|Howell 'Howl' Jenkins|
Howl is flashy, self-centered, egotistical, shallow, and incredibly vain. He spends hours a day tending to his personal appearance, and is unable to hold on to any of the money he makes because he's always spending it on his personal wardrobe and other various luxuries. He treats people poorly, often ordering them around and getting his way either through use of his not inconsiderable charm, or simply by wearing away at the poor person until they give in. He is also a complete coward, unable to take responsibility for his own actions, and will do anything--regardless of how outlandish--to avoid being held accountable for the things he has done. One of Howl's favorite pastimes is seduction. He becomes enamored of women quite easily, and will pursue them relentlessly until he has gotten the girl of the moment to fall in love with him... at which point he loses interest completely. Part of the reason for this behavior—though Howl would never admit it freely because he's unsure if he's really capable of falling in love at all.
Underneath all of this, however, Howl has a genuine like of people. He can be very kind, and the things he does are motivated not out of greed or a desire for fame, but because he really does want to help people. It is for this reason that he undercharges the people who need his services but cannot afford them, and is also the reason he originally agreed to work for both Vohemar and Ivona. Howl likes to help, though this tendency is only observable once someone's spent a fair amount of time around him. Howl's actions and motivations are complicated, a mixture of cowardice, frivolity, and a genuine desire to be of service to the people around him.
Despite the time he puts into his appearance, Howl is a total failure at cleaning, and lives like a slob. In fact, the only thing to really recommend him is that he tends to undercharge the people who really need his assistance.
While various rumors circulate, just where Howl originally fares from is unknown. There are speculations that he spent his boyhood in Melior, studying under his uncle, but no one has been able to uncover this uncle's identity and there is no definitive proof Howl ever lived in the city. The first substantiated accounts of Howl's life occur when he began study under Mrs. Pentstemmon in Kropmork, one of the last apprentices she would ever take on. By all accounts, Howl was a star student, naturally talented but even then prone to thoughtlessness and self-centered behavior. He eventually ceased his training, choosing to set himself up independently in Kropmork as the Wizard Jenkins. Shortly thereafter, at the age of twenty two, Howl undertook a venture that would significantly change the course of his life.
On the outskirts of the city, Howl chased down and caught a falling star. The star was terrified of its fate--only death awaited it--and feeling sorry for it, Howl offered it a way to keep alive. The star became his fire demon, Calcifer, and the deal struck gave Howl access to Calcifer's power. In return, Calcifer literally took possession of Howl's heart. Instead of residing in his chest, it continued to beat at the very center of Calcifer's flames.The loss of his heart seemed to amplify Howl's worst traits. While he continued to work as a wizard in Kropmork, making a brisk trade in everyday sorts of spells, he also began his wasteful spending habits and relentless pursuit of women, fixating on one girl after another, only to lose interest as each in succession fell in love with him. This caused trouble, mostly in the form of angry fathers, mothers, and aunts (especially aunts) after his hide. Thankfully (for him, at least), Howl proved just as adept at slithering out of responsibility as he was at magic. That is, until he finally met his match in the form of the Witch of the Waste.
The Witch was a powerful sorceress who had been banished to the Badlands so long ago that no one quite remembered the reason for it any longer. She too had a contract with a fire demon, and she was bound and determined to capture Howl. To this end, she placed a curse on Howl. Howl, in return, invented the Moving Castle, a cobbled together walking monstrosity of a building held together and powered by Calcifer. While the castle itself roamed the Badlands, an ingenious spell allowed it to be linked to Howl's Kropmork residence as well as storefronts he set up in both Bellcius and Berum. In Berum, he continued to go by the name of Jenkins, but in Bellcius, he became known as the Sorcerer Pendragon. And in the badlands, a rumor started up. The rumor claimed that the Wizard Howl, who lived in the moving castle, ate the hearts of young girls and stole away their souls.
For awhile, things went well. The Witch seemed to have difficulty finding Howl, as the spell allowed him to essentially be in four places at one time, and business was brisk. With his new locations in Ivona and Vohemar, and his new identities established, Howl quickly made a name for himself as a dependable and skilled wizard, capable of some impressive and very inventive spells. This ability caught the eye of both the Vohemaro and Ivonian governments, who began to seek him out for his assistance in various affairs, many of which related to the escalating tensions between the two countries. Though this might have seemed like a split in allegiance, Howl was equally devoted to helping both countries out of his own desire to do useful things with his magical ability. Money he received from both the Ivonian and Vohemaro governments for his assistance as tensions mounted between the two countries kept his pockets filled at a rate nearly faster than he could spend, and there was no lack of young women to seduce. Life was good enough that Howl could nearly forget the witch was after him.
And then came the Lunesa day bombings and more pressure for 'Jenkins' and 'Pendragon' to assist 'their' respective countries in increasingly more hostile ways. Howl, for his part, wanted no hand in creating actual weapons—which, of course, helped no one at all—and would, at any rate, be hard pressed to serve the countries as both Jenkins *and* Pendragon. The pressure placed upon him made him want to slither out of the situation he'd placed himself in once again.
