Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
“Cold be hand and heart and bone, and cold be sleep under stone: never more to wake on stony bed, never, till the Sun fails and the Moon is dead. In the black wind the stars shall die, and still on gold here let them lie, till the dark lord lifts his hand over dead sea and withered land.”
At first glance, the sheriff of New Orleans seems more suited to hosting wine tastings or gallery openings than enforcing the edicts of a vampiric domain. Upon closer scrutiny, the source of his notoriety grows quickly apparent—but not due to any substantial physical presence. Donovan is a Caucasian man of average build, clean shaven, who keeps his short black hair combed neat and slick against his scalp. He’s even a bit short, standing only a hair over 5’9” tall. No, what makes the sheriff an imposing figure is his gaze: Donovan’s inscrutable eyes are the color of troubled skies, and they seem to pierce through to the very soul of whoever looks into them. Even other Kindred find it hard to meet his gaze.
Name: Donovan (full name unknown)
Nationality: American presumed but unconfirmed
Date of Birth: Mid-19th century (location unknown)
Date of Embrace: Late 19th century (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Apparent Age: Early 30s
Real Age: Approx. 100-150
Weight: 172 lbs
Eye Color: Gray
Hair Color: Black
Religion: Monachal Sanctified
By all appearances, Donovan (who claims to have no surname) is truly the prodigal son of Vidal’s New Orleans. Chillingly poised and refined, the Sanctified Toreador has almost as severe a reputation as the prince himself, at least among city residents.
The sheriff’s past is shrouded in mystery, and that is precisely how he seems to like it. Popular rumor tells that he was the orphaned child of a Civil War soldier, and that his sire brought him into the Requiem as a means of influencing certain critical aspects of the city’s post-war effort during Reconstruction. Donovan has neither confirmed nor denied the truth of this rumor.
Of the various “open secrets” floating around the quagmire of intrigue that is New Orleans’ All-Night Society, surely one of the most popular is the origin of the sheriff’s blood. The “secret’s” popularity is due in part to the juiciness of its subject matter but also in part to the fact that the truth actually corresponds (more or less) with the grist of the social rumor mill for a change. The rumor and truth is that Donovan is the childe of no less a personage than Antoine Savoy, the self-proclaimed “Lord of the French Quarter” and bitter rival to Augusto Vidal.
Although his politesse is beyond accomplished, Donovan makes little effort to display anything but cool disdain towards his own sire. Many believe the night Donovan was ritually exalted to the position of sheriff to have been an exceptionally painful (or at least embarrassing) one for Savoy, but none can say for sure: However he actually felt about it, Savoy handled the matter with his usual diplomatic aplomb and, in the years since, has had fewer direct run-ins with his former protégé than some might expect—until recently, of course. Given Donovan’s activities of late (see below), many wonder what will become of the already tenuous relationship between the rival Toreador.
The Prodigal Son
What is perhaps the greater mystery, at least in Kindred social circles, is what occurred between sire and childe so many years ago. Whatever it was, it was enough to drive Donovan from the shadow of Savoy—and straight into Vidal’s court. Very quickly, the Ventrue elder took the young Toreador under his wing and, before too many years had passed, was treating him (in public, at least) as Vidal would his own childe. Only the prince, Maldonato, and Savoy likely know what really happened, and none of them speak of it openly.
Two rumors seem to prevail above others, however: The first suggests that Savoy refused to allow Donovan to create his own progeny, but many don’t believe this to be the case as Donovan waited for over sixty years before Vidal permitted him to sire. And the second suggests that Donovan’s feud with Savoy is merely smokescreen, intended to plant Donovan inside the prince’s court. If that’s the case, however, then the plan is certainly a long-term one, as Donovan has never done anything to either harm Vidal or aid Savoy in his time as sheriff.
