Affiliation: The Guardians of the Veil
Rank: Lesser Jaggling (Rank 3)
Themes: Swans, Royal Law, The River Thames
Background: For centuries, if not millennia, swans have been renowned as birds of beauty, grace, and innocence. They were and are royal birds -- in Great Britain, by ancient law and tradition all swans not otherwise marked belong to the Crown, though it only enforces this claim on certain stretches of the Thames. The practice of Swan Upping, a ceremonial occasion when the Worshipful Company of Dyers and the Worshipful Company of Vintners carry out a census of the swans, has been going on for almost nine hundred years.
Swans are also huge, aggressive, bloody-minded birds with an almost eight foot wingspan and who can hit a man with their wings hard enough to break bone. So there's that too.
The Lady of the Black Swan is a river-spirit associated with the Thames who brings all of these myriad elements together in herself. The spirit claims a venerable antiquity for itself, and for centuries has been one of the right-hand spirits of the river hag Jenny Greenteeth. But wheels turn, and Jenny found herself on the wrong side of certain immortal sages and dangerous werewolves, and is presently withdrawn to the headwaters of the Thames where she can gather her powers and wait for her bindings to wear away (though it may take a century or two). In the meantime, the Lady of the Black Swan has emerged as the most potent of the Thames spirits, laying claim to all of the waters of London, and for some miles in either direction.
Of course, she doesn't claim it for herself. The Lady of the Black Swan, like any other unmarked swan, is the personal property of the Queen of England. As such, the Lady claims the Thames in trust for the Queen, and is merely the administrator of its waters and its spirit life. That the Queen (presumably) is unaware of this is a moot point.
Here's the thing. This is a very good thing, because if the Lady of the Black Swan were not bound to the British Monarchy, she would not be compelled to obey all the laws of the state. And if she were not enjoined from, say, murder, she would be a singularly deadly spirit. She spent at least a century as the lieutenant of a human-sacrifice-demanding river hag, after all.
But the Lady is so bound, and so she is forced to keep her behavior within sharp limits. Unbound, she would be a demon -- the Lady is not of necessity cruel or violent, but she places no value on human life, and is prickly and quick to anger if she feels her prerogatives are in the least way impinged upon. Worse, she chafes at her restrictions, and takes a malign pleasure at finding loopholes in the British legal structure that keeps her so bound -- ill-considered laws, misapplied laws, forgotten laws on the books from the days of Henry VIII, those are her stock in trade. So while the Lady of the Black Swan is not capable of simply tearing apart someone who offends her (or who happens to catch her eye), woe betide the hapless soul who falls afoul of the law or slips between the legal cracks.
Those who do manage to avoid her displeasure, obeying all laws and placating the whims of a mercurial swan princess, find her to be a sharp-tongued but strangely cheerful spirit. The Lady is optimistic by nature, and given sufficient respect can be magnanimous. She has a great respect for freedom and liberty, though she seeks it primarily for herself, secondarily for the other swan-spirits of the Thames, and for anyone else only a distant third. Still, if someone can meet her, avoid any verbal missteps, and make a case for aid that both appeals to the Lady of the Black Swan's fondness for freedom and violates no laws, that someone can gain a powerful ally.
In appearance, the Lady of the Black Swan is a perfectly demure, graceful soul, taking the form either of a beautiful human woman of slight build, wearing a cape of swan feathers, or else of a large, black mute swan, with markings like crowns upon its head and wings. There is something of the ballerina in the Lady's human appearance, really, courtesy of ten thousand performances of Swan Lake. She is often accompanied by lesser swan spirits, who take the form of mute and pretty girls, or smaller swans marked with her sigil.