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Intro Chapter to untitled Ventrue Reminiscences
Posts : 49
Join date : 2011-08-05
Age : 36
|Subject: Intro Chapter to untitled Ventrue Reminiscences Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:05 pm|| |
A bit of extra background for the reader- the two characters featured in this part, Valerie de Larousse and Gabriel von Richter, are actual characters from two long-standing games of the PnP game played by myself and my friends. Valerie, played by my friend Jenna, is a French Toreador, about 150 years old, who was only in America at first to do research and make contact with some connections in America, and ended up sticking around. Gabriel is a very old Ventrue (as will become apparent quite quickly), who at this time (in our game) was head of a coterie of Camarilla Kindred fighting the Sabbat in the region between Boston and DC- mainly in and around Philadelphia. His coterie mates know he's rather old and different, but have no idea just how old. Even his only friend in the group, a 200 year old Brujah named Slade (I didn't name him) doesn't know even half of his real story. The others know pretty much nothing aside from his name, Clan, and generally high level of Ass-Kickery. As you'll see, Gabriel is unusually cheerful and personable for an old Cainite, and he sees in Valerie someone who not only needs to be told the Truth (as he sees it) but is also someone he can open up to and get a few things off his chest to in the process (you pick up a lot of excess baggage in over 800 years).
As far as real-life reasons for writing this, I'll start by saying that I worked almost 8 years on the midnight shift in a State Prison, and needed something to do to stay awake, especially in the winter when it was cold, dark, and quiet until well after I went home in the morning. The basic outline for the writing started when I was explaining my character to a friend outside of work (Jenna, who plays Valerie in another game) and decided to start jotting stuff down instead of pulling it out of my head in no particular order. That's also where the parameters of the story, as far as their interaction goes, came from- she is a believer in the Templar Conspiracy Theories, and I am most definitely not
. So I also wanted to tie in as much real history and research into the fictional story as I could. You'll also see that in the intro- he tells her flat out why she's there, why he's going to tell her all this, and why she's dead wrong. They're friendly (though diametrically opposed as far as world view), and end up (and remain) friends after the story is told.
The story, as it is written and has interaction between the two, is basically a cleaned up and in-character version of the in and out of character discussions we've had over the years. The whole intro (aside from the setting, unfortunately) is pretty much a transcript of the first in-character meeting and discussion we had. So some of the parts that come up later where Gabriel drops out of the narrative to explain or expand on something are real things that I had to go over with Jenna, and I figured a casual reader might benefit from a bit of explanation and clarification as well- we aren't all obsessive historical nuts, after all.
Hope you enjoy.
Posts : 49
Join date : 2011-08-05
Age : 36
|Subject: Re: Intro Chapter to untitled Ventrue Reminiscences Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:06 pm|| |
December 21, 2004
At first, she hadn't been sure what to make of the invitation. As a researcher and author, she had a lot invested in her theories- more than most anyone knew. And the invitation had come from a man who had been engaged in a war of correspondence with her for years over the veracity of her conclusions. So long, in fact, that she was sure he would be expecting her to be a much older woman. Their argument had been ongoing for well over a decade, approaching two, and her information on the publishers books listed her as being near fifty when her first book had been published. She was actually a good bit older than that- chronologically at least. To all appearances, she wouldn't pass for a day over thirty. She looked more like a student on her way to acquiring a middling degree than a top authority in her field. But then, it's rather simple to do a lot of research and take the time to do it right when you are, technically, immortal.
