Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
“There is no such thing as good or evil. People are either charming or tedious. Wouldn’t you agree?”
—Harlequin to Caroline Malveaux-Devillers
“On the contrary, Lord Savoy. Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil, and you will never be invited to another party.”
—Harlequin to Antoine Savoy
Every night is Mardi Gras for Harlequin. If Lord Byron seduced the sister of Oscar Wilde, the result of their union could hardly be a less ostentatious creature. Harlequin’s typical attire consists of a white domino mask with elaborate gold filigree, a black tricorn hat, purple velvet gloves, and brightly colored, almost jester-like clothes threaded with gold. It’s presumed he uses the arts of Obfuscate to hide himself in public, as mortals never seem to comment on his outrageous garb. His unblinking pale blue eyes have a glassy, porcelain-like quality, and almost appear part of his mask at a casual glance. Those who stare overlong have reported the colors to actually shift from green to yellow to purple: the colors of Mardi Gras. It’s unclear if this is another application of Obfuscate or something altogether else.
Harlequin never removes his mask. Even if he did, no one would recognize him. A few witnesses have reported seeing him feed through the mask, which they presume to be another product of Obfuscate. However, every known effort by other Kindred to pierce the “illusion” has failed, even by vampires centuries his elder and far mightier in the arts of Auspex. Harlequin’s only cryptic explanation for this has been, “My mask is flawless.” He has been known to “remove” his mask and adopt less colorful attire when he wishes to be seen by mortals, but his features, age, and even gender are always different. No Kindred believe any of these guises are his true form.
An entourage of four ghouls in similarly outrageous costumed attire trails behind Harlequin at all times. Their outfits change nightly: sometimes they look like they’ve stepped out of a Mardi Gras parade, dressed in finery to match their master’s, and at other times they look like they’ve stumbled out of an archaic insane asylum, clad in little more than rags. Their masks are just as varied and can range from spike-studded leather contraptions at home in a BDSM dungeon to uncannily realistic plastic renderings of sobbing infants’ faces. These ghouls habitually repeat whatever Harlequin says, often in unnervingly perfect sync with their domitor, but rarely speak words of their own. Harlequin sometimes converses with them, but just as often uses them as impromptu chairs, tables, and footstools. He often lets Kindred he likes make use of his ghouls in a similar capacity. It is unclear what practical function, if any, they actually serve.
The Kindred who now calls himself Harlequin was born the youngest son of a successful doctor. His family was old money and its heirs wanted for nothing except productive ways to spend with their time. The young man’s youth was an endless procession of balls and parties, and he developed into quite the charming young rake by the time he was twenty. His father passed away the same year, leaving the young man to inherit a sizable portion of the estate and a membership in the Mistick Krewe of Comus, the city’s oldest Mardi Gras krewe.
The next year and a half were a whirlwind of balls, cocktails, and theater engagements. The young man never stopped to think about his dead father, though he dimly felt like he should. He obeyed his mother’s wishes when he was around her and promptly forgot them when he wasn’t. He had a gaggle of pretty female admirers, each of whom he professed to love with all his soul, and none of whom knew about the others—or his male lovers. He frantically prepared for each Mardi Gras with his krewe and delighted in the spectacle and prestige of belonging to the secret fraternity.
The young man had never met a woman so enchanting as the one he danced with at a 1909 yuletide ball. He plied her with compliments and flattery like any of his other conquests, and their liaisons were the sweetest he’d ever experienced, even if they left him feeling oddly fatigued for days afterwards. He became so obviously smitten with her that his other lovers found out. Then his family did. Rather than beg their forgiveness, the young man refused to recant his ways. His male liaisons and other indiscretions came out. He was disowned and expelled from his krewe. He swiftly frittered away his remaining inheritance on a newfound love for cocaine, Storyville prostitutes, and satisfying the expensive tastes of his increasingly bored-seeming lover. When she tiredly asked how he would even get them into the Harlequin’s carnival ball now that his name was mud, the young man answered they would simply attend in costume. After all, the guests weren’t supposed to recognize one another. His lover assented with some amusement. Several nights later, he was just getting into costume when she pounced upon him with bared fangs. The startled socialite’s last sight was of his spattered lifeblood dripping off the edge of a domino mask.
The young man’s Embrace shattered his self-delusions. When he demanded to know what he’d done to deserve this, his sire Clarice laughingly answered that she had seen in him “talent ignored, intelligence wasted, and spirituality denied, all crammed down and festering behind a facade of glittering idiocy.” She tore off his mask and revealed his true self for all to see, yet the callous socialite refused to change his ways. Truly, the Sanctified vampire proclaimed, he had earned his damnation.
