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The Sisterhood of the Fens:by Carl Quaif
This small, secretive group of magic-users was first formed in 873 by the Hedge-Witch Semba Arkari. Madam Arkari was the wise-woman of Andelham, a small farming village on the edge of the Malpheggi Swamp in Southern Darokin, to the South and West of Elstrich. An herbalist and chirurgeon, she also happened to possess true magical powers - powers which caused fear, resentment and (finally) hate in her parochial and superstitious neighbours (unlike most Darokinians, those dwelling in the Southern regions remain ignorant and fearful of magic and its workers, even to this day). One terrible night, Madam Arkari's cottage was set ablaze, her implements and paraphernalia destroyed; Madam herself was driven from her home by the torch-wielding mob. She managed to escape them by disappearing into the depths of the nearby Malpheggi Swamp, where she proceeded to make her new home*. With her spellbooks destroyed, Madam Arkari was forced to recreate her spells and powers from the ground up, adapting them to her new environment; she used these spell-variants to keep intruders away from her home.
Within a few years, the legend of the "Witch of the Fens" had spread far and wide; people would speak her name in a whisper, and make warding signs against evil whenever she was discussed. Every strange or unfortunate circumstance, from milkless cows and stillborn children to droughts and even eclipses, was attributed to her influence. Witchcraft and magic became ever more feared and misunderstood in the rural villages of Southern Darokin, and practitioners of the art were reviled or - in some cases - executed. A few brave (or desperate) young women who possessed magical talent fled to study under Madam Arkari, eventually forming the Sisterhood of the Fens.
[*NB: Andelham cannot be found on any modern map - the village was abandoned in the Summer of 894 after three years of severe drought, and razed to the ground by the worst storm on record the following Winter. None of the former inhabitants ever returned. Strangely, both dry spell and storm affected only Andelham and its environs....]
Members of the Sisterhood, commonly known as "Fenwitches", have all the powers and abilities of standard Magic-Users; however, they also have access to spells and skills available nowhere else. A Fenwitch may learn any common spell, if a teacher can be found (Mage scrolls are useless to her, as the Sisterhood lacks the spell Read Magic). Due to their sheltered location and secretive practices, the Fenwitch spell list is somewhat more limited than that of standard Mages. The following "standard" spells are known and taught by the Sisterhood:-
Spells by level:
1st: Analyse; Detect Magic; Hold Portal; Darkness (reversed form only); Protection from Evil; Read Languages; Shield.
2nd: Detect Evil; Detect Invisible; ESP; Levitate; Locate Object; Phantasmal Force; Web.
3rd: Clairvoyance; Dispel Magic; Fly; Slow (reversed form only); Infravision; Prot. from Evil 10' Radius; Prot. from Normal Missiles.
4th: Charm Monster; Confusion; Growth of Plants; Ice Storm/Wall; Polymorph Self; Polymorph Other; Remove/Bestow Curse.
5th: Animate Dead; Conjure Elemental (Water or Air); Contact Outer Plane; Dissolve/Harden; Feeblemind; Magic Jar; Telekinesis.
6th: Death Spell; Geas/Remove Geas; Invisible Stalker, Lower Water; Move Earth; Stone to Flesh/Flesh to Stone; Weather Control.
7th: Charm Plant; Create Normal Monsters; Lore; Magic Door/Magic Lock; Power Word Stun; Summon Object; Teleport Any Object.
8th: Dance; Mass Charm/Remove Charm; Permanence; Polymorph Any Object; Power Word Blind; Symbol; Travel.
9th: Contingency; Gate/Close Gate; Heal; Immunity; Power Word Kill; Prismatic Wall; Shapechange.
Some of the specialist versions of common Mage spells - mostly created by Madam Arkari herself - are detailed below:-
Duration: 2d6 Turns
Effect: sends creatures within range to sleep
This variant Sleep spell does not, despite its name, necessarily require pollen to function; any particulate vegetable matter (poppy seeds, a dandelion clock, ground tree bark, etc) will do.
