Author’s Note: Most of you know I’m a gamer. In 1995, 1996, and 2000, I designed, wrote, and ran the Vampire: The Masquerade live action role-playing events at the gaming convention Origins. I did not do this single-handedly (long-time friend Jason B. Crutchfield wrote a number of characters for the 2000 game) but I wrote the lion’s share of the story and character histories for each of the 150-200 characters provided to players at these games. And in typical me fashion, I didn’t skimp on these stories. Most of the character histories were short stories in their own right. These character histories constitute a massive body of work that really only holds any relevance within the context of the game. But some of the characters are fun to pull out and revisit again, like the Toreador Dean Marshal Callahan.
Dean Marshall Callahan: Clan Toreador
Dean’s mother worked as a saloon girl in their little Missouri town. By night, she also did some horizontal business out of her one-room apartment located above the aforementioned saloon. That’s how Dean came into the world. There were a number of men who might have been Dean’s father, but the most likely candidate was the town’s sheriff, due to Dean’s striking resemblance to the man. While Dean took after his father in appearance, he inherited his moral values from his mom. He pretty much grew up in the saloon, and from age twelve onward he was gambling, smoking, and flirting with the other girls. He made pretty good money at cards, supplementing his mother’s income when business was slow. He also had a knack for playing the piano, and this served him for a legitimate job. Around the age of fifteen, he had saved himself a good chunk of cash and, feeling a little restless in the soul, took off down the Mississippi on a riverboat.
Dean was a rambler. There was no doubt about it. But he had the kind of talents that suited that sort of life well. He always made his way in the world, whether by playing cards or setting down at the piano and entertaining folks with his tunes and his beautiful voice. His natural charm and charisma got him a long way, and even when he got caught cheating at cards, his easy smile and eloquent words could usually get him through without a fight. Dean spent many years traveling up and down the Mississippi, stopping at a town now and again, but mostly always keeping on the move.
Only the outbreak of the Civil War convinced Dean that it was time to lay low and maybe settle for a while. Around that time, he was in the Carolinas. Even he wasn’t sure quite how he’d got there. He ended up in Charlotte and established himself at one of the local watering holes, playing the piano and playing a few hands of cards when the money ran low.
It was here that Dean met Gerald Langtree. Gerald was a southern gent if Dean had ever seen one. He had fine cut clothes, elegant but never flashy. He was always polite and courteous, and was especially deft with the ladies. Gerald started being a regular customer at Dean’s little hideaway, always coming in after dark had settled on the town and staying nearly all night long, listening to Dean play and sometimes indulging in a game of cards.
Now, Dean’s gambler’s instincts told him there was something up with Gerald. It wasn’t a bad impression – just that the man had a secret. And this secret was something that intensely fascinated Dean. And so in their many conversations together, Dean tried dragging this secret thing out of Gerald, always probing gently into Gerald’s past and asking leading questions. Gerald opened up to Dean like a flower, telling him about his family home in the Carolinas and all the long-gone days when Gerald had nothing more pressing to do with himself than paint and study his art. He told Dean how the estate was burned down in a slave revolt and looted by Yankees, of the harrowing escape Gerald had to make by night taking only the clothes on his back and what money he could shove in his pockets. Gerald lamented the loss of his family home, but what seemed most important to him was all the artwork that had been burned. He said the art hadn’t been very good – second-rate at best, but at least it showed him how he’d progressed over the years and how far he’d actually come.
Dean developed a real liking for Gerald. And despite all the wild adventures Gerald recounted to him, Dean felt like he still hadn’t managed to get at the heart of Gerald’s fascinating secret. Then one night, Gerald approached Dean at the saloon and asked if he’d come with him to one of the back rooms for a private discussion. Dean had never seen Gerald so serious in all his life, but underneath that seriousness was a private kind of joy. Intrigued, and guessing rightly that he was soon going to learn the secret he’d been digging for all these long nights, Dean left his spot at the piano and followed Gerald back.
That night was a night of revelations and wonder for Dean Marshall Callahan. In that back room, Gerald explained to Dean that he was an immortal, a Toreador vampire to be exact. He asked Dean if he’d want to join him in that way of life, and maybe travel the country together, enjoying the night. Dean couldn’t see anything wrong with Gerald’s offer – and the thought never crossed his mind once that Gerald was bluffing, because a hard-core gambler like Dean knew a bluff when he saw one.
It didn’t take a whole lot of thought on Dean’s part to say yes. Gerald warned Dean that he wasn’t the only vampire out there. There was a whole society of them as well, and that society had all manner of rules. Gerald was going to be breaking one of those rules by embracing Dean, as he didn’t have his elders’ permission to do so. So he and Dean would have to leave Charlotte, even though the war was still going strong, and lay low for a while
The two traveled West, dodging soldiers as they went. They saw some serious brutality during the few skirmishes they bypassed, and it left a mark on the both of them. Although both men were capable of taking care of themselves in a fist fight, an all-out war was another matter entirely. It seemed like the wisest thing for them to do was to leave the fighting to the fighting men, and pass their own nights quietly in socializing and playing cards, waiting for the big fight to get settled. They got back on the riverboats that had been Dean’s traveling home for so many years, and tried to pretend the war and all the concerns it brought with it did not exist.
Around about the 1940s, Gerald got word that his own sire was in the city of Columbus, Ohio. Now, Gerald’s sire had been passing through the Carolinas, and he gave Gerald the embrace and moved on. While he spent some time with Gerald, explaining the ins and outs of vampire culture, Gerald never really got a chance to know the man who had brought him into such a wonderful and dangerous life. Gerald and Dean were getting tired of rambling across the country, and so Columbus seemed as good a place as any to settle. The fact that Gerald’s sire, George Bellows, was the primogen of clan Toreador in Columbus only made the deal even sweeter.
Gerald and Dean have called the city their home since that time. Although Dean’s rambling spirit has been nagging him to move onward to new horizons for the past couple of years, Gerald is the sort of man who puts down roots once he likes a place. The desire to move and see more of the world is about the only thing that Dean and Gerald don’t agree upon. Otherwise, they’re a tightly knit pair, each involved in similar aspects of the city, each helping the other out in issues of status, reputation, and clan politics.
Dean holds Gerald in high regards, practically idolizing him. He suspects that Gerald feels that Dean is a better Toreador than himself, mainly because he’s always talking about Dean’s natural talent and artistic passion, in contrast to what Gerald considers to be his own lack of talent and vision. Dean’s been in the argument with Gerald before for many, many years – he thinks Gerald is selling himself short as far as talent goes, and tries to remind his sire of this whenever he can (without sounding like a broken record, that is.) Dean seriously respects Gerald. He’s the father Dean never had, in addition to being Dean’s best friend in all the world. Gerald’s about the only person the cunning Dean trusts, and the two have had to watch one another’s back in more than one life-or-death situation in the past.