Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Graves and Circuses: Whitby (Night's Black Agents)

It's no joke, trying to find Dracula's last resting place. According to this Guardian article, tour guides in Whitby, the town most closely associated with the Count, are forever being pestered by visitors eager to see his grave. One went so far as to fake a tombstone and place it strategically, along his favorite walk. A local vicar picked a tomb with an unreadable inscription, and told anyone who cared to ask that this was, in fact, Dracula's own.

As devotees of the Dracula Dossier will know, Whitby is a potential location in the campaign. Really, it had to be; a Dracula-centric story that ignored Whitby would be impossible. The protagonists can try to track down Dracula's resting place, which as scholars of the novel will know is suicide George Canon's grave. However since there's more than one possibility, including at least two fakes, finding it may not be a simple task. In the Dossier, Archaeology is the operative ability, but it might be interesting to throw in something more unusual.

Asking the tour guides probably isn't the best way to go, since few of them are as interested in accuracy as they are in prompt payment. However asking around the local pubs - Streetwise, Oral History, possibly Cop Talk under the right circumstances - leads the protagonists to Melania, a woman who came for the Goth festival four years ago, and never left.

NAME: Melania, aka Janet Proctor
ROLE: vampire expert, possible Renfield
DESCRIPTION: late 30s early 40s, heavy makeup, cyber/futurist dress sense with lots of brass and goggles, heavy rings (-1 damage)

INNOCENT: Melania's an IT guru, and during the day she freelances for local business in Whitby, helping them with their IT problems and fixing or designing their websites. When out and about on business she abandons the Goth look, though she still wears what could best be described as Romantic Business attire. She came to Whitby years ago for the Goth Festival, and fell in love with the place. She was already a devotee of all things Dracula and vampire-related, and the lure of being able to live in the most famous vampire landmark town was too much to resist. She attends the Festival religiously every year, and helps run it. An amateur artist, she usually has a trader's stall during the Festival.

There is very little she doesn't know about Dracula, or Stoker. She hasn't got the free time to organize a walking tour of her own, but she advises those who do. She's also a collector, and may have in her possession a minor item or a fake, but probably not a major item. Likely candidates include a Cameo, Spirit Board, or Vampire Hunting Kit. Her most prized possession is a second edition of Stoker's classic; if she finds out that the characters have the first edition, she'll do pretty much anything to get it.

ASSET: Edom placed her in Whitby as a lamplighter, to keep a watchful eye out for anyone who might come following the Edom trail. Her role isn't to interfere, but to misdirect, and to alert higher authority. One word from her, and a pair of Jacks will make their unobtrusive way to Whitby to deal with the problem. If there is a dead drop at Dracula's grave, Melania's the one who planted it.

MINION: Dracula remembers his time in Whitby all too well, and his memories are not fond ones. He put Melania here some time ago, to check on Edom assets within Whitby, and to determine if his old enemies are preparing anything significant here. So far, Melania's reports have been reassuringly undramatic, but Dracula's still deeply suspicious of the place. In this incarnation, Melania may be a Renfield, given unholy powers by her vampiric masters. This version may have more potent items than mere fakes or minor artifacts; Renfield's Journal, say, or a genuine Spirit Board. This Melania loathes Goths and the whole subculture, and would love nothing better than to switch back to severe business attire, Canary Wharf style, but when in deep cover in Rome, you do as the Romans do.

INVESTIGATIVE ABILITIES: History, Flirting, Electronic Surveillance, Data Recovery, Notice, Traffic Analysis

GENERAL ABILITIES: Cover, Digital Intrusion, Hand to Hand, Surveillance

ALERTNESS MODIFIER: +0 or as Renfield

STEALTH MODIFIER:    +0 or as Renfield

That same Guardian article also claims that Stoker went to Whitby because his patron, Henry Irving, once operated a circus there. It's the first I've heard of it, and I have to wonder if the writer wasn't making that bit up. Irving would have been running the Lyceum from 1878 onwards, in partnership with Ellen Terry. If he had the time to dash down to Whitby to play circus ringmaster, he wouldn't have needed a Stoker to be his business manager. He did spend much of his very early career with stock companies all over the north of England and Scotland, so perhaps that's where the story comes from. That would have been in the 1850s and 60s, when Irving was a very young man. He would have gone to London by the middle 60s, and from that point on he'd have spent most of his time there.

But say for a moment that Irving did go to Whitby as a member of a stock company. He might easily have interacted with Dr Merryweather as he was building his Earthquake Device, or done business with the early incarnation of Billington and Sons; probably just Billington, at that point. His ghost is supposed to haunt the Garrick Club, but if there was a compelling reason for his spirit to return to Whitby - perhaps he did encounter something there that he told Stoker about, inspiring the Irishman to follow in his hero's footsteps - then he might be seen there, particularly if the suicide's grave is disturbed. The theatre he performed in could still stand; Whitby's practically overrun with relics of the past, so one theatre more or less wouldn't make much odds. Suppose for a moment that this same theatre decides, perhaps as part of the run-up to a Dracula anniversary or as some festival, to perform Dracula. Perhaps his lead actor will be possessed by a very familiar spirit; Irving never played the Count in life, but Stoker was very keen on seeing him try. This could be Irving's last chance to play the role of a lifetime!

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