyguard when she traveled to other villages to treat clients-a move that would end up saving Isla’s life.In the winter months she snuck into the colorful tens of the Alehouse Trio, marveling at the colorful outfits and trading tales with stage magicians, jugglers, and professional buffoons. Pretty and outgoing, she caught the eye of the dashing young knife-thrower and sometime gambling cheat Matteo, but was smart enough to keep the notorious philanderer at arms length, laughing at his obvious attempts at flirtation and accepting his generous gifts without promising anything more than a smile. The greatest of these was a little wolfhound pup, a scrawny mutt who fell in love with Isobel the moment he saw her. She named the dog Duncan, after Matteo’s father, the ringleader of that particular circus, an avuncular old man who Isobel came to know as a surrogate grandfather. That gift nearly changed her mind about the sincerity of Matteo’s declarations of love, but young hearts can be fickle; she turned Matteo down one final time that night, letting him know that while she appreciated his kindnesses to her she would never be his: she just couldn’t do that to her mother. Matteo and his troupe left the following morning, and he has never forgiven her that humiliation.
Her father, for his part told her every day of how he had once, as a younger man worked the land of King Roger himself, scraping and saving to buy his own plow and horse, and a small plot of land to call his own. Each year after that he said, he hired another field hand, increasing his harvests bit by bit until he was able to buy another small parcel of land. And then another, and another. The key, he said was that no matter what the priests might say is to remember that a man (or woman) could always change their fate, and that anyone who said otherwise wasn’t worth the cloth they were sown from. He was a stern man, sometimes harsh with neighbors who refused to return a loaned plough blade or repay a debt, but eminently fair and devoted to his wife and little girl (whom he always called “his little flower”) almost beyond reason. Sometimes, when Isobel’s deep in her cups, she wonders if listening too closely to her father’s musings about choosing her own fate is what got her into the mess that followed.
It was around Isobel’s 18th birthday that a drought struck the town of Gawan’s Rest and the surrounding countryside. For the first time since she was born, Isobel knew what it was to fear real deprivation and want. Isobel struggled alongside her mother and father to keep food on the table and coin in the family’s purse, but all three’s livelihoods were too tied for the land for such efforts to be anything but futile: her father’s livestock were dying of thirst and disease, Isobel and her mother could no longer find the herbs she needed for her poultices and teas, and the family’s crops withered on the stalk or flat out refused to sprout from the parched earth.
That’s when her father, ever the shrewd businessman, hit upon an idea. The scion of a minor noble house, one Williame Melving had always shown an interest in Isobel. The family was a rising star in Dorset, with expanding lands and considerable monies-and Isobel’s dowry would be more than enough to carry the family and even their neighbors through the drought. More than that, Williame stood in a prime position to inherit the title of Viscount from his father; his little rose could have the life that she truly deserved: that of a noblewoman. That Isobel had made him promise not to force her into marriage held little sway compared to the prospect of watching everything he had built for his love and his little rose crumble into dust. Before she knew it, she had been promised to Williame and a date was set for them to be wed come springtime.
There was just one problem: Isobel couldn’t bring herself to love this stranger. Sure, he was handsome. Sure he was rich. Indeed, the very future of the people she cared about most hinged on her marrying this man. She would do it, she resolved. But she just didn’t care for him. Something about his eyes just didn’t sit right with her-they never seemed to smile along with the rest of his face. That decision changed the moment that she met his sister, Lady Fiona.
Lady Fiona was utterly unlike any idea of a noblewoman that Isobel had ever had, thinking of Ladies as delicate, meek figures given to fainting spells and throwing elaborate parties. She spoke her mind, no matter who was there to hear it, and cursed like the coarsest farmhand when she got angry (which was often). She took Isobel under her wing almost immediately, treating the younger woman as something akin to a protege and sister, and the two spent long nights up talking about their plans for the future.
Lady Fiona was ambitious and shrewd where her husband was an amicable dolt (or at least so she said): she knew that times were about to change, and that for her family to retain their power that they would be forced to turn to trade and business instead of living off of their tenant farmers. She wanted more than just a “few stone walls to shit, fuck, and nit in before I die or go mad” (Lady Fiona’s words): she wanted an empire. Isobel shared every one of her dreams with her new friend: her wish to see the great university of Manchester, to travel to Norwich and gaze upon it’s twisting towers, to take over her mother’s herb trade-all things she would likely never do as the wife of Williame Melving.
It’s unclear (at least to Isobel) when she realized she had fallen in love with Fiona, but the passion of the affair was all-consuming. The two took every opportunity to steal away with one another, and when they were apart they dreamed of a way out of their gilded cage and sent each other letters, written in pseudonyms to prevent identification. It came to head three nights before Isobel was to be married, when Fiona came to her in the middle of the night in tears. She had been keeping something from her love, a horrible secret about Williame that she and the rest of her family had kept under lock and key. Williame was a monster; a sadist for whom the screams of a helpless victim, man or woman were as sweet as honey. Fiona had long debated revealing this secret to anyone, because of how it might shame her family but she could not bear to send the woman she loved to her brother’s bedchamber.
