Saturday, September 7, 2013

Frisland: Maegryn of Searock

When Geoff Gander and I chatted about the previous article, he mentioned he was curious about the story behind the Duchess of Wyllareth’s ancestor—the one who brought the curse upon their House. The previous chapter having exceeded 7,500 words, I decided to punt the idea for a later day. Catching the ball in mid flight, Geoff wrote this precious nugget:

Maegryn is a reclusive spellcaster who made her home on the island known in Wyllareth as Searock, near Mafertat, more than a century ago. Calling the damp, salt-encrusted, gull-infested rock an island is at best charitable, as her equally damp and salt-encrusted tower occupies almost every square inch of it. Wyllarethians who are aware of Maegryn believed her to be long dead, but whenever storms lash the shores around Mafertat, the superstitious are prone to recall the legendary rage and spitefulness of the sea-witch.

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Hex Map
Searock Island -- 2 Miles per Hex
History: In truth, Maegryn, in whose veins runs the blood of generations of Antalian sea-witches and Alphatian mages, is the last in her line. She is potent combination which, combined with her passionate nature, produced a powerful, temperamental spellcaster whose mood could affect the very weather around her. Her family was initially well connected to the ducal house of Wyllareth, and Maegryn spent part of her youth as a courtier in Mafertat, where she became known for her forceful, but joyful, personality. Her high spirits caught the eye of the duke's eldest son, Dorelion, and the two enjoyed a romantic liaison.

The time soon came for Dorelion to spend a season at the imperial court in Sundsvall to complete his education, and he left her his ring as a promise. He soon forgot Maegryn amid the parties and trysts with girls who had more distinguished bloodlines. In the meantime Maegryn waited in Mafertat and obsessed over her promise ring while planning her marriage. Her closest friends, who had connections in Sundsvall and had learned what Dorelion was doing, advised her to forget the future duke and find her own happiness. She would have none of it. Dorelion returned months later, with a young bride. Devastated, Maegryn withdrew for weeks while Mafertat suffered the worst weather ever recorded.

Suspecting the truth and eager to respond to demands from the citizenry to do something about the bad weather, Dorelion's father commanded his son to reason with Maegryn, or at least to formally request the return of the ring as honor and tradition demanded. Dorelion had other ideas and instead assured Maegryn that his feelings for her were sincere and that his marriage was a political arrangement. He managed to string her along for several months as his mistress, until he inherited his father's title and announced the impending birth of his own heir. He accorded Maegryn no status at court, and instructed her to return to Searock.

Maegryn withdrew under a cloud (literally) and it was only later, when the full extent of how she had been used crystallized in her mind, that she sought revenge. She consulted the texts of her maternal ancestors, and from those discovered dark practices in which she invoked the tempests to curse the ducal family. Dorelion died in agony, but the true impact of the curse, which has persisted to the present day, would not be known until the following generation came of age.

Although most people who are aware of Maegryn today believe she is dead, Lady Elyasatham is under no such illusion. Currently, the succubus-duchess is content to ignore Maegryn so long as she keeps to herself. In fact, Elyasatham is more than a little grateful to the reclusive woman, without whose bitterness she would not have existed in her current form.

Description: At first glance Maegryn is a tall, striking woman of "pure" Alphatian extraction, but her ice-blue eyes originate more from her Antalian ancestry. Not that anyone would notice, as she has not been seen in Frisland for generations and is presumed dead by most people. Unlucky looters have discovered the hard way that Maegryn is very much alive.
Because she receives few visitors, she has long since stopped bothering with her appearance. Her long, wavy black hair is unruly and often bears several forgotten writing implements (shoved there during one of her fits of research), while her once-fine gowns have grown threadbare and food-stained. She frequently mumbles to herself as she wanders about her domain, and anyone taking the time to listen notices that almost half of what she says is invective against Dorelion and his descendants. However, while Maegryn often relives the more unfortunate episodes of her life, she is still very much aware of her surroundings and is constantly in tune with the beacon stone of her tower, which alerts her of any intruders.

Personality: Maegryn's centuries of isolation have done little for her social graces. She dispenses with pleasantries and is prone to changing the subject of a discussion if it no longer interests her. She feels no shame in walking out on a person, even in mid-conversation, if she decides they are not useful. She is equally rude to aristocrats and commoners; although if the person she is speaking to has an interest in sea magics she can become quite animated. Vocal opponents of Elyasatham will receive almost cordial treatment—until she tires of them and shows them the door.

The sad truth is that Maegryn has spent so long in self-imposed exile, wallowing in bitterness, that she has almost forgotten the other facets of her personality, including the ones that charmed Dorelion in the first place. If she were presented with a reason to rouse herself and devote her still-considerable energies to a cause, she might begin to come out of her shell and regain part of her old self.