The fledgling Malkavian came to bitterly regret his misspent youth and treatment of his mortal family. He grew obsessed with masks and illusions and took to calling himself “Harlequin” to honor his change. He was a wretched, pitiful thing for the next five years, and his sire angrily wrote him off as a waste of the Blood. He found surprising kindness from Robert Bastien, the city’s then-sheriff, who helped him to understand what he had become. Bastien also encouraged to him join a coterie of other Sanctified misfits known as Sol’s Grief, whose members included Rocco Agnello, René Baristheaut, the future Father Malveaux, and later Pablo Gallegro. Harlequin found some solace in their company, but it was not until Bastien was destroyed by hunters during 1915’s Mardi Gras that Harlequin experienced an epiphany.
The massive influx of visiting Kindred meant that Carnival was always a busy time for New Orleans’ Camarilla. Vidal, Savoy, and the Baron were doing the best they could to maintain the Masquerade, but the three elders refused to work together and the city was suffering for this lack of coordination. Furthermore, given Bastien’s destruction, their “joint” efforts were obviously no longer enough. It made the Crescent City look bad to visiting Kindred, too. Harlequin took to his clan’s notorious tradition of “pranking:” those who violated the Masquerade found their havens’ furniture rearranged and disturbing messages left behind, warning against future violations on pain of terrible consequences. Mortal witnesses had their memories erased, played off, or were simply made to disappear. Harlequin left the more martial task of dealing with Sabbat incursions and vampire hunters to visiting archons and the three elders’ enforcers. He would ensure the hunters starved for targets to go after, the Sword of Caine left behind smaller messes, and the city’s defenders would not have to spend their efforts cleaning up other Kindreds’ Masquerade breaches.
It was the one endeavor seemingly every vampire in the fractious city could agree was necessary, and no one could dispute that Harlequin knew the ins and outs of Mardi Gras and the city’s krewe culture better than anyone else. He started out on his own with a retinue of ghouls. His efforts were lauded and soon drew other Kindred. Harlequin declared them a new krewe: the Krewe of Janus, named for a Greco-Roman deity just like all the others. In keeping with tradition, of course, all of the members had to go masked and keep their identities strictly secret. This was ostensibly to make their task easier, for the Krewe’s actions won them no friends among the Kindred guilty of Masquerade violations, although it also had the effect of sole credit for the entire endeavor falling upon Harlequin. Some Kindred wondered if he’d intended it that way from the start, but no one could deny the mask-obsessed Malkavian’s sincerity of purpose. He had discovered his calling, his entire reason for being.
He would maintain the Mask.
The Unmasking of the Krewes
The next eight decades were good ones for Harlequin. His reputation rose with the Krewe’s success, and even his sire Clarice considered it a sufficiently productive endeavor to grant him a place at her side. He was careful to maintain neutrality in the conflicts between the city’s elders, all of whom sought to draw the Krewe into their own orbit, and all of whom would have jeopardized its mission. Harlequin claimed his sole interest lay in upholding the Mask.
It would take a threat to another one of Harlequin’s “masks” to draw the Malkavian into taking any overtly political actions. Harlequin had long considered the old line Mardi Gras krewes to be his domain and relished the secrecy with which they concealed their members’ identities. In 1992, a crusading African-American city councilwoman named Esther Sue Parker accused the old line krewes of discriminating based on race and authored an ordinance insisting that all krewes institute an open admission policy for anyone seeking to join their organizations, if they chose to use publicly funded city services to hold their parades.
While few people doubted the semi-secret societies largely restricted their memberships to wealthy white men, this attempted “unmasking” enraged Harlequin as few things had. Kindred close to him reported several highly disturbing frenzies. The normally apolitical Malkavian began pledging or calling in boons from politically connected Kindred like there was no tomorrow to defeat Parker’s ordinance in city hall while smearing her name with manufactured scandals. In truth, Harlequin perhaps needn’t have bothered: the public reaction to Parker’s ordinance was as swift as it was vicious. Old-line krewes threatened to end Mardi Gras by refusing to parade if this ordinance was enforced. The media maligned her as the “Grinch who Stole Mardi Gras.” When Parker still moved ahead with public hearings that forced the club members to answer questions they didn’t even ask in private (and which confirmed them to be “all-male and all-white”), Harlequin secured Vidal’s permission to go after the at-large city councilwoman personally.
