River Hags

Sure, most of us come from rhe same basic blueprint. After all, when you've got something that works, you stick with it. Sharks ain't the most advanced fish in the sea, but the basic design does exactly what it's supposed to. That's why they've been around so long in more or less the same shape. Some of the variations on the theme haven't worked out, but by and large, the basic design works just fine, thanks. And when you think about it, there ain't that many differences between sharks and us.

You eat and you keep moving — what else do you need? Be that as it may, however, there are a few cadet branches of the good old redcap family tree. The folks I'm talking about ain't exactly redcaps, but they're closer to us than anything else, and if you go back far enough on the family tree you might start finding the same names on both sides, if you take my meaning. Then again, you might not, but you get the feeling that your grandpappy and their great-grandma's fooled around a bit when they thought the grownups weren't looking.

What I'm talking about here is, big surprise, river hags (though I'm told that some of them prefer the term "flumeno-camivo-kithanians" Whatever. When you're muck-green and have a mouth like a sewer grate, I suppose you'll take whatever you can get.) and their ilk. Now, I've heard some folks get up on their high and holy horses and declaim that river hags started out as goddesses of particular streams and whatnot, and that they got uglier and more antisocial as the old ways fell out of favor. I don't know anything about that. What I do know is that you do find river hags living in places where the banks are treacherous arid the waters are fast and deep. You find them in places where rivers tend to swallow small children without a trace. You find them, in other words, in places where the river feeds.

Sounds like us, don't it? That really sounds like us. So for all intents and purposes, you can lump us and the river hags together. How can you tell the difference? Well, first of all, why would you want to? I mean, if you're close enough to be wondering about identifying marks, you're too close, if you know what I'm saying. Still, let me give you a basic overview:

Sure, most of us come from rhe same basic blueprint. After all, when you've got something that works, you stick with it. Sharks ain't the most advanced fish in the sea, but the basic design does exactly what it's supposed to. That's why they've been around so long in more or less the same shape. Some of the variations on the theme haven't worked out, but by and large, the basic design works just fine, thanks. And when you think about it, there ain't that many differences between sharks and us. You eat and you keep moving — what else do you need? Be that as it may, however, there are a few cadet branches of the good old redcap family tree. The folks I'm talking about ain't exactly redcaps, but they're closer to us than anything else, and if you go back far enough on the family tree you might start finding the same names on

Hagsign

It's pretty obvious if an area belongs to a river hag, if you know what to look for. They leave signs all along their territory - usually skeletons of river animals draped in duckweed or some such. The signs aren't plastered in the middle of the highways, but they're there if you have the brains to look for them. Hags aren't stupid people. They'd rather keep you away than have to maul you.

Looks

They're ugly. Next question? Oh, you want more details than that? Picky bastard, aren't you?

Your average river hag is about as attractive as a corpse that's been held underwater for a week and then spanked and sent downstream. They're either bloated as all get-out or thin and twisted like a mess of willow twigs. The bloated ones tend to have big, sloppy mouths that can take a child at one gulp, while the skinny ones just open wide when they need to chow down. Roth kinds, of course, have nice teeth — if you're into concertina wire and caltrops as your models for such things. Larger hags are prone to pug noses and big ears, while die skinnier ones tend towards hook noses and sometimes no ears at all.

The heftier hags tend to have short arms and short fingers. They're more interested in letting dinner get close to them before stuffing it into their mouths. Still mer ones are proactive. They'll come up to the banks and reach out, wrapping those long fingers around the ankles of whatever's come too close to the bank and pulling them in.

River hags come in a wide variety of colors, but none of them are attractive unless you're either a sluagh or a dung beetle. There's bloated corpse white, river muck green, decaying leaf brown, mottled variations on all three — you get the idea. A lot of them have yellow eyes that actually glow in the dark, and they can see underwater as well as you or I can see on land. I've heard talk about a "nictitating membrane," whatever the hell that is, but the short version is that they're built to be very good at what they do. And no, what they do isn't very nice.

Habits

They eat. They patrol their sections of river. Every so often, they put on their nice clothes and go to town. What more is there to it?

OK, there's plenty more. River hags are pretty much tied to a particular river, if not a particular stretch of river. Their mortal seemings always end up living right on the water, with some sort of job that ties into the whole thing — fishing, piloting a tug, writing reports as an environmental whackjob, you get the idea. Thar way, whenever they need to get into the water, they can do so with a minimum of fuss. That also means they know good places to hide the bodies. That is, for those rare occasions when they leave bodies, anyway.

When they're at their haggish best, the ladies tend not to leave rhe water. Rumor has it that they can't do so for more than a few days at a time, anyway, and they have to stick close to their home rivers. Water ain't just water, it seems — it's got to be the specific stuff. It's a tradeoff, I suppose — we've got our deal, they've got their rivers. On the whole I think we got the better deal, but it's not like I've had extensive debates with anyone on the matter.

River hags tend to go after three sorts of folks: The mean, the stupid and trespassers. Mean is a no-brainer. I mean, let's face it, anyone who's a rat bastard to a hag's stretch of river isn't going to be on the list of favorite people. A hag's got to live in her river, after all, and if you choke the damn thing with sludge and boxtops and dead fish, txlds are that whoever's living in the middle of that crap isn't going to be happy. Anyone who makes that sort of mess is fair game, and I wish 'em luck if they get too close to the water's edge at the right hour of the night.

