~The Banner of House Hellebore~
Nickname: War Lady
Full Name: Claudia Hellebore
Description: Claudia's fur is mottled in greys from near black to pure white. She towers over most other beasts, giving her the appearance of being the living embodiment of a snowy mountain. Her eyes are bright yellow, the black pupils slitted vertically as most cat eyes are. Her fur is rough, but brushed carefully, and her claws are neatly trimmed. She wears a navy blue tunic with a thick belt and heavy metal clasp, and a black cloak over her shoulders.
Possessions: She wears a signet ring with a five-petaled flower on her right paw's little finger. This is used on the wax or resin seals of letters and scrolls. In battle, she may wear a suit of plate mail armour with the same floral design on her breastplate and kite shield. Her other possessions, including parchment, ink, quills, tents, rugs, food, etc. are usually carried and set up by her slaves.
- Micromanaging things like supplies, orienteering, and surviving in the wild
- Has a strong will and dominating personality that makes her a natural leader
- Very intelligent and well-read
- Can pick out who would be useful to her, be it natural talent, or having resources like wealth or slaves or supplies
- Has experience in personal combat in snowy, rough terrain against beasts larger than she
- Afraid of new approaches to problems
- Ignores conflicting opinions
- Is intrusive and overbearing
- Takes herself extremely seriously
- Is vain and can be very arrogant
- Lacks true empathy for slaves
Claudia's mind operates on the assumption that every beast around her is unable to function as an adult without her constant guidance. She is a micromanager, a planner and a masterful strategist in everything she does. She is a control freak who has everything in her life arranged the way she knows is best. What's more, she knows what's best for other beasts as well. She gives orders and does not listen to arguments, excuses or any beast with a different opinion. The flip side of this is she is not cold or aloof, but very much actively interested in caring for and managing her entourage of wildcats. She treats her slaves more like they are pets, but she does not go out of her way to be cruel to them. She is a very strict disciplinarian though, and sometimes beats them if there is any hint of disrespect.
As Claudia is so used to being in control, she can be easily flustered when things don't go her way. Hiccups in her plans instantly put her fur on edge, as she finds it hard to be flexible and improvise. She is very conservative in her approach to things and relies on tried and tested methods, rather than risking new ideas. She rarely listens to advice unless it merely backs up her own ideas, and she is very quick to jump to conclusions. She can be very invasive and overly inquisitive, and is not above spying on or eavesdropping over other beasts' personal lives. Claudia takes herself very seriously, and does not appreciate jokes or humour that involve her.
When it comes to friendships, Claudia tends to run her group of friends like an exclusive club. Those that are 'in' are constantly by her side and privy to the workings of her mind. Breaking her trust however can mean being shunned out of the club, and possibly shamed into leaving her band of followers altogether. She dominates conversational topics and is prone to switching subjects if something bores her. Claudia prefers the company of similarly intelligent beasts, however she dislikes any beast she perceives to be smarter than her. Her friends need to be smart enough to laugh at her jokes, understand all the academic topics she brings up, but not smart enough to challenge her opinions on anything. Claudia loves flattery and her friends tend to be very sycophantic.
Though Claudia looks down her nose at other vermin, she is capable of understanding what will keep them quiet and obedient. If she chooses, she can manipulate emotions and stir up a crowd to follow her pretty much anywhere. She is most used to dealing with vermin, and vermin slaves at that. She will enslave vermin she comes across, particularly bandits used to fighting. She has an eye for spotting troublemakers though, and will execute any potential dissenters in the ranks swiftly and quietly. Claudia has had very limited encounters with woodlanders, and most of those were prisoners or slaves themselves. She doesn't really understand woodlander mindsets like she does the Northlands vermin she's used to. Claudia doesn't think of herself as 'vermin' and considers wildcats to be above such labels. She doesn't really care about the lives she ends, whether by her sword or by her commands. She only cares about the numbers, considering her army's casualties a mere statistic and a victory glorious, no matter how bloody.
