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In 1941, the then-Prince of London met Final Death in the Blitz. For decades afterwards, London had no Prince. Instead, the Primogen (renamed the "Council" by democratically-minded Carthians), held Praxis over the city as a collective.
In 2008, that changed; a new Prince, the Invictus Nathaniel Donatein, took nominal command of the Council. He remains more constrained that most Kindred who hold the title of Prince, however; the Council retains the power to over-rule his decisions. There are seven Council members, each of whom has one vote; the Prince has two votes, to ensure that deadlocked votes cannot arise. The revised Council Statutes of 2008 have fixed the size of the Council at seven plus the Prince; changing the composition of the Council requires the simultaneous consent of Prince and Council.
The Prince can be removed by a unanimous no-confidence vote of all the other Council members plus seventy percent (rounded down), of the Kindred present at the Grand Court. Otherwise, he rules until Final Death or torpor, when a replacement must be selected through the same unanimity-plus-seventy-percent margin. Other Council members gain the position in one of three ways. First, by invitation of the existing members, which may be vetoed by seventy percent (rounded down), of the Kindred present at the Grand Court. Second, by a vote of seventy percent (rounded down), of the Kindred present at the Grand Court; the nomination may be vetoed by a majority of the Council members. Third, by holding a so-called "Statute Position"; a social rank which carries with it the automatic right to sit on the Council. There are presently three Statute Positions; the Hierophant of the Circle of the Crone, the Bishop of the Lancea Sanctum, and the Voice of the Temple. The Voice is the senior Kindred member of the Temple (decided on by the Temple's own Kindred members), and the only one who is obligated to reveal his membership of the Temple publically. Other members may keep their affiliation secret from any other Kindred except the members of the Council, if they choose.
There is no term limit for Council membership.
Council members may be expelled by either a seventy-percent vote of the assembled Kindred, or a majority of the other members. In the case of expulsion, no right of veto exists. The rationale behind these rules is quite simple; to be effective, a member of the Council must have the confidence of both his fellow Council members, and the Kindred body politic as a whole. A Statute member may be expelled, in which case his Covenant (or the Temple) is required to nominate another Kindred to his position; he cannot be replaced with a nominee from the Council or assembled Kindred.
There are three types of Council meeting
A Grand Court is a general assembly of any London Kindred who wishes to attend. It takes place once a month at a designated Elysium - this is almost always the Natural History Museum. The assembly takes place in the entrance hall; the Council members speak from the steps leading up to the first-floor gallery. This practice started off as a nod to the Carthians' egalitarian sensibilities - rousing the crowd while perched on some stone steps seemed somehow less... elitist... than delivering rulings from a throne. It has since solidified into tradition, and earned the Council their informal nickname; the "Steps"
Previously, most "legal" cases were heard in a Grand Court, except for cases involving the other Poli, which were heard in a closed-door session known as a Court of Others. After the reorganization of the Council in 2008, the Court of Others was abolished as a separate proceeding; instead, all "legal" proceedings are conducted in a Judicial Court, with the Prince and two other Council members sitting as judges. In a break with tradition, cases involving members of other Poli are now open to the wronged parties; the Bosworth/Dumas conspiracy of 2008 shattered the informal convention of minimal contact between the Poli save through the Temple.
The Council also meets privately in a Small Court. Notionally, these closed-door sessions are for urgent problems that arise between Grand Courts, and must be reported in full at the next Council meeting. In practice, they're usually for matters considered too "sensitive" for "public" debate. The Council tries to avoid convening a Small Court unless absolutely necessary. The inevitable whispers of nefarious dealings and general ill-feeling usually mean it's not worth it.
In May, 1941, Prince Hugh Marlowe met Final Death. One night after that, the entire Primogen had fled the city, with the sole exception of Thomas Wyncham. Two nights after that, a Council of Carthians held Praxis in London.
Needless to say, it wasn't quite that simple.
