Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
Ex-ballerina, Manhattan socialite & bloodstained occultist
“Do I look like someone who cares about what God thinks?”
Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Eesed
“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”
“My Teresa is a precious treasure, and shares several common elements with all others: she is unique, fragile, and worthy of admiration. Unlike many others, she also has edges sharp enough to draw blood. Or did the beautiful face fool you?”
Teresa looks the part of the dancer she is: short and slight with a grace to her movements that borders on unnatural. She fits neatly into the heroin chic look of the ‘90s: almost anorexically thin and unnaturally pale. Both of these traits are the product of too many missed meals, too many nights spent buried in occult tomes and eldritch libraries, and too few days spent awake, much less spent outside. To those that know, it is the Blood that keeps her strong these nights much more than her own physical routine. Despite that, she’s undeniably beautiful, with an angular face, swan-like neck, and piercing gray eyes matched by hair so blonde it’s nearly white.
She wears her hair long, as she believes her domitor prefers. His taciturn nature makes it difficult to tell if he really cares. Though she rarely wears makeup, her skin is unnaturally pristine, smooth, and clear. A more through examination reveals something more remarkable: her form is unmarred by any scar or blemish. His skin looks almost Photoshopped in its uniformity. It’s too clean, too perfect. There is no trace of the injury that ended her ballet career: she dances like an angel today.
Teresa is pushing well past sixty, but she doesn’t look it. She doesn’t even look the thirty years she’d seen before Jonathan gave her the Blood. Most people peg her as only just into her twenties, a fact she has used on more than one occasion to gain an upper hand on those that underestimate her.
Teresa’s sheltered existence as Jonathan’s occultist ghoul has given her relatively little opportunity to indulge the interest in fashion that she enjoyed as one of the kine. She is rarely presented at events with him (ceding that honor to Rachelle), and even more rarely seen without an escort of burly security ghouls or (more often) the Tremere himself on the rare occasions she goes out. Much of her time is spent in private libraries, laboratories, and reliquaries. Unlike other ghouls in Jonathan’s service (such as Rachelle), much of Teresa’s wardrobe—almost all of her wardrobe, in truth—is provided (alongside Jonathan’s own) by Nicoletta Morteollaro. The fashionista, caught between the competing motives of a desire to fulfill her domitor’s wishes in providing for Teresa and her own desire to attract more attention from him, too often gives way to the latter with subtle ‘sabotages’ on Teresa’s wardrobe: it often lags seasons behind the current trends. In truth, though, neither Jonathan nor Teresa likely notice.
When permitted, Teresa prefers to dress comfortably and loosely, in low maintenance (though still elegant) clothing that allows her free range of movement regardless of her task. On the rare occasions in which she goes out, she tends to dress for the occasion. She often adds heels, especially when forced to work with Rachelle, in order to keep the other ghoul from towering over her. She prefers pants and shorts to skirts and dresses, and light colors to dark. She has a particular fondness for light blues, but often compromises because she believes her domitor prefers darker colors.
Name: Teresa Vasiliev
Ethnicity: Russian and Ashkenazi Jewish
Date of Birth: September 16th, 1954 (New York City, New York)
Date of Ghouling: November 21st, 1986 (New York City, New York)
Apparent Age: Early 20s
Real Age: Approx. 70
Weight: 127 lbs
Eye Color: Gray
Hair Color: Platinum
Education: Some college (New York University, 1971—1973)
Teresa was born to Andrei Vasiliev, a Soviet defector to the United States and nuclear physicist previously working on the Soviet bomb, and Hannah Bienenfeld, a Jewish banker’s daughter from New York. Teresa grew up in a household that was more eager to be ‘American’ than the most red-blooded, apple pie-baking, baseball-watching, church-going boy from Nebraska. Both parents were fierce opponents of Communism in all its forms. Her father lived through the dark years after Stalin’s rise to power and saw firsthand the inequality inherent in ceding all power to the State. Andrei particularly spoke of the demands placed upon him as an educated man and the constant threat of reprisals against himself and his first wife Nastasia should he ever disappoint his Party overlords. He was particularly bitter that he’d been forced to abandon Nastasia, and quite certain that she had subsequently suffered terribly in a gulag for his “betrayal” of the Party and the Revolution. Hannah, in turn, was a fierce supporter of the emergent state of Israel (like many American Jews) and disgusted by the Soviet Union’s support for the Arabs that so threatened it.
