Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
Arrogant boy genius
Westphal is a pale-skinned and dark-haired tweenage boy who only just breaks four and a half feet tall. For all that, he doesn’t feel like an adolescent. It’s not there in his expressions or body language. There’s a knowingly smug, self-content smirk to his lips, and an unmistakably adult arrogance behind his eyes. They’re eyes that say, I’m the smartest person in the room.
Westphal favors formal wear in many of his interactions with other Kindred: tailored dark suits, pressed white dress shirts, and austere monocolor neckties. Outside of Elysium, it’s not unheard of for him to “dress down” in slacks and turtlenecks or button-ups. He would sooner drink poison than wear everyday attire appropriate for pre-teens.
Name: Conroy Charles Westphal
Date of Birth: September 19th, 1994 (Bethesda, Maryland)
Date of Embrace: July 8th, 2005 (Damman, Saudi Arabia)
Apparent Age: 10
Real Age: Approx. 30
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Dark brown
Education: Westphal earned a B.S. in Biology when he was twelve. He’s since picked up several postgraduate degrees purely to prove that he can.
Religion: Atheist. Westphal concluded that God and Santa Claus were equally fictitious entities before first grade—and rolled his eyes when his parents kept insisting that both were real. To his view, religion is nothing more than a comforting fable, and his early realization of that fact is another indication of his intellectual superiority. His time in Saudi Arabia also taught him to keep that opinion to himself.
Everyone always told Conroy what an exceptional child he was. It was fun at first. Classes at the special school, a computer of his very own when he was four, classes at the university when he was ten. He didn’t even mind not having friends his own age; other children never understood anything he tried to talk to them about.
It was when his parents kept putting off the promised trip to Disneyworld that he realized they were using him and his mind. There was always one more class, one more seminar, one more science fair, or one more talk show. What really brought it home was when he wanted to take classes that weren’t hard sciences. They wanted him to concentrate on being a world-famous scientist, they gave him a line about the good he could do mankind—but he knew that what they really wanted was to bask in the glory of raising a child genius.
That’s when he realized what he had to do to get his way.
Conroy spent a year playing his parents off one another, getting them to compete for his affections. When his father received a job offer from a company in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Conroy convinced his family to move abroad. He could have cared less about the job itself: the move was simply an opportunity to increase his parents’ marital tensions by isolating them from friends and family in an unfamiliar environment. Filing a transnational divorce really was a hassle, not to mention expensive, but Conroy’s manipulations made his parents’ domestic life so unbearable they did it anyway. The ink on the divorce papers was barely dry when the Lasombra took him.
Suleiman ibn Abdelmalek was the wazir (seneschal) of Dammam, but as was often the Lasombra clan’s way, he was the power behind its Ventrue sheikh’s (prince’s) throne. Suleiman had heard of this wunderkind among the Americans and thought that someone with Westphal’s talents would make a useful Embrace. The boy genius’ knack for manipulation was an unexpected bonus.
Westphal’s early Embrace had some serious limitations, not the least of which was an eternity of being four and a half feet tall. Still, he was grateful: God knows he’d rather not have spent another decade living with his idiot family. At least his sire appreciated him for his personality rather than treating him like a performing monkey.
The fledgling Lasombra eagerly turned his precocious intellect to learning the “rules” of Kindred and Saudi society. He believed his future was bright. After all, Damman was among the most westernized cities in Saudi Arabia, and in Westphal’s contemptuous estimation Americans practically ran the country.
To his chagrin, he found that his young age (mortal and Cainite), foreign nationality, and lack of belief in Islam (or any Abrahamic faith) marked him as a distinct outsider among the local Ashirra. Arabia’s Cainites remembered nights long before black gold drew foreign money to their homeland. They were a different order of creature than the mortal Saudis. Less… tractable.
Then again, maybe this arrogant childe offended their egos. Westphal was arrogant. He’d been reared all his life to believe he was destined for greatness, had unlimited potential, and was better than everyone around him. Even the most decorated scientists and professors were implicitly figures to surpass. All of them believed (if not hoped) the child prodigy they showered with praise would do just that.
Kindred society was different. The vitae of Westphal’s sire gave this neonate some worth in the eyes of his fellows—and that was all. There was no expectation that he was going to surpass anyone, much less any desire for him to do so. Being a boy genius was an interesting curiosity, but at the end of the night, no one especially cared. Worse, many Cainites were angered by this “spoiled childe’s” presumptuous and know-it-all attitude. Westphal soon found himself quite isolated within Dar al-Salam (Elysium, “house of peace”), with no one to turn to but his sire.
His Sire’s Tool
It didn’t take long before Westphal realized this also seemed to be precisely as Suleiman intended: bereft of meaningful contacts and standing in Damman’s larger Cainite community, Westphal’s only future lay in service to his sire. Worse, even that future was distinctly less bright than among the kine. Westphal had been an only child among his mortal family, but now he had multiple broodmates to compete with—all of them older and better-established than he. Suleiman wouldn’t have had it any other way. Better to have one’s progeny trying to outdo one another in service than thinking to usurp his place.
