“I? Ravel am I, a maker and breaker of puzzles, a solver of what *cannot* be solved, a mind raveling and unraveling until the threads of thought are tied up like knots in a drunken man's hair. It is enough, enough it is. I am but a woman who has sorely... soarly? Soarly missed her beloved creation. Some have named me crone, gray lady, Yaga sister, night hag -- but MYSELF is my name, Ravel, Ravel who puzzles well, providing conundrums to decipher and laying impossibilities low.” (Ravel Puzzlewell)
A well-known and feared night hag, she is one of the ladies of the Gray Waste, being responsible for making The Nameless One (with whom she was once – and, in fact, still is – in love with) an immortal empty creature. Many people were turned into her slaves when they came to her to ask for boons and failed to answer her riddles correctly. The Nameless One’s first incarnation, though, have got his wish granted by beating Ravel in this contest, yet his victory was set by fate… and love.
The most famous of her riddles is “What can change the nature of a man?”, a question only The Nameless One could answer properly, given that Ravel was all the time only interested in his sincere opinion about the matter, what he – her true love – thought could change the nature of a man. This way, only he was destined to respond to that correctly and the others who failed never had any chance of success.
Some gamers are inclined to feel pity towards Ravel, because despite being prepared along the game to find a terrible and loathsome monster who would feast upon their souls, they finally meet a clearly insane elderly woman, forever trapped in a black-barbed maze of thorns and shadows.
The individual responsible for putting Ravel trapped in a maze – a pocket dimension constructed from a section of the City of Doors – is the Lady of Pain (Sigil’s powerful ruler), as punishment for the hag’s attempt of destroying the city in the past. However, according to the dialogue with the captive in the game, Ravel have discovered a way to escape the place a long time ago, but decided to settle in her cage.
Ravel is still strongly attracted to The Nameless One when is visited by him in her garden, and is even possible that she transforms in Fall-from-Grace or Annah to kiss him – an experience that generates a powerful tattoo to the main character.
"Death waits at the end of life for all men. I need it to wait for me no longer... can you do this, beautiful Ravel?" (The Nameless One)
Even more repulsive than the other night hags, Ravel is one of the most powerful of the Gray Sisters. Her skin is dark purple, speckled with scabs, warts and hairy moles. Near starvation made her body stick-thin, and yet her saggy pot belly never deflates. Her spotted head sprouts a few long wisps of hair. Beneath a single furry brow, blood red eyes glance around, with black veins running through them like branches of a tree. Her smile is yellow and her fingers are talons, each fingernail filthy and wickedly sharp. The clothes she wears are tattered gummy cobwebs.
Origin and Stories
“The past is past, and histories care little for a-speaking the truth of it.” (Ravel Puzzlewell)
Like all night hags, Ravel comes from the Grey Waste (also known as The Three Glooms, Hope’s Loss and The Nadir), a plane of pure evil and despair located between Carceri and Gehenna in the Lower Planes. When someone enters the place, all his passions, identity and will is sucked away from him and nothing is left in return. Without their essences, the visitors slowly find themselves transformed into writhing worms or mournful shades. In the Waste there is nothing (even hope), only and outrageous infinite gray. There aren’t any cause and effect either, but destiny and the demands of Evil.
In the remote past, she took part in the Blood War – an epic endless battle fought between the baatezu and the tanar’ri – selling larvae to both belligerent factions for profit. At ancient times, she tore apart the mortality from The Nameless One’s body, setting it free to roam. She always had the habit of posing impossible riddles to people who sought her asking for gifts, only to devour their souls and corpses after they were unable to answer them. It is known that once she chased a Guvner (a member of the Fraternity of Order) who dared utter Sigil law to her using shadows that destroyed all his body but his tongue, his fingers and the tissue of his visage. Eventually she convinced a baatezu army of demons to attack Sigil and annihilate its inhabitants to help her fuel a dark ritual, but the Lady of Pain intervened in time to save the City of Doors, sentencing the night hag to be forever trapped in a maze of razorvines and thorns.
In her prison, Ravel’s mind deteriorated progressively, turning her completely insane and detaching her consciousness from the flowing of time.
The puzzler crone has a daughter named Kesai-Serris, a prostitute in Fall-From-Grace’s intellectual brothel whose specialty is talking about dreams. In the game, The Nameless One uses drops of her blood (a piece of Ravel) to open a portal through which he can reach the maze where her mother is trapped.
After trying to keep The Nameless One in the maze by force and being defeated by him in battle, Ravel is finally killed by The Transcendent One (The Nameless One’s own mortality embodied).
