Prince Francesca Juarez was a haunting beauty who ruled the night of the equally beautiful city of San Francisco. She was respected and feared, as any worthy Prince should be; but unlike most Kindred sovereigns, many vampires of the city revered and adored Francesca. One might even say that they loved her. She ascended gracefully to the Princedom in 1870, and ruled in that same manner for the next seven decades. She fostered the growth and elegance that made San Francisco the “Paris of America.” As the city grew so too did the cities around the bay. San Jose and Oakland were supporting kindred populations of their own and it did not take long for two ambitious kindred to proclaim Praxis of these cities. There was an uneasy peace that existed between the three courts. They looked upon their neighbors and coveted the others growing power. Though the bay had three cities they were slowly growing into each other. It was only a matter of time before ambition would bring the three courts into conflict.
It all started in 1906. Flames swept across San Francisco resulting in the largest Maritime Rescue in United States history. America’s crowning jewel on the West Coast burned. Prince Juarez and her court fled the flaming city while the other two Princes fought each other for supremacy over the bay. Many theorized that the fire that nearly consumed all of San Francisco was the work of the Ventrue Prince of Oakland, Salvador Garcia. It wasn’t until years later that evidence would actually point to the Nosferatu Prince of San Jose, Ruthiford Styx. It was a ploy to remove Prince Juarez from the party leaving the fight for control of the bay between Garcia and Styx. Or so they thought.
While Garcia and Styx waged a covert “War of Phantoms” upon each other, the flames of San Francisco were extinguished. As the two slowly depleted the resources of their domains, Prince Juarez returned to her city in embers and began rebuilding. By the time Garcia and Styx realized they were getting nowhere with their war for supremacy, San Francisco was once again a functioning city and Prince Juarez was firmly in control.
For several decades the three domains engaged in a cold war as the Princes licked their wounds and rebuilt their power bases. Prince Juarez put her focus on recapturing the beauty that was lost in the fire. As the years passed it became increasingly apparent that the cities by the bay were merging with a strong interdependence. However, by the onset of World War II the cold war between the kindred was about to escalate.
Prince Garcia provided Francesca proof that the Nosferatu Prince of San Jose was responsible for the fire that decimated her city thirty years earlier. He had not gotten the response he hoped for as she gracefully accepted his proof and retreated back to her own city. Prince Juarez remained quiet. Then on a short summer night in 1940 kindred troops from San Francisco and San Jose entered the gathering of Prince Salvador Garcia and destroyed the officers of his Court. Prince Ruthiford Styx and Prince Francesca Juarez entered when Garcia was captured. That night it became apparent that Prince Styx had long been enthralled by Francesca and this night the only person standing in her way of claiming the entirety of the bay was Prince Garcia.
In a grand blood soaked hall that was once an Elysium Prince Garcia begged and pleaded for his meager existence. He swore fealty to Prince Juarez who thanked his proclaimed devotion by having her minions remove his head. She placed Garcia’s child, Roberto Chavez, as her regent over Oakland. On this single evening, among the carnage of Garcia’s court, Prince Francesca Juarez became “Prince of the Bay” and the three cities became one in the society of Night. This event would later become known as “The Night of the Red Dance.”
Prince Juarez’s problems continued despite her great victory. The Second World War raged in Europe and was spilling into the Pacific. Her personal power base took a hit when America began turning its money and attentions into the machinery of war rather than the arts. Her Regent, Roberto Chavez, took advantage of his leader’s momentary weakness and used this opportunity to strike. Francesca relied heavily upon her Kindred allies for support during this upstart’s insurgency. She escaped several assassination attempts and was finding it difficult to muster the assets needed to properly lay down the usurper and his followers. She made many bargains and deals with members of the Primogen and Covenant leaders and was finally able to retain the resources and manpower necessary to ferret out her cunning attackers.
