Where many a woman's heart is filled with longing for love, or the comfort of the hearth and home, this arrogantly beautiful woman is consumed with but one thing. Ambition. Born without a heart, but with the grace and genteel manners of the aristocracy, she is the iron fist in a lace glove.
Elspeth is an unassuming five feet, six inches tall with long brunette hair that when undone falls to the small of her back. This is rare as her hair is almost always done up in an elaborate coif, or businesslike bun. Her face is smooth, and beautiful but lacks warmth or familiarity. Many men, driven by shallow lust find her red lips and rouged cheeks inviting, but it a mask for the crocodile underneath. Elspeth is always in the most up to date and fashionable clothes. Fabric is always top quality, and the tailoring is fit for the queen.
Born of a noble's dalliance with a courtesean, Elspeth has been involved in the royal courts since her inauspicious birth. The father paid a healty ransom to ensure that his indescretion was kept secret from hiw wife, and the court. Elspeth grew up wanting for little, she was educated in the vagaries of the court and the picadillos of the various lords and even a few of the ladies of the court.
Upon leaving her mother's bosom, Elspeth gravitated to the court of the King. There her stunning good looks and courtier's wit gained her the right attention. She slowly felt her way into the upper echelons of high society, invited to all of the best soirees and salons. Occassionally she would host her own little decadent affairs. Now she stands near the top of the courtiers, far from being a lowly courtesan like her mother.
The lash of her tongue was far worse a punishment than any caning, or cut of a sword. With a few words in the right ear, a noble or lesser man who offended the Heartless Lady would find himself suddenly uninvited from all of the right soirees and blacklisted from the social elite. Only acts of contrition, or humiliation in secret audience with the Heartless Lady could possibly make the doors of the elite open again.
The Heartless Lady, named so for her absolute lack of compassion, is also a deadly killer. Should her verbal riposte and social thrust fail to eliminate a foe, she can and will take matters into her own hands. Poison, the near invisible thrust of the stilleto, or the right words whispered in the ear of an eager paramour and the problem is solved. Should none of these avenues play out, the lady is well informed in the matter of assassins and black eyed murderers.
All of this has a single driving goal. The Heartless Lady does indeed have a heart, but it beats with ambition, a burning desire for power, tempered only by an ice cold intellect. The Queen is aging, and Elspeth has her sights on taking the throne, ruling with her 'husband' and king as a puppet.
However, this is all but unknown. The Heartless Lady is a power broker within the court. A word of praise can raise a commoner to a knighthood, or reduce a duke to a criminal and outlaw, but this power is not squandered, or frittered away. The Heartless lady, bedecked in her latest dress with the best lace and perhaps a bit too much cleavage showing, is a benefactor.
She is courted by many aspiring champions and heros. She trades her political influence for later favors. Many a famour warrior or mage has gained patronage or a well deserved apprenticeship, or even financial backing from the lady herself, in exchange for a small favor to be named later.
Elspeth was the character that everyone should love to hate, the one NPC that they would like to see take a fall. She is a cold hearted, remorseless, manipulator and exploiter. At the same time, she is also given status not unlike a 'golden child' and is publicly seen as being incapable of doing wrong, or evil.
- The PCs are in need of something. Elspeth is close at hand to offer them that thing that they need. Do they need money for training costs, or perhaps to find a suitable master to take them on as temporary apprentices? She has the contacts to make it happen. Perhaps they need a certain magic item, she can 'borrow' it for the PCs to use. In exchange she asks them if they will owe her a favor, to be called in at a later date. If the PCs are recalcitrant, she might spice the deal up. If the PCs are all male, she might invite them to a special soiree just for themm staffed with scatily clad women, ale, and a feast suitable for such hearty adventurers. If there are women, she might offer an afternoon fitting of dresses and a gift of a silk dress, or some other obviously female affection. Either way, she seldom takes no for an answer. Just a quick note, she is a black widow. Any man who makes within her badchambers and into her arms invariably ends up cold and dead within three days of the intimacy.
- Debts Due - The PCs have likely accepted her offer, or suffered from her campaign, big or little, against them. She calls in her debt, but uses it for something meaningless. Guard this, or be a bodyguard or escort for an evening, something to throw the Pcs off the track that they are heading down the wrong path. This could be a major hook, or sideplot into the byzantine politics of the court, or of the social scene. Let everyone get all dressed up and have a night on the town playing bodyguard/boy toy/pet to the Heartless Lady. It could also be an interesting way for a bard, or artistically inclined PC to show their creativity.
- After several sessions, the PCs are likely to start taking advantage of the situation. Big favors for small payback, it doesnt get much better, until it gets sticky. The PCs are asked to do something morally questionable. Rough up someone, or destroy something of value, harass someone who has raised her ire. Rogues and morally neutral characters are not likely to object, while the lawful types will notice that no matter what she does, the Heartless Lady is always true to her word and bargain.
- Exposure - The PCs have either commited a crime, knowing or not for the Heartless Lady, or they have flatly denied her. The PCs are under the heat from the nobility for the crimes commited. If they refused, then the Heartless lady will simply have them framed for such crimes, or send assassins or other 'heros' to take care of the matter for her. In the end, the PC will have to prove their innocence, or pay dearly for falling into the coils of the Heartless Lady.
Elspeth survived three years of gaming. The only regret the players had after the game ended was never being able to pin that witch down and make her pay for what she did to them. Mind you, they weren't saying witch
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? Responses (4)-4
Very good post and I really appreciate the plot hooks - sometimes I love characters but it's hard to get them into a campaign. You write a lot about her back story, but it still doesn't feel very detailed to me. It seems too stereotypical 'manipulative attractive court woman' to me I think, and while you describe this TYPE very well, I think it's a very well-known type.
I don't get why she grew up in court if she was raised by a courtesan... I mean, she might have been paid off and been rich, but I'd think the noble would also want her to be raised far away so people don't see any resemblance and suspect. It would also be hard to get respect in a noble society too I would think, because of cattiness.
I really like this character. This sub is very well written, with excellent plot hooks. I will certainly be using her in my campaign. Very good job Scrasamax
She really is a piece... hard to play, but great to enjoy if performed right.
Now there's a villain to enjoy!
The name alone is a worth a sub.