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Undisputed leader of both the Gangrel and the Saxon faction in London, Chalice of Mercia is an elder of formidable personal and political power, which she rarely chooses to display, instead operating out of a humble herbalist's shop in Honey Lane. She is the most skilled apothecary in the city and perhaps the kingdom, with a mastery of drugs and potions which is second to none.
Embraced more than five centuries ago by the ancient Celtic elder Caradoc, she hails from one of the most prestigious Gangrel bloodlines in the British Isles, the line of the Winter King. Her relationship with her sire was not a happy one, and she fled from him about fifty years after her Embrace.
She wandered down through Europe, eventually ending up in the Muslim lands of north Africa. There she met her mentor, a member of the Assamite sorcerer caste, and there she adopted the variant of the Road of Humanity known as the Road of Umma, or community.
After more than a century and a half of study, however, the wanderlust in her Gangrel blood asserted itself and she began the long journey home. She explored the European continent from Iberia all the way to the frozen wastes of Norway, taking in Romania, France and the Holy Roman Empire along the way. She sired only occasionally, remaining on good terms with almost all of her Get. During one Gangrel Gather which she attended in Norway, she met her brother-in-blood, Eirik Harraldsson, a younger childe of Caradoc, and through him managed to reconcile with her long-abandoned sire
The rise of the Tremere brought a new tragedy into her existence, however. In their war with the Tzimisce, the Usurpers took to kidnapping and ritually butchering Cainites of Gangrel and Nosferatu heritage, to provide raw materials for the creation of their Gargoyle shock troops. Chalice lost several childer to the warlocks' depradations, and, outraged, joined forces with the Tzimisce to punish those responsible. She chose to ally with House Tiranul, a faction of the clan which followed an honorable warrior ethic, rather than their more inhuman Metamorphist brethern, and cultivated a relationship with an elder of the House which lasted decades. When he was killed - by the treachery of non-Tiranul Tzimisce, rather than the Tremere! - she severed her remaining connections with the clan in disgust, and returned to England. She settled in London, where she began using her medical skills to aid the mortal population, holding herself largely aloof from the society of her fellow Cainites
The Norman Conquest of 1066 disrupted her quiet unlife, and she was forced to flee London by the Norman Triumvirate. Resentful of the takeover, she aided her fellow Saxon vampires in their attempt to re-assert their influence through the new King, William Rufus, the Conquerer's son. When that failed, she joined forces with Mithras (taking a sizeable faction of Saxons who looked to her for leadership with her), and became one of his most trusted and able lieutenants. In 1154, she re-entered London in triumph at his side.
Although principally concerned with protecting mortal society, Chalice will sometimes involve herself with Cainite affairs, particularly against those vampires (like her arch-enemy, the Jackdaw), whom she feels abuse and exploit the kine. She frequently mentors young Cainites in whom she sees potential, and a number of her former proteges are now in positions of influence throughout England - and beyond. The Prince has been known to comment wryly about "another de Mandeville situation" (after one of her more unlikely, and successful, students), when she takes a new young vampire under her wing.
Chalice's personal power is very great, even for a vampire of her age. Having seen many of her contemporaries fall to overconfidence and delusions of infallibility, she hones her own abilities constantly, and seeks out companions who are not afraid to challenge her opinions and decisions. But despite her relatively benign nature, she is still a Cainite elder, with all the guile and capacity for ruthlessness which that implies.
From left to right: Eirik Haraldsson, Iain Grendel, Megan of Bristol, and Marc de Brabant.
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A nomadic Gangrel coterie led by a charismatic elder, the Rune-Wise and his brood have the Prince's leave to come and go from London as they please. They count as their allies some of the city's best-known - if not necessarily most powerful - Cainites, including the Toreador Gabriella Grey, the Cappadocian Adam Bell and most importantly, their blood-relative Chalice of Mercia, leader of the city's Gangrel. Somewhat to the unease of most of the city's Cainites - including, perhaps, the Prince himself - they also enjoy the trust and friendship of the notorious Ranulf Fitz-Rufus
The four work well together because their skills complement each other. Eirik supplies the long-term strategic vision and leadership, Megan and Marc the financial and organizational skills, Marc the talent for handling people, and Iain the strong right arm in the daylight world. They enjoy a level of mutual trust and even affection seldom seen in the backstabbing world of the Cainites - something which will continue through the centuries to come
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Two centuries junior to his sister-in-blood, Chalice of Mercia, Eirik Harraldsson is also far different from her in outlook. Though he grew up amongst the people who most of Western Europe knew as the fearsome Vikings, he himself was a skald, a poet and singer, and a student of the magic of the runes.
Like Chalice, Eirik is a far cry from the stereotypical image of the savage Gangrel. Sharp-tongued, intelligent, perceptive, and a keen observer of human nature, he respects a swift wit as much as a swift sword-arm, and takes great pleasure in debates and wordplay.
