The Briefing

This is a partial extract from a briefing given by Archon Kirsten Bellamy of Clan Toreador, handwritten comments added after the fact by Archon Zachariah Shale of Clan Tremere.

This is a confidential briefing given on a need-to-know basis. And the need-to-know is to be decided by Madame Guil, not by you. This team has been assembled to deal with a matter of extreme delicacy, an investigation of a long-standing and valuable Camarilla ally who we have no wish to offend.

Translation: An investigation of someone we really, really want to keep inside the tent pissing out instead of outside the tent pissing in. Not least because the last time he was outside the tent pissing in, in 1849, we lost a Prince, an Archon, two Primogen and assorted minor flunkies. Just in case you haven't gotten the point yet, this means that if you are caught, the secretary will deny all knowledge of your activities. This transcript will self-destruct in five seconds.

In brief: the Camarilla has been investigating the situation in the territories recently captured by the Sabbat on the U.S. Eastern seaboard. Four of our covert operatives there have disappeared within the last two weeks. In at least three of the cases, we have evidence that the man you see in these photographs was in the area. In two of the three cases, we have actual CCTV footage of him following the operatives concerned - see the still pictures in Appendix B of your briefing packs.

The man in question has been tentatively identified as Ranulf Fitz Rufus, a mage. Despite his appearance, he's extremely old, quite possibly immortal, and very powerful. He's also unusual in that he's had a close association with the Kindred, in particular the Court of London, since at least the sixteenth century.

Fitz Rufus owns a number of homes all across the Western hemisphere, but his primary base of operations for at least the past four centuries has been a Tudor manor house on the outskirts of Greater London. Unfortunately, we can't approach the house directly - magical wards around it leave any uninvited Kindred in torpor at best, destroyed at worst - but we were able to send in mortal agents, who confirmed that it appeared to have been deserted for some time.

Fitz Rufus shows up quite a lot at the London Rack, particularly Carfax Abbey. None of the local neonates know who he really is, of course, they think he's just a wealthy mortal university student, but they know him by sight. We've been able to confirm with them that his last appearance there was "about three weeks ago". Going through the flight records, we found that a single private jet registered to the merchant-banking group, Greville Peregrine, left London on a flight to New York two weeks and five days ago. Footage from the security cameras at Heathrow recorded Fitz Rufus boarding the flight, accompanied by this Kindred - slide, please - Alastor Sebastian Moran, who serves as the Camarilla's primary liaison with the mage in addition to his other duties.

The controlling shareholder in Greville Peregrine is the Toreador elder Lady Gabriella Grey, who has also been missing for the last three weeks. Attempts to contact several other elders known to associate closely with Fitz Rufus have likewise failed.

The obvious conclusion from this is that Fitz Rufus and several of his long-term allies have defected to the Sabbat for unknown reasons. However, the Council of Justicars considers this extremely unlikely considering the personalities involved. The missing elders all enjoy unimpeachable reputations and are amongst the Camarilla's most dedicated opponents of the Sabbat.

Calling Moran dedicated is a bit like calling Hannibal Lector a messy eater. Try "fanatical". I've met the guy. He made Alastor some time in the 1890s, when he personally presented the staked body of some East European Sabbat Archbishop named Karsten something-or-other to a Conclave of Justicars. One of the Boons he claimed as part of the Trophy was the right to decapitate the Anathema personally once the Justicars were done interrogating him. The fucking Inner Circle will go over to the Sabbat before Moran does.

The second possibility, perhaps even more worrying, is that Fitz Rufus has defected to the Sabbat on his own, and somehow compelled several powerful elders to go along with him, against their wills. His abilities are of sufficient magnitude that we can't rule that scenario out. But by the same token, they're also of sufficient magnitude that if he were working against us, he could do a lot more to hurt us than just eliminate a few covert operatives in hostile territory. And until we know for certain that he's turned against us - well, we aren't in the self-fulfilling prophecy business, so we really, really don't want to piss this guy off. I hope I'm making myself clear.

I'll be briefing you in more detail on his current status and allies when we're en route to the U.S. For now, however, I'm going to take you through what we know of his background and history. Slide, please.

Ranulf Fitz Rufus first attracted the notice of the Camarilla during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when he was one of the agents which her spymaster, Francis Walsingham, planted in the court of King Phillip of Spain.

For reasons of his own, he was working to disrupt the hold which the Spanish Lasombra held over the mortal government of Spain. He seems to have made quite an impression on them - rumour has it that Archbishop Moncada personally offered a bounty on his head which the Sabbat maintains to this day. If you believe the stories, it's now worth anything from two to five million U.S. dollars.

And it's never been collected. That should tell you something

The Camarilla took approving note of his interference with Lasombra interests. After careful consideration of the risks and benefits of involving a mage in Kindred affairs, they dispatched the then-Archon Moran to propose a tentative alliance. The mage saw how much more he could accomplish with the Camarilla's resources behind him, and accepted.

Even by Kirsten's normal standards this is a load of bull.