Valerie de Larousse was a Kindred, one of the Damned, a vampire of Clan Toreador. She'd been embraced nearly two centuries before, during the largely forgotten French Revolution of 1848 for her writing talents and political activism. It hadn't taken long for her fervent calls for French reforms to die down in the face of the greater struggles and conflicts going on behind the scenes of Europe, the centuries long Jyhad that raged nightly between the Clans and Sects of the undead. Instead, she'd devoted herself to researching and studying the past of her homeland and, later, her existence. She left the study of Kindred lore and myth to others, as those topics were well covered. Instead, she began to dig into what she saw as Kindred meddling in mortal affairs, especially in her French homeland. The one topic she had latched onto with increasing fervency and, finally, obsession, was the Knights Templar. She'd been among the first to truly begin putting out what some called 'conspiracy theories', tying them into many other conspiracies and secret societies throughout Europe and the New World. Initially pointing mortal researchers in the right direction, later 'ghost writing' through other like-minded individuals and finally writing several books of her own, many of the contemporary theories and beliefs about the Templars had actually come from her, evolving as her research had progressed. Most of the authors and others espousing the Templars as the root of all evil in the modern world had come from her. Aside from literary critics and other, more mainstream historians, no one had really challenged her or convincingly argued their counterpoints to her theories for quite some time- in fact, most of the mainstream readers and media had seemed to embrace her ideas, casting them as corrupt, wicked power-brokers and money hoarders instead of the more classic warrior-monks and defenders of the Church. That is, until she began to receive correspondence from a man named Gabriel von Richter.
Von Richter had begun by writing her a long and scathing letter in the mid '80s, systematically picking apart her theories as put forth in the first book published in her own name. The letter had been nearly ten full pages long, going through the main parts of her book, point by point, offering counter-arguments and alternate interpretations of most of her sources. It wasn't so much the letter itself, or even it's length, that had angered her all those years ago- it was the flat, authoritarian tone of his writing. He had sounded like a college professor, someone who had devoted his life to research but had taken a different line than her, and now he was giving a seminar to a group of know-nothing freshmen. As anyone who had put in so much work would, she got defensive. So she responded with a letter of her own- much less polite, and much shorter. It had taken a while, but several years later, she received another letter- this one with a list of references and source materials she had not yet looked at, including some that she had been denied access to when she first tried. This time, when she tried to get at them, she found the doors unbarred and was given access to volumes of information that she had never seen before. Much of it was specific, direct, and obscure enough to shake some of what she believed to the core. She'd refused to buy any of it on face value, and had published a new book, addressing these new sources, and putting her own slant on the information given. That had been almost ten years after the first letter from von Richter had come. Six months after this second book had seen print, she got another letter from him- and this one had been angry. He accused her of being blind to the truth, and of deliberately twisting facts to suit what she wanted them to say. This time, she hadn't bothered to respond directly- but she did start using her connections to try and find out what she could about this mysterious 'critic' of hers. And the trail had been surprisingly sparse and hard to find. After much searching, she still had known nothing about him when the next letter from him had arrived late in the year 2000.
All she had been able to find on him was a weak paper trail at first- a few mentions of the name on passenger lists from airlines of the past few decades, a few property deeds from the same period. Then she started to find his name was a bit more familiar among the antique and artifact collecting communities- he was a man known, by any of those who did know him, as an authority on Medieval European weapons and armor. His name also popped up a few times in the bibliographies of a few more mainstream histories on the Holy Orders and Medieval warfare. A picture of a wealthy shut in with a penchant for collecting archaic weapons and studying long-dead soldiers began to form in her mind, and judging by the length of the feeble trail, probably an old one- a man who had to at least be in his sixties or seventies, if not older, and probably independently wealthy. She wouldn't have been surprised to find he was an old professor of history from somewhere, maybe even someplace like Cambridge with the sources he had access to, but she had been able to find no record of anyone with even a similar name at any institute of higher learning in the 20th century, so that theory went down in flames. She'd simply been left to conclude that he was a misguided, though well connected old coot who didn't like to hear the truth about his favorite topic and see them in anything but the noblest of lights. Then the letter of 2000 had arrived.
