• Musical genius | From an early age, Gottlieb Kaiser’s natural understanding and aptitude for music was evident. He learned to read musical notes before letters and words, and every instrument he got into his hands, he learned to play without much instruction. But his most notable achievements lie in musical composition, as even the most complex pieces in a plethora of formats seem to flow from him freely. It is what earned him his fame in his mortal life and continues to define him in immortality.
• Graceful | Poised and eloquent, the Conductor never seems awkward or lost in social situations. His profession as a highly renowned composer required him to rub shoulders with the elites, and the high society is where he feels at his most comfortable. The art of etiquette comes with the territory and the vampire’s manners remain impeccable, even when he is committing the most horrendous of crimes.
• Compulsion Master | Mastering the vampiric ability of compulsion only came naturally to the Conductor after his rebirth. As a figure in the arts, he was used to employing a repertoire of soft skills to sweeten his patrons’ hearts and loosen their wallets. Gottlieb uses compulsion on a nearly daily basis and is more skilled in it than many an older vampire.
• Domineering | Although his professional field might not suggest it, as classical music is often perceived as “soft” and “gentle” from the outside, Gottlieb is anything but. He might put on the airs of social graces towards the vampire community and his benefactors, he shows a different facet of his personality to those who are closest to him. The fledglings he has sired especially know how demanding he is and how he despises anyone who opposes him or his vision.
• Cruel | Those who do oppose the Conductor are perceived either as a nuisance or as a threat, depending on their social status. In either case, they are met with swift and violent retaliation. The members of his nest have come to know his cane intimately, which he uses to discipline them whenever they disobey him explicitly or implicitly, by doing something he disagrees with. Gottlieb does not usually lift a finger against those outside of his nest, delegating this task to his fledglings who he has beat, torture, and even kill those who get in his way.
• Behind the times | The Conductor would be the first to say that manners and taste are timeless, but truth be told, he is not one to keep up with current developments. Ever since he has been turned, he has refused to acknowledge the change in musical currents, regarding it as degradation, disregarding entire musical genres. In other areas, he is even more stubborn about sticking to the olden ways. For example, he has kept himself painfully unaware of technological advancements.
Although many thinkers through the ages liked to equate morality and art, or tried to prove a causal relationship between the two, Gottlieb Kaiser is a figure who makes a case against these romanticized theories.
Recognized as a musical prodigy from an early age, the man would become one of the most famous opera composers during his human lifespan, and continued creating and perfecting Classical music after his rebirth as a vampire. Even if his compositions oftentimes feel like they are from another era, as he mainly remains stuck in the age that was most proliferous as a human, they are greatly appreciated for their fine complexity by musical aficionados mortal and immortal alike. The man has a great vision, impeccable taste, and he follows it with single-minded perfectionism. When Gottlieb works on a piece, he does it with utter diligence, immersing himself into the creation process entirely, not taking any breaks until he is satisfied with his achievement. The results are pieces that are so beautiful that they leave the listeners in an elevated state, oftentimes moving them to tears.
Towards anyone who is interested in his greatest passion in life, music, as well as other artistic disciplines, Gottlieb is a generous and lively conversation partner. During the shows he puts on, he is an engaging host, and knows how to make his guests feel welcome and comfortable in his presence. His understanding of social intricacies is what allowed him to become the prominent figure in the vampiric world that he is, and he expertly ensures that his Ensemble never runs out of patrons or funds for their ventures through engaging the vast network he is a part of.
But behind the perfect execution that the Ensemble delivers at their shows, there is a less than perfect man. Those closes to him, the members of his nest, know how unforgiving and tyrannical the man known as the Conductor can get. As much as he is confident in his vision, he also demands of those who work with him that they be as fixated on it as he is. Nothing less than the unquestioned first place will suffice when it comes to music. Flawless performance is very important to him, and so he makes his Ensemble practice their instrument and the pieces they play for many hours daily. Mistakes are not tolerated more than once, as impatience and cruel attitude towards failure sets in quickly, and his fledglings get penalized by verbal chastisements first, and physical punishments after that.
