Biography[edit | edit source]
Richard Francis Burton was born in 1821 to a bloodline connected to the Grand Families. After he studied at the University of Oxford, the Star Chamber recruited him as a field agent and sent him to Bombay in 1843, where he began a lifelong interest in esoteric Eastern rituals. He became highly skilled in the use of tantric techniques of time control and was even able to bi-locate at will. He complemented these ritual abilities with a great skill at blending into cultures, which he practiced by performing a hajj to Mecca and Medina and spending time in the “Great Game” in India.
However, he quickly grew to disdain his "superiors" in the Star Chamber. (PROSE: The Book of the War) On a trip to Arabia to investigate rumours of Mal'akh activity, Burton was inducted into Faction Paradox by an older version of himself. He then summoned the Lady of the Last Night and obtained The Thousand and Second Night. (PROSE: Head of State) From that point on, Faction Paradox used him as a double agent in the Star Chamber.
In 1845, Star Chamber agent Sir Charles Napier became aware that a small group of young British army officers under his command had begun to dabble in tantric rituals in the backroom of male brothels in Karachi. These rituals were causing localised disruptions and attracting the attention of some unpleasant daevas, so Burton was ordered to put a stop to them. During the ritual, a young boy died and the summoning unleashed at least one full-blood Mal'akh. It was captured for study and transported to the Stacks of the Eleven-Day Empire, but not before it killed the officers, half the occupants of the brothel, and three Cousins of Faction Paradox. Despite discovering Burton’s double agent status, Napier buried the night’s events to preserve his own career; however, parts of the story were still eventually leaked, irreparably harming Burton’s later career. Lord Byron may have been involved, sparking the enmity that would later blossom between the two.
Most importantly, this encounter with the grotesque inspired Burton’s studies into the vampire lore of Africa and the East that would consume most of his later life. He was a known associate of Bram Stoker, and his knowledge may have contributed to the mythology of Stoker’s famous novel Dracula.
In 1857, the Star Chamber sent Burton on his final mission to investigate the interior of Africa alongisde John Hanning Speke and to find the Mountains of the Moon, the ancestral home of these Mal’akh. The official story told that they were searching for the source of the River Nile, and to this end they discovered Lakes Tanganyika and Nyanza; however, Burton’s private journals described their journeys beyond Tanganyika into the Mountains. They suffered many bouts of illness in these travels, and the journals describe Speke’s delirious ravings about bestial winged demons. However, perhaps with the help of Faction Paradox guides, they discovered the remains of the High Place and returned to Britain.
Unfortunately, weakened mentally from the trip, Speke became obsessed with revisiting the Mal’akh city and threatened to tell the Royal Geographical Society not only about the Star Chamber's secret history but also about Burton's connection to Faction Paradox. Burton tried to diffuse the situation by moving the debate to a public forum and framing it as a disagreement over the source of the Nile, but Faction Paradox sent Byron to preemptively assassinate Speke.
On 15 September 1864, Byron bi-located to Speke’s estate to try to prevent the assassination, but he arrived too late to stop the shooting, instead simply accusations that he’d been seen in the area (despite being present at a meeting in Bath at the time). More than the shooting itself, the fact that Byron defamed Speke’s memory by framing the assassination as a suicide provoked Burton to challenge and defeat Byron in a duel.
In 1890, Burton faked his own death and moved to the Eleven-Day Empire, adopting the name of Father Abdullah. There, he continued his feud with Byron, the two sitting on opposite sides of the Eleven-Day Empire’s Parliament for decades.
Abdullah became the Faction’s foremost expert concerning the Mal’akh, proposing an extensive hypothesis that the Great Houses had such a paranoid reaction to Grandfather Paradox’s armour was not due to any kind of implied paradox, but instead its suggestion of a hidden truth: the truth that during their war, the Great Houses deliberately infected their own biodata with the Yssgaroth taint to give themselves fast-healing abilities. Rather than coming from an ”oxbow lake” in the river of time, as the Houses and the Faction would like to believe, the Mal’akh are failed Homeworld experiments or – even worse – future versions of the Houses’ agents, finally overcome by the Yssgaroth taint. This theory proved universally unpopular and was suppressed by the Faction.
Writings[edit | edit source]
Burton’s talent for understanding languages like Arabic and Sanskrit allowed him to understand volumes that had never been read by a westerner, and he used this to make translations of many texts. He notably translated and published the Arabian Nights, Vikram and the Vampire, and all three of the East’s most erotic texts, the Ananga-Ranga, the Kama Sutra, and The Perfumed Garden. These three contained several passages relating to the conjuring of demons. Other ritual-erotic texts, which pertained to the suspension of time and the opening of pathways, became foundational texts for later Faction scholars.
Burton added significantly to the Liber Sanguisugarum, which he took into his possession some time after 1861; he claimed that it contained all the knowledge ever needed to combat the Mal'akh. One entry translated an obscure Sanskrit passage to say, "They hold whatever form suits their purpose best, but should they wish to seem fair to our eyes, they must feed upon the blood of man. Should they of necessity feed upon each other, then their curse is laid bare for all to see." Another entry, inspired by his experiences at High Point, coined the term "grotesque". Burton took the Liber Sanguisugarum with him to the Eleven-Day Empire, where it, along with most of his work concerning the Mal'akh, was sealed away by his superiors.
In the Eleven-Day Empire, Abdullah wrote and annotated extensive records. For instance, he added marginal notes speculating about the Faction’s response to the Clockwork Ouroboros attack in 1834; (PROSE: The Book of the War) he also wrote an account called An Account of Some Travels in the Arabian Desert describing his induction into the Faction and his dealings with the Lady of the Last Night. (PROSE: Head of State) He wrote in a neat but exceptionally small handwriting that his biographers considered a living nightmare to decipher.
Unfortunately, most of Burton’s works were lost. First, his massive collection of Oriental manuscripts, books, and journals were inflamed in the burning of Grindlay's Warehouse in the spring of 1861. The lost journals included most of his notes on the physiological manipulation of time, erotic techniques in summoning rituals, and the anatomy of exotic grotesques, as well as the full account of his journey to the Mountains of the Moon.
Then, most of his remaining work was burned after his “death” by his staunchly Catholic wife Isabel Burton, who was shocked by the sexual rituals (PROSE: The Book of the War) and wished to save fellow Christians from sin. This was particularly upsetting to Burton, since she had been nothing but a friend and a supporter during his “worldly life”.
However, he quickly retrieved the ashes of the documents from his wife’s home, and, using a memecatcher, he was able to capture the lingering ideas and preserve the information. As a result, though his works were unavailable to those of the 20th century, many were “rediscovered” in the 21st.
One work he deliberately chose to not rescue was his translation of The Thousand and Second Night, which he had come to understand as propaganda designed by the Lady of the Last Night to sway readers in the War in Heaven. However, he feared that someone else would use the loas to reconstitute a copy. Indeed, the book resurfaced in the 21st century and inspired Dave Lawson to assassinate President Matt Nelson. (PROSE: Head of State)