Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
Devout houngan & regent of Tremé
Many people mistake Baron Cimitière for a costumed mummer upon first meeting him. He appears to be a walking corpse, his flesh gray and sunken, his teeth and eyes yellowed, his hair falling to his shoulders in stringy clumps. He dresses in the traditional fashion of Baron Samedi himself—an old black suit, cane, top hat and sunglasses. Baron Cimitière naturally smells of rot, but he takes great pains and uses a variety of cleansers and scents to hide that fact.
Aliases: Baron Cimitière, Bernard Toussaint, numerous others
Nationality: Haitian or West African
Ethnicity: Haitian or Yoruban
Date of Birth: Unknown
Date of Embrace: Unknown, but presumed at least several centuries ago.
Apparent Age: Indeterminate; the Baron’s true form is a rotting corpse, but he often adopts the illusory mien of a man in his early 60s.
Real Age: Unknown, but at least several centuries presumed.
Weight: 168 lbs
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Gray
Perhaps the most enigmatic figure in New Orleans, Baron Cimitière is a savior to some, a threat to others, and a mystery to all. This strange Kindred arrived in the city in 1799, having left Haiti during the revolt against French colonial occupation. Of his time before, he speaks little, even to his most trusted followers. No one knows if he was native to Haiti or he traveled there at some point from elsewhere. He says only that he faced final death in Haiti and was restored to his current incarnation through the aid of the great loa Baron Samedi. Whether he speaks metaphorically or literally is another detail of which he does not speak, but he attributes his devotion to Vodoun to that event.
Combining traditional Vodoun rites with the potent undead magics of his covenant, Baron Cimitière is widely reputed as the mightiest blood sorcerer within a city already renowned for the puissance of its occult forces. For many years after arriving in New Orleans, the houngan was content to be left alone to participate in the growth of Vodoun culture. It was at this time that he gained his first Kindred followers in the city, as well as his far more substantial (especially since Hurricane Katrina) mortal congregations. Slowly, he began to realize that both New Orleans’ Kindred authorities posed a threat to his people—Prince Vidal because of his intolerant religious beliefs and his growing fear of Baron Cimitière’s power and influence; and Antoine Savoy through his manipulation of Vodoun and its practitioners for what he believes to be purely political ends.
Baron Cimitière uses his considerable influence among the kine and his small but influential group of Kindred supporters in order to oppose both threats. On occasion, necessity has forced him to cooperate with Savoy against Vidal—as much as Baron Cimitière despises Savoy’s misuse of Vodoun, it’s better than Vidal’s overt hostility toward it—but these alliances have always been short-lived arrangements. His enmity for the Tremere is also well-known. The clan’s primogen Elsbeth von Steinhäuser has never forgiven him for his involvement in the 1811 slave uprisings (perceived or actual) that claimed her first childe’s unlife, and she remains one of Vidal’s most fervent supporters in his crusade against Vodoun. As of the ancilla Julien Derneville’s disappearance in 2015, relations with the warlocks seem to have deteriorated even further…
When he is not reluctantly involved in politics, Baron Cimitière dwells in one of many havens located throughout poorer, predominantly black neighborhoods—the heart of Vodoun in New Orleans. He conducts frequent ceremonies for Kindred and kine alike. Most of his mortal followers believe him to be solely a powerful houngan, and they remain unaware of his undead nature. Baron Cimitière has occasionally alluded towards connections with other groups of Kindred Vodouisants beyond his followers in New Orleans (in Haiti, Central and South America, the Caribbean islands and across the United States). These occasions have grown more frequent in recent years, but none save perhaps his followers can guess what such may bode.
The Baron and his faction fared poorly during Hurricane Katrina, which disproportionately impacted the communities in which they had built their havens and domains. The Baron vanished without a trace during the storm and was presumed deceased. His followers went underground in his absence, and a number of his most prominent ones met final death at the hands of Strix, hunters, or simple natural disaster. Bulldozers and jackhammers “coincidentally” destroyed survivors during the city’s reconstruction. Many Kindred wrote off the Circle of the Crone as finished in the city, and Antoine Savoy as done for once the prince fully recovered his own strength.
