The Witch Accursed.
Young Jezebelle was an early casualty of the evil sorceress Vitrollia’s invasion. She lived her early years in a quiet village on the edge of the wilds, with her parents, brother, and extended family. Almost before anyone even knew the danger Vitrollia posed, her dark forces crept into the town under cover of darkness, and Jezebelle and her family were taken from their beds and enthralled to the sorceress’ dark will. Their minds and bodies were twisted and corrupted, becoming monstrous; bloody, emaciated beings that bore little resemblance to their former selves.Though previously little more than a child by centaur standards, she proved particularly susceptible to the sorceress’ influence, her skeletal, warped body was nearly adult-sized. Her cruelty and malice were easily the equal of any adult as well, and her tribe of monsters soon earned a notorious reputation.
Her elder brother fared better under the curse than she, his training as an apprentice mage lent him the discipline and power to resist the mind control, for longer and longer periods. Eventually, he broke free, and set about attempting to free his family. He started with Jezebelle, but she was too far gone for his amateur ministrations. Flying into a rage at this betrayal of their queen, she slew her own brother. That rage would burn for the rest of her days as Vitrollia’s captive soldier, carrying her like a whirlwind from one atrocity to the next, but no pain or horror she could inflict would ever be the equal of that day.
When the war was finally lost, Jezebelle and what few members of her family survived those final days were healed, but for Jezebelle ‘healed’ was relative. Though Vitrollia’s grasp on her mind had ebbed away in her absence, her immature body had been steeped in the curse overlong, and the Sorceress’ power had forever left its mark upon her; She’d aged years in mere months, her eyes and fur were stained blood-red, and skeletal patterns where fur would not grow were burned into her flanks, grim reminders that even Cloudbirth’s best healers could not fully restore. Not that she needed help remembering what she had become; What she had done, and how she had enjoyed it all so much. No reassurance of the healers could fully shake her fear that not all of that evil had come from without.
Unable to look one another in the eye after the sins they had wrought together, Jezebelle and her family soon parted ways, never to meet again. They had looked upon the worst in one another, and blinked. She quietly suspected they resented her for her brother’s fate, and she wasn’t sure it was so unfair to judge. Thus cast adrift by fate and family, Jezebelle vowed never to be controlled again; Remembering her brother’s last moments, as a free taur, set her on the path to learn his power. As penance for her part in his death she swore she’d take up his mantle, and become stronger even than Vitrollia! Next time, she told herself, she wouldn’t be taken without a fight. As soon as she was well enough to travel, she left the healers’ camp and struck out on her own to find her way in the world.
Freedom and Frustration
Jezebelle made her old hometown her first port-of-call. By some miracle, her brother’s old books survived under the burned-out floorboards of her ruined family home. Her study of magic got off to a rocky start, however, when she proved to have no natural aptitude for it. Worse, the lingering energies of Vitrollia’s curse blocked her power pathways, making even grasping for the magicks to light a candle a draining ordeal. To counter this, she scoured her brother’s books, and employed her first familiar, a fat yellow toad named Pollywog, who like her, had previously served Virtollia as a spy. Polly delighted in feeding on the negative energy that permeated Jezebelle’s spirit, which she used to produce a potent magical bile that she claimed made her skin ‘extra warty.’
But though Polly’s unusual feeding habits were helpful in cleansing her magical blockage, there was precious little she could actually teach Jezebelle, and so eventually the centauride came into her second familiar; a wily raven from Roonwit called Grackle, well-versed in magicks of divination and apothecary. With Grackle’s help, Jezebelle was soon breezing through the lessons in her brother’s old books.He also taught her enough mundane divination techniques to make a living as a fortune teller, which she found made people regard her appearance as an eccentricity of the performance, rather than a deformity. Though it was a working relationship, these new companions were the closest thing to friends Jezebelle could ever remember having, and sparked in her a pang of longing for the family she’d lost.
Over the years Jezebelle grew into womanhood, her fur grew back in over her scars (albeit discolored), and she’d put a fair bit more mass on her once-emaciated frame (though she often grumbled too much of it had gone to her boobs). Under Grackle and Polly’s tutelage, her magical prowess had grown to match her physique; the raven often said he considered her the equal of any Roonwit apprentice mage. Still, she felt that hunger for more, she sought mastery of magic beyond what beginner tomes and her familiar could provide. Likewise she longed for companionship of her own kind, someplace she could thrive; the bustling commerce town that had grown up around the bones of her old village was tolerant of her presence (after all, she was one of the oldest residents), but it was very much a human town. Though she had met many strange beings and more than her fair share of outlandish humans, centaurs like her were a rarity in these parts nowadays. Tired of being the constant object of curiosity, she quietly packed up and left her shack on the fringes of town, and set out to seek her own fortune for a change.
