A slender, flexible young woman, Victoria isn’t so much as lovely as she is striking. Her eyes are of such a light blue that they look almost white – intelligent, attentive and piercing. And her dark auburn hair is wild, falling freely down her back, or being kept in a loose bun kept in place with pencils or pens, or whatever she gets her hands on. She smiles often and charmingly, but there is a definitive cruel twist to her mouth, which makes her look somewhat predatory. She doesn’t blink when looking at other people, which, together with her unusually long and sharp canine teeth, reinforce her strangeness. She moves with dangerous grace and confidence that betrays quite a lot of physical training. Her voice is well modulated and has a husky, almost sensuous, quality to it, reinforced by her marked British accent.
“HOUSE FLAMBEAU – Where you teach your apprentices by pissing them off until their will to set you on fire overcomes the static paradigm.”
I have laboured sore and suffered death,
And now I rest and draw my breath;
But I shall come and call right soon
Heaven and death and Hell to doom.
And then shall know both devil and man
What I was
And what I am.
— Anonymous, 19th century
The theory of Tabula Rasa is a lovely one, the problem with it, it’s that we all are born with a baggage that we re not at all responsible for but can’t shake off, try as we might. Victoria Ashley-Croft knows this far too well, much to her chagrin. Most teenagers only have to worry with bad grades, pimples, peer pressure and cute boys; Demanding parents usually limit themselves to requiring excellent academic results. Also, the problem with having an archmage for a father while growing up, is that, on top of all that, he’ll know every mischief you’ll get up before you actually even thought of it.
And when your avatar is a veritable force of nature, and your Awakening happened when you were so young that the Magistri had to go look in the files for the last time something like that happened, your troubles are elevated to the Nth potency.
Victoria can’t really say she “only wanted a normal life.” The world’s so filled with wonders and secret colours that she’d never give up on them just to have something as banal and cliché as “a normal life”. But at times, she has to admit that she wished that her life was slightly less complicated.
It all begun with the fact that her father, whose age and power was forcing him to remain more an more time in the Horizon realms, had decided he needed a heir — and after losing a few of them to several rivals and assorted enemies, he settled for a mortal woman. It is still an enigma if he had feelings for her or not, but their union was a moderately happy one (Victoria suspects that a liberal use of Mind sphere could have had something to do with it, but, alas, has no proof).
Victoria was born 20 years ago, in London, England, to a woman she no longer remembers, although she is inscribed in the books of peers — granting Victoria the title of Honourable of the realm. The fate of her mother is undefined, but, knowing her father, Victoria guesses she just got fed up one day and left; In fact, when her daughter Awakened, her mother realized she couldn’t endure it any more — but while she wanted to take her daughter away, she realized that the girl had to be taken care of by those who understood. While the young mage at times feels hurt that her mother left without her (and left her in the… snort… loving company of her father) it is very likely that the woman had no choice in that. Her father simply wasn’t going to let her go. Her father, a master of the Ninth Level, Magister David Ashley-Croft is not a man to be denied. Especially not where his sole heir (and the most promising of the lot) is concerned.
Excellence in scholarly pursuits of a normal nature wasn’t requested. It was expected. Unlike other people her age, Victoria was pressured into excelling in the Ars Magica, in order to “fulfil her potential” or whatever crap they tried to feed her to motivate her to work hard — a work which begun as long as she was able of rational thought. An Hermetic Baby through and through, she was expected to Awaken and join the ranks of Hermes.
It just wasn’t expected that she would wake up that soon — or that spectacularly. Victoria remembered seeing numbers and words that haunted her — sequences, codes, patterns, jumbled words. But when she tried to explain, nobody understood — or maybe her father did, and ruthlessly advised her to try to write down those numbers. Things got worse to the point that her mother began to think her daughter was going possibly through early stages of epilepsy. Eventually, she was diagnosed with hypergraphism — a compulsion to write. What she did at first because her father said so, soon become an obsession – during a particularly frenetic episode, Victoria wrote in crayon an entirety of a floor in strange glyphs and words and numbers — unfortunately, she was in the hospital at the time, in a room waiting for a consultation. And it was then that she Awakened — the resulting power surge affected directly the entire powergrid of East London, shutting it partially down, and blacking out quite a lot of city blocks — an event that until today baffles the authorities still.
