Frederic? Where's Frederic?
I'm here father!
Freder... What in all the God's names are you doing dressed like that?! No son of mine...
Calm down Maxentius. Freddy - what are you doing dressed in serving girls clothes?
They were pretty - more comfortable than mine.
Pretty?! By the Gods... where's Joff? Joff will set the boy straight.
Maxentius, my love will you please calm your words?
Why are you mad father?
Oh bloody Stygian, Frederic, you're in girls clothes!
They are pretty though.
BAH! Someone get me something to beat some sense into this boy with!
::heavy,fast footsteps, accompanied by crying. A slammed door, and a woman's sigh.::
Was that necessary, my lord?
Constantina, what do you suppose we do? If the Reichstadt sees my youngest son is some... fruitcake, they will tear him to shreds. Forgive me for saying but... what if there comes a day when he will need to rule?
You know that day won't come Maxentius. You have two strong, healthy boys - either of them would be your successors.
And then there's Frederic...
Who may someday rule a principality or manor... perhaps he will go into the Ark.
It doesn't matter where he goes. There's no place for a girly-boy in a man's world!
Perhaps... perhaps. But you're scaring the boy.
If I have to scare him out of a serving girl's clothes and into his prince robes, then I will do it, by the Gods. I will.
::Frantic footsteps accompanied by a scream echo from down the manor hall, followed by maniac laughter. The metalic grate of steel echos as a sword is drawn. The muffled barks of guard orders are barely audible through the walls, before the doors to the Emperor's chambers burst open, and the sound of something heavy and wet hits the ground.::
What is going on here? What in the...
Goodnoon, my esteemed lady and gentleman!
So glad we caught you by surprise!
Yes what fun we had a-sneaking and a-creeping through your cold, drafty manor!
Yes, BRRRRR indeed!
We also had fun with this one!
::a heavy kick and a splosh, followed by a woman's scream::
Dreu! By the gods, Dreu! What have you monsters done?!
::Restrained scuffling and a heavy sob::
Messer Dreu wasn't much fun. He was our puppet for a little bit... he wiggled too much. Not a very good puppet.
No... a decidedly bad one I would say.
You disgusting monsters! Dreu!
Leave him Constantina... he's gone.
He's really not gone. He's still right there.
Well, he's DEAD if that's what she means.
Oh, precisely, in that case. He is most certainly dead.
::another bout of sobs::
What do you monsters want from us? Why here?
My boys! My girls? Where are my children?!
::A sinister giggle fills the room::
Gone... it's a sad story. They are all dead - in Paradise now, no doubt. They all went with a smile... Actually, everyone is dead. Indeed.
We were quite thorough.
Indeed, Michael. Indeed we were.
You Bastards! You... Murderers!
::A bell rings in the distance::
Oh my. Playtime is over it seems.
We can still have a little fun
You're finished! Once the Palace Guard gets here...
...We'll be long gone.
Hehe yes! And you'll be DEAD.
Look... look, she seems so distressed.
::Stifled, heavy sobs::
Kill me... Kill me now, I have nothing left to live for!
How she cries. It brings a tear to my eye.
Well, we did just ruthlessly murder her family, Francesca.
Do not be sad lady - nothing pulls at the merry heartstrings of Mortuel more than a crying woman. I promise you it will all be over soon.
Away from my wife, you fiends!
::A brisk movement, and the sound of steel whsiking through the air but hitting nothing::
What business does the Circus have with us?
The Circus? I suppose you mean the Black Circus?
That's most certainly what he is referring to.
I know who you are! You're the Harlequins of the Black Circus. Assassins!
I do believe we have been found out.
I wonder what gave him the hint that we were...Assassins?
Stop playing games! Who paid you? I'll pay you more. I'm very wealthy.
Oh that doesn't...
...The guards, Jaquomo.
Yes, Yes, I haven't forgotten. I'll give the man an answer, it will only take a second.
We're going to kill him anyway. It couldn't hurt.
To answer your question, the Black Circus has no bearing on us - we act only on his holy orders alone. There is no bargaining. There is no going back.
His orders? Who's orders?
The Laughing God, Mortuel. Recently he turned his attention to you.
Mmmm. You've been frowning quite a bit, Emperor. The Laughing One does so hate frowns.
You're insane! What have I done to your God? What does he want from me?
It's not what you've done, so much as...
...what you haven't done.
He wants you... to smile.
