Type: Mortal Profession: Schoolgirl, Young Oracle Born: 1999
Virtue: Hopeful Vice: Stubborn
Background: Sarah was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at the age of five. Her parents tried conventional schools for a time, but eventually decided that they could not provide the correct environment for their little girl, and so in time she came to the Ashmead School. The fact that her very young, upper-middle-class parents didn't have to deal with their difficult girl any more was just icing on the cake.
Sarah's disability isn't really as bad as her diagnosis makes her sound (it's not entirely clear if she even has autism, though if she does it most certainly isn't her main problem). Most of humanity has a sort of mental 'filter' that prevents them from noticing the supernatural. The ghost is just a trick of the light, the wolf is really only a shaggy dog, there's nothing odd about the vampire's fangs... Sarah Andrews was born without those mental filters. She looks upon the world and sees it as it is, not as it pretends to be.
Since growing up thinking that the laws of reality are more in the way of suggestions leads to some very strange behavior, Sarah ended up in Ashmead as the one place that might be able to handle her. Actually, her dissonance from the rest of the universe is much worse in Ashmead, the walls of reality much thinner in St. John's Wood, but at the same time, Sarah's learned to keep her perceptions to herself. She's a little more outgoing at Ashmead than she was before, and she's actually got friends -- she and Rahila tend to stick together, united by their shared tendency to see things which most people don't. Sarah's also introducing Rahila to the concept of Western television.
Sarah's parents can see the change that Ashmead has wrought in their daughter, which encourages them to keep her there. Sarah, for her part, only wants to prove that she's a normal girl, who can go home to them. She doesn't understand their desire to keep her there, and tries her hardest to prove that she doesn't really need the institution anymore.
In person, Sarah is tall for her age, with thick auburn hair and tiny brown freckles all over her pale face. She has a small, squeaky voice that makes her seem younger.
She's quite intelligent and very perceptive, though she sometimes filters that perception through a brain that is maybe not entirely hooked up with human society. She does tend to be rather scatter-brained and easily distracted, her eyes constantly focusing on things that other people can't see. She often uses strange neologisms or peculiar forms of language, and she tends towards quirks, little temporary obsessions with spiderwebs or the color red or the number five. She's usually awkward around people, caught between her desire to appear normal and her inability to do so, though when she opens up she's very friendly.
Sarah's perception lets her see angels clearly, and other forms of supernatural masking tend to work irregularly around her. She can't spot a changeling on sight, say, but she can usually figure out when there's something odd about a person. The most useful manifestation of her powers is that she can sometimes read auras, though it's not anything she knows how to force. She just a has a knack for it, so to speak.
Type: Mortal Profession: Schoolboy, Future BBC Anchor and Pyromaniac Born: 1999
Virtue: Just Vice: Arrogant
Background: Growing up with three siblings, Frederick Buzzard (pronounced Boo-ssard, not like the carrion bird) was habitually ignored. His older brother was more popular, and his two sisters were smarter, and there wasn't really much left for Freddy except to not make a fuss. Except that he did, repeatedly. With a dramatic turn of mind and very poor impulse control, Freddy was a confirmed troublemaker in his school, the kind of kid who thought that lighting firecrackers in the school bathroom was great fun.
By the time he was nine, Freddy was diagnosed with a particularly bad case of ADHD, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, with a secondary diagnosis of a sleep disorder (insomnia). Clinically, this meant that Freddy was given to constant motion, a flare for thinking of something without working through all of the consequences, a grandiose sense of self, and difficulty maintaining concentration on something for any length of time or following instructions. For a while, his family made a good-faith effort to try and keep a handle on Freddy and his symptoms, but after he nearly set the house on fire, the family GP suggested sending him to a special boarding school. This suggestion was greeted with enthusiasm.
At the Ashmead School for Gifted and Special Children, close to a third of the student body had a case of ADHD. It's one of the more common diagnoses, though Freddy's is a particularly extreme case. In any case, unlike most ADHD sufferers, social interaction has never been an area where Freddy's suffered much, being a friendly, enthusiastic, and one might even say charismatic boy. He's not the brightest candle in the chandelier, though, and finds himself very easily manipulated by his 'friend' Billy Grout.