The leader of the Carthians in 1941 was Andrew Fairburn, a former Leveller who'd served in the Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army before becoming an agent of John Thurloe, Cromwell's brilliant and devious master spy. Fairburn had learned a lot about espionage and subversion from his master, and he put those lessons to good use in assembling a coalition against Marlowe in the 1920s and 1930s. His personal coterie, who were all amongst the first Council members, were skilled insurrectionists - Steven Morton and Nicholas Trent, who'd been minor gentry seduced from their University studies to participate in the French Revolution in 1848, and their sire Gabriel Thurston, who had been involved in both the American Revolution and earlier French Revolution of 1789, and had allegedly been a pirate based out of Port Royal before the city was destroyed by an earthquake in the seventeenth century. A close associate and agent was Robert Knox, a young neonate with a remarkable talent for social networking.
In the Victorian era, Prince Marlowe's rule had been relatively enlightened; he'd ruled in the manner of a chief executive of a major corporation, making sure that all the city's Kindred had a chance to profit (at least to some degree), from the Empire's expansion. The Ventrue curse of mental degeneration, however, led to his rule becoming increasingly autocratic (not to say tyranical) by the 1920s, deepening the schism between him and his ablest lieutenant, Thomas Wyncham, which had begun to form when Wyncham abandoned the Invictus for the Ordo Dracul.
Wyncham retained enough influence with Marlowe to mitigate his harshest policies towards the Carthians, but the Movement still suffered - not actually banned, but denied feeding grounds, punished excessively for the least infraction, and starved of funds wherever Marlowe could arrange it. Fairburn sensed Wyncham's growing sense of betrayal towards Marlowe, and started to make tentative overtures towards him. Wyncham was torn between his loyalty to Marlowe - a friend of centuries standing - and the all-out revolt he could see coming if Marlowe wasn't stopped.
The key to securing Wyncham's support was the participation of the Seer, who had been exiled from London by Marlowe in 1911 for an alleged offence that neither was willing to discuss. Marlowe's blood was already thickened from his centuries of unlife and refusal to enter torpor, and the Seer claimed to be able to perform a Cruac ritual that would make the siren song of torpor irresistible to the Prince. Wyncham would be given custody of his friend's sleeping body, while the Carthians took Praxis. Reluctantly, Wyncham accepted the bargain and became a double agent against his long-term friend.
The coup was in its advanced stages when Marlowe was unexpectedly killed in 1941, and the Carthians were able to move quickly to take advantage of the situation. The first Council consisted of Fairburn's coterie and their public agent, Robert Knox, plus Wyncham and the Seer. At first, the new Council bore down as harshly on the remaining Invictus as the Invictus once had on them, but the Seer eventually put a stop to this, arguing that the Council should deal with the Invictus like wolves splitting an animal off from the herd - show indulgence towards the younger, weaker ones inside London, give them a stake in the status quo, and thus create a schism between them and their older, more powerful compatriots outside the city.
In 1952, Fairburn slipped into torpor, satisfied that his work was done. He was replaced - astonishingly, at the Seer's suggestion - by Douglas Collier, when the Council voted to add a third statute position for the Bishop of the Lancea Sanctum. Gabriel Thurston, a Ventrue of the Rotgraften bloodline whose interests included a number of international shipping concerns, abruptly resigned his position in 1971 and departed for the Caribbean, giving no explanation. His Council seat was taken by Algernon Frayn.
In 1980, a shock hit the Council when Steven Morton was assasinated by a car bomb. Paranoia ran rampant through the Kindred community until the Seer, with the assistance of the Temple, was able to identify the culprit as one of the exiled former Primogen, working through an IRA terrorist cell that he'd managed to subvert.
Even the Invictus weren't especially happy about this, since attempting to manipulate close-knit mortal conspiratorial groups who were used to operating outside the law was seen as playing with fire. So when the guilty party mysteriously went insane during an Invictus ceremony - screaming about invisible rats clawing his face off before collapsing into torpor - they were willing to let the whole matter drop. Discreet messages to that effect were sent to the London Council, and peace returned. Eleanor Verne was a surprise candidate to take Morton's place on the Council and position as Carthian Prefect.
