"Bad you say? I could tell you what bad is. But I’m better now, thanks to someone special.
See, there is a woman in Outsider’s, that can help you. Not _that_ way, you dunghead. She’s not one for the night. Not ugly or anything, but you wouldn’t choose her. Not even notice her, most likely.
But she has power, I tell you. Nothing she would do, it’s… enough to stay near her for a while. You wait, and then it comes to you, all those things that make you feel bad. And then they come to her, she takes them from you. My hand to Odin. It’s not a pleasant thing, I warn you, it’s like eating something bad, and then barfing it all out, that’s the first time. No fun, but you’ll be better after. You’ll feel like a person again.
And how she does it? I dunno, man. She’s not a witch or something, you could see that. Some say she’s like, a higher being. Not a god, something below those. I’m just happy it works. Living like a man, I couldn’t do that for years."
Of undetermined age, possibly around forty, she is certainly a half-breed, though it’s hard to tell what her parents were. She has gray eyes, but people rarely notice they are completely gray… people don’t really look much into her eyes.
In her work, she does what she is told, and talks little, if at all. More than one of the serving girls has likened her to a zombie. Among them, she is rarely chosen for the night, and few guests praise her in the morning. But no one bothers to complain either, most just forget about it.
The few who actually call her by name, call her Emma. Questions on this matter are useless, as on others: she can talk, she doesn’t really communicate.
When ‘Emma’ was young, she had a real name. She was of noble birth, cheerful and ignorant of the world outside. The greatest adventure was an occasional peek on the paintings her father has collected, their dark side thrilling her, but did no harm.
This merry existence was cut short by fate: war came, as it likes to. The horrors involved need not be described, it is enough to say she has lost her family and freedom, and much more. Freed from captivity, the role of a plaything for a mercenary army has changed her deeply - now she burned with a powerful hatred for the enemy. It was this hatred, and the last few friends of her family, that brought her to espionage, if she could not fight, she would do anything else. Anything.
After the war, she has returned, to the home, that stood no more, to a city that didn’t remember her name, and where no one recognized her face. She took on jobs no one wanted, and led an existence no one could envy. It is unknown when she has changed. It might have been a gradual process over the years, or perhaps it was the moment, when she failed even in her suicide. But she is now something else.
‘Emma’ is a Sorrow, the Sorrow of Despair. This feeling defines her, she feeds on it without realizing, and suffers it without being able to escape.
Whoever spends some time with her learns quickly, that she emanates it as well; no one truly wants to stay around. But at the same time, she can drain despair out of the few, who muster the courage.
There are now some, who keep her company anyway: not friends, but those with plenty of despair in their miserable lives. While to be with her is hard, when she consumes their despair, they are able to live happily for whole days until it returns. Think what a release it must be, for those, who have no hope left.
- private as the little group is, they are by no means secret, and the message is slowly spreading. A priest is concerned, and wants to know more about them - are they a cult, are they dangerous? Insert the heroes for research.
- a sage has studied her existence thoroughly, and used her example to support his own thesis: that magical items can turn people into higher beings, if they are carefully chosen. Simply get a sufficient number of artifacts, the more unique and more fitting the intended result, the better. And if you stay around them for a long enough time (using mystical techniques and concentrating on it) you will be transformed. If it worked for her, it must work for others, too! And suddenly, everyone started to hoard magical items…
- a very stupid thief has broken into the ruin, and taken everything that seemed valuable. What became of him, nobody knows, but a couple of items, that inspire misery, despair and hopelessness, are now outside. Someone should get them, before they destroy the small community.
- if you need to get rid of a particular cursed item, she might be the one to carry it
- the public finds out, and suddenly crowds flock to her, finding a goddess that will make all their fears and worries go away… so who will point out that it isn’t true?
Additional Ideas (7)
Emma (feel free to pick another completely generic name) has no name at all. Whatever wasn't lost or forgotten during the war, has vanished during her change. There are no records leading to her own name; not even her family can be found - papers were lost, displaced, and destroyed, people that knew have forgotten, signs, letters and carved words have fallen to accidents and time.
She has forgotten it, too.
Should someone manage to perform the gargantuan task of finding it, then one would have certainly a power over her... but what for? Despair awaits those who even come close to learning, and more who embrace her company.
'Emma' was used to have something to name her with. People still get it wrong, and call her Anna, and other names.
The Keepers are a benign mystical order. Their purpose is in giving and learning names, the true names of people, creatures and things. While it is not true, that a true name can be used to break anyone's free will, or give power over the named object, it confers a certain deep insight to those who know. The Keepers maintain that recalling the true names of things makes one feel strangely pleased and comforted, and so do these quiet mystics live out their simple lives in harmony with the world.
It alarmed them therefore greatly, that a member of their order has died suddenly and in great unrest. Going through his last notes, they learned that he has forgotten one of the names he knew; something that is impossible, and frightening. One of the adepts they sent to discover the name that is missing, has found Emma, and recognized what she was. The Keepers knew what she was, but her kind also has names, that could be learned. Surely this couldn't be such an exceptional creature, that would defy the most eternal laws? The adept was appointed to watch over her, who knows what may come of it.
Renevell, the young man thus honored, is heavily burdened by the task. Normally a pleasant fellow of calm demeanor, the despair of her presence has shaken him strongly, up to the point of violent outbursts. It is like an itch he cannot do anything about, that is permanently there, and will never go away. To endure the unnatural, unnamed creature she really is, he decided to find her true name, whatever it takes.
Some people don't even notice the transition, when their personal hell turns them into a Sorrow.
Will they ever notice, that they are different now? They keep on working, without a reason, eating, when they don't need to, trying to lead lives that inevitably spin out of normality. Such is Her fate.
