Rowan Leicester

Ravnos fortune teller



Rowan is a handsome young man who appears to be in his mid-twenties, tall and slim but healthy-looking. He has dark brown hair, gray eyes, and wears glasses. Born of good English stock, he looks a right caviler gentleman, clean shaven with well-groomed hair and nails. His clothes are well worn, but clearly of high quality and sensibility


From the journal of Rowan L.W.C. Leicester:

On my twenty-fifth birthday I arose with a groan and a piercing weight upon my brow as I begrudgingly greeted the damnable sun. My father, the honorable Viscount of Leicester, had never seen fit to really celebrate my birthday and I harbored no illusions that it would be any different this day.

Why bother? Father was more concerned with grooming my dear eldest brother, Kent, to inherit the family estate and title. Meanwhile, Duddleswell, who always was one to prove himself better than his older brother, had since gone off to win military glory and the vaunted title of “Captain.” I do not doubt he contributed immensely in Sudan. I simply didn’t agree with his participation in yet another of the godforsaken wars in which my beloved England seemed incapable of not being involved.

By contrast, my brother Allerdale was patient and kind. He would smile and endure my little jests, choosing to give me a gentle lecture, far preferable to the open disdain or violent retaliation of my other brothers. Several years prior, ever pious Allerdale had been assigned to act as vicar of some remote desolate hamlet up north. Though I cared for him, I could not help but feel slighted that father and mother would celebrate his birthday in spite of his absence. Perhaps it was in spite of me?

Life on the Leicester estate was tedious, at best. I was comfortable and did not have any meaningful responsibilities to speak of. Father seemed completely disinterested in me, and it was uncommon to encounter my Mother outside of dinner. However, my eldest brothers rarely let me have a moment’s peace. They constantly roped me into their games as the punching bag or the butt of the joke. Father would always tell me to just endure their torment. “Don’t make a fuss,” he would say. “It will go away on its own eventually.”

Kent spared no opportunity to remind me what a burden I was, and that I would certainly be in for a rude awakening when he assumes the estate, and so on, and so forth. Father paid me no mind and mother was not much better. At least the help made sure I was fed and watered. But then, even the livestock could expect that much.

I spent much of my time reciprocating my family’s avoidance. The only real joy I had come when my uncle Albert would come to visit. Well, we called him Uncle Albert, but apparently, he was a second or third cousin removed some number of times. I had never really bothered with the genealogy. As like as not I would be judiciously pruned from any family trees.

He first arrived shortly after the passing of our grandmother in the autumn of my sixth year. I had never understood why grandmother seemed to completely and utterly hate me. The pranks were mostly harmless, yet she would brandish her silver cross and force me through recitations of scripture until mother chased her off. Beatings were not uncommon, but thankfully she was frail. However, the image of that cross and her hate-filled eyes would fill my nightmares. She fell down the stairs and broke her neck one evening after my bath. Everyone was baffled as to what made her slip. Needless to say, the sense of relief at her passing was made all the better at the sudden inclusion of Uncle Albert in my life.

Uncle Albert was charming and bore the family good looks. More so than any of my brothers, I should dare say. He would only come two or three times a year if I were lucky. He would invariably arrive shortly after sundown, saying that his work as a solicitor had brought him to the neighborhood. He would entertain the family in the parlor with acts of magick and feats of prestidigitation that never failed to captivate.

It was always a wonder that he should have taken such an interest in me. However, without fail, Uncle Albert would awaken me in the hours before dawn to teach me card games and some of the parlor tricks he thought I could handle. He also revealed to me a knack for soothing the local fauna. He even convinced a stag to come right to my bedroom window! I never questioned the strange hours. I was simply grateful for someone who would show interest in me, not to mention something more interesting to do.

Whenever I wasn’t under the critical eyes of my brothers, I would practice constantly in the hopes of impressing Uncle Albert upon his next unannounced visit. That his visits became fewer and further between as time went by deeply saddened me. Yet I coped with his absence by redoubling my efforts to master what he taught me. The tricks certainly came in handy as I grew towards adulthood.

I attending countless dances and parties in an effort to pass the empty time. I became a very well-known socialite, but nothing ever came of it. While there were plenty of opportunities for the odd frolic with the local ladies, at no point did I ever consider pursuit. Nobody is interested in the 4th son of a minor noble with no prospects. Besides, it would be foolish to attempt to settle down with no hopes of inheritance, not to mention I couldn’t be bothered with that sort of responsibility. When there were no parties or distractions to be had, I could be found in the woods of the estate communing with nature, as it were. Anything to avoid my family and pass the time until my uncle’s next visit.