Like Chalice, also, Eirik is the protector of a community. But his focus, unlike hers, is overtly religious. He is a devout worshipper of the old gods of the north, and the community which he protects, the Covenant of the Ice Lake in Norway, is a sort of combination refugee center and terrorist training camp for those who are fighting a desperate last stand against the god they refer to, contemptuously, as the Hvitachrist, the White Christ. The community probably wouldn't have lasted as long as it has, but for three things. The first is Eirik himself, and the Gangrel who follow him. The second is an unlikely alliance of three exiled Hermetic mages (including a human Tremere fleeing the prospect of the Embrace), and two Norse Valdaermen, who make the Covenant their home.
The third is the merchant empire of Eirik's childe, Megan, a former wool-merchant from the south-western English city of Bristol. Sensing her indomitable spirit and formidable abilities, Eirik offered her a bargain - material support for his community in exchange for immortality. After delierating for more than a week, Megan accepted.
Now, with Megan allied to the Toreador Lady Gabriella Grey, both Eirik and his childe appear in London on a semi-regular basis. The bulk of their interest and attention, however, lies in their distant domain in Norway, which leaves Gabriella in control of Megan's English affairs for long periods.
The daughter of a prosperous Bristol wool-merchant with no son to carry on his trade, Megan inherited her father's business by default when he died. She had a better business brain than he ever did, but the Bristol merchants Guild simply refused to take a "mere woman" seriously. Each successful deal, each proof her skill, stoked their mounting resentment of her, and they started to resort to increasingly underhand tactics to undermine her. Then they started dropping heavy hints that, if she would accept one of their number as her husband and master of her commercial affairs, and retire to her needle and her cooking-pot, life would immediately become a great deal easier for her.
Megan fought back with all the intelligence and tenacity she possessed - and she possessed both in abundance. Nonetheless, though she was more than a match for any of her rivals individually, as a united group she knew they would eventually win through sheer strength of numbers.
So she was willing to listen when Eirik offered her a deal: provide financial support and supplies to the Covenant of the Ice Lake in Norway, in exchange for his patronage and support. A shrewd bargainer, she scrutinized the terms very carefully before accepting. Becoming Eirik's childe, for her, was not an act of passion or violation, but a straightforward, negotiated business deal.
In the decades since, she's expanded her mercantile empire to the point where it now trades throughout the Med basin and across northern Europe. She's at the forefront of the development of the new Scion innovation, the Path of the Merchant, whose tenets fit her own philosophy perfectly.
An orphan raised by monks, Marc de Brabant was easy prey to the charismatic preachers who inspired the Children's Crusade. His faith destroyed and his dreams shattered, he found himself sold as a slave to a fat and greasy Venetian merchant, who swiftly discovered that Marc possessed an eidetic memory and used him as a sort of living ledger-book, never once considering that the boy might possess any useful intellectual gifts beyond perfect recall. A brutal and slightly sadistic man, the merchant used Marc as a near-literal whipping boy as well, someone to beat up in order to relieve his frustrations
In addition to his other character flaws, Marc's master took great delight in cheating his customers whenever he could. Naturally, he tried it with Megan of Bristol, a "mere woman", only to find himself an inch from death at the talons of an enraged Cainite.
Ironically, it was Marc who saved the Venetian's life. Megan discovered Marc's extraordinary memory while she was interrogating the man, and unlike the Venetian, was immediately curious about what other gifts he might possess. A long night of conversation convinced her that he'd make a perfect assistant, but she wasn't fool enough to believe that his loyalty could be either bought or commanded. Loyalty, she knew, could only be offered freely. She she gave the Venetian a straight choice: surrender his goods and chattel to Marc, and retire to a simple life in a monastary, or suffer a slow and agonizing death. When the Venetian made his understandable decision, she offered Marc a choice of his own: keep his former master's properties for his own, and become her ally, or allow her to absorb the Venetian's enterprises into her own, and become her partner
Marc, fascinated by her in spite of himself, made the latter choice, and Megan Embraced him into Clan Gangrel in 1216. Megan, bound by her own code to honour the terms of the bargain she'd made, kept her word and allowed the Venetian to go free.
The third son of a minor northern knight, Iain Grendel joined the Fourth Crusade for profit, not piety, and when the Venetians persuaded the Crusaders to sack Constantinople, he found profit in plenty as he spent the night looting the Queen of Cities. He also found his death, or what would have been his death, when one of the residents of the city thrust a knife into his gut
Megan of Bristol found him bleeding his life away into a gutter. She couldn't have said what impulse moved her to save him, with slaughter going on all around her, but the decision proved a wise one. Iain is an uncomplicated soul, a loyal soldier with few wants beyond wine, women, and song (and wealth). Since a quirk in Eirik and Megan's bloodline prevents their vitae from creating a Blood Oath, Iain's loyal, unambitious, but competent nature is exactly what is needed in a long-term ghoul.
Ian is now in his fifties, but physically remains only half that age. The advantages of his condition - especially the quirk in Megan's blood which permits him to maintain a measure of free will - are not lost on him, and he has no desire whatsoever to change his masters or his situation