The caster must hold a handful of such matter in her left hand while casting the spell; at its finish, she must blow sharply on the "pollen", spraying it in an area measuring roughly 10' x 10'. All creatures of less than 4 HD in that area will immediately fall asleep (no saving throw) for 2d6 Turns, unless shaken awake. Creatures with more than 4 HD are not affected. Victims of this spell can be usually slain with a single blow from a weapon, if desired.
The spell is most often used to capture intruders without resorting to combat. Those affected by the spell will often awaken unharmed, but bound hand and foot; in some cases, they may be left where they fall, but deprived of their weapons, their implements - and their clothes....
Duration: 1d6 Turns + Turn per caster's level
Effect: Creates a light-source
This variation on the standard Light spell requires a simple bulrush, a common river plant, as a focus. The caster touches the bulbous head of the bulrush at the spell's completion, which causes it to burst into ghostly green flames. These flames do not consume the bulrush, nor can they be used to ignite other matter. The River-Torch casts light to the same range as the standard Light spell, and may be carried by anyone (or placed in one location) once it is cast.
The River-Torch cannot be extinguished by wind or water; only a Dispel Magic spell, or the will of the caster, can cause the spell to end before its duration expires. When the spell fades, the bulrush crumbles into dust.
Duration: special (see below)
Effect: charms 1 individual
This adaptation of the Mage-spell Charm Person has seen frequent use amongst the Sisterhood, particularly at those times when their sect has come under heavy scrutiny and condemnation.
The spell requires that a herbal infusion, such as willowbark tea, be brewed by the Fenwitch - a Herbalism skill roll is required to ensure that the decoction can hold a dweomer. The brew is then enchanted with this spell, and given to the chosen recipient to drink - no more than an hour can pass between enchantment and consumption, or the spell fades. The liquid must be consumed by the drinker of her own free will (although she need not know that it is more than just a restorative), or the spell will fail. The enchantment takes effect with no saving throw, and functions more or less identically to a Charm Person effect, with a saving throw allowed approximately once per week to break the Charm; however, A Fenwitch who chooses to keep her Charmed and ensorcelled companions for any length of time will have them drink more regular doses "for their health", to reinforce her control.
This spell, one of the first taught to the apprentice Fenwitch, is the basis for many other potion-based spells - For example, Hali's Golden Philtre (a 3rd-level spell) acts as a Hold Person spell on each person who drinks it (the spell can enchant enough Philtre for four individuals). Many Fenwitches have their individual favourites; DMs are encouraged to come up with their own variations.
Duration: See below
Effect: Enchants 1 missile + 1 per 3 levels
This spell, like the River-Torch spell above, requires bulrushes as a material component. The caster must touch the head of the rush when casting; this causes the entire bulrush to stiffen and lose flexibility, and to glow with a green radiance. The Fenland Javelin (so called because it is thrown like a long dart) may be hurled by the caster, or anyone she gives it to, at any living target within range. Although it does not hit automatically, the thrower gains +1 on "to hit" rolls. If the missile strikes, it explodes with a bright green flash, causing 1d6 + 2 points of damage to the target. If it misses, it vanishes at the end of the round after it is thrown, and cannot be reused.
The caster may enchant one Javelin at 3rd level, two at 6th, three at 9th, etc. The enchantment lasts for one round per level of the caster; only one Javelin may be hurled per round by any one person, but anyone may throw a Javelin with the caster's permission. Unused Javelins fade away harmlessly at the end of the spell's duration, consuming the bulrushes in the process.
Range: see below
Duration: See below
Effect: Reduces visibility
This spell simulates the powers of the Invisibility spell; it calls up thickening tendrils of mist from the swamp (or other wetlands), weaving them into a thickish bank of fog which covers an area of 500 square feet. Visibility is reduced by one-third within the affected area; those within it may make out the shapes of other objects and people without too much difficulty - with the exception of the caster, who is undetectable by either normal sight or infravision whilst within the Mist. See Invisible spells will not locate the caster in this instance, since the presence of the Mist obscures the effect.