Generally, the Conductor cannot be regarded as tolerant person, harbouring many biases. Most of these are related to good artistic taste, which is a very narrow definition for the old vampire, but he is also not free of racial and sexist beliefs. People who meet with his disapproval are thought of as a lower life form and in his eyes, that excuses violent behaviour towards them. This can be a temporary judgement, such as a musician disagreeing with a minor issue, who then gets punished, or a permanent decree, like towards those who threaten his way of life or fundamentally get in the way of what he wants. In those cases, the ruthless composer does not bat an eye before he has them murdered. Of course, he does not often get blood on his hands as he considers such an act beneath him. Mostly, he utilizes his fledglings for these tasks, neither of whom he has released from his control. He relies on them for any practical matter as well, making him utterly dependent on their cooperation, which, when not given freely, is forced.
If one traced the origins of where the Conductor’s story began, one would not necessarily be able to predict who he would become, centuries later.
Born Gottlieb Kaiser, the man’s life began in a small 17th century village in the Prussian province of Saxony. As a middle child of five, he seemingly was doomed to mediocrity. He hated it. All of it. The smells of the barn, the routine, the manual labour. Everything that seemed like his destiny due to the circumstances he was born in. The only light at the end of the tunnel seemed to be Sunday mornings when the family packed up all the kids onto the horse-drawn open carriage and made the two-hour long trip to the next larger village to go to church. There, Gottlieb could see beautiful murals and paintings, be surrounded by Latin Bible verses, the faint smell of burnt resin and, most importantly, the music. Even as a baby, he relished it, quieting down immediately to listen to the notes.
As he grew big enough to be able to walk and most importantly, sneak away, he snuck to find the source of the music. He’d climb the narrow stairs at the back of the church to where the organ was located and watch the organist play the tunes. One day, he got spotted, and the man took the boy with the plate-sized eyes full of wonder and excitement under his wing. At first, he just let him observe what he was doing, but soon, with his parents’ permission, Gottlieb would stay after mass when he would get to touch the keys himself. His little fingers slid across the organ so smoothly, it was like they were made for it. The organist took him under his tutelage, and every Sunday, he’d teach him to read musical notes, and to play not only the organ, but different instruments he could get his hands on. Despite Gottlieb only being able to practice during these short few-hour windows of time while his family was out selling their produce and shopping for other items they needed, it was apparent the kid was a natural talent and even started to compose melodies in between their meetings. The organist wrote to more renowned musicians about his talent, until one made his way to the small city to listen to him play.
What followed was an offer of more extensive musical schooling, and after some deliberation, Gottlieb’s parents agreed to it. With scholarships from wealthy musical benefactors, the teenager had the chance to enjoy training under the most famous musical teachers across Europe. Travelling from country to country, rubbing shoulders with the elites when not living and breathing music… this was the kind of life that Gottlieb felt fitting for himself. He found love in opera, and was soon hired as a court composer for a duke, where he put on his first compositions. His works were being stage elsewhere, too. Because of the international attention he gained for his compositions, he was invited to be the chief composer at the young but booming Oper am Gänsemarkt in Hamburg.
The years in Hamburg were his most prolific, and over the few decades he spent there, he created over a hundred operas and other pieces. His complex, subtle works were generally very well received among musical aficionados, and caused him to become quite renowned. Some even likened Gottfried Kaiser to the likes of Friedrich Händel, whom the man considered his greatest rival. He had made it his mission to be recognized as being better than the other composer. But as devoted he was to his life’s work, there were always things that came between him and the music, be it his family, the necessity to schmooze the benefactors, or, at last, his own ailing health that came with an inevitable progression in age.
