How the hell did Anja and Gregor Skolnikov turn out like this?
Their parents were Dirota and Malik Skolnikov. Dirota was a somewhat delicate, uneducated, typical-of-her-time woman. Malik was a man more dedicated to religious thought and being paterfamilias rather than eking a living income out of the family estates, which had been badly managed since his great-grandfatherís time.
Gregor was born in 1763 and Anja was born in 1768.
Malik strongly influenced both children. He was stern, aristocratic in the worst sense, domineering and zealous in his religious beliefs. Both children were only allowed limited contact with people outside the household, as Malik perceived everyone else within the district beneath them socially, and therefore not worthy of their attention.
Like most zealous, narrow minded men, Malik was beset by his own demons and vices that made retaining reliable servants extremely difficult, as those who would tolerate Malikís twisted predilections were not the type of person who made for a good domestic. Malikís own shame about his behavior, and own inability to resist temptation caused him to be a man who was constantly on the verge of explosion, and his temper was terrible and unpredictable.
Dirota, their mother, was a frail and emotionally weak woman, especially after the birth of Anja. She was able to sometimes calm Malik when an incident loomed, but usually the children had only each other to turn to for solace and support during their fatherís rages.
For example: Gregor, for not obeying his fatherís ordersí as quickly as Malik wanted, was shut outside of the house for over a week. It was mid-November and Gregor was only eight years old at the time. Gregor survived only because other tenants in the district heard of what happened, and sheltered him until it was safe for him to return. Anja was routinely locked into her room from night until morning, to "protect" her from others and to ensure that she was never exposed to any temptations, physical or otherwise. When Malik learned that Gregor had taught Anja to read, they were both severely beaten.
Getting away from their father was difficult. Anjaís contact with other humans was limited to her family and the few servants at the house. Twice a year or so, she would be permitted to join her mother on a trip into the small town in the center of the district, but even then she was closely supervised.
Gregor had more freedom, by virtue of being male, and the expectation that he would take over running the estate eventually. But even then, the society in even the most urban parts of the Balkan states was lacking in many things, and Gregor preferred to stay home - but at least he had a choice.
Anja and Gregor cared about their parents as best they could, considering that they were usually in fear of their father for one reason or another, and their mother was barely present as an individual.
Dirotaís death in 1778 pushed Malik over a precipice that Gregor and Anja had thought Malik had long since fallen from. They were wrong, and, without Dirotaís minimal, but vital, mollifying influence, Malikís own deranged behavior degraded to the point to where he even tried to force himself upon his own daughter. That particular incident was a turning point and, ultimately, the cause of Malikís death. Gregor and another servant were able to save Anja from her father and Gregor decided that this was the final straw.
Several weeks later, Malik was found dead, hanging from a tree in one of the familyís outlying orchards, naked with his face painted in a grotesque parody of a ladyís makeup and one of Dirotaís old dresses lay crumpled on the ground beneath him. The districtís inhabitants had long gossiped and speculated about Malikís behavior, and the manner of his death was not particularly surprising, particularly not to Anja and Gregor.
After Malikís death in 1779, Gregor was able to run the estate as he thought it should be run and their financial situation improved almost immediately. Even though Gregor was only fifteen, that was old enough to run the family by the standard of the time, and he was more than ready for it, having long been aware of Malikís mismanagement.
Anja, meanwhile, thought she had little to do except learn to run the household and wait to be betrothed to some minor noble who may or may not be pleasant company.
Shortly after their parentsí death, Gregor and Anja separately became aware that there were some unresolved issues between them.
Gregor had been raised to believe that protecting Anja, from herself and others, was one of his primary responsibilities, and as she approached adolescence, his own emotional reactions to her behavior bothered him. He knew that it was one thing to be protective of a sibling, and another to be furiously jealous of anyone else with whom she might spend time. He tried to contain this irrational jealousy and assure himself that it would pass once she had grown older and more responsible.
Anja thought adolescence was enjoyable, but confusing. Itís not like she had a copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" to consult. She was pleased to be growing up and quickly learned the art of flirting, even if the only subjects she had were those in the household. Anja projected a lot of her feelings about her father onto Gregor, who, despite his best efforts, was sometimes too obviously his fatherís son - especially in matterís of Anjaís own behavior.
The sexual relationship between the two of them had its roots in several things: their extremely restricted social exposure to others, and the indoctrination that one should only mix with equals, Anjaís unresolved Electra complex - which was then projected onto her brother, Gregorís increasingly irrational inability to share Anjaís company with anybody else and, letís be honest here, good old fashioned hormones churning through both of them, a degree of curiosity and a lack of socialization about the undesirability of incest. This was Europe, everyone above the rank of Knight was marrying their cousins, and worse, to "preserve" family lines.