The Marsh Mist lasts for up to two hours, unless dispelled; the caster may remain undetectable until it fades, unless she attacks another person within the Mist, at which point she becomes as visible as everyone else within the Mist.
This spell will not function in arid areas, and may have a reduced area of coverage (DM's decision) in other non-swampy locations.
Range: 1 mile radius
Duration: See below
Effect: Summons and binds one animal
This spell, which has no equivalent in the common spell list, summons an animal to serve the caster. The Fenwitch must travel alone to a quiet area of the swamp and enter a light trance, during which the spell sends out an empathic call to all creatures within the radius of 1 mile. Within 12 hours, one single creature will respond and travel to the caster's location, where it is allowed a Saving Throw vs. Spells to resist the binding - if successful, the DM rolls 1d6; on a roll of 1-5 it simply leaves the vicinity, on a roll of 6 it attacks the caster.
If the creature (which must be a normal animal or bird with HD less than or equal to the caster's level) fails its throw, it is bound to the caster and serves her as a Companion for a year and a day, or until killed. The Companion's intelligence increases somewhat as a consequence of the spell, allowing it to understand spoken commands. Both caster and Companion share an empathic link; if within a mile of each other, they can sense if the other is hurt, and the Companion will always hurry to help its mistress, laying down its life if necessary. The mistress may summon the Companion to her via this link. No other abilities are granted by this spell.
Once the term of service is up, the Companion is free to leave, and may never again be bound by any Fenwitch using this spell. If treated well by its mistress, however, it may stay of its own accord. The spell may be cast, successfully or not, no more than once per year by any Fenwitch, and may not be recast within a calendar month of the previous Companion's death or freedom, whichever comes first.
Note: the enhanced intelligence granted by this spell has a tendency to carry over into future generations sired or borne by a Companion; consequently, various species of swamp-based animals are growing more intelligent - even sentient - as time goes by.
Duration: See below
Effect: Paralyses one individual
This enchantment is a highly specialised version of the Hold Person/Hold Monster spells, unique to the Sisterhood. Once cast, the Fenwitch may hold the magic within her, unused, for up to 1 Turn; hence, many Fenwitches cast this spell before combat, giving them an extra edge in battle.
At any time during combat, the caster may attempt to lock eyes with a single target within range, who may be human, humanoid, or animal - magical creatures with more than one "plus" in their HD description are immune to the spell. If successful (the victim fails a Saving Throw vs. Spells at -1), the target freezes in place, and remains paralysed for 1d6 Turns (unless the effect is dispelled). In this state, the victim may be slain easily, if desired.
This power, more than any other, defines the Sisterhood in the minds of the common folk; expressions like "she'll put the Evil Eye on you!" have gone into the language, and the power is ascribed to all Fenwitches, whether of high enough level to cast the spell or not.
Range: 60' radius
Effect: Creates illusionary guardian
Amongst the many tales and rumours circulated about the Fenwitches over the years, one theme in particular causes folk to make warding signs against evil more than any other; the stories which tell of the Sisterhood consorting with unclean spirits, and even binding those spirits to their will. While most of these tales are mere horror stories, they have a small basis in truth; this spell is responsible for most such tales.
This is a variation on the standard Mage spell Phantasmal Force, although it is more specific in nature. When cast on a particular spot, it sets up a warding effect to 60' radius of that point. Whenever an intelligent being (anything above animal intelligence) enters the area of effect, the spell is triggered, creating a ghostly apparition (the details are left to the imagination of the Fenwitch responsible). The illusion has both visual and audible components, and is usually set to warn off intruders in the most terrifying way possible (those with an Intelligence of 11 or less are affected as if by a Clerical Cause Fear effect, no save, the first time they experience this; those of higher intelligence may Save vs. Spells to resist). Once triggered, the spell effect lasts for up to 10 rounds before fading, unless disbelieved.