Since the Storm
Three years after the levees broke, the All-Night Society was collectively shocked when Baron Cimitière calmly strode into Elysium, as if borne by the wake of Hurricane Gustav. The still quite-undead Samedi proclaimed that he had met his second final death during Hurricane Katrina, a turn of phrase the Harpies noted with some irony. He was here before them after being restored to unlife once more by the great loa Baron Samedi. Much had changed in the storm’s aftermath, he cryptically stated, but one thing had not: “his task” was still unfinished.
He has worked tirelessly to complete it ever since.
Cimitière is, in many respects, fighting a defensive action in New Orleans. He does not seek to wipe his enemies out, as does Prince Vidal, nor does he seek the position of Kindred liege over the city, as does Antoine Savoy. Rather, Cimitière wishes primarily for his followers and himself to be left alone to practice as they will. However, because part of his definition of being “left alone” includes being granted complete autonomy, freedom from outside authority, and the ability to expand whenever and wherever he feels the need, it is unlikely that even a prince less tyrannical than Vidal would grant his wish.
In light of this, Cimitière’s own schemes are less intended to weaken his rivals across the board, but rather to weaken their ability to harm him directly, and to strengthen his own position so that he can hold out against their efforts. He is less concerned with bringing them down himself than with ensuring they cannot do the same to him; the best defense is a good offense, and if he can best ensure his own position by aiding those who would throw down Vidal or Savoy, so be it.
Surprisingly enough for creatures that are essentially endless, few of New Orleans’ Kindred devote much attention to years gone by. This is partly due to the same hurdles that all Kindred would-be historians face; namely, that much of their kind’s history is oral, and Kindred themselves are notoriously self-interested liars. In New Orleans, it is little secret that those in power tend to frown on digging up the past. Vidal dislikes others looking into the details of his reign, and almost everyone believes that all of the city’s elders have something to hide.
Cimitière, however, believes very strongly that the secrets of the past can shape the future. Inspired by his own strange history and his sense of connection with the loa, the Baron devotes a substantial amount of his own time, and those of his followers, into uncovering the true history of New Orleans. Lidia Kendall’s efforts, in particular, have been invaluable and she has often made use of her Ordo Dracul contacts for these purposes. Cimitière is even thought to have made use of New Orleans’ ghosts (and other non-Kindred entities) in learning of the past. Due to these studies, he is easily the most well-informed Kindred in the city when it comes to history, and perhaps only rivaled by Vidal, Maldonato, and Pearl Chastain (who saw most of it personally).
Due to his fascination with the past, Baron Cimitière is always willing to exchange cash or favors with anyone who can deliver up a new piece of historical or mystical information. Furthermore, because his own Kindred followers are relatively few, the Baron has been known to hire outside vampires and coteries to search for specific knowledge in and around New Orleans. He prefers dealing with Kindred who are sympathetic to his cause, or at least neutral, but he will deal even with those ostensibly loyal to Vidal or Savoy—so long as they are not direct servants or operatives of those two—if they can deliver what he seeks.
“Well, Lou, firs’ thing to keep in mind about the Baron is, he don’ want to be prince. Never did, an’ my guess is, still don’t. What he wants is for the Lance t’ leave everyone into Vodou the fuck alone. That ‘cludes Vidal’s groupies an’ also any licks who’d smile when they fuck ‘em over like Savoy an’ the Cottonmouths.”
“That’s his perfect world. The other Kindred cedin’ all things Vodoun, plus handin’ over Tremé an’ the Seventh, Eighth, an’ Ninth Wards to the Crones. Then leavin’ ‘em completely the fuck alone, t’ run things how they want, answerin’ t’ no prince. City within a city.”
“But that ain’t ever gonna happen, not with Vidal an’ Savoy at least. An’ he knows it. So yeah, the Lance has gotta go down. Both halves of it. What happens after… well, that’d leave a pretty big hole. Somethin’s gotta fill it. Gotta be someone who’s prince, even if the Baron don’ want the job.”
