The Read-Headed Stepchild

Original Short Post

Inspired, shamelessly by the short-lived comic The Berserker’s Daughter but modified for my setting. The daughter of an aristocratic family from Thitstir, thus a noble from the Monster’s hierarchy, not the Royal hierarchy. Her parents were honored to host one of the lords of Thitstir (a vampire in service to the dragon), but he decided that when the witch came of age she would be his. Of course the parents could not decline and feigned joy at this event, but immediately upon his departure reached out to the “invader” Prince Mathionwy. who had one of his champions “kidnap” the girl and send her to Kentarre on a merchant ship. She is currently living on an Imperial stipend as a ward of the crown, but at the estate of the merchant, who is now a landed noble. While a merchant with ties to Imbilot understands what it means to be a redhead from Thitstir-and how their magic works-most people in town are squeamish about blood, and especially blood magic. She moved to the city because of rumors of strangers with a “western accent” asking questions about blood mages and red heads in the harbors along the coast. In town, she stands out much less obviously, but can still live as a wastrel on the Empire’s dime. Can emphasize the barbarian (thaneborn to emphasize her personal battle cry of “RAAAAAAAAAAGGGGE” even though she doesn’t actually rage) with multiclass witch to emphasize the physically powerful side of being a Vryloka, or Witch with all the White Lotus arcane dueling feats to emphasize the blood magic side of being a Vryloka. The dragon has both a male and a female vampire serving him, so this character works with either sex. Alternatively, could go for a bit of black comedy and have the vampire in question be The Betrayer who is actually good but nobles from Thitstir would be horrified at the thought of her marrying their son.


Character Builder

Witch Variant

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Rhuddem, level 3
Vryloka, Wizard (Witch)
Moon Coven Option: Dark Moon Coven
Proficiency: Weapon Proficiency (Battleaxe)
Dark Sun, Inherent Bonuses
Noble Bred for War (Noble Bred for War Benefit)
Theme: Athasian MinstrelFINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 13, CON 13, DEX 10, INT 18, WIS 10, CHA 12

STR 11, CON 13, DEX 10, INT 18, WIS 10, CHA 10

AC: 15 Fort: 12 Ref: 15 Will: 14
HP: 31 Surges: 7 Surge Value: 7

Arcana +12, Athletics +7, Dungeoneering +6, History +10, Intimidate +7, Nature +6

Acrobatics +1, Bluff +2, Diplomacy +3, Endurance +2, Heal +1, Insight +1, Perception +3, Religion +5, Stealth +3, Streetwise +2, Thievery +1

Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Athasian Minstrel Feature: Poisoned Strike
Vryloka Utility: Lifeblood
Wizard Utility: Augury
Wizard Utility: Suggestion
Wizard Utility: Prestidigitation
Wizard Utility: Mage Hand
Wild Talent Cantrip: Mental Tools
: Arcane Defiling
Wizard Attack 1: Dread Presence
Wizard Attack 1: Witch Bolt
Wizard Attack 1: Beast Switch
Wizard Attack 1: Rolling Thunder
Wizard Utility 2: Daunting Presence
Wizard Attack 3: Fire Shroud

Arcane Familiar
Level 1: Berserker’s Fury
Level 2: White Lotus Riposte


====== End ======


Playing the Witch

Rhuddem has a unique selection of abilities. Beast Switch is an arcane melee at will attack she can perform with any item she can take into her hands. Mage hand, mental tools, and prestidigitation mean it is all but impossible to keep her  imprisoned or restrained. Her invisible fey familiar is extremely subtle and helpful as well.

Her war cries are represented in the form of Daunting Presence (bonus to intimidation and anyone attacking her is -2 to hit), Dread presence, and Rolling Thunder (her screams take on a life of their own).

Her blood magic appears in the form of Augury, lifeblood, arcane defiling, and her athasian minstrel melee attack (poisons the blood of the victim rather than being an applied poison on her weapon).

Outside of her magic and her physical capabilities, she receives a stipend from the crown monthly, and is an exotic outsider who has loyalty and owes no fealty to anyone in Kentarre, most notably she is one of only two characters who are not loyal to the royal family. But she is fleeing a Monster, at a minimum the Vampire but depending on how the plot goes the Vampire has resources it can call on up to and including the Vampiric Dragon with nearly the power of a deity.


Long Story

The hierarchy of Thitstir goes Bloodlord, Three great Vampires, 6 Vampire Lords, and then the 64 Noble Vryloka families. There is no such thing as a poor or landless Vryloka. Should one fall on hard times such that they lose all fortune and lands, either they will swear loyalty to a higher lord who will support them, or the more successful members of their own family will have them killed to keep the family’s honor intact. This is why there are only 48 Noble Vryloka Families remaining.