In the Modern Nights, the powerful Toreador is perhaps the most well-known of the Crescent City’s ancillae. And, with the possible exception of Vidal’s errant Scourge Caitlin Meadows, who is nearly all-rampage at this point, Donovan also claims the unofficial title of the city’s most feared ancilla. As sheriff, Donovan is responsible for the night-to-night maintenance and enforcement of the laws of Vidal’s domain. He leads the Guard de Ville, investigates matters on behalf of the prince, and regularly questions Kindred residents about both their own activities and the activities of those they know.
Unlike his counterpart at Elysium, Gus Elgin, Donovan makes sure his presence is nigh ubiquitous in and around the hallowed halls of power. His commanding mien draws immediate attention from new arrivals, and even social veterans find it difficult not to pause in their conversations (even if ever-so-briefly) as he passes by. The impression many have of Donovan is that he likes to think of himself as a knight of the realm; a templar to Vidal’s archbishop. His actual reputation, however, more accurately likens him to a judge-inquisitor—a cunning zealot who uses guilt, guile and the threat of force more often than force itself (when circumstance does not force his hand) to intimidate or otherwise humble into acquiescence those whom he interrogates. Indeed, more than one shaken neonate has opted to abandon New Orleans entirely following a simple “dialogue” with the city’s Sanctified sheriff.
What is perhaps more intimidating is Donovan’s activity over the past ten years. Vidal has grown almost totally withdrawn from nightly affairs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which has apparently led to Donovan taking a more and more stern (and often direct) approach to his “duties.” He seems to have been instructed, either by Maldonato or by Vidal himself, to be more proactive in the furtherance of his position. What is clear to all is that Donovan far less frequently feels the need to bring an offending Kindred before the prince or seneschal directly—he simply dispenses sentences for “lesser” infractions on the spot, although what constitutes “lesser” is rarely clear to those Kindred he apprehends as lawbreakers. It is almost as though the sheriff has been given carte blanche with respect to his responsibilities, so long as he does not unduly “bother” his two superiors with the details thereof or otherwise jeopardize their standing among the archdiocese’s subjects. And many fear that, where once was a cunning judge, now stands a judge, jury and executioner.
The Heir Apparent
Following the revelations in September 2015 of Vidal’s impending torpor and Maldonato’s Lasombra blood , Donovan was widely considered the most likely candidate to succeed the hoary Ventrue as prince. Vidal never confirmed this and tongues in Elysium wondered if it was due to the sheriff’s sire—it might be one matter to raise up an enemy’s childe as one’s chief enforcer, but to hand him the keys to the kingdom?
Still, no other heir among the Hardline Sanctified seemed worthy. None could match the sheriff in power or dread reputation. It seemed probable that Vidal would either make his peace with Donovan as his successor or resign himself to the Hardliners losing control of New Orleans. Indeed, whether even Donovan could have held the throne against Savoy and the Baron following Vidal’s torpor remains an open question, but he seemed the prince’s safest bet.
Unknown to most, however, Vidal had secretly sired a childe in a one Caroline Malveaux-Devillers. Although she was too young to succeed him, the sheriff evidently considered Caroline enough of a threat to his position as Vidal’s heir apparent that he sought to end her unlife. Donovan ultimately served no master save himself and was determined to seize the princedom.
The result in March 2016 was the catastrophic Battle of Mt. Carmel, which pitted Sanctified against Sanctified. The sheriff brought to bear the Guard de Ville’s three hounds, Duke Elmhearst, and a hired Assamite. Expecting an easy fight against Caroline alone, he was met by her, Karena Cingolai, and three recent Lasombra arrivals to the city, Conroy Westphal, Talibah Mahmoud, and Nico Cimpreon. Rocco Agnello and Alexander Wright, unwilling slay the prince’s childe, remembered their true master and turned upon the sheriff. Against such numbers, even his might could not prevail, and he met final death under Caroline’s blade.
The cost to the Sanctified, however, was high indeed. Many of the battle’s combatants met final death and the Guard de Ville was reduced to Alexander Wright. Sensing weakness, Antoine Savoy and Baron Cimitière launched attacks upon Vidal’s territory and seized Mid-City and much of the Arts District.
