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His real name is Aulus Calpurnius Sorio, but now, more than a thousand years after his Embrace, only the Jackdaw and the Prince remember that. He's called himself the Jackdaw for so long that it's become more truly his "real" name than the one he was born with, and it accurately describes the nature of his madness. A kleptomaniac, he has an obsession with bright and shiny things. Like his namesake, he doesn't concern himself with the innate value of the objects he collects, only how much they gleam in bright light. His haven, a set of underground chambers near the Cripplegate, overflows with a vast accumulation of shiny objects, both priceless and worthless, that he's collected over the centuries
In any other city, the Jackdaw might be Prince. A Roman-era Methuselah, he's the longest continuous Kindred resident of London - even Mithras deserted the city after the fall of Rome, but the Jackdaw still lurked there after the Saxon invasions of the fifth and sith centuries, when the city was reduced to little more than half-abandoned ruins.
The Jackdaw and the Prince share a strange relationship. The Prince distrusts the Jackdaw and frequently uses other Cainites as pawns and cats-paws to deny him complete control over London's criminal community. The Jackdaw, in turn, works to frustrate and undermine these gambits. Yet neither display any true animosity towards the other. It's as though their eternal dance is a game that they both enjoy too much to try to win outright.
Clever, hedonistic and competitive, the Jackdaw certainly enjoys such games of tactics and strategy, although he doesn't lose gracefully to anyone except the Prince. Embraced as an adolescent, he has an adolescent's arrogance and impulsiveness, tempered by a brilliant mind that has a thousand years of experience to call on. He can be engaging, even charming, company to anyone who's willing to let him be the center of attention, and even loyal provided that it doesn't cost him too much, but he's selfish to the point of borderline sociopathy, and completely untrustworthy.
His history is known only to Mithras and a few other hoary elders who recall the city as it was during the nights of Rome. The Jackdaw was the bastard son of a native tribesman and the wife of a high Roman official. Unfortunately for his mother, her husband was absent on one of his periodic visits to Rome when he was conceived, so there was no plausible way for her to pass the child off as his. All she could do was plead for mercy when he returned - but as a staunch adherent of the old patrician ethic, mercy was not something that he was inclined to grant, and he packed her off back to her family in Rome in disgrace. Cold but not cruel, he kept the child to raise as his own son.
Unfortunately, the Jackdaw was not the son he would have desired. As he grew into a teenager, he became wild, precocious and uncontrollable, a scandal looking for a place to happen. He became involved with a group of young, wealthy louts who styled themselves siccari, or dagger-men, after the revolutionary brigands of Jerusalem.
One night, a round of drinking and adolescent boasting led to them going out onto the streets to hire themselves a prostitute. They got into a fight with her pimp and a scuffle developed, which ended with the pimp lying dead in a gutter and the prostitute lying beside him, with a knife that had been intended for the pimp buried in her heart.
The other boys screamed and fled when the prostitute calmly got to her feet and pulled the dagger out, but the Jackdaw wasn't even scared. He stared at her, fascinated and compelled by the mix of beauty and inhumanity he saw in her.
She smiled at him, told him he had great potential, and took him into the night.
His sire, the River Maiden, was a Roman elder who remembered the earliest days of the Roman Republic. She'd been watching young Aulus for some time, intrigued by the "potential" that her powerful - if twisted and insane - insight had detected in him. The incident with the pimp was her final test of his worthiness, a proof of his ability to cope with bloodshed and death without flinching.
The River Maiden ruled the city's criminal population during the nights of Rome, with the Jackdaw as her lieutenant. When she left along with the legions in the fifth century, he took her place as crime lord of Londinium, a position he managed to retain - despite occasional challenges from other Kindred and one particularly audacious Mage - ever since. Realizing that mortals tend to discount or under-estimate children, he has built himself a sizable cadre of young ghouls, physically suspended in early to mid-adolescence, although the eldest among them are centuries old by now. All are skilled cut-purses, burglars, and - where the situation calls for it - assassins.
"You'll fade away to nuthin' someday, child. I swear you'll fade to nuthin' a'tall." Those words were spoken to Nicholas Poole nearly every day of his childhood. At least... that's the way he remembers it. The only child of Mary and William Poole, it was believed that he'd follow all six of his siblings to an early grave. None had survived infancy and, to look at him, one would think that Nicholas' chances were slimmer than all the rest put together. He was a pale, scrawny, mewling thing. Even the midwife looked at Mary Poole with some assurance and said, "Better they're gone quick, dearie, afore ye become overly fond of it." But young Nicholas lived. It was a struggle to be sure and his mother was certain that every sniffle or cough would take him away.
Nicholas was pale, thin and sickly as a child, and fared little better as he made his tentative way through adolescence and into adulthood. His skin was fairer than most and, by the time he was 11, his blond hair had faded to greyish-white. The color of his eyes seemed to fluctuate, finally settling on an icy grey with a tinge of pale blue. "Not a natural color", his father would say. "Like a ghost's eyes, they are."