Both of Teresa’s parents were eager and early converts to Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy when it emerged and instilled its tenants into their only child, preaching the horrors of any system that sought to control individuals or keep them from pursuing their desires. The infatuation with personal accomplishment no doubt led in part to her eventual infatuation with the heart of the western markets, Wall Street. Atlas Shrugged was a bedtime story in her household, after all.
As Teresa grew into adolescence, her balance, athleticism, and resolve allowed her to pursue both gymnastics and dance. Ultimately, and perhaps vainly, she settled on the latter. The careers of gymnasts tend to be painfully short, after all, and Teresa loved what she did. She proved to be an exceptional dancer and with her mother’s contacts in high society, she was poised to become one of the premier prima ballerinas in New York, even as her studies suffered for her laser focus on her promising future career on the stage.
Shortly before her high school graduation in 1971, tragedy struck that sent her life spiraling down another path. Teresa and her parents were crossing the street on the way home after a local performance when she and her mother were struck by a drunk driver. The older woman was killed almost instantly. Teresa suffered a different fate: the car rolled over her left leg completely and shattered her left tibia and fibula in a horrific compound fracture. Doctors told her she’d never walk without assistance again. Her dancing career was over before it even started.
Teresa spent weeks grieving the loss of her mother’s life and the destruction of her own carefully envisioned future. Despite it all, she found her resolve all the stronger. She endured a dozen painful surgeries and years of slow and painful rehabilitation trying to regain some semblance of her mobility and freedom. At the urging of (and with assistance from) her by then professor father, she halfheartedly attended New York University to fill the days she didn’t spend in physical therapy.
When it became clear that Teresa might regain the use of her leg, but never her dancing, she resigned herself to a bleaker future. She dropped out of NYU during her senior year to marry a successful stockbroker she’d been dating, seemingly content to enjoy the plush life of a Manhattan trophy wife.
If that was her intention, it did not go as planned. Amid the seedy circles filled with the rich and beautiful, she was recruited into a cult led by her fellow socialites. At first it was almost a game: just the next excess in a life increasingly filled with lavish parties, alcohol, sexual deviancy, and cocaine. The deadly seriousness of it all did not come crashing down until, as an ‘initiate’ , she beheld a ceremony for one of the older wives. The woman stood within a special tub as she cut the throat of a male reveler and allowed his blood to wash over her. When she emerged from the tub, naked and drenched with red, she looked even younger than Teresa.
Intoxicated as Teresa was, she believed she must have imagined or dreamed the ritual murder. It was not until the following week when she saw the older wife again—lustrous in her rejuvenated beauty and youth—that she came to believe in what she had seen. Part of Teresa was horrified, but she also feared what might happen if she tried to leave the cult. She would go on to participate in four further such rituals, each time seeing an older wife murder one of the young men, lured into their midst with the promise of sex and drugs to die on the edge of a knife for the youth of one of their own. Each time Teresa came to the ritual more sober, closer to its center. Closer to the murder itself. Horror became acceptable, and eventually, embraceable.
Finally her turn came for full initiation into the cult, to prove herself as one of them. She was lowered into the tub, given the obsidian knife, and had a drugged victim brought before her. She only hesitated for a moment before she allowed his warm blood to spray across her nude body. It would not be the last time she did so. Once those floodgates were opened, Teresa could not resist the temptation they offered. Most of the cult were content to use the blood bath ritual to prolong their hedonistic lives and youth, but Teresa sought further knowledge of the occult. She learned that the cult’s oldest members had been bathing in blood for decades, slowly accumulating wealth and influence as they outlived their husbands (some of whom mysteriously went missing) and indulging in elaborate, extravagant, and ever more debauched activities for their amusement—but painful little else. Indeed, the women at the heart of the cult no longer even remembered where the ritual had originated—a secret that had died with members years ago.
Teresa was not content. What if there was more the ritual could do than turn back the clock? What if there was more out there in the world than just this ritual? She became an avid scholar of the occult. While much of what she discovered had no truth to it, her toils eventually led her to a handful of working rituals that could create minor—but very real—effects. More importantly, with the blood ritual to build upon, she was able to discover news ways in which it could be used, including to heal her own damaged body. When she emerged unblemished—and unmaimed—from another sanguine pool after slashing another drugged man’s throat, her determination was vindicated and her enthusiasm redoubled. This was real power. Her ‘sisters’ within the cult were deluding themselves.
Teresa’s studies and growing powers frightened her fellow cultists. It is likely they would have slain her (or at least attempted such a thing) if events had continued to unfold as they did. Unfortunately for the cult, the growing tally of exsanguinated corpses drew a monster they could not imagine to their door.
