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The Raven King

[edit] Folklore

Everyone knows in the olden days, a prince or princess had to be careful. If you were too haughty or too witty or too lovely, you might be stolen away on a misty winter's night to come to the Court of the Raven King, to dance among the snow-clad roses and feast of the tables of the Mistyholt.

In all the patchwork lands of the Tapestry, there were stories of him: the Raven King, the Corby Man, Black of Feather, Maid-Taker, the Mist-Cloaked, the Minstrel of Crows, Youth-Snatcher, the Blackthorne Lord. Clad in a cloak of coiling mists, with his Blackthorne Stave in hand and a raven upon his shoulder, the lovely Lord of Mistyholt came.

Entire traditions within the cultures of the Tapestry came about because of him: the Aubenwrathi forbade their children to leave their homes without the veils and scarves they are known for, lest he see their beauty. Villages in Beldenshire are surrounded in whitethorne hedges, known to keep mists and the power of blackthorne out. Midwives in Sargeras mark the faces of newborns with a tiny knife, to mar the perfect beauty of a newborn, just as the tribesmen of Yranmure all tattoo the faces of the newly-initiated twelve-year-olds of their tribes to aver his gaze. Maidens who think too much of their own beauty find their mirrors stolen from their rooms and left outside the house door in winter, their glass smeared with raven's blood, to ward away the Raven King and to warn the young girl of the dangers of her pride.

Scarecrows Tapestry-wide are often given heads of white woolen hair and black surcoats with cloaks of black feathers and a black staff in hand, hoping to convince the crows that the field of crops is claimed by their king so they will leave it uneaten. Finding a dead crow is bad luck, particularly if it was killed by the hand of men; bringing it to a thorne-crone can aver the Raven King's wrath, however, as can burying the dead bird at the base of a stand of blackthorne.

[edit] The Raven King Himself

[edit] Skills

  • Great: Lore (+4)
  • Good: Rapport (+3), Stealth (+3)
  • Fair: Deceit (+2), Contacts (+2), Will (+2)
  • Average: Fight (+1), Athletics (+1), Empathy (+1), Notice (+1), Travel (+1)

[edit] Stress

  • Physical: 2
  • Mental: 3

[edit] Aspects

  • The Once & Future Raven King: High Concept
  • A Newly-Freed Jailbird: Low Concept
  • Eye for Beauty: Trouble
  • Given to Melodrama: From the Tale of the Swanmay, with Riddle
  • Possessed of a Dark Whimsy: From Jack & the Raven King, with Jack
  • Grandly Vengeful: From Prison Machinations, with Helhet

[edit] Stunts

  • Kin to Corvids (Stunt): New Action • Corby can speak vocally to corvids and understand their vocalizations and manerisms in return. He may make requests of them, but their loyalty is no longer as assured as it once was, and he may have to resort to charm or manipulation to get what he wants from his one-time servants.
  • A Cloak of Mists (Stunt): Skill Bonus • When sneaking in conditions appropriate to the appearance of winter mist -- somewhere cold, dark, and moist -- Corby can summon forth winter mist to cloak his presence, granting him a +2 bonus to all Stealth rolls.
    • Freebie • Whenever Corby uses any of his powers, the air around him grows slightly (cosmetically) colder, and here and there on his clothes and at his feet, errant tendrils of pale mist waft from nowhere before dissipating as suddenly as they appeared.
  • The Lord of Witches (Stunt): Skill Bonus • The old followers of the Lord of Blackthrone still remember their patron. +2 to Contacts when interacting with Thorne-Witches
  • Witch Lore (Stunt): New Action • Corby can call upon his understanding of herb lore and the witch's craft to heal himself or others, dealing with Physical Consequences.

[edit] Once-and-Future Raven King (High Concept)

Corby was once the Raven King. The legend of the Raven King is closely entwined with corvids of all kinds: ravens, crows, corbies, jackdaws, rooks and magpies. They are his true subjects, and he their true and only liege. It is said that he could speak freely with them, and they with him. His feathered subjects are found all over the Tapestry, and their cold black eyes watched for him, bringing him interesting whisperings every day at twilight: news of kingdoms and battles, the doings of mortals great and small, and most especially where the most beautiful youths and maidens might be found to be brought to his great hidden tower, Mistyholt.

In battle, the Raven King was known to have summoned great clouds of fierce ravens and birds, virtual storms of tearing beaks and talons. Great murders of crows were thought to herald his arrival to an area, and many communities put aside a small portion of the grain from their harvests, called the Crow's Portion, to leave out in the winter snows for the black birds, with requests that they tell the Raven King nothing about them.

