The Letters Page: Episode 15
The Matriarch / Harpy / Pinion
Let's talk about Lillian Corvus in her many forms!
I got all artsy with today's image! In case you're not sure which art is which Lillian Corvus:
- Top: The Matriarch
- Left: The Harpy
- Right: Dark Watch Harpy
- Bottom: Pinion
Run Time: 74:18
We finish up the villain portion of this podcast in the first fifteen minutes! Wow!
At the 14 minute mark, we begin digging into an event revealed in the OblivAeon lead-up ARG, the story of Dark Watch #7.
Just after the 35 minute mark, when discussing GloomWeaver, Christopher talks about that villainous entity getting encased in a doctor. Not sure what we're talking about? Listen to the GloomWeaver episode!
Just before 40 minutes in, we read a question that leads us to tell the backstory of the Mask of the Matriarch and its fowl power! About time!
At about 41:45, we talk about the Great Fire of Santander, Spain. Read more about that Great fire of 1941!
Then, at 42:20, we talk about a special necklace that ended up on a particularly famous boat.
Just after the 49 minute point, we get a letter from L. Nate - or, as we prefer, El Nate! Then, Christopher uses... some kind of accent. We apologize to listeners everywhere. Especially L. Nate.
Just before 52 minutes in, we claim we're only halfway through the episode. That was clearly false. We have no concept of time. As we prove with the OblivAeon Kickstarter! Oooh, sick self-burn! (Ow.)
Oh, also, we cancelled the future. We cover that a few minutes after the hour mark. Sorry about that. Future is cancelled.
- Went by "Lily" as a child, was nice and friendly until struck down by that greatest of all villains - Puberty. She developed the standard anger issues and rebellion against her comfortable, middle-class life in the suburbs of Rook City. She started getting all of her clothes at Hot TopicTM, demanded to be addressed by her full name "Lillian", and writing just the worst poetry about how dark she was now. Like, really bad. She's generally just unbearable.
- The family spent the summer in Italy as she was getting out of high school. She whined the whole time. At one point she goes into a little curiosity shop (hoping to find something good, like a real human skull that she could put a black candle on or something). One item in particular catches her attention - an old, ornate, feathered mask - which she purchases.
- Once home, she puts the mask on a shelf in her room and starts having strange dreams. Flapping wings, dark, beady eyes, caws and whispers. Upon waking (still tired due to the restless sleep) after the third night, she feels a call from the mask and she puts it on. She feels her consciousness expand immediately - feeling the sky, seeing her house far below her. She realizes that she's seeing through the eyes of the birds near her house. She asserts herself to "take control" of the birds, pulling them towards her. Snapping back into her own body, she hears the call of hundreds of birds that now surround the house. She knows that she can now direct them. She plans on using this new power to make everybody who mocked her pay for it.
- She "generally terrorizes" Rook City. Blowing out the windows of the high school, menacing the captain of the football team, etc. Not to make this sound quaint, though, lots of people die. Then the Freedom Five (Four) show up (Freedom Four Annual #2 - this was also the first appearance of Absolute Zero). Tachyon is her (older by a good 15 years or so) cousin who'd always been the family measuring stick - people talked about how successful, important, and whatnot cousin Meredith was. The FF defeat her and she is sent to prison for 20 years (maximum sentence for manslaughter - people died, but she didn't personally kill anybody).
- That's pretty much her entire arc as a villain - just this one issue of FFA. She's absent from most of the other stories that the guys commonly talk about (Vengeance, etc.) because she's stuck in prison until her mid-20s. That's not to say that she's not in any books at all - Tachyon actually visits her in prison regularly and so we see some character growth over time (even her poetry improves somewhat).
- Eventually, there's a power outage at the prison in the middle of the night and all of the electronically controlled door locks pop open. Instead of making a break for an escape, she feels drawn further into the facility, to the personal effects lockup, and retrieves the mask and her costume. The mask is desperate to be worn, but she knows better now and resists wearing it. She now tries to makes her escape, however. She manages to make her way to a courtyard area, where she's immediately pinned by a spotlight. Figuring there's no other choice, she puts on the mask, summons birds to get in the way, and she escapes into Rook City.