Archon Jonathan North first believed he was chasing one of the Sabbat packs besieging Manhattan when he uncovered the socialites’ secret society. Intrigued but wary, he set about dismantling it. Members went missing. Others turned up dead. The survivors came to believe Teresa must be responsible, with her growing powers and growing scorn for their activities. They gathered to slay their erstwhile sister in her own home and even murdered her husband, only to to be set upon by the Tremere surgeon. He slaughtered the remaining cultists wholesale before Teresa’s watching eyes, rescuing her from their own planned murder, and abducted her as he departed New York—she whom the Tremere had judged the most knowledgeable and potentially useful member of the cult.
Archon North grew enchanted with Teresa as he pried occult secrets from her mind. He might have even been persuaded to Embrace her, if he hadn’t discovered her so soon after his last childe’s failure—or if his first childe hadn’t also proven a failure. As it was, the new archon found himself occupied with many duties and decided it would be more useful to ghoul Teresa and retain her as an assistant in his occult endeavors.
The transformation brought Teresa much of what she had always wanted: power, purpose, and eternal youth. All it cost was what was left of her soul, unwavering devotion to Magister North, and the hard-won mystic arts she had begun to practice, corrupted as they were by the poison in her blood.
Teresa has grown more powerful than she had perhaps ever imagined in the thirty years since that night. Her domitor has thoroughly inculcated into the mysteries of thaumaturgy as his assistant and occasionally proxy. She is the sole ghoul in Jonathan’s service to possess such mystic knowledge and he has been extremely protective of Teresa, both for her own value and for his care with any occult secrets: he would not give any other access to the insights she has into his methods.
That shelter has come at the cost of Teresa’s development in many ways, but it has been a price he is willing to pay for at least a single servant that he can entrust with detailed thaumaturgic knowledge. He brings her out to do field work only rarely. Teresa instead manages her domitor’s libraries, guards those relics in his possession, and maintains ongoing experiments while he is away. Her interactions with other Kindred, even in his presence, have been relatively limited—almost entirely to other Tremere or archons.
Jonathan has considered Embracing Teresa on several occasions. She possesses many of the traits he values: intelligence, ambition, drive, and beauty. To date, he has always held back from doing so out of concerns for her deeper loyalties. It is not enough in his mind for any childe of his to be simply great (the failures of those in the past notwithstanding): they must be Tremere to the core and loyal to the Pyramid. While Jonathan has no doubts as to Teresa’s loyalty to him personally, he is concerned that her ambition could lead her astray from the clan’s values were she not under his watchful gaze. Ghouls also remain difficult to push through the Embrace in modern times. While Jonathan’s grandsire has done so—and with great success—Jon knows that it is frowned upon to bring another Tremere into the Pyramid who is already fully blood bound to their sire. Such would be a difficult (though not impossible) sell to his superiors. There is also the matter of Embracing Teresa after the effects of her decades-ago blood ritual: Jon harbors some concerns that it could create complications.
Not that any of these concerns are likely to stop him should he decide to do so. In truth, his Embrace of Kyrstin Grey is in many ways a test of Teresa and her ability to remain both diligent and loyal in the face of adversity. He knows she longs for the Embrace. If she can set aside her own desires for the good of his childe—in effect, be a true Tremere—he may very well take the matter before his sire or grandsire.
Beyond her esoteric knowledge and thaumaturgic prowess, Teresa maintains considerable sums of wealth for her domitor—the remains of her cult’s collected holdings. In contrast to much of Jonathan’s other wealth, which tends to be concentrated in fields of interest to him and carefully managed by Gregory Reed, Teresa’s holdings are heavily diversified and maintained by independent brokers and trustees with no connection to Reed. It is perhaps a safeguard against any potential treachery, or a rainy day fund that can be used to fund matters Jonathan does not want his name so neatly linked to. He’s also—rarely—been known to call upon Teresa to entertain guests. She’s rarely introduced as more than a dancer on these occasions, but her skill just as rarely fails to impress.
Personality & Relationships
Teresa was sheltered from most of Jonathan’s other ghouls in her earlier nights, to say nothing of larger ghoul society. It took her years to learn the truth of the blood bond and how it was the origin of her near-obsession with Jonathan. By then it was too late for her pride to accept the truth. She knows academically that the bond makes ghouls obsessed with their domitors, but she prefers to think of her own affection more genuine, with the bond simply building upon what as already there.