  • Invocation: Corby might invoke this aspect when he desires to instill fear in those around him, making of himself a fearful legend come to life and standing before one. It might also be invoked in dealing with corvids of any sort, including gathering interesting information from them or provoking them to come to his defense.
  • Compels: This aspect might be compelled to make Corby's life more difficult when someone recognizes the signs that he is the Raven King from folklore, revealing his identity and making his life difficult. Ravens and witches in need of help might also compel him with this aspect, for he is their king and honor-bound to lend aid.
  • Applicability: This aspect applies only in situations where those Corby is dealing with have actually heard the legends of the Raven King, or in situations where corvids are present and involved in some way.

[edit] A Newly-Freed Jailbird (Low Concept)

In the Prison, he who used to be the Raven King became simply Corby - a too-thin, scarecrow of a man, someone who simply listens too much to what others have to say and sells this information for safety and food. In the terrible Prison, the Raven King was broken, and Corby is what remains. His old loveliness has given way to dark lines of worry and horror etched deep in his face, and his lithely muscled form is now stick-like, a wasted frame more fitting a scarecrow than a king of corvids. His green eyes glitter with fever and desperation, where once they shined with charm and good nature.

Central to his identity now is a pure and elemental understanding of the horrors of imprisonment. He who once walked through the mists of the world and flew on the wings of ravens was trapped in dank, mildewed cavern-cells, surrounded by brutal men and once-men, without hope of freedom. In that state, he came to understand: no matter how lovely he made Mistyholt, how decadent its offerings, those children he stole away there were prisoners just as surely as he was.

  • Invocations: Corby might invoke this aspect when he wishes to go unnoticed, a pathetic specimen of humanity. It might also apply when he is gathering information and gossip, or bargaining for his safety.
  • Compels: Who he is now might compel him to fear when he is faced with those who would imprison or capture him, or otherwise take away his freedom. It may also apply when someone challenges his old authority as the Raven King, as he is clearly a lesser being now.
  • Applicability: This does not apply in situations that do not evoke the limitations of his time as a prisoner, nor in instances where he is wholly unknown.

[edit] Eye for Beauty (Trouble)

The most notorious trait of the Raven King is his eye for beauty. Like his subjects, he is attracted to that sudden beauty which catches his fancy. He does not favor shiny objects, however, to line his nest with. Instead, youths and maidens catch his eye, those old enough to bear the beauty of their adulthood, but not old enough to be sullied by the march of years.

When the Raven King makes himself known in the world, it is most often to carry away some sweet-voiced lass or a bright-eyed youth. He never does this by violence, but rather by his supernatural allure and otherworldly beauty. He most often comes to those who experience some kind of trouble, anger or melancholy, and offers them an alternative to the dull and troublesome life they know.

What youth or maid in such a state of mind would not wish to be whisked away to a magical place with others like them, eternally-beautiful young men and women, in a place of wintery beauty, to an ever-lasting ball where winter-blooming white roses waft music as well as perfume, and the feasting tables are never emptied?

  • Invocations: Corby's appreciation of that which is beautiful comes into play when he is attempting to charm or win over someone who is lovely to gaze upon.
  • Compels: Corby finds himself compelled by this trait when something catches his eye to distract or lure him away. Those who are themselves quite beautiful may also compel this in him.
  • Applicability: Situations where nothing is attractive enough to attract his adoration do not trigger this Aspect.

Bright shining eyes
Where the raven flies
When parts the mist
All winter-kissed
A son or daughter dies!
- A Midwife's Wisdom from Aubenwrath

Round spins the pretty lass, pretty lass, pretty lass!
Long about the Winter-Mass, Winter-Mass, Winter-Mass!
Her song it calls the Corby Man, Corby Man, Corby Man!
And dancing fine he takes her hand, takes her hand, takes her hand!
Kissing brow he does not say, does not say, does not say!
When seek her kin she's gone away, gone away, gone away!
To Mistyholt behind the sky, behind the sky, behind the sky!
To sweetly dance and never die, never die, never die!
Raven's beauties laugh and sing, laugh and sing, laugh and sing!
But ne'er beyond the tower's ring, tower's ring, tower's ring!
Once the mists have grayed the day, grayed the day, grayed the day!
Little lass is borne away, borne away, borne away!
- A Child's Skipping Song from the Eastern Lands

[edit] Given to Melodrama

"Why, of course. We've danced this dance before - you take the swanmay, then I win her back. I shall fetch her for you - Summer, won't you go and get her? Why so stricken-looking, Hound of Olric? Oh, did you not know that your sister had joined by Stolen Court?"
- The Raven King, to Riddle

Corby revels in passions running high, in life-or-death struggles and in the sacrifice of everything for nobility, love or whatever else it is people sacrifice things for. LOVES IT. As such, he's an instigator of the highest order, almost pathologically incapable of resisting taking advantage of peoples' loves and hates for the purpose of engineering the highest of melodrama.