“He ain’t really talked too much about what happens then. Guess he thinks we should focus on makin’ that Lance-free city happen first. Cottonmouth an’ necro-incestuous-Mafioso-free too, ‘course. Fuckin’ sick the things they do.”
“But anyway. There’s still been talk, what the city’s gonna look like when—not if, we don’t believe in no if—Vidal an’ Savoy are gone. Baron might be prince, if there’s no other option, but he don’ want the job. Might plug his nose and do it anyway, or might foist it off t’ some other lick. It’d be his call though, and he won’t let nobody be prince who don’t run things the way he likes.”
“How he runs Tremé, though. You get a good preview of what he’d be like as prince. Easier for mortals to meet him up close than licks, actually. That says a lot. He’s a houngan who goes by the name Toussaint. Real popular wit’ a lotta folks. Been passin’ himself off as a buncha diff’rent houngans since way the fuck back. Longer than I been around. He’s close t’ the kine, close in a way Vidal an’ Savoy sho’ as shit ain’t. Hell, I don’t even see him livin’ in any digs as sweet as a lotta dealers.”
“He actually gets shit done, too. I heard the stories ‘bout Papa Iblis. Hell, you was around for ’em. What, five times Xola’s age, an’ five times as mean? Vidal had decades to ash him an’ didn’t. Yeah, sure, he was fightin’ a pretty long slog-fest t’ set himself up as prince. Maybe he woulda ashed Iblis, once things was settled down an’ he was comfy on his throne. Or maybe he wouldn’t, ‘cuz he don’t give a flyin’ fuck ‘bout some poor niggas who call Mary Erzulie, and gave even less back when they was slaves. All I know is, Baron was the one t’ ash that sick shit Iblis.”
“He’s the houngan. The houngan. People in all those neighborhoods, the ones he wants to make his city in a city, he’s the man they go to for… fuckin’ everythin’. Yeah, sure, your usual love potions an’ magic fix-alls. But a lot more shit too. Your kid’s gone missin’, he’s your guy. Cops killed your boyfrien’, he’s your guy. Funeral’s too much f’ you to deal with, he’s your guy. Landlord won’t fix the brown water comin’ outta your sink, he’s your guy. You need money t’ make your boyfrien’s bail, he’s your guy. You pregnant in high school an’ don’t know what to do, he’s your guy. You down sick an’ can’t afford no ER visit, he’s your guy. Psycho ex won’t leave you alone, he’s your guy. You want a houngan to say the words at your weddin’, he’s your guy. Hell, neighbor’s playin’ music too damn loud, he’s still your guy. He’s a priest, doctor, judge, shrink, an’ your grandpa who knows best, all rolled into one."
“An’ he keeps the Masquerade. Des Jumeaux, they or the Baron have ways of making’ them look like him. You can run into Toussaint at Lil’ Dizzy’s, sometimes, chowin’ on po’boys in broad daylight. Or for any of that other shit that only happens at day.”
“An’ the people in his neighborhoods, they’re loyal to him, Lou, loyal ‘cuz he looks out for ’em when no one else does. He’s been there, helpin’ poor niggas out ever since you could buy ‘em as slaves. Kids grow up on stories of the things he, or I guess his ’predecessors’, have done for their grandpas, an’ it ain’t long ‘fore they’re goin’ to him for help with this or that. It’s a goodwill that’s old as dirt an’ strong as iron. Those people will go to fuckin’ war for him if he asks it."
“Hell, that’s the big reason Vidal an’ Savoy haven’t squashed him. Why you think they haven’t, when you can count all the licks who follow him on two hands, an’ he ain’t got the cash for a suite at the Monteleone? That’s ‘cuz he’s got friends, fuckin’ everywhere. The nigga who waits your tables. The nigga who picks up your garbage. The nigga who mows your lawn. The nigga askin’ for change on your way to work. The nigga who mops the floors there. Them and a thousand more. Ask any of ‘em, odds are, they can tell you a story’ ’bout how… well, I told you what sorta shit the Baron does. Odds are, they can tell you a story ’bout the time when he was their guy."
