Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
Iron-fisted prince of New Orleans
“The reputation of power is power.”
“Perhaps it is because I’ve spent so many of my nights in cities on the verge of chaos or collapse, but I can name few princes of such enduring strength and capability as Augusto Vidal. More than two hundred uninterrupted years of rule in one of the most challenging cities in the New World, amid a court beset by elders in rare numbers and of impressive age for the New World, is a number all but unmatched. Were I to hold up an example to others of a prince, I can think of no stronger candidate. His reign is blemished only by a disaster of such a magnitude as to lay waste to Kindred and kine alike, and stands as testament to his will, wits, and skill. Indeed, were one religious, one might ask if Hurricane Katrina were not almost a challenge from God against the long-reigning prince. Not that I am. And not that I’m impartial in the matter…”
“There may be those in New Orleans who think themselves pretenders to the throne. Prince Vidal is no actor, no pretender, no phantom soon dismissed. All know the score, and it is clear. Vigila semper, semper paratus, semper fidelis, et nune et semper.”
Vidal is tall for a Spaniard, with crisp, Mediterranean features and broad shoulders. His slick, black hair always appears wet, and he still wears the neatly trimmed Van Dyke he kept as a mortal. Unfortunately, the maintenance of this perfect facial hair takes up a considerable portion of the first hour of every night when he rises, due to the fact that he was Embraced scraggly, without being given the chance to first tidy his appearance. Vidal dresses to impress in dark, hand-tailored suits of the finest cut, but he never forgets the lesson of function before form. He speaks with the sharp, authoritative staccato that characterizes his countrymen, and even after so many decades in the New World, has never shed his thick accent… or even cared to.
Augusto Vidal is almost certainly not the name he was born with, but it was all so long ago. Some say he was a petty Castilian noble, an infanzone who married into greatness. Some say he was the fifth son of an already great line whose only hope for glory was to earn it in battle. Some say he was the nephew of Alfonso VII and a knight within the Orden de Santiago. Whoever he was, his steel ran slick and red with Moorish blood.
Why did he do it? Why did he hate the Moslems? He seethed when they conquered his family’s lands after the Disaster of Alarcos. Or he watched as they raped and butchered his wife and children before his eyes. Perhaps he simply sat and listened at his grandfather’s knee when the old man told him to hate them. He no longer speaks of the reason. Maybe he no longer remembers. It was all so long ago.
He fought in a crusade called by a terrified pontiff. The battle was glorious. It slit the throat of the Almohads. The Reconquista would carve Cordova, Jaén, and Seville from the caliphate’s rotting carcass within twoscore years. Nearly all of Iberia would be Christian again before the thirteenth century was out.
The victory was not without cost. A stray arrow pierced his leg. A felled horse crushed his flank. A Moor’s scimitar split his gut. Perhaps he does not remember what the injury was. It was all so long ago. He lay in the dust gasping for water when the victorious army quit the field, his throat as dry as the rust-red mountains beneath Andalusia’s setting sun. Content to have given his life in Christ’s service, the dying crusader made peace with God and waited for death.
Death found him first.
She silently strode through the field of corpses, a grim harbinger before whom even the crows and buzzards took flight. It was no coincidence that she found him where he lay. Battlefields were good feeding for her kind. She sped those waiting for death on their way and glutted herself on lifeblood that would have otherwise merely watered Andalusia’s parched soil. She saw something in him. A noble spirit. A valiant heart. A skilled swordarm. Or perhaps she was simply full. Whatever the reason, the fallen warrior was spared one death. He received another.
Thus was the future prince of New Orleans brought into the Clan of Kings by Urcalida, childe of Tiamat, childe of Ventrue. Urcalida, Celtic warrior-queen of a city forgotten by time. Urcalida, goddess to Iberia’s Phoenicians under the name Astarte. Urcalida, veteran of the Punic Wars. Urcalida, methuselah-queen of Madrid.
