The Board of Wayland's Smithy: From left to right, Katrina Henshaw, Stewart Ingham, Sir Frederick Dalton, Angus Bryce
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In the 1860s, a young Englishman named Leighton Woodrow visited India on a mission for the Diplomatic Service. He never spoke of the details of what happened to him there, but in the course of his work, he and several companions encountered a Nosferatu of the Rakshasha bloodline which had been leading a particularly twisted and murderous Thuggee cult, about four decades after the last such cult had supposedly been wiped out. They managed to destroy the creature and put its followers to flight, but the experience taught them that the British Empire had enemies that conventional tactics and conventionally understood science could neither explain nor fight. Aware that they would make themselves a laughing-stock - at best - if they spoke openly of what they had seen, they decided to found their own secret organization to learn about such things and hunt them where necessary. In this, they were very much of their time - Victorian society teemed with secret quasi-mystical orders such as the Theosophical Society or the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Woodrow's group, however, took a rather more practical approach. Since the Rakshasha had shunned the daylight, they decided to name their new group the Mithraeum Club, a name taken from a Persian solar deity worshipped as a god of soldiers in the days of Rome. That was how they saw themselves - as soldiers dragging the creatures of the night into the cleansing light of the sun.
Woodrow himself had all the occult ability of a lump of chalk, and his fellow founders were hardly any more adept. They did, however, have wealth and connections in abundance, and these they used to seek out scholars of the occult. Many charlatans tried to take advantage of them, only to find themselves summarily thrown out onto the street by their prospective victims. After a few years, however, the Mithraeum Club had managed to recruit a large and talented stable of mediums and occultists. There were no true Mages amongst them, but a number of them did have real power - particularly the power to summon and bind ghosts and other spirits.
Woodrow was, more or less, a secret intelligence agent, and it didn't take him very long - actually, all of about two seconds - to spot the potential uses of an invisible, incorporeal spirit as a spy. It didn't take very much longer before the Mithraeum Club was interrogating every spirit it could lay its metaphorical hands on about the supernatural world. And because the Kindred, sadly, tend to create a lot of ghosts, the Mithraeum Club quite quickly learned that London was infested with vampires
They were patient, at first. They did their research. They compiled dossiers, cross-checking the knowledge gleaned from spirits with information from more mundane means of investigation. Within two years, they'd built up a shockingly complete profile of London's Kindred population. And then they started to strike.
The Kindred didn't notice, at first. The victims were relatively small fry; their disappearances could be attributed to the normal attrition of the Danse Macarbre. The Sheriff investigated, but with an eye to possible Kindred involvement; a group of mortal hunters were able to operate under the radar. Then the casualties started to mount up, feeding Prince Marlowe's paranoia and helping to accelerate his slide towards madness.
Woodrow had built a remarkably effective Hunter organization, but it had one Achilles heel. Many of its members tended to be wealthy, and usually aristocratic. This had been a deliberate policy of Woodrow's to ensure that the Club had ready access to money and social influence, but the aristocrats proved poor Hunter material in other respects. They were too used to having things their own way. They were sloppy and undisciplined; often ignoring the rules and procedures that Woodrow had carefully devised to ensure the Club's security. Worst of all, their carelessness started to infect the mediums and occultists who provided the organization with its secret weapon. Spirits started to escape from the control of their summoners, sometimes going on rampages in which innocent bystanders were injured. Finally, a particularly botched summoning conjured up a dark spirit which fed on the pain and terror of mortal victims, sometimes to the point of death.
By this time, the Kindred, assisted by the Temple, had managed to identify the Mithraeum Club as the source of the attacks, but the social connections of many of its members made them wary of moving too aggressively against it for fear of stirring up an even worse witch-hunt. The Club's increasing sloppiness in summoning uncontrolled spirits was leading to more and more messes that the Mages were having to take a hand in clearing up, however, so it was clear that something would have to be done.
The Mages of the Temple banished the fear spirit, but not before it had killed an innocent young girl. Wyncham decided to take a gamble and approached Sir Leighton Woodrow, bluntly telling him that, if he wanted to avoid more such incidents, the Mithraeum Club would have to close - permanently.
Woodrow was reluctant, but also stricken with guilt, and eventually agreed. A canny negotiator, he extracted certain guarantees from Wyncham and the Temple, about the safety of the Club's former members, and about new restrictions on the city's Kindred. Wyncham was willing to go along with the latter; himself quite a moralist by Kindred standards, he saw it as a way to advance his own agenda of creating a more humane Kindred society under the guise of defending the Masquerade.