And why not? Jonathan gave her an immortality that made her own ritual seem woefully inefficient by way of comparison—requiring mere pints of blood instead of whole lives. He initiated her—and only her—into eldritch rituals that were more tried and true than all the hedge magics she learned in the decade before she met him. Clearly there’s truth to her love, even if he remains cold and so often distant. It’s not his fault: he’s so beset by his many duties. Duties she’s all too happy to assist him with in any way she can. And, of course, he’s dead.
Her Fellow Ghouls
Teresa is both deeply jealous of, and simultaneously dismissive of, Rachelle Claudel and her century-long relationship with Jonathan. On the one hand, she knows how much he favors the French diplomat’s daughter and the intimate moments they’ve shared. On the other, she takes pride in how much closer to his daily operations and secrets she is compared to her ‘rival’. The relationship is complicated by their shared status as among his elder servitors. Both remember a time not so long ago in which his true counsel—and perhaps only counsel—was held with the now-deceased Lucille, and both of them were out in the cold. Both have also had the opportunity to see many, many ghouls pass from his service.
Though they are not alone in having survived with him for some decades—Reed and Morgan have both served longer than Teresa—there is something deeper to their relationship than between the two men. Reed lives largely detached from the night-to-night realities of the All-Night Society—and, indeed, has lived a life of significant luxury as Jonathan’s accounts manager. Morgan has been allowed to pursue almost an entire life beyond his ghoulish existence, complete with wife, child, and grandchild. For Teresa and Rachelle, however, there has only ever been, and likely will only ever be, Jonathan. They are bound to him, to his fate, to his whims, and to his wishes. They know him—or at least believe they do—and know each other better than perhaps any other. As much as there is competition for his affection, and a desire for smug self-assuredness at each other’s expense, they take some comfort in the existence of one another.
Her Domitor’s Childe
Teresa is then more than slightly jealous of her domitor’s new childe, though she tries to hide it. She had dearly hoped to be his next Embrace, and his decision to choose a comparatively mundane kine for such an ‘honor’ has left her questioning what she must do to prove herself. This has been further accentuated by his use of Teresa as something of a ‘safety observer’ on many of Kyrstin’s early rituals while not actually giving her the task of overtly instructing his childe. Working around her, and seeing the holes in the fledgling’s eldritch knowledge, has further reinforced in her mind that it should have been her, and while she would not overtly say it, that she is superior to the neonate even now—though she will freely concedes the gap is closing rapidly.
Of course Teresa takes even more pride and comfort in being alone among his ghouls—and rare even among all Tremere ghouls—in her knowledge of thaumaturgy. Her magical gifts and the inherent powers of the blood make her even more dismissive of mundane human beings than she was in life—when she was taking theirs to extend her own. She’s become something better. Chosen and elevated from them, and with fantastic gifts to show for it, for what man or woman could contend with someone that can move faster than the eye can track, or even lay open their minds and secrets? Still, she wants more.
While Teresa was initially happy to enjoy the many benefits of being a ghoul rather than a Kindred—the ability to savor food and drink, to walk under the sun, to operate during the day, and to avoid the many responsibilities she sees her domitor labor under, over time she has grown into a greater admiration and lust for the Embrace. While Teresa is willing and even eager to continue to serve Jonathan as she has—she owes him nothing less for all he has given her than to want to help him however she might—in her heart she hopes he will see fit to give her true immortality and the great possibility for power that comes from the Embrace. The many things she once appreciated about remaining ‘alive’ have slowly soured for her over decades. The need to eat and drink have become distractions that produce only more inconvenient bodily functions rather than opportunities to indulge her tastes. Daylight hours have become less a part of her days she can interact with others and more a part in which she is forcibly separated from any opportunity to spend time with Jonathan. None of these matters have been aided by the increasingly sheltered existence in which she lives when away from her domitor. He is jealous of his ghoul thaumaturge, protective of her knowledge, and wary of the influence of others. As a result, her opportunities to actually go out and indulge herself at anything beyond the protective bounds of a chantry or safehouse without him have been quite limited, even compared to the partially lobotomized security and servants he uses.
Unlike many ghouls—especially those that count their years on the Blood in decades—Teresa is not yet jaded by it or her present condition. While elements of a her life remain almost unbearable dull, the aforementioned eating, drinking, and other bodily functions, she remains enthralled by the occult, and greater secrets of reality. She has found what she considers true power, and worthy of her time and consideration, no matter how long such a thing takes.
But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t like it to come sooner.