Searock Island

Searock Island juts out of the sea roughly twelve miles northeast of Mafertat. Nothing significant happened here throughout much of recorded history, except for a few instances of Antalian sailors dropping anchor to smoke their herring catches when there was room enough to do so. Even when the Kingdom of Wyllareth was at its peak, Searock was considered to be little more than a navigational hazard during rough storms. All that changed when Maegryn's ancestor, a young Alphatian mage named Alzoreth, bought the island on the advice of his Antalian bride, Hildrun, who had been a sea witch in what is now Västheim.

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Heraldry
Alzoreth had initially ventured north with the emperor's blessing to study the magical secrets of the relatively recently-conquered Antalian peoples, as the imperial court hoped that such knowledge might give them an edge against their chief rival, Thyatis. While Alzoreth did indeed learn many secrets once he had gained the trust of eldest women—in most Antalian communities, sea magic was considered a womanly art—he also fell in love with the daughter of the sea witch of the village in which he was staying. He soon married Hildrun, and their children proved to be proficient in the magical arts.

Not long afterward, land became available in the newly-reestablished Duchy of Wyllareth, which was still recovering from the campaign against Orzafeth. Hildrun, who was a proficient sea witch in her own right, sensed that Searock was an especially potent place because it lay at the confluence of a number of prevailing storm fronts. Although the initial residence was modest, successive generations built it up until it became the rambling dwelling it is today, dominated by a tall tower. Even the untrained eye can perceive the clash of different architectural styles of various sections of the abode. Maegryn's contribution was to install a beacon stone at its topmost level, which shines so brightly at night that its glow can be seen up to eight miles away in clear weather.

As Maegryn lives alone, more than half of the estate is now unused. Many rooms on the lower levels are filled with decaying furniture and other detritus, or have been locked up for so long that their contents are now forgotten. Maegryn's chambers are on the two topmost levels, which are high enough that she has a commanding view of the sea. She is served by stone golems and a handful of water and air elementals (which contribute to the overall mustiness of the place). She is able to magically create enough food and water to make it unnecessary for her to ever leave.

Dark Secrets

What few people know is that Antalian sea witchcraft came about more than a thousand years ago as a result of a blood pact made between a handful of clans and a declining community of spellcasting sea hags. The pact, which would be in effect so long any woman descended from one of those Antalian clans practiced sea magic, stipulated that one in five practitioners would eventually become a sea hag herself. Although the details of the original pact have largely been forgotten, the close-knit community of sea-witches is all too aware of this prediction and has been known to take drastic measures when one of their number shows signs of transforming.

Maegryn has begun to turn into a sea hag, but is unaware of what is happening because she has no dealings with the Antalian sea-witches. The slow transformation will stop if she lifts the curse on Elyasatham's family; it will reverse entirely if she either abandons the use of sea witchcraft, or slays (or has someone slay in her name) the sole surviving sea hag with whom her ancestors forged the blood pact. Although Maegryn has not yet begun to transform physically, she can use some of the sea hag abilities.

Maegryn of Seawatch: MU16, AC6, hp 38, MV 120' (40'), #AT 1 weapon or 1 drain or 1 spell or special, Dmg 2d4+2 or by spell or special, Save MU16, ML8, AL C; St9, In15, Wi13, Dx16, Co14, Cha7. Magical Items: dagger +2 of returning (Expert-level weapon mastery), Dorelion’s ring, and beacon shard. Special Abilities: cause fear (anyone within 10' of her must save vs. Spells with a -6 penalty or flee in fear for 1d20+5 rounds, once per day); energy drain (by touch, currently usable three times per day).

Dorelion's Ring: this ring is a simple gold band inset with a star-shaped emerald. Dorelion gave these rings to all of his girlfriends, but Maegryn's is unique in that it is actually magical (the randy noble smartened up once he realized what he had done). The object functions as a ring of protection +1. It was attuned to him so that its bearer would always know if he was alive and roughly where he was. The unexpected side effect of this enchantment is that it is actually attuned to all of Dorelion's line, which essentially means that Maegryn always knows where Elyasatham is (up to 100 miles, plus or minus 100 feet) and her state of health. The duchess does not know this ring exists, but would love to obtain it if she knew about it.

The Beacon Stone: a six-foot-tall, hexagonal pillar of quartz inscribed with runes related to the sun, it is one of Maegryn's greatest achievements. Initially based on the magical light from a regular Alphatian lighthouse, Maegryn mixed in the traditional magics of the Antalian sea-witch. Although it functions as a lighthouse, the beacon stone also creates a permanent magical field with an eight mile radius. It detects any man-sized object or creature approaching (at sea, below the surface, or in the air). The information is sent through a shard of the beacon stone which Maegryn always keeps on her person. The beacon stone also shields her tower from scrying. Spells directed at its owner have a 20% chance of failure as long as she stands within 100 feet of the stone.

Special thanks to Geoff Gander for this article, and to Janet Deaver-Pack for her editorial contributions.

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