Suddenly, instead of being just another heir to keep, she had become a prodigy – and the most promising potential asset to her father. Suddenly, she was in the center of all attentions at the Chantry of the Five Dragonwes of London. Every success and every failure was recorded and commented. It wasn’t about popularity — it was about an incredible pressure that was being put on her to live up to the reputation she had acquired. She needed to be kept safe — which was why she was delivered to the tender cares of Eigth Level Magister Eric Walklate, the Timemaster of House Flambeau, one of David’s few trusted allies. Unfortunately for Victoria, he was also quite a dangerous man, and her social skills still suffer from prolonged contact with powerful magi and lack of friends her age. However, Eric, unlike David, could read his young apprentice quite well. What at first was a chore, slowly developed into a strange fondness for his student; starving for attention and love, Victoria soon developed a not at all healthy co-dependent relationship to her mentor. As years went by, the master strategist started to grow accustomed to her, so much that he started to refuse the idea of letting her go. Since she had been too young when she had Awakened to be considered a full member of the Order, it was determined that the moment she’d leave her apprenticeship would be determined by her Mentor alone. As result, he deliberately held her back, refusing her her Trials, on the excuse she wasn’t ready. In fact, he was obsessed with her, and would have done anything to keep her by his side.
Victoria misinterpreted this as him seeing her as not worthy; so, she pushed herself to her limits in order to excel in all of her endeavours. She wanted to have his approval more than anything else in the world, more than her distant father’s love, and she tried to be the best at everything she could. To this day, she is incapable of conceiving the notion that someone might love her without her proving she could win at any trial. Unfortunately, for all of her amazing achievements and unusual capabilities, her mentor was in no hurry to let her go through her trials; she was met with resistance from him again and again, even if she was certain that she was ready to drop her apprenticeship and become a full magus. She had been ready at least two years ago, and she’d be one of the youngest then to undergo her trials, and she was certain she’d ace them. But Eric refused still. Eager to prove herself, she tricked him one night into giving his permission after quite a few glasses of particularly strong brand of a scotch he favoured, laced with just the right amount of a drug meant to lower his strictness — by signing a binding compact contract the night before. Faced with the inevitability that she’d pass the trials with flying colours, Eric scowled during the entire procedure, doing his best to make it as sadistic as possible; Victoria wound up developing an irrational fear of confined spaces after he had her buried alive to test her capability of working under severe stress. And even at the end, as she stood as a full-fledged House of Flambeau magus, he had only words of contempt for her.
You are not worthy.
You were favoured because of your father.
You should be an apprentice still.
These words haunt her to this very day.
She was unsurprised to find out that Eric was already building a case against her to nullify her trial and bring her back into apprenticeship, and the influence that he wielded allowed him to get the sentence he wished. Instead of discouraging her, she is more determined than ever to prove her worth — and make him accept she has been the best apprentice in the Order for centuries.
Avatar & Paradigm
“Porque a Tribo me disse:
tu guardarás o fogo.
E por armas me deu
o Bronze das palavras"
- Manuel Alegre, “O Canto e as Armas”
Hermetic teachings are based on the belief that all humans have a spark of the divine in them, the “Greater Power”. And that when they overcome their human limitations, they will transcend and become one with the universe. Victoria’s avatar is the living proof (to her mind) of that belief. There is something great and glorious and divine in her, a spark of the Great Power, and with it, she can do anything.
