The founder of the Resurrection Men was a Skinlander named Henri LeRoux: a doctor by trade and a necromancer by inclination. He and his wife had been speaking to the dead ever since they were children, and had borne the claims of 'witch' and 'warlock' by the superstitious and ill-informed.
Neither of the LeRouxs were particularly malevolent. They were merely curious, wishing to know what lay beyond the veil of death. And those Wraiths they spoke to were happy to entertain such people, and told them much of their lore.
The LeRouxs' life could have gone on for some time had certain events not occurred. The French Revolution degenerated into the Reign of Terror, and with it the slaughter of thousands. Henri was appalled: he was neither aristocrat nor pauper, but saw good and evil in all hearts regardless of station. To kill a man, and his family, simply because of the accident of fortunate birth was an unthinkable crime.
And those crimes were not kept only to his own world. Henri's Wraithly companions spoke of the hundreds of Enfants that came through, their Cauls still wet from the trip, waiting to be harvested by Reapers and screaming for justice. And evil ghosts - the ones Henri's conversants called "Spectres" - were taking undue advantage of the situation, and nothing good could come of it.
Raising the Dead, Then Joining Them:
Henri was not well-connected enough to help with the Underground, nor was he risk-prone enough to try. But, he did know of ways that the dead might come back to visit the living, and knew of ways that magicians such as he used to animate the dead. If these two were combined, could the dead souls not gain revenge and, perhaps, move into the Heavens with faster speed?
So, after consulting his grimoires, and speaking to those Wraiths who dared practice the art of controlling the bodies of the living, Henri began his experiments. In surprisingly short time his ghostly students were able to speak through dead bodies, see through their eyes, and slip into them like a hand into a glove. They had also learned, early on, how to arrest the spread of decay that made it harder to retain control of their stolen bodies.
Things were going well... but, as with all great, revolutionary plans, some slight ruin must reign for a time. So it was that an old rival in work and love arranged to have Henri falsely charged. His motives were simple: he desired Madame LeRoux, and wished vengeance for the years of slight that LeRoux's superior medicine had caused him.
The rival's wishes were granted: after a lengthy wait in prison, Henri was given a farcical trial, found 'guilty' and sentenced to death. He was decapitated the very next day, with his wife looking on.
Dead, but Not Gone:
But death was not the end for Henri LeRoux. He was reaped by his allies among the dead, and then possessed a body with which to kill his accuser for his impudence.
He was, however, too late. Henri's wife had been ravished and shot by his accuser by the time he came back to his house. She lay near death, and without his magick, LeRoux could do nothing to save her life. He could only take the foul man's life for his crimes, and then fall down into a Harrowing.
LeRoux came out the Labyrinth stronger than before, and filled with both purpose and counter-revolutionary fire. 'Let us go on the offensive,' he told his friends, and they began to build a movement from the hundredfold ranks of the Guillotined dead. Men, women and children all taken by Mdme. Guillotine were very eager to take matters into their own hands.
Henri and his close associates organized their helpers into Cells. They charged them to recruit other victims of the Guillotine, like themselves, and offer them the same chance Henri had offered them. Their name - the Resurrection Men - began as something of a morbid joke, but in time even Henri began to use it.
Meanwhile, the Renegades' silent, cold wave of terror began in earnest. A number of accusers, true and false, died under mysterious circumstances: a strangled rival here, a butchered "citizen" there. In the grip of the bloody madness of the Reign of Terror, such things were just part of the story, and rarely ascribed strange origins.
Reprisal from on High:
But those wraiths associated with Paris' Hierarchy were not so easily fooled. Those with some understanding of the Puppeteers' arts could tell that they had been employed at several murder scenes. And if that was not enough proof, those accusers who crossed the Shroud told gruesome tales of being killed by the dead.
So it was only a matter of time before the Hierarchy of Paris discovered the Resurrection Men. The Grim Legion was more than willing to applaud its Legionnaires' desires to see justice done. But - like their brethren Legions - they only allowed for such justice on their own side of the Shroud.
Citing the Dictum Mortuum, the Legions mobilized their Legionnaires to stop the Renegades. Soon the streets of Paris were seeing the sorts of patrols that only a foreign invasion would warrant. And with the ranks of the Legions swelling from the Terror, there were no few Legionnaires to spare in this matter.
The Hierarchy's initial efforts garnered quite a few arrests, but they were dealing with a most headstrong group of people. The captives refused to talk, requiring that all the tortures of a Masquer's worst nightmares be done to them before they would say anything. The interrogators had to work non-stop to find anything more than mere scraps of information.
In fact, had it not been for one well-noted expert's dogged insistence that a certain captive knew much more than he was telling, the Hierarchy might have been unable to stop Henri LeRoux's masterstroke. As it was, they were only just in time...
Martyrdom and a Pyrrhic Victory:
It was July 27th (9 Thermidor) of 1794, and Maximilien Robespierre's enemies in the Convention were storming his home. Meanwhile, Henri LeRoux - in the borrowed skin of a young boy lost to the Guillotine - had the man himself at gunpoint. LeRoux had ordered the body smuggled into the house in a sack of potatoes, and then got out and snuck upstairs, pistol in hand, to catch his nemesis off-guard.
Indeed, he would have killed Robespierre had the timely intervention of a Legionnaire not spoiled his aim. Between that - and the problem of trying to aim while holding a gun with one hand and the boy's head with the other - the gunshot merely shattered Robespierre's jaw. This left him gasping in pain as the would-be assassin's corpse fell before him, and his mortal enemies burst into the room.
Robespierre was be taken away to face a trial of his own, but no mention of the dead boy in his room was made in court. He was executed the next day, but though the Grim Legion was waiting to arrest him for Skinmurder, his Caul was not found. It was assumed he passed on without becoming a Wraith: this was, of course, in error - he reappeared somewhere else, later becoming a famous Renegade leader in his own right.
And as for Henri LeRoux, he faced the prospect of a new trial gladly. He refused to give up a whit of what he knew, even under extreme torture. In fact, it's said he was mentally preparing a great speech to give the court while he languished on the rack.
Unfortunately for him, the Hierarchy'd had enough of dealing with the Renegades' code of silence. A "specialist" - most likely a kept Mnemos - was brought in to pick at LeRoux's mind. And after that nightmarish session, LeRoux was a vegetable, and his entire operation was exposed.
The Renegade group's Cells were caught one by one, and sentenced and smelted into useful objects in turn. While this occurred in the Shadowlands, the Reign of Terror came to a halt, and the Revolution's old order devoured itself in the Thermidor Reaction.
It was a victory for the Resurrection Men, but one borne on the back of the greatest sacrifice they could make. There would be no final resolving of matters for them - only a near-eternity spent as soulsteel. But it is said that many of them went to the forges smiling, or laughing at their captors.
After all - come what may - they had won.
Gone, But Still There:
As far as the Hierarchy were concerned, the Resurrection Men were wiped out in that massive purge. Unfortunately for the Hierarchy, their declaration was vastly premature.
Henri LeRoux held a tight rein over his group, but even he did not know everything. Some of the Renegades not yet known to him were able to escape the massive culling. These few went far and wide, hiding in various corners of the Shadowlands until the Hierarchy stopped looking for them. And then, when the matter was considered "closed," they reorganized, took on new students and taught their arts in secret.
And so do the Resurrection Men survive to this night. Their activities were discounted by the Hierarchy as the everpresent "rumors" of Risen; Meanwhile, those Hierarchs who knew the truth about the Risen spent their time following them, rather than the Resurrection Men And with the Hierarchy's fall, the Renegades' continued silence keeps them out of sight... at least until an angry corpse rises from its grave once more...