The Malkavian became a phantom who haunted Parker’s every step. He killed her dogs and left their severed paws inside her shoes. After she found these, he left the first of their heads inside her refrigerator and the second one under a toilet seat. He broke into her house and rearranged her furniture while she slept. He moved her bed as she lay resting. He spiked her food with psychoactive substances. He invaded her mind directly with his powers, unlocking her worst fears and most paranoid delusions. He filled her nights with sleepless terror and her days with building dread. All of the attacks were seamlessly carried out from behind the Masquerade and blamed upon overzealous members of the old line krewes (a story Harlequin considered deliciously true). A few mailed death threats and paid-off thugs who vandalized her house and car gave those individuals a mundane face to blame, but none of Parker’s 911 calls ever seemed to avail her.
Harlequin was unpleasantly surprised by the councilwoman’s temerity when she continued with the public hearings, exposing a number of further members’ identities. The mortal woman had little hope against the equally determined Malkavian, but she made him bleed for his victory by forcing him to resort to gross supernatural tampering of her mind to put an immediate end to the hearings. Harlequin quickly arranged a cover-up with his usual seamless aplomb, but Elysium still mocked the “master of the Masquerade” for his “slipping standards,” “recourse to such crude measures,” and lack of foresight. Incensed to have been embarrassed by a mere kine, Harlequin did not relent in his “pranking” until Parker lost her council seat and was involuntarily committed to a mental institution. A week later, news reports declared that the “Mari Gras Grinch” had hanged herself.
Her Embrace by Miss Opal made her a thorn in his side for some time.
Hurricane Katrina was a dreadful time for Harlequin. The great Mask came perilously close to slipping completely off. No one was surprised when the distressed Malkavian remained behind in the city: though his help in maintaining the Masquerade was invaluable, the larger Krewe of Janus’ efforts seemed less than they normally were. Many of its members were believed to have fled. The Malkavian clan was left in tatters from so many final deaths, and even Harlequin’s sire Clarice was ash when the floodwaters receded. When survivors expressed doubts over even holding Mardi Gras in 2006, it was too much for Harlequin. He left the city for greener pastures.
Since the Storm
Harlequin journeyed to San Francisco, where he is believed to have enjoyed the hospitality of the Vampire Club and its proprietor Sebastian Melmoth. New Orleans heard little from him until 2010 when Vidal lifted the moratorium on new Embraces. The prince may have been too proud to ask Harlequin to come back, for his feelings towards the Krewe had always been lukewarm. Antoine Savoy’s were not, and he wasn’t too proud either. 2006’s Mardi Gras had been a humble enough affair and manageable without the Krewe of Janus, but Harlequin’s absence had been sorely felt over the last three years. Masked Kindred had continued to carry on the Krewe’s traditions, but everyone had to admit that none of them lived for “the Mask” like Harlequin had. No one knows exactly what appeal Savoy made when other attempts to sway the reportedly morose Malkavian had failed, but the results spoke for themselves. On 2010’s Fat Tuesday, Harlequin dramatically “unmasked” his presence at Elysium in one of his most outrageous costumes yet. The Krewe of Janus was back.
After that year’s Mardi Gras was declared a resounding success, the Krewe’s founder swiftly fell back into his old role and more besides. He took his sire’s place among the harpies, who had suffered a near-total decimation of their membership during Katrina. Vidal was thought to feel even more lukewarm about the Krewe’s activities, given the circumstances of Harlequin’s return. No one could deny the city benefited from his presence after three Fat Tuesdays without him, though. Antoine Savoy received no small praise for his efforts in bringing the Krewe’s leader “back home,” but Harlequin has declined to further tie himself to Savoy’s fortunes despite obviously preferring the French Quarter lord’s affable personality over Vidal’s tedium.
His first, highest, and sole concern remains the Mask.
Harlequin makes his domain in Faubourg Marigny. The parish’s politically neutral status has allowed him to better maintain the Krewe of Janus’ similarly nonpartisan role. He is otherwise thought to be relatively unvinvolved in Marigny’s affairs. Sundown, for his part, takes his fellow harpy’s association with his already prestigious regency as a win.
Mardi Gras: It’s a running joke that Mardi Gras is Harlequin’s domain. After all, there’s no Kindred who knows Carnival’s history and customs better than him, who’s more involved in the festivities, or who loves the holiday as dearly. He is unfailingly present for the yearly meeting of the courts for the Rex Ball, in attire ostentatious enough to rival a Mardi Gras Indian.
The Old Line Krewes: Harlequin has claimed domain over the old line krewes since the affair with Esther Sue Parker and zealously guards them against attempts to expose their members’ identities. The old line krewes are powerful social clubs, some hundreds of years old, and steeped in secrecy and tradition. Many men (and fewer women) from the city’s most prominent families are members and use the krewes as venues to conduct out-of-sight business dealings with one another. Whether or not Harlequin takes advantage of this (it’s uncertain whether he even does), he considers the krewes to be cultural treasures and guards their secrecy with the single-minded fixation that only a Malkavian can have.
