Chapter 10: Shadow of Death (strix)

“It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.”- J.R.R Tolkien, The Hobbit

Humanity was always afraid of the darkness. It is in our DNA- we are creatures of sun and light, of fire and electricity. Even those who claim themselves to be “nocturnal” are actually still bound by that desire- for even in the wildest clubs, the neon light still glow upon the celebrations of decadence, and the street light has seen many crimes preformed under its pale radiance. To give yourself to the darkness means leaving everything which makes you human behind, and most of those who take their chances in moonless nights never come back. There is something lurking in the darkness, in the night, in storm clouds and in the shadows which hide in the middle of the day. In our fear, we watch those shadows, telling ourselves that nothing hides among them- unaware for the fact the darkness watches back, with golden, shining eyes.

When thinking about the “gameline specific antagonists” for each line, I like to picture them as the pre-human monster version of each line. The idigam as pre-human spirit, the Huntsman as pre-human fae, the insatiable as pre-human beasts, etc, etc. Following that logic, the strix are per-human vampires- and we all must admit that there is a certain amount of logic for that claim. There is nothing human about the Birds of Dis, after all, and by all records they were there, in the darkness, long before mankind learned to light fire to protect itself from it. The strix claim to always be here, and in many ways, they are right.

Through the change of editions, the Owls has went through a number of changes- first, they were owl shaped spirits which were motivated to teach vampires they are truly monsters- and to destroy those who fail them. At Wicked Dead, they were free from whatever power which caged them, making them free to do as they wish. In the new edition, the strix are way from being a united faction- they are usually solitary, rarely gathering in parliaments when bad things are coming. They did destroyed the Julii, and they do unite together from time to time in order to torment the Damned and tear down their sophisticated society.

At least three times a massive strix attack was detailed (Rome, Alexandria and Romania), and two of the times have also involved a massive natural disaster which caused many deaths (unless you claim that the fall of the Roman Empire is equal to a “massive natural disaster”). That makes me think that perhaps there is some sort of reason for why do such events follow each other- for example, we know that for some instincts, when the population of the organism grows out of proportion, something changes in the behavior of the organism. The most known example is locust, which even goes through a physical metamorphosis because of the fact there are just too many grasshoppers in the same place.

Now- what if the reason the strix go to “crusades” against the Kindred during times of crises is, more or less, the same reason? Sure, all strix have some interest in vampires, as vampires are well kept corpses and the strix love crawling their way into a corpse. Some of them even hate the vampires, or envy them, or are disappointed from them. They feel kinship to the dead, but they can’t love them as they are “doing it wrong”. I believe that immediate hate comes from the same feeling vampires has when they see the strix- something weird and relatable yet alien and twisted. The only difference is that the strix have much easier time to mess up with vampires than the other way around.

At any case, it is well established that each of the Owls has its own motivations in (un)life, and that they are solitary by nature. However, when great disasters are about to happen, the strix are drawn to them, gathering en masses. When the population of the strix rise above a certain threshold, which probably depends on the amount of resources (that is, available corpses to ride and living to drink from), something changes in them. All strix feel certain connection to (a) fate, after all- and perhaps when that connection is strong enough, all strix turn from collection of solitary creatures into a swarm, and they all leave their personal desires behind to unit under a single banner- to make the unlife of the Kindred an unliving hell.

Now, the strix acting out of passions they don’t truly understand is nothing new- many of the strix exhibit that behavior, acting out of instinct instead of a calculated decision. The strix also don’t doubt their instincts- they have full faith in them, and just do what they feel to be right. Something guides the strix behind the shadows of Dis, but even they aren’t aware of what it is, and neither do they care. They don’t even know from where they come from, or what they are- in fact, it was mentioned a number of times that the strix may not actually be a unified breed, but that there are a number of “strix clans” in the world. As there is no real mechanical difference between the strix, and the only aesthetic difference is in the mention of some raven-shaped strix or the Tengu, for this post I will treat all strix as a single type of creature (I would add the concept of variant strix to my “to do” list).

Anyway, a common claim among the Owls is that they are the Beast incarnated, and that even inside each vampire there is a small strix which screams for blood. While the Beast and the Owls do share many things in common, there is one thing which separates the two- emotions. The strix are cold and calculated, emotionless and heartless. They don’t anger, they don’t love. Sure, they can enjoy the world’s physical sensations- but deep down, they are empty. They are psychopaths, unable to relate to others or understand why would someone would harm himself in order to protect another being. They do understand pain and they do understand pleasure- but those are sensations, and they are addicted to sensations. That’s why they want a physical body so much- and this is why they hate the vampires for having it.

The Beast, on the other hand, is a very emotional being- it loves, it hates, it rage, it celebrates. It sings and dance, it plans complicate vengeance and howls against those who threat what that belongs to it. While the Beast of each Clan is different, they are all Beasts (with the potential exception of the Ka, but we’ll talk about it at Thousand Years of Night). Vampires are not emotional dead- on the contrary. They have never been more alive- emotions strike their dead heart more strongly than before, even if their emotional spectrum was narrowed a bit to the range of red-to-orange.

