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Robert de Courcey was born into a minor Norman noble family around 1110 A.D. A third son, he was never likely to inherit the family estates, and trained for a career in the clergy. "Career" being the operative word, for he could never have been said to have a true vocation, instead being more preoccupied with the "three h's" - hawking, hunting, and whoring. The church in the early twelfth century, however, was not the corrupt institution it was to become a few centuries later, and despite his considerable academic achievements, de Courcey was eventually forced to abandon his allegedly holy life.
Lacking any other skills, he decided to make his way on the tournament circuit. Unlike the most famous exemplar of the tourney field, William the Marshal, he was never good enough to get rich at it, but he certainly earned enough to pay his way and earn some minor fame.
It was on the tournament field that he met another dissolute young nobleman, Simon Mercadier, and the two became fast friends and sometime rivals. Mercadier was Embraced in 1134, by a Sanctified Gangrel who had noted his viciousness in close combat and thought he would make a worthy servant and Inquisitor. De Courcey received his own Embrace two years later, at the fangs of a Sanctified Daeva who was looking for a combination of martial prowess and academic skill in a new Priest. It was, in fact, Mercadier who recommended his former sparring partner for the Embrace.
Their partnership continued as they rose steadily through the ranks of the Lancea Sanctum. De Courcey was the spy and politician, and Mercadier the warrior and assassin. Their combined talents sent a number of their rivals to the Final Death without the rest of the Lancea Sanctum suspecting them, and by 1295, they were ready to stage their coup. The Archbishop of London and several key members of his High Synod were dragged from their havens in the middle of the day by mortal witch hunters - some genuine, and fed a careful trail of clues by the pair, and others simply De Courcey and Mercadier's mortal retainers. The latter were switfly hunted down and killed by the two Kindred after the deed was done, to prevent them from ever talking.
Mercadier claimed the role of Archbishop, with de Courcey as his Sheriff and chief lieutenant, but their position was still insecure, threatened by far older and more powerful Sanctified. In truth, the only reason that Mercadier got away with claiming the title at all was that all his prospective rivals for the post hated each other more than they hated him.
As the Black Death raged, Robert de Courcey made overtures to several members of the Morbus bloodline, who had been banished from London by the former Archbishop, and offered them a deal. London could become a safe haven for the Morbus, he suggested, as long as they in turn were willing to support the Archbishop against his rivals. An increasing number of Morbus from all over England and France flooded into the city, forming a powerful new base of support for Mercadier, and gradually all his potential challengers were marginalized, exiled, or destroyed. A number of the exiles fled to York and Canterbury, where they established Kindred governments who adhered more closely to the "ideals" of the Lancea Sanctum. The one survivor was Matilda de Bray of Clan Nosferatu, who made it clear that she had no wish to become Archbishop, and was far too powerful a Theban Sorceress to be challenged without very good reason.
Mercadier's rule was secure, but thanks to the Humanity which he and de Courcey had sacrificed on their rise to power, it was increasingly cruel and corrupt, resembling a blood-soaked parody of the Borgia Popes at their most decadent. For all their moral degeneracy, however, the two were frighteningly effective at crushing all opposition to their rule... until the Great Fire.
Robert de Courcey didn't like Thomas Wyncham when the boy was Embraced, didn't like Mercadier's apparent infatuation with the lad, and he really didn't like the fact that Wyncham didn't seem to be making any attempt to undermine his sire or increase his own power. Thomas Wyncham was too clever, too capable, too good at being a Kindred, not to have his own agenda, but try as he might, all de Courcey's vaunted skill as a spy was unable to uncover any evidence of what that agenda was, or even that it existed. Not until the night of the Great Fire, and by then, it was too late. Trapped in the burning remains of his haven, he could do nothing but take refuge in his hidden vault beneath the cellar, and sleep away the next two and a half centuries in torpor.
His circumstances upon awakening weren't exactly what he would have chosen, either. Dug ignominiously out of the foundations of a bombed-out building by Wayland's Smithy, he found himself incarcerated in a purpose-built dungeon beneath their fortress, Siege Perilous, with no apparent means of escape. He's patient, however. Sooner of later, the Smithy will make a mistake... and de Courcey will be waiting.
Matilda de Bray was a daughter of the Norman Conquest, the child of a Saxon mother and a minor knight who had fought with William the Bastard (known to the more prudish post-Victorian generations as William the Conquerer) at the Battle of Hastings. From childhood, she was extraordinarily intelligent and willful, and as the youngest of three daughters, she had no real hope of a decent dowry that would tempt a prospective husband. So it was perhaps inevitable that she should choose the cloister over married life, although her reasons had less to do with piety than a desire for an "academic career" - or as close as the eleventh century could offer.
