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In an age of wall-to-wall CCTV and phone cameras, the Council recognizes the need for a dedicated figure at the highest level to deal with potential Masquerade breaches, and Knox is it - the Council's Guardian of the Masquerade.
Well, that's his official title, anyway. He's more commonly known as "The Pooper-Scooper". Neonates sometimes wonder how he'd react if he ever found out about his nickname. Older Kindred, more familiar with Knox's flair for mordant wit, correctly suspect that he came up with it himself. A vampire who calls himself "Robert Knox" and addresses his favourite ghouls as "Burke" and "Hare" probably isn't inclined to take himself too seriously, no matter how common that particular failing might be amongst his fellow elders. Elegant and dapper, with a voice that Wyncham once described as "the vocal equivalent of the smell of roasting coffee - rich and dark", Knox cuts a striking figure in Elysium. His seemingly garrulous tongue and love of gossip combine to make him a harpy, of a kind, but in his own words "only as a sort of hobby".
London's Kindred know little of Knox's background. He was Embraced into Clan Mekhet around 1896, but no-one knows his sire, and Knox claims to have no memory of the act. If his version of events is to be believed, he went to bed one night a mortal man, and woke up in his own cellar ten nights later as a Kindred, without any idea of what had happened in the intervening time. Before then? He was in "the import/export business", he says vaguely, refusing to elaborate.
Most Kindred don't care beyond idle curiosity. What matters to them is what Knox is now. And what he is now, is the man who cleans up their messes. Dead bodies? He'll bury them - which means that he literally knows where they're buried, but that's the price you pay if you're so damn' careless when you're feeding. Phone camera footage? He'll arrange for the memories of both phone and photographer to be erased. Forensic evidence? Nothing a little industrial-strength bleach won't cure, dear boy. Ah, how you laughed, when you found out that I own a company that cleans public lavatories, but as I said at the time, he who laughs last... no, no, my boy, that's quite all right. It's really no trouble...
Knox walks a fine line when collecting favors for what he does. Kindred don't like being indebted to other Kindred, so if Knox were to push the idea that they owed him, they wouldn't call him when one of their little "indiscretions" needed covering up. That, in turn, would stop Knox from being able to do his job at all. So instead, he makes a great show of being a "public servant", doing the job to fulfill his Council responsibilities, without thought for reward. If that makes him a popular fellow - if the Kindred want to stay on his good side - well, he can hardly be blamed for that, can he?
He doesn't do it alone, of course. He has Kindred agents, ghoul retainers, mortal servants who have no idea what they're really working for (often petty criminals who think they're covering up a more conventional murder). He even has a helpline (manned from sunset to sunrise), for Kindred to call when they get in over their heads. He's a member of the Carthian Movement because he likes to be on the winning side (and temperamentally, he finds them more palatable than the excessive ceremonialism and rigid hierarchies of the Invictus). He's a member of the Council because he's very good at his job, and everyone who gets to vote on Council membership knows they might need his services one day.
Their indifference to his true history may yet come back to haunt them.
The Kindred who tonight calls himself Robert Knox was born Robert MacIntyre in 1817. The second son of an Edinburgh clergyman, his University career showed him to be an indifferent scholar at best, but in the social arena, he was a true master. Lacking money or connections himself, he had no trouble in making himself the centre of a group of wealthy, powerful young students whose coat-tails he planned to ride to prosperity.
It would have worked, except that his eye for the ladies - note plural - left him involved with several scandals. At once. Fortunately, he was able to get away while the fathers were fighting amongst themselves over whether to shoot him, fillet him with a rapier, or horse-whip him, and which of them would be the one to do it.
He ended up - via a rather circuitous route - in Egypt, where he became involved with a group that was looting antiquities (or manufacturing fake ones, depending on the expertise of the buyer), and selling them to European collectors. At one point, he crossed paths - and swords - with Rebecca Harper, whose latest paramour was engaged in espionage operations under the cover identity of a wealthy aristocratic collector.
MacIntyre prospered mightily from his dubious dealings. Eventually, he made enough to retire to London and set himself up as a notionally legitimate antique dealer, branching out from Egyptian antiquities to stolen treasures from all over the world. He was, not to put too fine a point on it, a fence.
He still retained his connections with his old gang back in Egypt, though, and he could hardly believe his own luck when he received a cable from them in 1895 announcing the discovery of an intact Egyptian tomb, stuffed full of treasures.
By 1896, MacIntyre had arranged to have the entire contents of the tomb shipped back to England, save for the exquisitely painted walls, which he hired artists to copy in minute detail. He contacted Lord Dunrane, his richest and least scrupulous client, and arranged a grand unveiling of the tomb's contents in the basement of his London town-house. Sparing no expense, he arranged to have it converted into a reproduction of the main section of the tomb, complete with wall paintings.
The sarcophagus was of a most unusual style, made of onyx insert with lapis lazuli. MacIntyre personally opened the coffin in front of his guests, only to recoil in astonishment at what he'd uncovered. There was no inner coffin, no bandages, just a mummified corpse in decayed clothing, wrapped in a simple strip of linen inscribed in unfamiliar hieroglyphs apparently written in blood.
Baffled, MacIntyre reached down and removed the linen strip. The moment he did so, he released the binding spell which had held the occupant of the sarcophagus in torpor for more than three thousand years. And the occupant - a Kindred of the Bak-Ra bloodline - awoke.
Minutes later, everyone in the room was dead. All of them save MacIntyre stayed that way. His sire, amnesiac but not stupid, very quickly realized that he'd need a native guide to this strange new world into which he had awakened, and in an ironic acknowledgement of a debt owed, selected the man who had freed him for the dubious honour. MacIntyre renamed himself "Knox", an equally ironic tribute to another of Edinburgh's sons and an acknowledgement that he owed his condition to what amounted to a crime of body-snatching.
In the decades since, Knox has worked with his sire to recover the ancient's memories. Fortunately, the contents of the tomb included a number of papyri, some of whose contents formed a "Requiem Diary" of sorts. The others were a treasure trove of occult knowledge, including a very ancient form of Theban sorcery unknown to the modern Lancea Sanctum. Knox's sire, who according to his diary was named Seti, slowly redeveloped his Disciplines and abilities over the next century, but his memories remained elusive apart from the occasional, maddening flash.
Meanwhile, Knox has established himself as a significant player in London's Kindred community. He wonders, sometimes, just what his sire's long-term plans are, once he regains his old powers - and what part Knox himself is intended to play in them.