In person, Freddy is a round-faced, tousle-haired kid with hazel eyes and dark brown hair. He tends to be perpetually disheveled and is usually smiling, and he always has a massive assortment of knick-knacks in his pockets, ranging from consumer electronics to dead mice. Given his past history and his often-stated enthusiasm for large explosions, the staff of the Ashmead School makes a point of keeping anything flammable away from him.
Background: The Free Church of God the Almighty Father isn't quite a cult, but it's a close cousin to one. Established in the 1980s and today numbering some forty-odd people, its primarily Scottish members follow a particularly stringent form of Presbyterianism. Obedience is a cardinal virtue, and anyone outside the church is considered to be irrevocably damned by their association with sinful modern culture and a heinous, evil government. Most of the children in the church are home-schooled, for obvious reasons.
Cindy Casbolt, however, has her own special needs, and luckily for her she also had grandparents who kicked up an enormous fuss about getting her the tools she needed to succeed. Cindy suffers from a truly vile devil's brew of dyslexia and dyscalculia, exacerbated by persistent low self-esteem and anxiety. Essentially, Cindy has enormous trouble managing to both read and do any kind of math, with her troubles getting worse when she's stressed -- which since her parents blamed her issues on demonic interference, was often.
Cindy's maternal grandparents, however, took a different view, and after some very long custody brawls, managed to get the young girl transferred into the Ashmead School for Gifted and Special Children. The calmer environment has been a boon to Cindy, who's made more progress in months than she had in entire years previously, though it would be a stretch to say that the situation is exactly calm. There's still a brewing familial/legal/religious tangle about what happens to her, and the fact that Cindy is meek and not terribly bright means that she gets bullied regularly at Ashmead, particularly by the local hellions, Freddy and Billy.
In person, Cindy is a sweet-faced child with lots of frizzy brown hair and bright, shining blue eyes. She tends to speak slowly, and she has a faint Scottish accent. She's a very nice person, kind and honest as the day is long, though also easily flustered and quick to blame herself for the slightest immoral thoughts. She also has some serious issues with authority, since she's been taught that to be disobedient to her elders was a damning offense.
Virtue: Trustworthy Vice: Fussy (Your character demands that everything must be just so. Gain a willpower when she rejects something that could help her because it does not meet her precise specifications.)
Millie Abelson used to be a housewife. She'd met her husband when they were both in school, married him once he was out, and pretty soon wound up taking care of their two daughters at home. And she was exceptionally happy doing it. She was a stereotypical soccer mom, always driving her kids to and fro from various sports practice or extracurriculars, keeping in touch with their teachers, making sure they did their homework. She always tended to look into the latest parenting fads, to ensure the best for her children - although she had a level enough head not to get too carried away with any of them. Which was unfortunate, as if she'd been a little bit crazier, the Golden Room might have passed her over.
But as it was, in 1993, the Golden Room had been picking up people who they considered to be especially sane and stable. So, when Millie went in for a routine check-up, the doctors told they'd found some anomalies and wanted to run a few more tests. There was a new procedure out that the doctor highly recommended. Millie, who had never been one to shy away from the novel, agreed to it. She drove home feeling significantly worse than when she'd gone in, and started acting crazier and crazier towards her family. Several months later, she tried to kill herself, although it didn't quite take immediately, and she lingered on for several months until her internal organs gave out.
Millie's soul, which had been removed during the medical procedure, sat in a jar for the next thirteen years, until she woke up confronted with a mad grinning demon and a giant bug. Suffice to say, Millie screamed her head off, tried to hit the Jack with her purse (which she didn't have), and ran off into the Corpse Farm, which turned out not to be an improvement to her situation. After a few attempts to get her to calm down, by Erin (which, as a giant bug, didn't work out very well) and Whim, they managed to get her back to the Cat's Cradle to explain the situation as best they can, and begin the slow process of trying to put her life back together.
Her family had weathered her traumatic death, but with a price. Millie's husband had remarried and moved on, and her teenage children were both adults now. One of her daughters was in heavy therapy, the other was a dropout who was working at a lower class jewelry store. And there wasn't anything Millie could do about it, because Millie Abelson was officially dead.