Among the Camarilla, the name of Augusto Vidal has come to be synonymous with two things: the city of New Orleans and the determination of Ventrue superiority. Few cities in the New World can claim so many trials and tribulations as can New Orleans, and yet through it all, Vidal has endured. He is the first and only prince the region has ever recognized, and as a result, he has come to be seen as something of an icon among clan members across the United States and beyond.
Vidal’s history and that of New Orleans are one and the same after 1769 and need not be repeated here. Since Hurricane Katrina, however, their once inextricable paths have seemingly diverged. Vidal has always been a distant prince, and it is well-known among his clanmates that much of his time is occupied by his considerable duties as strategos for Clan Ventrue’s interests across the Southeastern United States. Vidal has grown even more remote in recent years and now makes public appearances only rarely, delegating much of his duties to Donovan and Philip Maldonato.
Most Kindred believe Vidal maintains a number of havens. The best-known of these, and the only confirmed one, is Perdido House. The gothic skyscraper is one of the tallest buildings in the city and is the hub of Vidal’s praxis: it’s where he conducts much of the business of his court (including public executions); where his seneschal, sheriff, and other lieutenants maintain offices; where the Ventrue clan hosts its monthly gatherings; and where many of Vidal’s corporate holdings are headquartered. Vidal has owned the building since its construction in 1968 (New Orleans built skyscrapers later than many cities due to fears that the subsident soil couldn’t support such heavy structures). A number of floors contain residential units usable by Vidal’s people as havens if business keeps them in Perdido House for overlong. The prince sometimes lets these out to other Kindred seeking short-term protection in return for future favors. Most Kindred consider Perdido House so swell fortified as to be suicide to attack head-on. The efficacy of the building’s security was recently proven during Baptiste du Lac’s ill-fated attack, who encountered an overwhelming and record-fast police response, the quick attention of the sheriff and hounds, and even supernatural defenses.
Still, it’s largely known that Vidal personally cares little for the sterile, too-modern environs of the Central Business District and prefers the atmosphere of the historic Garden District. Popular belief is that’s where he keeps his “real” haven(s). Even the most opulent, old-fashioned, and fortified personal residence would easily blend in among the area’s ubiquitous multimillion dollar historic mansions.
As prince of New Orleans, all of the city is Vidal’s domain. He claims a larger praxis than many princes do and has agents installed throughout New Orleans’ outlying environs, including the suburbs of Kenner and Metairie, All of Orleans Parish and much of Jefferson Parish is acknowledged as his.
Like any prince, however, Vidal’s grasp is stronger in some parts of the city than others. Vidal claims the Garden District as his personal territory, effectively serving as its regent, and he’s so involved in the Central Business District that he might as well be its co-regent too. He permits the regents of the city’s other parishes a moderate amount of leeway in their authority, but his requirement that all grants of feeding territory first go through him (or, more often, his seneschal) is ironclad. Vidal has gone fairly out of his way to ensure that many regents are Sanctified Kindred who will faithfully heed his orders. He allows the Invictus to run two regencies and is generally satisfied with Pearl Chastain’s and Pierpont McGinn’s administration of their territories. He reluctantly tolerates the Anarchs in Mid-City and sends the sheriff on semi-regular sweeps to ensure the Traditions are being observed.
Tremé and the French Quarter remain largely independent of Vidal thanks to his rivalry with Baron Cimitière and Antoine Savoy. The French Quarter is the jewel in New Orleans’s crown and its loss has never ceased to rankle the prince.
“Sebastian Ortega” is a wealthy and reclusive Chilean expatriate who donates to a variety of political and religious causes. He also sits on a number of corporate boards. He is an intensely private man who shuns TV appearances and does not give speeches or interviews. In recent years, he has also largely stopped attending social functions. It’s believed he’s started dividing time between residences in the United States and his home country. Still, many of the city’s movers and shakers know his name—and his deep pockets.
