Lord Anthony Banning, Earl of Kenmare:
Lord Anthony Edward Charles Banning, 9th Earl of Kenmare is thirty years old. His former lover is Jack Starr whose family purchased an estate near the Banning family seat when Anthony and Jack were about fourteen years old. The two boys became fast friends with Anthony following Jack into adventure at every turn. At sixteen, Jack takes Anthony’s virginity and steals his heart. Their subsequent break up at age 20 when Jack abruptly leaves university to work for the Empire as a spy, has Anthony vowing never to risk his heart again. Although he goes on to other liaisons and relationships with men, Anthony has never properly gotten over Jack nor given a subsequent lover the heart he once gave Jack.
Anthony is fascinated with technology and loves the thrill of using logic to solve puzzles. He’s a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. He stands about 6’2″ with black hair and golden-hazel eyes. He has a strong physique, muscular but not overly so. He’s athletic and rides daily. He is the oldest of three siblings and his father is deceased. His mother Lady Eleanor lives in Bath with her sister Lady Madeline Roth. His brother Deveridge “Dev” Banning is the youngest in the family and married to a “bluestocking” named Amelia. Dev and Amelia have twin sons, Tony and Terrance, who are Anthony’s heirs. Anthony’s sister Cassandra is married to an Imperial Sky Admiral, Baron Westerfield “West” de Haviland.
Anthony is one of the premier members of the Lords of Aether club where he met Dr. Peregrine “Spence” Spencer whose uncle is the Duke of Worth, an advisor to the crown. Anthony is drawn to Spence initially because of Spence’s innocence coupled with his enthusiasm for mechanical devices and his interest in aether. However, Spence is afraid of being openly gay in a society that doesn’t fully accept homosexuality. Being spurned by such a young, inexperienced man makes Anthony more determined to seduce Spence. However, he’s not in love with the young man, but sees him more as a challenge.
For the past five years, Anthony has been the lover of Shelley Jefferson. He’s Shelley’s longest standing “arrangement.” Over the years he’s come to trust Shelley and considers him a friend. It’s not until he realizes that Shelley is also the lover of his friend Emmett Montgomery that Anthony begins to suspect his feelings for Shelley aren’t that of a man for his whore.
When Jack seeks out Anthony after ten years of silence, the two men must reconcile their former relationship, regain their friendship, rebuild their trust, and help each other attain their hearts’ desire with other men.
Jonathan Starrington, aka Jack Starr, Imperial Spy:
Jack is the third son of a wealthy coal baron who was knighted by the Queen for service to the Empire, which means that Jack’s father forgave the King’s extensive gambling debts. Jack and Anthony have been friends since they were in their early teens at school. Jack is far more of an adrenaline junkie than Anthony and he trades that for a job with the Empire during his university days. When he leaves university to begin work as a spy, he breaks up with Anthony and breaks his lover’s heart.
Jack is the same age (30) and height (6’2″) as Anthony, but is more muscular and his feature more rough hewn. With brown hair and intense blue eyes, Jack loves disguises and weaponry. He uses technology to his advantage with every assignment.
After his break up with Anthony, Jack became a commitment phobe and master of the casual liaison. During one of his assignments, he meets Sky Commander Nash Sutherland and they become involved. They begin an on again off again relationship that is usually on only when they can mesh their schedules and be in the same place at the same time. When Nash is framed and court martialed from the Imperial Navy’s Airship Division, Jack vows to find who is behind it. Nash turns his court martial into an opportunity to rule the skies as a pirate and becomes a bit of a Robin Hood until the day he disappears. It is then that Jack realizes how much he cares for Nash and he sets out to find his lover.
