Thursday, May 14, 2020

Build a Witch Challenge: Maggie Blackthorn

Saw a challenge, did a challenge.

What's her name?

Maggie Blackthorn

What kind of witch is she?

Village midwife, wise woman, goat-keeper and provider of solutions.

What does she look like?

A little old woman, face brown and wrinkled as a walnut, a red scarf worn over the silver hair that hangs down in two braids. A heavy coat of dark blue, embroidered with the snowflake-like white sigils that the shepherd-mages have always worn. Heavy leather boots, well-worn.

A tall, strong-armed woman, sunset-red hair in a bun. Gone a bit soft around the middle. A sharp nose. A few missing teeth from an incident with a horse a while back. A black greatcoat and wide-brimmed hat from the south; a wedding gift. Heavy leather boots, well-worn.

A girl of ten with fiery hair no comb can tame nor braid maintain. More freckles than any sensible person would know what to do with. A white dress tailored for easy girding, with work trousers underneath. Heavy leather boots that still need a few years to fit right.

Where does she live?

In a log and sod cabin a little bit north of the village of Cormorant Tull, on the edge of the pine forest, just across the strip of open space from the seaside cliffs.

What kind of wand does she use? 

A cane of polished white pine. Everyone in town knows the rap-tap on the doorpost that signifies her arrival.

What's in her cauldron?

Perpetual stew.

What kind of familiar does she have?

Bear, a gigantic shaggy black dog who is always by her side. Is big enough that Sophie can still ride him around like a pony.

What is her dark secret?

Maggie Blackthorn has been the village witch for the last forty years, ever since Goodwife Constance died. Like any true witch she's the axis mundi of the community, but also like any true witch, she is very, very human.

See, the black fever swept through the county two summers ago. Maggie pulled off some miracles in those months, but eventually there is a limit to how far a witch can stretch a miracle. And always a cost. The world doesn't play by the rules of just reward, where miracle-workers get a bit of slack from the dice rolls of the old gods.

Maggie's daughter Mary caught ill, and then her granddaughter Sophie. Both bedridden with the fever, and with Tom out to sea, there was no one but Maggie, already spread too thin treating the rest of the village to care for them.

The toll is paid, and black fever works swiftly. It only a took a few days to work its course.

Mary and Sophie died within hours of each other. Maggie was there at the bedside when they went, but that was no consolation. Witches are old friends with death, they have to be to sit vigil, but witches are human and humans have breaking points that will never heal right.

Imagine the flickering lamplight of a dark cabin, in the suffocating darkness of night, and the words that might be said in desperation to comfort a child on their deathbed. 

And by that bedside Maggie broke. There was nothing to be done, not with the craft she practiced, but witches keep themselves abreast of the other powers. In the stillness of that dark cabin, Maggie weaved a spell that she might not ever be able to cast again: one that could revive the bodies of her daughter and granddaughter. There's nothing to be done to bring back the dead, but a body is meat and bone and blood and water are electric charge, and that can be stirred back into life.

To those brain-dead bodies Maggie bound her mind so that she could to jump between Maggie and Mary and Sophie, leaving two in a state like deep slumber and one awake and and aware. Whether that was her end goal, or simply what she was forced to settle with, no one knows.

You'll see Mary and Sophie walking around town alive as you or I, but it's Maggie behind the eyes. Folks in the village know, but they don't talk about it much. They are still grieving, just as Maggie is.

She might very well be immortal now, though she's not sure how far the spell can be stretched.

1d8 Things the PCs are interrupting

  1. Milking the goats (Mary)
  2. Weeding the garden (Sophie)
  3. Giving advice to expectant first-time mother (Maggie)
  4. Re-sodding the roof (Mary)
  5. Being overly-precocious to door-to-door missionaries (Sophie)
  6. Teaching herbs to the village children (Maggie)
  7. Setting a farmhand's broken leg (Any)
  8. Lowtide beachcombing, looking for fossils (Any)

1d6 Potions

  1. Perpetual Stew - Warm and filling.
  2. Contraceptive - Always be responsible!
  3. Soothing Salve - Calms the nerves, centers the mind, drives away fear, makes sleep easy to come by.
  4. Last-Chance Purgative - Cleans you out at both ends. You'll be miserable, but you won't be dying of poison.
  5. Puckbrew - A mix of milk, honey, and whiskey, sure to lure out any nearby brownies, boggarts, hobs, pucks, goblins, pucas, and other
  6. Special Sheep Liniment - Shared only with the trusted few.

1d6 Rumors & Hooks

  1. Bear found a man no one knows on death's door, Maggie's been nursing him back to health.
  2. Folks are seeing less and less of Mary, wondering if she's getting ill or the spell is weakening.
  3. "Devil in the woods! Great leathery wings and a horses head, up in the pine woods past Maggie's!"
  4. Black-cloaked outriders from the Dreg Legion have set up camp north of town. Maggie's been negotiating with them. Everyone's afraid it won't be enough.
  5. Maggie says there's a freak snowstorm on the way, everyone needs to stay indoors, and shutter your windows tight.
  6. Maggie's found herself a fourth body...

1d4 Spells

  1. Goblin Door - Under the right slice of moon and the right time of night, the tumble of stones on the hillside can be turned into a door to the Goblin Market.
  2. Kulning - Calls together a herd of cattle / sheep / goats / etc.
  3. Eye on the Lintel - A glyph that will allow the maker to sense whenever someone passes through the marked doorway.
  4. Bond Beyond Death - A delicate and difficult ritual that will allow the practitioner to link their soul with other bodies, so long as the bodies are very recently dead


  1. You best believe there was some FMA soundtrack playing while writing this.

  2. Hoooo boy. This can only go well...