Daughter of a renowned doctor and a mother with no small magical talent, Maire was raised with a fascination for the human body that bordered on obsession.Â When she was grown, Maire attended the same university her father had, and studied both human physiology and the various schools of magic.Â There she met her future husband, Fagan, the only son of a very wealthy merchant.Â Maire dropped out of school after three years of study to marry him and they lived happily for a time, starting their lives together in a big house that Fagan's Father purchased for them.
Then Fagan's father died and the whole of the merchant empire fell to him. Â Over the next three years, Fagan doubled the size of his father's fleet and vastly increased their wealth. Â Yet the wealthier he became, the more nervous and unhappy he was. Â For even though they had tried for years, the couple was unable to conceive.
Maire tried everything, wanting desperately to give the love of her life the child he so desired. Â She followed all the most current medical advice, tried potions and concoctions -- both from experts in the field and from local medicine women -- many of which made her ill. Â She prayed to every god she could name, pleading for her womb to quicken with life.Â
Using her own academic contacts, Maire renewed her studies in the quest for a child, and buried herself once more in books.Â Her three years of magical study served her well here, and her former passion for the human body resurfaced with a vengeance.Â Quietly, she began experimenting on herself and on small animals, playing with the stuff of life itself.Â Maire even went as far as blatantly attempting to create new life from its raw materials -- in defiance of social taboos, religious tradition and the mages' unspoken code -- but found that it was beyond mortal reach.
So focused was she on her work that she didn't notice when her husband took his first mistress.
She discovered them together after a long night of study, her latest potion dropping senselessly from her fingers to the carpeted bedroom floor. Â Quicker than thought, Maire picked up a knife and slew Fagan at the height of his passion, then clubbed his lady unconscious with a candlestick when she tried to scream for help. Â It was over.
Maire discovered her husband's journal in the aftermath. Â It broke her heart to read his unkind words about her inability to give him an heir. Â As she read the names of the half-dozen women Fagan had taken to bed over the past year, part of her mind twisted. Â None of the others had given him a child, had they? Â Well then, there was no reason why she could not grant him his wish, even in death. Â In the end, she would find a way to give him a child and finish what he had unwittingly started.
The horror began. Â Maire drugged the unconscious woman in her bedroom and stowed her away in the depths of the big house before tending to her husband's corpse. Â Using her knowledge of the human body, she forsook the gods which had denied her children and set about weaving the most complex magic she had ever attempted around him. Â In the end, she reanimated him as a living corpse -- the first zombie ever to plague that unlucky world.
He was but a shadow of his former self -- shambling about without thought or consciousness, and possessed of an insatiable hunger for living flesh. Â A corpse without a soul of its own. Â Yet Maire tamed it with sorcery and a supply of small animals, and found that she could command its movements with an effort of will. Â Let us not dwell on the dark things she did with that knowledge, there in the basement of their home. Â Suffice it to say that Fagan received no rest in the afterlife.
At first, Maire toyed with the idea of feeding her husband's former mistress to him as a form of revenge. Â But as Fagan's corpse began to show the first signs of rot, the Lady knew that she could delay no longer. Â She must find a way to give him a child, even if her own body was not suited to the task.
It was this singular insanity that drove her to track down the rest of the women listed in her late husband's journal. Â These she kidnapped one by one using sorcery, bribery and cunning, before sequestering them with the first in her basement. Â There were six in total.
Maire forced foul potions down their throats and bound them in chains both physical and magical. Â Then she loosed her pet zombie on them, muzzling him firmly so that he could not harm them. Â In the end, through the aid of many foul magics and dozens of experiments, new life was indeed conceived. Â The gods hid their faces in horror.
Though the six captive women were able to carry their offspring to term, none of them survived the delivery. Â That was probably for the best. Â Mother Monster, as Maire came to think of herself, raised the resulting children as her own. Â She hired capable managers to care for her ex-husband's enterprise and devoted her life to raising the children -- three boys and three girls, all of whom shared Fagan's strong features to some degree.