Okay. For starters, she makes it sound like Ranulf was born sometime in the sixteenth century and was a complete unknown to Kindred society until then. Crap. The ones who are old enough to know for sure aren't talking, but I came across one eyewitness account which puts a man named "Fitze Rufus, a worker of magic", at the Convocation of York in 1193, as part of the London delegation. By the sixteenth century he probably had relationships going back centuries with at least a few of the elders at Mithras' court. Which would explain why the Camarilla was willing to risk approaching him over the Lasombra. They "took note of his interference with Lasombra interests, and dispatched an archon to propose a tentative alliance". Riiiiiight. The Camarilla does not just "propose alliances", tentative or otherwise, with mages, especially ones who are powerful enough to fuck with a guy like Moncada in his own back yard. Not even after "careful consideration of the risks and benefits". The Ivory Tower's normal ground rule on mages is "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, unless you want to spend the rest of your life sitting on a lily-pad waiting for a short-sighted princess with a thing about the color green"

For my money, Ranulf was working for the Kindred Court in London while he was doing whatever it was he was doing in Spain, and the Inner Circle knew it. Remember, Mithras never formally accepted membership of the Camarilla, and although London was considered de facto Camarilla territory, he and the Inner Circle tended to keep each other out of the loop. My guess is that the Inner Circle saw that Mithras was moving against the Lasombra on his own and figured they'd get a piece of the action. The interesting part was that Moran was English and a fairly well known face around Mithras' court. That could mean that the Inner Circle was trying to sweeten the pill of their attempts to muscle in, by using an agent with at least some loyalty to Mithras. Or it could have been a deliberate slap in the face, recruiting and suborning one of his subjects. I'd guess the former. First off, because Mithras wasn't someone you'd want to piss off without very good reason, and second, because Moran was back in London again by the 1590s, apparently still in His Highness' good books.

Fitz Rufus continued his association with mortal intelligence agencies in the decades following Elizabeth's death. His most important contribution to the Camarilla's well-being was undoubtedly his involvement with John Thurloe, Oliver Cromwell's master spy, during the middle of the seventeenth century. Thurloe was a brilliant, insightful, driven and completely ruthless man whose network was, at that time, perhaps the most effective the world had ever seen. Had he discovered the existence of the Kindred - and he came dangerously close, on several occasions - he might have mounted a witch-hunt surpassing the Inquisition's best efforts. "Officially", Thurloe's power was restricted to the British Isles - in reality, however, he had spies and assassins placed throughout the length and breadth of Europe. Cardinal Mazarin, Richelieu's successor, often complained about his inability to keep the proceedings of French royal councils secure from Thurloe's spies.

You might think a simple application of Dominate would have neutralised the man as a factor, but it wasn't that simple. For a start, his circle of intimates included several of the witch-finders who plagued Europe during the seventeenth century. While most such were charlatans, some wielded the power of True Faith, and there was a high probability that they might have detected and countered any mental tampering. For another, Thurloe, although largely unknown to the population at large, was a public figure amongst the people who counted. He was too high-profile; there was too much danger that changes in his behaviour would be remarked upon, and investigated.

Placing a Kindred agent anywhere near Thurloe was out of the question. The man had a flair for observation and deduction which Sherlock Holmes himself might envy. A ghoul might have been a possibility, but Thurloe wasn't a man to trust even his own agents. He watched them all; they watched each other on his behalf. A ghoul depends on his Domitor not just physically but emotionally. A ghoul separated from his Domitor over the long term might develop psychological flaws which would rouse Thurloe's suspicions, and a ghoul in regular contact with his Domitor could lead Thurloe straight to the Kindred. And no-one was willing to trust the loyalty of purely mortal agents - at least, not without the kind of mental conditioning which would, again, have risked arousing suspicion in Thurloe or his witch-finder friends.

Enter Ranulf Fitz Rufus. He posed as the younger son of a prominent Norfolk family, and an ardent Puritan. He managed to impress Thurloe with a fine show of piety and zeal, and gained as much of Thurloe's confidence as Thurloe ever gave to anyone. Fitz Rufus' information protected at least three prominent elders in England from investigations that could have led to their Final Deaths and the destruction of the Masquerade.

There's an interesting little addendum to this story that Kirsten doesn't mention. Thurloe's Big Bad was a royalist secret society called the Sealed Knot. He scored some notable successes against them, although he never quite managed to round them all up.

Anyhow, I've heard - don't ask who from, let's just say a colleague who mis-spent his youth in Restoration London - that Fitz Rufus was playing on both teams, so to speak. In addition to being one of Thurloe's top agents he was also something quite important in the Sealed Knot society. Was he using the Knot as a convenient target to keep Thurloe's attention focussed on mortal affairs? Your guess is as good as mine.

Something else Kirsten doesn't mention - wouldn't do to talk about our happy little band of bloodsuckers fighting amongst ourselves, would it? Very bad for the morale of the new recruits - was that the Toreador of Edinburgh were suspected of involvement with the Sealed Knot society. Some of the more vainglorious Kindred historians portray the entire English Civil War as a proxy fight between the Ventrue - who backed the Roundheads and Cromwell - and the largely Scottish-based Toreador who were alleged to be "behind" the Cavaliers.

Well, leaving aside the obvious vanity that the Kindred tail was wagging the mortal dog, not to mention the absurdity of believing that a government "controlled" by the Ventrue would do something as suicidal as sponsoring witch-hunts, there's a kernel of truth buried in that. The Ventrue exercised a lot of influence over a few key players in the New Model Army, whereas the Edinburgh Toreador quietly sponsored some of the Royalist troublemaking during the Interregnum as a plausibly deniable "fuck you" to Mithras and his Court. Maybe Ranulf was playing a triple game - keeping the London Court one step ahead of Thurloe, using the Sealed Knot to keep Thurloe distracted, and maybe, just maybe, screwing up the Toreador attempts to use the Knot, by betraying the Toreador's Sealed Knot contacts to Thurloe.

Makes you kind of nostalgic for the days when evil wizards stuck to turning handsome princes into frogs and handing out super-strong sleeping pills at royal parties, doesn't it? Though if some newspapers to be believed, pot and E are the drugs of choice at royal bashes nowadays.

But anyway, however it really went down, the connections he made during the Interregnum served Fitz Rufus pretty well when Charles II was restored to the throne.