The History of the Temple

Origins

In 1653, a young Adamantine Arrow Mastigos named Harry Lynton discovered a vampire deliberately spreading plague amongst the congregations of several of London's smaller churches. He tracked the creature to its lair and sneaked inside during the day, planning to destroy it while it slept. Much to his surprise, he found its body concealed in a wooden chest, already staked through the heart.

Curious, he kept watch on the place for the next several nights, and observed another vampire - this one wearing the face and form of a teenage boy - systematically looting the torpid Kindred's haven and distributing its wealth to the poor and destitute. He was intrigued enough to risk making himself known to the boy, who called himself "Thomas Wyncham", and claimed that he'd been dragged into undeath against his will. Wyncham told the young Mage that he was trying to stop his fellow monsters from spreading so much misery and pain, but lacked the power to do more than pick off a few of the more isolated and vulnerable ones.

Lynton was suspicious, of course, but he couldn't detect any deceit on Wyncham. And he saw the potential value of a spy in the enemy camp, if the boy were what he claimed. London at that time was dominated by the corrupt tyranny of the Lancea Sanctum, and its relatively few Mages and Uratha were at a distinct disadvantage against the ruling Kindred.

Neither quite trusted the other, but they agreed to meet once every couple of months beside the Temple, the twelfth-century Church built by the Knights Templar. Wyncham, very young and terrified by the prospect of losing his humanity, had felt himself to be wholly alone amongst inhuman monsters throughout the fourteen years of his Requiem before he met Lynton. He could see the practical advantages of having a Mage as an ally, but in truth, he was willing to take the risk just to have someone relatively sympathetic to talk to.

Working together, they quietly eliminated three more Sanctified Morbus without anyone the wiser. Lynton was the first to bring another member to their "partnership" - his cabal-mate, a Moros named Elizabeth Hawthorne. Wyncham, in turn, introduced an Invictus agent named Jonathan Clavain and a Mekhet Crone named Susanna Thane to the uneasy alliance.

From the start, the two sides had a different focus. Wyncham's group wanted to eliminate the Sanctified, while Lynton and his cabal wanted to fight the plague, but there were enough Sanctified Morbus to make those goals complementary.

In searching for a supernatural origin for the plague, Lynton's cabal stumbled on a large nest of Beshilu, and it didn't take long after that for them to encounter the Uratha. The relative success of their "arrangement" with the Kindred emboldened the Mages to seek out a similar relationship with the Uratha. Fortunately for them, the first pack that they met, a mixed group of Bone Shadows and Iron Masters, were also young idealists, and responded with wary interest rather than simply tearing the Mages into shreds.

It took several more years before Lynton took the next step - introducing the Uratha to the Kindred. Their eventual meeting went more smoothly than Lynton had expected - the Iron Master Alpha, Stephen Eswy, had known Thomas Wyncham slightly when they were both children, since both of them hailed from London merchant dynasties.

For the most part, the Kindred and Uratha tended to keep to their own concerns, with the Mages acting as go-betweens. But there were a few occasions when they aided one another directly, enough that both the Sanctified Morbus and the Beshilu came to be seen, not just as the Kindred's enemies or the Uratha's enemies, but the enemies of the Temple as a whole. Those early, tentative experiments in mutual co-operation set a precedent which continues, albeit fitfully, to the present day.

They were a clandestine conspiracy, for the leaders of the Mages feared the consequences of engaging the Lancea Sanctum openly, while the Uratha leaders knew just enough about the Sanctified to realize that they were irredeemably corrupt, and tarred all Kindred with the same brush. It was Stephen Eswy who, half-jokingly, suggested that they come up with a name that they could use for themselves which would leave nobody else the wiser, and it was Lynton, looking at the Temple Church, who suggested "Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon". Within a few years, that had become shortened to "Templars" and then to "Temple" - the last being Wyncham's idea. He knew that none of the Sanctified would raise an eyebrow at one of their junior members using the word "Temple" in casual conversation.

And a curious thing started to happen. Although the Temple never came to trust each other, or rely on one another, they started to like one another. As has so often been the case throughout history, a sense of shared danger and shared struggle forged bonds amongst the unlikliest of allies. Probably the Temple members themselves didn't realize how strong their emotional bonds were becoming, until they were tested, almost literally, in the fires of adversity.

The Great Fire and its aftermath

The Great Fire changed everything. In the space of four nights, the plague, the single great enemy that the Temple had come together to fight, was cleansed from the city, along with the Beshilu and Morbus who had encouraged and exploited its spread. Once amongst the weakest Kindred in the city, Thomas Wyncham and Jonathan Clavain were now some of the strongest of its hugely depleted vampire population. The Temple had won. But the victory had come at a cost. When the city burned, it took one of the Temple's Kindred members, Susanna Thane, with it.