The children required a steady supply of living flesh to fuel their growth, and though Mother Monster was not above covertly assassinating a personal enemy or two to feed their hunger, she understood the need for discretion and usually limited them to live animals. Â Over time, the children gained a measure of self-control and she was able to relax her control a little. Â She hired for them the best tutors and lavished upon them every affection. Â Eventually, she even shared with them her own teachings and the secrets of their making. Â
When she passed away, Maire's Monsters collaborated to create a full copy of her life's work -- The Book of Mother Monster -- to which they appended their own research and notes. Â That book has been the bane of the world ever since, providing the foundation of work that would eventually become the hidden school of necromancy. Â While the fate of Maire's Monsters is unknown today, her life story has become legend in its own right (though not the kind one tells in mixed company). Â It is even rumoured that her children gave to her a second life, though most discount that as hearsay. Â Still, whether in truth or in story alone, one thing is certain: Mother Monster lives on.
Maire as a Character
Maire is an attractive middle-aged woman with steady grey eyes, firm artisan-calloused hands, and long dark hair only beginning to streak with grey.Â Her face, too, bears its own collection of lines and wrinkles, especially at the corners of her eyes and mouth.Â She smiles easily, especially when her children are around, and her voice is both light and gentle.Â Talking to her for any length of time will reveal her keen intelligence and the depths of her knowledge in medicine and the arcane arts.Â She approaches everything with a calm, steady seriousness, and is the rock and anchor which holds her family together.
Maire has moved past the horrors of the past decade and looks to the future with great hope, and with great fear.Â Fear, not for herself, but for her children's future.Â She guards their secret with an almost obsessive passion, and will do whatever she deems necessary to protect it.Â If the party stumbles across the true nature of these 'children', they can expect Maire to react with extreme prejudice.Â She will not trust assurances of secrecy, for Fagan taught her that trust can be easily misplaced.Â Expect smiles and agreement, followed by an assassination attempt when the party's guard is down.
* The Missing Women: The party enters the story shortly after Fagan's death, when the kidnappings are just beginning.Â Six women -- some of them prominent socialites -- have gone missing and the town is in uproar.Â It is up to the PCs to track down Maire's operation and bring her to justice.Â What will they do with the women, some of them pregnant, when they find them?
* The Unliving Children: One of Maire's Monsters has gone missing, separated from her mother when they were out on a shopping excursion.Â The young girl has limited self control and is very dangerous -- capable of spreading the very first zombie plague if she bites someone but doesn't manage to kill them.Â Maire is offering a rich reward for her safe return, and the party will have competition from other bounty hunters and even the local authorities.Â If the girl becomes injured, her need to feed will intensify.Â Be very wary, for zombies and other undead are completely unheard of at this point in the world, so there are no known methods for dealing with them, should they be created.
* The Cult of Mother Monster: Centuries after her death, The Book of Mother Monster has fallen into the hands of an ambitious group of young mages.Â Compared with these fools, Maire and her offspring were paragons of caution and self control.Â They have already caused one zombie plague that has destroyed a major port city, and are now concentrating on creating (and breeding) even more powerful forms of undead.Â Will the party have enough power on their own to stop them from bringing about the death of civilization, or will they contact one of the original Monsters -- rumoured to still live deep within the mountains?
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? Responses (9)
The origins of the first zombie and the creation of the Art of Necromancy. Not a small feat!
The only thing I wanted a bit more of was her background of medicine and magic and how she used it through the years as she visited all these different places/people to fix herself. I had a need to see her taking that eclectic knowledge as her own and experimenting with it or something. Then when the big reveal comes and she brings her husband back, it isn't such a stretch that she could figure it out. Took me a second read to remind me that she did have a magic/medical background from family for it to make more sense, but that still leaves me hanging a bit.
Excellent plot hooks as well!
Great tone, excellent story on the birth of necromancy and zombies.
Twisted and perverse, I approve.
Update: @Strolen: Updated the story a little to emphasize Maire's own talents and research before the creation of the first zombie.
I like it; I good origin story for necromancy!
Update: Minor edit to correct the number and sexes of the children.
I love the narration, I like the story and I like the idea. As a write up for NPC though, you give us history, but you don't give us her. We don't have a sense for her style or current state.
Update: @axlerowes -- Agreed, the character needed more life. Added a description and a few bits of her personality to play with.
Just noted the update, i think the two paragraphs on how to play her and her likely actions add a lot.