This is a tale of two women; one, a loner, a creature of the wild; with but one friend in the world. The other: a princess, cruel and spoiled, with no friends at all.
The girl Chloe was a child of the forest, a foundling. She was raised in the ways of the Pathfinder by Keeler the Guide, a ranger of Rowanwood; and Sarapen Moonsilver, the Barkwarden. Chloe was a peculiar child who grew into a peculiar woman. She took to the teachings of the ranger and druid well enough, but neither could call her daughter or friend. Something was different about her. It was as if she felt no kinship to the forest at all, or to those who lived within. Except for one.
Chloe met the dryad Briarose one day while traversing the Rowanwood alone. Eager for company, the dryad invited Chloe to stay for a while and trade news of Rowanwood, for Briarose could not venture far from her ancient oak and wanted to hear of the forest beyond her reach. Chloe obliged, more from a sense of boredom than anything else; but she soon found herself returning to the dryad’s tree more often, sometimes planning her travels to include Briarose’s grove as a stop along the way. The two became friends, though they could not be more different.
Chloe’s travels took her far throughout the Rowanwood, and she was only able to meet with her friend Briarose once every few months or so. It was during one of these meetings that the dryad told Chloe she had met another girl from the land outside the forest. Her name was Circa, and she was a princess. Princess Circa had stumbled into her grove while hiding from her royal guard, who had accompanied her on what she called a “terribly boring” hunting trip. They spoke for a while and Circa told her how hers was a life of luxury and privilege. She had many servants and everyone obeyed her commands. She invited Briarose to come visit her in her castle. Of course, Briarose had to refuse, as she could not leave her tree. When she told Circa this, the princess got a strange look on her face. A few minutes later, the two heard the sounds of the princess’s hunting party calling for her. Circa left to join them, but told Briarose that they would see each other again soon.
Something about this made Chloe uneasy, but she said nothing. When she returned to the grove several weeks later, she found it uprooted and destroyed. Briarose’s tree lay on the ground. The ancient oak had been ravaged for lumber. She found the body of her friend beneath it, still clinging to the trunk, and she imagined the scene as her friend must have begged and pleaded with those responsible to stop hurting her tree. To stop murdering her.
Chloe knew who was responsible, of course: the spoiled princess, Circa. She wanted Briarose and did not care that the dryad could not come to her court even if she wanted to, for she was bound to the tree. Bring the tree, then, Chloe imagined her saying. Chloe followed the tracks of the princess’s guards to the edge of the forest, where they passed into the plains beyond. She tracked them all the way to Malfort, the capital of Evalaux; and could have tracked them to the castle itself, but there was no need. Chloe knew she could not get to the princess directly. Better to spend her efforts elsewhere.
And she did. Chloe had no friends in Malfort. She had no friends at all, since the death of Briarose. Her first task, then, was to make some. She did not like people, so instead she made friends with the rats of Malfort. All of them.
Within months, Chloe and her rats controlled the entire underworld of Malfort; easily wresting it from the grip of the Thieves’ Guild that operated in the sewers and shadows. Chloe’s legend grew. Rats bred unchecked, spreading disease and pestilence in the city above, spoiling foodstuffs and fouling wells. The people of Montfort cried out to the palace for help. They were suffering. They were dying. Unrest stirred, and the power of the royal family began to shake. Surely the king would do something?
The king could do nothing, because the king was dead. His seneschal found him in his chambers one morning, or what was left of him, anyway. He had been devoured by rats in his sleep. There seemed nowhere Chloe’s rats could not reach.
Princess Circa found herself suddenly in charge in a palace overrun by rats. She barricaded herself inside and hired as many rat catchers as she could from the surrounding towns and cities of Evalaux. She paid them extravagant sums to ply their trade, with promises of riches untold to the one who could rid the palace and the city of the rats. The rat catchers all died horribly; some devoured by rat swarms like the king, some made to ingest the very poisons they employed in their trade. They died, the people despaired, and Chloe’s grip tightened around the princess’s throat.
Over the course of the next several months, Chloe squeezed.
Today, Princess Circa still lives in the ruined palace, though her servants and guards fled long ago. She wanders the halls, incoherent and bedraggled and quite mad, attended only by rats. Outside, life has returned to normal for the people of Malfort. The tides of vermin no longer plague the city as they did. The disease has been checked, commerce and trade has resumed. The wells run clean and the storehouses are safe. All is well again.
But the people know, and they will not forget. Chloe the Rat is now princess of Malfort, and her palace is below the streets.
September’s Character of the Month is a Ranger; albeit a pretty unconventional one. This project has been pretty light on evil characters so far (only Rafinphel the Adored is expressly evil, and he’s not MY character), so I thought it was time. I imagined a ranger so obsessed with vengeance that she usurped nature for her own ends. This is the result.
For Chloe, I used Reaper’s Vermina, the Rat Queen, from their Chronoscope line. There are two versions of this character. This one, sculpted by Werner Klocke, has an anime-vibe to it. The other one is much more Victorian-looking and is sculpted by Patrick Keith. I’ve had this one for many years. She was supposed to be a non-player character in a D&D 3.5 campaign; but the game fell apart before I had a chance to paint her and she’s languished under chipped black primer ever since.
Since it’s obviously not September anymore, Chloe is late. But that’s ok. I have another Character of the Month for October coming by the end of the month; and hopefully more Star Wars, too.