One night in 1945 Juarez implemented a plan that would forever impact the minds and hearts of the Kindred on the Bay. Using vast mortal influences she was able to discover the hidden lair used by Chavez and his followers. Francesca utilized mortal agencies as her first wave of attack and led the Kindred troupes into battle herself. That night every one of Chavez’s supporters was slaughtered. Francesca took Chavez for herself and, to the horror of every Kindred and mortal present, drank his life’s blood until his soul was within her. Her fury and rage was not yet satisfied. Juarez ordered her followers to destroy the mortals who witnessed this event; but the mortal slaughter would not stop there. Dozens more, who were not present but had an inkling as to the occurrence, were put to death that very evening. The Kindred hesitantly followed her command as each shuddered at the thought of the heinous act they had been ordered to perform. It was a costly evening that became known as “The Night of Silent Screams.” Prince Juarez forbade those who took part in the slaughter to speak of it again and set them to preserving the Masquerade that had been all but shattered that evening. The body count from that single night is unknown, but it took months of cover stories and manipulation of mortal agencies to preserve the secrecy of the Kindred.
The following nights were uneasy and heavy with tension, though Prince Juarez behaved as if nothing had happened. Despite her commands, the Kindred whispered and rumors spread. Most believed the rumors a lie. “Prince Juarez was a lady and a creature of beauty and refinement; surely she would do nothing of the sort.” The Kindred of the Bay still believed their Prince someone to be loved and admired. It was widely believed that her battlefield was in conversation not in combat. But the seed of doubt was planted and events would one night bring this to blossom.
The cities had been stable for nearly twenty years by 1960 when the Kindred of the Bay had begun to notice that Prince Francesca Juarez was at times irritable and short. These were traits never before displayed. It was such a strange thing really, many thought. Then in an act, that was completely uncharacteristic of such a refined Prince, Francesca brought before her the Regent Ruthiford Styx, of San Jose, to a formal court. In front of everyone, she turned her Hounds upon him who tore his body apart in a grotesque display of brutality. Blood sprayed upon those assembled, including the Prince. Francesca rose from her throne like chair and declared that there would be no Regents to question or challenge her authority. She continued stating there would only be one court on the Bay and she was its one and only Prince. Amidst the remnants of the slaughter, Francesca elegantly closed her court and gracefully removed herself from the gathering. It was this night when the Kindred of the Bay mostly feared Prince Juarez. The rumors from nearly twenty years ago resurfaced and were now accepted as truth.
Many of her officers and some members of the Primogen were confused by her act that night, for none had heard any whispers that Regent Styx was planning a coupe. In fact he was the subject of jokes regarding his blind loyalty to Prince Juarez and was rumored to be her bound thrall. From that night on Prince Juarez was watched closely and regarded with suspicion by many of her subjects. Francesca was acutely aware of the change in sentiment towards her among the Kindred of her city, but it did little to change her course.
Several years passed and Prince Juarez continued to maintain a front of respectability. However, the rumors continued to fuel the growing fear her subjects had of their Prince. It was said that she held lavish private parties at which she would drink nearly to death no less than half a dozen unsuspecting neonates and silenced them with threats. The fear was almost tangible in the Cities by the Bay. Despite this, Francesca maintained strong loyalties with those who refused to believe such “horrible rumors.” This was enough to prevent growing concerns from turning into open revolt as no one was willing to make a quick enemy of this Prince.
As the beauty of the city grew, the beauty of the Prince diminished, as though it were her price to pay. Though her physical beauty remained in tact, it was the cruelty behind her eyes, the sharpness of her elegant words and the coldness of her demeanor that made her ugly. In public her behaviors were as dignified and elegant as they ever were. It was her private face that many feared. Even those who knew her well could not deny that she had changed, but it was easier to curry favor than risk her deadly attentions.
As the city entered the 1980’s the tales of Prince Juarez’s private behaviors grew in horrific magnitude. Several Kindred left the city, fearful that the rumors might be true. It was said, in these nights, that Francesca would set her Vinculum-besotted Hounds to round up unwilling Kindred vessels that she consumed with graceless savagery in abandoned warehouses. These rumors were even further exacerbated by the disappearance of several Kindred residents. Prince Juarez’s supporters were quick to dismiss these individuals as ones who were disenfranchised with the city and who had moved on. Others believed that they were victims of Francesca’s insatiable thirst for Kindred Vitae. Despite the stories of inhuman horror, Prince Francesca Juarez presented herself at each gathering of her court with unquestionable dignity and refined elegance, silencing her detractors and feeding the denial of her most loyal followers who refused to think the worst of their Prince. Few had time to investigate the rumors as the growing Carthian movement was unsettling the political balance of the city and factions began squabbling for the Princes favor.