Woodrow disbanded the Club, handing most of its library of occult materials to the Kindred - all but a few items ended up in the Great Library of House Skade. The Kindred thought the whole matter settled, and moved on.
Perhaps, if the Great War hadn't taken place, their confidence would have been justified. As it was, the horrors of the trenches were enough to drive Mathias Galt, one of the youngest members of the Club at the time of its dissolution, to desperate measures. He conceived the idea of taking the Mithraeum's researches one stage further. Instead of conjuring incorporeal spirits, he wanted to raise zombies, and send them to face the German machine-guns in place of living troops.
There were enough former members of the Mithraeum in positions of influence that Galt was able to secure support for his scheme, as insane as it sounded. He established himself at a small hospital named Carnac, a few miles from the front lines, ostensibly - and in most cases treated there, genuinely - a psychiatric institution. As before, he recruited followers from wealthy, influential backgrounds, but he learned from Woodrow's mistakes. This time, there were no wilful dilettantes or arrogant spoiled brats amongst the membership, just serious, dedicated individuals devoted to a cause. In fairness, the horrors of the war produced far more of such people that Woodrow had ever had to work with. Galt named his new organization "Wayland's Smithy", for its intended purpose - to forge new, magical weapons for the defence of the British Empire. Galt had always had a somewhat rose-tinted view of the British Empire, seeing it as a civilizing force for peace and stability. His romanticized concept of Britain was heavily influenced by a boyhood fondness for the romances of Sir Thomas Mallory, and in establishing the group, he chose a preponderance of Arthurian imagery for its code names and call signs. As leader of the magical research effort, he took the name "Merlin" for himself.
In 1916, as the Battle of the Somme, Wayland's Smithy performed the ritual which their researches had devised - a working partially based on ancient Babylonian religious rites. The result was spectacular, but not at all what they were expecting. Instead of raising troops on the battlefield, it was Galt who was dragged across the threshold of death and returned as a seemingly undestructible undead creature.
The other result of the experiment, so the group believed, was to "infect" a wounded soldier named James Neville Abbott with visions - perhaps channelled from ghosts or spirits - of the past, specifically the seventeenth century. Following clues revealed by Abbott's "visions", the Smithy managed to locate a torpid vampire slumbering under London. After a couple of weeks of hit-and-miss experimentation, they managed to use their hedge magic to revive the creature from its sleep.
Robert de Courcey, former Lance Sanctum Sheriff of London, had been sleeping since Matilda de Bray had thrown him back into his burning haven during the Great Fire. He was less than pleased at his situation upon awakening, and true to his nature, it wasn't long before he started trying to subvert the organization. Merlin, however, proved unexpectedly immune to de Courcey's mental powers, and equally immune to being killed. De Courcey realized that Merlin's apparent invulnerability, and freedom to operate by day, made him a potentially lethal antagonist, and swiftly changed tactics to bargaining for survival. He demonstrated the healing properties of ghouldom on several injured soldiers to prove his usefulness, and he and Merlin managed to reach an understanding - or so Merlin assumed. Actually, de Courcey was just being more subtle in his attempts to take over, tergetting Galt's subordinates rather than Galt himself. Gradually, he subverted the leadership of Wayland's Smithy, until almost two-thirds were more loyal to him than Merlin.
So when one of Merlin's subordinates - a man who Merlin thought he could trust - approached him about a young nurse called Megan Sullivan and how she was a threat to the entire Wayland's Smithy project, Merlin listened. When the subordinate suggested that Nurse Sullivan be used for a final test - a demonstration of the Embrace - in order to stop her. Merlin protested, but allowed himself to be talked around.
Nurse Sullivan's Embrace didn't end the matter as Merlin (and de Courcey), had expected, however. Allying herself with Abbott, she led a revolt which saw a significant chunk of Carnac burned to the ground, shattered Wayland's Smithy, and forced de Courcey to flee.
Merlin's plans were ruined, his hopes dashed, his organization in tatters. Nonetheless, he did his best to salvage the situation and rebuild the Smithy. By the time he'd even got close to success, the war was over and many of his former patrons were retired or dead.