She was Embraced into the Lancea Sanctum by a Sanctified Nosferatu who occasionally acted as Confessor to her nunnery - the Benedictine foundation of St. Helen's in Bishopsgate. Her sire, a talented Theban sorcerer in his own right, had noted her incredible facility for ancient Greek and Latin texts, and reasoned correctly that her formidable mind would make her a natural practitioner of the Theban rites. The Embrace also focussed Matilda's attention on matters of faith which she had scarcely considered before, and after a difficult period of adjustment, she converted whole-heartedly to the Lancea Sanctum's theology.
She was rising fast through the ranks of the Lancea Sanctum until 1295, when Mercadier and de Courcey staged their coup. Once the ashes of the Sanctified who the pair had assassinated - including her own sire - had blown away on the wind, Matilda was left as the most powerful Theban sorcerer in the city. That made her too valuable a resource for Mercadier and de Courcey to destroy without good reason, and she made it clear to them - truthfully - that she had no wish to become Archbishop in Mercadier's place. As the centuries passed, she managed to fade away into the background of London, a mere utility called upon by Mercadier or his Court when tey needed her occult expertise.
Needless to say, Mercadier underestimated her. Quietly, subtly, Matilda was undermining the foundations of his rule, whose corrupt decadence she saw as a betrayal of everything the Lancea Sanctum was supposed to stand for. But her caution and secrecy hampered her efforts; for all the problems she caused him over the years, Mercadier's position was never seriously threatened by her schemes. Finally, the Great Fire made the problem moot.
It also robbed Matilda herself of any real purpose. For centuries, she had defined herself in opposition to Mercadier - now, Mercadier and all his supporters were gone. She turned her back on London, joining her fellow Sanctified in York and falling into torpor for more than a century and a half. She awoke with zeal and faith renewed, succeeding the then Shadow Archbisop of York after he fell into his own torpor in 1876. She runs the Kindred society of York and the Leeds/Bradford metropolitan area as a spartan, self-disciplined theocracy, very similar, in fact, to what Douglas Collier would like to establish in London. Suspiciously so, whisper some.
Matilda would be a lovely young woman if her mouse-brown hair weren't so lank, or her pale face not disfigured by patches of what look like skin disease. As it is, she commands respect rather than desire or affection. She considers that preferrable.
Although she has little love for the London Council, she refuses to aid the Invictus who fled in 1941 against the current regime, seeing the Council - godless and faulty as it is - as a lesser evil. In an odd little tradition, she and Wyncham have exchanged Christmas cards in every year since she ascended to the Shadow Archbishopric in 1876. There's a certain bond of respect and affection between the two of them, grudging and reluctant though it might be. Each was one of the few Kindred in Mercadier's London that the other didn't find repellant. Some Kindred in London have speculated that there might be more to their relationship than that, although others point out how unlikely that is, given Wyncham's antipathy to the Lancea Sanctum and Matilda's devotion to it.
Quintus Ferasius Aquila hasn't set foot in London since the fifth century, but his presence is felt in the city nonetheless. The offspring of a Romano-British family who lost their properties (and in some cases, their lives), in the barbarian invasions following the withdrawal of the legions in the fifth century, he spent ten years fighting the invaders as part of a small "guerrilla force" which specialized in harrying supply lines, assassinating Saxon chieftans, and other more imaginative tactics such as poisoning wells and burning crops to deny the enemy resupply. He earned the nickname "the Eagle", for his ability to see trouble coming, both literally and metaphorically. His Embrace, ironically, came at the hands of one of the invaders, a Saxon Ventrue who thought the young man could be used against his former comrades. The Ventrue in question became the first - but by no means the last - Kindred to meet Final Death as a result of underestimating the Eagle.
It didn't take long for the crumbling remnants of the Camarilla left in the British Isles to spot Quintus, not least because several of them had been considering his for the Embrace themselves. The young man, a mere twenty-eight years old and newly Embraced, achieved a prominence in the nascent Invictus which would have been unthinkable in more settled times. A hundred years into his Requiem, he took the title "Count of the Saxon Shore", a mortal position which the depleted ranks of the Kindred had chosen to ape as a model for their new political structure. As the glories of Rome faded into the dark ages, Quintus gradually began to refer to himself as "Prince" rather than "Count" of the Saxon Shore.