Their relationship was finally fully realized in 1783, after Anjaís fifteenth birthday celebration...
While the existence of incest between them caused a whole host of other questions to arise, it actually improved the relationship between them. They were finally able to have someone they could fully trust, love and be with, constantly. Of course, the tenants gossiped, but anyone who allowed their words to find their way back to the Skolnikovís manor usually found themselves whipped and banished from the district. Ainít feudalism great?
Despite Gregorís shrewd management of the family estate, money was still scarce, and the Skolnikovís became adept at fund raising. A favorite method of theirs was to host parties at their estate, featuring high-ranking guests given to various debaucheries. Gregor and Anja would single out certain guests for "special" attention, and take any token of affection given in the aftermath - as was the tradition - and sell it for cash.
Also, during these lean years, Gregor began to show a remarkable facility for the piano, both as a performer and composer. He used this talent, in addition to others, to entertain at parties at other estates, bringing in more badly-needed cash.
Unbeknownst to Gregor, Anja harbored a secret envy of her brotherís talent. She was already acknowledged as the more social of the two - she greatly enjoyed life without Malikís presence - Gregor was now able to move out of his sisterís shadow. This upset Anja, although she never told Gregor.
Gregor first caught the eye of Piotr Ivenyev of the Old Clan Tzimisce in 1791, when he had to travel to Bucharest to observe the coronation of a new monarch - and gauge the political situation. At first, Piotr intended merely to seduce Gregor and make a meal of him, but during what was intended to be Gregorís last supper, the quality of their conversation gave Piotr pause.
In vino veritas, and Gregor had partaken quite heavily, and was talking on a variety of subjects, including the state of his familyís holdings, the best way to discipline domestics and peasants and precisely what Gregor intended to do with a visiting Marquess at the first opportunity. This conversation amused and intrigued Piotr, particularly the state of Gregorís holdings, and spared his life for further investigation.
Ivenyev cultivated a fast friendship with Gregor and realized that not only might the Skolnikov estate fulfill certain needs of his - including any possible future need for a new haven - and that young Gregor himself might have potential. Piotr encouraged their friendship, and visited Gregorís estate several times in the next year.
A decision was reached, and Piotr Ivenyev Embraced Gregor Skolnikov in the summer of 1792, during one of their meetings in Bucharest. Together, they returned to the Skolnikov estate.
After Embracing Gregor, Piotr discovered the true nature of the relationship between Gregor and his sister. Perceiving a unique way to control his childe, Piotr not only encouraged and supported their activities, but, after only the briefest contemplation, he Embraced Anja that following winter. Playing on their own ignorance, Piotr encouraged the siblings to become Bonded to one another, and used that Bond to exert influence upon one through the other. It amused him to see this thoroughly dysfunctional relationship taken to a new extreme.
Unlife agreed with the siblings. Under Ivenyevís tutelage, they learned the scope of their new powers and abilities. Ivenyevís centuries of experience and knowledge enabled the estate to prosper. Gregor and Anja were now able to explore new avenues of pleasure and pain that had been previously closed to them.
(1816 - 1827)
After several years of close supervision, Ivenyev released his Childer to their own whims. For the next ten years, and the first time in their lives, Gregor and Anja were separated. Ivenyev encouraged Gregor to go to America and to England, to further his education. Anja was allowed free reign to expand her social knowledge and, thereby, her ability to manipulate and use the kine. She departed for central Europe and the decadence that could be found in its cities.
Although Gregor enjoyed his time in academia (Oxford and Miskatonic being only two of the places his studied) he was envious of his sisterís freedom - he felt that she had been granted something denied to him. He was quite jealous; he imagined the attentions Anja would be receiving during her travels, and became angry. He would never tell Anja how he felt, of course.
After that decade apart, the siblings would not be apart again for any significant amount of time.
In the early 20th century, Ivenyev decided that matters at the estate were going downhill, as was the surrounding political situation, and that a new location for their haven was called for. Ivenyev sent Gregor and Anja out to find the best possible location for an older Kindred to "retire" to. For over fifty years, the pair scoured Europe, but it was impossible to find sufficient empty territory of any quality. To be a "second son" in Kindred terms, or not adequately connected made obtaining a desirable residence impossible. Finally, in 1994, Anja found opportunity in the colonies. Traveling to California, the siblings discovered the Napa and Sonoma valleys to be to their liking. So, after a brief return home, Gregor and Anja Skolnikov came to New Jerusalem....