If you were to ask as to the what industry Agatha the librarian’s very prestigious family were stewards of, most people would correctly answer banking and trading. There would only be a small number, almost too small to even be worth mentioning would who answer Black Magic. Both would in fact be correct.
Agath’s family had been bankers in New Albion for generations. Akers Finance was of the great Banking firms of the city. They were always in close competition with M&S Banking owned and run by another prestigious family, Millhouse Seths.
The banking industry in Albion can be viscious. Each family was always trying to guess what the other was doing, find the best investments first, or sweep the carpet out from under the other. This started innocuously enough as good old fashion business rivalry, but over generations the rivalry had grown into all out epic.
It had started escalating when the families had started hiring spies. The spies led the hiring even deeper spies who would not just infiltrate the business but attempt to marry into the family or least date daughters and sons. A bunch of the money used by Beltane Undustries to fund Project Doolittle, the talking animals experiment, had been providing by M&S. A dog who could secretly understand language and talk would be a super spy extrodinare.
But spies were only tips of the iceberg. After some time, willing to try anything, the familes started exploring alternative methods of out predicting the other. The first generation to use psychics and clairovoyants to give them an edge were thought to be flat out insane and an embarassment to the family name, but this sort of thing soon became par for course. In fact, supernatural methods worked well enough that soon each family had a branch dedicated to witchcraft. It made sense. Each generation produced individuals with different strengths. While normally most sons and daughters would be good at finance, trade and the market, there were always a couple artsy and therefore useless types. They would be sent to learn witchcraft.
Witchcraft led to ceremonial magic and soon, based on the types of results the familes needed, they decided to stop putzing about with this namby pamby crap and became immersed in full out black magic. As their underground war escalated and families needed to constantly keep up with and best the other, from market predictions to investment strategies to casting and defending from hexes and demonic assaults, they would employ the best and brightest New Albion and other city states had to offer. This included some of the darkest magicians and rituals ever devised by either man or demon.
Both banking families heavily invested in trading companies who brought all manners of imports into New Albion. The Akers had scored a major coup by cornering the tea market and all ships sailing in with shipments of teas and herbs were protected by a complex array of glyphs and sigils. M&P scored big by backing the trading company responsible for silk, and thus on and on it went.
Agatha’s grandfather, Augustus had been at helm of Akers Banking his entire adult life and was one of the stronger stewards of the family business. His son, Agatha’s father, worked closely with him and was a solid CEO in his own right, but a life time of trying to live up to his father’s shadow and gain some type of approval, which was very, very difficult to do, had made him a bit obsessive, and while being a workaholic he had a secret opium habit he kept in very careful check.
There were in New Albion a number of major executives and power players who used opium to take the edge off their immensely stressful and hard working lives and most were part of an underground club who catered to them. The club provided an expensive but mysterious atmosphere, fine cigars, top notch brandy, opium and should you desire it, a discreet partner of whatever gender you required. Agatha’s father had two particular friends at this club: an executive of one of the top trading companies and a dark magus who was a bored dandy from a long line of money who tried desperately to be a poet but whose genius at creating and working spells and ceremonies gave him a claim to fame and feared notoriety.
It was the three of them who had come up with a plan to attack M&S. One of the trader’s ships had returned from an exotic port with a very strange relic which the magus had recognized contained a very ancient, wild and powerful energy of a nature never before seen in New Albion magic circles. This could be a game changer. They would use it to strike a major blow against M&S Finance.
Each family had a basement with a black and red pentagram room were they concocted a lot of their family rituals, but this extraordinary curse would require proximity to the curse. Access to their sworn enemies Manor was difficult and so they plan had been underpreparation for some time.
However, it must be noted, although acess was difficult, it was not as impossible as one might think. The reason for this also ties in to th same reason the curse went awry. Let’s start with why the curse went awry.
They curse would affect everyone within a series of rooms. The three men were stationed secretly in a servants hallway behind the rooms. Their view of the inside of the rooms was limited, so they knew some of the most important people they needed to do away with were present, but not necessarily everyone present. If, say, Augustus’ wife was there with his daughter but off to the side, they might be missed.
We realize we may be completely trying the attention of our audience if at this point we take a detour and suddenly bring up Romeo and Juliet but it makes explanation easier and will explain why access to the house is not impossible. Romeo and Juliet, the story of two young lovers, who despite their family’s feud and rivalry yet find passionate adolescent love.
This sort of thing is not rare. Actually, it happens all the time. It happens like clockwork with the Akers and the Millhouse Seths.
Despite their family’s endless feuding, children of the two families get the hots for each other all the time. Forbidden love, the unallowed passion… its a garaunteed recipe for sexual attraction. The elders let it happen because they know that the torrid affair almost always ends very badly. Once they rut themselves into boredom it usually ends nastily and the jilted lover will become even more passionate in their taking up the family war.
There are occasional problems. The unexpected baby for instance. Agatha was that unexpected baby. Augustus’ wife had an affair with a Millhouse Seth which unknown to Augustus produced what he thought was his daughter. Augustus’ wife, as a kindess, would twice a year secretly go over to the real father’s place to show him his daughter.
Because of the all the secret copulating, some members of the other families did know secret ways into their rival’s house. Just to wrap that little mystery up. In any case, Augustus cast the curse, the artifact was juicing up for the big boom, and as the three men were exiting he saw his wife and child in his rival’s room and instantly understood what was going on.
So why did he go back, grab the artifact, throw it down into the basement in which they had come, where his two conspirators had already fled to and then throw himself down and on top of the evil thing? He insured his own destruction. Didn’t he realize the little girl, Agatha was not his? Didn’t he realize his wife had been unfaithful? Didn’t he realize he was doomng himself and his two companions?
The answer is simple: Yes, he realized it all. He realized the girl was not his real daughter. He didn’t care. He loved her to death and back. And he loved his wife. And he was absolutely unable to let his family be harmed so he did the only thing he could think of to do in the circumstance: he took the curse for them.
As for his two companions, they were opium buddies. Given a choice between them and his girls, well, they got screwed.
And that’s how the three of them ending up as shadow wraiths who roam the fog of New Albion never able to live outside the fog and never able to die. They possess immense power. Immense. They’re dumb as doorknobs but they’re powerful as hellfire. Why would you cast a curse on an enemy that makes them powerful as hellfire? Well, you wouldn’t, but that magus was an idiot who didn’t actually fully understand the artifact. Also, by dying in a room where a high emotion was present, namely Augustus’ desire to sacrifice himself for his daughter, this last emotion permeates their undead life. They are thus not only extremely powerful, they are extremely dedicated to and protective of Agatha. She has to worry about getting annoyed with the baker if he rips her off because the damn wraiths, one of which is her father, are likely to pull his entrails out.