::Another grunt and a heavy swing of a sword. This time, the sound of steel rebounds throughout the room. This is followed by another and another, as well as a series of ravenous, insane laughter::
Oh he hits hard! He's quite good. Not quite as good as the fellow we blew up though.
Shut up and fight me!
::A giant, roaring bellow::
Yes he is quite scary!
Do you know who I am? I am Maxentius van Heinhelm! I am the Emperor of Teutonia! Rightful heir to the Wreath of Eretania. Leige lord to a thousand nobles! I...
::a high pitched whine, and then the sound of liquid splattering on the floor, accompanied by a sick gurgle and a woman's scream::
He talked so much.
Oh look at him die.
Don't forget her.
Please... no... no...no. Maxentius... my love, wake up.
::more spluttering, and gurgling::
Make it quick for her.
I will have to. We can't draw this out any longer.
::Hysterical, hyperventilated breathing seems to permeate the room::
Oh by the Gods... by the gods... oh gods. Please... please, please.... oh gods.
There is only one of them that matters m'lady.
::A pained gasp, and a slow, wretched gag followed by a heavy thud, and shallow breaths which quickly taper off into nothing.::
Destinius simperanii a uvis; hon simperakaiasi res destinis. Woa dius Simpius as dius connius Mortuelae.
Well said Jaquomo.
What of the fifth child? The boy?
We killed him - he was dressed like a serving boy, but I'm sure it was him.
What about the girl in the closet? Should we go back to get her?
Nay, leave the lass. No one escapes this blessing without embracing it. We may see her in Mortuel's arms years down the road.
Francesca, I hear the guards.
Come - they will arrive just in time to see our lords and ladies of Heinhelm smiling in the embrace of the Laughing One.
::Accompanied by a sinister laughter, there is a shattering of glass and nimble, light footsteps on the terrace below. Fading into the night, even the light footfalls are quickly eclipsed by the heavy sounds of armored figures rushing down the hall. A creak of the door, and light, infantile bare feet plod across the marble floor, stopping suddenly when met by a pool of liquid.::
Father? Mother? No one is moving... Why?
The Unhinged Prince is a somewhat specialized template for a noble who has seen something terrible happen, and as a result, becomes mentally shattered and psychologically broken. Such terrors may include brutal rape or homicides of close friends or family, or experiencing something so deranged and paranormal that the mind is forced to break into pieces of shattered memories and incomplete pieces of history.
This all inevitably leads to the severance of the equilibrium of mind and body, creating a number of disassociated personas, contained within one body.
For all purposes here, we will assume that the character in question is experiencing DID (Disassociated Identity Disorder) because it makes for a more cinematic and dramatic feel. Please note, I'm not a doctor or specialist who deals with complex mental illness, so if I oversimplify these things, it's either due to an honest lack of understanding or for mechanic reasons to make the character seem more like a character, and less like an actual person.
I'll orchestrate this template through the portrayal of one of my characters from my short stories, Frederic van Heinhelm. Frederic's father was the Emperor of Teutonia, a person of remarkable political power. In a violent coup de grace, Olrich van Haarkrom plotted an assassination of the Imperial family, with the exception of young Frederic who was dressed in servants clothes and mistaken for a serving girl. Frederic, in his pre-teen years already suffered from a case of gender ambiguity, which was exacerbated by the overprotective nature of his mother, and his father's inability to cope with a "Girly" son.
His already fragile mental status was shattered when he saw the troupe of clown-faced assassins, whom had been posing as their court jesters, ruthlessly turned his brothers, sisters and parents into piles of bloody flesh, cackling like demons the entire time.
Frederic, found in a closet, covered in his kin's blood, was whisked off across the continent, through Acary and to the isle of Ienpokos, where one of his uncle's trusted retainers, Malfes Sternbrugge, had a country manor. With Malfes as his custodian, Frederic was to live a quiet peaceful life, growing up under the watchful eye of his uncle, and the best Ienpokan scholars and tutors available to ensure that the boy would have nothing less than the finest classical, court education. Frederic was safe, and out of the reach of any other plots by the van Haarkroms.
He grew, and quickly. Four years passed, each faster than the last. To most, Frederic appears to be a well mannered, well groomed, handsome and successful young Ienpokan lad. And all of these are true, minus the fact that he isn't really Ienpokani. Indeed, Frederic is a successful, rich and fairly powerful young noble, and part of a very old and prestigeous line of Emperors. Except for the fact that Frederic doesn't really remember any of that.