Imagine my surprise when, after more than a year of absence, Uncle Albert finally arrived once more! On my birthday, no less! The family seemed less than impressed when he wished me a happy birthday and dedicated his performance to me! Though their mask did slip when he seemed to conjure a beautiful raven from thin air.

That night I paced my chambers impatiently, knowing he would visit. I did not need to wait long as he visited my chamber just past eleven o’clock. I began excitedly talking about how far I had come with the coin trick he had taught me over two summers thenceforth when he hushed me. I immediately fell silent.

“I must needs to speak to you on a matter of grave import,” he said. “I have spoken to your father and he has unsurprisingly elected to keep you wholly ignorant. Nevertheless, are you familiar with the Leicester family treasure?” Nervous of the unexpected gravity of the visit, I could do naught but shake my head stupidly.

“The Clasp of Galahad,” he continued “passed into the hands of the Leicesters some 800 years ago. The Clasp belonged to the selfsame Galahad of the Knights of the Round. The Leicester family remained the custodians of the relic and slowly began to rise to prominence in the region through the 1500s, establishing our legacy and titles in the land that bears our name. So auspicious were the Leicesters that some began to believe the Clasp to be imbued with the magicks of eld.”

The mention of the legendary knights reminded me of the Tennyson I read when I was younger. I excitedly moved to speak, but Uncle gently raised his hand to stop me. “Regardless of whether the tales are true, the relic drew the attention of thieves and was stolen in 1569. The fourth son of the Lord Leicester at the time, weary of his lot as the youngest in a family of established older siblings, decided to make a name for himself and set out to recover the relic. Alas, he never returned. The man and aught anyone knew of him were lost to history.”

“Following the loss of the relic, the Leicester hold on the region began to wane. However, in light of the man’s failure, his deeds served to establish a tradition within the Leicester family. The fourth son, when such a child should exist, will be tasked with the glorious purpose of setting forth to seek and reclaim the Clasp so that the Leicesters may once more rise to prominence within the region.”

He paused. “I, too, am a fourth son of Leicester and set forth many years ago to search for the Clasp. As a fourth son of Leicester, you too are called upon take up the search. This will mean travel and adventure and an escape from the tedious emptiness of your current life.”

My mind began to reel. Could it be possible? Was I going to have a chance to escape this boring, aimless life? And I would get to possibly travel the world with Uncle Albert? It seemed too good to be true, but I honestly didn’t care.

Uncle Albert looked me solemnly in the eyes. “Are you willing to accept your birthright?”
“Ah! Of, of course! Absolutely!!” I stammered out breathlessly.

He smirked. “Good.”

As his teeth sunk into my throat, he disappeared slowly before my eyes. I was too shocked to comprehend how he could be in two places at once.

“Your birthright is also, so to speak, a birth rite;” I heard him say through the haze as it slowly dawned on me what was happening. “A ritual of death and rebirth. An ascension to a being far greater than the lowly fourth son of some minor, mortal noble.”

Some several days later, I had started to adjust to my new un-life. My uncle, who had insisted that he henceforth be called simply “Albert,” had brought me to an encampment of Travellers. We drifted through the countryside with their caravan, taking me far away from my home of Leicester. At the close of my first successful solo hunt, Albert stepped from his shadowy hiding place with a relieved smile and grasped me by the shoulder.

“My childe,” he began. “it is time I told you the remainder of the tale of the fourth sons of Leister.” I obediently sat upon the ground to listen.

“I have already told you of man who set out to recover the Clasp and never returned. In 1666, some hundred years after his disappearance, the Leicester family found itself burdened by a fourth son for the first time in generations. Having heard the stories of our mutual ancestor, Phillip Leicester grew tired of his lot and embraced the tradition of the fourth son. He struck out to seek the relic and found himself falling in with a band of Travellers, much like we have. Seeing his determination and penchant for trickery, the Ravnos elected to bring him into the Clan.

“Phillip continued his search for the Clasp with his newfound power until 1757 when word reached him that the lady of Leicester was with child for the fourth time once more. Upon the child’s birth, Phillip began vigilantly watching over the child from afar. Upon his 25th birthday, Phillip decided to take the tradition into his own hands and Embraced poor Albert without so much as a hint as to why.”

He paused for effect. A wry grin worked its way onto his face as the realization crossed mine.