In a strange way, even that was a victory of sorts for the unlikely association. The surviving members of the Temple gathered before the Temple Church for a simple memorial service to honor their lost comrade. "Not", as Lynton put it, "as Kindred, or Uratha, or Mages, but as friends united in a common cause, mourning the loss of one of our own". Susanna Thane's death made the Temple face up to the fact that they had become more than just allies of convenience, using each other out of expediency.

Still, they were also realistic enough to understand that what divided them was more enduring than what united them, and that they would eventually be driven apart unless they found practical reasons for working together. Slowly, the idea of becoming "ambassadors" of sorts between their respective communities took hold. For the Kindred, the idea had an immediate, practical advantage. Critically weakened, they were in no shape to face hostility from either Mages or Uratha, and a mechanism for heading off such conflicts before they started was very attractive to them. Neither of the other groups would gain so obviously. The Uratha had suffered some losses amongst their mortal kin, but none from their own ranks, and the Mages had lost only property, not lives. They were strong enough to ignore the Kindred entirely, and concentrate on improving their own positions.

Lynton, though, saw the dangers of such thinking. If Mages and Uratha both took advantage of the fall of the Sanctified to expand their presence in London - if the power vacuum made them start competing for the same limited pool of living space, Loci, wealth and mortal retainers - they could find themselves drifting unwittingly into an all-out war for dominance, which would ultimately benefit nobody. The Temple, he decided, needed to stop that from happening - if they could.

At the time of the Great Fire, the Temple's Mage and Uratha members were the Young Turks of their respective kinds, with little in the way of influence. But they managed to make themselves useful to the real movers and shakers by resolving a number of minor disputes more quickly - and less expensively - than might otherwise have been the case. They initially made a name for themselves as a short-cut, a convenience, but over the course of several decades, they made themselves a near-necessity.

Reconstruction and consolidation - the 18th and 19th centuries

In the late seventeenth century, the Kindred became almost an irrelevance. Their numbers in the immediate aftermath of the fire were simply too few to have much impact. By 1742, however, that had changed enough that the Mages were becoming worried.

Their worries found a focus in a seemingly petty squabble between a small group of Silver Ladder Mastigos and a cabal of Ventrue Invictus, over their mutaual interference in the affairs of the British East India company. A campaign of tit-for-tat harrasment threatened to spiral out of control when one of the Ventrue narrowly escaped Final Death at the hands of the Silver Ladder cabal.

At this point, most of the non-Kindred founders of the Temple were dead, but their successors had enough power and respect in their own societies to enforce a solution. It was the Iron Masters of the Uratha who proposed a format for resolving the dispute which endures, with minor modifications, to this day - the so-called Court of Others. The first attempt to hold a Court, with the Silver Ladder and Invictus as the plaintiffs and the Uratha, the neutral party in the dispute, acting as judges, was widely seen as a success, and set the precedent for dealing with similar cases in the future.

As Britain expanded towards Empire, the Mage and Kindred leaderships started to fall victim to their own success. Wealthy, secure in their own positions, and with few visible obstacles to their respective goals, they began to drift toward complacency and stagnation. Slowly but surely, the prevaling mood started to affect the Temple, which became increasingly bureaucratic and procedural, more concerned with following established practice than with solving problems. That, in turn, robbed it of real usefulness, and the Uratha started to pay less and less attention to it. The Temple also lost one of its guiding lights when Thomas Wyncham went into voluntary torpor between 1811 and 1869.

Through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the entrenched elites of the Mages and Kindred steadily lost ground to the rising stars of the Free Council and Carthians. Preoccupied with internal squabbles, they also paid less regard to the Temple, and the whole institution seemed headed for near-obsolescence - until the Second World War.

1941 and after - Resurgence of the Temple

Like the Great Fire before it, the Blitz changed everything. Its most immediate effect was to replace the ossified leadership of the Invictus with the relative dynamism of the Carthians, and accelerate a similar change from the Silver Ladder to the Free Council amongst the Mages. But it also unleashed a number of very nasty spiritual manifestations which left the Uratha more in need of allies than they had been for two centuries. Suddenly, the Temple was worth talking to again.

It didn't stop being relevant after the war. Society and technology began changing at a dizzying and ever-accelerating rate, leaving the shadow world at more risk of exposure than at any time in the Temple's history. All involved knew that once mortals started to believe in either vampires, or werewolves, or wizards, they wouldn't find it hard to believe in the other two. They took to heart Lincoln's dictum that if they failed to hang together, they would most assuredly be hanged separately.

In 2008, the organization was already enjoying something of a Renaissance, although cynics claim that this is a case of necessity being the mother of re-invention. With the arrival of the Changlings onto the scene, the Temple found itself more in the spotlight than ever, as it took the lead in establishing "diplomatic relations" with this new player in the game