Margaret Carter


Image by Nolife-Edi. Please do not use without permission


aka "Mother", "Mother Clap", "Margaret Clap", "Maggie Phillips"

Ghoul and Confidante of Thomas Wyncham

Virtue: Hope. Mother has always been a nurturing personality. For hundred of years, she's taken people who were damaged and scarred, physically, emotionally, or both, and inspired them to rebuilt their lives. She's never happier than when she's helping someone to overcome despair or defeatism.

Vice: Greed. Mother likes the finer things in life. Food, wine, fine clothes, luxurious surroundings, jewels... everything except cars, which she loathes. She was willing to risk dealing with Charles Hitchen, a ruthless gangster of his time, purely for financial gain. Mother Clap's Molly House was a calculated attempt to line her own pocket by filling a gap in the market, despite the risks involved. The aftermath of that venture left her with a caution bordering on paranoia, and she rarely takes risks any more, but she never passes up a safe opportunity to turn a profit.

Attributes

Physical: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Stamina 3

Social: Presence 4, Manipulation 4, Composure 3

Mental: Intelligence 3, Wits 5, Resolve 3

Skills

Mental: Academics 2, Computer 1, Crafts (Fashion Design) 4, Investigation 2, Medicine (Nursing) 3, Occult (Kindred, Ghouls) 4, Politics (Kindred) 3, Science 1

Physical: Athletics (Horse riding) 3, Brawl 2, Firearms 2, Larceny 3, Stealth 4, Weaponry (Knife) 2

Social: Animal Ken (Horses, Dogs, Crows, Falcons) 3, Empathy 4, Expression (Acting) 3, Persuasion (Deal-making, Seduction) 3, Socialise (High society) 3, Streetwise 2, Subterfuge (Disguise) 3

Merits: Allies 4 (High Society), Contacts 4 (Corporate, High Society), Languages (French, Spanish, German, Romanian, Italian), Regnant (Thomas Wyncham - Power 4, Favour 5, Trust 5), Resources 5, Retainers 5 (Pan's staff), Status (Corporate - Head of Falco Argent Fashion) 4

Morality: 6

Willpower: 8

Disciplines: Animalism 2, Resilience 2, Protean 4 (Peregrine Falcon form)

Character History

My real name is Margaret Carter. I was born in London, the daughter of a wine importer, around 1690. Specifically, I was his third daughter, so I never had very good marriage prospects, but the husband I married at sixteen fell short of even my low expectations. Oh, he was considerate enough, but he was about thirty years older than me, and he already had a grown-up son who was anxious for his inheritance

From the son's point of view, it turned out to be rather fortuitous that I never managed to have any children. It took me a long time to find out why. Modern medicine told me that there's something slightly twisted inside me - there are Latin technical terms for the condition, but the bottom line is, I never stood a chance of bearing children of my own. And I really wanted them

Well, suffice it to say that my husband died with a smile on his face. I can't say I ever loved him, but I did like him, and I missed him. His son didn't throw me out onto the street or anything melodramatic like that, but he did make it clear that I'd be expected to live on a very frugal allowance. And I'm afraid I've never been very good at living without my creature comforts. So I started looking around for, shall we say, business opportunities.

As the daughter of a wine importer, I understood the tavern trade pretty well, but I didn't have the capital to start a bar of my own. So I needed a patron. The one I found was a man by the name of Charles Hitchen. He was, in the modern idiom, a gangster. He was also one of the City Marshals who were hired by the Lord Mayor to keep prostitutes and vagrants under control.

And he was, to put it bluntly, gayer than Larry Grayson on a bad hair day. Not that he looked it. He was an out-an-out thug, slit your throat as soon as look at you, and tough as old leather, with a face like a bashed-about prizefighter. But he saw potential in me. And he wanted someone to run a new business venture he was planning, a high-class Molly House in Holborn. I don't know how much you know about the history of the period, but a Molly House was something like a precursor to the modern gay bar. Hitchen's idea was to create a high-class establishment, with clean, comfortable surroundings and, to put it delicately, live entertainments. It was a surprise when he put the proposition to me, but to be honest with you, I wasn't especially shocked by the idea. And it meant financial independence, something I craved.

When I started, though, I found I was good at the job in a way I didn't expect. You're familiar with the stereotype of the bartender as a sort of confessor and counsellor? Many of my patrons badly needed that. They needed sympathy, and understanding, and a shoulder to cry on. You have to understand, the social climate of that time was very different to what it is today. Sodomy was punishable by death. My patrons were guilty men with a secret that could destroy their lives literally and figuratively. Some hated themselves. Some were just afraid. I like to think I made a difference for them - helped them in some small measure

There was one young man, though... he intrigued me. He wasn't guilty, or afraid. Or so I thought at first. Then I slowly realized that he did feel guilt and fear, but not about anything that happened at my "establishment". He had a past. He finally confessed how much of a past when I saw him feeding. It was the strangest confession I'd ever heard. Oddly enough, I was almost relieved. Working for a gangster isn't the most comfortable position to be in, and I realized he could serve as a more sympathetic "patron" to protect me from Hitchen if he ever turned nasty.

