Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
Knowledge-hungry Abyss mystic
“Dammit, if you’d shust shut up for a second, you could learn somezing useful. Zhe Apyss will wait forefer, put I could be off doing somezing worthwhile if you’re going to keep zis ub.”
Mahmoud is a seemingly 20-something Middle Eastern girl with pale skin, neck-length black hair, dark almond eyes, and a slender frame. Her features are pretty enough, but they’d be prettier if she smiled more. She doesn’t.
Mahmoud dresses for comfort in tank tops and yoga pants, and is rarely without a beat-up messenger bag filled with supplies for Abyssal rituals. The bag, and almost all of her clothes, are black—not to make a fashion statement, but out of simple convenience. Black hides bloodstains better.
Name: Talibah Mahmoud
Date of Birth: November 14th, 1975 (Cairo, Egypt)
Date of Embrace: March 3rd, 2001 (Cairo, Egypt)
Apparent Age: Mid-20s
Real Age: Approx. 40
Build: Slightly underweight
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Black
Education: Some college
Religion: “Zhat’s complicated.” Mahmoud’s spiritual views are sufficiently alien that she finds it easiest to simply describe herself as irreligious.
Mahmoud was born in Cairo to moderately well-off parents. All her life, she wanted to know something more, to understand the next layer beneath what she could see. Religion didn’t satisfy her: she made clear to her parents that she’d fail out if they sent her to an Al-Azhar institute. In school, she didn’t always get very good grades, because she preferred to spend time studying interesting topics to wading through pablum. She attended college for a few years without graduating, something fairly common among Egyptian coeds.
Once out of school, she pursued her interests as an autodidact, ranging freely through the sciences and humanities alike. She found few close friends, simply because she had no interest in getting married like a proper Muslim girl her age. It would be better not to get close to people, anyway. She knew she’d confuse them at best and put her life in danger at worst if they realized her interests simultaneously included, say, quantum mechanics and Pharaonic occultism—blasphemy laws carried severe punishments in Egypt.
Mahmoud never considered herself a feminist or political activist. She just wanted to be left alone to pursue her studies. With the still-nascent Internet, she could reach out to the other one-in-a-million eclectic seekers and find some companionship, albeit mostly among foreign nationals. It was a good thing she’d learned English. Somewhat to her surprise, she even found ways to parlay her approach to the world into freelance writing for some online publications. Not bad for someone used to being the odd girl out.
Daily harassment was nothing new for a woman in Egypt, but the acid attack that narrowly missed Mahmoud’s face came as a terrible surprise. Her already stupid and truculent family, who never ceased wailing about their unwed daughter “dying an old maid,” finally disowned her. Net acquaintances disappeared or abruptly changed personalities. For a while, it didn’t add up.
At first, Mahmoud just did her best to cope with each fresh obstacle as it arose. She gradually became aware the harassment was calculated, and when she took her initial steps toward identifying the perpetrator, everything got worse. Someone told the Egyptian National Police she was involved in a terrorist plot against the Mubarak regime. ENP imprisoned her without trial, then tortured and violated her. She came close to the brink, but never quite broke.
After five years of this, the mastermind presented herself. She didn’t take long to establish that she was the one responsible—she had the sort of proof it took to convince Mahmoud—and the vampire essentially dared the hapless mortal to accept the power that would let her compete with her tormentor on an even footing. Mahmoud accepted.
Mahmoud never quite forgave her sire Shadya, who never stopped saying Mahmoud should be honored that she wasn’t Embraced as just another shovelhead. It was several months before Mahmoud learned that was never really an option anyway. The Sabbat was tolerated in Cairo by the ruling Ashirra, so long as there weren’t any mass Embraces, attacks on the city’s elders, or similar mayhem. The local bishop was even a respected elder himself.
Mahmoud ran with her sire’s pack for about a decade, participating in sect responsibilities as required and otherwise spending her time probing the mysteries made newly accessible by her unliving state. The Abyss and its primordial well of nothingness fascinated her as nothing else had. Within several years, she’d become an accomplished Abyss mystic within the clan. The Sabbat, however, seemed to have increasingly little to offer her, outside of contacts among fellow Lasombra blood magicians.
The vinculum meant Mahmoud was unlikely to ever leave her pack. Arab Spring finally gave her a way out in 2011. Several of Mahmoud’s packmates were slain or disappeared amidst the civic unrest, her sire among them. Mahmoud more or less fell away from the Sword of Caine after that. Fatimah al-Lam’a, the Lasombra antitribu primogen of Cairo, was willing to extend the neonate shelter in her khitta. The terms she asked in return were less onerous than being blood bound to a pack of bloodthirsty idiots.
Mahmoud spent the next few years associating with Anarchs before Fatimah approached her in the lead-up to the 2016 Cairo Accords. The primogen, 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 clan would have an open presence. Mahmoud could take care of herself, had little tying her to Cairo at this point, and still owed Fatimah. She was willing to repay that debt by participating in the elders’ little experiment. If doing so proved a path to further power, so much the better.
Mahmoud is a highly individualistic vampire. Even being raised among the “civilized” Cairese Sabbat, she rolls her eyes at the protestations of morality that characterize the Camarilla. After leaving the Sword of Caine, she associated primarily with Anarchs, when she wasn’t in the company of clanmates who shared an interest in Abyss mysticism. She pursues knowledge as the pathway to power. As power comes, she’ll figure out what to do with it.