Cothi ap Myfanwy Ferch Talog Ap Dafydd Ap Owen Ap Terfel Ap Talog Ap Talog fell on hard times but was managing to scrape by without shaming his family. It was known, however, that his lands weren’t producing as much as they used to, and that the mysterious disappearance of everyone in every coastal village in Thitstir hit his lands particularly hard. But he was managing.

Unfortunately, as one of the Coastal Cantref’s, and as one with a fortress just inland enough that it wasn’t effected, Cothi was honored by a personal visit from the Lord Gwynllyw ap Glywys, Left hand of the Dragon, Admiral of the Navy of Thitstir and the only remaining swordsman to have dueled The Betrayer and “lived” to tell of it. It was to be on this visit that Cothi would hand over his daughter to the Vampire to become his 19th wife and personal slave, the 18th having died some decades ago. This had been arranged long ago when Rhuddem Fech Cothi was only six.

Now, Cothi was not like the lords of the other cantrefi. The inland lords all looked on him as if he was a sea baron because half his villages were on the coast and he had a great fishing fleet. But the sea barons all looked at him as if her were a landed noble because half his villages were inland and he had a quarry a mine, and several forests he worked for lumber, hardly nautical endeavors. As a result, Cothi, like his ancestors, was used to going it alone and didn’t really have any great loyalty to his lords or he fellows. Thus when half his villages vanished he had no one to turn to for help and was seriously in danger of either losing his title, or indeed, his life. In such a circumstance marrying off his daughter to one of the Vampires could have saved everything.

Except for her. Lord Gwynllyw was a sadist who delighted in causing pain and suffering. None of his wives died a natural death, all were devoured by him after decades, and in two cases centuries, of abuse and torture. Though, three were still around in undead form. So Cothi just couldn’t bear to give his daughter to the Vampire even if it meant his own death.

Rhuddem was named for the red of her hair being darker than the traditional orange, and the fire in her heart. She could beat two of her five older brothers with an axe and was rumored to be the best blood mage in Tegeingl Cantref for at least three generations, since old Dafydd ap Owen died. She was, however, extremely stereotypical of the Vryloka: passionate, reckless, and wild. She acted without planning or forethought and succeeded, barely, usually by some combination of luck and sheer tenacity. She also was convinced that she could train herself to become a berserker, but usually just spit blood everywhere and screamed her personal battlecry “raaaaaagggggeee” while not actually raging.

Needless to say, she was the most popular member of the noble family, and brought back fond memories in the peasants of her grandmother who had lead numerous successful raids into Imbilot and the outer islands bringing wealth and plunder back to be shared by all. Much like the lord Cothi, the peasants were looked down on by all their neighbors and rather enjoyed any opportunity to one-up the buggers. Having word get out that the Vampire took away his daughter and they would never see her again, might actually cause rebellion in what remained of his lands. And, truth be told, she was his favorite despite all the grief she caused him.

Cothi hatched a devious plan. He sent his middle son, the champion of his fortress, on a mission to the very farthest eastern edge of Thitstir. All the way through the lands of the Dragon’s mortal enemy Bleddyn the Wolf, and into the bandit cantrefi along the Mountains of Death on the border of Jer’li. There Pawl ap Cothi successfully petitioned the Prince Mathionwy of Kentarre for assistance. The Prince was a rebel lord, child of the Empress and sword enemy of all the Monster Lords including all the Vampires. But he was also all alone surrounded by enemies. Several of his champions had been seen along the ravaged coastline and engaged in battle with warships out of Imbilot, and ally of the Dragon and a trading partner of Cothi. In return for favors and secret support, the Prince agreed to send one of his champions to kidnap Rhuddem but also let Cothi and his sons drive his forces out of Tegeingl. This would make the Vampires think Cothi had lost his daughter, not hidden her from his lord. And it would earn him favor for being the first of the Vryloka to best the Prince on the battlefield (thus far only Bloodhoof the Lord Vampire Unicorn and peer of the Dragon had succeeded in defeating Math’s forces).

The plan came together perfectly. An archer and an elven champion of Kentarre lead a raiding party out of the abandoned coastal villages and into his land holdings. Three of his sons met them in battle and drove them off. But they struck again that night at his capital and he and his youngest son and his daughter handled the defense of the city.

After the battle, Cothi went up into Rhuddem’s quarters to say good bye and hand her over to Math’s champion as agreed. However, he saw that he was too late. Though the outer wall of her tower appeared intact, from the inside it had been blasted and had a gaping hole into the shadowfell. Floating in the air and vanishing out of the world into that darkness was Rhuddem, clearly unconscious and held aloft via magic along with the tallest elf Cothi had ever seen. She was, he had been told by his son Pawl who was infatuated with her, Ness Fech Caddal, one of Math’s champions. Ness was nearly 7’, extremely thin, wearing an elegant dress of utter black and out of which starlight flickered as if the dress were a portal to elsewhere. She had one hand casually held over Rhuddem directing his daughter’s movements. And without looking back her other hand traced runes in the air causing Rhuddem’s packed belongings on her bed to illuminate then crumble into ash, then the ash itself vanished into nothing. When Cothi looked up again from the bed, both Ness and his daughter were gone, leaving only a tear in reality to the Shadowfell through which a damp and chill wind was blowing.