The composer was filled with visions of the end of his life, which seemed inevitable, and more importantly, in conflict with his musical ambitions. He started getting obsessed with possibilities of expanding his lifespan, spending exorbitant amounts of money on medical treatments. When those did not prove as potent as he had hoped, Gottlieb considered other means, tracing down metaphysical rumours of immortality. A stint with spirituality did not seem to bring the desired results either, and he was getting more desperate and frustrated with his seemingly fruitless search. But that was when what he was looking for found him.
Giovanni Conti was a mysterious presence, so much so that there were wild speculations whispered around salons in Europe concerning the man’s character, heritage, age, and even name. But his peculiar preference to keep personal details to himself as well as travelling incognito was equally if not exceedingly matched by his generosity towards the arts. And money is money. Even if it comes from questionable sources. Although not many knew the generous Mr. Conti personally, he requested a meeting with Gottlieb when he heard about his efforts. In his social circles, the composer’s quest was beginning to be regarded as a sign of dementia with conversation partners trying to change the topic whenever he started speaking of it, but the smooth-faced Italian took him seriously. Not only that, but after he watched Gottlieb down a bottle of wine with dinner, he disclosed his secret to him: he had reached what the German was so desperately craving for. Immortality.
Perhaps it was because Gottlieb had longed to hear about a such a chance for so long that he did not have a hard time believing the man. Nor did he flinch when the man told him about the gruesome price one had to pay for it. It was decided the same night. He would take the calculated risk Giovanni offered him. He took a couple of weeks to get his earthly affairs in order, as well as to inform himself about the technicalities of his future lifestyle. Then he went on a trip to Italy he would never return from, to all appearances. In truth, Giovanni turned him into one of his own, into an immortal being of the night.
Despite having heard his maker’s theoretical explanations of the process beforehand, the composer experienced the rebirth as more violent than he expected. The way his body transformed was painful to a degree he had not thought possible to survive, but he did. He emerged looking younger, toned, and more beautiful than he had been in his entire lifetime. But not only his appearance changed, it seemed like he left behind much of his humanity behind as well. At least initially. The first years of being a vampire were consumed with never-ending thirst that made him cruel and impatient. Unlike many newly turned vampires who struggle with the transition, Gottlieb welcomed it, enjoying the strength and enhanced senses this new life had to offer, being free from any ailments for the first time in decades. Never had he felt more powerful than when he had his fangs stuck in an artery, the metallic taste of warm blood filling his mouth.
It wasn’t until almost a decade that he started missing his old life and the reason he had sought out his new one in the first place: music. Composing didn’t come as easily as it had during his human lifetime, with the pause in his creative pursuits that he had to take as he learned to control his thirst, it now his constant companion that vied for his attention every time he sat down in front of an instrument. He started attending concerts and operas obsessively, hoping that exposure would bring inspiration, but it had the opposite effect. The fact that musical trends had moved on was a source of frustration, as Gottlieb found himself unable and unwilling to move on with them. For a few years, he composed a few pieces in the same style that he was known most for, but now, found difficulty with finding people willing to stage them. Especially since now he could not use his own name which had a ring of fame to it, since Gottlieb Kaiser was officially lost and presumed dead, but had to use a pseudonym.
Since the new vampire could not imagine doing anything else but composing, he would have to get inventive. Giovanni was a very well connected man, in the immortal community even more than in the mortal world of humans, and before he released Gottlieb from the sire bond, so was he. This was why he knew that there was still a taste for his kind of art among other supernaturals. But a composer cannot operate alone, and he needed to gather a group of musicians to be able to perform the pieces he wrote.
He started his search for excellent talent around Europe, visiting opera houses and symphonic orchestras, going to the concerts as well as sneaking in for their rehearsals to be able to discern who had the most potential. Those who caught his fancy, he lured with offers of ample compensation and if that did not work, he used compulsion to get them to do what he wanted. This way, Gottlieb was able to put on smaller shows for a select audience, allowing the word of his talent make ripples among those who were willing to support his efforts. It was at this point that the composer knew he needed a more permanent solution to satisfy the growing demand for his performances. Human musicians would not do.