Vidal has a vast and diffuse network of mortal pawns. He claims to control the city’s police force, its civic government, the Catholic Church, and many of the most profitable local corporations. In practice, this domain is so large that Vidal has no choice but to delegate parts of it. His sheriff Donovan oversees the police while Bishop Malveaux tends to to the Catholic Church. Philip Maldonato sees to the city bureaucracy. The prince frequently involves his ghoul herald, the Hussar, in the micromanagement of these spheres of influence and seeds them with his own ghouls so that his people remain under no illusions they are merely managing the prince’s domain on his behalf. The only subordinate he feels no need to issue such ‘reminders’ to is his lover Maldonato, whose fortunes are so intertwined with his as to be largely one and the same. Vidal is otherwise totally uninterested in sharing power and zealously defends his pawns against would-be interlopers. Antoine Savoy is the only real Kindred to contest the prince for influence over any of them. (While the Baron also has enough power to, his interests lie in other areas of mortal society.)
The Catholic Church: Vidal is not merely Sanctified: he’s still a practicing Catholic too, and a deeply traditional one. He truly believes the pope is Christ’s vicar on earth. Bishop Malveaux largely oversees the Catholic Church on Vidal’s behalf through his influence over its archbishop Orson Malveaux, his distant relative. Vidal maintains his own influence over the church through regular and generous financial donations. While organized religion isn’t as powerful a force in people’s lives as it was 300 years ago, Vidal is an ardent believer in the duty of all Catholics to provide for the Holy Mother Church’s material needs. Vidal uses the church to encourage anti-Vodoun sentiments among the city’s mortal populace and to funnel charitable efforts away from neighborhoods controlled by Savoy and the Baron.
Corporate: Vidal maintains extensive holdings in the energy, aerospace, and real estate industries. There are few corporations in the CBD he doesn’t own at least some stock in. He controls some corporate entities more tightly than others, be this in larger amounts of stock owned or specific leverage over highly-placed figures. More than one company executive (or key secretary) has obtained their position with Vidal’s quiet patronage, while others owe him for later favors he’s done or fear blackmail he material holds over them (the prince prefers all three). At least several of the companies Vidal is most invested in maintain offices in Perdido House so as to stay securely under the prince’s thumb. “Sebastian Ortega,” the Hussar, Maldonato, and other ghouls and trusted subordinates hold seats on a number of corporate boards. Insomuch as anyone can be said to “control” the city’s business community, Vidal certainly comes closest, though he’s not without corporate rivals. There are simply too many businesses in any city for one Kindred to control completely.
Police: The police are one of the most important institutions in any city for Kindred to maintain influence over. Many Masquerade breaches inevitably draw in local law enforcement and it’s the rare prince who doesn’t have at least a few people in key positions. In New Orleans, the police are even more important: Vidal considers NOPD the most direct weapon in his arsenal against the Baron. Cops regularly harass, arrest, and even kill the Samedi houngan’s mortal supporters, who are predominately poor and black.
Given this importance, the prince has allowed not one but two Kindred, Donovan and his childe Camilla Doriocourt, to establish influence of their own within the police force. The three of them use many of the same tactics Vidal uses in the corporate sector to maintain his hold over NOPD, but thanks to the presence of three Kindred, the police are especially saturated with ghouls. The current superitendant, Bernard Drouillard, is a pliable man more than willing to do the bidding of Vidal and his agents. The city’s ghouled police are actually numerous enough to have formed their own all-ghoul coterie, the Crescent Brotherhood. Vidal also maintains influence over the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Department and other local law enforcement agencies, though he concentrates primarily upon the NOPD.
While Vidal’s control over the police is tighter than almost any other sector of mortal society, it’s also in some ways the most challenged. Antoine Savoy is widely suspected of using Nolan Moreno III‘s French Quarter Response Force to undermine Vidal’s influence over police stationed within the French Quarter, though the Toreador hasn’t confirmed or denied this.
Peter Lebeaux is another fly in the ointment. Vidal only granted Erwin Bornemann permission to Embrace the police detective with extreme reluctance, in return for a long-held boon called in by Elsbeth von Steinhäusser, and the additional requirement that Lebeaux would join the Lancea et Sanctum if he wished to remain a police officer. Alas, the Tremere neonate was swayed to Antoine Savoy’s cause not long after his Embrace, and has proven a persistent thorn in Vidal’s side. Few doubt he would be ash without the protection of his two patrons.