Isobel despaired for a time, forced to choose between her own heart and health and her family’s prosperity. Soon though, her eyes fixed upon her rucksack taken with her from the farmhouse. Most of the herbs there were still good, still fresh. Belladona for soothing pain, nightshade for causing animals to abort deformed fetuses, hensbane for killing rats and mice…Isobel had hit upon a solution and soon Fiona was in on the conspiracy; the time had come, she said to make sure that Williame never hurt another soul. She paid her future husband a visit in the middle of the night, begging an audience and bringing with her sweets ordered from the palace chef (to share, she said). It was but a few minutes before Williame’s body ceased it’s shaking and Isobel had rushed under cover of darkness to the castle gardens to meet Fiona…
Fiona was there, along with six members of Williame’s personal guard. She had the letters that Isobel had poured her heart into night and day, balled up in a fist. The letters that Fiona screamed proved that she was an adulteress, a low-born whore trying to swindle an ancient and honorable line of it’s gold with a false marriage pact. Isobel screamed and cried as the guards took her to the castle’s dungeons howling for an explanation, for an apology, cursing Fiona, Williame, and the day she was born.
She knew what would come next. The guards would discover Williame’s body, she would lose her head, and her family would lose everything that her mother and father had worked so hard for. Then the Melving family would be able to claim her father’s land and Fiona administer it in Williame and Walter (her husbands) name-and she would have the beginnings of her empire: rare herbs found few places else grew upon that land, and the tenant farmers had found gold flecks in the nearby stream. And all of Fiona’s proclamations of love had been cynical deceptions to learn if her father’s property was worth taking. She had played right into the older woman’s hands.
But Isobel was not killed…branded with an A upon her cheek and neck, her hair cut into a ragged bob she was left in the dungeons for what seemed an eternity, with naught but bread, water, and the rats in her cell for company and sustenance. She does not know how much time passed until, curiously the door to her cell lay open and unguarded, the pathway out of the castle curiously free of (living) sentries.
She soon found the source: a dwarf clothed in rough leathers, a long thin dagger grasped in his nimble fingers. The dwarf introduced himself as Thurgrim, an associate of Akul’s from his days in running with a group of cutthroats and thieves that called themselves the Five Kingdoms. When she asked him why, the dwarf only smirked and replied “Nothing better to do than to save damsels in distress. Besides, I owed Akul a favor.” Good enough for her. That she wasn’t a damsel by any stretch of the imagination didn’t matter, nor did the irreverent air of his banter (like out of one of her Gran’s folktales) what mattered now was escaping the hangman’s noose or (knowing Fiona) the pyre.
Isobel knew that Thurgrim’s appearance couldn’t be a simple coincidence, no matter how skilled the dwarf was with those blades of his or how silent his steps. Fiona ran her manor like the strictest of the Kent mercenary companies, with nary a sentry out of line. This skeleton crew, these meager defenses were a trap. She was to be a distraction from Lady Fiona’s true ambitions, a scapegoat that could be pointed to whenever questions were raised about her motives or involvement. But she could not bear to never taste free air or see her family again. She raced out of the castle like a woman possessed, stealing a crossbow from a sleeping sentry, and a horse from the stables before riding alongside Thurgrim into the darkness.
She could not return to her family, that much was certain. She pondered her options, desperate for a solution. That was when her loyal friend, her constant companion, Duncan found her and her new companion creeping cautiously towards the low-burning embers of their fire. She still does not know to this day how he got there, how he journeyed from her father’s farm to find her nearly a week’s travel away, or why he was carrying a broadsheet for the Alehouse Trio…but she knew that the Gods had spoken. That they had found a way to get her back to that little farmhouse with the blue door, to clear her name, and avenge herself upon Lady Fiona. Matteo might have second thoughts about letting her join, but traveling in the company of an honest-to-gods Goldenbeard might pique his interest enough for her old friend to let her in.
Since then, Isobel has acted as a traveling purveyor of both legitimate and quack herbal remedies and tonics amongst the Alehouse Trio. In addition to this, she’s picked up more than a few sleight of hand tricks from other jugglers, stage magicians, and pickpockets from the Trio, using petty theft to supplement the income she makes with her cures. She’s saving up enough to engage the services of a Barrister or Investigator with the University of Manchester, so that the wrongs in her life can be put right. Or failing that, to the Guild of the Body to bestow upon Lady Fiona a gift of a sharp blade poisoned by Isobel herself.
