Heathen Mar was a young girl of six when she was called to be a witch. Taken from her family by the Coven of the Blood, she felt isolated and lost in the group of women. Desperate, she risked everything to cast the ritual to find her familiar. When the creature that came to her appeared, a tiny tortoise, the witches of her clan gently chastised her to trying too young and receiving the living bond to such a slow and weak creature.
The tortoise - Heathen named her Sar - was indeed slow, but Heathen found it to be not just a curse to her but a source of new power. Time seemed to move about her as if she had stepped into a rushing stream; the other witches aged and died, but a hundred years to Heather and Sar were but a month. Her magic was slow, too, taking her years to learn even simple spells and potions and charms. Like Sar, however, she had time and an endless flow of energy. Heathen learned all of her Coven's powers, and moving through time as she did, she saw deeper secrets, things others rushed past. She mastered the creation of a flower, unlocked the secrets of adapting and evolving, and used these secrets in her slow and methodic way.
Then came the dark time.
Witches of every Coven gathered for the great Witch War, a vain attempt to wrest power from the Dragon Lords of Caspia and stop them from discovering the secrets of the Lich Scroll. While the Lich Scroll was, thankfully, lost in the war, the Lords slew every witch they could find. Heathen, cornered by seven dragons, prepared for her own end, to finally die after centuries of being little more than a child. When the fires came, however, she discovered two things. First, the fire had little power to harm her: it was as if she had a shell of power about her like the tortoise shell. Second, she and Sar absorbed the magical flames.
The effect on Heathen was dramatic to be sure. She found that the more power someone used to attack her, the stronger her defenses became. She moved without fear through battles, wars, and devastations. Sar was affected as well, but she grew larger physically, becoming a massive Tortoise, often mistaken for a small hill. Heathen used her craft to shape and evolve Sar, turning the tortoise into a walking citadel with arbors of rare trees, herb gardens, pools and streams of conjured waters, and her own home. She had places for guests, too, and a great kitchen to feed them and care for her own young Coven of the Shell. And for a long time, Heathen had peace and happiness.
But peace and happiness breed rivalries. Faith, a young witch of the Coven, sought to take over Heathen's place, feeling that Heathen was unable to keep up with the changes in times. Knowing that great powers could only strengthen Heathen, Faith created a small power, one that had no magic to absorb, a creature infinitely small that could live and grow inside of another creature, sickening them and devouring them: the Witch Plague. Faith unleashed her plague upon Heathen, not understanding that the plague was so easily passed, so inevitably spread; she killed not only Heathen, but every witch of the Coven including herself.
Sar, bereft of Heathen, lingered for a time, searching for a way to bring her mistress back, but time eventually caught up with the great beast. When Sar died, however, her ghost refused to give up the quest. When the light of the full moon shines upon her, Sar moves, travels, searches until the moon sets.
Faith wanted change. Despite her order's vows of celibacy, Faith took a lover, a common farm boy named Will. When she became pregnant, Faith began demanding change in the order, pushing Heathen for change, but she needed it fast if she wanted to keep her baby. When Heathen showed no signs of making any changes or even considering the idea, Faith grew ever more desperate. Her only hope seemed to be deposing Heathen, so she latched on to that one desperate idea and worked so fast she didn't even have time to consider the repercussions of her actions.
When the plague was unleashed upon the Coven, Faith could see the folly of her action. Her time to deliver the baby came close, but she felt the illness upon her; Faith had run out of time. She sent a letter to Will immediately, giving him a time and place to meet her. He came, of course, but instead of finding Faith, he found a newborn baby, wrapped in a blue silk cloak covered in runes and bearing a note that told Will of her foolish actions, and naming the baby Hazel.
Hazel grew and seemed immune to all illnesses that befell around her. She was also particularly adept at making herbal cures and potions, even though her father kept all knowledge of her mother from her. Hazel's skills became high in demand as she grew, and she gladly traveled to many towns with any variety of sicknesses. Then she was called upon to the sickbed of a boy who had been bitten by a beast in the woods. When she arrived, it was too late for the boy's family and neighbors, the boy was a young werewolf and was feeding upon them all. He tried to kill Hazel as well, but she managed to slay the boy-wolf with a silver knife her father had given her.
