Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Build a Witch Challenge: Miss Mulberry

The Challenge

Throne of Salt's witch

Alone in the Labyrinth's witch

What’s her name?

Miss Mulberry to acquaintances, Lady Ninlillah IV of the Mulberry House formally.

What kind of witch is she?

"Witch" is a nasty thing to call someone. By using it you are declaring that in any righteous society the person you're calling witch should be burned alive.

Miss Mulberry is the kind of witch who it would be deeply impolitic to call a witch. Instead she is known as a couturiere, a purveyor of the finest textiles, an uplifter of the destitute. There are whispers, of course, that her most wondrous silks don't come from worms, that she trafficks with disreputable sorts, that she poisoned her parents, but who would act on them? She's the most desirable bachelorette in town after all.

Where does she live?

The eponymous Mulberry House, a once-stately manor on a hill near the court whose elder dignity is overwhelmed by the bustling industry that's overtaken it.

Its garden is full of mulberry trees, and above those flit moths and bats. Servants with poles and nets fight a constant, futile battle against the bats. Many of the town's widows and orphans are employed to collect silkworms and spin silk. The bulk of the weaving is left to Miss Mulberry and her handmaidens.

The first floor and cellar are filled with looms, hurrying servants, storefront displays, and storage. The second floor on up are Miss Mulberry's private residence. She's never seen taking visitors up there, but sometimes she seems to be entertaining guests nevertheless.

What does she look like?

Beautiful, her suitors will tell you, beautiful and delicate, which is why she must wear a veil at all times. In truth nobody human and still living could tell you. She wears a different, fabulous outfit for every outing.

What kind of wand does she use?

Miss Mulberry takes care to be seen carrying an ebony spindle. This is a misdirection.

Her true wand is a lead scepter topped with prying fingers: the emblem of her office as president of the Squirming Mass. They convene by the flooded quarry west of town on the first night of the new moon.

What’s in her cauldron?

Cocoons in boiling water. Not all of them are silkworm cocoons.

Spinning cocoons is not a trait unique to caterpillars. They just have the easiest time of it, on account of their soft and hideous bodies. Any animal could do it under the right circumstances. What it takes is a pre-adolescent creature with the right mix of self-perceived weakness, self-loathing, and a consuming desire for beautiful transformation. Miss Mulberry is an expert in finding that mix.

Puppy-silk is intoxicatingly soft. Bird-silk is lighter than a feather. Demons treasure child-silk.

What kind of familiar does she have?

A demon of bindings and strictures, of the sort that tie abused to abuser or lead good people to doing evil.

It can take the form of a white tree, a great pale worm, or twin albino children. Miss Mulberry often keeps it hidden and protected in one of her tapestries.
1d8 things the witch is doing when the PCs meet her

1 - Taking a patrician woman's measurements
2 - Showing some children how to spin silk
3 - Frying pupae for a snack
4 - Arguing with representatives from the weavers' guild
5 - Lighting a stick of incense for her parents
6 - Weaving a new outfit
7 - Joking with her handmaidens
8 - Reading a book of poetry

1d6 potions magic items the witch can sell to the PCs

You'll only find out this stuff's on offer if you get on Miss Mulberry's good side, and the price is going to be less agreeable than coin.
1 - Supremely Stylish Robe - Perfect fit, very comfy, always fashionable. A fitting outfit for the highest halls of power, and once per day you can make yourself instantly forgiven for any non-criminal breach of etiquette (i.e. no theft or murder).
2 - Prehensile Rope - Sticky silk rope. Whoever's holding it can control it like an extension of their body. Keep out of direct sunlight.
3 - Festival of the Silkworm-Child Lantern - A yellow ovoid silk lantern painted with scenes of people and people-sized caterpillars dancing together. Summons an exponentially increasing number of giant moths every ten-minute turn it's lit (e.g. one the first turn, two the second, four the third, and so on). The moths will attempt to carry the lantern and whoever's holding it to the Mummified Isle, and will fight anyone who gets in their way for as long as it takes to reach their goal.
4 - Perjurious Worms - A handful of black worms. When spread on a page they'll eat words and excrete a perfect forgery of whatever you whisper to them. Single-use, after eating they'll pupate.
5 - Mothform Cloak - A silk cloak. Once per day you can wrap it around yourself to transform into a giant moth for up to 6 ten-minute turns. If you're exposed to light brighter than a torch while you're a moth, save or be entranced by it.
6 - Sovereign Stitching - A needle and thread with can pass through any material. When used to stitch two things together acts as sovereign glue. A single spool contains enough thread for 5 uses.

1d6 rumors about the witch

1 - She's actually married, and keeps her husband locked away in the Mulberry House's attic (false, but Miss Mulberry does keep her witchiest stuff in the attic)
2 - Seeing her uncovered face prevents her from working her magic on you (true, but also risks falling into terrified catatonia)
3 - Miss Mulberry has a vicious feud going on with the Lord Bluestone (true, they are rival members of the Squirming Mass)
4 - The Mulberry House has secret tunnels where guests pass through for Miss Mulberry's private parties (true)
5 - Miss Mulberry is haunted by her parents' ghosts (half-true, she's trying to bring them back on a more permanent basis)
6 - Miss Mulberry would pay exquisitely for someone to investigate what interrupted her latest dye shipment (true)

1d4 spells known only to the witch

1 - Strip Bare - Vomit a cone of moths that eat the top layer off everything they pass: clothes, bags, exposed skin, etc.
2 -Hybrid Metamorphosis - Wrap two creatures, living or dead, in silk. They'll emerge as a hybrid creature with traits picked from each. Over the course of a month the hybrid will waste away. Hybrids waste away faster the more component creatures are in them.
3 - Vorpal Noose - Tie and hang a noose made from your own hair. The noose will tighten around and sever anything caught in it.
4 - Spoil Bond - Inverts the positive emotions between two people: loyalty to treachery, love to hate, and so on.


  1. Damn, beat me to it! I prefer your version of the ladylike witch over what I was doing, back to the drawing board

    1. What angle were you taking with the concept?