This one had been more cryptic than the others- as though he had begun to believe there was more to her than met the eye. The digs had been subtle, but obvious to those to whom they would apply. A few comments about how much research she had done such an apparently short time, and a passing reference to the fact that, despite all her years of writing and consulting, she had never made a public appearance- never been a 'talking head' on any of the myriad documentaries based on her books, never been to a live book signing, nothing. She didn't think he knew the truth about her existence, but it was obvious he smelled a rat. He had made no mention of going public with his thoughts, or even that he'd shared them with anyone but her, but the fear had begun to gnaw at the back of her mind. What did he know, or at least think he knew? She had begun to think she might have to send someone to find him for her and see what needed to be done when, in the spring of 2004, he had sent her another letter- this one with an engraved invitation (literally!) to visit him at his home outside the American city of Philadelphia on December 21, 2004. He'd offered to talk over their theories, face to face, and see who could sway the other to their side. The kicker, and the part that had sealed the deal, was also the most innocuous detail of all- the time on the invitation. It specified 'one hour after local sunset'. So now, on the specified date, one hour after sundown and in a light snow, she was stepping out of a rental car and approaching the front steps of the address she'd been given.
Posts : 49
Join date : 2011-08-05
Age : 36
|Subject: Re: Intro Chapter to untitled Ventrue Reminiscences Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:08 pm|| |
It was a very nice house- what passed for 'old' here in America. Brick, with a columned porch, it looked to date from their Colonial era. She had been admitted into a gated driveway and parking area without challenge- which raised a few alarms itself- and now walked up the slate walkway to the recessed front door. She slightly regretted dressing up as she walked in the snow- her feet, in heels, kept slipping slightly on the wet stone. But she'd dressed as though for a dinner party- mid-height heels, a full length blue velvet dress of late-Victorian style, with a modest neckline, full length sleeves and a thigh high slit up one side to give a few glimpses of her long legs. She'd even had her hair done up to match and carried a small matching handbag. As female Kindred, and especially as a French Toreador, she had no qualms about using her looks to try and get an advantage on an opponent. She especially intended to surprise her host, as she was sure he expected a woman of advanced age, possibly even a withered old crone by the tone of their correspondence over the years. Would the surprise of instead seeing a shapely, long legged redhead in her late twenties be enough to let her get the advantage? She fully expected it, in fact planned on it. What good was it to be an uncommonly attractive predator if you didn't get to enjoy it once in a while?
She was met at the door by a middle aged man in slacks and an open-collared white shirt. She told him who she was and why she was there, finishing by handing him the invitation with a flourish. He waited for her to finish before responding, in fluent Parisian French, “Yes, madame, we were expecting you. My Lord will be down presently to meet you- you may wait in the study for him. Straight down that hall, then up the stairs at the end. I will be going home now that you are here- my Lord will see to your needs himself. He insisted.” She had no sooner stepped into the foyer, and he hung up her coat, than he put on his own and left, locking the front door behind him. She stood mute for a moment, surprised that he was leaving- and seemingly not phased by her in the least.
'My Lord'? She thought, Is this 21st Century America or 18th Century Europe? Well, maybe he was from some old noble family and insisted his servants address him 'properly'. She'd seen worse, especially back in Europe. And he did have a 'von' in his name. She set off down the wide hallway the doorman had specified, marveling at what she could see in the dim light. He did have an impressive collection of arms and armor- the hall was lined with evenly spaced racks of swords, armor, and firearms from several centuries of European history. Even a few of Oriental origin. All lit by what looked to be original oil and gas lamps. The swords alone would have made the Tower of London jealous- there were some she recognized as being from the 11th or 12th century, single handed and two-handed. Shields of all shapes and sizes, from old kites to later heaters and bucklers. Matchlocks, doglocks, flintlocks, and percussion arms. Armor, from Crusade-era chain mail all the way up to an exquisite example of full Gothic plate. Helmets from Norman nasal-barred to full Great Helms and Sallets. Nearly every style and variation of weaponry was in example. Even a few old but well preserved surcoats and banners. An absolutely stunning collection, priceless even, and all displayed in a gorgeously polished teak and mahogany hallway, with a vaulted ceiling and marble tiled floor. Then there was the staircase- a wide, sweeping piece of artwork, flanked by a pair of murals- original, Medieval murals, depicting tournaments and combat, knights and ladies in all their regalia. Especially apparent were the arms of the Teutonic Knights and the old Holy Roman Empire- not surprising for a wealthy old former nobleman from Germany (Maybe even Prussian?) to have on display. She climbed the stairs, following the sweep up and around into the 'study' she had been directed to. When she got to the top, she stared for several long minutes, enraptured. She'd rarely seen its like, even in the old manors and estates of Europe.