Nicholas Trent was badly affected by Morton's death. The two had been coterie-mates and comrades-in-arms for more than a century, as well as close political allies. After a few years in which he became increasingly ineffectual and distracted, Trent went into voluntary torpor in 1987. The Carthian Movement, wanting someone to keep the peace between Eleanor Verne of the Web and Algernon Frayn of the Gekkos, selected the neutral elder, Ralph Treganan, as his successor.
In 2008, Eleanor Verne announced without warning that she was standing down from the Council. Political manoeuvering to succeed her began at once, but the surprise winner of the vacant seat was Andrej Stolypin, the first Invictus to sit on the Council since its inception
Behind the scenes, Verne's resignation had been orchestrated by Thomas Wyncham. He'd become uneasily aware that the Invictus resentment of their status as second-class citizens was reaching dangerous levels. House Skade were threatening to withdraw their tacit acquiescence to the Council system; to the south, the Eagle was scheming to regain Praxis. The continued exclusion of the First Estate from the Council was unsustainable, and threatening to bring down the entire system, but Eleanor Verne, the youngest and most anti-Invictus Carthian on the Council, was unlikely to see it that way, so he manipulated her into standing down.
Late in 2008, an alliance between two renegade Mage factions - the Bosworth Conspiracy and the Seers of the Throne - threatened the leaderships of all three Poli. A Carthian Councillor, Algernon Frayn, had been collaborating with the Mages, hoping to become the leader of the Council - and possibly, Prince - with their support. He fled when his complicity was exposed. A significant proportion of his Carthian faction was implicated in his treachery. So was a notable percentage of the Ordo Dracul. When fighting broke out on the streets as the Seers of the Throne made a last-ditch effort to assassinate the key leaders of the three Poli and take control, it was the Invictus, with House Skade in the lead, that did the most to restore order. With the Carthians weakened, Wyncham was able to argue that the Invictus, as the largest and strongest Covenant to remain largely "untainted" by Mage infiltration, should shoulder the burden of coordinating the clean-up and recovery. There was considerable disquiet at the idea of re-instating the Prince, but Nathaniel Donatein, a respected figure who'd saved a number of London Kindred during the worst days of the Blitz and played a major part in the fight against the Bosworths, was an acceptable candidate to all but the most hard-line Carthian. And as Wyncham was careful to avoid pointing out - too openly - having an Invictus Prince from House Skade placed the Eagle into check - he was now unable to attempt to seize Praxis in London without risking the wrath of his powerful most allies, House Skade.
More surprises were to follow. In the final stages of the Seer/Bosworth revolt, Gabriel Thurston returned to London, having renounced his membership of the Carthians and joined a minor Covenant called the Sun-Walking Knights. He and his followers brought sufficient resources - both financial and "military" - to the table - that he was able to trade his support for the weakened Carthians and the Ordo Dracul for their support regaining his Council seat to replace Algernon Frayn
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At little more than a hundred years dead, Nathaniel Donatein is very young for a Kindred Prince, especially of a city as old, wealthy and populous as London. The respect he commands is very personal; a result of his actions and integrity rather than his age and power. Scion of a Boston family descended from French aristocracy, he served as a soldier in World War One, only to lose his entire family to Spanish Flu after his return home.
Embraced into House Skade, one of the most prestigious Invictus Dynasties in Europe, he succeeded his sire as their Hand - their enforcer, and where necessary, assassin. He served loyally for decades, contributing to the House's standing and good reputation by his heroism protecting endangered Kindred during the World War Two Blitz. Despite his generally taciturn and grim demeanor, he was sufficiently well-liked that his ascension to the Princedom was acceptable to most of the Kindred population.
A common joke among London's Kindred is that Thomas Wyncham is a literally perpetual adolescent. Embraced into Clan Gangrel in his mid-teens, he's notorious for aping teenage fashions as they shift and change from one generation to the next. Right now, that means spending a lot of time with his latest-generation smartphone, wearing baggy jeans half-way down his ass, and always making sure that his T-shirt has a politically incorrect joke on it. Most vampires dismiss his behaviour as an affectation or elder eccentricity, but to him, it's an intellectual exercise, an expression of the Ordo Dracul's methodology of observation and controlled change.