Another difference is the fact that unlike the strix, the Beast is bound to its body- it is a parasite, which slowly consumes its host and it takes over the dead corpse. It can’t escape its fleshy cage even at the price of its life. The strix, on the other hand, are unbound- only contained by sunlight and fire, slipping through small cracks like the shadows they are. The strix may be made from the same “substance” as the Beast, but the way they express themselves is quit different. In a more scientific words, both the Beast and the strix come from the same potential, but the function which describes it is quit different, and as such it details an whole other system.

Now, let’s start examining the “strix system”, shall we?

First, while both the strix and the Kindred use Vitae, the Owls has a different Potential Value which governs it- Shadow Potency. Like all other supernatural potentials, Shadow Potency has a critical point at 5, where the system changes its phase. The way they gain and store Vitae is also different- instead of drinking blood, the strix steal breath. One way to think about it is using the same paradigm we used for Ephemeral Being- that while all Ephemerals use Essence, there is a difference between the Essence of ghosts and that of spirits, and as such a difference in Rank. However, I’m not sure that interpretation works for this case- the Vitae the strix needs seems to be the same as the one vampires need, and is generated through another means. That means that Vitae is still Vitae- but it is the medium which is different.

And that seems to be the point.

For example, did you knew that you could use electrons in order to cool down a system? Yeah, you can actually pour electricity into a metal and it would cool down instead of heating up. That’s because electrons don’t only carry electric charges, but they also carry heat. Now, the way heat is carried in the system is quit different if it is done through electrons or by moving through the structure of object directly (which is sometimes known as phonons). They are both governed by temperature, but express it in an whole other way. Let’s take it one step forward- we all know about physical force, right? F = ma? Now, we can all agree that while the expression looks quit simple (the way that energy is spread upon displacement), but we can also agree that there is a difference between electric power and gravitational power (hence why all theoretical physicists spend their efforts in a way to reconcile those two powers). More than that, even though scientists have managed to make unified theories for the nuclear forces and the electromagnetic forces, in daily life those two forces express themselves quit differently. Heck, even electric force and magnetic force act differently, each with its own field, even though they are both aspects of the same phenomena and are carried by the same particles- photons.

That’s, more or less, what we have here- the fact that the medium matters. It is important whether the source of the force is gravitational or electric, even though they are both energy divided by length. It is important if the potency of the vampire comes from blood or shadows, even though Vitae is still Vitae, life is still life- it is simply that Blood Potency represent the animating quality of blood as “vitae carrier”, while Shadow Potency represent the same quality as carried by shadows. The strix drink breath, for breath carries the life of the subject in a semi solid way, which could be absorbed by their body. Blood is just too thick, and the Vitae in it simply can’t be adjusted to their system without a body to host them.

As for the specific effect of Shadow based Animation, let examine the effects of the value itself. First, we can see that like Blood Potency, Shadow Potency spontaneously increase with time- which supports the fact that both sizes acts as some sort of supernatural temperature. It could also be raised by devouring other strix, which makes sense (again, you combine two systems together, the intensive value rise as some sort of average of the two systems). They do not, however, need to “cool down” in the same way vampires do- they don’t spend Vitae to wake up, and don’t fall into torpor. That means that, unlike vampires, the strix don’t need to pay a toll to the Sponsor in order to exist- and as such, they work with their own “vampire licence”, and that their points of origin are, at their base, different.

They can, however, reduce their Shadow Potency by reproducing. Unlike vampires, the strix practically cut out parts of their own shadow stuff and make it into a new strix. The process reminds of the way vampires lose Humanity during the Embrace- but we will get to it later. At any case, unlike vampires, the Owls can strength any of their attributes using Vitae- which means that the way their mind and body are tied together is different from the way it is done with mortals (duh?). The fact that the strix are immune to Vinculum supports their unbound nature, and may come from the fact the strix control their own animation field a lot better than vampires do, or simply because of the lack of overlap between a shadow-based animation field and a blood based one.

It is worth to mention that soulless people produce no Vitae to the strix (and maybe to other vampires? I need to check that). That means that the life represented by Vitae do not come from the physical body, but are a product of the how our soul “charge” our body, some sort of fuel it use to bring it to life.

When we take a look at the strix’s mind, we discover that they lack Dirge, Mask or Touchstones. Touchstones are easy to explain (the strix are not human, and they simply don’t care enough abotu others), while the lack of Mask and Dirge comes from the fact the strix does not suffer from a dual nature- they don’t have a soul, they are a Beast. On the other hand, they do have a Vice- which is a trait based upon human mentality. The more interesting thing is that the strix’s Vice works mechanically like the human Vice, which is always something that encourage the Owl to take a physical form. Interesting. Very interesting.