Modestly sized, it was ringed, floor to ceiling and completely around on three sides by mahogany bookshelves, lined with publications of all sizes and description. Set at intervals were nearly a dozen reading stands holding ancient looking volumes, all open and laid flat, with dim lights illuminating the pages- enough to allow them to be read, but not enough to damage the frail ink and paper. In the center of the room was a large oak desk, with a massive red leather armchair that looked to be at least a century old itself. A smaller, overstuffed brown leather armchair sat in front of the desk opposite it. Between them was a top of the line laptop computer- one that looked to cost several thousand dollars itself, easily. As she slowly took in the sight, she had to fight down the urge to simply stand and stare, enraptured, at the vast collection of knowledge that was spread before her. With a visible effort of will, she walked over to the nearest book stand and began to read the page that laid before her. It appeared to be a collection of ancient letters, bound into a folio. It took her a moment to be able to read this one, as it was in a very old dialect of German- almost like a combination of Latin and Höchdeutsch. After a few moments, she was able to decipher it:
To Lord Jürgen Sword-Bearer, Prince of Magdeburg
We rejoice to hear of your safe return to your domains in Saxony, after such terrible ordeals in Hungary, of which we have heard in full detail. We share your great disappointment in the end results of your campaign against the tyrant Rustovitch. It is regrettable that such noble pursuits should be thwarted by so simple a matter as mortal politics. But the Arpad, as you know, are notoriously factional, and can be most unreliable when it comes to putting another's interest above their own petty rivalries. We also share your grief at the loss of so many of those loyal to you, who fought and died under your command, and regret that there could not have been a better result of their sacrifice on your behalf. Still, it is our most fervent hope that you did indeed gain some measure of wisdom from your recent experiences, albeit at such a price as we would have never wished you to pay.
We note as well the continued presence of our cousin Alexander of Paris in your realm, and commend you for your generous hospitality to him. We do not need to remind you how delicate the Parisian situation remains, and how unwise it would be for you to pursue any alliance or diplomatic contact with Geoffrey while the Prince he forced into exile remains a guest in your court. Indeed, it is for your own good that we advise you to have as little to do with even the Courts of Love or their current representative as possible, lest such a gesture be misinterpreted by your guest as being unworthy of your position as his host.
By our own hand,
-Lord Hardestadt, Monarch of Bavaria, Swabia, Franconia, Savoy, Lorraine, Bohemia, Saxony, Lombardy and Thuringia.
“What is this?”, she asked aloud, not expecting an answer. Jürgen? Hardestadt? Rustovitch? The Courts of Love? This was a Kindred letter, in the hand of Hardestadt the Elder himself, to his most famous childe, Jürgen of Magdeburg! And judging by the topic of the letter, it had to be... “This letter has to be from some time in the 13th Century!”
Posts : 49
Join date : 2011-08-05
Age : 36
|Subject: Re: Intro Chapter to untitled Ventrue Reminiscences Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:09 pm|| |
“The year 1226, to be precise Madame de Larousse. Written to Lord Jürgen from his illustrious Sire, Hardestadt the Elder, upon the formers return from his failed invasion of the Tzimisce homelands under the guise of the Teutonic Knights- which was thwarted by the mortal leadership of Hungary being pressured from several sides to throw the Knights out of the country, which they unfortunately did. It also admonishes him to stay away from Rosamund of Islington, the diplomat of your Clan who later became his consort and wife.” The voice- deep, resonant, and in the same old German as the letter- sounded from just a few feet behind her. She slowly turned to look at the source, as it continued to speak. “That marriage was a direct slap in the face of her former Lord and Liege, the late and unlamented Alexander of Paris, who desired her for himself until he finally fell in combat in the eastern wilds of Livonia. Though I don't blame her for favoring Jürgen over that spoiled, psychopathic brat. From everything I remember of him, the bastard had it coming, and was many centuries overdue in getting his just desserts. My sire was right to overthrow him, I just wish he hadn't taken so long to work up the nerve to do it- or been so beholden to others for their assistance by the time he finally did.”