Thrugrim: She owes Thurgrim a great debt for rescuing her from Lady Fiona’s dungeon and tries to look after him as best she can; ragging his unconscious form from the back rows of taverns, acting as his “mistress” when out on errands in polite society, and trying in her own flawed way to keep him from his worst excesses. Often though, she’ll end up in trouble right beside him with a bar tab that neither can hope to pay and a long string of enemies. Its in those moments that the two of them do their best work, playing off of one another seamlessly in back alley brawls or in the midst of a long con.
She’s come to love Thurgrim like a brother in their time together amongst the Circus of the Stars, but the part of her that’s still a Dorset farm girl is worried that she’ll end up like him; with nothing left to live for but drink and the pleasures of the flesh. In her most honest moments though, when whiskey has burned all of her self-delusion away she’s more worried about Thurgrim ending up like her.
Matteo Walker: A knife thrower, philanderer, and all-around rogue affiliated with the Alehouse Trio. His appetites are legendary, as are his shows where he throws knives, daggers, even swords with astonishing accuracy, taking the tips off piece of grass, apples off the heads of volunteers, and makes delicate patterns around the contorted bodies of his lovely assistants. He once proposed marriage to Isobel when she was but a girl, and likely has a few more times since then (mostly while in his cups). He reluctantly hired her on, and while he has a deep fondness for her still, he nurses a great wound upon his pride still from the way she turned him down after he gave her Duncan.
Duncan Walker: Father to Matteo and the ringleader of the Alehouse trio James is the one who convinced him to put aside his anger at Isobel for but a moment and consent to her joining. He sees potential in the young woman, and acts as a font of grandfatherly advice when she is lost or needs counsel. He knows her like the back of his hand, and knows enough to push her when she shrinks back from a challenge before her; with trickery if necessary (and there’s nothing that the Old Fox is better at).
Isla Rose: Her mother holds out hope that the terrible rumors of her daughter’s crimes are just that: rumors. She and Akul have been searching for Isobel, heading out nightly and hiring messengers and mercenaries both to try to find her daughter and ensure her safety. Several times she and Akul have had to fight off attempts on her life by agents of Lady Fiona and Williame’s allies, and she’s becoming more and more desperate in her searches as a result, endangering both herself and Douglas. If she were to find out definitively that her daughter lives she would stop at nothing to aid her.
Akul: The gruff old orc still owes her from her getting him a job and saving him from starvation, and he’s stubbornly loyal to her even as Douglas has distanced himself from his daughter’s reputation. Unbeknownst even to Isla, he’s been sneaking off into the night, taking vengeance on Lady Fiona’s men one by one-an action that will have no small consequences if it’s discovered. Indeed, part of Akul hopes that his actions will be discovered and ignite a war: all the better to enrich his adopted family, and give him gainful employment in the meantime.
Duncan: He’s a dog, but he’s hers to the end. Uncommonly smart, loyal beyond a doubt, and descending from a mix that looks like one half wolfhound, a quarter mastiff, and a quarter wolf he’s possessed of a rangy musculature, great big white fangs, and an awkward charm that serves admirably at softening up people to buy one of Isobel’s miracle cures or hear one of her bogus fortunes.
Lady Fiona: By turns boisterous and charming and coldly calculating, Fiona is a formidable woman in every sense of the word. Her ultimate goal is to consolidate the rural lands of Dorset into one fiefdom under her command and use it’s wealth to procure an army that will put her on her way to being ruler of that land, in fact if not in name. She’s not adverse to finding other avenues to power either, if force is not an option, and indeed many times even for a lady of her stature it is not. To that end, she’s made contact with nearby lords and ladies, using the incident with Isobel to spur fear at the prospect of intermixing with landed commoners, and opening up such business to her acquisition. And you can bet that she won’t be adverse to using Isobel as a tool again if it is within her power and to her interest.
Douglas Rose: Her father isn’t exactly a foe, but he’s deeply disappointed in his daughter. In the wake of her crimes, he’s been forced to sell much of his land to pay off family debts and has turned to drinking to cope with that and the tension that Isobel’s disappearance has brought to his marriage to Isla. Unbeknownst to her, he’s secretly cooperating with Lady Fiona’s men in exchange for assurances that his daughter will not be harmed when she’s brought in, and a stipend that’s keeping the family afloat.
Matteo: Isobel broke his heart. He doesn’t normally have the spite to be truly cruel, and indeed he still does love Isobel to a degree but he’s made up his mind that before he forgives her that she will pay for refusing the irresistible Matteo.
Lets just say Fiona was her first, and she’s not exactly looking for a relationship at the moment. While it’s reasonable to wonder about her sexuality, I the player personally see her relationship with Fiona as more the product of desperate circumstances (freedom from an unwanted marriage) and the experimentation of youth rather than any genuine indication of what way she swings.