Magic Arts and Powers
“I have forgotten more of the Art than you shall... EVER... KNOW.” (Ravel Puzzlewell)
Ravel can use any kind of magic (she is not restricted to any particular domain), though her spells are normally showed as linked to the nature, with thorns, brambles and trees (like that of a druid in Dungeons and Dragons). The main problem with her powers is that she can’t use them to help or buff others without some severe drawback to the target. In Planescape: Torment, for instance, the ritual she uses to turn The Nameless One into an immortal being is flawed, because he loses all his memories each time he dies and comes back to life.
Like water, she could change her shape at her own will, using this ability to destroy things for amusement or to steal knowledge from other people.
Conception and Influence
“I always saw Ravel as an incredibly powerful legendary figure, so she could have left all sorts of relics, offspring, and perhaps other unfortunate events and historic tales across the planes. She’s made a real mess of a lot of things.” (Chris Avellone)
According to Chris Avellone, the writer behind Torment’s excellent plot, since the game had a number of physically powerful enemies, he thought that a cryptic night hag – a dangerous puzzle maker – would be a good adversary, contrasting with them. Then, she was conceived as having a branching existence (like that of a huge tree or bramble), spreading herself through the planes.
Avellone has mentioned that creating Ravel was one of the greatest prides of his career, and that she directly inspired the creation of Kreia in Knights of the Old Republic II, because there were some stories that he was unable to tell while working with Ravel.
Puzzlewell still appears as an old seer in Icewind Dale: Heart of the Winter and as a lady with cats in Icewind Dale II. Avellone calls this characters “incarnations”, pointing to the fact that the clues to her presence are normally bad eyesight (or blindness), the gender (a female) and advanced age (though she isn’t always an elder). The incarnations usually talk about dreams and visions about the planes, since they are subconsciously tied into each other.
In Torment, her incarnations are Ei’Vene (a Dustwoman hard at work dissecting corpses at the Mortuary), Mebbeth (an old lady mage who sells a few charms at Ragpicker’s Square) and Marta (a blind woman who also dissects dead bodies, but at Buried Village).
Probably violating Dungeons and Dragons tenants, hags may be extremely hideous or beautiful in Avellone’s mind and worlds. Following this path, Ravel’s daughter, a half-hag, is described as vaguely haggish, young and beautiful.
- There is no room for "2" in the world of 1's and 0's, no place for "mayhap" in a house of trues and falses, and no "green with envy" in a black-and-white world.
- The past is past, and histories care little for a-speaking the truth of it.
- I? Ravel am I, a maker and breaker of puzzles, a solver of what *cannot* be solved, a mind raveling and unraveling until the threads of thought are tied up like knots in a drunken man's hair. It is enough, enough it is. I am but a woman who has sorely... soarly? Soarly missed her beloved creation. Some have named me crone, gray lady, Yaga sister, night hag -- but MYSELF is my name, Ravel, Ravel who puzzles well, providing conundrums to decipher and laying impossibilities low.
- I have forgotten more of the Art than you shall... EVER... KNOW.
- Yet ugly I need *not* be, pretty thing. My shape is but water to my will, and I may re-weave its fibers to a more pleasing tapestry...
- A lodestone pulls iron to it... and so do you, my precious half-man, but it is not iron, but tormented souls. As others suffer, they are drawn to you, and your path becomes theirs. Do you not see them in the eyes of those that have traveled here with you? (about the party members)
- Vows may prove tighter than any chain, no? The manacles of a race once enslaved, now a slave again? (about Dak’kon)
- The chattering skull...Are the quips enough of a shield for what lies buried inside your brain-box, hmmm? Why speak truths when lies suffice?" (about Morte)
- The Abyssal temptress... A skin so fair, lips so rich, eyes that might cause you to forget Ravel herself... and yet she suffers, more than any other. When one turns on their nature, many are the torments that arise from such a betrayal. (about Fall-From-Grace)
- *Chose?* Ahh... a dangerous word. Is it so? Is it *choice,* gith? Is it? Or is it a matter of two skies? What of the cog-box? What does IT know of *choice?* There is only obey and obey, hmnnn? Skull, skull, skull… Your expression is difficult to read without the skin wrapping, but I feel your FEAR from here. Coming here was *not* your choice. The succubus...Did she have a choice? Mayhap in her smooth-skinned mind of soft silks and hard truths, MAYBE choice... tchhh. But no. A Sensate MUST experience all, and to refuse to come - NOT a Sensate would you be. Still no choice! The *tiefling*. The FIERY one. No choice. At. All. When you *feel* instead of *think*, there is little room for choice (about the party members).