“I ain’t sayin’ he’s a saint, now. He’s still a lick. Still drinks the same juice they all drink. Still serves the loa, an’ that’s mostly the Gehde, an’ that’s mostly Baron Samedi, wit’ a blacker hand than his white one. An’ sure as shit, you piss off a houngan with as much power as he got, dyin’ will be a fuckin’ mercy. Maybe he’s cursed people who you don’ think deserve it. The loa don’t really see right an’ wrong the way most folks do. An’ neither do he. The way he does see it, he does right by his people, an’ he fucks anyone who fucks them. Fact is, you ain’t ever gonna find an elder who’s as close not just to the kine, but to the little guy as he is, an’ who gives a damn as much as he do. Unless you think you can ash every lick in the city, I say, Baron’s the best one to be in charge of ’em."
“So yeah, Lou, that ain’t the kind of prince I think he’d make—it’s the one I know he is. Because to the poorest and most fucked-over niggas in this city, guess what, he already is ya goddamn butt-fuckin-ya-slut-motha-till-she-moans-an-drools-like-a-bitch-in-heat prince."
—Shatoya “Chica” Dupré to Louis Fontaine
Baron Cimitière is the regent of Tremé, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the U.S. and the historic cradle of Vodoun (as well as jazz) in New Orleans. The Baron has claimed domain there almost continuously since first came to the city in 1799. Unlike Antoine Savoy, Cimitière’s territorial claim is formally recognized by Vidal—the Baron didn’t steal it out from under the prince’s nose, nor did Vidal ever want the territory to begin with.
The Baron is also unique in that many of Tremé’s mortal residents are his religious followers. These kine are not ignorant of the puppet-master in their midst: they know who Cimitière is (even if they don’t know he is a vampire), and to them he is a community leader worthier of trust and loyalty than any elected official. They will report disappearances or strange occurrences to Cimitière and take action on his behalf, including violence. It’s widely believed that the Baron has disseminated names and descriptions of rival Kindred (and their own pawns) to his mortal followers, all the better to keep his enemies out of Tremé. No other vampire can boast the kine’s active help in defending their domain like Baron Cimitière can.
Indeed, such is the strength of the Baron’s claim over Tremé that John Marrow, who’d assumed the parish’s regency after Katrina, formally rescinded it at Vidal’s reluctant order. The prince knew he couldn’t break the Baron’s grip over the neighborhood without committing to open war. (Domain ••••)
The Baron gives his vitae to his most useful mortal followers. He might well maintain the most ghouls out of any elder in the city. They would be his religious adherents and loyal to him even without the blood bond. His two most notable ghouls are his heralds, Des Jemeaux.
Ghouled: 1839 and 2008
Status: Ghouls •••• and ••
True to their joint moniker, Baron Cimitiere’s heralds are twins known as powerful houngans, collectively possessing the authority of both a houngan asogwe (high priest) and houngan sur pwen (junior priest), although amongst other circles they are regarded as fell bokor—whose sorcerous power is allegedly amplified or weakened depending upon whether the pair are close or distant, respectively. Ascertaining the truth of this rumor, is all but impossible though, as the Jumeaux (whose individual names were reputedly sacrificed to loa) are seemingly always together. Indeed, the pair have only been known to be separated once: when one of the Jumeaux vanished during the ‘40s, allegedly killed by Vidal’s agents. Although the survivor was devastated, his loss was tempered by the fact his brother reappeared in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The two claim the lost brother’s soul was reincarnated in a new body and subsequently ghouled by the Baron once he was of age to match his twin.
The Baron passes himself off as Bernard Toussaint among his mortal flock. He’s the single most influential houngan in New Orleans and comes from a “long line” of similarly revered houngans. These ancestors were also the Baron’s aliases: he’s been playing the role of various Toussaints for centuries, using his powers of Obfuscate to age with the years, and “retiring” them once they’re old enough to die.
