Image by Danilo Reyes. Please do not use without permission
Concept: Humanist scholar
Embrace: 1141 A.D. (Born 1116 A.D.)
Physical Strength 2, Dexterity 2, Stamina 2
Social: Charisma 3, Manipulation 2, Appearance 3
Mental: Perception 5, Intelligence 5, Wits 3
Talents: Alertness 4, Awareness 5, Empathy 3, Leadership 2
Skills: Commerce 2, Crafts 2, Ride 1, Stealth 3
Knowledges: Academics 4, Enigmas 4, Hearth Wisdom 3, Investigation 3, Occult 4, Medicine 3, Theology 2
Auspex 5, Dementation 3, Obfuscate 4
Allies 5, Contacts 5, Domain 2, Generation 4, Herd 3, Influence 3, Resources 2, Retainers 2, Status 3
Conscience 5, Self-Control 3, Courage 3
Image: A slight, pale, fair-haired young woman with darting, haunted blue eyes, Gunnilda dresses to remain unnoticed, usually as a respectable wife from a poorer merchant family, but sometimes, if the circumstances call for it, as a postulant nun.
Roleplaying Hints: You seem quiet, even timid, unless you're discussing some complex theological or philosophical concept, in which case you become forceful, animated, and fluent. Your speech is both concise and precise; you say exactly what you want to say with the fewest number of words possible, and very little emotion. You possess a great deal of compassion, but you find it difficult to express it in words rather than actions; you're more comfortable with ideas than emotions. Your expression is habitually solemn; you smile rarely, but when you do, it lights up your whole face.
Unless you're pretending to be mortal, your body has a perfect, unnatural stillness – apart from your eyes, which dart around constantly, noting and analysing everything around you. At the high point of the lunar cycle, your fists clench and your shoulders hunch, as if you're fighting the urge to go berserk; at the low point, you display an almost corpse-like relaxation, but either way, you stay still.
You despise ignorance and lack of curiosity, and you despise those who try to encourage – or impose – either. In this, you share common ground with Magdalene, but your emphases are different. Magdalene wants to encourage curiosity and spread knowledge as a means to an end, to liberate the masses. To you, satisfying your curiosity and increasing your knowledge is an end in itself – although you have yet to satisfy your curiosity completely, or for long, and you suspect that you never will. There's just too much about the world that you don't know.
Influence: Gunnilda's cult includes some of the best minds in Winchester – merchants, churchmen, nobles, and some commoners. Its members aren't numerous enough to dominate any one section of society, hampered as they are by the need to maintain their secrecy, but they can exercise at least some influence in every section of society, and their diversity probably gives them a better overall picture of what's happening in Winchester than any other group could claim.
Haven: The cellar of a merchant house on St. Giles Hill
Even as a child, Gunnilda of Westgate saw patterns that others would miss. Her father, a saddler who dwelled near the castle to the west of the city, found a practical use for her talents, checking for flaws in his leather-working, and later, for subtle "tells" that warned him when a fellow merchant was being dishonest.
Gunnilda's own interests were far more diverse. She studied everything from the patterns of the stars, to the techniques of the master-masons working on the Cathedral and the Bishop's palace at Wolversey. She learned herb lore from the local midwives and a smattering of Latin from some of the more indulgent clergy who patronised her father's shop. But none of it was ever enough to satisfy her voracious curiosity about the world.
At the age of nineteen, she helped another of her father's customers, a minor nobleman in Bishop Henry's retinue, solve the murder of one of his clerks. In doing so, she discovered that both nobleman and clerk were members of a pagan cult, formerly patronised by King William Rufus himself.
She knew too much, yet the leaders of the cult were loath to murder someone who had proven herself so brilliant and accomplished. So instead, they recruited her. Gunnilda flourished in an environment which didn't scorn women as lesser beings. Through the cult, she not only gained full literacy but, with the help of several clergymen who were secretly members, clandestine access to the Cathedral Priory's library. She was never exactly a follower of the cult's religious doctrines, but exposure to the works of the ancient philosophers convinced her that the world was a far more complex and uncertain place than the Church would admit.
The cult itself didn't escape the attention of her sharp eye and questing mind. Almost alone among its members, she realized that some hidden manipulator was pulling its strings, and set out to find the identity of this mysterious puppet-master. Angharad, a Welsh scholar and priestess who'd been Embraced into Clan Malkavian in the sixth century A.D., watched her efforts with surprise, amusement, and increasing respect. In time, Angharad started to consider Gunnilda as a candidate for immortality.
Gunnilda's only flaw as a potential childe, from Angharad's point of view, was her lack of religious faith. Indeed, Gunnilda refused to take anything on faith, constantly questioning, forever seeking evidence and proof. Angharad hoped to correct this "flaw" in time, but she wasn't granted that time before Gunnilda found and confronted her.
All logic and Cainite Tradition dictated that Angharad should have broken Gunnilda's sanity, placed her under a Blood Oath, or simply killed her outright. Instead, Angharad chose to listen to her instinct and her insight, and simply told Gunnilda the truth. Gunnilda was predictably fascinated, and the two of them spent many, many nights locked in discussion of the Cainite condition and the wider supernatural world. Angharad's hopes of inculcating real faith in Gunnilda never entirely faded, but faith or not, she decided, losing Gunnilda's extraordinary mind to age and death would be an unconscionable waste.
When Angharad offered her the Embrace, Gunnilda accepted out of pure curiosity. She found the cyclical mood swings that she developed as a result of the Malkavian curse a heavy burden at first, but the support she received from Daniel da Treviso, a fellow post-Rout Embracee, helped her through the first difficult months.
Angharad felt the pull of torpor grow stronger over the next couple of centuries, and increasingly left the management of her cult to Gunnilda. Under Gunnilda's influence, the cult gradually changed from a pagan religious congregation, to an intellectual fellowship focussed on the acquisition of knowledge both occult and mundane. Gunnilda drew her followers from the disaffected and overlooked members of the city's wealthier classes - intelligent wives whose husbands saw them merely as brood mares and domestic drudges, third sons with no prospects looking for a direction in life, minor clergy frustrated with the rigidities and intellectual incoherence of Church doctrine.
It was Daniel da Treviso who first involved Gunnilda with the Children of the Rout, but although she was intellectually and emotionally closer to her fellow Prodigal, Gunnilda developed a strong intellectual bond with Magdalene de la Croix, whose occult interests paralleled her own. Gunnilda's insights saved the coterie many times during the difficult decades of Melusine's Princedom and the horror of the Black Death.
Alone among the Children, Gunnilda suspects the real cause of Melusine's disappearance, but she keeps her own counsel for now, watching and waiting...