Politics: Vidal has declared the mayor’s office his exclusive domain. He generously donates to the campaigns of mayoral candidates and regularly invites them to Perdido House. Many got their starts in politics (or later reached higher offices) with his help. In truth, lower-level officials can usually get things done faster, and the independently elected sheriff of Orleans Parish arguably has more power: Vidal values the mayors as symbols as much as anything else. Antoine Savoy has repeatedly sought to get his own candidates elected to the city’s highest office, but to date, Vidal’s have always won.
Vidal similarly backs the careers and donates to the campaigns of city councilpeople and state congressional representatives. He allows regents to the same with elected officials in their parishes. Vidal’s political influence is felt as far away as Baton Rouge, although the ascension of Lawrence Meeks following his coup over Marcel Guilbeau has made this harder to exercise than before. He’s also declared federally elected officials his sole domain. While the prince has little interest in playing at national politics (and hasn’t made enough of an investment to be a serious player), he found his influence over them to be particularly useful in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Vidal typically donates (through a variety of proxies) to all viable candidates in a race regardless of partisan affiliation. The prince sees little distinction between mortal political parties. Members of both have been equally happy to take his money. If several candidates seem equally likely to win, though, Vidal will usually default his support to the ‘most Catholic’ one.
Vidal is one of the wealthiest Kindred in the city. Most Kindred presume he’s the richest, but it’s actually an open question whether his clanmate John Harley Matheson, who claims domain over Whitney Hancock Bank, has access to more wealth. Most Kindred outside the Invictus and Ventrue aren’t aware of Matheson’s ties to the regional bank.
Most of Vidal’s income is thought to flow from his corporate holdings, hedge funds, and a variety of investments and owned properties built off capital dating back centuries. In earlier eras, much of this wealth came from cotton, sugarcane, and the Mississippi river trade. Like most of the city’s elders, Vidal once owned slaves and makes no apologies over that fact.
Those closer to the prince’s confidences know he maintains offshore bank accounts in a number of tax havens. He keeps the most in Switzerland. Although use of Swiss banks is declining among wealthy clients, Vidal considers them more secure thanks to the region’s Prince Guillaume, an ancient Brujah who has ruled Switzerland since before the time of Charlemagne. Vidal distrusts Propsero of the Cayman Islands and has tied up none of his wealth there.
Vidal is a pillar of the Camarila. His centuries of service as an archon and uninterrupted praxis over one of the most important cities in the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries have seen his name mentioned in the same breath as Chicago’s Prince Lodin and Washington D.C.’s Marcus Vitel. Many princes across the United States look to his rule as an example to follow. (Camarilla Status ••••• •)
Among his clan, Vidal enjoys an equally celebrated reputation. He has served as strategos of the Southeastern United States since 1815 and oversees clan interests across an area that roughly corresponds to the old Confederacy. Strategoi often prefer not to serve as princes and the former office’s duties are partly responsible for keeping Vidal somewhat distant from his own subjects. (Ventrue Status ••••• •)
Vidal is slightly less esteemed among the Lancea et Sanctum. His centuries of devoted service to the covenant and his zealous imposition of Sanctified dogma upon New Orleans has won him many accolades among the Church Eternal: Cardinal-Saint Fabrizio Ulfila has awarded him with the title of Blessed, one of the preliminary steps on the path towards canonization as a Black Saint. However, Vidal remains a lay member of the covenant and will never command the same degree of spiritual authority that he would have as an ordained priest. The prince is considered too old and set in his ways to pursue that path now. His continued Roman Catholic faith is also considered something of an oddity. It’s even earned him the moniker of “the Catholic.” (Lancea et Sanctum Status •••••)
Vidal holds the rank of knight commander within the Knights of the Blood, a brutal and bloody-historied order of fanatics who seek to maintain the Ventrue clan’s supremacy by purging threats within and without. Vidal and Pierpont McGinn are the order’s only local members. (Knights of Blood Status ••••) Vidal is also a member of assorted other Ventrue and Sanctified fraternities and knightly orders, though none he considers so important as the Knights of the Blood. (Status varies)
Ventrue (e. prehistory, d. many millennia ago)
Tiamat (e. many millennia ago, d. 3rd century?)