His history is fairly well known. He was the son of a wealthy London merchant, a pious and generous boy whose ambition from an early age was to enter the priesthood and devote his life to the poor. For many years, he simply described his sire as a Sanctified priest who was attracted to his looks. During the tumultuous events of 2008, he finally admitted that his unnamed sire was in fact the notorious Archbishop Simon Mercadier. Tom's faith was destroyed by his Embrace, but he discovered that his wish to help others remained, and he created then-clandestine conspiracy known as the Temple to fight the plague and the Morbus Sanctified who were encouraging its spread. The Great Fire of 1666 game the conspiracy its chance, and Wyncham personally assassinated his sire with the aid of his Mage allies.
His fellow Temple members know the parts of the story that still aren't general currency. Thomas Wyncham actively sought out the Embrace, in anger and bitterness against God for cursing him with homosexuality and his mother with death from consumption. Mercadier's reasons for granting it had less to do with lust than with Wyncham's tremendous natural aptitude for magic - an aptitude which Mercadier hoped might ultimately render the services of Matilda de Bray, London's most powerful Theban sorcerer and his ideological rival, dispensable.
In the wake of the Great Fire, he rejected the Lancea Sanctum and joined the Invictus, eventually rising through the ranks to become the right hand of the Prince. In the early eighteenth century, he also joined the Ordo Dracul, ultimately renouncing his Invictus alleigance when the Dragons declared themselves a separate Covenant in 1897.
When the Carthians started to make their presence felt in London, he was frequently their advocate before the Prince, Hugh Marlowe. The two Kindred had remained friends despite Thomas' renunciation of the Invictus, so that advocacy mattered. When Marlowe met his Final Death in the Blitz, Wyncham lost his last reason to support Invictus rule, and threw his entire political support behind the Carthians.
As the second-oldest Kindred on the Council after the Seer, and a founder member of both the Council and the Temple, he naturally enjoys significant influence. He's also popular with younger Kindred who seem him, not without justification, as a voice of reason, compassion and moderation on the Council. Until 2008, he faced significant political and ideological opposition from within his own Covenant, from Dragons who felt that his humanist philosophies were too close to Anoushka's heretical ideologies. In 2008, many of the opposition "researcher" faction were implicated in the Dumas Revolt, leaving the Ordo Dracul smaller and weaker, but more unified.
Actually, Tom disagrees with Anoushka's philosophies on a few key points. To begin with, he doesn't seek forgiveness from God; as far as he can see, any apologies are at least as much owed as owing. For another, he doesn't want to escape vampirism, just, as he puts it, "debug" it.
He does broadly agree with the Ladder-Sworn's ideas about aggregate harm and the desirability of avoiding it, though. One of his key interests is building a more humane, compassionate Kindred society. He's quietly pushed that agenda in a variety of different guises - concern for the Masquerade, the need to avoid provoking the Mages, preserving a peaceful and stable business environment for the Invictus - over the centuries. It constitutes the first of his three defining passions.
The second, arising naturally from the first, is a keen interest in politics, especially Kindred politics. As the London Order's pre-eminent Sworn of the Mysteries, he is the Covenant's primary voice in Kindred affairs, as well as being one of the more influential Councilors. Where there's political wheeling and dealing among London's vampires, he's usually in the thick of it.
The third interest which drives him is a fascination with blood magic. He's very, very careful never to display his skill in Theban sorcery to his fellow Kindred, but his proficiency with the Coils of the Dragon is more or less widely known. Few outside the Dragons themselves know that he's actually created a partial Coil, but the status he's gained from it amongst the Ordo Dracul gave him the edge in influence over his ideological rival and fellow Philosopher, Bloody Mary. Since 2008, Mary has withdrawn almost completely from the night-to-night activities of the Order, devoting herself to her own researches and leaving the political field to Wyncham.