- Something's off, however. She doesn't feel the same exaltation she did before and all of the magical pathways in her mind feel like they're on fire. The birds now swarm her in anger. She takes shelter in a warehouse. She's almost catatonic dealing with the magical assault on her senses.
- Tachyon is notified of her escape and makes her way to where all the birds are. She enters and finds Lillian in this trance state. She tries to get through to Lillian, talking about the progress she'd made in prison and how well she'd been doing, but just can't get a response. Spotting that this is a "magic thing", she gets somebody who she knows who is more capable of dealing with that sort of thing - Nightmist. Faye can see immediately that Lillian has a natural attunement to magic, but the mask is twisting/perverting things. She breaks through the magic of the mask, calming Lillian and dispersing the flock outside.
- Nightmist takes Lillian back to her place to give her space to rest and recover while Nightmist continues to study the mask - ultimately "disenchanting" the mask itself. It's still an artifact, but the more "recent" enchantments are removed. It's now more of a focus than anything.
- Over the course of the time Lillian spends with her in recovery, Nightmist realizes just how much power Lillian actually has (and this is when Nightmist is in full "magical being" mode and knows a bit about magical power). Nightmist sees that she can still go down a bad path, however, and sees three options - call up Tachyon to take her back to prison, let her go to fend for herself, or train her. She takes the third option. They start without the mask, to get her more control on her own (insert training montage in the growing list of "magical places" like swamps and old libraries full of magic books). This is the point when Lillian takes the name Harpy instead and is now "heroic" even though she's not really going out and doing hero things per se yet.
- Then Progeny attacks. She winds up fighting alongside Dark Watch at this time. When Tachyon is seriously injured, Harpy protects her and distracts Progeny from following up on that attack (although this "luring" action winds up directing it back to the city).
- Now, while she fought alongside heroes in this battle, a lot of them recognize her as this villain and still don't really trust her. She feels like she needs to finish her atonement and simply turns herself back in to the authorities to finish out her sentence. Tachyon pulls some strings and gets the hotshot lawyer that the FF has on retainer, Brianna Hawke, to help her out (a change from Lillian's original trial when Tachyon wouldn't help because of the things The Matriarch had done). The end result is that Lillian is released for good behavior as long as she has proven, trustworthy people to vouch for/watch her.
- The Harpy wants to be a full-time hero now and asks Tachyon if she can fight alongside the FF. This is a big "No" because they're government-sponsored and have to kind of be this squeaky-clean group. But, there's a spot for her on this team of "morally-ambiguous rejects" and she needs more training anyway, and so joins up with Dark Watch as a member. There are two main stories before OblivAeon.
- First, the return of Apostate showing up randomly in lots of places and seemingly impervious to anything the heroes throw at him. Nightmist is one of a group of disparate heroes that fight him at one point and she sees his magical connection to the relics that he's hidden in the Realm of Discord. She comes up with a plan - she'll open portals for Harpy to go through to the RoD (bypassing the need to navigate through it herself) along with instructions on how to disrupt the relics' connection to Apostate. This was a dangerous mission as, in Nightmist's estimation, Harpy's level of control is still not really to the point that she'd like her to be to do this sort of thing (the guys mention that Harpy's raw power level is probably even higher than Nightmist's, though). She winds up trapped in the RoD by Gloomweaver, though, who wants to make a deal with her. He sees her power and internal chaos and figures that she'd make a good servant. She disagrees and opens a portal herself, throws a bunch of birds in his face to attack him, and leaves.