Urcalida (e. several millennia ago, d. 15th century)
• 6. Augusto Vidal (e. 13th century)
Emmanuel Costa (e. 18th century, d. 1815)
Vidal has little cause to recite his lineage among Kindred who are his inferiors. It is relatively common knowledge among the city’s Ventrue that he claims descent from the methuselah Tiamat, however, and a few more Kindred know of his sire Urcalida (Christianized as Ursula), who was childe to that dreaded ancient.
Vidal is the childe of Urcalida, an Iberian warrior-queen Embraced during the Second Punic War. Rather than dwell in Rome where unprecedented numbers of Cainites were competing for power, she elected to settle in the comparatively unimportant province of Hispania Tarraconesis and rule it absolutely. On the few occasions Vidal has publicly discussed his sire, he proudly held that she was one of the worthies to salt Carthage’s earth and torch Clan Brujah’s fabled “utopia” during the Third Punic War. She weathered Hispania’s subsequent invasions by the Goths and Vandals better than her clanmates in Rome, and reigned as dux (prince) of Tarraco for nearly a thousand years before the Umayyads destroyed the city and drove her into torpor. She re-awoke several times over the following centuries before seizing praxis over Madrid, then Mayrit under Muslim rule. She cared little for the conflict between the Christians and the Moors, for she predated the deities of both religions. She did, however, support the Reconquista to further strife between the Christian and Muslim branches of Clan Lasombra in an ultimately futile gambit to break the keepers’ hold over Iberia. She did not survive to see her city become the seat of Spain’s world-spanning empire and was destroyed by Lasombra Anarchs during the Anarch Revolt.
Urcalida’s sire Tiamat is considered one of the most terrifying exemplars of Ventrue’s blood to have ever been Embraced. Atrocities beyond count are ascribed to her name: she is said to have butchered whole Sumerian cities, diablerized scores of her own childer, made slaves of the Strix, taken demons for her lovers, and to have slaughtered so many kine that she became worshiped by the Babylonians as a deific embodiment of darkness, death, and primordial chaos: Tiamat. Modern scholars agree that stories of her exploits are likely exaggerated, particularly those concerning her role in shaping mortal history. However, there is little doubt she was one of the most dreaded and bloodthirsty Cainites active during a savage era when the Masquerade was still a formative concept.
Tiamat resented Mesopotamia’s transition from warring city-states to unified empires, and bitterly fought against every mortal nation-builder from Sargon of Akkad to Cyrus the Great. Her efforts came to naught and she was eventually lured away from the Seleucid Empire by the promise of greater bloodshed in the Punic Wars. She became enamored by Roman military power as a means to wreak further carnage, and (allegedly) whispered in Crassus’ ear that great riches and glory could be won by conquering Parthia. She spent the next four centuries traveling between Rome and Persia, fighting on the sides of both empires and reveling in the bloodshed. She finally disappeared during the Sack of Ctesiphon in 283 and was hoped destroyed by her contemporaries.
Tiamat is the childe of Ventrue. Clan Ventrue holds that their founder perished long ago, making them the only clan completely free of an Antediluvian’s manipulations.
Vidal has no widely-known siblings-in-blood, although it’s exceedingly unlikely that he was his sire’s only childe. It was common practice during the era of his Embrace for elders to sire vast broods of progeny they blood bound to themselves.
Vidal’s only known childe Emmanuel Costa was a gifted architect and civil engineer partly responsible for rebuilding New Orleans after the Great Fire of 1788. Though Vidal initially had high hopes for his childe, Costa’s involvement in Du Valle’s rebellion and assassination plot prompted a mortally embarrassed Vidal to personally behead him in an open court. The prince subsequently swore never to Embrace again.
Many Kindred have speculated whether Vidal sired other progeny before Emmanuel Costa. After all, he was still many centuries old when he first came to New Orleans. The prince, however, has never publicly spoken of any other childer—and none have have been foolish enough to ask.