Toben, the Many
Ermina the Exquisite, or the Dangerous Dowager
An older, proper "lady" who has been possessed by a berserker spirit
Ermina is a woman in her late fifties now, a widow to a bold and successful noble captain famous for leading from the front and wearing a tiger skin at all times. She herself has always preferred the quieter life of a socialite, especially as her children all died young or moved away, leaving her with little to occupy her time but dinner parties and visits to the salons to appreciate the paintings.
But with the passing of her husband, his trophies have passed on to her—in particular, the tiger skin with which he was synonymous. In an effort to keep the tiger skin close at hand, she has had it cut and tailored into a fetching fur coat, which she rarely goes without. But since she’s started wearing the coat, her behavior has started to change.
Reluctant and unwitting, Ermina has become the host of a spirit of battle, and the hanker for adventure and the ardor and vitality of a force of nature that was imbued into the fur she wears has flowed into her. Whether the spirit was born of her husband’s long standing association with the fur or his own colorful history was the result of some restless spirit in the skin itself is hard to say for certain, but Ermina’s world is about to change, quite dramatically.
Ermina Thadelweiss, nee Hapsbren, duchess of Aegleburough, was raised to be the exemplar of all things socialite. She was delicate and inscrutable in matters of romance, and she was known for her remarkable correspondence with other ladies and lords of the realm. She, like many girls did, dreamed of marrying the prince himself; she knew she was worthy of no less.
But marriage so high was not to be. Instead, Ermina was betrothed to Sir Adol Thadelweiss, a man not much older than herself but who was already known for an illustrious military career. Indeed, he proved to be a vigorous if bellicose man, and was quite earnest in taking her with him on his campaigns to Arsena’s colonies outside the province. In her company, she saw much of the world, though she looked at it down the length of her nose. She traveled to many foreign lands, and spent considerable time in the jungles, where her husband was often employed dispatching unrest with his bare hands.
While they were of considerably different temperaments, Ermina came to hold considerable affection for her husband, and blessed him with three children. Her eldest children, however, were not so vital as their father, and in their many adventures succumbed to strange fevers. Her youngest, Hrist, was born poorly, and fearful of losing another child, Ermina took her back to the manor in Aegleburough to convalesce and hopefully grow into a proper woman. But even at home the child was sickly, despite visits from numerous specialists and healers, and in truth the strain of caring for her began to wear on Ermina. When the Vicenians of Morischova offered to take Hrist on as their ward, she was glad of it, and so Hrist left their estate to live on their coastal retreat. There she quickly flourished, and those Ermina visited her when she could, she swiftly became more Morischovian than Arsenan.
With her husband ever away on campaigns and her only surviving daughter increasingly distant, Ermina retreated to the lavish parties of the capital, where she would spend decades developing social networks in salons and theaters. These things became her greatest joys. Her restless husband could hardly bear the occasions when she would take him out, and to be truthful she enjoyed spiting him with a good tea social, if only to encourage him to go back on another campaign and leave her in peace.
But then word came that her husband had disappeared during a battle. He was of advancing years, but he had always led from the front, clad in a great tiger skin he had taken from a shaman early in his career and roaring with bloodlust. And soon another letter followed, explaining that his body had been discovered. According to his will, his uniforms and trophies were dispatched back to his native land, where Ermina received them. Unsure how to feel about the passing of her estranged husband, Ermina busied herself with creating a grand galleries from the spoils of his wars—the statues, the paintings, the gold-etched porcelain vases.
One part of his legacy she felt drawn to in particular, however, was the tiger skin. He had almost never been without it. He had worn it like a cloak, at times, or folded it over and worn it as a sash. But as she sat and sorted through her memories of her husband she could never remember a time when the silly skin had not been close at hand—draped across a sofa or wrapped around one arm to keep it from brushing the floor. And as she held it fondly in her hands, she came to a decision that she would keep it with her as he had.
Quickly she acquired the services of a master tailor, who swiftly transformed the raw skin into a fashionable, form-fitting and elegantly furred coat. She would become the Tigress of Arsena, he said. And when she put it on, she felt a renewed vigor for life and excitement that she hadn’t experienced in decades.
But now that she has the coat, strange things have started to happen. Weapons she doesn’t remember ordering are being delivered to the manor, and she finds herself carrying the short sword from her husband’s uniform or her butcher’s cleaver with no memory of having visited either the gallery or the kitchen. And she has found it difficult to concentrate on social matters as her peers prattle on about etiquette and social graces; how they complain when she doesn’t give her coat to the usher at parties! When she stops to think of these things, she wonders at herself, but who has time to worry when there is so much to be done?