It was a gesture of trust on Tom's part, allowing me to know what he was. Normally, allowing a mortal to know of his existence would be taboo for his kind, but he knew that my secret could destroy me as surely as his could destroy him. Mutually assured destruction, you might say. Unfortunately - or fortunately, as things turned out - it was only me who was destroyed. The police raided my place. Hitchen abandoned me, and Tom couldn't help me by daylight. I was put in the stocks, pelted with rotten fruit and worse, and savagely beaten up through the course of an entire day.

By the time Tom finally found me in prison, that night, my face had been smashed almost to pieces, several ribs were broken, and I was dying of internal injuries. Tom's terrified of wielding power over others, terrified that it'll corrupt him. So he was petrified by the thought of turning me into a ghoul, but his only other option was to let me die in agony. So he healed me. Or at least, he healed my body. My mind took longer.

He felt a sense of responsibility, you see. He wasn't responsible - I'd allowed my own greed to lead me into making a deal with a gangster, and the responsibility was mine - but he'd used my place as a sort of all-you-can-eat-buffet, and he felt responsible because of that. He felt he'd used me for his own ends, and because of that, his conscience wouldn't let him leave me to die. By the time I felt confident enough to face the world on my own terms again - confident enough to do without him - we'd become close. So close that we found that neither of us wanted to part. And Tom certainly found it useful to have a confidante around who could face the light of the sun.

So we stayed together. I was known as "Mother Clap" back in my Molly House days, although most of my patrons simply called me "Mother". Increasingly, we found it was useful for me to play the role of Tom's Mother. I think it was a difficult adjustment for Tom at first, to act the part of my son. His real mother was a very brilliant woman, and the only one who he could really talk to during his true childhood. And quite a strict moralist, although compassionate with it. Her loss was what pushed him down the path he walks now, and for a few years, it prodded that old wound every time he played the role in public. But he adjusted, eventually.

Even then, Tom was rich. He stole his sire's Treasury during the Great Fire, and he invested heavily in the reconstruction of the city. By the time we met, he owned property all over London, but he was hampered a bit by not having someone he could trust to run things for him during the day. I slipped into the role very easily, and it allowed me to live the kind of life I'd always wanted. Fine clothes, fine jewels, fine houses, hob-nobbing with Duchesses at glittering parties... perhaps I'm shallow, but I have to admit, I like those things. I like them a great deal.

We rubbed along very happily for three-quarters of a century, but then I noticed that Tom was getting... I'm not sure how to describe it? Distracted? Jaded? Weary? For some time, I was afraid of losing him - afraid for both of us - but he gave Ralph Treganan unlife more or less to sustain me while he spent some time in torpor. In a sense, it was the ultimate compliment. I like Ralph, though he's very different from Tom. Much more uncomplicated. A straightforward rebel-without-a-cause, born a couple of centuries too early. I have to admit, though, I was nervous until Tom woke up again. I didn't realize until he was out of the picture just how strong a bond we'd developed - or how unusual that bond was.

It had just been the two of us for more than a century and a half. In 1874, though, something happened which changed that. I fell in love.

Strange, that it had never happened before. Perhaps it was because of the constant, incessant secrecy I needed to maintain - moving on every few decades to disguise my lack of aging, disguising myself, reinventing myself. I could never allow myself to get close to anyone, because I could never risk revealing what I was.

Sean Hyde was different. He was a Mage, albeit a very minor one. He was also a vicar in an East End parish. He came from a very respectable middle-class family, and he could have followed his father into a nice, safe job in banking, but he was a believer. Not, despite what you might think, in God - his Awakening when he was nineteen had pretty much destroyed his faith in conventional religion - but in people. He was a humanist. He wanted to use his abilities to help the worst off in society, to bring hope to those who had none. I'd spent more than a century and a half adopting strays, helping them, nurturing them, but Sean made me feel like a mere dilettante. He brought a fierce, earthy passion to everything he did, throwing himself into it body, mind and soul. Two hours after we met, we were having some of the most incredible sex I've ever experienced. Three hours after we met, we were screaming abuse at each other and throwing large, heavy objects in an effort to knock each others' brains out. Do you wonder that we got married?

Sean and Tom circled each other like a pair of spitting cats at first. Sean was the same kind of Mage that always gets made into the Uratha Herald - all his magic focussed on living things, and Tom's very nature made him uncomfortable. Tom, for his part, had a sudden fit of protectiveness. He seemed to get it into his head that he should make sure that Sean had honourable intentions, or something. But eventually, they grew to like each other, although they both got very grumpy if I tried to make them admit it.