Nash Sutherland, sky pirate and former Imperial Sky Commander:
Nash is the bastard son of a rich Italian count and the daughter of an English marquess. His father, Count Dante diViola, belongs to a banking family whose influence helps keep a number of European principalities solvent, thereby affecting the balance of power in Europe. Nash’s mother Lady Penelope Sutherland dabbles in the world of the arcane and it was rumored she placed a love spell on Nash’s father in order to get him to father her child. Nash grew up under the influence of his grandfather the Marquess of Lytton, a forward thinking man enamored of technology and flying. Nash’s schooling was a combination of traditional English public schools and a legion of brilliant scholars drawn from across Europe by his father.
Nash is thirty-three and six feet tall with curly chestnut colored hair and icy grey eyes. Sun-bronzed with a whipcord lean body, he’s a combination of keen intelligence, athleticism and daredevil risk taker. He lives to fly and went into the Imperial Navy’s Airship Division straight out of the Imperial Academy, a school for those intending to be a military officer. As one of the youngest Sky Commanders in the English Empire, Nash had a newly commissioned ship, The Connaught, and one of the best crews in the Navy. He met Jack when his mission was to ferry the spy into the Russian Barrens near the Bering Strait. Despite not wanting or needing an emotional involvement, Nash fell for Jack. When Nash and his crew are set up to take the fall for a mission gone bad, he is court martialed out of the Navy. With his grandfather funding the building of an airship, The Lucky Penny, Nash and his crew become sky pirates, mercenaries who take on secret missions into areas of the world no one else will fly to. They also play Robin Hood, righting wrongs by raiding private airships and robbing the rich to give to the poor.
Dr. Peregrine “Spence” Spencer, scientist and medical doctor:
Peregrine Spencer is the youngest son of a rich coal merchant and an aristocratic mother. His parents discovered that he had a genius level intellect when at five years old he accurately and swiftly tallied his mother’s household accounts in his head. Sending him to school turned out to be a disaster as Spence did not get along well with the other boys. His intellect and shyness combined to make him the target of bullies and unbeknownst to his parents, he was raped while away at school.
Upon showing an exceptional facility with research and a keen interest in medical science, Spence’s father sent him to medical school. Becoming a doctor came easy to Spence, however his social skills lacked polish. As he became interested in technology and began to study the nebulous science of aether while searching for a cure for lycanthropy, he joined the Lords of Aether club where he gained access to books, laboratories and experiments conducted in secret by the members. It was at the club that he met Anthony Banning and fell in love for the first time. Socially awkward, Spence resists Anthony’s attempts to get close to him. However, the disappearance of several members of the club coinciding with the deaths of key figures in the criminal underworld combined with clues leading to an ancient arcane society bring Spence together with Anthony and Jack as they search for Nash.
Spence is twenty seven years old, stands five foot ten and has a moderately muscular build from rowing. He has a shock of ginger colored hair and eyes so dark a blue they appear violet. He wears wire-rimmed glasses and is prone to clumsiness when not in his lab. Because of his past, Spence has difficulty being openly gay and his emotional issues often hinder Anthony’s attempts to woo him.
Shelley “Shel” Jefferson, courtesan:
Shelley Jefferson is the bastard son of an Italian count and the look-alike brother of Nash Sutherland. While Nash has chestnut hair, Shelley gets his coloring from his American railroad heiress mother, and his is the color of wheat. His eyes are the same grey as Nash’s but if Shelley darkened his hair, he could easily be mistaken for him.
Shelley enjoys a mysterious reputation, due to the fact that he rarely ventures out during the day. He is a highly paid courtesan, an object of much speculation, and extremely choosey about his clients. Two or three at a time are all he needs to live in high style, and while none believes he is Shelley’s only client, all believe they are “the chosen”. The first among equals.
There is some speculation that Shelley Jefferson, the enigmatic lace-masked whore who comes and goes frequently as a guest of one or another member of the Lords Of Aether Club might actually be the owner. He shares a peculiar friendship with Savage Beare, although since both men are fiercely discreet it’s only in private that it manifests itself.
