Lady Delores Briggs is an elderly woman, her face wrinkled and her body frail. Her skin, while sharing the wrinkles of her face, does not sag, for she was always skinny. Her hair is silver now, but still full and able to be braided and worn in a fashionable, courtly way. Her hair style is a little old fashioned, a couple trends behind, but this is to be expected of someone her age.
All of her dresses are simple, mono colored, and while made of material that cannot be afforded by the serfs of her land, relatively inexpensive. Very little jewelry is worn, except for the occasional thin gold or silver chain and pendant. When gardening, a brown apron is worn, long enough for her to kneel and not dirty her dress.
Lady Briggs always carries her scepter, an artifact that has come to represent her position and has become a symbol of her rein, due to her never being seen without it and for its ornate contrast to her otherwise plain attire.
She walks upright, never slouched. She is a strong woman who prides herself on being self sufficient both for her gender and her age...self sufficient being relative of course, given her social standing, enormous inheritance of both land and wealth, and a mass of servants catering to her needs. Still, her life was difficult for other reasons.
Delores was the oldest of two children of the prestigious Briggs family, which put her far ahead in life. While not famous throughout the realm her father, Lord Briggs, was considered a fair ruler and was well liked by both the king and his people. His wife and Delores's mother died giving birth to Niles Briggs, Delores's baby brother.
Sir James Marbach was a member of the kings court and was visiting the Briggs estate to deliver a message and plans from the king and discuss the details with Lord Briggs. When he was not talking to Lord Briggs, he enjoyed the company of young maiden Delores. Her beauty was not renown, but her intelligence was rival to Sir Mabach's. He enjoyed there conversations so much, that he intentionally sabotaged his own negotiations with Lord Briggs. When he realized what he was doing, he asked Lord Briggs for his daughter's hand in marriage. Lord Briggs knew that his daughter shared these feelings, and thus accepted the arrangement, and the two were betrothed. Wine was poured and the two celebrated as Delores slept.
Eager to inform her of the news, Sir Marbach lit a small lantern and crept into her bed room to wake her as Lord Briggs retired to his room in a drunken stupor. As James grabbed her shoulder, roughly due to his inebriated state, Delores was startled and flailed her arm, striking James. Clumsy from his night of drinking, James fell on his back, smashing the lantern on the way down. His clothes become doused in the oil, and immediately caught fire. His senses dulled from wine, panic overtook him before the pain and Delores watched as her beloved flailed his screams transitioned from pure fear to excruciating pain. The flame quickly caught, and the house was in flames before any of the servants could react quickly enough. Delores remained in bed, both mesmerized and broken by the spectacle before her. It was not until a coughing fit from the smoke and smell of roasted flesh forcefully removed her from her bewilderment was she able to compose herself and flee the manor. Her father later died from smoke inhilation, as he was unable to leave the house quickly enough due to his being drunk.
Something broke in her that day as she returned to what remained of her manor as Lady Briggs. She did love James, and the screams he made were burned deep into her memory. Soon, however, disgust turned to intrigue. She had never heard anything living make the sounds James had made that night, and she wondered what other forms of torture and pain would illicit. What started as a macabre coping mechanism became an grim, unhealthy obsession with death, suffering, and screams.
Lady Briggs's New Hobby:
Years passed as Briggs Manor was rebuilt to Lady Briggs's specifications. Niles was too young to take over, despite being the only male heir, and Delores was more than capable. Among many other modifications, a basement was added, and the majority of the house was built with sturdy stone as opposed the flammable wood. While digging the basement, a scepter was found buried beneath the manor. It was made of solid gold, ornamented with silver leaves and what appeared to be a large water droplet on the pommel. A ruby resides on top. Delores took to carrying this scepter as a symbol of her office, finding meaning in the fact that it was found below the ashes of the old manor in the pursuit of rebuilding it.
When Lord Briggs was ruler, criminals were placed outside in stockades. Lady Briggs's first change was to turn her new basement into a dungeon of two parts: the first being cells of a basic nature, with a locked door leading into the second part. This part had all manner of torture devices: chains, hooks, iron maidens, blades, and a fire pit. She employed Thaddeus, a former executioner, to live in the manor and look after this room as well as assist in the use of it. Thaddeus made a perfect assistant: he was mute, and would never tell anyone what happened in these rooms. The only ones who knew much of anything about the horrors were the prisoners in the first room, hearing the screams of those that passed into the second and never returned.
"Screams are a fascinating in both there certainty and there mystery. When you hear someone scream, and I do mean a real, true scream, you can instantly tell what is troubling them. Pain. Fear. Loss. All of these can be heard within the scream. But there is also the mystery. You know those emotions are there, but you cannot tell what is causing them. And that produces its own kind of fear, and you can see the echos of screams on anyone who hears them."
~~Lady Delores Briggs
Lady Briggs was never to take another lover, her time consumed by a passion of another sort. Many horrors of her Lady's design were carried out upon criminals and prisoners in that room by Thaddeus, with Lady Briggs always present, never missing a session. She would stare into the her victims eyes and observe their fear, before slowly closing her own to better listen to the sounds of their torment.
Lady Briggs's Old Hobby:
From a young age, Delores always loved gardening, and both the old and new Briggs manor boasted some of the most beautiful gardens in all of the kingdom. It was one of the few activities that she deigned to dirty here hands with. It was certainly calming compared to her other activities. She considered it a way to balance her life, her passion for screams on one hand, and caring for senseless vegetation on the other.