As a Sorrow, she lacks their supernatural strength, but is hard to kill permanently. In fact, she is harder to kill than any other, since death would mean a release from her predicament, however temporary. She might be one of the few truly immortal creatures in the world... not that such knowledge would help, if she knew.
At all times is her thinking clouded by her nature; she doesn't sleep, forgets to eat, then tries to make up for it, but nothing helps. At nights she would walk around mindlessly, like a captured animal, or just go from one piece in her collection to another, looking at them, feeling them, putting them away.
Good or Evil
It would seem Her presence helps people in the end... does it? Sorrows do not have to be evil, yet they are touched by the darkness.
Those, who have Despair removed from their soul artificially, are not cured of it. As long as the reason doesn't go away, Despair will return, sometimes stronger than before. She is the fast and easy way, so many will prefer Her, before solving the problems in their lives. (Not unlike being addicted to antidepressants...)
Only time will show what evil this may bring out.
Not exactly a cult, but they definitely need Her to lead a better life. The deal is this: make her company for a while (an hour or a few), and suffer. Then, live happy again! The effect of a 'session' can last for days. There are other ways to fight off despair - alcohol, drugs, religion; many of them have tried more than one. It didn't work, but she can do it.
These people care for her, in a very fleeting way: concentrating on her would bring the despair out again. They take turns at keeping the place of meetings orderly, but don't associate otherwise.
A few important members:
Trina - also a waitress, she has lost family, and was selling herself to anyone who would pay. She has spent an evening with Her out of boredom, tried to cheer Her up, but failed - and found herself strangely cured from all of her anxiety. She gave Her the name 'Emma', and brought others to her.
Fenlip - an old man, and a heavy drinker. Nobody knows that he killed his own child in a fit of rage; all know he left his family after his son vanished. He was just waiting till he dies of drinking... and then he met Her. This is his chance to be alive again; the crime is long ago forgotten, right?
Madlhas - a middle-aged merchant that traveled much of the world, he found nothing but cruelty and base human nature. Her presence invigorates him, he is the one eager to find other strange items that line her abode.
Renevell - a young man, that seems out of place here, acting like a priest. Maybe he has not enough despair in his soul; but he stays around anyway, obsessively following Her, suffering most of all in the club.
Over the years, a few items of odd powers found their way into her possession. Some were a firm part of her life, others merely drifted to her, found their likeness in her, through chance or fate apparently. And sometimes people bring her things they consider cursed or just wrong, in the hopes that she is the right person to watch over them.
Does she like them? Well, no. They never are what they should be, and do not bring her any joy, nor bright memory. She can't get rid of them anyway.
The picture comes from the collection of her father, one that She liked to look at; it was forbidden and she was young. It featured a magnificent, but bleak landscape, a true work of art: it could awe its viewer, and draw his thoughts to the dark recesses of the mind. An early work of cursed Marcus Dielli, it has not the potency of other paintings, but do not underestimate its power. To observe it for too long will invite a heavy shadow on your soul.
The picture was the only thing remaining in her house, the only thing of value in fact. It reminded her of the youth, but observing it didn't bring happy memories back, only more despair.
A Forbici is an unwieldy weapon, looking impressive but not so great in battle. It is rarely seen outside of arenas. This particular piece has been used, damaged and repaired many times. While a gladiator with strength and skill could use it to a devastating effect, to receive this weapon meant to be in decline, or seem too good for the opponents, or that the crowds are bored - and want to see a new way of shedding blood, something exotic.
If a great warrior has to use a substandard tool, he doesn't have to die in the first duel. It can take a while, and each victory means more wounds, which rarely heal until the next event. What are victories turns to weariness, and despair, for no one can escape fate for too long. This weapon passed through many hands, and many fought with it bravely, but the taint of despair is too strongly associated with it. (It weapon would function well in the battle at first, but will slowly turn worse... its user may still win with it, but the chance of defeat or injuries rises significantly.)
The weapon was the last her lover would use.
The Cloak of Wailing Misery:
It was her last attempt at getting a more respectable work. To be a Maiden of Tears would offer good payment, and a chance to cry out all the tears. Sadly, the honorable maidens turned out to have little love for sadness outside of the job, and would tease her and harass, going as far as forcing on her a horrible cloak they had in their keeping.
Tortured by the experience, she left... and took the cloak with her, determined to hide it or destroy. It became a part of her 'collection' instead.
Those who would seek to learn her history have one hint at least: the ring she carries is notoriously known from the last war. There must be two rings to have the effect, the other is but lost.
True, she was a spy, to achieve revenge on those who hurt her. If you know how the rings really worked, you will also realize, why she looks like a half-breed now. She might have been beautiful; she looks like the enemy now.
Perhaps was She declared dead, or hunted as a traitor by her own side, until the peace freed her. Ironically, those who have sworn to help her with the revenge until their last drop of blood, were celebrating their good relations with the enemy.
The ring is still on her; maybe it has the power still, if another is found. Maybe it has something of her touch as well.
The Outsider's Inn is a fine and merry place. The owner knows well, that She has to keep moving, otherwise bad mood sets in. But he wouldn't fire her, she is a good worker, or, well, a worker, sort of reliable. She has no initiative, she just... persists. You just have to keep somebody that doesn't really stop working, and won't ask for a raise. The strangeness can be tolerated. Embarrassingly, he doesn't remember when he has exactly hired her.
The inn is not far from Her home.
This is where she grew up... the splendid house, with a large garden, it was beautiful. Then it was destroyed, burned down while its inhabitants died, collapsed on its own and looted by those who survived. Much of it was used to repair other homes, and a collection of ramshackle huts stands now where the gardens were. Only the basement is somewhat intact, it had an 'unwholesome air', said the poor who left it alone. Maybe the painting was the reason.
This is where she lives now, and her 'friends' meet her.