Shelley’s father realized at birth Shelley wasn’t his get. Due to his envy of Shelley’s biological father’s wealth and power, and due to Shelley’s unmistakable resemblance to the handsome Count and the mockery of his peers, Shelley’s father rejected him. Shelley acted out in school and ran with a fast, brash crowd. Shelley is an expert at subtle information gathering, something he has found to be lucrative, and personally gratifying. He’s not above selling information to the highest bidder. He’s an expert with and an aficionado of blades, and he has a deadly skill with throwing knives. In his teens, he traveled with a Wild West show, posing as “the ruthless card sharp”.
Where Jack Starr is the ultimate adventurer-spy, Shelley is the consummate agent provocateur. He manipulates like a Medici prince and possesses the sangfroid of a lethal spider.
Shelley likes to think he’s the most heartless man in England. The reality is a painful and even masochistic secret because his love is unrequited — his heart and his loyalty belong irrevocably to Lord Anthony Banning, a fact of which the 9th Earl of Kenmare is in ignorance.
Shelley has a musician/gypsy boy who travels with him. Calfiglio is nineteen and plays the violin like a virtuoso. He goes everywhere with Shelley and often plays for Shelley while Shelley entertain’s his lovers. (While Shelley is making love, he hides behind a screen). He’s called The Mute Calfiglio, and because he can’t speak, Shelley’s customers allow him to hang around, sometimes using him to deliver messages and the like. Many of Shelley’s customers believe him simple so they aren’t careful about what they say in front of him. He plays the role well, but in fact… he is neither mute nor simple.
He’s 5’9 very slight, has Romany features, dark curly hair and deep set, brooding dark eyes. He’s quite lovely, but as he plays at being simple, and Shelley and Beare protect him like… well… mother bears, he’s safe from unwanted attention. So far, he hasn’t been interested in anyone, man or woman.
Savage Beare, Club Steward:
The Lords of Aether club needs a steward who possesses discretion, common sense and – preferably – a strong pair of fists. Savage has all of those. He’s also reputed to be the most cantankerous man in London, so he’s often heard muttering insults at the members under his breath. He thinks they’re no better than a bunch of milksop mollies – yet he’s fiercely loyal and nothing bad will happen to the club or its members on his watch. The Lords of Aether recognise true quality when they see it and won’t let him go.
Poll, Beare’s Better Half
Jacob Alexander “Alexi” Silsbury, inventor and ocean explorer:
Alexi has always had an affinity for the water that he couldn’t understand. He loves to swim and is fascinated by boats and sea creatures. On a trip to Spain with his uncle and cousin when he was very young, he discovered people knew very little about what actually dwells under the waves and has been trying to find a way prove there’s more than just fishes and whales in the deep. He’s invented many devices to help him navigate, explore and travel on and under water.
Obviously, everyone thinks he’s a little bit nuts to believe in mer-people and sea monsters and his family has pretty much cut ties with him. This doesn’t stop him being a Silsbury or having access to their resources. He rarely conforms to the responsibilities or expectations society sets on someone from a family as old and powerful as his, since he’s not willing to associate with people who have already as much as disowned him, but he’s also not above using his family connections to get what he needs, like access to the Lords of Aether and their experiments.
During his last year of school, he used his more feminine traits to seduce one of his professors in an effort to gain access to some of those experiments, without ever expecting his plan might actually lead to his having feelings for the other man, or that the professor would in turn accept the skirts as well as the man beneath. The affair ended badly when the professor realized Alexi’s original intent, and though Alexi gained entrance to the club on his own, his feelings for his professor are still strong despite his suspicion that the professor might not always be working for the right causes.
His best friend growing up was Leonard Stokes, the only son of a wealthy merchant family sent to ‘tutor’ Alexi when Leonard was seven and Alexi was two. The boys grew up together and although Alexi knew early on he would do pretty much anything for Leonard, he has never told Leo how he feels. He’s resigned himself to a platonic friendship with perhaps the only man who truly understands him.