Everyone knows Harlequin for his founding and leadership of the Krewe of Janus. No one (or at least no one who’s telling) is certain of the Krewe’s exact size, membership, or resources. To newcomers, the Krewe seems like an omniscient bogeyman with eyes, ears, and knives everywhere. Harlequin does little to dissuade anyone of this impression. Indeed, the Krewe is quite possibly the most powerful coterie in New Orleans—arguably more so than the primogen, which is less less relevant as an institution than in any other cities. Because of the Krewe’s self- proclaimed mission of protecting the Masquerade, most Kindred leave them be, and the city’s elders generally support them. (Krewe of Janus Status •••••)
When Harlequin’s sire was on the Cabildo, he served as her right hand and the clan’s whip. The title doesn’t have much official worth since her final death, but Harlequin is still the closest thing the Moon Clan has to a primogen. Many of his clanmates look to him for direction and leadership—at least insofar as it exists among the lunatics. (Malkavian Status ••••)
For his work with the Krewe of Janus, Vidal has recognized Harlequin (if somewhat reluctantly) as regent of the Masquerade. It’s a somewhat unusual exception given the prince’s normal preference for assigning regencies by geographical areas.
Harlequin’s regency gives him considerable if narrow authority pertaining to enforcement of the First Tradition. Through him, the Krewe of Janus is allowed to apprehend Masquerade violators (what some Kindred have equivocated to as “making arrests”) and bring them before the prince or (more typically) officers of his court to face punishment. They’re also permitted to pass lesser sentence themselves. The Krewe is well-known for its “three strikes” rule of issuing warnings (often disturbing) upon a first offense, slaying a violator’s loved one upon the second, and turning them over to the sheriff for the third. After two prior violations, the usual result is final death.
What’s less spoken of is that Harlequin and the Krewe sometimes pass that third sentence themselves. This is technically a usurpation of the Sixth Tradition, but it’s a dirty secret that many regents engage in similar practices where troublesome enough Tradition-breakers in their domains are concerned. So long as the perpetrator isn’t anyone important, the sheriff usually has more important things to worry about than if a repeat offender finally stops causing problems. (Camarilla Status •••)
As a member of these social judges, jury, and executioners, Harlequin’s opinion carries no small weight in Elysium. He isn’t thought to be particularly invested in the ongoing feud between Marguerite, Katherine, and Veronica, and is known to play the three Toreador against one another. (Harpy Status •••)
Harlequin’s efforts to preserve the Masquerade, one of Longinus’ foremost commandments to the Sanctified, have won him great acclaim among the Church Eternal. He is also a deacon, like most senior members who aren’t already clergy are. (Lancea et Sanctum Status •••, Bourbon Sanctified Status ••)
George Smith encountered Harlequin at an Elysium event at the Contemporary Arts Center, where he witnessed the Malkavian participating in a seeming “performance” with a ghoul distressed by the mask she was wearing. Harlequin was amused when George referred to him as “House Harlequin” and delighted by the Ventrue’s droll wit in naming each member of his retinue after a Horseman of the Apocalypse. The two spoke at length on a number of matters and departed on friendly, mutually amused terms.
Rocco Agnello and Caroline Malveaux-Devillers both met Harlequin in the aftermath of the latter’s breach of the Masquerade. Harlequin likely knew of Caroline’s prior Masquerade-threatening activities after the Krewe of Janus disposed of a corpse she’d created (and left their first warning) and castigated her sharply for her continued carelessness in revealing her true nature to her family. As she’d admitted to her misdeeds in confession with Father Malveaux, however, the matter was beyond the Krewe’s justice. Harlequin still got along amiably with Rocco and offered up one of his ghouls for the Gangrel’s use as an impromptu chair. Caroline was left to stand.
Harlequin expelled Autumn Rabinowitz from the Krewe of Janus after her failure to stop (or at least report) Caroline’s misdeeds to her masters in a timely manner, and raised no objections when Rocco Agnello prepared to slay the now-domitor-less ghoul. He charged Caroline a substantial boon when she sought to purchase Autumn’s life and clearly believed he was getting the better end of the deal. Caroline, however, would find the discarded ghoul an invaluable resource in the difficult nights ahead.
Caroline met Harlequin again at the Trial of John Harley Matheson. The Malkavian was as thoroughly bored by her presence as last time, belittled her to her face, and exacted another boon in return for formally introducing her to Antoine Savoy. His spirits were much improved around the French Quarter lord, who he was delighted to engage in mutual banter with.