- And my precious, precious half-man... for *you,* the greatest torment of all... life forever-more. Can it be life a-cares for you as Ravel does? One so brave, so passionate, so terribly lost, sad, sad. A puzzle of bone and skin were you, always, intriguing, and the most beloved of all who came to me, petitioning, requesting, pleading... pleasing? Pleading for help. So *hard* to see a-past the scars, to dig up the man-who-once-was underneath... A shadow with substance, a-seeking that which casts the light. I know you more and no... know... No more than I know the nature of ANY man. Crossed pasts have we... a man tainted with un-death, still feeling the pangs of separation, and an old withered crone, now all-imprisoned. Seems it that we are a-meeting for the first time? No, no, not, not... knot? Knot at all. An echo of a future meeting this is... or a past meeting, depending on which way time is facing. The now and then - very... similar? So tangled the now-and-then is, both mirrored in each other... once and again, you come a-fore me with a problem, to challenge me for a solution to an IMPOSSIBILITY. Beautiful, *ungrateful,* beloved man! Such fire in your eyes, enough to stir a Gray Lady's heart... passion to be free, but when freed, the fire in your eyes guttered out. With the separation, your life has shed all meaning, I fear. (about The Nameless One)
- Oh, MORE questions do you have? Tchhh-tcchhh. But you have already asked *soooo* many.The time for MY questions is now, half-man. Know this and know Ravel's law: if you do not answer my questions, no more of *your* questions will I answer, my precious man. Step a-lightly with the answers, or the asking shall TEAR you apart...
- A body you possess, but a body of knowledge you do not? Many and such, such scars you have, all a-scrawled on your skin. Many tales does your skin tell. Your scars and tattoos shout to me, 'here is a man in confrontation with the world’. Yes, such tales as would shrivel even a *hag's* ears... (about The Nameless One)
- The tales are many. They echo of balance imbalanced, trials of war, battles with fiendish elements, and a creature that feeds on others from a-far to sustain itself... and of torments. Such *torments* flesh has never known...Divided in two you were, when your mortality was peeled from you. No longer balanced, much a-broken in the separation... both a blessing and a mistake... but more mistake than blessing, Ravel thinks. (about The Nameless One)
- And even if I a-membered it, I would never do it twice. Not forgotten the moment have I, after the *break,* a-seeing the pain stream from your veins, your cries like a wailing child, every bit of your being filled with *emptiness.* Terrible, even for these eyes. (about taking The Nameless One’s mortality away from him)
- Two fiends butt heads… Their tiny heads filled with ideas of how the Planes *should* be, yet can *never* be or the Planes they would be no longer. Such foolishness!
- What can change the nature of a man? (her most famous and iconic riddle)
- Of COURSE your answer was the only one I sought, for you were the ONLY reason I asked the question! Did you think I cared for them...? Tchhh! Did you think I even cared a *fraction* of the amount for them that I cared for *you,* my precious man? Answer me that!
- It's what you *wanted,* seedling, and you asked so sweetly... now how could Ravel say 'no' to one such as you? Immortality was
*your* solution and your challenge to me. Death was a thing you needed to dodge. An easy thing to say, mayhap, but to DO, it is not! Immortality, even with its flaws, was the best solution this withered mind could untangle... Lead is not easily a-changed to gold, but it is possible, thought the unwise... un-whys? ...Ravel. If water can be drawn from blood, mortality can be taken from a mortal, peeled back like a sticky film... The gulf between man and unman is great. You traveled the distance. I provided the means, but you crossed on your own. Bad Ravel! Mortals are too flawed to be made to last. Still they break! They must be dragged kicking and screaming into an unhealthy new mold. Shortcuts must be made, and they can *break* the molded... for it is not always the mold that breaks, but the substance poured within it. Force something into a shape it was not meant to be, and it breaks! I thought the material was of stronger stuff, but you have been broken. You have survived long, immortaled one, but you have become the prey of the creature that is life. The body is but a hut for the soul. But now no one dwells in your hut. Puzzle-fleshed broken, beautiful, beautiful mortal man, the ritual was not... knot? Knot... not a finished thing.The ritual gave you what you wanted, but *great* were the costs... the casting of shadows, the quiet, violent deaths of the mind, and the pain-taking emptiness... these things, a-dangerous were are in such a fragile vessel, no matter how strong a mortal man. Regret them and the ritual do I. Ungrateful shades... but ungrateful without cause? The shades... they hate you, Nameless One, for they are fathered by you, your children, once forsaken, they will never forgive. They will do everything they can to destroy the parent... such is the way of children. You cast shadows on existence, Nameless One. With every death, a shadow arises fresh from the fields of your flesh. They a-wander for a time, but always they a-return, looking to murder their parent. Such is the way of many offspring... and thankless young men such as yourself. A thousand deaths, and you recover from each. Not so the mind, the mind is much more fragile. Its scars run deep and do not heal. The brain is encased in a hard bone shell, difficult to breach, but with no defense against that which eats at it from within. You have a whole where... wear? Wear your mortality once lay within your shell.*Rattle-rattle* goes the hollow man, a baby's plaything, with naught but a tiny stone that a-clatters and clacks in your frame. Do you doubt Ravel? Of course I delivered on what was promised! Not long after the spell a-drew to a close, I killed you to see if it had worked. You struggled so, but I kept my grip *tight* and watched you die your first of many deaths. Then was I a-learned in its flaws... Ego enwraps us like a prison. Forgot I did that it ofttimes serves as a shield. My pretty, pretty thing, there is much wisdom and understanding in the truth that life is a preparation for the ultimate goal: death. Our life is a means by which we learn *how* to die. If we FORGET such things...