The final legacy of Savoy’s childe, it seemed, was to inflict ruin upon Vidal’s kingdom. Elysium tittered in the following nights with a simple observation:
Blood will always tell.
Donovan is the regent of Riverbend, one of the city’s larger parishes. It has comparatively few permanent vassals next to domains like the French Quarter, but the two college campuses (Tulane and Loyola University) still make it an attractive feeding ground. Many neonates still able to blend in among the student body owe Donovan regular boons in return for hunting rights. More cerebral Kindred with an interest in the universities’ scholastic resources also owe Dovonan favors in return for continued access. The Toreador spends more of his time attending to his duties as sheriff, though, and is a somewhat absent regent.
Police: Vidal permits few Kindred to cultivate influence among the mortal police force. Donovan is one of them. He has ghouls seeded throughout a number of law enforcement agencies (primarily NOPD) and is thought to have dirt on police figures high and low, though the exact particulars of these relationships are opaque. Kindred have seen him present at a number of crime scenes among police officers who did not question his presence. Donovan draws heavily upon these law enforcement ties to execute his responsibilities as sheriff.
Military: Donovan also has sway over Blackwatch, the military contracting company that guards Riverbend’s richest neighborhood, Audubon Place. Their status as private mercenaries allows them to do things even the NOPD might balk at (or at least find a hassle).
Academia: Although Donovan is an excellent position to cultivate influence over Tulane and Loyola University, he seems largely uninterested in doing so and largely delegates this to more scholarly-minded Kindred in return for favors.
As sherfiff, Donovan is one of the most visible of Vidal’s lieutenants and probably the third-most influential Kindred in the prince’s bloc, after Philip Maldonato and Vidal himself. The sheriff is feared and respected by Kindred throughout the city as the hardest knuckle to Vidal’s iron fist: while his martial prowess with his signature cavalry saber is widely feared, there is some indelible quality to the stormy-eyed Toreador inspires a formless dread even Caitlin Meadows cannot equal. Politically, Donovan’s office as sheriff gives him considerable and broad-ranging powers over the unlives of many Kindred that his master allows him a great deal of autonomy in exercising. His position as regent secures his status among the city’s elite-most “landowners.” There is little higher in the local Camarilla that he can climb. (Camarilla Status ••••)
Donovan leads the hounds on the Guard de Ville as sheriff, and is widely considered the more effective of the two leaders the coterie has ever had. (Guard de Ville Status ••••)
Donovan is a significant force among the Lancea et Sanctum for largely the same reasons. He exemplifies the covenant’s ideals of perfect predation and strives to uphold the Testament’s commandments through both word and deed. For years, Donovan was content to serve merely as a deacon, in much the same fashion as Prince Vidal himself. When then-Father Malveaux was elevated to the bishopric in 2016, he finally ordained his long-time ally Donovan as a priest. The sheriff has since begun taking confessions, preaching sermons, and leading rites at the covenant’s weekly Midnight Mass. (Hardline Sanctified Status •••)
Donovan’s faithful service to a Ventrue prince, even when it meant defying his Toreador sire, and his stoic disposition have earned him Clan Ventrue’s Christos award. In 2016, his long-time ally Bishop Malveaux elevated this to a Polychristos award. (Ventrue Status •••)
The Toreador clan has humbler laudations to bestow upon the sheriff. Many newcomers to the city assume Donovan is a Ventrue (or, to the persistent bemusement of some Kindred, a Tremere). Donovan is not an artist and seems largely uninterested in his clan’s fetes and hedonistic ways. Still, he regularly attends artistic functions and has demonstrated a level of culture and artistic knowledge appropriate for a Toreador of his station. He’s made a moderate name for himself among the Guild of Nemesis with surgically precise and chillingly critical critiques. His praise is bestowed even more rarely than Adelais Seyrès’. (Toreador Status ••)
GM’s Note: Significant spoilers for the adventure logs follow below in Stories Ten and beyond.