Millie wound up sticking to the Harbingers simply out of quiet desperation. Life as a housewife did not prepare her for a stellar career path, and the economic downturn she awoke into meant she had even less promising prospects. She likewise was no good whatsoever at any kind of trained labor, fighting, espionage, or crafts (beyond pipe cleaner structures). She tried to look at computers, or occult books, but just couldn't wrap her head around them like she could her old books on parenting and dietary research. In short, she was not the sort of person a secret organization tends to have on their payroll. She wound up bouncing between working at the Cradle as a chef, and being a temp secretary - as the sort of person who would scream at seeing a mouse, the Cradle was a poor fit; at the same time, being out of the Cradle seemed to send her into a miserable funk.
Sasha would sometimes find a use for her, simply because like him, she was an organized soul - and trying to get a bunch of half-crazed, pseudo-supernaturals to do anything sometimes resembled fighting with five year olds. Since Millie had been quite good at fighting with five year olds, she could get the job done well enough. She was also a great deal more nurturing than Sasha, always making sure everyone had lunch, or their shoes weren't worn out, or they had fresh groceries. She was a go to person for checking up on Harbingers to see if they were alright, or field organizing large groups of them. She started to crave these sorts of assignments, to the point of trying to track down other Harbingers for the sole purpose of checking in on them (much to Sasha's consternation). But the Harbingers simply didn't mobilize often enough to keep her happy.
That's when Erin dropped by and brought up a very troubled school, that needed a new administrator. Preferably one with both an open mind, and a better approach to education than the last one.
Millie Abelson is a woman in her late thirties, with light brown hair and grey eyes. She wears sensible blouses and pressed women's pants, or dresses and aprons when in the kitchen or hosting. She was an exceptionally stereotypical housewife, the kind that certain feminists absolutely despise - her favorite shows are comedies like Coupling, Sex in the City, and things that involve Colin Firth; she tends to eschew any hobby or knowledge regarded as "boyish"; she generally likes being in the kitchen; and she'll freak out if a bug gets caught in her hair. She still maintains these traits, but she has adapted to the supernatural world to an extent - she's had to, or she'll go insane. True to her old books on "modern thinking" and "supporting people's choices", the only way she could do this is decide that Supernaturals Are People Too... and investing in a heavy flashlight that doubles as a club. She has also made it her business to help organize the Harbingers, and while she rarely comes up with security measures, she's always there to make sure they're properly enforced. Few would consider her the best and the brightest, but she can be very knowledgeable and focused in her particular area of expertise. This has lead her to trying to examine her fellow supernaturals (at least, the nice looking ones, not the disgusting ones like Scratch or the scary ones like Abonde) in order to update her parenting methods to account for the supernatural. She has a number of booklets filled with notes on this subject.
Gladstone 'Books' Griffith Leader of the Duppy Boys
Type: Extraordinary Mortal Profession: Hunter and Yardie Gang Boss Born: 1975
Virtue: Loyal (his community) Vice: Paranoid
Gladstone Griffith was born in 1975 in Brixton, to Jamaican immigrant parents. 1975 was not a good time to be born in Brixton to Jamaican immigrant parents. When he was ten, his parents were the unfortunate bystanders during a botched newsagents’ holdup: it left his mother dead and his father with a bullet in his spine, paralyzed from the waist down. With no brothers or sisters, and with his only living parent apartment-bound and living off government disability payments, there was really only one reliable way for Gladstone to make ends meet.
The sad thing was, if he hadn’t had to be a breadwinner quite so early, it’s very possible that Gladstone would have made it out of Brixton. He was curious, resourceful, and a voracious reader, with a strong role model and source of encouragement in his lapsed-poet father, even after the accident. As things stood, though, the only option was an exciting career in the burgeoning field of illegal narcotics. Quick on his feet as with his wits, Gladstone made a passable errand boy and courier for the Yardie-run coke trade; Griffith Sr. took a regretful “don’t tell me the details” approach to his son’s dealings, given the lack of better options.
In 1993, after years of grinding, Gladstone got what passed for a big break, precipitated by a particularly eventful deal with a Chilean trafficker at the docks in Battersea – the two of them ended up fighting off a rival gang together from the deck of the boat. The trafficker; one Armando Cuevas; was new in town, and needed a trusty point man to liaise with the local gangs and help him distribute his product. First impressions counting for a lot, Griffith became that man. It was a productive mentor/student relationship: the Yardies and Cuevas made serious bank, and Gladstone got respect from the both of them. The only misstep was the local Brixton bar the Chilean bought out to serve as a front and distribution center: seeking access to a posher market, Cuevas had renovated it into a yuppie watering hole and staffed it with white Britons, justifiably annoying its former clientele. Still and all, things were going well.
