Portrait of a Villain: Gethin of the Ash

Still working in coordination with the other villain-spotlighting blogs, though I’m starting on some new characters now; if I keep using mine, I’ll have no secrets left!

Gethin of the Ash

“What is the difference between alive and dead? I see so little of it…”

Once, in a town just large enough for literacy but not large enough for culture, there was a poet, and an asker of questions. As those around him were rather prone to focusing on their work, and less interested in trying to explain why the sky was blue or where the butterflies went when it rained, this did not tend to go over well in his community.

In retrospect, perhaps the best way of dealing with his questions wasn’t “Go out and look for yourself”. Yes, it kept him busy when the question was where the butterflies went when it rained, or why things fell down but not up. But then there was the night he tried to answer “Must death be considered final for all creatures?” The experiment itself didn’t seem to be a problem for him—Antonia was as witty as ever, just as beautiful, and the only thing that was missing was her pulse, and he’d made a point of ensuring his procedure worked on various animals first. He’d even managed to avoid the smell! Unfortunately for Gethin, his fellows disagreed with his answer. At least, he realized as he fled into the night, beating his dead horse for all it was worth, they had answered his secondary question, “Why must there be evil?” Even though that answer was a question in itself: “Why shouldn’t there be evil?”

So he learned—about darkness and light, and death and its reversals, and how magic and mechanism could work together (“Why wouldn’t they?”) and Dramatic Necessity. And then he returned to the village, killed and reanimated the lot of them (“Will that be enough to get them to understand my viewpoint?”), and set up shop on the hilltop.

Gethin of the Ash is still, as always, motivated by curiosity, but that curiosity has taken a considerably more dangerous turn. Now, the question that plagues him is whether his form of death and revival requires a personalized touch, or if it can be done en masse—and as far as he’s concerned, his territory and the next valley over would make excellent test subjects. (He, of course, cannot be subjected to this, as it would interfere with his observations.) It’s strongly believed that if he were to succeed, he’d try to get the world to follow; wouldn’t life be so much more interesting if people could continue to exist long enough to get all their questions answered? If his plans were ever to succeed, he would essentially kill and reanimate everyone outside his keep within a two mile radius.

Most of Gethin’s minions have one thing in common: they’ve been dead for a while. While it doesn’t seem to interfere with their personalities any, it hasn’t been too good for their intelligence; a running frustration of Gethin’s is that they aren’t very good at metaphor. (He, of course, blames this on the ‘idiocy’ that they’d shown in their dealings with him before his return.) Oddly enough, none of his reanimated lieutenants (who else can you trust?) show the same decrease in intellect.

Gethin’s castle is on the top of his hill. At first glance, it seems to be very much a necromancer’s haven; it is dark, and tall, and foreboding, guarded by ghostly creatures, surrounded by dead but still obnoxiously thorny plants, and built with a design from a few decades before the advent in architecture of its materials. Inside, though, it is well lit and rather cheerful, and there are books everywhere.

Incoming PCs might visit the old village and realize the rather odd nature of its inhabitants. Or one, searching for inspiration from a long-deceased hero of lore, might find that the tomb has been interfered with and its occupant is conspicuously absent, with the last person seen anywhere near there “A charming young man in a black coat who came from the (insert direction to his place here)”. The likeliest draw for them, though, is a strange magical device housed in one wing of his castle; either running into a pair of figures wearing charcoal gray who seem rather concerned with deactivating it and know an unnerving amount about how to do so (if they aren’t the source of the information, they’ll probably be found trying to deactivate the thing themselves), or just seeing, on a dark night, the hilltop covered with a misting of a glowing tannish-creamish color, which on closer examination appears to be a hail of ashes: from this, and from similar spell thematics, he gets his name.

Gethin himself prefers not to engage in battle, at least not in the beginning; after all, he has proxies for that. He is, however, capable of observing almost any confrontation within his territory, and will almost invariably do so. As a result, when he must fight, he has a pretty good idea what his opponents are capable of and responds accordingly, attempting to isolate his targets and pick them off one at a time through ranged magic, and interposing his lower-quality zombies (as opposed to the semi-intelligent reanimated; nobody’s methods are perfect) when he is attacked. And he throws his opponents off with questions; many have left because they could not properly articulate why they needed to defeat and not just stop him.

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