Theo was a very competent Archon of the Camarilla, serving under Don Cerro and, later, Jaroslav Pascek. He is an expert combatant greatly feared and respected among both the Sabbat and the Camarilla, and a staunch supporter of the latter, even though he has a strong dislike to the authorities acting high and mighty safely in their ivory towers. Despite his brutish exterior, Theo is calm and composed and capable of always seeing the "bigger picture". Preferring action to inaction, he is often the first line of defense against the enemies of the sect.
|“||We're fighting for our lives here, but the Ventrue and Tremere still have to piss on each others' shoes every chance they get, and all the Toreador want to do is critique the color of the stream.||”|
|— Theo Bell, Bloody September|
Ironic, then, that this avenging demon should arise from such humble origins, and that the Camarilla's master gaoler should be so intimate with shackles. Born into a family of slaves on an antebellum plantation in the nascent state of Mississippi, young Theophilus (as a slave, he had no last name) worked with his father, mother and many siblings in the cotton fields. Although the work was grueling and the overseer brutal, Theophilus had as happy a childhood as could be expected under the circumstances. His father, in particular – a huge and gentle man whose laughter was like distant thunder – saw to it that evenings in their tiny shack were peaceable and provided what sparse amenities he could.
Thus, it was a cruel blow to Theophilus when, soon after his fifth birthday, the family was split up. About half the clan, including his father, remained with the original master, while the remainder, including Theo and his mother, were sold to the distant Bell plantation. Theo was already strong for his age, and it took a grown man to pry the child from around his father's legs. It was, Theo believes, the last time he ever cried, and the first time his father wept. That tear-stained image is his last memory of his father.
Theo's mother was still a handsome woman in spite of her many hardships, and his remaining sisters grew up strong and tall. Their appearance did not go unnoticed by Master Bell, who occasionally descended by night upon the slave quarters, that he might "better the line by pumping some white blood" into as many of Theo's female relatives as he could. The separation from his father and his impotence in the face of his family's violation killed something in Theo. He also grew up strong and tall, and soon enough gained his father's height and impressive build, but never found his father's laugh or smile. A sullen field hand, young Theo often tasted the overseer's whip, and his fingers sometimes twitched atop his pallet as he strangled Master Bell in his dreams.
Theo had an even stronger dream than murder, though, and upon his mother's untimely death from illness (given to her, Theo believed, by the master), he implemented it. His sisters had been bent into docile house slaves; he was sorry for them, but they would hinder him. "Following the drinking gourd" of the Big Dipper, Theo slipped from the Bell plantation by night, striking down an overseer who sought to stop him, and ran for the North.The way was long and perilous, but Theo was crafty and strong enough to strangle, single-handed, one of the bloodhounds sent after him. Some months later, Theo found himself in Ohio and a member of the Underground Railroad.
During the next several years, Theo made many trips into the Deep South to rescue such slaves as he deemed worth saving, and posters throughout Dixie trumpeted a reward for the renegade's death or capture. Theo never found his father, but was otherwise very successful in his endeavors. However, his caution waned as his zeal increased. One night, Theo lay panting in a pine forest. He was wounded and facing capture after a failed mission. As the dogs howled in the distance, Theo bent to drink from a stream – and, when he looked up, saw a grinning stranger not three feet from him. Seeing that the stranger was white, and obviously composed, Theo made a desperate lunge at the man. To Theo's dismay, the stranger sidestepped his attack, then plucked him from the air in a grasp that proved inescapable. Holding Theo immobile, the stranger bade him be at peace. He was not one of Theo's hunters, nor was he there to enslave him once more – at least not to any master Theo might recognize, the stranger added. His name, he said, was Don Cerro, and he had been watching Theo's exploits for years. Theo had impressed him as a man, and now, Cerro continued, he wished to make Theo into something more.
Theo felt the stranger's icy flesh against his own, and half-remembered snatches of old slave tales pierced his brain like freezing talons. But these tales were dispersed by a vision, an image of his family's violator bent and broken at Theo's hands. Theo relaxed, Cerro smiled, and a bargain was made. One condition only did Theo ask, that he be allowed to return to the Bell plantation. So Theo gave up the sun and learned of the gifts of his kind, and of the great thirst. This thirst drove him inexorably toward the Bell estate. One moonless night, he crept into the master's house, a strange excitement upon him and a great blacksnake whip in his hand. He stood over the bed where fat old Bell lay, and he brought the whip up and down, up and down, harder than any mortal could crack it, and then there was only Bell's screaming, and his bulging eyes, and a pounding in Theo's skull that grew louder and louder.
