Image by Danilo Reyes. Please do not use without permission
Demeanor: Bon Vivant (or sometimes, Judge)
Concept: Hedonistic outlaw leader and schemer
Embrace: 1141 A.D. (Born 1077 A.D., Ghouled 1099 A.D.)
Sire: Simon the Troubadour
Physical Strength 3, Dexterity 3, Stamina 3
Social: Charisma 3, Manipulation 4, Appearance 3
Mental: Perception 3, Intelligence 3, Wits 3
Talents: Alertness 2, Empathy 3, Expression 2, Leadership 3, Legerdemain 3, Subterfuge 3
Skills: Commerce 1, Etiquette 2, Ride 2, Stealth 2
Knowledges: Academics 3, Investigation 3, Law 2, Politics 3, Seneschal 3, Theology 2
Animalism 4, Auspex 1, Celerity 2, Fortitude 3, Potence 2, Protean 5
Allies 3, Contacts 5, Domain 2, Generation 4, Herd 3, Influence 2, Resources 3, Retainers 5, Status 3
Conviction 4, Instinct 4, Courage 4
Road: Road of Sin 7
Image: Though he's tall, lean and muscular, Matthew has a slightly unconventional prettiness which leads many to underestimate him, particularly those Cainites who are accustomed to thinking of Gangrel as grizzled warriors. Beardless, with pale skin and shaggy fair hair, he stopped aging when he was twenty-two, but sometimes appears even younger. More than any other member of the Children of the Rout, he's a social chameleon, dressing in everything from monk's robes to nobleman's finery to chain-mail as the occasion demands, although his preference is for yeoman's hunting garb or a man-at-arms' simple leathers.
Roleplaying Hints: You're a social creature first and foremost, cheerful, welcoming, and a generous and loyal friend. Many Cainites are surprised to learn that you walk the Road of Sin. They assume that your behaviour violates its ethic of selfishness, but they're wrong. You are selfish and concerned primarily for your own comfort and pleasure. It's just that friendship and companionship are among the greatest pleasures that you know, and you revel in them as any Sinner should. Perhaps it's the wolf in your Gangrel heritage, giving you a yearning for a pack, or perhaps it's just that you love a party, and a party gets very boring when you're the only guest. All you know for sure is that spending an eternity alone would be your idea of hell.
You have a feral physicality which is both energetic and tactile. You're seldom still; when you speak to people, you pace restlessly, or gesture with your hands, or twirl a dagger between your fingers. You’d rather express your emotions through a bear-hug, a backslap, or a shoulder squeezed in sympathy, than a pretty speech.
You look at attractive members of both genders with an interest that's both carnivorous and carnal, but you prefer Vessels who appeal to you on an intellectual or emotional level as well. Many of your Herd are also servants, allies and contacts in mortal society – if not exactly friends, then at least people whose company you enjoy and whose opinions you're interested in listening to. You seduce not just through lust, but with the thrill of danger, the lure of the forbidden, and the promise of freedom.
Influence: Matthew has some influence over most of the rougher side of mortal society in Winchester and the surrounding cities. Whores and pick-pockets supply him with information. Thieves and cut-throats serve him as muscle. He directly controls a gang of bandits who prey on travellers on the roads around Winchester, and a band of Channel pirates who operate from Southampton – his "hunting hounds", as he calls them. He has contacts among the men-at-arms in Southampton castle, Winchester's castle, and the Bishop's palaces at Wolversey and Bishop's Waltham, as well as the Bishop's foresters.
Haven: Beneath the chapel atop St. Catherine's Hill are a set of hidden chambers, accessed through a concealed door in the crypt. They serve not only as Matthew's haven, but as a warehouse for stolen goods acquired by his outlaw gangs.
If the royal court of King William II, called William Rufus, wasn't quite as debauched and degenerate as the two scandalised monks claimed, it was certainly libertine and decadent. It was perhaps unsurprising that Matthew Fitz-Ranulf should have found himself drawn to the Road of Sin, after having grown up in such a place
His very parentage was scandalous; he was the product of a teenage dalliance between Ranulf Flambard - the King's chief minister, favourite and lover - and a nun who'd been forced into a convent by her family, after she miscarried an earlier illegitimate pregnancy. He was openly - if discreetly - acknowledged by his father, and raised in the royal court alongside the King's own bastard son, the rumoured pagan warlock Ranulf Fitz-Rufus (who had himself been named for the King's paramour, Matthew's father).