  • Source: When Corby and Riddle had danced the ever-escalating thefts of the swanmay for long enough, Corby ended up also snatching up Riddle's sister, forcing him to choose between fulfilling his duties to Olric or rescuing his sister. Of course, Riddle was forced to choose the swanmay, and his agony was both palpable and exquisite.
  • Invocations: Corby can invoke this Aspect when he is attempting to inflame the great passions of others, or in situations where his own might be inflamed.
  • Compels: By the same token, others may compel this Aspect in Corby in the same instances: when attempting to inflame Corby's passions, or when their own passions are in play.
  • Applicability: Situations where no one is truly emotionally invested, or are simply possessed of great self-control do not evoke this Aspect.

[edit] Possessed of a Dark Whimsy

"I am here at my whim but I count my time closely. It pleases me to champion you, for a favor."
- The Crow-Man, Jack and the Raven King

Corby is a creature of whim and tragic playfulness, a sinister harlequin who finds joy in anguish and joy alike. His amusement has always been his first and only priority, and his nature tends towards the melancholic and sinister, although he finds death outright to be distasteful and against his primary motivation: the adoration of beauty. The sadness of a broken heart is poignant; grief at the loss of a loved one is just ugly.

  • Source: When Jack looked like he was about to be beaten (or perhaps eaten...) by an ogrish farmer, Corby stepped in and offered to champion him, operating wholly on whimsy. He wouldn't have done so under most circumstances, but he couldn't resist interfering.
  • Invocations: Corby may invoke this Aspect when he is seeking to fulfill an action for no reason other than to fulfill his whim, or when he utilizes seemingly less-than-ideal approaches or responses to situations.
  • Compels: Corby may fall victim to his own Aspect when others compel his whimsy in situations where he is acting with too much reason and logic, or to inflame his sense of mischievousness when it is wholly inappropriate.
  • Applicability: This Aspect does not apply when most decision making is denied Corby, or when he is forced to react quickly to situations.

[edit] Grandly Vengeful

Come now. Those who have wrought this indignity think it is the final word, when in truth, it is but the beginning of a chain of sinister events that will end in a single moment of poignant, crippling humiliation as its climax, and a slide into meaningless obscurity as a denouement.
- Corby, to Helhet

Though given to sweeping passions and marathons of hedonistic delight, like many fey creatures, Corby is also given to swift and terrible bouts of obsessive revenge. Vengeance is simply one of his passions, but one which he pursues with great focus and creativity. To him, the crafting of an intricate revenge scenario is an artform unto itself, and one which he considers himself a master of.

  • Source: Even while in the Prison, Corby's vengeful streak made itself known. When he helped the lovely Helhet - who was being terrorized and threatened by others in the hellhole - orchestrate and then successfully execute a cunning plan of poetic vengeance against his tormentors without being implicated in any way themselves, he was expressing this tendency more than any real empathy or compassion.
  • Invocations: This Aspect applies when Corby is carrying out his plans for revenge, or when he is attempting to convince someone else of the need for vengeance.
  • Compels: When someone wishes to drive Corby to pursuing revenge against someone, or if someone who is seeking such revenge asks for Corby's help.
  • Applicability: This Aspect does not apply when the actions of Corby and those around them have no reason to be motivated by revenge.

[edit] Powers

[edit] The King of Corvids

Come little black bird, as ye may.
Come take my wish and fly away.
Carry to the Crow Lord, carry to your king.
My wish is a song, so in his ear sing!
- Wishing Song from Vashtinral

[edit] The Court of the Raven King

His legend also speaks of a few noteworthy subjects: the thirteen Raven Knights, a murder of massive eagle-sized ravens who were his fiercest defenders; the Jackdaw Viziers, who gathered the lore the other birds brought to him and presented the most noteworthy; his Blackthorne Rooks, sanctified witchbirds who visited those old women called thorne-crones by the superstitious; and his Courtier Crows, beautiful jewel-breasted birds who acted as the boon companions of the children of his Stolen Court.

