50ish-looking man with short, grey hair in a truly godawful shirt
-Vast collection of oddments and curiosities, some much more ahem curious than others
-Library of tomes, grimoires, and books on the occult, mostly bogus, but a few genuine
-Tarot Deck (not actually a focus item in the magical sense of the word, but he tends to trust
it over other divinatory methods)
-Bottle of absinthe (just regular absinthe, if potent; helps take the edge off of the headaches
from casting stronger spells)
-First Aid Kit (safety first!)
-Diploma from Oxford University dated 1880, declaring him a M.A. in natural sciences and
anthropology (UK universities didn’t grant PhDs until 1917)
Born in 1856 to a pair of minor sorcerers, Elbridge Hardley was never expected to amount to much in life. Imber was a tiny agricultural village with too many vampires and not enough schools, and his parents’ knowledge of magic was largely confined to a handful of herbal remedies and good-luck charms. Determined from an early age to make something of himself, Elbridge stood out from amongst his peers: his magical talents attracted the attentions of the White Council, while his academic abilities drew the notice of Oxford. A combination of the mid-19th century reforms of the university and secret pressure from England’s more respectable wizards permitted him to attend despite his low birth, receiving an education in the natural sciences publicly and in the magical arts privately.
Despite the efforts of the various reform movements to make higher education more publically accessible, Oxford still retained an atmosphere of aristocratic elitism at the time, and as ever, this went double for the more mystically-inclined students and faculty. The demands of his dual curriculum in conjunction with his enforced participation in two different sets of collegiate traditions left him with almost no time for a social life; he quickly acquired a reputation as being somehow the brightest student on campus and the dullest at the same time. By the time of his graduation in 1880, he was highly accomplished, lavishly honored, and thoroughly bitter.
For as long as universities have tried to maintain standards of decorum, students have been undermining them by smuggling alcohol onto campuses, and Oxford was no exception. It was a small, private party in an ancient dormitory commons where the new graduates congratulated each other and dreamt of bright futures; Elbridge, for his part, spent much of it in a corner reading a book. It was a strange tome, bound in leather and inked on papyrus, and it had found its way from some crumbling ruin into his possession by way of multiple, egregious, clerical errors. Its writings were incoherent and rambling, and unearthly images adorned its pages despite the fact that it predated all known methods of illumination by at least three millenia. It was fascinating, in a hideous sort of way, and Elbridge was thoroughly engrossed when Adam Lawton (that rat bastard) drunkenly clapped a hand on his shoulder and proposed a toast to “the man who’ll one day be known as England’s Most Peevish Librarian.” Furious, Elbridge, who hadn’t drunk quite as much as the others but was still staggeringly inebriated, flipped to a random page and began to read aloud. Conjure a few poltergeists, rattle a few chandeliers; a good scare, some good laughs, and who’d be sober enough to remember come morning?
It was fortunate for him (and ONLY him) that the curtains had caught alight in the panic that followed. The book, the bodies, and the…thing…were all consumed by the inferno, and with no witnesses to place him in the common room, there was no-one to say who was responsible. The White Council investigated, of course, and both the ashes of the book and the taint of the Outside were plainly evident to anyone with the Sight, but with a dozen charred corpses scattered around the wreckage, they were left to conclude that any one of the deceased graduates might have inadvertantly let something into this reality. It was very fortunate indeed that the book was left unrecognizable, because if any of it had remained intact, they might have noted that Elbridge was the only person in the building who could read Sanskrit.
Denied gainful employment, not by any lingering suspicion but merely by entrenched classism, Elbridge decided to try his luck in the New World. His credentials more than qualified him for the position of Curator at the American Museum of Natural History, and he put himself to work acquiring specimens, organizing exhibits, and making sure that any dragon bones that came his way were passed off as innocuous dinosaur fossils until the White Council could quietly remove them from the public eye. He enjoyed his job, and continued it for over forty years until his lack of aging could no longer be concealed or explained by a healthy lifestyle and he was forced to fake his own death to avoid closer scrutiny.
Unfortunately for him, his timing could scarcely have been worse. He was forced to begin anew with no history or known qualifications just days before Black Tuesday hit and the US was plunged into the Great Depression. Over the course of the next several decades, Elbridge reinvented himself again and again. In the thirties, he was a vagabond and a day laborer, standing strong with whatever union would take him. In the forties, he was a sports bookie whose divinations allowed him to always come out on top, until the mob broke his legs and took everything he had. In the fifties, he discovered the works of HP Lovecraft, compared them to some of the books in his private collection that he’d never disclosed to the Council, and spent the better part of a decade tracking down every living person the author had ever known before performing a ritual while standing at the eye of Hurricane Audrey; to this day, he has refused to ever say what it was he was trying to accomplish. In the sixties he was a beatnik and a guru; in the seventies he raged against Washington, amassed an extensive collection of VHS tapes, and never once entered a discotheque; in the eighties he tried Dungeons and Dragons just to see what the fuss was about, and although he didn’t care for the game itself, it did inspire him to devise a number of useful spells and potions that he makes use of to this day.
The nineties and the first decade of the 21st century he spent putting together the New Orleans Institute for the Preservation and Display of the Supernatural and Occult, a two-level building consisting of a tourist-trap upper floor and a basement full of more legitimate wonders, all contained with the most powerful wards he could muster. The vast majority of customers are given an extraordinarily dull tour of the premises and left feeling bored and dissatisfied; the clued-in, or those genuinely in need, are instead quietly offered his services as a ‘consultant.’ It’s not quite as satisfactory as the other museum job he’s held, but it pays the bills. Most of the time.
In his water-damaged shack by the bayou, bored Elbridge lies dreaming of fiscal solvency…
Nobody from Nowheresville:
-Invoke to: Slip beneath notice, move under the radar, have someone know nothing about you, get along with the downtrodden and overlooked
-Compel to: Receive zero recognition for deeds, get contempt from more established types, have the maitre’d lose your reservation, have the bureaucracy drag its ass when dealing with you
The Night of the Fire:
-Invoke to: Understand and fight creatures from beyond the Outer Gates more effectively, flee a dangerous opponent, get away with shenanigans, wield dangerous or forbidden powers
-Compel to: Overreact to a slight, feel the need to prove something, demonstrate hubris, be tempted to break the 7th Law of Magic
Journey to the West:
-Invoke to: Face the strange or unexpected, recover from misfortune, find the bright side of any bad situation, work on a tight budget or with otherwise limited resources, handle anything relating to 20th-century Americana.
-Compel to: Have life throw you a curveball, be a hopeless nerd, “Bloody Colonials!”
I Know You Know I Know You Know:
-Invoke to: Get an edge over someone with information, do better work while trying to acquire said information, play mind games
-Compel to: Try for a convoluted scheme when a simple one will do, lose your cool when somebody has an information advantage over you, cause people to mistrust you, have someone with a score to settle show up at the worst possible time
I don’t care who started it, I’m ending it:
-Invoke to: put a decisive end to a conflict, take drastic measures when necessary, get the respect of people who value strength and resolve, ignore distractions
-Compel to: come across as standoffish and abrasive, be overly harsh or heavy-handed, lose the respect of people who prefer softer solutions, ignore IMPORTANT distractions.