This spell is most often used by Fenwitches to guard their homes from intruders. The caster may choose to set the spell to respond to a specific race, sex, or number of beings, if she chooses, or exclude certain individuals from triggering the effect. The spell may lay dormant for up to 24 hours before being triggered; if not set off during this time, it fades away, and must be recast. Only one Phantasmal Guard may be cast on an area at any one time; each additional casting negates the earlier one.
Range: 30' diameter cloud
Duration: 6 Turns
Effect: Creates a foul-smelling mist
This spell calls up a bank of fog from the wetlands, as per the Marsh Mist spell; however, this enchantment draws on traces of sulphur, chlorine and other chemicals in the soil to create the equivalent of a Cloudkill effect, centred on the caster.
The Marsh Gas spell creates a sickly-looking yellow-and-green mist, centred on the caster . Visibility is reduced to zero within the effect; even Infravision cannot allow the hapless intruder to see further than the end of his nose (although Truesight might - DM's option). Creatures of 5HD or less must make a Saving Throw vs. Poison each round they remain within the cloud, or die. Those who succeed, or who have 6HD or more, instead take 1 hp of damage per round until they escape the noxious fumes.
The spell normally remains centred on the caster, moving as she does; however, she can choose to have it remain stationary (decided during casting), perhaps to block a narrow passing-place. This spell will not function in non-swampy locations, requiring as it does specific elements in the surrounding earth and water; moreover, the spell cannot be cast again within 1 mile of the last casting-place until a month has past, to allow the land to recover.
The caster herself, plus up to three others (who must be touching her and/or each other during casting), are immune to the spell's damaging effects, although even they cannot see through the Marsh Gas.
Range: see below
Effect: warps weather-patterns within limited areas
The most powerful of the unique spells in the Fenwitch's arsenal, this allows her to drastically alter the long-term weather patterns in a set area.
Nature's Curse requires a small, hollow blown-glass globe, roughly 6" in diameter, as a focus. The spell is cast on the globe, creating an image of the target area as afflicted by the desired weather-pattern, within it; the globe is then smashed, releasing the spell onto the affected area. The spell can affect an area measuring roughly one square mile per level of caster - at 36th level, enough to enclose a small village - and can reach targets up to 1 mile distant per five levels of the caster. The area must be one that the Fenwitch knows, or has studied, well enough to visualise.
The caster selects a specific, broad weather-pattern (ie heavy rainfall, no rainfall, snow, drought, etc) during casting, which can take up to 12 hours to complete; when the spell is released, that weather pattern gradually takes effect during the next hour. The spell's duration is dependent on the desired effect; stable, not-immediately-lethal effects - such as a rainless sky, or dense freezing fog - can remain in place for up to 6 months, while extremely violent and destructive weather (like storms, blizzards, etc.) usually last no more than three days. Due to the spell's magic, the altered weather only harms the afflicted area, although side-effects, such as heavy flooding, might spill out into the surrounding landscape.
The spell can be cancelled by Dispel Magic of sufficiently high level, by a suitably-worded Wish, or by casting another Nature's Curse - with opposing weather-patterns - on the affected area.
This spell is extremely difficult and draining to cast; the Fenwitch can make use of it only twice per year at most, and is utterly exhausted by the effort - she can move at no more than half speed, cannot fight, and cannot cast any other spells until she has had at least two days' complete rest.
All Fenwitches have certain skills available for them to learn, handed down from their founder. These are outlined below:-
Herbalism (Wisdom): This skill is derived from the "Healing" skill outlined in the Rules Cyclopaedia; it concerns the knowledge of herbcraft and the ability to brew potions, poultices and decoctions from them. As per the Healing skill, a character with Herbalism may (if sufficient/correct herbs are on hand) heal 1d3 hp-worth of wounds per person, per day. The same set of wounds may not be treated twice by this skill, although new damage is subject to further healing.