Frederic is still haunted by the demons of his past - his family's mangled corpses and the servants of Mortuel had been burned into his mind. But the memories lie deep and repressed; only fuzzy images of the night remained in his head. Malfes, at the behest of his uncle has not disclosed the murder of his family to him, insisting that they are alive and well, and too busy in Imperial Lands to make the journey to Ienpokos. He propogates this myth by writing letters to be delivered to his manor, posing as his father or mother of one of his siblings, telling Frederic of the happenings on the mainland. Frederic's uncle, Volke van Heinhelm, does come to see Frederic from time to time. He acknowledges that Frederic is doing well scholasticly, though he claims that he can "sense" that Frederic is still far too broken on the inside to ever have the competance to take back his father's throne, a task which Volke himself is burning assist with- though without concrete evidence linking Olrich to the murder, he has no claim.
Frederic has always known something to be amiss. Indeed, he is assured his family is in tact and healthy, but something deep within tells him it is not so. Somewhere in his mind, he knows they are dead, and he knows that he should be too - but he cannot accept it. Instead, Frederic created a number of personas to help himself cope. These personas started as imaginary friends, but their appearances lasted well into Frederic's teens. They did not go away - they only became more and more a piece of Frederic.
Frederic the Coward
Frederic's alternate personas only come when he is alone, and usually when he is bored or bothered. One visitor, which is also perhaps the most mysterious to Frederic, is a mirror image of his younger self, curled into the fetal position, usually in the corner of his room, crying like a baby. Frederic doesn't know why he's crying - he only knows that something is terribly wrong with him. Frederic the Coward doesn't say much, rather he mumbles incoherent babble about death and blood, death and blood, before sucking his thumb and falling away into nothingness. Frederic fails to recognize the younger version of him because he's dressed in girls clothing, yet another part of his past he can't remember.
The Great Mysterio
Frederic has never been able to explain his fear of clowns. But if someone else was able to see the Great Mysterio, he might not need to. Mysterio is one of Frederic's more terrifying visages. A Jester with a great steel claw dressed in red and black motley. His mask has a great long nose, two glowing eyes and a wide smile, all completey by a jingling jester's hat atop his head. Mysterio, like the rest of Frederic's personality never has attempted to harm him, but he does appeal to his darker side. Jokes with sinister puns are his favorite, though offering colorful advice disguised in gallows poetry and macabre tarot cards. Mysterio leaves Frederic puzzled, and often times questioning his morals afterwards.
Valen, the Fencer
Slaughtered with Frederic's family was Arms Master Valen, who died heroically in an attempt to save Emperor Maxentius in his final hours. Valen, who wounded one of the agressors, died a very explosive death, quite literally. But Valen is reborn in the mind of Frederic. Subconcious logs of the hours upon hours of time young Frederic spent watching his older brothers and father spar with Valen have resurfaced in this reimagining of the Arms Master. Valen appears most often when Frederic is flirting with picking up a weapon. Valen will often appear with a weapon of his own, and spar with Frederic, commending or condemning his footwork, his thrusts his parries and ripostes. In some cases, Frederic will see him on the sidelines or in an unoccupied chair when he is within a crowd, or dueling with a material person. Valen, though insubstantial, offers truly good advice and has helped improve the prince's technique untold amounts.
Administer Joff was the kindly priest of Gavin, the patron demi-god of the Heinhelm family. Joff was a cousin, from a lesser branch of the Heinhelm house, who had entered the Ark at the highest echelon, and found that life to be stressful and corrupt. He chose to enter service in the manorial temple as a lowly Ritual Administer. Still, Joff had alot of experience and was a wise and worldly man. Often times, he would sit young Frederic on his lap and tell him stories from the Biv. His father said that Joff was one of the few good men in the Ark, and he would accept the Rituals from no one other than Joff. Joff's real whereabouts are unknown, his body was not found at the Heinhelm's Manor, but he has not resurfaced since the massacre. Joff most often appears to Frederic when he is conflicted, when his past threatens to resurface and Frederic feels unready to accept reality. He pulls strength from Joff, who always has a soft, but strong word of advice to offer or some proverb to draw from the copy of the Biv that he keeps chained to his robes.