There was red everywhere, and then he realized that the master's house was aflame, and he was in a ruin that had been the slave quarters. Bodies – some white, most black - lay scattered across the grounds, limbs contorted like storm-tossed willows. Familiar faces – including his younger brother's and three of his sisters' – were among the corpses. Theo sank to his knees, but he was dead and could not weep. But, as he ran from that place, he determined that he would take the surname of his erstwhile master, to remind himself that though he now had the power of the overseer, the yoke of the slave would forever burn in his lifeless heart. During the following years and through the Civil War, Don Cerro took it upon himself to educate his progeny, instructing the newly dubbed Theo Bell in letters, history and philosophy, as well as matters exclusive to the Kindred. Theo proved an apt pupil – the embodiment of the warrior-scholar the old Idealist wanted – but additionally honed his Kindred gifts through emancipatory missions and, later, raids on Confederate supply depots, all in frantic efforts to erase the memory of his murdered family.
After the war's end, sire and childe embarked on a tour of Europe, during which an entire nocturnal world opened itself to the fledgling's eyes. The Prince's and primogen, for their part, enjoyed a patronizing titillation at the idea of "Cerro's colored progeny" – precious few black Kindred existed among the Camarilla vampires of those generations still active in politicking, and nearly none had been Embraced from the New World slave populace. Indeed, Bell was a prodigy. Status-conscious harpies tripped over themselves to invite the taciturn Brujah to soirees, and several attempted to entice Bell into illicit blood-drinking liaisons ("Is it true what they say about a Negro's vitae?"). Bell, for his part, quickly grew disgusted with the decadence and debauchery of Europe's Elysiums – all too similar to Master Bell's indolent parties - but he soaked in the culture and customs of the mortals around him. He and Cerro became close - as close as father and son – and as Cerro's sway in the sect rose, Bell was reluctantly carried along with it, shouldering burdensome responsibilities for his sire's sake.
The 20th century was as turbulent for the Kindred as it was for the kine. Back in America, Bell was dismayed at Reconstruction's failure, though his mortal cares grew increasingly distant to him. In Harlem during the Jazz Age, Bell found himself and his mortal kin at the center of a Sabbat riptide; additionally, he made frequent trips to his old Southern haunts, doing what (little) he could to stem the tide of Jim Crow. In the '50s, seeing a useful pawn to infiltrate civil-rights circles and confront anarchs on their own turf, the Inner Circle appointed Cerro Justicar, knowing that Bell would become Archon. Bell, for his part, was well aware, and resentful, of the politics behind his appointment; as well, he harbored no small amount of sympathy for the anarchs. His feelings did not stop him from performing his duties to the letter, and by the '90s Bell was the most respected – and feared – Archon in the United States. Such was his renown that the newly appointed justicar, Jaroslav Pascek, retained Bell in his subordinate post, even though the two Kindred despised each other.
In these nights, Theo Bell may well prove to be a cornerstone of the besieged Camarilla. He has traveled much more extensively than most Kindred; even werewolves give him little pause, and he knows most cities in North America and many in Europe. Over the years, Bell has painstakingly tracked down what members of his father's family he could; he watches his kin from afar or occasionally intervenes in their behalf. As such, he has more contact with the sunlit world than most Kindred his age, a trait that serves him well in his duties. The Inner Circle believes that Bell's knowledge of New York City, particularly the Harlem-Washington Heights area, can prove vital in scourging the Manhattan Sabbat.
Long-seen as the Camarilla's loyal lapdog, Theo's recent defection to the Anarch Movement triggered shockwaves still felt throughout Camarilla domains. It was Theo Bell who served at the whims of the Ventrue Hardestadt and Jan Pieterzoon for years, even begrudgingly taking up arms for the Lasombra Marcus Vitel in recent years. It was also Theo Bell who fired the first shot at the Convention of Prague, ultimately causing Hardestadt's and Pieterzoon's deaths. Kindred gossip these nights positions Theo Bell as an unwilling messiah among the Anarchs. He desires no position of leadership; he just got sick of bending over for blue bloods and snapped. His actions compelled hundreds of Brujah to follow suit, taking out the Princes who long lorded over them and forming Anarch bastions alongside the Gangrel. Despite his notoriety, Theo still acts as liaison between high-status Camarilla and Anarchs, for the sole reason that he brooks no shit at meetings. He short circuits Sabbat ambushes, quells any Anarch riots, and shuts down Camarilla extortion and coercion. As a mediator, Theo's judgement cannot be faulted.
Image and NatureEdit
|“||The world's turning to shit, but we've got a job to do||”|
|— Theo Bell|
On the surface, Theo is stoic, an emotionless authority figure, efficiently polite to all and close to none. This is, of course, a mask for the indecision that grips him nightly. Theo watches the masters of the Camarilla administer their mortal plantation, cracking the whip of government and media to make the kine go this way and that, and the sight makes him shake with fury. Yet he cannot condone the capricious short-sightedness of the anarchs, and Theo has seen the Sabbat too up-close and personal to harbor any romantic illusions about its agenda. Nor can he go autarkis without bringing shame on the head of the only father he has ever truly known; the Embrace is a hard thing, but Cerro gave him a way out of his helplessness, and for that Theo is bound to him with his unlife. Perhaps, then, despite all his power and all his years, Theo is a slave still and forever. That being the case, he reckons, he might as well be a "good" one for now, until he can decide how to get free once and for all.