- Yes, yes, *yes!* Fear not for a broken mortality... if you are here... hear? Hear a-talking at me, intact your mortality must be. Such a thing can not... knot... not be destroyed as long as you exist. You are an *anchor* of your mortal soul. As long as *you* are intact, so shall it be. Made to last are you… For life swallowed you and spit you out!
- Maybe some, Mebbeth none. I've not a-membered such, I've neen, I-vene, Ei-Vene, mayhap? Neither smarta nor Marta... so many threads and branchings, so many Ravels... always stitching and mending and growing are my forms. (about her incarnations)
- I cannot help BUT help you, my precious man... and that will always be true, no matter how many Ravels there be... on this, they will agree.
- Once a maze of lifeless stone it was, featureless, but a small black seed was wound in my hair when I came to this place, and it grew strong amongst the stone, flourishing, flourishing, until it ran thick throughout the maze like the unraveling hair of a crone... and so this maze of another becomes MY garden. (about the brambled garden where she is trapped)
- My offering of help was unwelcome. I *tried* to set her FREE; Sigil is the CAGE, a City of Doors and Locks, is a prison for her. It must be, mustn't it be? Why else call the city of Sigil 'the Cage?' And who is caged? The Lady! A prison so small for one so great. Unjustness, wrongness, intolerable to torment a woman thusly! I tried to break the Cage, let the Lady go free. Shoo, shoo, o pained woman, let Sigil's ring be broken so you might fly far from its filthy streets and the stupid dabus that dare not speak in words for fear their thoughts would be overheard! Before I could finish, I a-found myself here, and my memories none the better for the trip... much has slipped away, much forgotten, yes it was... is? Was? The dwindling of memory has become a comfort to these old bones. Much have I forgotten... I am fortunate in that I still remember you. (about the Lady of Pain)
- There are some things I cannot bear, and no apologies will I make, my precious half-man - yet... when I cannot let matters well enough alone... many are the lives and dreams that are a-left in pieces on the ground. If I had let you be, mayhap much better would your life be...
- Much have I learned tending this garden. Charms and incantations, distilled from the barbs... rhyming, swaying ways of the consonants constants and motions that bring the briars to your aid... listen, the branches will speak of it. (about her magic)
- I know the branchings of this place, the twistings and bendings and burrowings. Though there are no leaves here, one may take their leave when they wish it. Wrap your hands about you like branches, make them encircle your chest like a cage. Step from the edge of the maze into the darkness, and into another cage your body shall go - a simple leaving, but there is NO return when that final step is taken, so TAKE heed and TAKE what you need before you take the step. Which edge, which? One of the edges knows, not I. The remembering of which has failed me, and the edges of the maze have had little to say on the matter. Why stay when one can leave is your question to me? I turn the question upon its head and send it a-scurrying back to you. The answer lies not in the staying or leaving, but in the causes and reasons, my precious half-man. It is *a* want, a once-want, but not a now-want, and more and more a not, naught, knotted-want. What do I need that lies beyond my brambled walls? It is a cruel, jagged world beyond the edges of this maze, and Ravel has pulled *enough* of its shards from her skin.
- Sh. Sh. Sh. Away with ya. I'm dead and no traffic with the living may I have.