The cliquish, backstabbing atmosphere of the court taught him some painful early lessons about trust and betrayal, but despite that, he genuinely liked most of its members, and enjoyed their company. His friendliness and perceived lack of ulterior motives made him popular and even, to a limited extent, trusted.
The trust was sometimes misplaced. Far shrewder and less innocent than most of the courtiers supposed, Matthew was spying for his father from his early teens onwards. Flambard was impressed by his son's talent for ferreting out others' secrets, and, seeing him as an ideal lieutenant within the Church hierarchy, sponsored his entry into Holy Orders despite the boy's lack of a true vocation.
When Ranulf Flambard established his base of operations in Winchester, Matthew went with him, serving his father as a clerk, courier and spy. Flambard's main goal was to plunder as much of the Church's wealth as he could for his royal master and - discreetly - himself, and Matthew was an effective and enthusiastic mainstay of that campaign. His work run the gamut from framing or undermining rival clerics, to finding loopholes in ecclesiastical charters, to seduction, to blackmail.
He already knew, from his boyhood friend Ranulf Fitz-Rufus, of the existence of the night-folk - Cainites, witches, and other, stranger creatures. So he wasn't as shocked as he might have been when the Cainite elder Simon the Troubadour offered him ghouldom, in exchange for helping to ensure that his father's depredations didn't undermine Cainite interests. At first, he refused, knowing that it would mean a Blood Oath and emotional slavery. Simon claimed that a quirk in his blood prevented it from creating the Oath, but it was only after he was set upon by bandits on the road to Winchester, and badly wounded, that Matthew was willing to gamble on the Cainite's honesty.
When William Rufus died in 1100, Ranulf Flambard was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Matthew found it prudent to disappear from Winchester, and relocated to London with Simon. He persuaded Simon to help orchestrate Flambard's escape to Normandy, and remained in London in the double role of Simon's ghoul, and his father's eyes and ears.
Simon the Troubadour ran an extensive intelligence-gathering network throughout England. His agents were innkeepers, minor monks and lay-brothers in Abbey guest-houses, and even prostitutes in high-class stews - anyone who lived and worked in places where important travellers might rest for a night. He specialised in copying, diverting, delaying or intercepting the messages sent by powerful nobles and churchmen. For forty years, Matthew was a crucial part of Simon's operation. It was organised in a cell structure, with the different groups and operatives unaware of each other's existence. Matthew was the link between them, roaming throughout the country relaying messages and instructions.
When Baron Roger FitzWilliam offered Simon the Troubadour the right to Embrace a childe in 1141, Matthew was the obvious choice. Since Matthew was already familiar with the Cainite condition and some aspects of Cainite society, Simon adopted a novel twist on the traditional Gangrel pattern of Embracing and abandoning a childe; he Embraced Matthew in the wilds of Northumberland and left him to make his own way back to Winchester, without assistance.
Matthew reappeared in Winchester a month later, surrounded by a small group of retainers; a couple of landless knights and a young monk who'd run away from his monastery. They became the core of a small, dedicated group of ghouled servants who have formed the basis of his influence - and wealth - ever since.
He established his haven in the crypt beneath the chapel on St. Catherine's Hill, a perfect vantage point overlooking the pilgrim road that ran past St. Cross hospital into Winchester, and thus an ideal spot to watch for new arrivals to the city. He continued to run the local portion of his sire's intelligence network, but also started building up his own independent organisation, with the chapel as his headquarters
He found early common ground with Magdalene de la Croix - both were neonates in search of allies, both were natural politicians, they were ideological soul-mates as fellow Sinners, and they were even neighbours of a sort, since Magdalene and her sire made their haven in St Cross Hospital, in the valley beneath St Catherine's hill. He and Magdalene were the ones who brought the rest of the Children of the Rout together, and guided the coterie's progress.
He took the formal title "Seneschal" when Magdalene took power in the wake of the Black Death, but in truth, he's her spymaster and assassin, using his extensive web of ghouled outlaws and servants to eliminate threats to the fief behind the scenes. While the Hundred Years War raged in France, he had a fresh source of recruits in the shape of former soldiers, in need of fresh employment and (sometimes), the healing power of Cainite vitae. He controls a formidable criminal empire of bandits and even Channel pirates, operating from the nearby port of Southampton.
An intelligent and socially adept Sinner, he treats his people well. "Always keep your hunting hounds well fed", is how he puts it himself. Unable to form a complete Blood Oath thanks to the inherited quirk in his blood, he takes some pride in maintaining his men's loyalty through skill. Mindful of his early experiences in William Rufus' court, he frequently uses seduction as a tool of control, although bribery and the promise of eternal youth and strength are his most common lures.