  • The Raven Knights: A murder of thirteen massive ravens the size of eagles, who are the Raven King's champions and guardians. Should one die, the Raven King might raise up another from any of his court's worthy warrior-ravens. They all have martial-sounding names, with the title "Sir", such as Sir Onslaught, Sir Warfeather and Sir Eyeseeker.
  • The Jackdaw Viziers: The courtiers responsible for gathering all of the lore sent to the Court by corvids all over the Tapestry, sifting through it for pieces of noteworthy lore. They all have poetic names that speak to their virtues and aspirations, such as Ebon Wisdom, Everfaithful and Righteous-in-Glory.
  • The Blackthorne Rooks: Familiar-birds for thorn-crones, acting as conduits of the Raven King's power and representative from the Court. Blackthorne Rooks protect their true names from sorcery, and take on weird nonsense names, such as Garummet, Palinksy and Zinzyr.
  • Courtier Crows: Beautiful birds whose black breast-feathers shimmer with jewel-like hints of blue, purple and green. These are the boon companions of the children of his Stolen Court. Though they have private names they use among themselves, Courtier Crows take the names that are given to them by their Stolen Court charge, resulting in a wide variety of names for them, some clever and evocative, others whimsical or just plain saccharine.

Corby is first and foremost the "king" of all corvid-kind. I don't know if this is unique, or if other grouping of animals had "kings" that were anthropomorphized the way Corby is.

  • Height of Power: At the height of his power, Corby could communicate with any corvid bird anywhere in the world at any time, telepathically. He could grant any corvid the power of speech from any distance, most often used to have them deliver messages to him. He had a court of very intelligent, magical corvids, strong personalities in their own right, who served him. He could expend his power to summon murders of corvids through the Mists Unseen to aid him in mischief or for his defense, and he could transform into a murder of crows himself should his well-being ever be in peril. Corvids often showed up in places where he was about to appear, heralding his arrival.
  • At Current: Currently, Corby can still understand the speech of corvids, and talk back to them (although this communication is not telepathic any longer, requiring them to make noises at one another). I'd love for his Court to still be around, although who knows what a bunch of cunning, magical, intelligent corvids have gotten up to in his absence. They may not necessarily be entirely loyal any longer.

[edit] By Mists Unseen

In the grey walks the black king, his tread like the night! Aya! Aya! The Raven King comes!
- A Thorn-Crone Invocation

The wintery fogs that cut across the Tapestry in gouts of mystery are the servants of the Raven King. It is said that ravens were born from the sun shining too suddenly upon the mists of winter for the silhouettes and shadows within it to fade properly, and so they fled, taking flight as black-feathered birds. If this is true, it is likely that the Raven King himself was born in that moment.

The thorne-crones know that he wears the cold mists like a cloak, wrapping it about him to protect him from sight. If murders of crows herald his arrival, a lingering mist - cold like the touch of the grave - warns that he has just been somewhere. The mists part and he passes through them like a doorway leading to some other misty place. They also protect him from sight, and confound the senses of his foes.

I'm envisioning the Mists Unseen to actually be a manifestation of the Tapestry itself. Where the People of the Thread weave connections between places, Corby could access the subtle weaves of the Tapestry; if you look at the newest map I've done, which I'm attaching here, the Threads are heavy black lines connecting places, while the Tapestry is the subtle white lines. Corby used to travel along those pathways, which causes an obscurement quite a lot like fog or mist and a drop in temperature when he breaks out of those passages.

  • Height of Power: At his height, Corby could travel anywhere in the Tapestry by simply entering the Mists from where he was at, and traveling to another locale, appearing in a bank of sudden fog. He also learned to wrap himself in the mists (the threads of the Tapestry, basically) to vanish from sight, and to summon up mists to confound the senses of his foes. He could also take others with him, but they had to be enchanted by him in some way (most often under the effects of his glamour, per "The Lord of Witches" below).
  • At Current: At the moment, Corby has no ability to travel the mists. I'd like him to retain some basic ability to increase his stealth with them, but that's probably all he can do at the moment. I'd love it if mists occasionally crept up around him, outside of his control, like the deeper mysteries of the mists were calling to him somehow.

[edit] The Blackthorne Stave

"If you would claim what is mine, you must brave the thorns."
- The Crow-Man, Jack and the Raven King

The tangled, twisted thorns of the blackthorne are the third of the Raven King's waysigns. In his hands, he bears the Blackthorne Stave, a baroquely-shaped staff or scepter. When he calls it to hand, a sprout of blackthorne bursts from the ground, no matter where he may be, and plunging his hand into it, he turns the twisted bundle into ash, leaving him holding the Stave, a mark of his regency. When he is done with it, he casts it neglegently aside, and the ground greedily claims it, swallowing it whole. In a week's time, a new tangle of growing blackthorne has begun to grow there.