With Londinium in ruins and largely abandoned, the Eagle chose to concentrate his efforts in the wealthy new trading cities of the south, particularly Winchester, rather than the old capital. He slipped into torpor around 800 AD, leaving his loyal ghoul family and several childer as stewards of his domain in his absence. By the time he emerged a century and a half later, the Lancea et Sanctum were already firmly established in London, and his own domain centered around Southampton, Portsmouth and Winchester was in eclipse.
Unfortunately, there was little the Eagle could do to dislodge them, though he did try various gambits which drew on his experience as a mortal guerrilla fighter. The best he could do was limit their expansion outside London and try to ensure Invictus dominance throughout the rest of the country. Though interrupted by a couple more spells of torpor, his efforts made him one of the most prominent and politically influential Kindred in England, and an Invictus lynchpin.
When Mercadier and de Courcey invited the Invictus back into London, Quintus sent several agents of his own into the city, led by his official Ambassador and childe, Hugh Marlowe. Naturally, de Courcey was expecting that and took immediate steps to counter them, without realizing that they were a feint. The Eagle's real agents were Matilda de Bray and, as Hugh Marlowe made contact with them, the Temple.
The Great Fire finally broke the Sanctified stranglehold on London, leaving the way clear for Quintus' childe Hugh Marlowe to take the throne. Although the northern city of York was (and remains to this day), Sanctified territory, the Invictus were now the dominant Kindred faction across most of England. The Eagle made no attempt to take the throne of London himself, instead advising and supporting his childe from a distance. Satisfied that the Invictus hold on London had been securely consolidated, Quintus slipped into torpor in the late eighteenth century.
When he emerged in 1969, he found that the situation in London had changed, and not - in his opinion - for the better. He has little or no time for the former Primogen who fled London during the Blitz, regarding them as cowardly incompetents who threw away the Invictus hold on London which he had worked so long and hard to establish. And also as clumsy short-termists whose half-baked schemes to regain control of the city merely hinder the careful, long-term strategic approach which will be required to achieve that goal. He has no especial malice towards the Carthians, but he views them as children who've bitten off more than they can chew and whose rule is doomed to collapse into chaos eventually. For the moment, he is analysing the city, in depth, looking for strengths and weaknesses to exploit.
The Eagle is - by Invictus standards - something of a maverick. He eschews the ceremony and ritual which characterize the Covenant wherever possible, preferring to emphasise practicality and straight talking. Despite his long years as a Prince, his genuinely concerned and responsible attitude towards his subjects and his domain has allowed him to keep a fairly solid grip on both his humanity and his sanity. He's somewhat paranoid, perhaps, but not to the point of irrationality, considering how many people really are out to get an elder of his age and power. A deep strategic thinker, he's slow to commit to any course of action without weighing up all the possible outcomes and making provision for them. In the fast-moving modern age, that's proving a slight disadvantage, but it also makes him very hard indeed to outwit or second-guess.
Despite his age, he's adapted fairly well to the modern era. In person, he seems friendly and approachable, even to far lower-ranking Kindred, and he's willing to listen to dissenting voices provided their arguments are intelligently reasoned and sensibly presented. Like a military officer, however, he has little tolerance for insubordination or loutish behaviour.
His experiences at the start of the Dark Ages have given him a profound distaste - if not an actual Phobia - towards chaos and social disorder. His "management style" could be characterized as subtlety and a light touch combined with the utterly ruthless elimination of any potential threat to the peace before it has a chance to get out of hand. As such, he's unlikely to make any direct challenge to the Carthians in London, but over time, it's quite likely that he'll seek to undermine their rule from within
A mason in his human life, Kester helped build part of the wall and roads around Edinburgh Castle. He married and fathered a large brood of extraordinarily hearty children (the number changes each time he mentions them - as few as eight, as many as seventeen), all of whom survived to adulthood (unusual for those times) - no marriage or birth records exist. He was Embraced in the late 1500's, though the exact date and the name of his sire are unknown.
He is, for all intents and purposes, as much Prince of Edinburgh as the Ventrue who formally holds the title, and the Kindred of the city are well aware of it. However, Kester has never flaunted this power. He holds the official title of Scourge and is primarily responsible for the defense/security of the city.
His Haven is the labyrinth known as the Vaults, which run underneath the Old Town of Edinburgh.
he has three Kindred progeny - Kate, Eugene, and Farquar. Kate is the eldest, Embraced in 1876. Eugene and Farquar were Embraced in the 1940's, at the end of the Second World War.
