|The Supreme Serpent|
Looming over all of VIPER stands the Supreme Serpent, the unquestioned leader of the entire organization. Agents whisper that he can see and hear everything that goes on in any Nest, and that he punishes even the slightest disobedience with horrible, agonizing death. But no one in the organization knows the full truth behind the man.
The third son of a British duke, Edgar Lancelyn Essec was born into a world of wealth and privilege. Blessed with a keen intelligence and devilish good looks in addition to his social prominence, he also seemed cursed with a malign spirit. Time and again he abused his position and natural gifts to take advantage of people or get into mischief and then avoid punishment.
As he grew up, Edgar’s “mischief ” became more and more wicked. The family covered up several of his deeds, but eventually he caused a scandal even his father couldn’t completely hide. In 1924, after Edgar was found to have done... things... to several maidservants at one of the Duke’s country estates, his family disowned him and banished him from England.
Matching their contempt with his own scorn, Essec took ship for the hinterlands of the Empire, following in the footsteps of his grand-uncle, a nineteenth-century explorer. When World War II began, Essec found himself torn between loyalty to his native lands and his vague sympathy for Nazi political ideals. He began to consider some way he could turn the whole war situation to his advantage and become even richer and more powerful than ever... when fate intervened.
One day, while hunting in the Mbang Mountains of West Africa, Essec saw what seemed to be an enormous serpent slither into a dark cave. Intrigued, he left his native bearers behind, made a crude torch out of a fallen branch, and followed the serpent inside.
The inside of the cave was so dark that his torch had little effect. He saw no signs of the serpent, so he stubbornly headed further into the earth. After he walked and crawled further in, his torch began to sputter and he realized the air smelled funny. Suddenly he felt woozy and lightheaded;before he could turn around and leave the cave, he passed out.
He awakened a few minutes later, his head aching and his whole body tired and a little sore. He stumbled slowly out of the cave, guiding himself by touch since his torch had burned out. He emerged into the light of day and was infuriated to discover his bearers had deserted him! Swearing loudly that he would butcher every single one of them and their misbegotten families to boot, he walked slowly back to the nearest village.There he received the shock of his life. The “village” was a town! In the space of a day it had grown — and there were natives driving cars!
It didn’t take Essec too long to find out he’d slept a lot longer than he’d expected — decades longer. Somehow, the fumes in the cave that caused him to pass out in 1939 let him sleep, unchanged and unaged, until 1992!
He found his eldest son, Roger, now a man of advanced years, running the businesses Edgar himself had founded. An astonished Roger at first refused to believe Essec was his father, but had to acknowledge the truth of the matter eventually.
Truly a son of his father, he had become involved in business at an early age, ruthlessly crushing several competitors and not hesitating to use blatantly criminal means to get what he wanted. In 1954, Roger had been one of the Thirty Founders of VIPER, and he remained a leader in the organization. But VIPER was foundering; those who created it had lost control to the individual Nest Leaders, and the entire organization was in danger of dissolving due to internal conflict and the Cottonmouth Incident. Roger knew the time had come for a change... and in his father, he saw the instrument of that change. The serpent and cave were a sign from Nama, and VIPER must obey.
Roger introduced his father to the organization at the next meeting of the Thirty Founders. Most were skeptical, but others, including the infamous Duchess, saw the spark of truth in Roger’s words and Edgar’s malevolent eyes. Here was the man who could reform VIPER and make it a power to be feared once more.
The believers turned their powers of persuasion on the skeptics, pointing out the similarities between what happened to Essec and what they saw in the vision Nama granted them back in 1954. When the die-hard unbelievers refused to give in, Essec arranged for their deaths.
Over the next several years, Essec reorganized and revitalized VIPER. He changed the Thirty Founders to the Council Of Thirty, replacing the murdered members with worthy Nest Leaders and others he hand-picked. He brought the renegade Nests in line, often by the simple expedient of slaughtering the Nest Leaders and all of their men and giving the “franchise” to someone loyal to him. It didn’t take long for everyone in VIPER to realize they’d be better off to go along with the new leader — the Supreme Serpent, as he christened himself — than to oppose him. Those who stood against him died; those who joined him prospered.
And so it has remained in the years since. With the Supreme Serpent at the helm, VIPER has attained heights of power and wealth it never could before. Essec remains firmly in control, his hands filled with riches for those who obey him and faithfully carry out his orders, and death for those who defy him or fail.