- Second, the Celestial Tribunal. It's a spaceship with a lot of AI on it, originally designed to "determine what was good" by a race that was having a lot of "infighting and questions about justice and order" - they created the AI to be an impartial judge. They were all corrupt, so they needed to make something that would be apart from their existing processes and be 100% logical. It destroyed their planet almost instantly. Now it travels the cosmos, judging and punishing planets it comes across (it's sword-shaped and it will "sheathe" itself in a planet to eradicate all life there). The Tribunal arrives at Earth and beams aboard several "representatives" of earth to stand in for everybody. One of them is Lillian who is tried for all of the bad things she's done. As character witnesses, the rest of Dark Watch are brought on board and they vouch for her - a good bonding moment for the team even if the CT isn't terribly interested. The guys decide that the whole Celestial Tribunal event is probably a good topic for an Interlude, so we'll get the full story later.
- The Harpy and Nightmist were absent from the Skinwalker Gloomweaver fight due to their preparation of the spell that Nightmist used to Be the Gate shortly thereafter, but once they got that set up, Harpy did actually come out to join the fight. This was not really a great idea as Gloomy recognized her and could just siphon off some of her power considering her general lack of control.
- During OblivAeon, she's fighting as a full-fledged (heh) member of Dark Watch. Wager Master shows up doing some "side shenanigans" at one point. She interacts with the Scion Faultless in some interesting ways as it has some parallels to the Celestial Tribunal (Faultless is more concerned with "purity"). More on the Scion and general OblivAeon topics later, though.
- Revenge of the Meta Discussion - What if your question is about a character whose episode has already happened (Legacy, for example)? Still use the same tag you would have before - they'll do Interludes and so circle back around to previous characters occasionally, also Team Episodes. For Lillian Corvus specifically, use the tag "Harpy" since she goes by that name for the most time.
- First question has a long lead-in about how cool it was to meet them at Gen Con last year and that she (variaknight) was the one in Matriarch cosplay. I include this because the guys talk about how much they love seeing Sentinels Cosplay. This is right around 38:00 in the podcast.
- The Mask was owned previously owned by a powerful magic user and their personality rubbed off on it. Does that personality override Lillian's when she wears it/is it more responsible for the villainous acts or is it more Lillian? Who was the previous owner and was this intentional? The Mask is an ancient item that creates an automatic attunement to birds and grants an ability to control them. There's a side-character in Sentinel Comics who doesn't really show up in the card game, but is still a player in the setting - Ignazio Gallo, an Italian mage who likes playing around with magical artifacts. He doesn't create them, but he likes chaos and "messing with things" and so generally puts some kind of curse or downside on the artifacts he comes across. In the 1920s he found a lighter that didn't need fuel - he added a bug so that on every thousandth use it would burst into a giant flame (this is the cause of the Great Fire of Santander, Spain in 1941 that burned down most of the city). There was a necklace with a blue jewel that would ensure the safe arrival of any sea voyage when a passenger was wearing it - until he made it so that the thousandth vessel would sink. He altered the mask so that after it was used to control the thousandth bird, they would turn on the wearer and tear them to pieces. It's not so much his personality as just an incitement for chaos - the lighter, after he messed with it, would cause the person to want to burn things. The Mask pushes the person to use them more chaotically.
- Is Nightmist training her to be another paranormal investigator? Is there a lot of poring over the Tome of Elder Magic or more of a "learning to control wild magic" situation? Not really aiming at "paranormal investigator", more just needing "good" magicians. Nightmist herself isn't really an "investigator" by this point in her story - she has premonitions that something big is coming and they'll need all of the magical help they can get.
- Dark Watch Harpy's incapacitated art looks similar to the room on Nightmist's "Master of Magic" card; are they the same room? What's the significance? That's Nightmist's home/magical study in both cards. Good "magical" place (not as good as a swamp, though).
- How do the rest of Dark Watch react to Nightmist bringing in a former villain? This would have been more of a problem with the Freedom Five or even the Prime Wardens - members of Dark Watch already had questionable pasts, Expatriette was pretty much a straight up murderer before becoming a hero. Setback didn't really have a bad history, but is the most accepting of people and giving second chances. Mr. Fixer recognizes "who you are, not who you were", but has his own darkness going on by this point anyway to worry about.