In January 1881, Sean and I were married at a small and very exclusive evening ceremony in a private chapel loaned to us by the Invictus. Thomas Wyncham gave me away - although he told Sean afterwards that actually, he was just "making me available on loan". Both of them thought that was very funny, at least until I managed to get them alone later. The guest list was short, but remarkable. It included the Kindred Prince, Daniel Marlowe, a few other Kindred, and the few close friends amongst the Mages who Sean trusted.

Sean distanced himself a little from Mage society after we married. As a two-century-old ghoul, I couldn't walk away from Tom even if I'd wanted to, so he accepted that becoming a part of my life would see him sucked into at least the periphery of the world of the Kindred. He and I both tried to keep the marriage separate from our respective supernatural communities, but it wasn't always possible.

There was one problem. Between my medical condition and my ghoul condition, not even Sean's magic was enough to allow me to have children. And Sean desperately wanted children. So I... allowed him to make other arrangements. He had several mistresses who wanted to avoid the scandal their pregnancies would cause; the adoptions were easy enough to arrange, especially with Tom's money greasing the wheels. Before too long, I found myself raising three other women's sons, half-brothers, as my own, and I can truly say I loved them as if they were my own.

They died. All of them killed in the Great War, along with so many others. Sean was never the same after that. It tore his heart out. It tore mine out, too, but Sean had none of the defences I've painfully acquired over decades of outliving those I cared about. As far as I know, he never sired any other children, although he became obsessive - almost paranoid - about the welfare of his one grandchild, a boy named Stephen. We got into some terrible, bitter arguments over that. I accused him of trying to smother the boy's independence like some petty tyrant; he accused me of being a callous, heartless bitch who didn't give a damn' whether an innocent child lived or died. The worst was in 1939. Sean could see that war was inevitable, and he was going insane - literally insane, I think - with fear. About three weeks before war was declared, Stephen was one of the passers-by at a house fire. He heroically scaled the front of the building to save two children trapped in an upper room. The floor was burning, and after Stephen lowered the kids to the waiting crowd below, his foot went through it. Through a "freak accident", the damage was so bad that the doctors had to amputate.

There was nothing accidental about any of it, of course. An injury which would excuse Stephen from military service, conveniently occurring in the middle of a melodramatically heroic rescue so that no social stigma could attach to him? It had Sean written all over it. He didn't make any attempt to deny it, when I confronted him. All he kept telling me was that at least his grandson would be safe, and he didn't give a fuck about anything besides that.

Two years later, Stephen was killed in the Blitz. He might have escaped, but his maimed leg slowed him down. The second tragedy, and the part he'd played in causing it, was almost too much for Sean. In a horrific, selfish kind of way, I was almost grateful that the Blitz created so many other victims. If Sean hadn't had so many to care for, he might have committed suicide. As it was, he managed to rediscover some purpose to his life. Thank God, Stephen's young children had been evacuated, so Sean at least had some surviving family looking to him for protection, as well.

Sean was a hard-leftist for the rest of his life. A savage critic of the Cold War, a tireless advocate for CND, and a huge fan of Tony Benn, it's probably a kindness that he never lived to see the Thatcher-Raegan era. He finally died in 1975. His magic had slowed his aging enough for him to live fourteen or fifteen decades - it was a little private joke with us that we never told each other the exact year we were born - but I can't deny it was painful to see old age finally take him, in his last three or four years.

Losing him was a devastating blow. I've talked about our tragedies, but when I look back on our life together, it was filled with life, and love, and joy, and, all right, a hell of a lot of mind-blowing sex. With Sean gone, I was totally alone again during the hours the sun was in the sky. I started looking around for something - anything - to occupy my time during the day. The Falco Argent fashion label started off as a whimsy, to give me something to do, but it grew into a very profitable and exclusive business during the 1980s.

In the mid-1990s, Tom came up with the idea for Pan's. We spent many long evenings talking over the moral and practical difficulties, but Sean's death had somehow re-awakened my old longing for children, and being a mother-figure of some kind once again was an appealing proposition. Besides, Falco Argent had become successful enough that it was more or less running itself, and I needed a new challenge.

And then Nicholae walked into our lives. His appeal to each of us was subtly different. To Tom, I think, Nicholae was like a younger version of himself, and on a subconscious level, Tom wanted to treat Nicholae as he wished Mercadier would have treated him. Yet another way for Tom to prove to himself how different he is to Mercadier. To me, Nicholae was the son that Sean and I had never been able to have, a son who I wouldn't lose to time and age as I'd lost Sean. Nicholae, of course, had his own ideas about that, but if our relationship ended up closer to The Graduate than The Waltons, it was at least a loving one.

And I no longer have to face the day alone.