Lady Jennyva Shepherd
My House may no longer be in the care and control of legitimate, highly educated nobles, but why should that bother me? Are most murders committed by legitimate, highly educated assassins? No, they are committed by friends and family!
Description: High arched brows over sweet doe eyes give Jennyva a regular expression that seems mildly surprised, or cheerfully inquisitive. She has a warm and earthy mein with her dark auburn hair and deep cinnamon eyes; that smattering of fawn freckles across her golden cheeks, and her pleasantly soft curves. A touch on the tall side but in no way athletic, this lady uses her stature mostly for the expert display of lush fabrics and smart tailoring.
Personality: Jennyva is calculating. She's smarter and faster than most, with better instincts -- and she's far too smart to ever tell anyone that. When she feels like saying something snarky, it's either directed gently at herself (to seem relatable), or gently at someone safe (to win the friendship of her targets). She was never interested in war, or sport, or anything else in particular until she realized she had to step up and be the 'Face' of House Shepherd. And then she discovered something about herself. She liked how it felt to /win/. To win treaties, to win allies, to outmanuever and shore up and secure and charm what her family needed. It's an addictive feeling, and she uses all her considerable natural talents to chase it.
Background: Even when she was very young, Jennyva realized her father wasn't the greatest of rulers. Duke Gregor Shepherd, called 'the Butcher of Graypeak', was certainly widely feared. Respected as an extremely capable battlefield commander, relentless in his warring against shavs... and completely indifferent to politics ("the idle sport of courtiers", he said) or the importance of balancing the demands of different vassals ("they are vassals and I rule, there is nothing more to it", he said). Jennyva's mother Irene was every bit a soldier like Gregor, but understood political realities in a way he never would, and privately confided to her daughter that she was quietly certain she had kept House Shepherd out of senseless wars with other houses at least three times, and encouraged Jennyva to follow in her footsteps. Duchess Irene's tragic death in battle against shavs, a death that almost certainly would have been prevented if Gregor hadn't offended two other houses that had offered support, changed House Shepherd. In Duke Gregor, it hardened his resolve against Abandoned into an unreasoning blood feud beyond all reason. In Jennyva, it made her convinced she had little choice but to master politics or House Shepherd was doomed.
To Jennyva's considerable surprise, she actually enjoyed it. Politics was like a vast puzzle of endless contradictory goals of scores of competing factions, a vast tapestry she could unravel. Her father largely ignored it, but while barely an adult she mended House Shepherd's acrimonous relationship with its vassals, saw the resentful loyalty owed her house turn into something like real comraderie, and started to make inroads to establishing some true resolution of disputes with other noble houses of the Crownlands. She also started to realize she could manage people so deftly it almost became second nature. It was obvious to her what they wanted, and how to reach something mutually satisfactory, how to explain away something belligerent and moronic that her father said, how to play off the biases of different competing factions to get an agreement settled at the table. She was, all agreed, going to be a spectacular ruler.
And then her father ennobled his oldest friend from a long disgraced branch of House Shepherd and made a technically older cousin she had never met heir.
Yes, yes, Jennyva knows her father rambled on and on about house honor and erasing stains and righting a terrible wrong and being the proper reward for a lifetime of service and yada yada yada but it was SO like him to spectacularly screw things up right as he died. But Jennyva ultimately realized it doesn't really matter all that much who has the title- she can work with this. This is fine. Everything's fine.