So, about that bar. Here, in order, are a number of things that happened in the back room of that bar, on the night of December 13th, 1995.
Gladstone met up with Cuevas and his crew, at their request.
Cuevas was very happy indeed. He showed Gladstone a briefcase, indicated that he had just made a “rather delicate sale” the night before, and that he needed some extra manpower to help ferry the proceeds back to Chile in a few days.
Gladstone said he was flattered, but didn’t exactly want to go to Chile.
Cuevas said he understood, but – having had his eye on Gladstone for some time now, and knowing a promising potential childe when he saw one – was prepared to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
At which point, with a South American drug trader’s fangs in his neck, Gladstone smelled something burning.
(By way of reference, now would be a good time to look up the Brixton Riot of 1995, during which – among other things – the Dog Star bar was looted and burned to the ground by protesters.)
Griffith stumbled out of the bar’s back entrance ninety seconds later, missing a pint of blood and clutching the briefcase like a life raft. By the horrible screams and hissing noises after he had barred the door behind him, vampires did not like fire. What they did like, judging by the contents of the briefcase, was approximately 350,000 Pounds Sterling in unmarked bills.
In the decade-and-a-half since the riot, Gladstone Griffith (“Books” Griffith, now) has been very, very busy. Too smart to blow his windfall in one go (and become a target for every young hood and policeman in the city), he stashed it in the most secure undisclosed location he could think of and has been milking it ever since in a series of low-level criminal investments: recruiting, equipment, real estate, and the like. The majority of the seed money is gone by now, but Griffith is a canny businessman, and his net worth is actually greater than it was in 1996 – at least, if you count the assets of the Duppy Boys at large, which he has done ever since he first organized them in 1998. Aside from being a major underground force in gunrunning and marijuana sales – Books has understandably sworn off the cocaine trade – they’re also passable amateur Hunters in many cases, thanks to Books’ research.
Ah yes: research. Books has that nickname for a reason. A decent portion of that £350,000 went towards an impressive home occult library, relevant defensive training for his soldiers, and some bootstrapped reconnaissance on London’s supernatural communities. He’s aware of the city’s werewolves, changelings and the like in a broad sense, though his main focus has been on vampires: he can pick out many leading Kindred by reputation (the Lady of London, the Ancient, the Phantom of Drury Lane, the Philosopher…). Since 1995, he’s learned that Cuevas was a foreign up-and-comer operating outside the purview of London’s vampiric underworld, and that he and his gang really did die for good in that fire – and that, even if the local Kindred had connected him to the event, they’d probably thank him for getting the Chilean out of their hair. He has not found out what Cuevas sold to get all that cash, and to whom.
And regardless of what he knows or doesn’t know, he’s not taking any chances. The law cannot be trusted. The world outside can be dealt with, but not trusted. Only his community can be trusted, and it’s up to him and his boys can keep it free of supernatural influence. They’re going to get big, and knowledgeable, so that one day…they can strike back. He’s been thinking about next steps recently, and hit on the idea of using some of the rest of his cash to fund mythology “scholarships” for interested young locals… The rumors are just starting to spread.
Books Griffith is a nondescript Jamaican Briton in his mid-thirties: dark; average height; average build; short hair in the front, dreadlocks in the back, with a close-cropped beard and moustache. Stress has given him the beginnings of forehead wrinkles and some early gray around his temples; he dresses neatly, but not ostentatiously. If you’re on his good side, he’s sober but personable, and very intelligent – you could mistake him for a hard-nosed civics teacher in a city school. When you’re on his good side. Books gets steely very quickly when he, his gang, or his neighborhood are threatened, and while he’s not a paragon of athleticism or anything, he’s fast on his feet and a very good shot.
Though Books and his gang own a number of hideouts and control an impressive swath of territory, their home base is Tower 2 of the Walsford Council Estate; most of the Duppy Boys live there, and they’re actually somewhat well-regarded among the other residents. Books himself lives in a number of interconnected apartments on the 20th floor, decorated simply but well – he has a couple of plants. One of the apartments is mostly given over to his library, which (let it be said) is more than just monster-hunting resources: he’s particularly fond of memoirs, 20th Century history, and historical fiction, and has a great classic vinyl collection for his home sound system – heavy on the rocksteady. When Griffith is outside of Tower 2, he invariably has a bodyguard or two backing him up. It’s not safe out there.