- Matriarch doesn't appear on many cards outside of her own deck, and Tachyon's the only hero who appears in her deck - does she almost never attack the heroes? As mentioned earlier, the Matriarch is only a villain once. This is why it's easier for heroes to accept her later - years have passed and she did her time (or a good chunk of it). She kind of breaks the mold of villains in the card game who, for the most part, are major villains. She's more of a major character and her villainous act was a big part of her overall arc and they wanted to show that in the game.
- What's the relationship like between her and Tachyon throughout the story? Is Tachyon proud of her once she chooses the heroic path? Still wary of the change? They ever meet up for family time? Meredith and Lillian weren't particularly close even before getting powers - the age difference made it difficult (almost more of an aunt/niece dynamic than cousins). Major parts of this relationship were shown in the visits that Tachyon made to her in prison. Starts with (continued) resentment towards her super-successful cousin, softening over the years and by the time she's the Harpy, Tachyon is proud of her for turning her life around.
- Her group affiliation as a villain is listed as the Undead Poets Society - who were the others? Did they also feel a pull to artifacts? That was a joke for Adam and Christopher. These were just her circle of high school friends who met in coffee shop to tell their bad poetry to one another. They're not a "villain group" like the Citizens of the Sun or anything.
- When did they know that Lillian was destined to make the villain-to-hero transition? Was it always planned or did they create the character as one and only later decided to add the change? She was always intended to become a hero, but how/when that happened wasn't in place at first. All of the new OblivAeon heroes who used to be villains had that capacity built into their stories. Of that set, she's the one who's a hero for the longest.
- Are the birds real birds or magical birds created by the Mask? Real birds. If it makes you feel better, there's a serious crow problem in Rook City.
- How did Tachyon feel about her redemption? No longer any real animosity, but originally very concerned after the prison break - relieved that she wasn't going bad again. They don't really hang out as they still run in different circles.
- Does she get over her goth phase or is she still melodramatic? She's still somewhat melodramatic, but is largely over the goth phase as an affectation (with the whole "magic" thing it makes a bit more sense). As a side note, the guys have apparently never discussed if her hair is naturally that way or not. Christopher always assumed that she had black hair and when she first put on the mask all of it turned white except for that one lock - Adam accepts this explanation. They didn't think that she dyed it that way.
- Most of the birds in her deck are corvids, but then there's vultures. Are the corvids just her personal preferences (see her last name and general goth aesthetic choices), easier to use because of their innate intelligence, or somehow more in tune with the Mask's power? She, personally, has a bit more of an affinity to crows and whatnot, but it's also that they're clever and "grimdark" - the vultures fit into this latter part. She can control birds in general, but Rook City has a lot of these types of birds on hand already. As Pinion she uses a hawk and owl.
- What are Huginn and Muninn? Just particularly large and smart birds? Familiars tied to the Mask? Actually Odin's ravens? They're just particularly large and smart birds - she kind of forms a particular bond with them, though (mention of them as related to her Hero deck, the RPG, and the two sides of her power - avian vs. arcane).
- Tactics - Dark Watch breaks up for a while after Rook City gets destroyed. Lillian gives up heroics at this time. She goes to have a normal life and attends college with the intention of becoming an avian veterinarian. She travels a lot to wildlife refuges to help injured endangered animals (this is where she picks up the hawk and owl cohorts). By the time that Dark Watch reforms, she's grown a lot and can use her powers in a less offensive way and chooses to go by Pinion.
- RPG - Dark Watch is more "neighborhood watch plus" now. Part of that is Mr. Fixer's dojo, but also her surveillance abilities through her birds. She operates out of Nightmist's old home (formerly the Diamond Investigations office) - the library/training area discussed earlier at the top of the building is now known as "The Aviary" and she's there most of the time. The ground floor is the location of the dojo, with the middle floor acting as living space for the team (although Expat and Setback are rarely there). The Dark Watch episode is slated to be an Interlude in a few weeks.
- Interlude they recorded just after this one will include upcoming schedule and other "interesting" topics. They're planning on having Interludes on the last Thursday of the month to discuss these things.