Additionally, the Herbalist has the knowledge to brew cures for various mundane (NOT magical) diseases and treat ailments such as rheumatism, arthritis, boils, rickets, etc. (although not to cure them outright). This is classed as a "Wisdom" skill (rather than an "Intelligence" one) because the Herbalist must be able to diagnose ailments from limited clues, devise treatments from the available herbs and roots, and also recognise curative plants wherever they may be found.
A side aspect of the skill enables the Herbalist to simulate diseases and other ailments for disguise, or other, purposes - either by brewing a potion which causes similar symptoms or by creating "make-up" which simulates skin diseases and other disorders. A skilled Herbalist can often recognise the presence and nature of poisons, and (perhaps with penalties to their skill rolls) devise partial or complete antidotes to them. No Herbalist, unless irredeemably Evil, will ever brew poisons herself, as this contradicts everything they stand for.
This skill requires 2 slots to learn, and 1 to improve.
Circle Dance (Dexterity): This is a skill unique to initiates of the Sisterhood of the Fens, enabling the user to boost the effectiveness of the next spell she casts. The Fenwitch builds a small bonfire, then dances around it in a wild fashion for 1 Turn. She then makes a skill roll; if successful, she gains a bonus to the next spell cast (+1 to damage dice, -1 to saving throw for target, +10% to casting range/duration etc). The bonus increases by +1/+10% for each time the skill is taken.
If a number of Fenwitches dance together, the highest skill-level in the Circle applies for the roll; all participating Fenwitches gain the bonus of that skill-level. The Circle Dance can be performed only once per day, and requires 1 Turn of rest after completion, otherwise the Fenwitch is at -1 to hit and damage until she does rest. The bonus must be used within 12 hours, or its benefits are lost.
(Note: among the many tales told about the Sisterhood, one of the most popular - among the menfolk, at least - is the salacious rumour that the Fenwitches dance naked around their fire. While this may be true in some instances, most Fenwitches are far too self-conscious to behave in such a wanton fashion!)
This skill requires 2 slots to learn, and a further 2 to improve.
Deduction (Intelligence/Wisdom): This skill permits the Fenwitch to reach swift and accurate conclusions about a person, object, place or situation from observable clues. The initial skill roll allows the Fenwitch to spot, and correctly interpret, such clues, providing basic information - the equivalent of a cursory examination. If she wishes to probe deeper, a second roll, with a penalty of -1 to -4 (DM's decision) on the roll, is required. A failure either denotes that the Fenwitch sees nothing, or that she has received the wrong impressions (again, DM's decision).
Use of the skill encompasses both Intelligence (to spot telltale signs) and Wisdom (to determine what they mean), so the effective Skill level may vary according to the individual situation. The DM should decide which attribute is most applicable on a case-by-case basis.
Fenwitches skilled at Deduction are often believed to have some form of Second Sight by those who cannot see what is, to the Fenwitch at least, plainly obvious. It was fear of this supposed power, more than anything else, which ultimately caused the inhabitants of Andelham to drive Madam Arkari from their midst, long ago.
This skill requires 1 slot to learn or improve.
Cryptography (Intelligence): This skill permits the deciphering of codes and other cryptic messages. The length and complexity of the message determines any adjustments to the Skill roll; a simple, short code of transposed letters incurs no penalty, while an intricate cipher of an ancient or distant dialect might incur penalties of anything from -1 to -4 (DM's call). If the coded message is particularly long - more than a paragraph - the Fenwitch should make additional rolls; for each failure, a portion of the message will be wrongly translated, giving a false message.
If the Fenwitch fails to translate a message and the roll misses by more than 2, she cannot attempt to translate that code again until she goes up by one experience level. Conversely, if the roll succeeds by 3 or more, the Fenwitch has broken the code completely, and may use it herself with automatic success, if desired. All Fenwitches are taught the code Madam Arkari invented to write in her spellbooks; consequently, any Fenwitch can read the spellbook of another, unless that book has been further coded.
