Branton, New Jersey is a city on the East Coast of the United States. Held by the Sabbat more than a few decades, it was taken back in 2016 by a Kindred army led by a coterie of Elders.
Branton is a city on the verge of greatness. A place where neonates can rise and stand on their own and Ancilla and Elders can make a name for themselves without being under the overly watchful gaze and thumbs of European Elders.
The history of Branton begins in 1662, with the arrival of Dutch settlers in, what is now known as, New Jersey. This area, once called New Netherland, was a fertile land filled with the potential to satisfy the dreams of expansion and grandeur of the old world, as well as fill their pockets with gold and exotic goods. The city of Branton and its existence was born of this idea. The Dutch explorer, Gert van Rivija, founded the settlement as Fort Ravenstein, named after his hometown.
While small in scope, the fort was of great strategic importance. It nestled at the mouth of the Delaware Bay and fed into the river across the way from Pennsylvania, giving it port access. Furthermore, it lay within the nucleus of other Dutch settlements, ensuring that the fastest and best trade routes crossed through it. And it was also surrounded by a large number of valuable raw resources: coal, iron ore and lumber were plentiful.
Even in the earliest days of its life, Fort Ravenstein was seen as a small, but crucial holding. This went for the Dutch as well as the Camarilla. The Fort had barely existed for a full year before the Ventrue Pieter van Horn arrived and declared himself the Prince of Fort Ravenstein. Some of his contemporaries laughed at him, but van Horn knew that the settlement would one day hold great importance. He thus ruled the area from his throne in New Amsterdam, waiting until the population of the area grew large enough so that he may dwell there in comfort and without risking a breach of the Masquerade.
The onset of a number of wars between the Dutch and the English threw his dream into a chaotic mess, however. After the English took control of New Amsterdam, van Horn fled to Fort Ravenstein and holed himself up in the fort, rarely seeing any others of his own kind in fear that they were all plotting against him. His fears came true once the English had formally absorbed all of New Netherland following the Second Peace of Westminster in 1674. That same year marked the arrival of the English Ventrue, Helen Shaw of Yorkshire, along with her own coterie. They quickly overthrew van Horn and Shaw named herself the Prince of Fort Ravenstein, which was renamed to Fort Branton the following day. The embarrassed and disgraced van Horn was forced to flee, and settling somewhere in Pennsylvania, he all but disappeared.
Over the next few years, the fort’s population quickly shifted towards an English majority, which further solidified Shaw’s hold over it. In response, Shaw spent many a night meticulously overseeing the expansion and growth of the fort. More and more it can to resemble an urban center and a growing economic stronghold. In 1729, the fort was officially incorporated and given city rights. It simply became known as Branton. Shaw found it much easier to further refine the city’s economy from this point forward. She petitioned her compatriots in the Old World to see that the migration of skilled laborers and craftsmen come to the town, which only helped it to flourish as a manufacturing capital.
However, Shaw had not anticipated the arrival of the Sabbat. No one is quite sure as to when they precisely arrived, but what became clear was that they, too, had their sights set on the city as a valuable prize. Over the course of the next few decades, the Sabbat raided the town regularly, waging a shadow war with the Camarilla that saw both sides take regular losses. The conflict was a personal blow to Shaw, who had responded by taking extreme measures in her rule. Her grip was slowly loosened, and, eventually using the American Revolution as cover, the Sabbat had managed to overthrow Shaw entirely. Shaw met her Final Death in the winter of 1779.
Rumors are held that the surviving members of her coterie used the British army to attack the city in an attempt to recapture it, but the siege failed. The revolutionary spirit, as well as the Sabbat presence, was entrenched and there to stay. And stay it would throughout the near entirety of the 19th century.
The Sabbat Archbishop of Branton led the town through the height of the industrial revolution and the Civil War, and the city’s economy, population, size, and prestige had only grown. It had expanded from an important port city to a vital one, and it had even been considered one of the manufacturing capitals of the East Coast. In fact, it is estimated that one-tenth of all construction projects south of the Mason-Dixon line during the Reconstruction Era had been contracted to firms based in Branton alone.
Times changed in the turn of the century, and so did the economy with it. The 1920s and 1930s saw a rise in the service and tourism industries in Branton, to the point of nearly abandoning their manufacturing base entirely. Nightclubs and restaurants were built along with a brand-new boardwalk and the city’s first and only amusement park. The steady supply of alcohol kept tourists coming back for more. The back-room gambling halls lined a few lucky ones with pockets full of cash. Many Camarilla onlookers suspected that this economic shift was a ploy to generate as much money as possible to fund the Sword of Caine’s war against them, but without any reliable agents able to penetrate the city’s steep defenses, no one could be sure for certain.
The fast times didn’t last, however. The end of Prohibition and outset of the Second World War brought the party to a crashing halt. Tourism quickly declined, and manufacturing was once again on the rise. Outside companies had taken this opportunity to purchase large swaths of land in Branton and establish new factories which did enough to keep the city’s economy afloat during the war, though, by this point, Branton was a mere shadow of its glory days in the previous century.