The man who stood before her was stunning, mainly because he was nothing at all like what she had anticipated. Over six feet tall, with almost marble-white skin and startlingly blue eyes set deep under a strong forehead and framed by a jet-black mane of hair, he looked to only be about a decade older than her- late thirties to a very well kept early forties. Broad across the shoulders and narrow waisted, with an aquiline nose and classically chiseled features, he looked like a man of strength and agility. He wore simple black slacks and a dark red silk shirt, open at the neck. Peeking out between the collar points was a small bronze disk on a leather thong- the side she could see was embossed with a Maltese Cross. He also wore a black leather glove on one hand, and sturdy boots instead of the dress shoes she'd expected. She found herself unable to speak, but he smiled after a moment and introduced himself in lightly accented English.
“I am Gabriel von Richter of Clan Ventrue; Childe of Geoffrey of Paris, Childe of Alexander of Paris, Childe of Veddhartha. And you, milady, are Madame Valerie de Larousse of Clan Toreador, if I am not mistaken.” He paused and gave her a predatory once over. “And if I didn't know any better, I'd say you expected me to be a wizened old mortal man who would fall prey to your admittedly exquisite feminine charms as soon as he lay eyes on you, am I correct?”
After a moment, she finally found her voice. “How did you know? I had no idea you were Kindred.” Then she realized he saw through her plan in about two seconds. “And I will have you know, monsieur, that I have more than enough wits to match my looks, and am fully capable of defending myself and my beliefs without resorting to exploiting my 'feminine charms'. I simply chose to dress well for what promised to be an evening of stimulating historical discussion with a peer.” She decided after she had already started that she was laying on the 'righteous indignation' a bit thick, but this revelation- and man- had thoroughly rattled and deciphered her in mere moments. She almost snarled when he actually threw back his head and laughed.
“Oh, I don't doubt that for one instant, madame- or is that mademoiselle?- don't forget that I have a more than passing acquaintance with your work. But, and I'm sure I'm telling you nothing you aren't already fully aware of, let me just say that you, my dear, have the combination of bearing, looks, and style that would make a monk throw away his vows in an instant for simply a moment alone with you- and believe me, I would know. But we both know that it is in our natures as predators to secure every advantage we can in any meeting. Shall we say, secure the high ground? And if I were in your shoes, that is exactly what I would do- so I don't blame you one bit. Now,” he gestured towards the armchair in front of his desk, “lets have a seat and get to know each other a bit before we get to the matter at hand, shall we?”
She couldn't tell if his good nature and friendly attitude were an act or not, which also unsettled her a bit. She prided herself on her ability to read and figure out any man she met within moments, but this one kept her off guard quite effectively. If it was unfeigned, his openness was so rare among their kind that it was almost refreshing. If it was an act, the true intentions that hid behind the facade scared her. “You still didn't answer my question. How did you know when I was unable to find out anything at all about you?”
He laughed again as he sat down. “My dear, I was in existence on this earth for eight and a half centuries before you were Embraced. Trust me- I've had far more practice than you in both searching and hiding. Probably more than you'll ever get. I knew who and what you were fifteen years ago- and I was rather hoping you would have figured me out by now too. That you haven't doesn't bode well for that researching skill you seem so overly fond of. I was, in fact, at two Cainite only events in France that you also attended in the nineties- and you never knew me. I watched you both nights for any hint of recognition, but there was none. You really had no idea, did you?”
