Barrister George Mankins
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Back somewhere 'round about 1722 or so, a whip-smart young lad was born into the Welsh-blooded family of Clan Mankin, those legendary wild-men of old power stretching back to before 1300 and the coming of literacy to what would later be called Yorkshire. In the possession of this family was knowledge of a supernatural rift below the earth, the so-called "Witches' Cave" of Westmorland, on the northwest bank of Easegill Force, below Casterton Fell.

Regarding that place: in the steaming blood of a broken universe buried beneath the hills, the head-men of the Clan had long soaked their thorn-wreathed crowns; it is said that the skin of one who bore such a crown, still-wet with tears, became as hard as living oak while under the light of the full moon. Other legends speak of cannibalism, of hushed questions to long-dead ancestors whispered in the ears of malformed babes before their execution, and of demon-mating rituals carried out under the black earth with the resurrected dead. Regardless, the mysterious cherry said to be hidden within the twisting caverns below Ease Gill was lost during WW2; although a major expedition to reclaim it was supposedly launched in 1961, it ended in failure.

George Mankins died of syphilis in 1797, a respected Master of the Bench for the Honorable Society of the Inner Temple, a Third Degree Freemason, and a much-feared solicitor known across Britain, having amassed significant wealth and political power both in the United Kingdom and abroad. His fortune was quickly squandered by his children after his death, much of it by his two illegitimate heirs. Today, he is all but unknown outside of very select Crasher circles, and since his re-run to the Waking World by Callus Detier Drogovich the former barrister is a quiet, easily-befuddled, dyslexic homeless man with haunted eyes. He will occasionally speak to crashers about the Pit in exchange for cash or technological assistance: he likes listening to books on tape or CD, but has difficulty operating such machines.

A team willing to help George set up a checking account, get a driver's license, rent an apartment or buy insurance would be well-rewarded with old (and, unfortunately, possibly out-of-date and somewhat fragmented) lore. For most crashers, poor old Mr. Mankin and his clipped English accent are more sad than anything else. Most people figure that he's taken a head-wound or two, probably from local thugs, and he's perhaps suffering from mild schizophrenia. Much of his time is spent wandering the streets of Philadelphia in the cold, staring at the architecture, trying to remember something on the tip of his tongue and yearning to return to London.

The theory, though, is that he authored a book during his previous life. Or possibly edited it. At the very least, he was the last one with a copy of it. And, of course, that's why Callus Detier wanted him. Because this tome, The Codex Dantean, is theoretically the single most valuable collection of Hell-Lore ever assembled, containing essays and notes on cherries, demons, drifts, shackles and screws amassed from sources as diverse as personal interviews with the dead, scraps of scrolls rescued from the Great Library of Baghdad and even previously-lost sections of Titus Livius's Ab urbe condita libri - itself a nearly mythical book on the true history of Rome.

If it truly exists, this one work theoretically serves as the repository for all Nether-related knowledge from the time of the ancients through Leonardo da Vinci and up to the writing of the U.S. Constitution. The introduction was penned by Sir Issac Newton, with notes by Adam Weishaupt. A copy of the index or even the table of contents alone would be worth billions to the right buyer. It is said to contain spells, rituals, wards and even alchemical formulas useful topside or below, lists of secrets of major demons and even a "Unified Hell Theory" developed by Archimedes.

One thing is known: Callus Detier doesn't have a copy of the book. At least, not yet.

So: is it bullshit? Or is the book really out there, maybe sitting somewhere just waiting for Mankins to remember where he hid it?

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