At each experience level, the Fenwitch may attempt to create one new code; roll 1d4 to determine its complexity (1 is a simple code, 4 a fairly intricate one), adding 1 to the total for each additional time the skill is taken; reduce the "difficulty rating" by 1 to determine the Skill-roll penalty incurred by others attempting to break it (eg a rating of 4 incurs a -3 penalty).
Note: a Read Languages spell will not decipher codes created by this Skill, although it will enable the caster to use the Skill on codes written for a foreign language which the caster does not already know.
This Skill requires 1 slot to learn or improve; Fenwitches receive it as a bonus Skill at 1st level.
Players who wish to create a Fenwitch PC should use the standard Magic-User as a base, with the following changes:-
- Fenwitches must be female (and Human, if using AD&D Character Kits rules).
- Most Fenwitches are of Neutral Alignment; Lawful and Chaotic members of the Sisterhood are possible, but uncommon. If using the AD&D axes, the Sisterhood includes roughly equal numbers of Good and Neutral members - Fenwitches who turn to Evil are expelled from the Sisterhood and ostracised by their peers, becoming Renegades.
- Fenwitches must have a Wisdom score of at least 15, in addition to Intelligence requirements.
- Fenwitches do not gain XP bonuses for high Prime Requisite scores.
- Fenwitches must take Herbalism (see above) as a starting Skill/Non-Weapon Proficiency (if Skills or NWPs are used in your campaign).
- Fenwitches receive Cryptography (see above) as a bonus Skill at 1st Level; Fenwitch spellbooks are written using Madam Arkari's personal code. Consequently, Fenwitches do not receive Read Magic as a starting spell.
- Fenwitches may acquire a single apprentice at Name level, who is replaced once she reaches 4th level. A Fenwitch may never build a stronghold larger than a simple hut in a swampy region.
- Fenwitches who are publicly known to be of the Sisterhood usually receive -2 to reaction rolls in Southern Darokin, due to decades of horror stories about them. The further from the Malpheggi Swamps they go, however, the less people have heard, or believe, the tales - outside Darokin, their reaction rolls suffer no penalty.
Sample Fenwitch NPCs:
Ursalla Gerodin. Female Human Fen6. Age 24. AC 9, hp 22, STR 9, DEX 11, CON 11, INT 16, WIS 16, CHA 11. AL N (NG). Dmg 1d6 (staff). Skills: Cryptomancy, Herbalism +1, Circle Dance, Deduction, Craft (Weaving). Languages: Common (Darokin), Elf, 1 unused.
Appearance: Ursalla is young and attractive, with long red-brown hair (usually worn in a braid down her back) and arresting green eyes. Her smile, like her demeanour, is shy, but genuine and likeable. She wears simple, homespun clothing, and could easily be mistaken for just another village goodwife. She serves her village as in the respected capacity of Herbwoman; only a very few folk - those she trusts implicitly - know of her Fenwitch powers.
History: Ursalla was born in the tiny village of Dervey, which is located to the North of Port Tenobar on the South-western edge of the Swamps. An unusually bright child, she was apprenticed to the Mirelle, the village Herbwoman, at the age of seven. Recognising the child's innate intelligence and magical potential, Mirelle contacted friends within the Sisterhood (although not a Fenwitch herself, she had received her Herbalist training from them) and carefully arranged magical training for Ursalla. This, of course, had to be done in secret, during the many "herb-finding trips" Mirelle and Ursalla made into the Swamp. The rest of the time, Mirelle taught her all she knew about medicinal herbs.
Despite the relative irregularity of her schooling, Ursalla proved an excellent student in both magic and Herbcraft. Mirelle chose to retire when Ursalla turned 18; the young Fenwitch took over her duties, moving into her teacher's hut. Since then, she has continued her studies in secret, excelling particularly in the art of potion-based spellcasting, while carefully maintaining her "cover". She is among the few Fenwitches to dwell permanently amongst normal folk, and keeps an eye out for likely-looking girls in nearby villages. An excellent judge of character, Ursalla makes good use of her Deduction Skill, Medallion of ESP and magic to gauge people before giving her trust - those who "pass" will find her to be a good friend.