Despite their earlier friendship, Harlequin vociferously testified against George Smith when the nature of his Masquerade-threatening actions in Slidell came to light. None could doubt the Mask always came first for the Malkavian.
After René Baristheaut’s final death, Rocco Agnello held a reunion at Harrah’s with Harlequin and Father Malveaux to toast their fallen coterie-mate’s memory. Intrigues and misunderstandings concerning Claire Malveaux, a kine claimed by the priest as part of his domain, resulted in Harlequin deliberately provoking him into a frenzy that Rocco was left to “deal” with the consequences of. Despite Father Malveaux’s esteem among the Malkavians, it proved a telling lesson in how the Moon Clan’s friendship can be chancy at best.
Rocco and Harlequin subsequently played a game of Scopa alongside their coterie-mate’s torpid corpse and wagered a secret of the winner’s choice. After Rocco won the hand, Harlequin obliged by telling him the full story of Father Malveaux’s Requiem and the reason for the albino’s peculiar fixation with his mortal family. Rocco was not completely certain what to make of Harlequin’s claim mid-way through the story that he often told petty lies for his own amusement, but believed that its most significant highlights were true. The two were found great mirth in one another’s company and departed on amiable terms.
Adelais Seyrès and Jonathan North met Harlequin at Elysium when Jon presented himself before the city’s court. Harlequin remained largely apart from the telepathic bickering between Adelais’ three nieces-in-blood, but interjected occasionally as amusement or reverence for “the Mask” inclined him to.
After Isabella Suarez embarrassed Rocco Agello before his peers, Harlequin enthusiastically participated in Rocco’s “prank” to make the Anarch think he had murdered her mortal aunt Alejandra. The Malkavian was doubtlessly disappointed when the stubborn-minded Ravnos gave Rocco scant opportunity to “reveal” Alejandra’s death, but even more riveted by the ensuing spectacle when frenzy broke out between the two.
Jade Kalani ran into Harlequin at a Friday Elysium. She had intended to speak to him about an issue raised by his great-grandchilde, but the harpy approached her first and took her face in his hands to examine her “mask.” He made noise about it cracking and needing to be sanded down so she doesn’t cut herself trying to fix it. When Jade sought a more clear answer from him the harpy grew bored of her questions and told her she wasn’t being very charming. Jade redeemed herself with a riddle and won a walk through the museum’s sculpture garden, where the two traded quips about masks and shared their favorite pieces of art. Harlequin met another one of Jade’s multiple personalities and gave the young woman some advice on love and “enlightenment”, and the two parted ways on good terms after promising to share a dance at Lord Savoy’s party the next evening.
More to come.
• 6. “The Mother” (e. unknown, d. uncertain)
• 7. The Malkavians will not speak this Kindred’s name.
• 8. Uriah Travers (e. early 19th century)
• 9. Hercule “Monty” Lestrange (e. late 19th century)
• 10. Frank Larsen (e. early 21st century)
• 7. The Malkavians will not speak this Kindred’s name.
Clarice Barabet (e. early 19th century, d. 2005)
• 9. Harlequin (e. early 20th century)
• 10. Marceline Duval (e. early 20th century)
Ophelia Hensley (e. mid 20th century, d. late 20th century)
• 12. Janine Clairmont (e. mid 20th century)
• 13. Catarina Glapion (e. early 21st century)
The Man With The Silver Smile (e. late 20th century, d. 2016)
• 10. Elyse Benson (e. mid 20th century)
Rachel Elliot (e. early 21st century, d. 2005)
• 9. King Bolden (e. early 20th century)
Martin Neal (e. mid 20th century, d. 2005)
Julia Tilbrey (e. mid 20th century, d. 2005)
• 7. The Malkavians will not speak this Kindred’s name.
Rachel Naomi Massoteau (e. early 20th century, d. late 20th century)
Harlequin is the childe of Clarice Barabet, the Lancea et Sanctum’s third bishop in New Orleans and Clan Malkavian’s former primogen. The lunatics refuse to speak the name of Clarice’s sire, but she is believed to be the grandchilde of an enigmatic elder known only as the Mother.
Harlequin’s broodmate King Bolden is a cornetist beloved by the city’s Toreador.
Harlequin’s first childe Marceline Duval is a surrealist painter of some standing within the Invictus. His second childe Elyse Benson is a frosty-tempered but seemingly rational dollmaker who serves as a de facto public face for their clan. Benson’s only childe was destroyed during Katrina, but through Marceline, Harlequin is ancestor to a line of Kindred stretching down to the thirteenth generation.