This doesn't mean the two worlds never touch. In her garden, Lady Briggs maintains her control over life and death. Frequently,her garden has plants ripped out and replaced with her new favorite. While the effect is always stunning, as she has done this for a while, she does not possess enough of what one would call a "nurturing spirit" even when it comes to gardening. Once she is tired of an aspect, it is removed within the hour.
Like two circles, these worlds touch twice. There is a reason her garden is the most lush and beautiful. Mulch never goes directly to the garden. It first is delivered to Thaddeus, who adds ingredients of his own craft to the mixture. He is careful never to add too much, lest he cause a stench to overpower the flowers, but there is enough that crows have become a dominant force in her garden.
Lady Brigg's Arena:
Delores never truly found torture dull, however it did begin to lose its luster. There were only so many ways she could think of killing a man.
Only so many she could think of.
The obvious answer was to build a gladiatorial arena. It would have to be nearby, given her long put off admission of frailty from old age. But what always bothered her was that she would not be able to closely observe the action. It would seem so distant. She wanted to be able to hear every fluctuating decimal of her combatants death rattle.
She consulted the court magician, who came up with what she considered a perfect solution. A hefty sum was paid to multiple mages, some from counties over, and her scepter was enchanted with a powerful shrinking spell. A tiny arena was fashioned out of a round dinner table with a fire pit in the middle. It was cut to have a smaller circumference: small enough that she was able to actually see the action, but far enough away that there was still space on the table for food. Combatants were shrunk to the size of a dinner roll, enter the pit, and one comes out and is returned to normal size.
While her dungeon secret was still secure, Lady Brigg's tiny arena became the talk of the upper class. It was, after all, a small table. Only the wealthiest or most important people were able to attend. There was no admission fee, but when surrounded by the countries wealthiest and pouring their wine, it is impossible not to receive gifts for herself and her land, whether that be a pair of pearls, a new horse, or making sure a new trading route or road makes its way through her fief.
With the battles taking place on such a small scale, new opportunities were discovered. Sometimes only one gladiator was dropped into the arena, only to be greeted by a full sized rat or multiple venomous spiders. Sometimes there weapons were replaced with toothpicks of full sized silver ware. Opportunities for unique deaths were abundant, and Lady Briggs was pleased.
There are a few incidents that are spoken of in hushed tones. There is but one rule, unspoken but able to be gleamed by attending one of her games: at least one combatant must die. Otherwise, what is the point? A gladiator who had bested his opponent after an equally matched fight refused to kill his colleague. After giving the gladiator one chance to change his mind, Delores immediately called her butler, and asked for a bowl of soup. When it was delivered, she immediately dumped the scalding contents on top of both contestants, followed by ordering another bowl.
While this event was met at the time with drunken laughter, some nervous, another event merited silence: One evening while a victorious gladiator was celebrating and being poured wine, his adversary coughed as he came to, only having been knocked unconscious. Delores looked irritated for a moment, before taking matters into her own hands. She grabbed the injured warrior and laid him down on the table in front of herself. Then, taking a fork and knife, she began to carve the gladiator in half as she would a piece of meat. a small smile crept on to her face at this rare pleasure. After she was finished, she handed her utensils to the butler and asked for a clean set. None of the guests from that night attended another match.
Niles does not exactly approve of his sister, nor does he share her thirst for blood. He silently waits in disgust for his birthright to fall to him after leaving the childless Delores. He knows what she is capable of, and usually keeps to himself, not wanting to endanger his outliving of his older sister. He has a secret lover, a commoner, who has been raising his child in secret. He has no intention of bringing them into the house until his sister is gone.
Using Lady Briggs:
- Niles thinks his sister has lived a full life, and needs the PCs assistance in aiding Lady Briggs into discretely passing on into the afterlife.
- The PCs are combatants in the tiny arena, forced to fight with makeshift-silverware weapons
- Lady Briggs is the PCs employer, and they must deal with her peculiar ways in between quests. Interesting for Paladin-type characters should the truth ever be discovered.
- The reputation of Lady Briggs has spread far and wide: Use her story as filler that is overheard at a pub or communal camp fire.
- Thaddeus is wanted for past crimes, and the PCs progressively discover the horror of Briggs Manor.
- I do not mind being judged harshly. That is why I came here.
- If you use this character, PLEASE tell me how the session goes. I put this up to be used, and would love to hear about it happening. Even if you only tell the PCs about Lady Briggs in passing, I want to know the OOC players reaction :)
- Lady Briggs was originally Lord Briggs, as the original focus of the entry was supposed to be the cruelty and blood sport that is seen in the article. Lord Briggs would be the typical fat ruler who laughed at gladiatorial combat as he ate large lamb legs. Then I realized that I never write female characters, so I decided to give it a try. The result, I believe, is much more sinister than any male character I could have written.
- The original jumping off point for the appearance of Lady Briggs was Aunt Spiker from Disney's rendition of James and the Giant Peach. While that character was also dark and enjoyed torment, her character played no part in determining Lady Briggs's back story or character other than appearance. This did inspire the naming of her suitor James, however.
Additional Ideas (1)
The player characters are contracted to steal the sceptre of shrinking (such an item could be very useful, or at least fetch a high price), so they have to pose as nobles and attend one of the 'games'.