Ursalla is likely to be the first Fenwitch the adventurers encounter, although they probably won't discover that fact until they know her better. She can serve as a (non-magical) healer for wounded party members, or her name might be suggested if the adventurers need a guide into the Swamp. She might even become a love-interest for one of the party - which would certainly make for some interesting times if Ursalla ever became the target of anti-Fenwitch sentiments....
Magic Items: Medallion of ESP (a gift from Mirelle), Potion of Healing x3, Potion of Invisibility x1.
1st Level: Verdant Elixir*; River-Torch*.
2nd Level: Detect Evil; Locate Object.
3rd Level: Marsh Mist*; Hali's Golden Philtre*.
Mad Mab, the Hag of the Swamps. Female Human Fen14. Age 68. AC 6, hp 30, STR 10, DEX 8, CON 12, INT 17, WIS 15, CHA 7. AL C (CN). Dmg 1d6/2d6 (Staff of Striking). Skills: Herbalism, Deduction, Cryptography, Knowledge (Outer Being Lore), Mysticism, Nature Lore (Swamp), Snares, Singing, Music (Harp). Languages: Common (Darokin), Elf, Lizardman.
Appearance: Mab is the archetypal "wicked witch" in appearance, with stringy grey hair, eyes like black beads, gnarled hands, and a wrinkled, leathery face. She wears many layers of faded, ragged homespun; her body is thin and bent beneath her voluminous garb. All she lacks to complete the picture is a warty nose and an evil cackle. The most surprising thing about her is her voice; it is cultured and resonant, a rich, deep contralto, completely at odds with her appearance. One look in her eyes, however, will show the observer how she obtained her name - the spark of madness lies there, the signs of one who has seen and done things which have strained her sanity past breaking point.
History: The only daughter of a rich merchant, Mab - whose birth-name was Margaret Celemorne - grew up surrounded by the best that money could buy in Darokin City. Whatever she desired would be provided by her doting Father; jewellery, fine clothes, books, anything. When, at age 14, she displayed a talent for magic, he proudly hired a young graduate from the Great School of Magic in Glantri to teach her. Sadly, a year or so later, Margaret's Father was killed when his caravan was raided by bandits; since most of his fortune had been tied up in that caravan, Margaret was left destitute, dependent on the grudging kindness of her relations to survive. Desperate to continue her magical studies - her kin refused to waste money on a tutor of any kind; what good would an education do her, after all? - she gathered her few remaining treasures and ran away, heading for Glantri.
Unfortunately for her, Margaret had never been out of the city before, and had no idea where Glantri lay, nor how far away it was. In a matter of days, she was well and truly lost. Over the next few weeks she travelled to the far South, where she heard exaggerated stories of the Sisterhood of the Fens and their great powers. Reasoning that the Sisterhood were her best chance of continuing her studies, she ploughed into the Malpheggi Swamp, hoping to track them down. They found her instead, in the form of the Fenwitch Abrana, who rescued her from certain death in a mud-filled sinkhole. She took the proud young woman on as a servant (to teach her humility), and then, a year later, as an apprentice.
Over the next few decades, Mab (the name Abrana gave her, to separate her from her old life) grew strong in magic, and became one of the Sisterhood's most respected members. Despite her great powers, however, she was never quite satisfied with her rustic life. After Old Abrana died, she became distant and unapproachable. In time, Mab grew to despise many of her less-educated (or "simple") sisters - and to disregard their strictures against "forbidden" magics. Her studies took her into the disturbing realms of "black" magic; she even uncovered long-buried texts concerning the mythical Outer Beings....