And so she returned to the land she’d terrorized so long ago, seeking belonging and mentorship in one of the newly formed Great Houses. At first (at Grackle’s insistence) she tried Roonwit, but the centaurs there had long memories; they still distrusted her after her long campaign for the sorceress, and though they uneasily offered her asylum, they wouldn’t teach her the arcane knowledge she now sought. In fact, they urged her to set aside her quest for greater power, fearing that she was set upon a path to become the very thing she abhorred. Insulted, Jezebelle took her leave of them.
She visited Cloudbirth shortly after, and though the compassionate healer House gave her a warmer welcome, she soon found she couldn’t stand the pity she saw plain on their faces when they looked at her scarred fur and crimson eyes. The constant offers of healing and sympathy, as if she hadn’t had plenty of both after the war, as if she were a broken thing in need of fixing, grated upon her nerves. Still, seeing the love and affection between the head of Cloudbirth and her adopted family tugged at her own heartstrings. Now more than ever, she wanted that, too. And so here too, she quickly made her excuses and left.
House and Home
Jezebelle despaired. She’d been to both of the Houses that could offer her the training she sought, and both had failed to live up to her expectations. To top it off, she was lonelier than ever. Feeling like she’d abandoned the meager life she’d had for nothing, she wandered into the wildlands and wept. How had everything gone so wrong? Her crying caught the sharp ears of a ranger, an enormous man with ebon fur and proud antlers. She recognized him as Rayven, the son of Cloudbirth’s leader, whom she had seen around the last couple days in Cloudbirth. He asked her why she wept, and against her better judgement, she told him her sorrows. She expected him to leave her to cry, but to her vexation, he just smiled and offered her a hand. Taking it, she was led to a large encampment, where dozens of revelling centaurs hailed Rayven’s return with a raucous battlecry. She was introduced to a flurry of burly warrior taurs, who clapped her on the back and welcomed her to the feast with open arms. In that moment, as she shared meat and mead and listened politely to the warriors’ tales, her quest for arcane power was all but forgotten. At the urging of half a dozen of the (admittedly intoxicated) veteran taurs, she found she’d pledged to House Glenstorm before the bonfire had gone out.
And Glenstorm’s strong sense of camaraderie turned out to be just the salve for her lonely heart. In the days that followed, as long as she kept clear of the sharing of war stories, she was able to throw herself into doing work for the House, and rest easy afterward in blissful, dreamless exhaustion. Her side hustle of fortune telling proved popular at the ale tent, among the more superstitious of the warrior centaurs. Popular too were her floundering attempts to master swordsmanship lessons, a trial the seasoned warriors of Glenstorm found endlessly amusing to watch and refused to let her give up. Her archery fared better, though her magic was yet her calling; she still practiced in the twilit hours before bedding down each night. While Glenstorm wasn’t full of dedicated mages like Roonwit, she was able to pick up a trick or two of martial magic from some of the older, wilier fighters.
For months, she did all she could for her House. She learned to tend livestock, carried loads until she thought her legs would break, and humored her friends with swordplay and stories, always careful not to talk about the days before the war ended. Jezebelle’s heart swelled at last with a new emotion: Pride. For the first time she could remember she had real friends, and somewhere to live she wasn’t an outcast or an oddity. Though a smile more often graced her lips than not these days, she tattooed tears down her cheeks in Glenstorm crimson, in honor of the night she found her home. She didn’t think she’d ever have to cry again. Ever eager to be of further service, to be worthy of her place among the centaurs, she volunteered at a great gathering to Guide new arrivals to Centauria, pledging to make them feel as welcome as she had been. But her offer was met with resistance, as a contingent of Roonwit minds voiced their concerns again. Jezebelle was too dangerous to be trusted, they said, as long as she was still cursed she could be a foot in the door for evildoers like Vitrollia. A small handful of her healers from just after the war likewise reminded Queen Julala that Jezebelle had once been a particularly nasty villainess in her own right, responsible for untold evils.
Tears threatening to trace the tracks of her tattoos, Jezebelle hung her head in shame. She’d studiously avoided telling anyone in Glenstorm about her past, and now her secret was common knowledge. She apologized for wasting the Queen’s time, and made ready to be ejected from Glenstorm and Centauria. But as she turned to leave, a familiar ebon hand grasped her shoulder. Rayven held her in place and told the gathered centaurs how he’d brought her to Glenstorm, how she’d done everything she could and more to fit in, even when she struggled. And to her surprise, every Glenstorm voice in the crowd sounded off behind her, reinforcing Rayven’s claim and adding their own. Even a few Cloudbirth folks she barely knew spoke in her favor! But Queen Julala was the final nail in the coffin of the dissenters, when she spoke of all the good she’d seen Jezebelle strive to do in her short time in Centauria, Jezebelle wept with joy. And thus was the former footsoldier for evil welcomed as a friend by the people she’d once oppressed. As she pledged herself as a guide in the Queen’s service, she swore also to herself: she’d always do right by the friends she’d made for herself in the Ancient Order of Centaurs.