Above all, behind all, after all, she want to know. She wants to experience reality. While she was alive, she went as far as living knowledge could take her. Now she delves into unliving knowledge. The Abyss fascinates her, though not to the exclusion of other interests. She’d like to share what she finds, but so few vampires can see beyond the next feeding or vapid social game. Sometimes she tries to break through their ignorance. Other times she lets them stew and gets on with things.
• Augusto Vidal: Mahmoud has yet to speak to the prince, but views him like she does the Mubarak regime—another religious fanatic. She can’t recall him ever torturing or blood bonding her, though, and he seems welcoming enough to Lasombra. She’ll take that as an improvement.
• Conroy Westphal: Mahmoud’s coterie-mate has her grudging respect. She finds his know-it-all arrogance tiresome, and in turn smugly believes that for all his self-professed genius, he’s blind to more important realities beyond meaningless political games. Too bad he can’t see the big picture. Nevertheless, she respects his intellect (he could go far in studying the Abyss if he put his mind to it) and ruthless pragmatism. She believes he’s one of the few Kindred she can rely on—mostly. She still never lets down her guard around him.
• Philip Maldonato: Mahmoud finds the seneschal a strange figure. She believes he’s open to more avenues of knowledge than Westphal or Vidal, yet he shackles himself with hypocritical Camarilla morality. It’s quite likely she’d view him as a sad waste, if not for the fact that he’s vastly more knowledgeable and powerful than she is. She’s not sure how he can be those things and still act and believe as he does. On some level, she doesn’t quite know what to make of him.
• Roger Ferris: The former CIA agent has less of an ego than his sire, a fact that Mahmoud finds distinctly refreshing in their personal interactions. Given the choice, she’d rather have a conversation with him than Westphal. Less dick-swinging. He seems open-minded enough to the value of the Abyss, and like he could also be a promising student of its mysteries, yet he chooses to spend his time on material pursuits. Pity, really, if unsurprising that childe takes after sire.
Mahmoud has only ever kept one ghoul, who perished in 2016 around the time of the Cairo Accords. Sabbat culture discourages them and that’s rubbed off on her. She’s also seen firsthand just how easily they can die in pitched battles between Kindred—it would take a lot of trouble to cultivate one sturdy enough to survive that sort of thing.
When she needs muscle, Mahmoud is more apt to summon shadowy monstrosities from the depths of the Abyss. She views them as disposable resources and doesn’t care how many die in her service. They hate life, they’re only loyal because of the bindings imposed on them, and there’s always more where they came from.
Mahmoud has little interest in manipulating the kine. The Sabbat disdain it and study of the Abyss is more important to her anyway.
Mahmoud has gained a fair measure of respect among her clan for her knowledge of Abyssal mysteries. Most Lasombra don’t make a study of true Abyss mysticism, being content with power over “ordinary” shadows, and regard their clan’s dedicated blood magicians with simultaneous wariness and esteem. Power is power, at the end of the night. Participating in the “New Orleans experiment” has also bolstered Mahmoud’s standing, whatever her own feelings (or lack thereof) towards it. (Lasombra Status ••)
Mahmoud fell in with several of her clanmates and Caroline Malveaux-Devillers during the 2016 Cairo Accords. Their coterie, the Leviathans, was also instrumental in the 2016 Battle of Mt. Carmel and has more or less stuck together after that. Mahmoud finds it agreeable to have a small group of reliable allies at her back. At least they’re not all enslaved to one another like among the Sabbat. (Leviathan Committee Status ••)
Mahmoud has gained little reputation in the larger Camarilla. She finds most of the so-called “Kindred” vapid and small-minded hypocrites. The social posturing at Elysium is just a symptom of their greater failings. (Camarilla Status 0)
Mahmoud is nominally unaligned with any of the covenants. Her sensibilities are probably most in line with the Anarchs’, but to join them would risk alienating her current allies.
• 8. Unknown sire (e. unknown)
• 9. The Althaelab (e. many centuries ago)
• 10-9. Unknown sire (e. unknown, d. ?)
Unknown sire (e. unknown, d. late 20th century)
Shadya Kanaan (e. mid 20th century, d. early 21st century)
• 11-10. Talibah Mahmoud (e. early 21st century)
Talibah, her sire, and her grandsire all lowered their generations through diablerie.
Mahmoud is the childe of Shadya Kanaan, a member of the Sabbat who was destroyed during Arab Spring. Mahmoud’s grandsire is unknown. Shadya never named her sire, save only to inform her childe that he was unworthy of the Blood and she diablerized him. Mahmoud’s great-grandsire is also unknown, but Shadya claimed she was also a diablerist and childe to an elusive elder known as the Althaelab (“the Fox”), Alzilu Almakir (“the Sly Shadow”), and a host of other nicknames, aliases, and sobriquets. The Althaelab is something of an urban legend among Clan Lasombra, reportedly Embraced as far back as Parthia, Babylon, or the Sea Peoples’ invasions, depending on what version of the story one hears. Most narratives depict the Althaelab as a quixotic figure who, for whatever reason, never commits diablerie to lower their weak (for an elder) generation. One story claims the Althaelab was a jester for the clan Antediluvian and amused it enough to be spared from the monster’s unimaginable hunger. The Althaelab is said to have Embraced many progeny over the centuries, although none of his alleged childer have been able to reliably substantiate their claims of lineage. The Althaelab’s sire, like so much else about the elusive elder, remains unknown.
Mahmoud’s sire Shadya made a few references to other childer, but Mahmoud never met any of them. It’s immaterial to her at this point whether they’re out there or not.
Mahmoud has little interest in siring. Her mortal parents wheedled her enough to give them grandsons.