She sat herself, unconsciously crossing her legs so that the left was revealed through the slit in the dress- she really had been doing it for so long that she didn't even notice it anymore. “I was sure that you had figured out my nature, or at least strongly suspected. But despite everything I did to try and track you down, all I could find was a few mentions here and there of you assisting in someones research, a few lines on passenger manifests of your trips across the Atlantic. I tried everything I could think of, although I admit I always was looking for a mortal man. I had figured, based on the evidence that I had found, that you were a man of at least seventy to seventy-five years of age, based on the fact that the earliest record of you I could find was from the 1950s, and seemed to indicate that you were a grown man by that point. I figured you for an old collector and amateur historian with very strong opinions who had noticed the irregularities in my own existence and come to some conclusions, nothing more.” She paused before adding, “And yes, I admit that I was intending to throw off and distract the man I expected to meet. I was prepared to see to it that he didn't have the chance to continue poking into my past if he truly was on to me. I also admit to being somewhat relieved that I don't have to, though I am perplexed how you found out so much about me when I could find nothing on you- and I thought I had hidden my tracks well.”
“Oh, you did for anyone who might have been mortal- there is very little for anyone to stumble across, you did well in that regard. But really, once I got the suspicion that you may be a Cainite like myself- which was about 1989- it was an easy matter to verify it for someone of my status. It literally took me about two hours of simply browsing my records to find you.” He typed a short command into his laptop and began reading from the screen. “Valerie de Larousse, 10th Generation Toreador, Childe of Bertrand Amistad, born about 1820 in Provence, France to an unknown family and abandoned at the age of three. Taken in by the local church orphanage- long since gone- until the age of 15, when you ran away and joined a group of street performers. Self educated, you first drew attention to yourself after you had been recruited into one of the many revolutionary groups springing up in France at the time. You began to write pamphlets and harangue crowds about the failings of the Republic and calling for an overthrow of the government. You continued on for a few years until you drew the attention of your Sire- and given your politics, it's lucky for you that you didn't instead draw the attention of the Brujah, they love rabble-rousers like you. But he mentored you and helped you work your way up through the hierarchy until you were one of its top members. Then, when the Revolution of 1848 fizzled, he embraced you and help you to disappear and start a new life rather than face arrest. At some point you switched your fervor from fighting for the rights of the Common Man to blaming all of the Western Worlds problems on the Templars, and started helping others of like mind by getting at resources and locations that they never could have accessed in a thousand years. Eventually, you started writing it and publishing it under your own name- which was a careless bit of hubris by the way- which led me to you.” He looked up at her as she sat stunned and fuming, obviously speaking his mind now and not reading from the screen. “You're lucky you had covered your tracks so well, my dear, or I would have had to pay a call on you myself some time ago. But you did, and I give you kudos for that. So instead I got in contact with you semi anonymously to try and steer you to the truth- but you refused to see it when it was right in front of you. So now, I've asked you here to set you straight.”
She exploded, “Set me straight?! I have all the evidence I need, it's all right there in the records for anyone to see. How can you possibly make me see things differently when I know that what I know is the truth. And why exactly would you have had to pay me a visit, hmm?”
“First off, because what you think you know is all wrong, my dear. You have taken lack of evidence to be proof of wicked intent, taken jealousy and propaganda as truth, and taken confessions extracted under extreme torture at face value. You have done no real, scholarly research, done nothing to fill in the gaps or expose lies- you've only built your own web of falsehoods on the fabrications and slander of the past. You have built a house of cards on a bed of quicksand. And I'm going to tear it down. And second,” he took off his glove, revealing a blood red symbol known as The Mark of the Beast, “I'm one of the Alastors of the Camarilla- and a Red Alastor at that. You didn't find me because it's my job to not be found, but to find others.”
Last edited by GabrielvonRichter on Mon Oct 10, 2011 3:25 am; edited 1 time in total
Posts : 49
Join date : 2011-08-05
Age : 36
|Subject: Re: Intro Chapter to untitled Ventrue Reminiscences Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:10 pm|| |
Though shaken and taken aback by his announcement, she still scoffed at him, “And how do you plan to do that? Are you going to tell me that you know 'the truth' and that I'm wrong?” She laughed at him with a snort. “It's going to take more than a 'Because I said so' to convince me, Herr von Richter.”
“There's no need to get snippy or nasty, Valerie. I really had hoped this would be a proper conversation, a meeting of two historians, not a screaming case of 'I can't hear you, neener neener neener'. We're both too old for such games. Now think about what I've already told you, and then think about what is the first question you need to ask me.”