Rank: 3 Mental 5; Physical 3; Social 4 Willpower: 1 Arete: 5 Notable Powers: Gang Leader; Self-Made Occultist; Dab Hand with a Gun
Background: Quiet Folk Research Project
Recording of Interview with Brendan Kearney, #2 of 5
Interviewer: Lauren Darrow
"This is... a really nice restaurant. Just want to say that. Uh, right, right, story, story. So, like I said last time, I like you and Molly vouches for you, but no real names and no hard dates just yet. Rest's all true, hand to god, though."
"Okay, so. Bit of family history. Back in the 19th century, people here in Britain were building a whole bunch of canals and bridges and railroads and tunnels, so they got a lot of Irish coming over to do the work. It was bloody hard work, but it paid well, and if the guys were smart, they'd form what they called a butty gang. Like a work-team that specialized in something. So way-too-many-greats-grandpa Bill Kearney was in a butty gang led by another Irishman named Ten-Ton Tom Ballantyne. They specialized in tunneling... and that's how they met the Quiet Folk."
"I don't know the way the whole meeting went, but since no one likes to talk about it I don't think it went too well. But Ten-Ton Tom was a really smart fellow, and he managed to talk to the Quiet Folk, and he offered them a deal. He'd keep the other digging gangs away from them if they helped out with the tunneling. They took that deal, and all of a sudden, Ten-Ton Tom is now Hundred-Ton Tom, and getting paid ten times as much."
"So that's sort of how it all started, and the deal lasted. Some of the butty gang took the money, cashed out, and went home. But some of the others, like Tom and like Bill Kearney, they figured that the money was good and it beat starving back home, so they brought over families and stayed. And that's kind of how the Deal came about."
"Here's how the Deal works. The families, the Kearneys and Ballantynes and a couple of others, we're the Whisperers' hands above the ground. We bring them veggies for their pigs, we bring them stuff they can't make for themselves -- Uncle Jack fitted them up with cable a couple years back -- and we keep them secret up above. And in exchange, we get money. Seriously, not joking, the Whisperers are rich. Used to be they'd help with digging, now it's pottery. We bring it up and sell it, mostly out of London. Whisperer pottery is hard as a rock, and that feel it's got? People pay a mint for it. And a couple of times, the Quiet Folk want something expensive, they go root around the tunnels and come back with a chest of Roman coins or something."
"We're not the only Deal the Quiet Folk have going. The blonde woman in the altar, she did some kind of big favor for the Whisperer elders back when, same with the creepy lady that was back there about ten years ago. But they do other kind of stuff, and they only show up rarely." Lauren's Note: Creepy lady is Prescott.
"It's not always real peaceful or safe, mind. Ten-Ton Tom Ballantyne vanished in the tunnels about twenty years after the Deal was set up, no one ever did find the body. And the families had a little civil war back during the Depression... uh... money and secrets and things got really ugly, lot of people died."
"Yeah, died. We go down into the London Below, right? And it's dangerous, right? So anybody in the families that goes down, we train with weapons and survival stuff and all that. I've been practicing with a pistol since I was eight and with a shotgun since I was twelve."
"So where do I fit in? I'm sort of the next generation. I finished the Uni and now I'm in the family business -- studied art history, so it's not like I'm going to make money any other way. It's not so bad though. The younger Whisperers like me since I take them up to the surface, so I guess I'm sort of the big brother to a whole village of really weird black-eyed molemen. And it's exciting, you know? I actually had to shoot something that tried to eat me on the way down a couple of months ago, this really pale lady that was moving on all fours and looked like she'd scratched her own eyes out. It was terrifying but... exciting? I don't know, maybe I'm just weird."
"I sort of wish I didn't have to just be a courier for the Quiet Folk. I like them and all, but... I don't know. I wish I could set out, do my own thing, be an artist. A couple of the Whisperers are teaching me how to make pottery, so I'm hoping maybe I can make decorative arts someday, get a show in a gallery... if the families let me. Might be attracting too much attention. Still, guy can dream, can't he?"
Rank: 2 Mental 3; Physical 3; Social 3 Willpower: 1 Arete: 3 Notable Powers: Foiled Artist; Quiet Folk Expert; Raised with Gun in Hand