Incensed to realize he was being used—again—Westphal thought about returning to America. He soon learned that his Lasombra vitae would do him no favors. The sect wars between Camarilla and Sabbat meant little in the Ashirra-dominated Middle East, but in the West, being Lasombra made one pariah among the Camarilla. What Westphal learned about his Sabbat clanmates made him equally disinclined to join their ranks. Resigned, he set himself to amassing what power he could in Damman through mortals.
A decade later, Westphal was approached by servants of his grandsire Fatimah al-Lam’a, Cairo’s antitribu primogen, in the lead-up to the 2016 Cairo Accords. Fatimah, her cousin Philip Maldonato, and other influential antitribu had been laying the groundwork for Clan Lasombra to enter the Camarilla for decades. New Orleans was to be a “test city” where the keepers would have an open presence. From what Fatimah had heard of Westphal from her childe, she believed he could be a greater asset to their clan in his home country. Suleiman consented, for he could always sire another childe. Westphal departed Damman with few regrets.
Despite being invited to New Orleans to help prop up Vidal’s reign, no one was surprised that Westphal didn’t join the Sanctified. He made no pretensions about believing their religious dogma—he’d had enough of that in the Middle East. The Hardliners, after their experiences with George Smith and Jacob Grunewald, seemed uninterested in allowing nonbelievers and heterodox thinkers into the fold.
Instead, Westphal found a place for himself in the Invictus. Accou Poincaré was familiar with Clan Lasombra from his time in Cuba. The country had a sizable antitribu population and Accou was less prejudiced than most Camarilla elders. Westphal’s welcome from Pearl Chastain was distinctly frostier. The only keeper she wanted in New Orleans was her long-time neighbor Philip Maldonato, thank you very much. It was Pierpont McGinn who ultimately interceded and offered the ambitious neonate a place by his side in the First Estate. Westphal gladly accepted.
• Adelais Seyrès: “What has she actually done, outside of Elysium?”
• Antoine Savoy: “Dangerous. Frankly, if he had the prince’s vitae, I’d be much more scared of him than Vidal. I think there’s very little he wouldn’t do to achieve power, and he has ample fruits to show for it. Am I backing a losing horse with our prince?"
• Augusto Vidal: “A case study in limited greatness, as oxymoronic as that may sound. His Blood is potent and his subjects fear him. But he’s dogmatic and narrow-minded, and that makes his behavior predictable. If he was more objective and willing to seek power from less traditional avenues—does this sound like another elder we know?—he could rule this city utterly. He made some fatal mistakes earlier in his reign and I don’t think he even regards them as mistakes. Someone who can’t learn from past experiences can only decline.”
• Baron Cimitière: “What do you do when there’s a powerful elder in your city, who doesn’t want your throne, and whose interests don’t oppose yours? The right answer is that you let him claim a primogen seat and leave him alone. Maybe you establish an alliance.”
“The wrong answer is that you decide your ideology compels you to oppose everything he does, so you block him from the primogen and start a centuries-long feud that prevents you from leveraging your full strength against the actual threat to your rule. Vidal’s persecution of his religion was picking an entirely needless battle. What has the prince gained from it? What agenda has he actually accomplished?”
“If some elder wants to rule over a bunch of inner city blacks chanting ‘ooga booga’ while killing chickens, I say let him have them.”
• Caroline Malveaux-Devillers: “I’d be trying to drink her soul right now, if I didn’t think the risks outweighed the rewards. Take that as a compliment. Really.”
• John Harley Matheson: “If you’re going to stick your hand in the cookie jar, have the sense not to get caught.”
“Beyond that, he’s a case study in your vapid Camarilla morality. The strong take from the weak. He was strong and the neonates he drank from were weak. Why is an entire city so offended over this fact?”
• Pearl Chastain: “She was great once, from what I hear. Now she’s a spent force and has-been pining away for yesteryear. Utterly pathetic. Accou should have just drank her while she was in the ground—it’d have saved everyone a lot of embarrassment. You’d never see one of my clan letting such potent vitae go to waste."
• Pierpont McGinn: “He’s blinded by petty prejudice, and that’s one of the reasons I’m better than him. I’m sure many people find his bluster and braggadocio irritating. He’s also ruthless, ambitious, and capable. I think he’d have made a decent Embrace for my clan. I’m much happier to see him steer the First Estate than Chastain or Accou. They’re declining forces, but he’s on the upswing. He’s got a hunger to win that neither of them do. Believe me, I recognize that when I see it.”
• Philip Maldonato: “I respect him for his power and his intellect. Beyond that? Frankly, he’s utterly incomprehensible.”
• Roger Ferris: “Conventional wisdom says it’s better to Embrace them young. So much for wisdom.”
• Talibah Mahmoud: “She’s not as smart as me, though she comes close. That’s a compliment, by the way. Really, the chief reason I’m better than her is that she’s narrow-minded. Oh, she knows more about the Abyss than me, and that knowledge is objectively valuable. But her problem is that she considers it the only thing of value. She neglects material paths to power—I shouldn’t need to explain there are things they can do which the Abyss can’t do, or can’t do as well. She seems blind to this fact. She could go so much farther if she applied herself. It’s an objective personal failing.”