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Both child vampires, both survivors of the Great Fire, and both powerful elders; it's inevitable that the two oldest members of the Council, Thomas Wyncham and the Seer, should be compared. There's even an ironic nickname for the two of them - "the Holy Innocents". But in fact, their differences far outweigh their similarities. For a start, there's clan; the Seer is Mekhet, not Gangrel. And she creeps out the Kindred in a far more conventional way than Wyncham's excessively human mannerisms; through her absolute stillness, her coldness, the palpable sense of something ancient and deadly lurking beneath the facade of an innocent little girl.
While Thomas Wyncham is a relatively known quantity, the Seer is an inhuman mystery. She claims not to recall her own history much beyond the Great Fire, but in moments of distraction she'll sing softly to herself in languages that go back a lot further than three centuries - Norman French, early Middle English and Old Norse are three which more scholarly Kindred have identified. Everyone knows or assumes that she's a master of Cruac, yet no-one ever seems to have seen her use it. She's called the Seer because she so often seems to know things that she couldn't possibly know. That makes her advice valuable and much sought-after, but it doesn't win her many friends.
She's not insane, though. Talk to her, and she's perfectly lucid, frighteningly intelligent and perceptive, and utterly dedicated to protecting and expanding her Covenant. She supports the Carthians - for now - because their policies of religious tolerance give the Circle of the Crone a freedom to grow which it hasn't enjoyed in centuries. She serves on the Council because it's the most effective way - for now - to give the Circle a strong voice in the city's affairs. But no-one mistakes her expedience for true loyalty to the status quo.
Physically, she looks like a girl of about twelve, with long blonde hair and pale skin. Her preferred dress is black jeans and a plain white blouse, with a dark hooded cloak over the top. She looks like nothing more than a character from a Victorian ghost story, eerie and sinister.
The truth about the Seer would frighten even those Kindred who already thinks she's as scary as hell - which is most of them. Her real name is Iulia Alpina, and she was the daughter of Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus, the Roman Procurator who rebuilt Londinium after Boudica's rebellion had burned it to ash. She was Embraced in 64 AD by the vampire Skade, the sire of Triumvirs Clepsydra and Ilia Volyova - although House Skade is probably unaware of this connection. Originally a member of the Cult of Augurs, she joined the Circle of the Crone some time in the first millenium AD, shortly after it was consolidated into its present form by the Blinded Queen. Her magical knowledge, accumulated over centuries, includes not just Cruac in its modern incarnation, but the Veneficia of the Roman Kindred, and it's to the Roman pantheon that her sacrifices are offered to this day
Even as a mortal child, she had an innate, psychic connection with the spirit of the city. She could sense its loves, its hopes and fears, and even, in a vague way, its destiny. After her Embrace, that connection strengthened even as it twisted into a grim awareness of the city's dark side - its hates, bloodshed, grief, and death. Having spent her entire almost two-millenium long history in London, she's become almost the embodiment of its Id.
Although she's probably the oldest and most personally powerful Kindred in London, her cautious and conservative nature has always held her back from siezing Praxis over the city. Recently, however, as the Christian influence over mortal culture has gone into a steep decline and the Invictus has lost its way, she senses that her time may have come.
"We are not in the murder business. We are in the Salvation business"
Douglas Collier was an Army chaplain during the glory days of the British Empire. During his service in Afghanistan, he dashed from cover under heavy sniper fire to pull a wounded serviceman to safety. He saved the man's life, but in the process suffered a bullet wound which shattered the bones in his right leg. He narrowly escaped the need to have it amputated, and to this day needs to spend an extra Vitae each night to heal the damage, or else walk with the aid of a cane.
Retired on an Army pension, a decorated hero, he could have had his pick of pleasant, rural parishes. He chose instead to dedicate his life to helping the unfortunates living in the slums of London's East End. He was very successful. Too successful for some of the pimps and extortionists who preyed on those same unfortunates. They didn't take kindly to having their working girls reform and find service as maids in respectable households, or their bully-boys getting savagely beaten with Collier's oak cane as they were trying to pick up "contributions" from local shopkeepers. Collier, they decided, would have to die.