“Your grandsire? Was awful. Once I had been Embraced, Phillip cast me forth with vague instructions. His duty handed off, he retired to who knows where. Rumor is the fool crossed a Sheriff during his travels to Italy and they left him to bake in the sunlight.” I winced at the suggestion.

“I vowed to do better by my childe. In 1837, your father William was born to Reginald and Mary Margaret Leicester. In 1846, I received word that Mary Margaret was expecting her fourth son. Resolved to carry on the tradition and determined to be a part of his life before making him my childe, I called upon the current lord and lady Leicester in an attempt to subtly explain the fate of the newborn. Alas, I must have revealed too much. Whether it be due to her religious convictions or simply because she was not of sound mind so soon after a terrible and exhausting labor, that awful righteous woman decided that rather let her child someday bear the Mark of Cain, she would instead smother the babe in his cradle.
“I was distraught and furious. I nearly killed your grandfather and grandmother then and there. Instead, I informed Reginald that he would see to it that his eldest fathered four sons. I took great pains to arrange for your father to encounter and fall desperately in love with the ‘princess’ of a minor principality in Eastern Europe that for some reason nobody seems to be able to find on a map. In truth, the girl was a Romani from a family who had served the Ravnos for generations. It never ceases to amaze me how much mortals will give up for the promise of wealth and safety. All she needed to do was bear four sons.

Fortunately, Reginald passed in the spring of 1864, five years before your birth. Mary Margaret was a different matter. I came to you on the day of your birth, and placed upon you a mark of protection. I had thought to steal you away to ensure you reached your 25th birthday safely, but Mary Margaret had other plans.

He rolled up his sleeve to reveal a small cross-shaped scar just above the elbow. I had been on the business end of Grandmother’s cross enough times to understand all too well.

“I met with your mother to… inform her of her new duty to ensure you reach your 25th birthday. Once that damnable woman finally passed, I made sure to come to you, and the rest you already know.”

In that moment I remember feeling like, for the first time, I was truly important. We returned home and I processed this information through a long and sleepless day.

It was in the spring of 1909 that I had traveled to the New World with my sire’s blessing. Albert had furnished me with a fresh deck of cards, a set of dice carved from what was almost certainly human bone, and a letter of introduction to join up with another band of travelers – a performing troupe known as Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival.

I spent some time searching for the troupe and the relic and traveling on my own. The knowledge I had acquired under Albert’s tutelage certainly proved useful. Mortals are quick to believe what they can see, and one could readily suggest that a pair of twos looks like a full house to a drunkard eager for a win. All I needed to do was let them win just enough to keep them interested and before they knew what happened, they found themselves tricked out of their money. I admit I empathized with the poor sods. Winning was addictive.

Countless hours were whiled away upon the riverboat casinos on the Mississippi River. Everyone was there for one illicit activity or another, so it was rare to question the hours I kept. One could get used to this lifestyle, and I found myself less and less inclined to keep up my search. Upon disembarking in New Orleans following a particularly fruitful journey, I at last happened upon the Carnival. In truth, it was as if the Carnival had happened upon me. A man with no limbs to speak of, yet who demonstrated a remarkable level of agility in spite of this fact, led me to {the Ravnos in charge} and I was installed as a magician specializing in card tricks and sleight of hand.

My friendly face, paired with the good fortune that the curse barely dimmed the color of my complexion, made visitors all the more willing to visit my performances. Deceiving an audience was by far simpler at the Carnival because, simply put, the audience came to be deceived. There was no shortage of satisfied customers eager for a private show, which certainly made the Hunt far more convenient.

The troupe welcomed me warmly. Some of the family seemed to enjoy gambling as much as I did and were happy to indulge me in a hand or two. Even with all my tricks, I tasted defeat as often as victory and found it to be oddly just as intoxicating. There was a certain thrill in losing and pressing on in the hopes of overcoming the odds. My compatriots taught me rely less on illusion, saying that holding back would make the trick all the more effective when it was finally deployed.

I traveled with the Carnival for several years, occasionally setting out on my own to explore a new area. Not to escape, as I had in my youth, but because I found I enjoyed the odd ramble in the wilderness. As a bonus I could perhaps take a peek around for the relic while I was at it. I felt like I owed Albert that much. I never put in too much effort, but then, he never seemed to either. After all, there was all the time in the world.

We must have crossed the country several times, visiting all manner of places. From small villages to bustling metropolis, the Carnival never failed to draw a crowd.

And so my unlife went. Travelling from place to place, rising each night with excitement as I glanced out the window of my caravan to greet the beautiful moon.

Rowan Leicester

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