He came up with a solution. He would move the Bellcius and Berum doors to airships, allowing him to escape the pressure he was under in those cities.
It would also provide him with added protection from the Witch of the Waste, whose curse he could feel ever so slowly catching up to him.
Howl is a very skilled wizard, capable of strong feats of magic, aided by the bond he has to the fire demon Calcifer. Most of his practice, however, consists of creating mundane spells for everyday use, which he sells to the general public. These include such things as spells to unblock drains, ensure favorable winds, and the like. While he has been known to produce stronger spells when the price is right, he is not capable of causing any large-scale destruction. His magic tends to be both practical and passive in nature. He has no interest in using it as a weapon, as he far prefers to run away than fight an actual fight.
One example of the more complicated magic he's capable of is the spell that allows him to connect several locations together, essentially allowing him to be in several places at once. This works via a door with a multi-colored dial. Turning the dial selects a location, and as a result, the door will open upon whatever location is selected. Until quite recently, the door connected him to shop fronts in Bellcius, Berum, Kropmork, as well as the barren wastes of the Badlands, where a strange, jumbled together walking 'castle' has been seen roaming for the last year or so. Recent events, however, have caused him to move the Bellcius and Berum doors to two airships, as Howl feels he will be better able to avoid people looking for him in this manner. The actual room that is encountered when one opens Howl's door is the one belonging to his Kropmork lodgings. The door cannot be opened from the outside without either Howl or Calcifer's assistance.
Normally, the door can be switched from location to location without any hindrance. However, due to the extreme complexities of fixing three of the four doors to non-stationary objects (the castle and two airships), two of which Calcifer has no external control on, and interference from the deposits of mana crystals in the Badlands where the castle is located, the doors between airships cannot be used in quick succession. The spell uses a great deal of Calcifer's magic ability, and this drain on power takes upwards of a month to recharge. To attempt to use the doors between ships before this time had passed would mean a dangerous drain on Calcifer's resources and potential death for both Calcifer and Howl.
Howl can use his magic to alter his appearance He usually does this in small ways--his blond hair, for example, is artificial, as he's naturally a brunette, and the cut may look slightly different from day to day--but he's capable of completely altering his form, if he so wishes. This is not a form of magic he uses often, however.
Howl's greatest weakness is literally, his heart. It resides not in his chest, where most sensible people keep theirs, but is instead in Calcifer's possession as part of the contract the two made. This means that should anything befall Calcifer, Howl will suffer as well. In general the contract, while boosting Howl's magic and keeping Calcifer alive, is detrimental to them both, and will damage them the longer it continues. The contract is such that neither Howl nor Calcifer can reveal its specifics directly to another person.
This weakness aside, Howl's personality works against him. He's a coward who shirks all responsibility, and runs from the first hint of trouble. His womanizing has put him in the bad graces of a great number of people (some of them quite powerful), and the sheer weight of all the lies and misdeeds he's conducted has lead him to live a life permanently on the run.
The curse itself takes the form of a poem, which lists many supposedly impossible things. As each line of the poem comes true in some fashion, the witch gets ever closer to him, and the curse takes that much stronger a hold on Howl.
The curse is as follows:
Go and catch a falling star, Get with child a mandrake root, Tell me where all past years are, Or who cleft the devil's foot, Teach me to hear mermaids singing, Or to keep off envy's stinging, And find What wind Serves to advance an honest mind. If thou be'st born to strange sights, Things invisible to see, Ride ten thousand days and nights, Till age snow white hairs on thee, Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me, All strange wonders that befell thee, And swear, No where Lives a woman true, and fair. If thou find'st one, let me know, Such a pilgrimage were sweet; Yet do not, I would not go, Though at next door we might meet; Though she were true, when you met her, And last, till you write your letter, Yet she Will be False, ere I come, to two, or three.
(Song, by John Donne)
The events of the curse do not necessarily happen in order, and how they are fulfilled is impossible to predict. What is certain is that come Midsummer's day of his 27th year, Howl will have no choice but to face the witch again.
PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE: People in Kropmork-Nahk and/or associated with the University would know Jenkins from his shop and his studies there. There was also a shop in Berum run by a Sorcerer Jenkins. People in Bellcius might remember Wizard Pendragon's shop there.
SPECIAL KNOWLEDGE: People especially close with the magic community, those in Kropmork in particular, may know that Howl is Howell Jenkins, the last apprentice to the Sorceress Pentstemmon.
POP CULTURE PHENOMENON?: There is a cobbled together, ominous-looking walking castle that wanders the Badlands. The Moving Castle is owned by the Wizard Howl, who is, according to rumor, a very wicked man who enjoys eating the hearts of young women and stealing their souls.