Stories Two through Nine
Celia saw Donovan for the first time in 1997 when she was eight years old. He shook her father’s hand, offering riches and success in return for what felt like his soul, and life changed forever. Celia saw the sheriff again in 2003 when she was fourteen years old and her father took a hacksaw to her mother’s leg. When Celia confronted her father at gunpoint, he told Celia she was only imagining things, then whisked her away and tucked her into bed. He told her that she was his special little girl. Celia believed her father was actually Donovan, and those words sealed her fate. From that moment on, she was his.
Celia thought for years that she might have dreamed him, that of course he couldn’t be real. When her battle with Maxen reached its climax in 2009 and she was poised to destroy him, Donovan showed up to collect her. She was fast, but not fast enough to escape the black hole that drew her ever closer to the monster who came out from under her bed. He flew her thousands of feet above the city and took every drop of blood from her body. He let her see inside his head, showed her who he truly was, and when she didn’t turn away from the horror within he granted her immortality. He dropped her into the Gulf of Mexico to make her own way and she was collected by Antione Savoy.
Weeks later, Celia set a trap for her sire with herself as bait. He came for her, stealing her away from the safety of Em’s apartment to a distant skyscraper’s rooftop. “Why?” she asked, but his only answer was a frigid kiss and then his fangs piercing her neck. Following their bout of sex on the roof, sire and childe came to an agreement. Celia would spy on the activities of Savoy’s followers in return for a future place by her sire’s side.
Donovan stopped a plot against his pawn in his domain on New Years Eve, 2010. He executed two of the conspirators and exiled the third when his childe offered to take the punishment intended for him.
More to come.
Donovan appeared to Celia following her tryst with Caroline Malveaux-Devillers in the Garden District. After she told him the information she’d gathered since their last meeting (including a potential plot against the father she worked so hard to destroy prior), he punished Celia’s risky trespass into the Garden District by by throwing her mother countless feet into the air. Celia barely caught the woman before her sire departed.
When Jade got into further trouble in Riverbend by attacking Elyse Benson in her haven and seemed unlikely to escape its wall, Donovan showed up to rescue his childe from the Malkavian’s servants. He offered her two different punishments to make up for the waste of his time and her loss of control: physical chastisement or a third drought of blood from his wrist.
She took both.
Overwhelmed by the perceived loss of her boyfriend and all the unpleasant feelings it brought up, Celia sent her grief and rage spiraling down the line to her sire through their shared connection. She expected to see him at Elysium and be chastised for her second lapse in control.
She never expected him to show up on the roof of her mother‘s house during a family dinner and demand explanation for her actions. She was in the middle of scrambling to explain herself when Roderick Durant showed up, saw Celia in the sheriff’s grasp, and attacked. Celia broke up the fight long enough to get her family and guests out of the house, then took off into the night to find her sire trailing the car that Roderick had used to get away. He caught her in his hand when she attempted to approach and started to crush her. Desperately, Celia told him that she would handle Roderick, that he didn’t need to kill him, and begged him for a respite to put things back in order. Her sire gave her the chance she asked for.
After Celia spoke to Roderick to smooth things over Donovan showed up, blade in hand, and callously cut apart her ghoul in front of her eyes. He told her to “prove her strength” by finishing the job. Celia did. He crushed the boy’s body beneath his boots when he and his childe consummated their “feelings,” then further ripped the body apart to feast with her on the slain ghoul.
Nights later, Celia felt him die. His last thoughts were hatred.
Quotes about Donovan
“I’ve never been accused of choosing poorly with Donovan. Only too well.”
“Obsession. It burns through me, draws me toward him like the moth to the flame. I know that to touch him is to take myself beyond the edge of the world and into what they simply call oblivion. For twenty years he has had my heart, ever since our first meeting when I was but a breather child spying on a meeting between monsters. Again, later, when he came for me in the night. Three times he caught me where I did not belong. That third time cost my very life, high above the city where no one could touch me. No one but him. There is no safety in a city where this sheriff resides; he tore that illusion from my eyes the night he killed me and brought me back. No safety but for the circle of his arms, the only place where I am whole. No matter how dead my heart, it beats for him."