Now, his search was expanded by an additional step. Upon meeting exceptional talent and sharing his musical vision, he would offer those who were enthusiastic the ultimate gift: immortality. Just as Giovanni had with him, he would explain the consequences of the rebirth and give them the choice to accept or leave it. The first he approached was a French cello player that Gottlieb was taken with after witnessing him playing Bach at a private dinner party. As much as the young talent seemed to be excited by the prospect of private mentorship from Gottlieb, when the evening grew late and the vampire disclosed his nature and made him the very long-term employment offer, there was immediate panic and disgust in the young man’s eyes. Gottlieb saw the look of a typical prey animal that the man had about him once he revealed himself for who he was, like all he could think of was finding a quick escape. Anger and indignation flared in the vampire’s eyes. How could the man be so foolish? How could he reject something so valuable, to be elevated to the likes of demigods? In an impulsive gesture he would later come to regret, he sank his teeth into the man’s throat and drained him.
His second attempt at finding a member for his musical ensemble was crowned with success. After attending a Hungarian opera house for several nights and hearing different performances, he finally noticed which instrument it was that made the compositions sound so outstanding. The timpani. As was his custom by now, he singled out the player, and started a conversation with him that turned to his agenda as the evening progressed. This time, either his sales pitch by emphasizing the preservation of his musical gift was more effective, or he had found a more eager candidate. Bartalan Kardos, the young man who would become the first of Gottlieb’s fledglings. The next decades were spent in a whirlwind of teaching Bartalan the ropes of being a vampire, hunting, attending musical events, and putting on smaller shows all around Europe. Gottlieb was excited to share his vision and lifestyle with someone who was seemingly entirely on the same page as him, and the years flew by quickly.
At the turn of the 19th century, the old continent started feeling too small. The vampiric duo seemed to run out of places to reside, as they could not stay in any one city for too long before their lack of aging and nocturnal habits started getting suspicious. They set their sights on the next goal, America, which had become more cultured over the years and seemed to offer promising prospects for their ventures. Through their immortal contact network, the two planned the journey across the ocean and settled in Virginia for the initial years, where Gottlieb further hatched plans for his Ensemble. But it was only in New York that he found another suitable candidate for his plans. Lily Wright was a prodigious violinist, for whom the composer was willing to overlook the fault of being born the unsuitable sex. She, however, was not enthused about the prospect of taking on the demerits of becoming an immortal, as well as leaving her previous life behind. By now impatient about furthering his plans, Gottlieb initiated the transformation process while she was under the influence of compulsion. This left the girl with permanent effects on her personality, taking a liking in murder, but also eternally devoted to the opera composer, which served him just right.
Although he would not return to this method of turning fledglings, as Lily was insatiable and hard to control, Gottlieb grew more relentless and more focused on his goal and the accumulation of talented musicians. The growing nest that would become known in the refined immortal community as the Ensemble operated under the same manner as the composer had in Europe: seeking out a suitable, highly cultured city to reside in, and settling there for a number of years before moving on. Always on the lookout for new talent, the composer who was now known as simply the Conductor employed different strategies for acquiring the persons whose gifts he wished to possess. If his initial reasoning did not convince them, he got increasingly crueler. As with Tobias Langdon, whose family he had slaughtered in front of him because he was unwilling to leave them behind for the musical life with the Ensemble. There were some failed experiments along the way, musicians he had turned only to find disfavor with them after some time and discard them. There were no survivors left after the Conductor was done with them. Of course, Gottlieb would not get his hands dirty himself, but have one of his fledglings execute the cruel tasks.
For about a decade now, the Ensemble has been residing in a villa in the affluent Audubon district. Despite the rich cultural background that the city of New Orleans has to offer, the Conductor is intentionally ignorant towards most of it, only interested in the classical music he composes and performs with the Ensemble.
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