He never played with the other children and spent most of his time with Mary. She brought in extra money by taking in sewing and mending. During the evening hours, however, she'd take out her box of colorful threads and create elaborate works of fine embroidery.
Nicholas was fascinated by the process - the delicacy of the stitches, the smooth rhythm of the needle moving in and out of the cloth, the richness of the colors. He soon began to make drawings of his mother's needlework pieces - at first, using charcoal and later, using the dyes Mary used for her threads and fabrics. As time went on, Nicholas would create the designs for his mother's works and they sold for a respectable price at market.
It was good that the boy had developed a talent and that the family could depend, at least in part, on Mary's income. When Nicholas was 15, William was killed when a wagon of casks overturned onto a cobblestone street, crushing him in the process. It was decided that Nicholas should present some of his work to the local churches and merchant houses, in hopes that someone would employ him as an illustrator or scribe, thereby easing the financial burden on his mother.
The parish priest felt it worth the time and effort to guide young Nicholas and he began to study with a group of monks. It was in the monastary that he gained an education and further developed his artistic talents. The priest, of course, thought he'd gained another member for the order. Nicholas had other ambitions and, upon reaching the age of 16, went out into the wilds of London seeking employment.
Whether it was due to the times, bad luck, or his sickly appearance, Nicholas had difficulty obtaining a position. Eventually, an acquaintance of his late father gave him employment as a clerk - not the most personally fulfilling job, but it did bring in a meager salary. At the behest of the priest, Nicholas continued his artistic pursuits, learning calligraphy and, after extensive training, the meticulous art of creating an illuminated manuscript. As the years passed, Nicholas‚ work gained the attention of those he had never expected to meet. A dark-haired, elegant woman named Lucinda Althorpe had long been a benefactress of the local church (though, strangely, she had never attended a single Mass) and had become obsessed with the manuscripts he'd worked on. At first, Nicholas wasn't sure what to make of this attention. Lucinda was quite adamant about meeting with him, insisting that he needed a patron. At the encouragement of his mother, Nicholas agreed to meet with Lucinda at a nearby tavern. He was quite charmed by her, though she seemed a bit eccentric; a bit overly exuberant. She kept repeating, "You could benefit greatly from my influence, my dear. You've no idea how much." Though he was a bit intimidated at first (no woman had ever shown such an enthusiastic interest in him), Nicholas decided this relationship would be suitable.
Months went by and Lucinda slowly revealed her true nature and intent to him. She explained in great detail what it meant to be a Cainite and, specifically, the significance and superiority of the descendants of Malkav. Nicholas thought carefully about this - considered what life had to offer him and that his art had been its only reward. What else was there? His delicate health surely doomed him to an early grave. There had been no wife. Children seemed an impossibility. What he desired was time and Lucinda could give him that.
The immediate benefit was more visual. The Embrace seemed to augment Nicholas' delicate appearance. His eyes were still the palest grey, nearly fading into the white. His hair was just as absent of color. His skin (if this were possible) had paled even more. But now, there was something of a glow to him - a light. His movements became even more fluid and graceful. To watch him, brush or pen in hand, giving glorious color and delicate lines to parchment, was mesmerizing to watch. The bones of his face were fine, taking on an almost pronounced beauty that had gone undetected in life.
The added benefit - one that Lucinda was certain would be something wondrous in Nicholas - became his nightmare. The promise of the gift of prophecy was lost to him. The voices in his head became a cacophony and nothing he heard made sense. At first, they were so loud that he was unable to function at all. Slowly, he learned to dampen them enough to carry on with some normalcy. If portents of the future came to Nicholas, it hardly mattered. He wasn't able to separate one noise from another.
Still, his artistic talents were noteworthy and, as time went by, Lucinda brought this to the attention of the Prince. Mithras was duly impressed and offered Nicholas the position of scribe - responsible for everything from formal invitations to decrees to correspondence, even love letters and notes of political confidentiality. His reputation is one of unquestionable discretion. He has never betrayed the confidence of anyone.
He has faded to the ghost-like creature his father always thought him to be. Those in the Prince's inner circle and the court in general treat him as a non-entity, talking around him or at him, never to him. Mithras thinks of Nicholas as a prized possession, placing great value on the Malkavian's artistic abilities, while completing ignoring the man who creates the masterpieces.
Nicholas, in turn, speaks to no one. What others fail to notice, however, is that he hears everything - all of the news, gossip, and secrets - stored away in his brain, to be mixed with the rest of the mental maelstrom. Once in awhile (and there's little warning), the din becomes too much and he shuts down, usually retreating to some dark, isolated space until the noise stops. Sometimes it's over in minutes, other times it takes hours.