Cimitière’s ghoul heralds, Des Jumeaux, use their own powers of Obfuscate to impersonate their domitor during the day—Toussaint is too central a community figure to only be seen at night. As longtime houngans themselves (centuries old in the senior Jumeaux’s case), the ghouls can play Toussaint’s role nearly as well as the Baron himself does. They also play his successor: the son, nephew, or younger cousin of the current Toussaint. Once the current Toussaint “dies,” Baron Cimitière steps into the junior Toussaint’s identity, and eventually finds a new “heir” played by his ghouls. In this manner, the Baron has maintained an unbroken chain of Toussaints dating back to colonial times.
Many elders, in a similar position to the Baron, would leave their ghouls to attend to mortal affairs in their place. Cimitière, though, considers his mortal identity one of the most important parts of his Requiem, and spends a great deal of his waking hours interacting with the kine. Toussaint might be a mask, but Cimitière is entirely truthful in the role he uses it to play: he considers himself a houngan first and Kindred second.
Cimitière’s focus also differs from that of his rivals due to his treatment and use of his mortal followers. Whereas both the prince and the French Quarter lord tend to view the kine as nothing more than useful tools when they aren’t serving as meals, Cimitière’s own faction consists almost entirely of mortals. They are more than sustenance to him (though they certainly remain that). They are fellow believers, brother and sister Vodouisants. Cimitière makes more efficient use of his mortal followers than Vidal or Savoy when building his schemes, but they are also his weakest point, as an attack against them damages his capabilities—and indeed, injures him—in a way it would not either of his rivals. While Cimitière despises Savoy and is concerned with attacks from that quarter, his primary concern, and his greatest enemy, has always been Vidal.
Perhaps the simplest of Cimitière’s tactics, one that he has made use of for decades and increased in the past few years, involves the placement of his mortal followers. The Baron has literally hundreds of kine on whom he can call, either directly or through his network of houngans and mambos. Because his followers come from the lower echelons of society, they tend to work at fairly menial jobs, such as those in maintenance and janitorial services. By encouraging his followers to apply for certain jobs, and by pulling strings with the few Vodouisants who hold powerful positions or public office, Cimitière has positioned a substantial portion of his following in specific businesses and specific industries. Tourist attractions, sports arenas, major charities, city offices, construction crews and the like all employ a great many blue-collar workers who hold some loyalty, directly or indirectly, to the Baron. Similarly, a substantial overlap exists between Cimitière’s followers and the local gangbangers. Thus, Cimitière has his fist clenched tight around the support structure of many of Vidal’s and Savoy’s own areas of influence. A word from Cimitière, an exhortation to strike from the many religious leaders of the Vodoun community, and entire industries in New Orleans grind to a halt. Because some of these industries (such as tourist spots) power the city’s economy, this in turn cripples other unrelated businesses. Cimitière does not wield this power lightly, as his own people, and all the city’s kine, would suffer as a result. Still, because his rivals’ interests would suffer more immediately and more severely, Cimitière holds his options open. If nothing else, it would prevent them from launching an attack on his own interests, as they scrambled to regain their crumbling influence.
Baron Cimitière is one of the three most influential vampires in New Orleans. Although his presence in Elysium is sporadic at best, and many of his beliefs are at odds with the Camarilla’s (he does not consider Caine the progenitor of all vampires), there is one simple thing that keeps his name among the most respected—and feared—in the Crescent City: power. (Camarilla Status •••••)
Baron Cimitière is the de facto head of the Circle of the Crone. Although not all of the city’s Acolytes are actually his followers—the Bahari do not share his faith or specific enmity with Vidal—the covenant’s Vodouisants follow him almost unquestioningly and view him as an irreplaceable leader. (Circle of the Crone Status •••••)
Baron Cimitière is a revered elder among the Samedi branch of the Hecata. Many of them believe his claim that he returned (twice) from final death, and believe he enjoys the intimate favor of Baron Samedi. (Hecata Status •••••)
• Unknown sire
• Baron Cimitière (e. unknown)
Unknown. The Baron has revealed nothing of his lineage, beyond that he a member of the Samedi bloodline. Most Kindred assume him to be of low generation given his obvious age and power.