The city stagnated for some time. Manufacturing was on the decline, and the old tourist attractions build a couple of decades previously had fallen into disrepair or had simply lost their luster. In order to kick start some life into the city again, the city’s leadership had opted to double down on tourism and make way for the expansion of the city’s gambling scene. The 1960s and 70s saw a number of new casinos built, as well as an airport to help facilitate the migrants who would be so willing to part with their money. It was coincidentally this time that the Giovanni Clan had moved into the city as well. The Milliner family, a clan of wealthy bankers from Boston, had allegedly bankrolled a sizeable chunk of the operation. But with the casinos came a whole slew of new trouble: organized crime, drugs, prostitution, and a whole lot of murder that followed. Branton had become the grittier little brother to Las Vegas, except that it lacked all of Sin City’s glamor and charm.
The status quo remained in place without much interruption up until the last few years, though there were signs that the city was slowly starting to tear at the seams. The murder rate skyrocketed. Crime ran rampant. Factories shut down annually. Slowly more and more the city had begun to fall into disrepair, and onlookers could only wait until an all-out war began between the Giovanni and the Sabbat.
That war never came.
Instead, it was the Camarilla who had returned and broke the Sabbat’s dominance over the city. A Ventrue warlord by the name of Wilhelm Fürst, along with his lieutenants, the Nosferatu Maddox, and the Toreador Mason, aggressively swept through the entire metropolitan region with a coterie of warriors united by the sole purpose of ousting the Sabbat from the area. Maddox had developed a cohesive and cunning plan of action, while Mason had executed it flawlessly and masterfully. The Giovanni were nowhere to be seen during the siege of Branton, a brief two-day affair that had returned the city back to the Camarilla in the summer of 2016. Few Sabbat had managed to escape the carnage the ensued.
However, just as Fürst was to claim the title of Prince, the Giovanni had reappeared in force. Eyewitnesses claim that the Giovanni demanded that the Camarilla surrender the city to them, or else their own forces would march in and claim it themselves. After a particularly tense standoff, they eventually agreed to negotiate with a single Camarilla representative. Maddox convinced Fürst to allow himself to step into this role. Fürst reluctantly allowed it, and even then, only at the behest of Mason. After a week of discussions, the Giovanni had agreed to not press their claim in exchange for the freedom to continue to oversee their businesses. They would furthermore recognize Branton as a Camarilla city and would make no further attempts to seize in.
When the time came to declare their support of a new Prince to seal this partnership, the Giovanni refused to recognize Fürst. Instead, they agreed to support Maddox as Prince. Fürst was in shock, and the betrayal had suddenly become clear to him. Having no choice but to bend the knee along with who he once had thought was his own loyal followers, Fürst relinquished the title of Prince to Maddox. Maddox had named Mason his Seneschal, and, in a gesture of “mercy,” permitted Fürst to remain within in the city as a special advisor…though how much of Fürst’s advice is heeded is anyone’s guess.
Branton was the sight of relative peace – with some bumps in the road- for over 3 years. Then in 2018, everything changed. Everything. The Camarilla itself came under attack from outside, human forces called the Second Inquisition. A supernatural force, known as The Beckoning, also attacked the Camarilla but in a different manner. The Beckoning called almost all Elders to the Middle East with the rumor being that the Antediluvians are rising and a war is being fought against them.
On September 11th, 2018, tragedy struck. During a celebration for the reopening of the Ferris Wheel on Diamond Pier, the Second Inquisition made their deadly selves known. As Kindred were milling about, the Inquisition attacked via helicopter and van and killed many of Branton’s Kindred. The incident was reported as a “terrorist attack” given the date and the commemoration celebrations that had occurred that day. Those who survived to tell the true tale and on that day, Branton fell. Several other known Kindred establishments also were the scenes of attacks. Forbes, Karma, Jackson Lake Brewpub- site of Elysium. All taken down.
On September 11, 2018…Branton Fell.
Now, with the Camarilla Kindred decimated and few remaining the anarchs are moving in, with an eye to taking over. Praxis has been re-established but the Camarilla is closed to any new members, until and if, they prove themselves. Branton is a city that may or may not remain in the sights of the Inquisition, but it remains a spot where Kindred can prove themselves, rise up and gain power.
Branton itself is a city of vibrancy and youth, masked beneath a veneer of grit and grime. The years had seen its population wane, but it is only now that it is on the cusp of rebirth. With the relative youth of the city’s new population and leadership, it is a place where names can be made, reputations created and prestige earned. It is a city built upon betrayal and intrigue, marred by fate and misfortune. It is a battleground between Camarilla and anarch, constantly watched and coveted as a jewel to be plucked. Above all, it is a city whose future is just as fragile as its past, resting on the precipice of being remembered forever and sinking into the sands of obscurity.