All hail Gloriana!
November 17, 1602, England. On the 44th anniversary of our Glorious Queen Elisabeth’s ascension to the throne, sir Robert Cecil, a dutiful minister and the Secretary of State to Her Highness’ government joins forces with his older half-brother, Sir Thomas Cecil, 2nd Baron Burgheley to absolve the Queen from her miserie after the treacherous’ Essex’s execution.
So be invited, noble guests, to the Burgheley family seat in the humble Burghley House, Cambridgeshire, where the host and his dame, the Lady Dorothy Cecil nee Neville, will be entertaining Her Royal Highness for a fortnight. Many noble and learned guests have been confirmed to attend, among them Her Royal Highness’ first cousin twice removed, the dame Arbella Stuart, sir Christopher Hatton the younger, councillor Francis Bacon, doctor John Dee, Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland and Edward Seymour, Viscount Beauchamp with their families and many others glorious guests for listing of whom no paper holds enough space. Rumours have reached our ears that envoys of the Scottish king James VI, the Queen’s cousin, will also present themselves to pay their respects to our Divine Queen.
Deer hunting, bear baits and dog baits are going to be held at court, together with hawking, tennis and jousting tournaments. As Her Grace finds herself partial to such entertainments, this magnificent occasion will be marked by a performance of the much acclaimed Admiral’s Men, who will present “Dido, Queen of Carthage” by the renowned Christopher Marlowe, on the 10th anniversary of it’s publishing.
It was year 1602. Having completed her research on Loch Ness, Bianca came to Boston to become the new Regent and resolve a problem with the local river. Her meeting with the former head of the chantry was, however, interrupted by Caspar, unexpectedly arriving at her door in the company of his new acquaintance, Anthony, whom he had rescued from a mob of furious villagers accusing him of witchcraft.
Eventually, the reconciliation of old friends led to emptying the former Regent’s stash of alcoholic blood, as a result of which Bianca’s new apprentice became indisposed, and Caspar could solidify his quite unwanted friendship with Anthony, now convinced that the Brujah is depressed and requires urgent intervention.
As it turned out, Anthony, suspected to be a Giovanni or a Malkavian, was not a witch, but he did posses a peculiar ability to speak with spirits, thanks to which he gained knowledge of a mortal ploy which had gotten him in trouble. With the aid of Bianca and Caspar, one of the schemers sent after the kindred was apprehended and forced to confess, shedding more light onto the matter.
Meanwhile, Marcus and Stepano were visiting Lady Seren, the Malkavian baroness of Gloucester, to whom the vampire got indebted during the Convention of Thorns. There, they became acquainted with Lady Hesper, a Ventrue matron taking care of her mortal descendants, and her ever busy ghoul, Tobias.
During a pleasant evening of discussing marriage and the bad influence of poets, the topic eventually changed to politics, and the two visitors were informed that they are to accompany the baroness to a party organized by half-brothers, Robert and Thomas Cecil, to celebrate the 44th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne. During the celebration, the kindred Duke of Amber (childe of Prince Mithras, acting in his stead during his absence) was to announce the new baron of Norwich, as the barony had been empty for a number of years, and a handful of kindred were looking forward to take the prestigious position.
Once at the party, Marcus, until then accompanied by Hesper, was surprised to find Bianca, who had been invited to meet her new Pontifex, and Caspar, who was smuggled in by Anthony, pretending to be the Prince’s secret agent. While the latter disappeared in the crowd, and Hesper excused herself to find her family, the old team caught up on past events and promptly split to mingle with the other guests and exchange gossip pertaining to local politics – the execution of the Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux, the event’s gracious hosts and other more and less noble persons present at the party.
While Bianca was on the lookout for the Pontifex and Caspar was having a conversation with two learned gentlemen, Marcus accidentally found another old friend, Dermont, who appeared at the party disguised as a Ventrue neonate, Germaine, and was just enjoying a pleasant talk with Hesper’s granddaughters – to her immediate discontent.
As the party progressed, it became apparent that among the kindred, there were two major parties struggling for the barony – the Toreadors and the Ventrue – and that the execution of Essex may have something to do with their competition for influence in Avalon, as the Earl was rumored to be a Toreador man. Pooling their intel, the team learned that one of the candidates for the barony was lord Oswyn Blackwell, Hesper’s sire, while the Toreador remained unknown.
Meanwhile, Bianca found herself a new acquaintance, Alistair, who was all too interested to hear about her occult research in Loch Ness, even being as kind as to supply her with necessary occult terms to discuss the phenomena – a fairly unusual feat for a random interlocutor. Overhearing the conversation, Marcus stepped in, and recognizing the man to be a ghoul, politely asked Bianca to dance, unbeknownst to the mildly scandalous scene that was about to unravel in a matter of minutes.