“As a general rule I find traitors, even those I’ve created, despicable. Any individual who repays trust with deceit is one whom I would never trust again. As such, Sheriff Donovan’s betrayal of his sire and defection to his sire’s most avowed foe is mitigated only by the fact that in so doing he swore his service to the rightful prince of New Orleans.”
“Working alongside him in those early years was a difficult. Understand how tense the city was with the death of the prior sheriff, of two powerful elders, and with the rise of the new sheriff’s sire as the prince’s rival. I think many of us expected that he was waiting for the right moment to turn coat again.”
“That moment never came. Years turned to decades and Donovan remained where he was, the prince’s loyal servant. In time I came to respect him. His cool head. His analytical mind. The rationality of it all. Most in the city were impressed by his prowess with the saber he carries around and his unshakable demeanor: I was more impressed with the intellect behind it. I think he’d do well outside of New Orleans, and would be a hell of an archon, but I doubt he’ll leave as long as his sire lives. There’s something that went on between them, something deeply personal that he never even shared with me, that I think burned him more deeply than he’s willing to admit even today. I’d love to know what it was.”
“While Savoy made familiar grand gestures to avoid real solutions, he at least was warm. Even treated me like an equal, not a slave. Yet looking on at the Kindred in front of me, I feel the burning desire to please.”
Marguerite: "I see it in Elysium. He has a way of frightening other Kindred… not making them fear for their physical safety, like Meadows does—but truly cowing them, making conversations simply stop when he passes by, in a way that I’ve only seen Vidal also do."
Jon: “Power. The sheriff has it.”
—Marguerite Defallier to Jonathan North
• 5. Unknown sire
Maria Pascual (e. 14th century, d. late 19th century)
Fernando de León (e. 16th century, d. early 19th century)
• 8. Unknown sire
• 9. James Robertson (e. early 20th century)
Olympe de Mendoza (e. 17th century, d. early 18th century)
• 7. Antoine Savoy (e. 17th century)
Donovan (e. late 19th century, d. 2016)
Camilla Doriocourt (e. mid 20th century, d. 2016)
Félicité Duparde (e. 17th century, d. late 18th century)
Sauvole (e. early 18th century, d. mid 19th century)
Capucine Beauchene (e. mid 18th century, d. 2005)
• 10. Nicholas Ventoux (e. mid 19th century)
• 11. Annalisa Degas (e. late 20th century)
• 11. Gail Marcy (e. late 20th century)
Éléonore Boulet (e. mid 18th century, d. early 19th century)
• 7. Quentin “Quinn” Rivers (e. late 19th century)
Donovan is the childe of Antoine Savoy, the de facto regent of the French Quarter, a long-time contender against Vidal for the princedom, and one of the three most politically influential vampires in New Orleans. Savoy was childe to Maria Pascual, the former regent of the French Quarter and one of the city’s Toreador primogen. She was assassinated during the 1890s by parties unknown. Pascual’s sire is unknown, but she was believed to be of the sixth generation and a great-grandchilde of Arikel.
Donovan’s sire is believed to have Embraced no other childer. It’s probable that Savoy would have Embraced far more times than he has if he and Vidal weren’t bitter foes. If he becomes prince, most Kindred expect he will take full advantage of a prince’s right to progeny.
Donovan’s childe Camilla Doriocourt is a Sanctified priest and one of the hounds under his service.
Donovan’s uncle-in-blood Quentin Rivers was a writer, social critic, and anarchist who controlled the Times-Picayune for many decades. He left the city after Hurricane Katrina to settle in Los Angeles. Donovan’s cousin-in-blood James Robertson is the prince of Mobile, Alabama. Among Donovan’s other still-unliving kin to achieve renown, Nicholas Ventoux is the keeper of Elysium in Baton Rouge.