Things came to a head in 993 AC: periodically, the suspicions of the nearby settlements tended to overflow, causing the superstitious villagers to denounce supposed "witches" in their midst, and even - if sufficiently drunk - to make forays into the Swamp to drive off the "Evil Sisters of Darkness". This time, the mob actually caught a "Sister of Darkness"; Mab's young apprentice, Lori. In their drunken fury, they callously beat the helpless girl to death. Arriving too late to stop them, Mab screamed incoherent curses at the murdering villagers; something within her broke at that moment, and she poured all her power, her grief and anger, into calling up a forbidden creature of Chaos - a Greater Servitor of Akh'All. The monster literally tore the 100-strong mob apart in mere minutes. The sight of the carnage shocked Mab out of her grief; realising the extent of the evil she had unleashed, she cast her mightiest magics to try and banish, or at least contain, the monstrosity. After a titanic struggle, which devastated a large tract of swampland, she managed to force it back into the realm it came from, but at a grave cost; her powers were much reduced (from 30th to 14th level), and her sanity damaged beyond repair.
Nowadays, Mab spends much of her time winging above the Swamps and surrounding settlements in the form of a giant black raven, courtesy of a spell of her own devising. A sight of the "Black Bird" is considered unlucky, and those who see her ward themselves against the Evil Eye. Apart from these forays (which are mostly made to forage for food), Mab keeps to her dilapidated hut in the depths of the Swamp, brooding on her memories. The other Fenwitches avoid her, and prepare themselves in case her madness should drive her irrevocably to true evil....
Player characters are unlikely to encounter Mad Mab unless they travel into the Malpheggi Swamp itself, although sightings of the "Black Bird" can occur up to 2 hexes from the Swamp's boundaries. Encounters with Mab vary randomly, depending on her current mental state. At one time she might seem like a lonely, slightly dotty old woman; the next, an evil, twisted crone whose only joy is in other people's suffering. Low-level parties are advised not to push her too far; although much weaker than in her prime, Mab is still a powerful Fenwitch, and can give even a mid-level party a run for their money.
Magic Items: Wand of Fireballs (5 charges remaining), Staff of Striking (11 charges remaining), Ring of Human Control, Ring of Protection +3, Eggs of Wonder (x3), numerous Potions.
1st Level: Darkness; Dream Pollen*; Verdant Elixir*; Shield.
2nd Level: ESP; Fenland Javelin*; Phantasmal Force; Web.
3rd Level: Dispel Magic; Fly; Marsh Mist*; Prot. from Normal Missiles.
4th Level: Brew the Wings of Omen*(see below); Curse; Evil Eye*; Phantasmal Guard*.
5th Level: Conjure Elemental; Marsh Gas*; Telekinesis.
6th Level: Death Spell; Invisible Stalker.
Brew the Wings of Omen
Duration: 6 Turns, + 1 Turn per level of caster
Effect: Polymorphs drinker into raven-form
This Polymorph Self variant is derived from the same root as the Fenwitch enchantment Verdant Elixir; it enchants a potion which permits the drinker to take on a specific alternate form - that of a giant raven, a huge creature with a 10' wingspan.
The potion requires a number of specific ingredients, including raven-feathers (or crow, blackbird, etc - any corvid will do), human hair (from the caster) and ground willowbark. Although vast quantities of this brew may be prepared all at once, only a single dose may be enchanted by the spell at any one time. The prepared potion is inky-black, topped with a repulsive grey froth; it must be consumed within 1 hour of casting the spell, or its efficacy fades. The drinker (who need not be the caster) gains the ability to assume giant raven-form (use stats for the Giant Eagle (Hiak) from the Hollow World Adventure Book, page 22; hit points and effective HD remain the same in both forms), and to swap backwards and forwards between raven and normal forms at will, for the duration of the spell. The imbiber's clothes, and any small items or weapons carried, become part of the raven-form; spells cannot be cast whilst wearing a raven's shape. Any wounds received in one form carry over into the other.