- For other uses of the term "Old Woman", see Old Women in Popular Culture
The Old Woman known also as Hewla is a fictional antagonist in David Gemmell's White Wolf, the first book of Skilgannon the Damned. Though she is not directly an antagonist to Skilgannon, her manoveurings in the story darken his path. She is several hundred years old, appearing during the Waylander sequence of books, up until her death in White Wolf
Not much is known about her origins other than she made powerful weapons for certain rulers in order to influence the strong and powerful. In truth she trapped restless demons within the weapons, such examples as Skilgannon's Swords of Night and Day which were a copy of The Swords of Blood and Fire. She also put demons into the Tantrian King's Ceremonial Sword it is presumed who ruled from the fortress city of Mellicane. She tried also to get the demon from Druss the Legend's famous axe Snaga but he defied her and the demon was vanquished in the Void; seemingly thwarting her plan to demonize the Ventrian Emperor Gorben. But Hewla seemed unconcerned by this apparent setback and some years later she makes a blade for Gorben. With this in his hand the young emperor slowly descends into murderous madness, a development which indicate that the old woman succeeded in summoning the demon back from the abyss.
It is known that she bore several children in order to continue her bloodline in the world; however many attempts failed and only one child survived and The Old Woman carefully manoveured her to fall in love with the Emperor who she slipped a powerful love potion that made him enchanted by the girl; they bore a child known as Jianna. However when the emperor was overthrown by Bokram, the mother was hunted down by the warrior known as Boranius and was killed. Jianna escaped with the help of an actor known as Greavas and the young Skilgannon, though the Old Woman also aided the two on the night that Skilgannon's home was broken into and his servants murdered. She was able to get Skilgannon and Jianna out of the city.
At the Side of the Witch Queen
When Jianna rose to power against Bokram, she used the Old Woman as her powerful ally; unknown of her blood connection the Old Woman created the Swords of Night and Day for Skilgannon to battle Boranius of whom he apparently slew. The Old Woman stayed by the side of Jianna as her aid and protector against certain demons sent to kill her, and also deliver demons to the enemy; thus Jianna became known as the Witch Queen.
The events of White Wolf, led the Old Woman into Mellicane, she had already thralled the young Garianne, known as the last survivor of Skilgannon's massacre at Perapolis. She promised the young woman revenge by the death of Skilgannon of whom she perceived as a threat to Jianna's reign through the love they shared. She contacted Druss and Skilgannon and called them to her; she gave information to them about their quests. Skilgannon and Druss both had to travel to the land of Pelucid where Skilgannon would find the temple he sought and Druss would be able to avenge his friend Orastes and save the young Elanin.
However the Old Woman had betrayed Orastes earlier to the head-general of Mellicane, Shasuk Ironmask and he had been tortured and transformed into a Joining in the dungeons beneath the city. Her plan was to force Druss against Ironmask who she knew was the warrior Boranius after he survived with mutilation his defeat by Skilgannon. She also knew the Skilgannon would join Druss; her main plan to get Boranius to kill both.
She manipulated events from there, she would see Druss broken by the death of the young Elanin and he would die by Boranius' blades and hopefully Boranius would finish Skilgannon; then Jianna would slay Boranius in the war to come. Yet if events were worse and Skilgannon killed Boranius then Garianne would kill Skilgannon. Either way Skilgannon and Druss were going to their death along with Boranius.
However Jianna decided to seek out Skilgannon and possibly overthrow Boranius in Pelucid, the Old Woman decided to travel with her. She knew however that Boranius had a Nadir Shaman with him after the assassination attempt on the Witch Queen that had failed. The Old Woman created a small gap in the Shaman's protective spell by causing rats to eat away the wood in the ceiling and exploited it. She burned the Shaman and removed the flesh that Boranius had been healed with by the temple priestess Ustarte.
At the fortress in Pelucid where Boranius was hiding with Elanin, her plan failed completely; first Boranius failed to slay Druss and was killed by Jianna after his defeat at Skilgannon's hands. Boranius' army had deserted him and the priestess Ustarte had given Druss and Skilgannon's company protection as they neared the fortress. She had to use her last pawn against Skilgannon, knowing that Skilgannon could not harm her due to the spells on the blades; they could not harm her. She tried at first to seduce Garianne to kill Skilgannon but when she refused, the Old Woman took control and cast a spell where Garianne was about to kill Skilgannon with the crossbow.
However Jianna intervened by plunging the Sword of Fire into the back of the Old Woman and the old crone dropped to the battlement floor and with last words perished.
However the Old Woman is able to maintain her identity in the void, allowing her to aid Jianne after her death, leading the events of the Swords of Night and Day
Speculation on Origins
It is also speculated the Old Woman's origin as a priestess in the Temple of the Resurrectionists; the mysterious temple in Pelucid. In the Swords of Night and Day Landis Kan mentions a priestess named Hewla who made many discoveries but then defected to evil.
Other Old Women in popular culture
Another "old woman" was featured in Armando Iannucci's Friday Night Armistice, in a game called "Hunt the Old Woman", where an old lady would appear somewhere unexpectedly on a BBC TV programme of the previous week. Viewers would phone in with the chance of winning a coveted set of "Friday Night Armistice dart flights". On one occasion the Old Woman was spotted at Royal Ascot wearing a large hat with "I am an Old Woman" on it, which actually made the front page of The Times.
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