Rhuddem, for her part, woke up she didn’t know how much later. She was in a wagon, clearly not anywhere she knew based on the view out the back where she saw dead trees with black bark and grey leaves under a twilit sky. She was also bound, gagged, and had cold iron shackles on her feet. A grey-skinned hideous man covered in tattoos and scars with at least three pounds of metal spikes, bars, balls, and hoops piercing every part of him Rhuddem could see was sitting nearby leering at her. He watched her try to speak for a while, then said “not wor’t struggling yeh? Y’ll be ‘ere soon.” Then he promptly ignored everything she did or tried to say and just kept leering. Rhuddem, for her part, never took her eyes off his, just as a point of pride. Eventually the wagon stopped lurching along and the man waved his hand past her face saying “slayp new, y’r ere.” And she blacked out.

When she woke up again, she was sitting comfortably in a chair that almost could double for a couch in a room that was far more cheerful than she liked. Instead of her favorite drake scale armor, she was wearing a satin blouse and soft leather riding pants that matched the red color of her hair with gold and silver trimmings. The windows, and lurching movement of the “ground” made it clear she was onboard a rather large and well-appointed ship. Nearby she could tell the room was deliberately policed to be safe from any weapons, even the plate of fruit and cheese set out for her had not so much as a spoon. Which was no doubt why the sailor who came to check on her and bring her lunch was completely unprepared for her to attack him with what appeared to be a battle axe roughly made from one leg of the chair for a handle and “blade” made of the bent metal fruit plate bound to the handle with strips of satin from the chair upholstery. In the end it took eleven men and two officers to disarm her and lash her securely to the mast, and several of those men were seriously wounded in the process.

Rhuddem listened politely as the captain explained that she was a prisoner of Prince Math, but he (the captain) had been assured that she had given her parole to Math and was supposed to behave. If she apologized for ruining his very expensive chair and promised to behave she could return to the captain’s quarters and enjoy the rest of the journey in comfort. Otherwise he’d leave her on the mast until they arrived in Kentarre after a month’s sailing. Rhuddem politely asked who had removed her armor and dressed her. The captain said that she was dressed exactly as he had received her from the Shadar-Kai merchants who brought her to him, and he assumed it was Ness Fech Cadal who was with them acting as representative of Prince Math. Rhuddem said, “in that case, you can let me down” and they did.

She spent the next two days lashed to the mast with a very large lump on the side of her head, and the captain had to have stitches on his arm where she bit him. After exposure to the elements seemed like it would hurt her too severely, they moved her to the brig and left her there for the rest of the journey. So Rhuddem missed out on the chance to explore the islands and ports the merchant ship stopped at on its long journey. They passed all of the lands of Thitstir, far north and around the swamps and moors of Webithcorr where the water was dark and every night the sailors stayed awake in teams praying and travelling armed. Where shadows moved around the ship and everyone heard terrifying whispers and strange buzzing noises. Eventually they turned south and left that cursed land behind. Marsh gave way to heath and then to forrest. The ship stopped at a small village of gleaming white houses with a very big wharf all built into the side of a cliff. There two heavily armed guards took her out of the brig; and shortly thereafter one heavily armed guard with a black eye and one wearing a torn red satin blouse and leather riding pants with a mild concussion presented her to the local Lord who was to take care of her per Prince Mathionwy’s instructions.

While the lord and his men never agreed to let her turn his fastest fishing ship into a pirate vessel, and none of his men would form a band with her to plunder the neighboring counties (which Rhuddem thought was a terrible way to butcher the word cantref), she did manage to enjoy her time living in his estate. She got to go hunting whenever she wished, and was given a private lodge where she could practice her magic undisturbed and without disturbing the local peasants. She was able to practice with the guards and the local champion, and even once got to help defeat an owlbear that came out of the hills. So things were good. At least, until she heard that merchants with a strange accent had come “from the north” asking about any noblewomen with red hair, and trying to purchase blood magic rituals. She and her caregiver had prepared for this eventuality and she took some money, her arms and armor, and rode a carriage to Kentarre City where she would be less noticeable.








About GavinRuneblade

I'm a gamer. Currently in Darkness Rises, Star Wars the Old Republic and Fantasy Grounds for D&D. RIP City of Heroes, I'll never forget you. Check out they rock.
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