O, traveler, your curiosity reminds me of when I, too, sought to unravel the Witch Queen’s beautiful designs with only my feeble wits. You ask now of her other pupils? I will tell you what I know, with the added warning that the more one thinks one knows about Lady Nevra, the less one truly does. The Witch Queen is quicksand, my friend, and to build any sort of knowledge upon that is to ask for danger, and possibly death.

Richenda came to the Witch Queen within living memory, and indeed she might be said to be the youngest of Nevra’s innermost. The name she was gifted with upon entry is a very old one, perhaps most notably borne by the great line of queens that ruled the land of Varen for generations, until the overthrow of Richenda XVI in the Smiling Revolution. I think this was the Witch Queen’s way of saying that Richenda, though young, had an old soul, as if she had lived many times before.

She earned the appellation ‘the Delver’ by delving deeply into arcane studies and also by delving deeply into the art of necromancy. Such is her art, they say, that she can scoop the knowledge out of a corpse as one scoops ice cream from an enchanted icebox. Richenda is a practitioner of such art and skill that none can match her, and those that try usually wind up quite dead. Her affect, cold and distant, seems to reinforce this. She is also reputed to know things that she should not, secrets that have passed no mortal lips.

I have my own theory. I think that Richenda was born with an innate gift of necromancy, specifically necropathy – the ability to read the thoughts of the dead. Almost as soon as she could walk, I wager, she began intuitively combing the minds of the dead for knowledge. That explains the ‘old soul’ part of her name, surely enough. However, I suspect that there was a darker side to this, as well. The Art has long been known to act like a drug to some, each piece of magic bringing with it a rush that knows no equal in the feeble powders and poultices of humankind. I suspect that young Richenda quickly became addicted to the rush of necropathy, to the extent that she used the knowledge she had gained to manufacture corpses, as it were, when her supply ran out.

A young woman with the minds of the greatest mages her home had ever known at her grasp? It is no wonder she attracted the notice of the Witch Queen. I would say those desires have been suppressed, if indeed my theory is correct. Then again, the Witch Queen is not above merely slaking such a thirst, should it suit her purposes. And plenty of folk, magical or otherwise, do go missing in Nevra’s great city…

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