He did - technically. But thanks to his Embrace at the fangs of a Sanctified Nosferatu, that proved to be the beginning of the underworld's problems, not the end.
Collier, as fine an example of the Church Militant as Victoria's Empire ever managed to produce, had little trouble adapting to the Lancea Sanctum's ideology, but he fused the Sanctified philosophy to his own stern moral code to produce an idiosyncratic version of the Covenant's usual scripture. His sire expected Collier to hunt down and kill his own murderers. Collier hunted them down, but he absolutely refused to kill them. Instead, he systematically dismantled their lives, engineering the loss of their wives, their children, their friends and their wealth. He terrorised them with his Nightmare Discipline, driving them to alcoholism, turning them into objects of scorn and pity amongst the thugs who'd once respected and feared them.
Then he offered them forgiveness.
Before they died, two had worked as porters at a free hospital, one had served as a church warden, and one had become a master-builder who spent a large part of his time renovating slum dwellings at cost. Of course, their alcoholism meant that a couple of them died far earlier - and far more painfully - than they otherwise would have, but Collier didn't care a fig for that, as long as they died in a state of Grace. Collier's sire could only shake his head is awed admiration.
The purpose of the Lancea Sanctum, the Bishop preaches, is to inspire repentance in sinners. He doesn't object to the use of pain and terror, but only if they move their targets to face their own moral failings and seek forgiveness from God. Otherwise, they're just sadism and perversion. And on the whole, the Bishop prefers to cleave to Asimov's maxim that "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent". He doesn't trust claims of contrition extracted under torture. And he is violently opposed to killing mortals - no-one can repent once they're dead. The Kindred, in the Bishop's view, are God's idea of "tough love" towards His children.
The Bishop retains the military mindset of his mortal days. He is austere in his personal tastes (preferring the simple black jacket and dog-collar of a parish priest to the ostentatious robes of a Bishop) and unbending in his principles. He has nothing but contempt for his medieval Sanctified predecessors, dismissing them as "jaded perverts" in polite company, and cursing them in language fit to strike a midshipman deaf whilst amongst friends.
Of all the city's leaders, the Bishop's position is the most secure within his own Covenant. All his followers respect him; a good number would walk through fire for him. His standing amongst the rest of the city's Kindred suffers from his desire to punish and persecute the very whores and thieves that the other vampires wish to use as pawns. But even amongst his enemies, he is at least respected. In fact, some of the more paranoid (or perceptive) Kindred whisper that the rest of the Council work so hard to undermine the Collier's efforts to rebuild the reputation of the Sanctified because they know just how effective Collier would be as the city's Prince, if he ever got a chance to be.
His Nosferatu aura manifests as a sense of guilt and anxiety in those around them. "He makes people feel like kids sent to the headmaster", as one Carthian neonate put it. That effect is reinforced by Collier's natural authority and military bearing.
In an age of wall-to-wall CCTV and phone cameras, the Council recognizes the need for a dedicated figure at the highest level to deal with potential Masquerade breaches, and Knox is it - the Council's Guardian of the Masquerade.
Well, that's his official title, anyway. He’s more commonly known as “The Pooper-Scooper”. Neonates sometimes wonder how he’d react if he ever found out about his nickname. Older Kindred, more familiar with Knox’s flair for mordant wit, correctly suspect that he came up with it himself. A vampire who calls himself “Robert Knox” and addresses his favourite ghouls as “Burke” and “Hare” probably isn’t inclined to take himself too seriously, no matter how common that particular failing might be amongst his fellow elders. Elegant and dapper, with a voice that Wyncham once described as "the vocal equivalent of the smell of roasting coffee - rich and dark", Knox cuts a striking figure in Elysium. His seemingly garrulous tongue and love of gossip combine to make him a harpy, of a kind, but in his own words "only as a sort of hobby".