Victoria’s avatar is a powerful one, so powerful indeed that it is hard to acknowledge its true agenda, goals and identity. Its power is such that she can feel the Universe hold its breath every time she does magic — which, in turn, makes her exceedingly cautious when using her magical skills. Arousing her avatar’s wrath is a fearsome prospect, despite the fact that she grew up sensing it at the edge of perception since she was a child. Even if it’s a familiar presence, it still intimidates her.
She believes her Avatar to be an angel of the 8th level, possibly a water elemental one, a Warrior-Healer-Poet, as it often manifests as an androgynous figure, carrying a sword (not a ceremonial dagger) and a writ. She’s not far from the truth — but what she doesn’t know it’s in fact an aspect of Archangel Michael, the warrior messenger. Michael, everchanging, connected to the element of water, the Taxiarch Archangel, is a harsh companion, even if just acting in one of its many aspects. In a way, Victoria and her Avatar compliment each other, male and female, water and fire (which she favours as an element for magic), harsh and gentle.
“Our nature lies in movement. Absolute stillness means death” as Pascal said. Michael’s water element is constant changing, ever moving, adapting, altering itself. Despite the two elements, water and fire, seeming to contradict each other, they represent very similar concepts of change — fire brings change, like the alchemy process of death and rebirth, representing by the Phoenix, and the many deaths of the self as one grows up; water, in turn is formless,constantly adapting itself to its surroundings.
Victoria’s paradigm is rather run-of-the-mill, where hermetic paradigms are concerned, following a rather typical Nietzschean “Will to Power” — we do magic because we impose our will on the Universe, and the stronger our will is, the more we can change what surrounds us. Magic is an exercise of willpower, of self-control. Possibilities are limitless, control of those possibilities is what needs to be learned in order to be able to impose our will above all other things.
She developed a fascination that touches the levels of obsession with languages, and believes that words are what makes existence. God exists because there is a word for Him. “And God said,”Let there be light," and there was light". Things happen because if one has enough power, enough knowledge and enough will, one says they happen — and happen they will.
It’s just more than a matter of saying a word. Intonation, strength, timbre, adequacy — it all makes a difference. It’s more than vocalize them, too. A written word holds just as much power as a spoken one. It’s just a matter of choosing circumstances. There is power in words — a rose by any other name could smell just as sweet, but it would be something entirely different.
For that reason, Victoria is obsessed with language — in any of its form. Speech, script, music, mathematics — even computer programming are all ways of interacting with the Universe and making it stand up to attention and beg. Her degree is unusual (and puzzles many) and will include ancient languages, mathematics and computer programming; she intends to take a few lessons in cryptography if she has the chance, too.
She is an avid student of the Ennochian language, as it mixes spoken and written words, designs and numbers, and she is convinced that somewhere in the mix of all of this lies a sort of primordial language, the “programming” language of the Universe, that she can use to rewrite reality to match her wishes. She knows a few fragments of it, true; and the more she knows, the greater her power will be.
Names and Other Fun Things
“Sabes o nome que te deram, não o nome que tens.”
— José Saramago, “Todos os Nomes”
Craft Name: Andäir Elizabeth de Montenegro, bani Flambeau
Shadow Name: Andäir Victoria Winnifred Tamwood Ashley-Croft Elizabeth de Montenegro, bani Flambeau, Wolf of the Evening, Sword of the Five Dragownes, Keeper of the Unforgiving Fire, Bearer of the Taxiarch Aspect, Protean Wordsmith, Semper Fidelis, Aquela Que Tem Por Armas O Bronze Das Palavras
True Name: Andäir Victoria Winnifred Tamwood Ashley-Croft Elizabeth de Montenegro, bani Flambeau, Wolf of the Evening, Sword of the Five Dragownes, Keeper of the Unforgiving Fire, Bearer of the Taxiarch Aspect, Protean Wordsmith, Semper Fidelis, Aquela Que Tem Por Armas O Bronze Das Palavras; In Caligine Abdictus Rularuu Aleehtah Krooat Tohan.