Hazel was infected. Unlike other werewolves, Hazel sought isolation, trying hard to keep from passing her foul illness on to others. She spent her years still seeking out the sick: those she could heal she did, and those who were too close to death to save, she took with her. She slowly became a bit of the folk lore of the region: a beautiful girl wearing a cloak of blue silk comes to the very sick, either healing or guiding the weak to the realms of the dead (close to the truth.)
Only three months ago, Hazel found Fjord, a young man almost completely dead from a deep sword wound. He was too far gone for healing, though still conscious. Hazel prepared to sate her hunger upon him, but he begged her, "Please, Lady in Blue, I must live. I must save my Lucy." Hazel could feel his desperation, his hope, and his belief in her. For the first time in her life, she passed her infection.
Lucy had nothing. Her family had nothing. Her father had sold her to Wenchkeep before she had even bled. She didn't know any more history of her family than that. If she could have followed her line back, far back into the darkest corners of history, she would have discovered that she was descended from witches back in the days of the Witch Wars. Her misfortunes were tied directly to the curse of the Dragon Lords: the offspring of all witches will forever suffer until the Dragon Lords again hold the Lich Scroll.
(Note: Heathen's decree of celibacy is directly tied to this curse and also ties to the suffering of Hazel.)
Lucy was regularly beaten and let out to the worst of Wenchkeep's guests, one's that either hurt their girls or could barely pay. Fjord was one of the latter. He was a virgin, having been dragged along to the tavern by his two elder brothers who hired the cheapest girl in the tavern to "make a man of him." He fell in love with her. Fjord vowed that he would return to her when he could buy her freedom, and he left his brothers and his family to do just that.
When the werewolf attacked the Tavern, chasing away all of the wenches, guests, and Wenchkeep, Lucy was trapped by the werewolf in one of the chambers. She was terrified at first, but when Fjord was finally able to transform back, she began to believe her hardships and foul luck might have finally come to an end.
Heathen in Death
Heathen's protections and powers went far beyond her mortal frame by the time of her death. Her studies into evolution and life prepared her for the step. The Lich Scroll was never, in fact, lost. Heathen had hidden it and used her power to shield it from even the gods. For a time she even considered it to be her own next step, but she never rushed things. She studied. She considered. And in the end, Heathen rejected the scroll as a desperate step to avoid moving on, to avoid evolving into death. She saw the Scroll as a terrified child's desperate attempt to hide from the unknown. Unable to destroy it, Heathen took great pains to hide the scroll.
When death finally did come for her, Heathen knew that many of the gods would welcome her to their realms. She knew, too, that if she allowed this, the god that she accepted would gain her power, her shell of power. Heathen could not let that happen for she understood that the balance of the gods would be destroyed and she would be the cause of a war between the deities. Instead, she bound herself to the nearest unborn, a child she could partially shield from the very death that had killed her, a child she could silently guide and teach, and a child that would let her watch over witchcraft and see the world of which she was no longer quite a part.
She entered Faith's unborn, Hazel.
Tortoise Shell Tavern
Today, the shell's story has been long lost though many clues lie hidden within the rooms and lost areas of the shell. Only the main stairs where Heathen's guest came and where the Coven of the Shell dined is still accessible, the secret doors and paths being beyond the skill of the commoners to find. A few years back a rather disreputable man, Vagray Wenchkeep, set up a tavern and a brothel within the space. To his terror, however, a patron who fell in love with one of Vagray's wenches returned to the tavern after having got himself bitten by a werewolf. Vagray had no guts to fight the thing, so he and most of his staff fled.
He had a plan, however. He found a fool in a tavern one night, someone he could easily fleece. Instead of cheating to win, however, Vagray cheated so that this fool, Humblestaff, would win and take over the Tavern. His plan was simple, let the fool go in and hire others to get rid of the werewolf, waste his money and risk his life. Then, once the coast was clear again, he would sneak in and slit the fool's throat and again take over the Tortoise Shell Tavern.