Dreu is the teacher that Frederic wants to have. His Ienpokan tutor, Peristalphetes, is a smart, well learned man, albeit old, dry and boring. Frederic often finds his attention drifting away from 'ol' Peri' during his lectures, but his subconscious retains much of it. Author Dreu appears when Frederic finds himself struggling to rack his brain for the answers to problems that come up in his scholastic area. Dreu is portrayed in the robes of the Ark Authorities, blue and magenta colors, with a pair of specs that ride down his somewhat crooked nose, with a salt-and-pepper goatee lining his long face. He doesn't speak much, this Author Dreu, but he has a strange knack for pointing to an issue and making it known to Frederic that he has done some wrong down a certain track. When he does speak, it's usually in single words and accompanied by a point - "look here" or "what's this mean Frederic?" or "remember what Scholar Peristalphetes said about that?" With that little bit of guidance from Dreu, accompanied by a scholarly smile and a sagely beard stroke, Frederic more often than not finds that he can solve his own problems, with less than a word from Author Dreu, who doesn't usually hang around long anyway.
The Faceless Noble
The last, and most enigmatic of all of Frederic's personas is the Faceless Noble. As his name suggests, Frederic has never seen his face, and has never heard his name mentioned. He comes very rarely, and is usually facing out a window, looking away from frederic, or if he is looking to him, it's from underneath the shadow of a hooded veil or cloak. He is dressed richly in Imperial colors, presents himself in a strong, rigid position, with one hand usually resting on the hilt or pommel of the long, elaborate sword at his side, or crossed about his chest. He doesn't say much, and only comes to Frederic in his most dire times of need. Whenever Frederic is on the verge of uncovering a piece of his past, his is confronted with the Faceless Noble. It's often crossed his mind that his faceless friend might be a relative or friend from Teutonia. In reality however, the it is none other than his projection of him. The missing face is significant because his future is uncertain, but he has up to this point, created the vision of a strong body with a good posture meaning he is gaining both strength and confidence. Perhaps once the faceless noble has an identity, Frederic might be ready to remember and accept his past.
Heinhelm Family Heirloom Ring
This signet ring is the last thing that connects Frederic to his slaughtered family. It was sent to Frederic by his "Father" - Volke, after it was pryed from Maxentius' body. While the Heinhelm family sat on the Imperial Throne, the ring was literally a sign of power. Now, the ring represents just another dynasty that has fallen from power. Though it's of little political value, it keeps Frederic safely tethered in reality. Often times, when his personas come off to strongly, particularly Mysterio or his Cowardly Alter Ego, Frederic finds himself rubbing his ring to regain some normalcy. Without it, Frederic finds that he has a hard time coping with some of the more complex issues that his alternate personalities often bring up
Using the Unhinged Prince in your campaign
The Unhinged Prince is primarily a set piece, good for fleshing out a plot, giving it some twists or even using him/her as a character who aids the PCs. Cinematically, and from a story-telling perspective, the PCs may believe that these alternate personas are agents or magical apparations. In the case of Frederic, he starts as a very minor character, but as the story goes on, his role only gets larger as the drive to possess his father's throne get's more important. Granted, his visions only affect himself at this point, but perhaps for your adventure this is not so.
Of course, no one can truly understand such a deranged mind. While he appears well put together and well kempt, it's only because his split personalities make sure that his mental ducks are always in a row. If that part of him is revealed as fiction, it's very probable that his world might just collapse in on him. I would advise the PCs to be given only limited interaction with the Unhinged Prince, enough to pique at their mystery-solving abilities, but not enough for them to formulate an opinion to quickly and potentially break the Unhinged Prince down before he is ready (though if that is their wishes it's their perogative. Perhaps it may even be a goal? Who knows?)
Possible Roles for the Unhinged Prince Include:
Maybe the Prince/Princess is an informant for you. Why does he disappear? Who is he talking to at night?
Maybe he is purely a set piece - a cinematic story of a man talking to a host of different people, slowly but surely reflecting the little pieces of his own damaged persona.
Maybe hs is aiding the PCs. Inevitably, he comes off very charming. But will his charms fall away when the PCs begin to think him mad?
Is he an enemy? Is he working for the other team? A person with so much cunning, and so much ability may be easily toppled if his own secret is revealed to him.
The possibilities are endless. Suppose that instead of Disassociated personalities, the character has multiple personas that remain inside, rather than manifesting to the character outside his body. His mood, demeanor, voice and even hand writing may switch when things get difficult, or depending on the situation as the character uses his/her different personalities to respond to different external stimuli. Instead of the interaction just being between the Unhinged Prince and his personas, it's now between the PCs and the multiple personalities of the Prince.
I hope you enjoyed reading this half as much as I enjoyed writing it. Character flaws are important in any story and in any adventure. Especially the ones that make you question just who you are.