- “Raise thy head, Handmaiden of Orion - thou hast borne thyself well thus far.”
- ―The Green to Ysabelle
Ysabelle is a beautiful black squirrel maiden with large dark eyes and long raven hair. At times it hangs loose down her back, but she also coils it into braids on top of her head.
In her early years, Ysabelle was a carefree, fun-loving princess. She loved taking part in merriment and enjoyed being silly, much to the dismay of her nursemaid Griselda, who feared that her future subjects would never respect her if they saw her acting foolish.
However, during her dark journey on the path to Greenreach, Ysabelle was forced to mature. She became more humble and compassionate. The horrors she witnessed resulted in Ysabelle losing her naiveté and innocence. Due to her experiences with Vespertilio, she put aside her prejudices towards the bats and slowly learned to forgive them for the murderous crimes they committed against her kind in ignorance.
As princess of the Hazel Realm, Ysabelle was her mother's heiress and was being groomed to take her place as queen when the time came. However, fate had other plans for her.
Role in The Oaken Throne Edit
This is the year Ysabelle will join the alder maids to perform a ritual to awaken the trees for spring. After it is over, she rushes up to her parents and asks her father how her dancing compared to the others. With pride, he replies that she was as the sun and they the stars, for she outshone them all.
Soon however, a group of bats who are pursuing a falcon bring an end to the day's happiness. The bats manage to kill the falcon and, to Ysabelle's horror, its body falls near her and a silver acorn pendant drops into her palm.
The bats swoop down and attack the squirrel maiden. She is saved by the stoat jester Wendel Maculatum, and most of the bats are soon defeated. Ysabelle shows her mother the silver acorn, and she stares at it in shock. The pendant is the symbol of the Starwife, and this means that the land of Greenreach has been destroyed.
One of the bats, named Heglyr, has been taken as a prisoner. He verifies the fall of Greenreach and the death of the Starwife, and says that others of his kind will soon return that night and attack the Hazel Realm. But before they can get any more information out of him, the bat kills himself by running into one of the squirrels' blades.
Left with no other choice, the Lady Ninnia decides to send Ysabelle to Greenreach, accompanied by the squirrel guards of the realm. Since she caught the silver acorn, it is clear that destiny has placed her in the role of the Starwife. Ninnia and her husband Cyllinus know that they and many of the squirrels must stay in the Hazel Realm to face certain death. They say their painful goodbyes, knowing that they will never see Ysabelle again.
As they make their way through the forest, Ysabelle's entourage comes across Vespertilio, who has run away to join the battle at Greenreach but fell under the weight of the heavy army he was wearing and broken his wing. He is taken to Ysabelle so she can interrogate him, but he insults her and she orders her guards to kill him. Godfrey suggests that instead he be used as a guide as Heglyr was to have been. Reluctantly, Ysabelle agrees.
In the night, the group is attacked by Hobbers and imprisoned. During the scuffle, Ysabelle is knocked unconscious and awakens hours later, chained in a dark room. Everyone is then led out to a ring of stones where the cult of Hobb is gathering for a celebration and they are to be live sacrifices. The high priest has stolen the Silver Acorn and uses it in a blood ritual to summon the rat god Hobb into the world in several days' time. Three squirrels are skinned alive before Godfrey devises an escape plan. He manages to wrestle the Silver Acorn from the high priest and give it to Ysabelle, though he dies in the effort. She and Vesper race away into the dark forest.
The high priest finds and confronts them, cursing them both. Vesper, he says, will die surrounded by the sound of bells. He also puts a curse on the Silver Acorn, explaining that when Hobb arrives he will destroy Ysabelle. After saying this, the high priest disappears into the forest.
Vesper is disheartened by his grim prophesy, but Ysabelle doesn't care and wants to continue her journey to Greenreach with him as her guide. He grudgingly agrees to help her, despite the fact that he doesn't really know the way himself.
Later, to Vesper's horror, he hears the sound of bells approaching. He fears that this will be his doom, but it turns out that this sound is coming from bells on the lead of a shrew who from this is attached to a mole. The two introduce themselves as Tysle Symkin and Giraldus.
Giraldus and Tysle say that they are on a pilgrimage to Greenreach, hoping that they will be cured of their ailments when they arrive. Ysabelle realises that the two could accompany her on her journey since they are bound for the same place. Vesper is a bit hesitant at first, and Giraldus understands, knowing that it is probably because of his leprosy. Ysabelle doesn't care however, and insists that they come with her.
Their journey includes stopping at several ancient shrines to the Green. One of these is the Orchard of Duir, where they bed down for the night. Ysabelle has a private audience with the spirit of the Green, who gives her courage to continue on. He also warns her that one of her friends will betray her, but does not give any further details.
Ysabelle, Vesper, Tysle, and Giraldus come across the jester Wendel Maculatum, who at first believes Ysabelle is dead and a ghost. She assures him she is not, and he tells them he spent several nights frightened and lost in the forest. He says that in that time he has heard of a group of woodlanders who are resisting the Hobb cult. He doesn't know exactly where they are, however, but they are somewhere near a lake.