Caspar also decided to join the dance floor, being invited by Lady Seren who benevolently taught him the local dances to “prepare him for the Toreadors,” as if she knew who would be his next dance partner. Luckily for him, the Brujah quickly got a hold of the English dance style and was able to awe the ladies with his prowess.
As the tune ended, Alistair, moving swiftly through the crowd, and tailed by the ever watchful Hesper, followed a man who was just about to leave the room. Harsh words were exchanged, although few were heard by those who did not stand sufficiently close to the scene. The last remark, however, was enough to catch the attention of eavesdropping kindred: “Don’t embarass yourself. A Jewish hedge wizard can never become a Hermetic master.”
Shortly after, the display of Dido, the Queen of Carthage, written by Christopher Marlowe and performed by the Admiral’s Men, was announced, and nobody spoke of the incident, as the commentaries on the play dominated the conversations afterwards. Caspar, knowing his Brujah nature and the history of his clan, chose to opt out and left the room before the spectacle to take a walk outside, wary not to cause an unnecessary scene.
Meanwhile, Bianca was accosted by the very same man whose remark caught kindred attention before, one doctor John Dee, not surprisingly looking much younger than one would expect, studying his biography. Having quizzed her on the local politics and other matters, the man left as soon as he appeared, and Bianca was swiftly intercepted by Marcus and Hesper who had been vigorously debating lord Oswyn’s chances for the barony and were curious as to the mysterious man’s identity.
Caspar, having fed in the gardens, was approached or, to be precise, meat balled, by Anthony, who found out that the treacherous woman he was looking for was currently frolicking with Thomas Cecil in one of the bedrooms. Guided by his sense of justice – and an opportunity for blackmail – he nagged Caspar to interrupt the scene, but to no avail.
When that plan did not quite work out, Anthony chose to secretly procure the item which, as he claimed, had been stolen by the woman and, with Caspar’s permission, hid it in Bianca’s carriage to transport it back to Boston. However, concerned about Bianca’s reaction, Caspar chose to inform her of the trouble, temporarily leaving Anthony with Marcus and Hesper.
Suspecting the kindred to be a Malkavian, Marcus peeked at his aura, which showed a myriad of colors changing in a rapid pattern, as well as something menacing poking through the backdrop of irritation, discouraging the elder from further annoying his now confirmed clanmate.
While Caspar and Bianca were discussing possible solutions, Hesper was informed that her youngest granddaughter, Joy, disappeared with one of the young actors. Despite the rush, by the time she found the girl, the deed had already been done, and the matron could only scold the girl’s recklessness, at which point Joy bolted out of the room. Enraged, Hesper sent Tobias to find her and moved on to check on her remaining relatives for whom she had been dutifully arranging good matches.
As the evening was drawing to a close, Bianca made a deal with Anthony, promising that if he returned the stolen item to its owner, she would do something to help Caspar with his depression, to which the Malkavian readily agreed.
Finally, it was time for the Duke to announce the new Baron, and all the kindred present flocked to one of the smaller rooms to hear the decision. Being in a bit of a rush, Marcus left Stepano and Bianca to talk with two innocuously looking mortal gentlemen, and joined Hesper at the gathering, hoping for a favorable verdict.
As the Duke was about to announce that, following a compromise between the interested parties, the new Baron would be a Ventrue, a commotion started at the door, as the two men who had previously conversed with Stepano tried to enter, temporarily delayed by Bianca who wanted to avoid a masquerade breach.
As it turned out, one of the visitors was the Prince’s personal envoy, and the other, no longer innocuously looking, turned out to be the Prince himself. The crowd parted immediately and dropped to their knees as Mithras walked towards his childer. “The new baron will indeed be a Ventrue,” he confirmed, with his gaze seeking out a man standing in the corner. “Step forth, cousin…” he said, and beckoned Dermont to approach.
And thus, accepting the dubious reward, Dermont took the oath, saying a quiet farewell to his anonymity as countless congratulations began pouring in.
Before the party was over, Hesper learned that neither Joy, nor her ghoul Tobias were to be found, the latter apparently having disappeared with one of his kindred dance partners. To make matters worse, her decision to marry one of her granddaughters to a son of John Dee, a Tremere, damaged her sire’s reputation, which eventually cost him his post. Luckily, the remaining two marriages, that of her third granddaughter and grandson were more fortunate.
Back in Boston, Caspar and Bianca found out that the item stolen by Anthony was a necklace appropriated by the woman in question against her husband’s will, thus preventing his soul from finding peace. The Malkavian returned it to its rightful owner – the man’s illegitimate daughter, and announced that he would be leaving on a journey to Istanbul…