She crossed her arms and sat back in the chair thinking about everything he had said. Slowly, after several minutes, what he had first said to her sank in and she actually listened to his introduction. “You spoke of that letter and the parties in it as if you'd known them personally. Even been there for what it describes.” She stared at him with growing disbelief. “And you said 'Childe of Geoffrey, Childe of Alexander... that would make you one of the Sixth Generation. And seeing as how Geoffrey met his Final Death in the Anarch Revolt... Just how old are you? And WHO are you? I've never come across the name Gabriel von Richter in my research.” Now she was beginning to grow concerned and fascinated at the same time.
“Not quite the framing of the question I was looking for, but I can answer it all. But first I have a question for you. With all your research, what do you really know about the men who founded the Templar Knights back in 1119? Just the basics, not the crackpot conspiracy theories, if you please.”
“All anyone really knows is the names of most of the founders- supposedly, Hugh de Payen, Godfrey de St. Omer, Payen de Montdidier, Archambaud de St. Aignan, Andre de Montbard, Geoffrey Bison, and two obscure men recorded only by the names of Rossal and Gondemar. The ninth knight remains unknown, although some have speculated that it was Count Hugh of Champagne himself.”
“Close, but not quite.” He started ticking off names on his fingers, “The original nine were Hugh de Payen, Godfrey de St. Omer, Payen de Montdidier, Archambaud de St. Aignan, Andrew de Montbard, Bertrand de Falaise, Jacques de Sonnac, and two knights of lower birth, Roland and Gondemar. The nobles were Hugh's cousins who had come to the Holy Land, but Roland and Gondemar were Knights on pilgrimages of their own- what would later be called 'Knights Errant'- who had joined their group well before the founding.”
“And how, pray tell, do you know all that to be correct when it's not what I or anyone else has found?” Now she crossed her arms and leaned back in the chair smugly, in an almost 'OK, show me what you've got' stance. But she wasn't at all prepared for what came next.
“That, my dear, is both the answer to your questions, and the real beginning of tonight’s discussion. I was wondering if you would ever get there.” Now he leaned forward with a slowly spreading smile on his face.
“I was born in the year 1090 in what is now Switzerland, near Zurich. And my birth-name was Gondemar.” He smiled more broadly at the look on her face- and thought for a second just how truly stunning she looked when she dropped the know it all act. “I was one of the original nine Templars, my dear. I know the truth because I was there for all of it, from the discussions which led to our founding, through the later years of expansion and growth, the Second, Third and Fourth Crusades, and the warping and corruption of all we had worked so hard to establish. And I invited you here because on this, my Embrace Night, I have decided to celebrate my existence these past nine centuries and the eight-Hundred and seventy third anniversary of my damnation by sharing my story- our story- with you.”
Several long minutes of awkward silence followed as she attempted to absorb what he had just told her. Gabriel waited patiently, knowing full well just how shocking his revelation must be, for he had fully expected her reaction. To pass the time, he reached into one of the drawers in his desk and pulled a large cigar out of the humidor inside it. Taking his time cutting the end off and getting it ready, he finally struck a match and lit it, wreathing his head in blue-gray smoke. He might be undead, meaning the nicotine had no effect on him, but the he found the ritual soothing- and reveled in the small victory over his Beast every time he struck the match and held it front of his face for several long moments to light the tobacco. Every victory mattered, no matter how small. And the shock it gave her inner little monster jolted her back to her senses, just as he'd expected it would. She finally found her tongue again.