The inter-war years were, to coin a phrase, the best and worst of times for Wayland's Smithy. On the positive side, Merlin found plenty of occultists and plenty of wealthy patrons, but the organization, though it had money and talent, boasted few official connections, and without the over-riding need to find a solution to trench warfare, it lacked a strategic direction or coherent organization. It suffered a blow in the early 1920s when one of its senior members, a survivor of Carnac named Andrew Davies, committed suicide. Davies sent Merlin a suicide note in which he claimed that Abbott was still alive and was building a rival to the Smithy called "Asylum", and that Davies had committed suicide in a "moment of freedom" in which he'd "managed to wrench my mind clear of the fetters which that damned witch put on it". Abbott subsequently reappeared as an archaeologist specializing in the ancient Middle East; Merlin considered moving against him, but he was unable to find any evidence to support Davies claim, or to show that Abbott was anything more than the innocent scholar that he appeared to be. When Abbott died in 1937, Merlin decided that the matter was closed, and moved on.
World War Two changed everything. Between the desperate need to protect the country from being over-run by Hitler's war machine, the fact that several of the Smithy's members had slipped into officer positions in the armed forces, where they could call on the Smithy's help, and the discovery by certain interested parties on the Allied side that the Nazis had their own programme of occult research, Wayland's Smithy was suddenly relevant again.
The first Director of the Smithy in its modern incarnation was Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Butler, a highly decorated officer who lost a leg in Africa and was seconded to work in the Cabinet Office. Butler had already had several encounters with the supernatural both before and during the war, and needed little convincing that it represented a resource to be seized by the Allies and denied to the Nazis when Merlin approached him with an offer of membership. He despised the aristocratic amateurism that had hitherto characterised the Smithy, however. He completely revamped the organization, establishing a clear chain of command to a four-man Board with himself at its head. Merlin might have been expected to resent his own de facto demotion, but in fact, he respected Butler and was convinced by his argument that a single, immortal leader for the Smithy would inevitably cause it to stagnate and rob it of the flexibility that it needed to respond to a rapidly changing world. That Butler made this argument is not without irony, for Wayland's Smithy today remains essentially shaped by the vision he laid out in 1944. The Smithy actually refers to it as the "Butler Doctrine", a phrase that started as an informal nickname but has, over time, become "officially" adopted.
Butler's first strategic decision was that the Smithy would remain a private organization, not a government department. The primary reason for this was financial - he could easily foresee that a "department of things that go bump in the night", as he put it, would be the first on the list for spending cuts during the financial lean times, and he also realized that lean times lay ahead for Britain once the war was won. Beyond this, he shuddered at the thought of having to explain to each new group of incoming Ministers, every five years, that yes, magic and ghosts and vampires were real and living... er, existing... right here in London and across the United Kingdom. And what would happen if some leak-prone political hack got drunk one night and revealed the existence of the Smithy to a tabloid journalist?
From the first principle of independence naturally flowed the second key principle, that the Smithy should be self-financing. The initial sources of funding came from its upper-class members and backers, but Butler insisted on diversification from patronage to investment. During the post-war reconstruction, Wayland's Smithy quietly and anonymously bought up shares in hundreds of different companies, along with property and banking ventures. Shrewd investment strategy (a phrase which Butler far preferred to "insider trading"), is far easier when ghosts and spirits are spying for you, and by the time the sixties had started to swing, Wayland's Smithy had assets worth billions of pounds. The investment programme had other purposes beyond simply making money, though. It's far easier to build a secret headquarters if you control a construction company, far easier to obtain advanced electronic equipment if you run an R&D department, far easier to treat your injured personnel if you're the largest shareholder in a private clinic.
At Butler's insistence, all these companies were British-owned and, as much as possible, British-based. He saw and feared the danger that it would become self-serving and obsessed with no greater cause than its own profit, and he was determined that it should remain dedicated to what he saw as a higher cause - protecting and advancing the interests of the British Empire. Wayland's Smithy would be a fellowship of patriots; no others need apply. Although some of the more imperialistic and jingoistic elements of the Butler Doctrine have faded over time, and its investment base has broadened with the march of globalisation, the Smithy definitely retains its Britain-first attitude.
