Many years ago I portrayed a character named Dr. Edgar Northrup in a local Vampire: the Masquerade game, trying to build on the themes of mystery, loss, and conflict within the setting. I’ve previously posted a flash fiction concerning a defining moment in his (un)life, and wanted to take this opportunity to revisit the courteous and tormented gentleman’s concept and motivations.
Sociable and charming as a boy, he dropped out of school early to become a grifter and con-man’s accomplice in the early nineteenth century, taking advantage of individuals all over New England. Depending on the audience he’d later explain that his sudden move to New Orleans after his twentieth birthday was either him hiding out from lawmen in the North or deciding to spend his outrageous fortune in the lap of luxury. Likely it was more the former than the latter, but Edgar never seemed to want for attention or high-living; he surrounded himself with expensive tastes of all varieties, always chasing instant gratification over long-term stability.
Unfortunately the fast times and hard living were brought to an abrupt halt with a debilitating cough that seemed to get worse by the month. The doctors determined he had a terminal case of chronic pneumonia, one that would continue to worsen so long as he stayed in humid climates, and would ultimately end his life. He could hope to get a few more years of good living if he moved to the high desert, but the disease was a death sentence. Not one for the idea of living out his final days in a hospital bed, he and his latest fling packed up their meager belongings—most of Edgar’s fine trappings were veneer rather than substance—and headed to the unconquered West.
Edgar made something of a name for himself with his cavalier and carefree attitude—with mortality looming overhead, he felt it only fair that he take every opportunity to life his remaining days to the fullest. He played fast and loose with cards, booze, and women, often leaving town mere minutes before local toughs kicked down his door. He tried to drown the hidden sorrow in his heart with adrenaline and daring-do, and maybe was even successful, for a time. He enjoyed the remainder of his mortal years moving from one hare-brained scheme to another, a smile always on his face.
A cracked rib from a small “barroom misunderstanding” in a nameless frontier town saw Edgar confined to a hospital bed; the injury exacerbated his already failing lungs, and he cursed that his life would come to such an fetid and lackluster end. His sweet Caroline stayed by his side for as long as she could, but even she had to retire after a week of watching her beloved grow ashen and waxy.
With few friends to call his own, he was surprised to see a strange English gentleman appear at the foot of his bed, not long after Caroline left. Edgar had seen the man around in various towns, touring as they both seemed to be from settlement to settlement. “For lack of company am I now hallucinating ghosts to be with me at the end?” the dying man coughed painfully.
“Do you want this to be the end?” the man asked, pulling at the sleeves of his fine coat. “It seems rather boring for a man with your zest for the times.”
“Spare me your cure-alls and tonics,” Edgar waved him off. “I too have peddled magic potions and know none will save me. Besides,” he laughed, wiping blood off his lips, “I don’t have any money to buy a salve in the first place.”
With nothing to lose and eternity to gain, Edgar at long last accepted the stranger’s offer of immortality. The reason for his embrace was simple; his sire was too old to adapt to the changing pace of society and technology, and needed trusted progeny of the era to both educate him and look after his affairs in the New World. Getting to play with someone else’s money and spin stories about the life he had lived? Edgar wouldn’t have been able to turn him down if there had been a gun to his head.
His new life giving strength to his ailing lungs, Edgar reconnected with Caroline. While his former years may have been filled with excess, his new lease gave him an even greater hunger for all the pleasures life had to offer. His sire sent him this way and that, tending to affairs and gathering news from around the developing West, which suited the couple just fine. Edgar came to learn that the lawless wilderness was a stark contrast to the formal vampiric courts of the old world, and while his sire taught him the old—proper—ways, he gave the youth leave to enjoy the freedom, knowing it would not last.
It was around this time the events of A Five-Year Footchase took place, which ripped Edgar’s beloved Caroline from his life, and set into motion a terrible hunt which, unbeknownst to him, would consume the rest of his days.
To be continued with the rest of Edgar’s backstory…
Header image created in 1885 by Currier and Ives, a hand-drawn panorama of New Orleans. Blue water tint later added digitally.