Upon following a stream, Ysabelle, Vesper, Giraldus, Tysle and Wendel reach a lake, but its water is dark and polluted, and there are no signs of the woodlanders anywhere. Nevertheless, they decide to camp there. While walking along the edge of the lake, Ysabelle hears Hobb bellowing beneath the ground, and the blood stains on her amulet swirl around. She asks Vesper if he heard the same thing but he doesn't know what she is talking about.Later in the night, the ghosts of animals who had drowned in the lake rise up and try to drag the travellers down with them. The group manages to escape, and soon they find their way to a meadow filled with daffodils. It is here that they are captured by the very woodlanders they were searching for. These woodlanders are led by a mouse captain named Fenlyn Purfote. At first he acts friendly toward the five travellers, taking them to the woodlanders' headquarters, but his mood changes when he suddenly locks them up because he thinks they are Hobbers. Although they try to tell him that they most certainly are not, Fenlyn (or Fenny, as he is often called) will hear none of it.
However, Fenny soon receives a message from a mysterious figure called The Ancient, who wishes to speak with Ysabelle and Vesper. Finally convinced that they are not Hobbers, Fenny leads them both down a dark passageway deep underground, where they come upon The Ancient-- who is the messenger of the moon goddess. He tells the bat and squirrel that the only way to prevent doom befalling the world is to convince their kinds to join together to battle the Hobbers. To Vesper's shock, The Ancient reveals that it was not the Starwife who took away the bats' power to see into the future, but their very own Warden of the Great Book, Hrethel.
He also tells Ysabelle that because the high priest dipped the silver acorn into the blood of the squirrels that were sacrificed, Hobb has been summoned back into the world, and that even now he is rising from the Pit. In three days time he will appear to claim Ysabelle. What the squirrel maiden doesn't know, however, is that this very night is the third day.
Later that night, the woodlanders hold a celebration for their five guests to make up for the way they previously had treated them. Ysabelle and Vesper dance together, and begin to realise that they are falling in love. The unexpected and violent murder of Tysle brings an end to the festivities, and as he was peeled it becomes clear that a member of the Hobb cult is somewhere in the mound. Before this fact can completely sink in, a guard rushes to tell Fenny that the Hobbers are on the move, heading toward their stronghold.
Ysabelle and Vesper escape through a tunnel, though not before Wendel reveals his treachery. Mad with grief for his friend, Giraldus starts choking the stoat, but Wendel manages to free himself and strangle him. But before he dies, the mole starts a cave-in and Ysabelle and Vesper can only watch as the entire tunnel collapses on Giraldus, Wendel, and the Hobbers.
The bat and squirrel finally arrive at Greenreach, but Vesper is wounded by Hobber crows who have pursued them. Morwenna approaches Ysabelle, and tells her that she wants to help her bring the silver acorn to the Starglass. The unknowing squirrel maiden follows her down below the Hallowed Oak, into a dark chamber. As the two talk, Ysabelle begins to piece everything together and figures out that Morwenna is the one who betrayed the Greenreach squirrels. Morwenna confirms this and reveals that she is the priestess of Mabb, the rat goddess consort of Hobb. She takes the acorn from Ysabelle and locks her in the chamber where her pet toads wait to devour the squirrel maiden.
Vesper hears Ysabelle's screams and rescues her just in time. The two of them rush out of the oak and see the bats and squirrels fighting. Vesper decides that this is his chance to use the herbs that The Ancient gave him, and tosses them into a fire, sending up a beacon which distracts all of the bats, as well as the squirrels. They gather around and listen to his story. Most of them begin to believe what he is telling them; it seems to explain quite a bit.
At that moment, the Hobbers arrive, surging up the hill towards them. Now the bats and squirrels are allied together, fighting their true enemy. Ysabelle races up the Hallowed Oak to face Morwenna, who still has the silver acorn. But as she approaches her, the amulet around Morwenna's neck becomes extremely hot, burning her fur. It is then that Ysabelle realises that Hobb has begun to break through the ground. Ysabelle stares in horror while Morwenna is jubilant-- that is, until she sees the claws of the rat god reaching for her. The high priest merely cursed the wearer of the silver acorn, not Ysabelle in particular. Hobb blows fire onto Morwenna and she is killed.
Vesper swoops down and grabs Ysabelle, just as Hobb kicks the Hallowed Oak and it topples to the ground. Ysabelle tells Vesper to take her down to the ground, where she snatches the silver acorn which had fallen. Then she hurries to the Starglass, now lying on the grass, and holds the pendant over it. A white light wells up and travels through her body; the powers channel through her, and this means that the Starwifeship is truly hers-- and all that it entails.
Now she is faced with the task of defeating Hobb. She calls out to the rat god and he turns his attention to her. She says that since the acorn drew him back into the world, he will now have that which lured him. Using the forces within the amulet, she imprisons Hobb within an acorn, then faints, exhausted.
Several weeks later, the wreckage of the Hallowed Oak had been removed, and the hill was cleaned up. On the day of Ysabelle's inauguration as the Starwife, Vesper arrives and asks to speak with her. When she approaches, he proclaims his love for her and asks her to relinquish her office and to run away with him. She refuses, believing her duty to be more important, and leaves him alone.
Ysabelle starts to feel guilty for the way she treated Vesper, and realises that she does love him. She runs outside, eager to tell Vesper this, but is heartbroken to find him lying dead, surrounded by bluebells. Left with no other choice, Ysabelle takes up the Starwifeship and reigns for nearly three hundred years.
Ysabelle is an Italian form of Isabel. It means "consecrated to God".