Claudia considers war one of her most useful tools in getting what she wants. Winning battles makes her name fearsome and respected among all wildcats, which is very important to her. Claudia enjoys attention that she was denied when she was younger, and fighting is a good way to earn a reputation. She does not care about moral causes or who is 'right' in a war. In the Northlands, her original home, there is no such thing as the 'good' side. Each wildcat family writes its own history, weaving a tapestry of centuries of glorious victories, whilst usually downplaying the catastrophic defeats. Claudia is arrogantly proud of her heritage, and wishes to be recorded in her family history as the most respected and powerful head of the Hellebore family to have lived. Bloodlines and tradition and family history are very important to her, and she has studied the history of the wildcats of the North for as long as she was able to read as a child.
Claudia Hellebore comes from a long line of Northland wildcats that have been engaged in blood feuds with other powerful families for centuries. The Hellebores despise the Willowvanes, who scorn the Lookharts, who spit on the Slyes. Unfortunately, this deep-rooted hatred is mingled in with marriage alliances that are made and broken as necessary when families decide to work together to fight a common enemy, such as a monstrous wolverine horde. So whilst each family house retains its own name, the greatest tragedy of this endless bloody feud is that often the combatants are related somehow. Each family is obsessed with maintaining long ancestral family trees and blood records, to avoid cases of inbreeding.
Claudia has killed her fair share of her own cousins, aunts, uncles, and in-laws in these fights. She was kept away from many of her cousins in her early childhood, in case she started bonding with them and then would later refuse to kill them if they met in battle. Claudia was a very lonely kit, and lived in a very regimented system designed to train her into an obedient pawn in her father's political games. No slaves were allowed to look at her directly, and she was encouraged to beat them with a rod if they displeased her in any way. This set up her lifelong opinion of them as being her possessions, pets or playthings. From the age of seven, she was trained in swordfighting, and was often seen practicing her skills on slaves instead of wooden dummies. Her father encouraged this behaviour, believing it made her stronger and more dominating. In her spare time, she would hide from her older sister Artemis by going to the castle's library, and curling up between the bookshelves with a history book almost as heavy as she was. Artemis was a cruel bully to her younger sister, and the two would be constantly at odds with each other throughout their lives.
Wildcats marrying into other families have other uses other than forging a temporary alliance. They can act as spies, and if they are skilled, turn the tide of Northland politics. Northland politics and war are almost synonymous, so very often intelligence gathered by spying spouses has a real effect on the battle ground. The wealthy wildcat family members show up to battles with their own private slave armies, and watch vermin fight and die in the snow whilst they relax on a hill nearby with some wine. Some wildcats prefer to don plate armour covered in their personal heraldry and swing their massive two-handed swords, slicing apart groups of terrified slave soldiers in powerful strokes. Apart from wolverines, wildcats are the biggest warriors on the battlefield, so usually the slaves fighting the battles will give the armoured behemoths a wide berth, and let them fight each other in sword duels.
Claudia has been married three times. The first marriage was when she was twelve seasons old, to a wildcat over three times her age. The marriage was purely political, and really only arranged because her father, Vincus Hellebore, was running out of sons and daughters to marry off. Claudia had already been trained in politics and spying at that age, and dutifully passed every private word her husband uttered to her father, to the family's great advantage. She stabbed her husband as he slept when she was sixteen, and was married soon after in the light of a wolverine attack coming from the Land of Ice and Snow. Her second husband died when his head was crushed by a wolverine's mace three seasons later.
By the time she was twenty-two seasons old, the war with the wolverines had claimed the lives of so many wildcats that her father was contemplating having to marry Claudia to a cousin of hers. Claudia hated the idea of being thrown yet again into a den of hostile wildcats on the pretext of creating a new marriage alliance. Being forced to live with a family of in-laws that openly despises you and insults you across the dinner table and in the halls is a constant stress of many wildcats like Claudia. She was growing tired too of the disrespect with which her father treated her. Claudia was thought of as easily controlled by her family, with no real desires or valid opinions of her own. Claudia despised being ignored and not being considered worthy of speaking her opinions in her father's court. She began forming a secret clique of young wealthy wildcats, some of whose families had great stakes in the slaving business. Amazingly, it seemed her new friends too were dissatisfied with being manipulated by their parents in endless politics. The young Hellebore was actually gaining the respect and trust of the next generation of some of the most powerful wildcat families in the North. Unfortunately, Artemis had been snooping around her younger sister's meetings, and in a fit of rage accused Claudia publically of being a blood traitor.