London's Kindred know little of Knox's background. He was Embraced into Clan Mekhet around 1896, but no-one knows his sire, and Knox claims to have no memory of the act. If his version of events is to be believed, he went to bed one night a mortal man, and woke up in his own cellar ten nights later as a Kindred, without any idea of what had happened in the intervening time. Before then? He was in "the import/export business", he says vaguely, refusing to elaborate.
Most Kindred don't care beyond idle curiosity. What matters to them is what Knox is now. And what he is now, is the man who cleans up their messes. Dead bodies? He'll bury them - which means that he literally knows where they're buried, but that's the price you pay if you're so damn' careless when you're feeding. Phone camera footage? He'll arrange for the memories of both phone and photographer to be erased. Forensic evidence? Nothing a little industrial-strength bleach won't cure, dear boy. Ah, how you laughed, when you found out that I own a company that cleans public lavatories, but as I said at the time, he who laughs last... no, no, my boy, that's quite all right. It's really no trouble...
Knox walks a fine line when collecting favors for what he does. Kindred don't like being indebted to other Kindred, so if Knox were to push the idea that they owed him, they wouldn't call him when one of their little "indiscretions" needed covering up. That, in turn, would stop Knox from being able to do his job at all. So instead, he makes a great show of being a "public servant", doing the job to fulfill his Council responsibilities, without thought for reward. If that makes him a popular fellow - if the Kindred want to stay on his good side - well, he can hardly be blamed for that, can he?
He doesn't do it alone, of course. He has Kindred agents, ghoul retainers, mortal servants who have no idea what they're really working for (often petty criminals who think they're covering up a more conventional murder). He even has a helpline (manned from sunset to sunrise), for Kindred to call when they get in over their heads. He's a member of the Carthian Movement because he likes to be on the winning side (and temperamentally, he finds them more palatable than the excessive ceremonialism and rigid hierarchies of the Invictus). He's a member of the Council because he's very good at his job, and everyone who gets to vote on Council membership knows they might need his services one day.
Port Royal, Jamaica, was known in its day as "The Wickedest City in the World".
It was hyperbole, of course. Sin and evil flourished in plenty of other cities. But Port Royal, a haven for pirates, was a violent, freewheeling place, where might often made right, and everything - including human life - was for sale, if you could pay enough.
Gabriel Thurston was born into that society, the son of a deadly pirate and a mother who - though she kept a tavern - might possibly have been even deadlier than her nominal "husband".
In many ways, he followed in his father's footsteps - an adolescence of brawling, drinking and whoring preceded a "graduation" to the life of a full pirate - but he was more resourceful and sharper-witted than his father ever was, taking more after his mother in that respect. His sire, a Ventrue of the Rotgraften bloodline who had her fingers in much of Port Royal's illicit business, fully appreciated both his brains and his body, making him her ghoul, lieutenant and lover.
In 1692, a massive earthquake struck Port Royal. His parents were crushed when the tavern collapsed on top of them, and Gabriel's legs were crushed by falling chunks of masonry. He was still digging himself free when night fell, and his sire awoke and pulled him from the ruins.
Moved by some quixotic impulse, his sire saved and healed him the only way she could, though the Embrace. The fled the ruined city together, on one of his sire's surviving pirate ships. They travelled widely, involving themselves peripherally in both the American and French Revolutions, not so much for ideological reasons as because revolutionaries can make useful customers once they've looted the Treasury.
They arrived in England in the early nineteenth century, drawn to London by an elaborate scheme to prey on East India Company shipping. His sire departed for the New World in the 1870s, but Gabriel, who had fallen in love with the city, remained with her blessing.
He could easily have claimed a place amongst the First Estate, had he wished, but at heart, he still retained the spirit of a freedom-loving, freebooting pirate, and something about the Carthians reminded him of the rough and violent pseudo-democracy of the pirate ships of his youth. He was one of the founder members of the London Carthians, respected both for his age and power, and the curious quirk of honour that stopped him from using them to dominate the younger members. Or not too blatantly, anyhow. He was singled out for harsh treatment by the increasingly paranoid Marlowe as a result, leaving him receptive to Andrew Fairburn's advocacy of violent revolution against the First Estate.