Kester received little (if any) formal education, doesn't read very well and simple mathematics and science are beyond him. Despite this, he is extraordinarily perceptive and a keen strategist, and it's extremely rare that he's ever caught off guard. He loves chess, plays often, and almost never loses. He has great respect for gadgets of all kinds and is fanatical about staying on the cutting edge of modern technology (the reason he Embraced Eugene and Farquar).
Kester is very much like a stubborn, spoiled child, extremely fond of wreaking havoc simply to revel in the reaction of others and for his own amusement. Petty, vindictive, often cruel, quick to anger, he holds grudges until the end of time, and never forgets an insult or slight. His acts of vengeance on those who've offended him are legendary and act as a potent warning to all. Incredibly obstinate, once he sets his sights on something, he's like a dog with a bone - there's no dissuading or discouraging him. Kester very much enjoys looking (and acting) like a monster. He will win at any cost, cheats often (except at chess) and always fights dirty. He breaks promises and goes back on his word (except to those he feels are worthy). If a question of honor arises, he says he has none and doesn't care.
He shows extreme devotion to the few he cares about - his progeny, the Prince of Edinburgh (Alastair Hume), and the Prince's favorite childe, Sebastian Hume (for whom Kester acts as a 'second Sire'). He will do anything for them and wreak havoc on those who attempt to insult/offend/harm them.
A secret passion - theater and film, especially movie musicals from the 1930's, '40's and '50's (if any of his kind have found this hobby amusing or worthy of derision, none have ever had the courage to say so). His haven has a state-of-the-art screening room. Kester knows every frame and note by heart. One of his most prized possessions is the hat worn by Gene Kelly during the title song and dance number of 'Singing In the Rain', purchased at a Christie's auction by Sebastian and given to Kester as a birthday present.
Kester is tall, not extraordinarily so for present day, but a giant in the century he was born into - at nearly six and a half feet. He's lean, with large hands and feet. His skin is as white as chalk and completely hairless, right down to the absence of eyelashes. Black eyes are prominent, as is the fact that his nose is missing, leaving only a small protrusion of bone in the middle of his face. His teeth - pointed, crooked, and far too many for the size of his mouth - look as though they'd been pulled from his jaw, then tossed back in haphazardly.
The Nosferatu usually wears a nearly floor-length black wool coat, buttoned up to the neck, with velvet lapels. A black, Hamburg-style hat sits on his bald pate. Heavy, steel-toed military issued boots complete the ensemble. His clothes show some age and wear, but not so old as to be the source of the foul odor emanating from the creature wearing them.
In 1941, Frances Rafferty was the Seneschal of London, and one of the most respected members of the London Primogen. With Marlowe increasingly erratic and paranoid, and Wyncham estranged from the First Estate since the emergence of the Ordo Dracul, she was widely seen as the most likely new Prince if Marlowe should degenerate too far, or slip into torpor.
If she ever did entertain that hope - and if she did, she was careful to conceal it while Marlowe still occupied the throne - then the Blitz dashed it forever. As perhaps the most prominent politically active Invictus in London after the Prince himself, the blame for the First Estate's ignominious flight from the capital fell disproportionately upon her head.
She was too well-entrenched in Invictus politics to discount entirely, of course. Her age alone is enough to ensure that she'll always receive a hearing in the councils of the First Estate - as a mortal, she reputedly saw the Court of Henry VIII when the old monster was at the height of his youth and strength, not the obese relic painted by Holbein. Some even name her as one of his mistresses, although such rumours come only from the unreliable recollections of her fellow elders, not any kind of verifiable historical record. And centuries of playing the political game has left her with a web of contacts and allies whose support is more or less assured by the fact that she knows where the bodies are buried.
Her wealth, too, is considerable. Her family belonged to the sixteenth century "nouveau riche" class created by Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, and in the centuries since, she's increased her early fortune a thousandfold, mostly through ruthless tactics unfettered by any hint of moral scruple. It's often been claimed - albeit, admittedly, by Carthians and their sympathisers - that she had a large stake in the Bristol slave trade, amongst other unsavoury activities. Even amongst the Kindred, money is power, and Frances Rafferty has a lot of money.
Despite all this, however, her present position verges on precarious. She makes her home in the Eagle's domain on the south coast - solidly Invictus territory, true, but ruled by a Prince whose age and power makes her look like a mere child, and whose sympathies she has irretrievably forfeited. She's been a hate figure amongst the London Carthians since 1980, when she was suspected of complicity in the assasination of Stephen Morton, the Invictus Councillor. That makes her a political liability in any future Invictus attempt to retake the city, a fact that the Inner Circle is painfully aware of.
In short, she a wounded beast - and that makes her meaner and more dangerous than she's ever been...