“But... that is impossible! You can't have been there at the founding! You can't have existed all these centuries without some trace of you having popped up. I know for a fact that there was never a Templar Knight of any rank and at any point in their history named Gabriel von Richter. There are very few named von anything, so I know I would remember that name! ”
Gabriel sat back and took several long pulls at the cigar, considering how to get her to calm down and listen to him properly. Finally, he just sighed. “You really have not heard half of what I've said, have you? During my mortal life, and for my first century and half as a Cainite, I was known by my birth name- Gondemar. And I know you are familiar with me- my name pops up in most of the well-researched works on the early years of the Order, including yours. I was there when it was founded in Jerusalem on Christmas Day, 1119. I was part of the contingent sent back to Europe in 1127 to gain support for our order, and was one of the two knights sent to Clairvaux later that year to codify our Rule with St. Bernard of Clairvaux. I was present at the First Council of Troyes when our Order was officially sanctioned and it's Rule approved by the Church. And it was a few years after that that I was Embraced into Clan Ventrue on the night of the Solstice. December 21, 1131. It wasn't until I left the Order behind in 1230 that I abandoned my given name and adopted the name Gabriel- the von Richter part came later, when society decided in the later centuries that everyone needed to carry a surname, not just the nobility. And despite the fact that I had left them behind decades earlier, I was there at the end- I was one of the ones there for the famous show of bravado by the German Templars in 1307, when they marched into a meeting of Bishops in full regalia and challenged the local authorities to arrest them as ordered by the Papal Bull, and helped many of them to disappear into the ranks of my new Order, the Teutonic Knights. I was in France for several years, helping the ones who had gone underground on Black Friday to escape arrest and torture and attempt to clear their names. I visited the site of Jacques de Molay's immolation the evening after it happened, and said a prayer for his soul over the pile of ashes and cinders that had been his pyre. I did what I could to see the survivors to safety in the mountains of my homeland and the wilds of Scotland- two of the only places they could be welcomed and start new lives in a Europe ruled by the Church that had turned against them. And despite the fact that I remained active in the German Order for more than a century after that, it was the events of 1307 to 1314 that led to me finally turning my back on the Church that I had served willingly and to the best of my ability for over three centuries.” He sat watching her for several silent minutes while she processed all this information. Finally, slowly, she brought her attention back to him and nodded.
“Very well, Herr von Richter- or should I say Gondemar?” By the raised eyebrows and tilted head, he figured that she meant the question literally and not rhetorically.
“No one has called me by that name in five centuries, my dear- and there are very few still in existence these nights who are even aware of my old name, let alone who knew me when I used it. No, I chose the name Gabriel for a reason, and it is the name I have been known by for nearly half a millennium. That will do, none of this 'Herr von Richter' nonsense. Not even my retainers are so formal with me in private. And, since you were kind enough to ask, is it too presumptuous of me to call you by your given name, Mademoiselle de Larousse?” She nodded, “Very well then, please continue Valerie.”
She finally seemed to be calming down and ready to actually listen. “As you say, Gabriel. I am still not positive that I believe you- no offense- but I am willing to hear you out. I get the feeling, by the passion I can hear in your words, that you have not had opportunity to speak on your early nights to another of our kind in quite some time. If I may ask, why have you chosen to divulge your secrets to me?”
“My few friends and cohorts know something of my past- it's rather difficult to keep ones skill at arms or knowledge of the past secret when the need for them frequently arises. But, aside from one lone member of my coterie, there are none I can truly converse with, peer to peer, on the topics we will be discussing tonight. Slade is a good friend and Cainite, and a man of honor, but he simply was not there. Neither were you, admittedly, but you are the next best thing- someone who has devoted decades to the study and understanding of the times, people and events I saw with my own eyes. I know you are someone to whom I can speak openly, without having to explain the context of every event and impression. Also, all I have learned of you through my sources says that, despite your misguided conclusions and continued penchant for stirring up the conspiracy theorists, you are deep down a woman of tact and discretion. I do not fear you exposing me to the world- especially because you would likewise be exposing yourself. However, if I can get you to see the truth, to undo some of the damage to our legacy that you have done... then I feel it will be worth it.” Another long pause as he watched her mull over what he had said. Finally, she looked at him and nodded. “Excellent. Now, I suppose to do this properly, I will have to start at the very beginning- my beginning. And how a young man of barely noble birth from the mountains of Schweiz came to join a group of prominent French noblemen and Knights on their pilgrimage to Outremere.”
|Subject: Re: Intro Chapter to untitled Ventrue Reminiscences || |