Trespassers are a whole other kettle of fish, hut again, you can understand why exactly they're not welcomed with open arms. (Well, they are, but in the non-idiomatic sense.) River hags are very protective of their territory. They don't like unannounced visitors. If you're going to go see a hag, the best thing to do is to stand well back from the water, announce you're coming and dien throw a dead sheep or something in there. If you're lucky, you'll see a bit of thrashing around as the bribe vanishes, and then you'll get rhe high sign to come on down for a visit. If not, then turn around and go home. If they don't want you there, then you don't want to be there.

However, there's no shortage of idiots in the world. You'd be amazed at how many people (okay, sidhe and their toadies) think there's nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon than to go down to the local scenic riverbank and try to clobber a river hag for the sheer fun of it. We've got a word for this where I come from, kids. The word is "dumb." First of all, if you don't bother a hag, she's not going to bother you. Second of all, challenging a hag on her home turf isn't the wisest tactical move. And third of all, even if you manage to win the fight, what exactly have you proved? It's not like she won't he hack the next day, unless you used cold iron, and even the stodgiest and snottiest sidhe don't do that too often. It's a lot of risk, for very little gam — it's not like the hags are keeping anyone from crossing the river anywhere else except their little patch of turf, but time and again, that just ain't good enough for some.

As a result, the hags tend to get very defensive about anyone who comes trotting in uninvited. Even idiots who have no idea that it's river hag territory tend to be antisocial once they figure out who's in charge, and the hags don't bother putting up with that. Stupid is a bit more difficult to quantify. This is mostly the "tragic accident" category — pets drowned, little kids who played too close to the water's edge, you get the idea. It's not nice, no. It's mean and vicious and cruel. But you know what? So's the world.

Look, river hags weren't put here to make the world a nicer, happier place. They're here as a reminder that rivers are dangerous places, that riverbanks are slippery and water doesn't let you go once it has you. They're not supposed to protect puppies or save kids from drowning. Don't try to fit diem into some black-and-white morality of good/bad. They've got a job to do on direct orders from the universe, and they do it. End of story. Don't blame them for what they are or what they have to do. You don't have to like it, hut that's the way it is.

Fighting Soggy

River hags take tremendous advantage of the fact that they can stay underwater basically forever. Get into a fight with one and she'll try to drag you into the water, then hold you down until you drown. There's nothing fancy about it. They'll just grab a hold of you and pin you until you stop doingall those stupid things like breathing. Most of the time, they'll have beams or branches or boulders ready to stash you under, so they don't even need to hold you down themselves. They'll just swim off about five feet, then, and watch you drown.

If the snatch and grab doesn't work, they're still pretty tough. They're strong as hell and have teeth like, well, like a redcap's, and the skinny ones tend to have claws, too. Plus, they can bend like a sluagh after a sixpack of Mad Dog and try to rip your guts out with their feet. It's a whole different style of fighting underwater, and they're damned good at it. Get one up on land, of course, and it's a whole other story. But generally they're too smart to fall for that sort of thing. Generally, that is.

Maidens On The Rhine… and Other Crap

Now, you might have heard stories about how sometimes river maidens are just these sweet, innocent pretty young things. If you believe that, I've got King David's winkie in a bag to sell you, cheap. That's just bullshit, an illusion. Oh, sure, a lot of hags are good at making themselves seem pretty for an hour or a day — the upper limit seems to be a year and a day, in most cases — but in the end, it all goes wrong. Most hags are smart enough to use good looks just as a lure to get particularly choice specimens into their nets. Others fall for that whole romance trip. You've got to pity those, because there's no way it can ever work out long term. It's sad, really, but then again, they should know what they're getting into.

Playing A River Hag

Playing a river hag is similar to playing a normal redcap character, but there are some caveats:

Attributes
A river hag cannot have an Appearance of more than 1.

Abilities
A river hag must take at least two dots in the Skill: Swimming, and one dot in Brawl

Backgrounds
River hags are, for the most part, solitary creatures, and that should be reflected in Backgrounds chosen for the character.

Roleplaying

River hags are, by and large, not well liked in Kithain society. Furthennore, their unique situation regarding their home rivers makes it difficult to integrate a river hag into a group. With that in mind, Storytellers should confine the action to an area around the hag's home stretch of river, or provide a plot device allowing the hag's player to stay involved if the game moves too far away (though that can make for a compelling plot hook on its own).

A player wishing to take the part of a river hag in a game needs to have a very good reason for one of these solitary creatures to join up with other characters. Moreover, there is rhe whole question of how comfortable someone should be playing a character who may well have drowned children. Saying "my character is the nice river hag" just doesn't cut it, and a Storyteller should think long and hard before allowing a river hag character in her game.

Birthrights & Frailties

River hags get the usual redcap package, plus an added Birthright and Frailty. The former is the ability to breathe underwater indefinitely, the latter an inability to stray from their home river for more than a week. At the end of that period, the hag is forced to return home and immerse herself immediately, regardless ofcircumstance, or else wither at the rate of one level of aggravated damage per day (which cannot be healed outside of the hag's home waters).