Bremerton: A Study in Grey
There are only two people alive today who know that Edith Waterhouse was born Eleanor White: her master and current commander, Faisal ibn-Faoud, and her love, Geneviève du Plessis. Eleanor was born in 1889 to Catholic farmers in Cheshire, who had too many children and not enough crops. The oldest girl, she became responsible for her siblings at a very early age, and hated every minute of it. She spent a great deal of time learning how to escape from her mother’s gaze. She didn’t really care what she did while away; she was even content to do mending, as long as it was someplace by herself.
The first magic she knew that she was doing was a veil. She had been out in the woods, collecting blackberries, and having a grand time in the peace and quiet, when her peace was shattered by the squabbling of two of her younger siblings. She was behind a bush, and she knew if they saw her, she would be forced to negotiate between them. She was tired and annoyed, and simply didn’t want to deal with it. She held her breath, shut her eyes, and prayed that they wouldn’t notice her. She knew that they would, of course; the bush didn’t provide that much cover. But she still hoped. The voices grew nearer and louder…and then quieter and further away. She heard Mariah, the second-oldest daughter, calming the two of them down. And from that point onward, Eleanor was not to be found when she did not want to be.
The summer she was sixteen, a lady and her nephew came to summer in the village, to enjoy the chalk vistas and provide some healthy country living for the nephew, who did look rather thin and peaky. Eleanor, who was interested in anyone and everything unconnected with farming, had gotten a job as a maid in the town’s inn, and became very good friends with Mrs. Locksley and Frederick. Mrs. Locksley was a wealthy widow, with no children of her own, and she certainly took a liking to young Miss Eleanor. No one in the village was surprised when, at summer’s end, Mrs. Locksley offered to adopt Miss Eleanor, providing a generous recompense to the rest of the White family, and promises of future visits, should young Miss Eleanor desire.
Young Miss Eleanor did desire, finding magic and spycraft far more to her liking than farming ever was. To her shock and disappointment, Mrs. Locksley (revealed as Wizard Geneviève du Plessis, with her apprentice, Frédéric du Plessis) refused to take her on as an apprentice. “I’ve got one of my own at the moment, you see. Others will have more time for you and may be a much better fit, ma chérie.” In the end, it was a tall, lean, Arabic man who took her under his wing.
Wizard ibn-Faoud had been a very quiet field operative, much preferring to manage vast networks of informants to any of the more overt sorts of operations. And the newly christened Edith Waterhouse (“You cannot be too careful in this business, sagheer saqr. Almost no one knows you now, so why not keep it that way?”) found this sort of thing exactly to her liking. She did enjoy the company of others, and blossomed into a gregarious woman who enjoyed manipulating everyone in a room into thinking that she was their best friend. And as she became more adept at working the nets ibn-Faoud had cast out, and in creating her own, he turned more and more of the workings over to her, and concentrated more and more on analysis and command. By the 1960’s, ibn-Faoud had retired from active field service entirely and had taken over command of the Shadows, under the title of the Falcon.
After she became a full wizard, Geneviève sent her a very warm note. After some very tactful discussions, Edith understood the other reason Geneviève had refused to be her master. “It’s just a very bad idea for a master to be involved with their apprentice, you see. There’s so much power imbalance as it is, adding sex in is just a bad idea.” Edith, who had never stopped being somewhat in love with Geneviève, was thrilled. Neither expected full fidelity, given the nature of their work, but neither truly partnered with anyone else.
Not being blessed with the du Plessis trust, Edith, in her spare time, took to high finance, and found that her people skills were as much a blessing in high finance as they were in spycraft. Especially when she could get some extra assistance with acquaintances of Geneviève’s. Which was very useful, as Edith loved all things civilized and urbane. Haute fashion, haute cuisine, haute anything, was Edith’s métier. And as the Industrial Revolution rolled on, Edith was perfectly happy to roll with it.
Edith is almost always a joyous, ebullient person. She is very skilled at not letting anyone see her sideways glances or her assessing gaze. It’s very easy to dismiss her as a bit of froth, or a mask in front of a greater power. It’s also very easy to mistake her affection of material possessions as love. She will give up any material possession for a life, or for the success of a mission. Money is a tool to be used for success, not an ends to it. And success is survival. In the best circumstances possible, of course, but survival nonetheless.