It is for this reason that those old women who seek a fragment of the Raven King's power seek out such hallowed places where the blackthornes grow, for they know such sites have seen his power before. These so-called thorne-crones know the magic of a moonless winter night, the power that is in a rod of blackthorne and cast-aside feathers of raven, corby, crow and magpie. Many kingdoms outlaw the black arts of the thorne-crone, but anywhere an old woman is left on her own by dead or unloving kin, she might take up a blackthorne bodkin and burn an old crow feather to ash on a winter night when the mists lie heavy and cold, and mix a bit of her own blood with the ash and thorne-tattoo the old sigils of the Raven King upon her body somewhere. If she does not die from the poisons in the blackthorne within the next week, she will awake from the fevers to find an old Blackthorne Rook in her rafters, watching her closely to see whether she will be its new witch-master or its carrion meal.

The powers that the witches derive from blackthorne are the same that the Raven King wields: to strike and poison bodies of men, beast and spirit alike. To bring death, curses or dreamless sleep from the prick of its thorns, a trait best remembered by the legend of the Beauty Who Slept, whose wily parents worked unheard-of wards about their castle to keep the Raven King out, until he filled their palace with blackthornes that forced everyone to sleep, unaging, until the wards rotted away to nothing and he claimed the Beauty with a kiss.

  • Height of Power: The Blackthorne Stave was the Raven King's scepter of sovereignty, and a potent occult weapon besides. He could summon and banish it at will, effectively storing it in the very essence of all blackthornes across the Tapestry. Those touched or struck by it suffered from its touch: they might simply fall to sleep, or they may be subject to an ugly curse. Those he truly despised might suddenly erupt in horrible blackthorne vines from within, tearing them apart.
  • At Current: Of all his powers, Corby has lost this entirely. He likely will not be able to reclaim any of these abilities until he has found a way to take up his Stave again.

[edit] The Lord of Witches

"Come ye crones, ye blackthorne hags. Gather where lie the mists, cold and low, beneath a raven-wing moon!"
- The Ancient Summons, a piece of ritual liturgy now used by thorn-crones in their rites,
but originally spoken by raven familiars when the Raven King had work to give to his witches.

One of several spiritual patrons of the arts referred to as "witchcraft" throughout the Tapestry, the Raven King gave rise to an entire "tradition" of witches who are called "thorn-crones," old women (who are thus safe from the Raven King's desirous eyes) who call upon his power through the magics of misty winter nights, the black of the moon, raven feathers, skulls and familiars, and the use of blackthorne. Depending on the tradition, some witches use fetishes of dried corvid skulls and feathers, wings and dried talons, while other thorn-crones (or crow-hags in some areas), must possess and keep a raven as a familiar (a trait Corby found useful with his now-forgotten ability to cause any corvid to speak his words).

These witches are considered fearful by most, forcing most thorn-crones to remain in hiding, except in rare locales like the Shambler's Catch, where they are seen as wise leaders. Many suspect that the witches tell the Raven King of beautiful children, and perhaps even steal them away for him (although this isn't true - he would never have trusted the judgment of others in this). On the other hand, they aren't necessarily without blame: they are notorious poisoners and layers of curses, blighting crops and shriveling the wombs of those who anger them, or crafting cunning hallucinations and magical guises of loveliness for themselves, in order to deceive and swindle those around them.

Corby is himself a witch-like being, very fey and possessed of a dark whimsy. His own mastery of witchcraft seems to fulfill several expertises: the use of pishogue (illusions and mirages, often seen in the mists), a related power of glamour (the creation of supernatural radiant charm and beauty), and the laying of curses and hexes, usually through the agency of his blackthorne. In fact, his magical powers seem mostly tied to his mists and blackthorne, in theme. He himself derives no magic or spells from his ravens, although his witches all use corvids for that connection.

  • Height of Power: At his now-lost heights, Corby was a figure of terror, the master of witches. A night-dark patron of sorcery, he had entire covens of witches throughout the Tapestry. Most came seeking him, but occasionally a woman who showed great promise might be visited by the Raven King some moonless night. Thus, his agents were magical and secretive, ready and willing to serve him in any capacity. He could summon his magics by will alone, often causing the spontaneous sprouting of blackthornes or a sudden swirling of frosty mist when he exercised his most potent powers.
  • At Current: Most of his power gone, so too have his witches suffered. The old covens are broken, scattered to the wind once those who hated them discovered much of their magic was lost. Now the witches are solitary and feeble, remembering old arts that produce almost no magic. Yet they retain their knowledge of poisons and herbs, and are often visited by young maids who've become with child they do not want. The rare witch might be found in the company of a Blackthorne Rook
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