Lately, since the end of his relationship with the professor, he’s been obsessed with proving that someone has been stirring up the creatures of the deep to disturb shipping lanes and cut the Americas off from the mother country.
Leo has always seen himself as Alexi’s knight protector ever since he arrived at the younger man’s house as a terrified boy sent to keep a child occupied. He has always seen Alexi as softer and more fragile than most men and decided from a very early age it was his responsibility to keep him safely out of trouble.
He was ill suited to the job at seven years old and rather than becoming the younger boy’s teacher, they became close friends. That friendship has never died despite Alexi’s odd proclivities. Leo still finds the small man fascinating and exciting, and a little bit absent-minded. Just enough excuse to remain by his side as an adult.
With pressure mounting for them both to find wives, and for Leo to take over his father’s thriving textile business, their friendship is coming under more and more strain. Now, with Alexi seemingly obsessed with his inventions and the idea that someone is out to sabotage the Empire, Leo is at a loss. The more pressure he feels to settle down and slot himself into his place in society, the more he feels the need to escape and find a place in Alexi’s world, strange as it might be.
Most frightening of all is the fact he thinks perhaps Alexi is right and there are forces at work against the Empire. As Alexi’s inventions become bigger and more successful, the attention he’s drawing does not sit well with Leo. Someone wants what Alexi can do, and there is every possibility the very things that make Alexi who he is, are also putting the younger man in danger Leo might not be able to protect him from.
Victor Fitzroy Leach, entrepreneur, lord of the underworld:
Vitctor was born in the 1850’s or 60’s and is the great grandson of William IV (Billy, the sailor King). Wrong side of the blanket, of course, descended from one of the countless children he sired on Dorothy Jordan, the actress.
The only son of a pair of well-known inventors, Silas is twenty-three years old and very innocent to how evil the word can be. He has always been shy, withdrawn and sheltered by his parents. Especially, since his own brush of genius leaves him incapable of mastering even the easiest of social skills. His one friend is Byron Wright. Despite the fact that Bryon comes from extreme wealth, whereas Silas’s family sometimes barely manages to get by, the two have been inseparable since the age of five. So, when Silas’s parents turn up missing, Silas goes to his friend for help. As he searches for his parents, Silas discovers just how twisted the word can be and his innocence is soon shattered. Desperate for answers, Silas soon finds himself going to great extremes in his quest for justice and before he realizes it, Silas is in danger of losing himself for good.
The youngest son of a rich merchant, Bryon is a bit spoiled and pretentious. Even though he’s only twenty-three, his whole life is already set. He owns a part of his father’s business and will never want for anything. However, while on the outside he may be happy, deep down he is sad for he longs for his friend, Silas and is in love with him. But, their love is forbidden and Byron’s father is pushing harder than ever for Byron to find a woman and get married. Byron is ready to cave into his father’s demands until Silas comes to him and asks for his help. Unable to deny Silas anything, Bryon rushes to his aid. As they delve deeper into their investigation, Byron is shattered to realize that the world isn’t all about happiness and easy living, there is real evil out there and it’s closer than he ever imagined. In fact, it could be as close as his own home since Bryon discovers that his father may be part of the conspiracy that resulted in Silas’s parents being kidnapped.
Emmett Montgomery, 12th Earl of Bridgewater:
Emmett is an extremely skilled big game hunter, he doesn’t actually enjoy killing for sport. He keeps his skills up by bringing back African animals for the London zoo and experiments with creating specialized rifles, tranquilizers and tranq guns. Emmett is brash and outgoing. He’s brawny, auburn haired and tanned.
Caleb Sutton, 5th Baron Colchester:
Caleb has spent his life inventing clockwork animals, which he uses to support himself when he inherits the barony and discovers the extensive debts his uncle accrued. Primarily due to his uncle’s excesses, Caleb has very distinct ideas about how a peer of the realm should act, and as a result tends to be disapproving and prim.