Butler's position in the Cabinet office had proved invaluable to the Smithy, and he realized that it would be seriously hampered in its role without friends in high places. While he was determined that it should remain independent of government, he was equally clear that government could not remain independent of it. Therefore its recruitment strategy should focus on bringing in (carefully vetted) people of influence - senior civil servants, military officers, police, judges, even the occasional politician - who could bring pressure to bear on the authorities if it proved necessary
Butler knew that the supernatural could be a serious threat to public safety, one that couldn't always be countered by conventional means. The Smithy's own M.O. demonstrated how effective spirits could be for espionage purposes, for example, and with the Cold War hotting up, the possibility of "Reds in the Ether" was a major preoccupation of the organization for the first couple of decades of its existence. (Fortunately unfounded - the intensely materialistic bias of the Soviet dictatorship blinded it to the idea that the supernatural might be real, but Cold War paranoia stopped the Smithy from seeing that). By the same token, if a way could be found to control the supernatural world, it would not only be neutralized as a threat, but would become a potent tool in advancing the country's interests.
Butler had probably never heard the phrase "mission creep", but he understood the principle all too well. He was determined that the Smithy should stay focussed on its core mission. It might render aid and assistance to the authorities and others on an ad hoc basis, but it should never establish any programme or working group that was not in some way aimed towards the exploitation of the supernatural.
Wayland's Smithy is run by a four-person Executive Board. Although there is no actual rule to the effect, the Director has thus far always been an Affiliate, whereas the three Deputy Directors have always been specialists.
The Director of Wayland's Smithy is in overall charge of the entire organization. In practice, the post almost always goes to a senior government bureaucrat, who can exert considerable influence on the Smithy's behalf, but whose normal duties leave him little leisure to oversee the organization, leaving most of the Smithy's operations to be overseen by one of his three deputies. The Director has a small personal staff who look after policy and vet the recruitment of senior personnel, but the position is somewhat "hands-off"
The present Director is Sir Frederick Dalton, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office. (In the British Government system, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State (almost always referred to simply as the Permanent Secretary), is the chief executive of a government department, responsible for running it on a day-to-day basis. The Home Office, the department headed by Sir Frederick, is responsible for the maintenance of law and order, including the police, the fire services, and the domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, MI5. It is in the latter portion of the Home Office that Sir Frederick has spent most of his career).
A grammar-school boy from a northern working-class background, Frederick Dalton won a scholarship to read History at Oxford before joining the Civil Service. He has spent his entire career in the Home Office, finally achieving his present position in 2002. A clever, generally self-effacing and wryly witty man, his background and attitudes have won him a reputation as the "simple copper's friend", but the more careerist, politically motivated senior members of the police force are rather less fond of him. Within his own department, he is known to be hostile to the sweeping expansion of surveillance powers overseen by New Labour. His argument is that the backlash created by allowing, say, local Councils to mount covert observation operations for utterly trivial reasons, will ultimately lead to restrictions on the powers which the security services actually need to defeat serious criminal and terrorist threats to public safety.
He joined the Smithy in 1981, after a nasty incident when he spent several weeks possessed by a spirit under the control of a witch. The experience left him with no disbelief left to suspend, making him an ideal target for Merlin's recruitment pitch. Initially an Affiliate, he became Director in 1998.
The Deputy Director of Resources and Personnel is the most "mundane" member of the board. Rather than finding new ways to exploit the supernatural, his job is to manage the Smithy's huge array of resources and investments, ensuring that its operations always have the money and equipment they need. It's a highly complex and diverse job, ranging from managing stock portfolios to blackmailing millionaires into selling parts of their collections of antiquities to the Smithy.
Stewart Ingham, the present Deputy Director, was the leader of a counter-terrorism unit in Northern Ireland before the Smithy recruited him. A career military man, he has a great respect for established protocols and the chain of command - he is, essentially, a conformist. A first-rate administrator, he tends to delegate the more specialized aspects of the Smithy's financial management to his subordinates.
Katrina Henshaw was a biochemist working for a major international pharmaceutical company, but she was appalled by the way that her conglomerate denied vital antiretroviral drugs to Africa - except at exorbitant prices - and leaked various formulae to certain African governments so that they could produce their own cheap clones of the medication. The Smithy, impressed by both her principled moral stance and by her formidable scientific abilities, recruited her just ahead of a joint FBI-Europol operation, and gave her a new identity.
Although her bias is towards science rather than mysticism, Dr. Henshaw believes that results are what matters. If a magical procedure can produce consistent, verifiable results, she will do her damndest to figure out how to replicate it and add it to the Smithy's arsenal. Although not mystically gifted herself, she has a large number of subordinates who are.
Field Operations and Acquisitions are normally one and the same. Aside from the occasional elimination of a monster, the Smithy's field operations are almost all aimed at obtaining new captives and artefacts for study. The Field Operations Directorate is also responsible for identifying and approaching new recruits.