“Then again, perhaps there’s a blessing in that. If she took material concerns more seriously, she might become a real threat to me.”
Westphal holds territory in the Central Business District and Uptown, where he’s respectively sworn to Philip Maldonato and Pierpont McGinn. Although the “Americanized” character of the CBD doesn’t offend him, he prefers to spend his “off hours” in Uptown’s statelier environs. He’s a regular guest at McGinn’s parties.
Westphal grew up expecting to become a world-famous scientist. While he’s found such pursuits less important since his Embrace, he still considers them valuable. The hard sciences are lucrative fields and ones he knows well. Since coming to New Orleans, he’s taken over two biotech companies headquartered in the CBD. He primarily uses them as cash cows. He’s found a few other kine in unrelated fields “that might come in handy someday” who he’s also placed under his thumb.
Since his earliest nights among the undead, Westphal has relied heavily upon mortal intermediaries: too many doors will remain closed to a 10-year-old. Pawns who aren’t his ghouls only know him indirectly, though many of them might rue the demon child responsible for destroying their lives.
Westphal had a decade to establish himself in Damman. He’s been ill content to wait that long to re-establish himself in New Orleans. He’s cemented his domination over his pawns through fairly aggressive methods—aggressive enough that he’s arranged the deaths or personal ruination of several who rebelled, or who he judged too unreliable in the long term. He’s replaced them with individuals he’s exercised a (somewhat) gentler hand with and who owe improvements in their personal fortunes to him. He’s just as ready to cast them aside once they’re no longer useful.
Although Westphal made limited inroads with the Ashirra during his time in Damman, he built a stronger reputation for himself among his sire’s extended kin and their clan writ large. Participating in the “New Orleans experiment” has also bolstered his standing, and since coming to the Big Easy, he’s milked his status as one of the city’s first “out” Lasombra for all it’s worth. He’s worked hard to normalize Clan Lasombra’s presence—less through trying to sway hearts and minds among skeptical Kindred, which he disdains, and more through cultivating relationships with Kindred he judges sufficiently Lasombra-like in mindset to respect. (Lasombra Status ••)
Westphal belongs to the Leviathans, a small but potent coterie of mostly Lasombra neonates. (Leviathan Status ••)
Westphal has worked hard to establish his reputation in the Camarilla. For all his ambition, though, he’s made slower progress there. Vidal and Savoy might have no issues with Lasombra in the city, but hearts and minds among other Kindred are more skeptical—including, ironically, among Westphal’s own covenant. (Camarilla Status 0)
Westphal has made somewhat better inroads among the First Estate both through McGinn’s patronage and by proving himself a capable and ambitious member in his own right. Still, his Lasombra vitae holds him back. Pearl and others remain naturally distrustful of the keeper in their ranks. (Invictus Status 0)
Lasombra (e. prehistory, d. 15th century)
• 4. Montano (e. millennia BCE)
• 5. Unknown sire
Sharif al-Lam’a (e. 6th century, d. 15th century)
• 7. Fatimah al-Lam’a (e. 10th century)
• 8. Munther al-Asward (e. 15th century)
• 9. Christobal Almenara (e. early 19th century)
• 10+. (Christobal’s descendants)
• 8. Suleiman ibn Abdelmalek (e. mid 18th century)
• 9+. (Suleiman’s other descendants) (e. varies)
• 9. Conroy Westphal (e. early 21st century)
• 10. Roger Ferris (e. 2016)
Mirri al-Lam’a (e. 12th century, d. 2011)
• 8+. (Mirri’s descendants)
Shu’ayb al-Mohager (e. 8th century, d. 15th century)
• 7. Philip Maldonato (e. 14th century)
Westphal is the childe of Suleiman ibn Abdelmalek, the wazir (seneschal) of Al-Hasa and true power behind its Ventrue sheikh’s throne. Suleiman is the younger of two childer to Fatimah al-Lam’a, the Lasombra primogen of Cairo and emira of the Khitta al-Lam’a. Fatimah is the eldest surviving childe to Sharif al-Lam’a, better known as King Sharif, the founder of Clan Lasombra’s bloodline in Cairo and one of Egypt’s most respected elders during the Middle Ages. Sharif was destroyed by his grandchilde Munther al-Asward during the Anarch Revolt after a vicious battle wherein he slew all of his attackers save his grandchilde. Fatimah has spoken notably little of her grandsire, whose identity remains unknown. Fatimah claims Sharif was grandchilde to Montano, one of the clan’s eldest methuselahs, the voice of his sire, and the de facto ruler of the Sea of Shadows, the alliance of Lasombra princedoms across the Mediterranean, during the Middle Ages. Montano has not been seen since the Anarch Revolt, but it is widely known that he escaped the fall of the Castel d’Ombro, Clan Lasombra’s ancestral fortress, through shadowy arts unknown to any of his lesser clanmates. Montano was childe to Lasombra.
Westphal has a number of brothers- and sisters-in-blood in Al-Hasa’s tri-cities. To his chagrin, he is the youngest of them.
Westphal Embraced Roger Ferris, a former CIA operative active in the Middle East.