In 1985 a group of Kindred planned and attempted a revolt, lead by a member of the Primogen, an elder Nosferatu and leader of the Covenant Lancea Sanctum named Samuel. He claimed he had discovered something perverse and most unholy in the Princes past. Samuel secretly rallied many kindred to his side. He was nearly successful in his attempt to unseat Francesca from the Princedom of the Bay. Samuel and his followers created a convincing diversion which successfully attained Prince Juarez’s attentions. They bypassed her security measures and marched into her haven, taking her by surprise. She killed no less than six of them in a display of brute strength before realizing that she was slowly being overwhelmed. However, the rebels had underestimated Francesca’s potency of power and she was able to make her escape despite their numbers.
For many nights Prince Juarez was no where to be found. Some believed that she fled the city; others believed she lay in wait to destroy her enemies. Samuel declared himself Prince of the Bay. That same night Prince Juarez’s Hounds disappeared and the rebels were unable to apprehend them. Over the next two months members of the rebellion turned up dead or were never seen again. Not being a complete fool, Samuel formed hunting parties to rid the city of its former Prince and her Hounds. The hunting parties met with little success bringing down only one of her lesser Hounds. On one fateful night in the heat of July, an evening that would be later known as “The Sundering of Fools,” Prince Francesca Juarez, accompanied by her Hounds, gracefully entered the usurper’s court. In a display of power, that has lead many to question her true age, she slew the usurper and with the assistance of those still loyal to her destroyed Samuel’s lieutenants. Francesca reestablished her supremacy that night and her madness was even worse than before. Her private face and her public face had converged.
The following nights consisted of the horror stories handed down from sire to fledgling. Prince Juarez called gatherings, almost nightly, where she satiated her thirst publicly and without solicitation. There was a mass exodus of Kindred from the Cities by the Bay. Some escaped to nearby cities, others were sported down and killed, and the remainder were caught and dragged back to Francesca by her supporters. Those poor souls were subjected to her powers of blood; many turned into mindless thralls and some were forced to love her. She even made some worship her as a goddess, offering themselves to her thirst like a sacrifice. Her madness was unleashed and unabated, even her staunchest supporters were filled by the terror they refused to acknowledge for nearly half a century. It was fear, power and bonds that maintained their support of Prince Juarez. It seemed there was no way they could withdraw their support without being destroyed. A few officers tried to escape but fell to Francesca’s Hounds. Visiting Kindred never left the city and those who moved to the Cities by the Bay, not knowing the condition of the court, were drained.
Time passed and the Kindred of the Cities by the Bay were prisoners to a mad degenerate Prince who seemed to have an unquenchable thirst for her subjects Vitae. Her court was only a small fraction of what it once was as Neonates and Ancilla Kindred would occasionally disappear, no doubt to Francesca’s thirst. The Prince’s supply of vitae was dwindling and she forced members of her court to embrace mortals for the single purpose of satiating her cannibalistic hunger. Her courts had become little more than perverse mockeries of old traditions.
Each year the remaining elements of the once graceful, dignified and elegant Prince faded. Rationality and logic became rare as she gave into base instincts and impulses with more frequency. Having little to loose some members of the domain continued their attempts to escape. The Hounds dispatched most of these Kindred in short order and their destruction was an object lesson to those who might try the same.
The most loyal of Prince Juarez’s court could no longer tolerate the depravity and heinous acts committed almost nightly by their once beloved Prince. Those who were not enthralled began holding secret meetings and called themselves “The Shadow Court.” They made plans to rid the city of Francesca as she was bound to bring certain ruin to them all. She no longer cared about such things as the Masquerade and it was only a matter of time before she turned on them when she decided the blood of the young was not enough. They couldn’t deny that her thirst worsened with each passing year.
They cautiously waited for several years and then the night came for them to act. The Hounds would be preoccupied with a patsy the Shadow Court set up as a potential runaway. It would take the Hounds a fair distance away from Francesca’s favorite lair, leaving her only with her beloved Angels. Lead by Francesca’s own Seneschal, Renato Cortez, the Shadow Court entered Prince Juarez’s now decrepit manor. The horror they saw when they entered and came upon her still haunts the memories of those who witnessed the atrocity.