Such an accusation could not go unchallenged, and unfortunately for the more ordinary beasts in the North, the two wildcat sisters both had private armies with which to settle their dispute. Against their father's wishes, Claudia's alliance of wealthy slave owners fought with Artemis' skilled hunter-archers, and turned the snowy slopes of their ancestral home red. When enough vermin on both sides had died without even knowing why they were really fighting, Claudia fought her own sister on the field and decapitated her. Now Artemis was dead, Claudia's father was in a terrible rage, and threatened his daughter with imprisonment, or even being forced to lead a suicide charge against the wolverine camp.
Realising which way the wind was blowing, Claudia elected to exile herself from her father's lands. Her plan was to stay out of his reach until the day he died. Styling herself as a War Lady, Claudia and her friends marched their armies South, into Mossflower. It occured to Claudia at this point that conquering new territories might be beneficial to her. If she can claim a new home base in Mossflower, she can set about training a bigger slave army, and eventually return to the North to claim the lands that are hers by birth.
Generals: War Lady Claudia Hellebore, Lady Jessandra Nettlecrest, Lord Boreas Willowvane, Lord Jubal Rosethorn
Officers: Each general has a personal wildcat officer called an Adjutant who helps them manage the army's logistics. Below that rank, each army has five wildcat officers with the rank of Captain, who each manage a battalion of troops with the assistance of one or two wildcats with the rank of Lieutenant. Each captain tends to be wealthy and from a well-known wildcat family house, so it is possible that new generals might be promoted from their ranks.
Armies: Four private slave armies, consisting of assorted Northlands bred vermin. These vermin have been slaves from birth, and have little concept of being independant or being the equals of wildcats. They tend to behave well if given a regular routine to stick to day after day, with scheduled mealtimes and camping times. Disruptions to food or sleep can brew discontent, and it is up to the officers to keep them in line. Some officers use cunning words and strong personalities, others resort to threats and dishing out painful punishments. Both are viable ways of maintaining discipline, depending on the situation.
Lady Nettlecrest's specialise in skirmishing and forest warfare, Lord Willowvane's are practiced siege engineers and fortification builders, and Lord Rosethorn's are the most well-equipped for shield and spear formations in open ground. War Lady Hellebore's army acts as her personal guard and as shock troops, often leading breakouts and charges, and doing the most dangerous and frontal attacks.
Tactics and Fighting Style: Claudia is a very aggressive commander. She believes in closing the ground quickly and shocking the enemy to weaken their morale. She learnt this from the wars against wolverines, who can more or less sniff out fear and weakness. Her shock troops usually attack in columns, almost like an arrowhead trying to pierce the enemy lines. He frontline troops usually take the brunt of casualties, as they are the first to charge and last to leave. Claudia's weakness in battle is stubbornness, even if tactical flexibility or a temporary retreat would be wise.
Jessandra takes advantage of the massive spectacle of Claudia's charges to flank the enemy. She prefer woodlands and bushes and areas with little line of sight. Her favoured tactic is to lead troops around the main battle and rain arrows and javelins on the enemy from the side or rear. Her weakness is open areas, as her slaves are vulnerable to being charged by heavier armed adversaries.
Boreas has been a DIY nut ever since he demanded a hacksaw for his 8th birthday. His parents just assumed he wanted a creative way of killing disobedient slaves. He loves practical solutions and surprising the enemy with spike pit traps and temporary fortified camps. His engineers build a defensive wooden fort every night the army camps, and they guard it well. Anyone sleeping on watch is executed on the spot. Boreas runs a very strict regime, but his weakness is reacting to rapidly changing situations, where he simply hasn't the time to prepare defences. He has a good eye for skilled carpenters, and a keen sense of the lie of the land, able to work out where the army should pitch a battle or make a defensive stand.
Jubal comes from a very old family with long standing military traditions. He runs his slave army in tight shield-wall formations, designed to march in after Claudia's initial shock charge, and mop up the remaining enemies. Like Claudia, he takes his honour very seriously, and this can be his weakness if used against him, such as challenging him to personal combat. He is also the cruelest of the generals to his slaves, and often flogs slaves if there is any lapse in discipline. He believes fear of the lash will make his slaves work harder. He is also most used to comfort, and has a large retinue of fearful slaves to feed, bathe, and clothe him, and attend on his every command.