From its earliest inception to early 2008, the Smithy had only one director of Field Operations - Dr. Mathias Galt, who took the code-name "Merlin" and set the pattern for the Smithy's Arthurian imagery. Born in 1867, the son of a London solicitor who belonged to the Mithraeum Club, Galt was a talented scholar who excelled in his studies as a doctor, and also proved a remarkable student of the occult. After Sir Leighton Woodrow dismantled the Mithraeum Club, he focussed on medicine, until the outbreak of the First World War. His experiments with raising the dead left him as an indestructible zombie for more than a century
When Galt fulfilled his predestined role in preventing Sicarius from opening the gates of hell, and finally moved on, it took Wayland's Smithy completely by surprise. Merlin had always been there - it was impossible to imagine the organization without him. The only real candidate to replace him was Angus Bryce, his long-standing Chief of Staff
Originally from the Scotland, Angus Bryce was an Army survival and mountaineering instructor based in the Cairngorms. He and a group of young recruits he was training had an encounter with an insane, bestial creature that seemed immune to small-arms fire. It was, in fact, a draugr, a vampire lost to the Beast. A team of Smithy specialists were hunting the creature; they managed to put it down before any of Bryce's party had been killed (although three were quite badly injured). Impressed by the coolness and resourcefulness which Bryce had displayed in dealing with the creature, Merlin offered him a job more or less on the spot.
Bryce still feels inadequete by comparison to his illustrious predecessor, but he's growing fast into the role, and enjoys the confidence and respect of his colleagues
Wayland's Smithy has two types of member. Affiliates are people with their own jobs and careers - usually prominent and politically powerful ones - whose job is to ensure the the Smithy receives the support of their own organizations, whether those organizations are the Army, the Police, Customs and Excise, or local government. Some Affiliates also run the Smithy's various business enterprises. With their "real" jobs to attend to, such people almost never participate in field operations. Specialists are full-time employees of the Smithy. Although there are no true Mages amongst their number, their ranks are filled with psychics and hedge magicians, who supply the Smithy's infamous tools of the trade. Others are highly trained military personnel who give the group its teeth.
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In the 1950s, the British government embarked upon a classified project called Death Watch; a test of an experimental nerve gas known as VXL-575. The tests were conducted on a remote island in the Outer Hebrides, home of a tumbledown castle which the research team renovated and adapted to their own use.
The tests were a failure. Or rather, they were too successful - the gas killed everything on the island, with a horrifying lethality beyond anything its creators had anticipated. The tests were abandoned, and the old castle left to rot.
Wayland's Smithy had other ideas. The castle setting appealed to Merlin's ingrained romanticism, but the isolated location and the barren, lifeless island had a far more practical appeal. Many of the needed facilities had already been put in place by Project Death Watch; with a little adaptation, the Smithy would have a secure headquarters with no inconvenient witnesses and no innocent bystanders to get hurt if one of their experiments got out of hand.
The refurbished castle served as living quarters for the Specialists permanently stationed there. Below, the labs and research facilities taken over from Project Death Watch house a variety of secure archives and ongoing research projects.
Wayland's Smithy still specializes in summoning and binding ghosts and other spirits, and the majority of their specialized "equipment" is based on manipulating entities in Twilight They do, however, have an extensive range of high-technology toys to give their agents an extra edge. While their technological base might not be as advanced as that of Task Force: Valkyrie, their more versatile array of supernatural items more than compensates.
Superficially a simple mobile phone with an integral camera, this device actually incorporates image-processing software and in infra-red heat sensor. Using the image-distortion effect usually caused by vampires, in conjunction with their lack of body heat, it allows the user to scan an entire room for undead while appearing to do nothing more than send a text. Although no amount of processing capacity has yet managed to resolve a vampire's blurred reflection into something clear (the distortion appears to involve some kind of fractal effect which sends image-resolution software into infinite loops when it tries to process it), the device can also make comparisons based on the edges of the distortion zone to estimate the vampire's approximate height and weight.
Churchill once said scathingly of a political opponent that he proved that "the jawbone of an ass is as deadly a weapon today as it was in Biblical times". This endowment is named after that comment. Despite the name, it's actually the jawbone of a human, with a spirit - usually the ghost of the jawbone's owner, but occasionally something stranger - bound into it. The spirit is visible to the holder of the jawbone, who may command it to travel up to several hundred yards from the bone and then return to report back on what it has seen. The spirit cannot manifest or affect the physical world in any way, but it makes a superb spy and scout.