Hekate is the leader of a group of harpies living out in the wild. They are bandits and thieves, swooping down upon travellers at crossroads. Despite their monstrous appearances, they are not wholly evil and prefer to frighten rather than harm; rarely do they ever kill. This “humane” behavior is limited, however, as they are ruthlessly brutal towards two types of people: rich, elderly men, and female clerics (of any faith).
Hekate was once a mortal woman. Her life had been hard and bitter: her husband was killed in a duel and her family forced her to marry an old noble from the village. After a few years of experiencing unfair and cruel treatment (and seeing other women in the community treated similarly), she gathered up some followers, stole a cache of weapons, supplies and rations, and became outlaws in the countryside.
The upset community complained to the clerics of a Goddess of Hearth and Home (eg. Hera). The priestesses expressed their outrage to the goddess who, in turn, cursed these outlaw women. Hekate and her companions were turned into harpies.
Ironically, their new forms suit them well in their tasks and they have become notorious far and wide.
Using this NPC
At face value, Hekate and her harpies could be used as straight up antagonists or as a random encounter at a cross road. But I think that there’s more potential there.
Here are some interesting or unique traits about these harpies and sample hooks. Use one or more in your campaign:
- Unlike”regular” harpies, these ones still have fully human faces. A relative, parent or ex-lover recognized one or more of them and seeks to end their curse.
- They are ageless and immortal: forever doomed to be cursed. They long for restful death, but this can only be achieved through spectacular circumstances (at the hands of someone who loves them, by leaping off the “edge” of the world, by falling asleep in a temple made by immortals, by ingesting poison made by an extinct creature etc…)
- They are unwillingly serving a powerful monster or being (an orc warlord, a dragon, a medusa, a sorceress etc…). They’ll reward any adventurers who can defeat this individual (and free them).
- They may be outlaws, but, like Robin Hood, they only rob the rich and/or corrupt and give much to the poor and unfortunate. They fight against a tyrant lord.
- They are not bird-like but bat-like; only able to come out at night. During the day, they become normal villagers and are completely unaware of their “monstrous” sides. Except for Hekate, who hides her guilt well… most of the time.
- The valuables and treasures that they steal are given as payment to a powerful being who protects their home village. The costs increase all the time and things are getting awkward and harsh. The harpies fear that they cannot keep things up for long and dread the consequences.