Francesca Juarez was in the middle of a grand marble ballroom. She stood behind an altar on which a Kindred thrall lay nude and prone. Francesca stood naked, her body covered in Vitae, a strange knife in one hand and a pulsating heart in the other. She raised the heart above her head and spoke words, in a language never before heard by any present, and devoured the heart savoring the thick Kindred blood. Her victim on the altar seemed alive until the Prince had devoured his heart. He then, slowly, crumbled into ash. The floor of the ballroom was carpeted with the ashen remains of uncountable Kindred who met their final death upon her altar. The sheer horror of the massacre caused a moments hesitation, but the Seneschal lead the charge and those who were once Francesca’s base of power turned on her out of fear and, for some, pity.
Francesca defended herself with the ferocity of a cornered animal as the beast overtook her. Those who stood against their Prince inflicted wounds that would have reduced even a potent elder to final death, but Prince Juarez was still standing. Francesca killed three potent elders who stood before her and it was unclear that the Shadow Court would succeed in their plan to destroy her. While the fight continued to hang in the balance the Hounds returned to their Prince to see she was under siege. They moved to engage when the Seneschal sounded the call to retreat. As the Shadow Court disengaged and made their way to various exits, Francesca, in her frenzy, attacked indiscriminately and began tearing her protectors apart. The remnants of the Shadow Court escaped as Francesca carried out the slaughter of her own faithful Hounds.
The Seneschal and the few surviving members of the Shadow Court regrouped at an agreed upon location and fled the city, taking what remained of the Kindred populace who were not enthralled to Francesca. No more than eight Kindred left the city that night.
With Francesca grievously wounded, and only her Angels left, the Shadow Court disbanded and fled to cities far and wide. Only Renato Cortez remained nearby in the city of Sacramento. He could not bring himself to completely abandon the Cities by the Bay; it was almost as though they called out to him. Thus he remained as close as he could without drawing the attention of his former Prince.
Through mortal agents Cortez monitored as best he could the events that occurred in the Cities by the Bay. It was nearly an obsession. He could sense the city in peril when his contacts began reporting that crime rates were multiplying. He could feel the city celebrate during parades and festivals. There was some kind of bond between the Cities on the Bay and Renato, and the cities were calling. He had never felt this bond before, but with each passing year the yearning grew stronger. It would seem that San Francisco was falling into a recession while San Jose and Oakland were the battlefields in gang wars and racial turbulence.
Renato Cortez gathered a small contingent of Kindred to accompany him into the Cities on the Bay to investigate the despair and peril he felt through the bond. The yearning to return was now an aching cry. The small band of Kindred cautiously entered the city. As Renato stepped within its borders he could feel the ache in his stomach subside. This was where he belonged. He knew this all along.
The scouting party moved about the city of San Francisco and found no sign of their own kind. Renato began looking in the old familiar haunts of the former court and its various members. Still, there was no sign of any of them. In a true act of courage Cortez lead his party to the estates and warehouses of Prince Juarez. Still, there was no sign of Francesca or any of her thralls. They moved into San Jose and then Oakland where they did find a pack of Belial’s Brood terrorizing the streets. Despite this rather disturbing discovery they still saw no sign of Prince Juarez or her remaining followers.
Renato returned to Sacramento and began putting together a small force to retake the cities. When he had accumulated sufficient numbers he marched into the city and began an extensive process of exterminating it of the malignant presence of the Brood, while being cautious and alert to any activity that might indicate Francesca still haunted the night.
Though the process of eliminating Belial’s Brood from the cities was costly Cortez was able to drive them out, at least it would appear he was successful. Renato claimed praxis of the Cities on the Bay and sent word to those who would listen that San Francisco was once again a hospitable place for Kindred. But his thoughts were still heavy with unanswered questions. What had happened to Prince Juarez? Had she fallen into Torpor? If so what had happened to her Angels? If she sleeps where is she hidden? What if she doesn’t sleep? How is she keeping herself and her thralls hidden? Had she fled San Francisco having exhausted her supply of Vitae? What had driven her mad? What was the secret Samuel claimed to know about her? Was this secret about her past the key to her madness? What is this bond that’s felt between the Prince and his Domain?
Despite the beauty of the Cities on the Bay a dark shadow already looms over the fledgling court of Prince Renato.