He was more of a sceptic about Fairburn's strategy of splitting Wyncham off from the Prince, and frankly distrustful of the Seer's offer of an alliance, but he respected Fairburn as a superior strategist, and realized all too well the difficulty of displacing the Invictus purely through violence. He has, however, made a number of contingency plans against a possible betrayal by either party.
After the Carthian takeover succeeded, he served as a member of the Kindred Council until the 1970s, before unexpectedly resigning and leaving the city. That was the last anyone in London heard of him until the end of 2008, when he abruptly reappeared, leading a contingent of Sun-Walking Knights and a small group of allied Mages. He's not revealed where he was and what he was doing in the intervening decades, although he's admitted to being based in Miami for at least a part of the time, and many of his followers originate in that city.
The third son of a country squire in the late eighteenth century, his family’s connections secured him a job as an curate in a small fishing community on the south coast. It was a job to which he was grossly unsuited – except that the parson of the church was also the head of a smuggling ring that turned a rich profit bringing in wine, spirits and tobacco from France. Young Ralph found his niche as the parson’s second-in-command, living a secret double life as a pious assistant priest and a smuggler who loved the danger and excitement of outwitting Revenue officers – with a little boozing, whoring and gambling to let off steam.
That ended when a lucky shot from a pursing Revenue ship left him with a bullet in his gut. His own ship got away, but it was plan that Ralph wasn’t long for this world. His sire, a Gangrel who he has always refused to name, offered him a way out, and Ralph reluctantly agreed.
Ralph Treganan is a curious paradox. He could be called an adreneline junkie if his adrenal glands still worked, addicted to danger and excitement (preferably illicit) even tonight. Yet he has a strong moral core which makes him favour nefarious activities with some sort of redeeming social value, what Dr. Knox calls a "Robin Hood complex". He wholeheartedly embraces the Carthian ideology that change is good. In the past, he's given financial support to the Glastonbury Festival, Gay Pride, the Suffragettes, and the anti-racism movement, cooling on each as they became, in his own words, "about as anti-Establishment as Royal Ascot". He's also not above doing things out of sheer devilment, or to shock his jaded contemporaries. When the Tories launched their ill-fated "Back to Basics" campaign, for instance, he responded to their moral crusade by deciding to become a porn star. Unable to appear in photos or video, he instead commisioned a struggling artist to produce photo-quality portraits of him in a series of underground graphic novels. "And graphic", remarked Dr. Knox, "is certainly the word".
He's a dilettante in his interests, with investments in everything from high technology to farming, although he retains a fondness for the smuggling business from his mortal days, and has a hand in a good percentage of London’s drug trade. He and Van Lutyens dance around each other with exquisite courtesy in criminal circles, careful not to tread on each others’ toes.
In the early 1990s, the Carthians started to get nervous at the thought that no-one from their own Covenant was privy to the Temple's meetings. Wyncham suggested that Ralph Treganan join to address this, on the grounds that (a) he was acceptable to both the Web and Gekko factions of the Carthians, and (b) he already had clandestine contacts with Van Lutyens, so they might as well be put on an official footing.
The most recent addition to the Council, Andrej Stolypin was a surprise choice to replace Eleanor Verne after her equally surprising decision to stand down from the Council. Rumoured to be the bastard son of Russian aristocrats, he's a virtual unknown outside the First Estate, although the little reputation he does possess is that of a shrewd and honest businessman
The Invictus itself holds him in somewhat higher esteem. He's a rising star, a success story in both financial and political terms. House Skade personally selected him as its preferred candidate for the position of Invictus Councillor, a notable vote of confidence
For the moment, Andrej is an enigma that many Kindred would like to know more about - beginning with the question of how the Invictus managed to pile up enough votes to secure his appointment in the first place, and why Eleanor Verne, noted for her antipathy to the First Estate, was so muted in her opposition to his elevation. His rise to the Council has changed the Kindred political map at a stroke, giving the Invictus a voice at the highest level once again. Many are wondering what they plan to do with it. So far, Andrej has been keeping his cards close to his chest