The reason that it is interesting is that it supports the “dual mind” theory we have established for humans- with Vice being the part of the mind which leans toward the body. The strix’s Vice seems to be the initial “link” which allows it to take over the host. However, the strix lack any “higher mind”- which means that the strix are, by default, creatures of lower nature. Nothing draws them more than they own basic pleasures, nothing interests them beyond the moment. They have no long term goals- they can plan for long term, but their nature always distracts them. They just can’t focus enough, can’t care enough, about things longer than the next few moments. The fact that their mind is still half human may hint something about the origin of the strix- perhaps they are a manifestation of our deepest desires, thoughts we don’t dare to pronounce, emotions we hide in the darkness so no one would see- and in that darkness, they grow fat upon our own self loath, spread their black wings and fly to the night. At any case, it may mean that the strix may be ancient- but they are not, apparently, pre-human.

Unlike vampires, the strix have another way to gain Willpower other than their Anchor- seeing the sun sets over the horizon. While there is nothing scientific to say about it, I think it is cool to look at it at a psychological view- the strix feel just as satisfied from taking a body to the edge or tormenting the hell out of a Kindred just as they feel from seeing the sun dies out. Even vampires don’t hate the sun as much. Vampires fear the sun- but the strix despise it. They take it personally that the sun dares to take its head up every morning, and celebrate its death at every night. Perhaps they are truly inhuman, and they remember the time before the sun, before the light, before the warmth. Maybe they just take its effects upon them personally. Whatever the case, that is another difference between them and the Beast.

On the other hand, we do have another evidence which support the strix being of human origin- the fact they can commune with any person through some sort of “telepathy”. Sure, telepathy is not that uncommon in the setting, and we could claim it to be some sort of interaction between the strix’s animation field and their target’s, but I think it is cooler to treat it as the strix “communing” through the same dimension as they exist on- they are creatures of shadows and darkness, and they can instinctively speak with anyone, through the darkness in their heart.

Like the Kindred, the strix also have Banes, things which harm their shadowy body- or more exactly, their shadow based animation field. The sun and fire banish them, but don’t destroy them unless they have no other place to escape to. That may mean that a shadow-based animation field is much less vulnerable to the disturbances generated by fire and sunlight. Another explanation may relay on the Beast being responsible for the greater damage done by those banes. That is, sunlight and fire shouldn’t be that dangerous for vampires- but the Beast generates the damage in order to protect itself from a much greater threat. And what does the Beast have the strix lack? That’s right. A soul. Another thing top think about when designing a potential Daywalker splat.

As for other Banes, we can notice that the strix gain new Banes as they rise in Shadow Potency, while vampires gain them by losing Humanity. It may sound a bit unrelated at first- but then we have that note about Integrity: the Owls, while lack Integrity/Humanity, do use Shadow Potency instead. Now, if we remember that the negative of Humanity is Monstrosity, we discover that the strix do have their “karma state”- it is simply that their Monstrosity is equal to their Shadow Potency, and Monstrosity is the one responsible for the vampire’s Banes. That means that, unlike spirits, the strix do have a mind separate from their “body” (shadow animation field) and “soul” (whatever that is). The strix are not the “Beast Incarnated”- it is manifested in their own shadow body through their mind, just like any other “soul” does. The stronger their “Beast”, the stronger the connection between it and their animation field becomes, and higher their Monstrosity becomes, which is expressed by getting new Banes. Reproduction demands them to shatter a bits of their mind, soul and body in order to create a new strix, which is interesting- for the Kindred become more monstrous as they Embrace, while the strix grew less.

While the Owls do not frenzy like the Beast does, they do generate a Predatory Aura similar to that of a vampire. The fact that they can’t notice difference between each other means that the interaction between the auras relays solely upon the animation field interaction, without caring about the medium from which it is generated (it doesn’t matter if you are being pulled by a magnet or by Earth’s gravity- you are still falling from a 20 stories building). The more interesting thing is that their aura actually looks like the one of a vampire which has committed Diablerie- it seems that when a vampire preforms Amaranth, they change the state of their animation field (probably by transforming their Beast) into one which is more similar to that of a strix. In sort, the vampire’s Beast becomes more like the strix’s, which is kinda scary.

Now, let’s start talking less about what the strix are, and more about what the strix do.

There are 4 powers which all Owls share- the Gathering Cry, Owl Eye, Taint of Life and Doom Sense. The first is a form of communication, which is simply generated at high frequency that only beings with keen hearing can notice, and with only one goal- to call more of their kind tot he same place. Owl Eye comes from the fact that the strix are made from darkness, and that their sense of sight probably works quit different from that of a living being. Taint of Life is another sense the strix has, one which works by sensing the animation fields of others directly. Doom Sense, however, is quit interesting, as it gives a mechanical support for the strix’ affinity for fate. Whatever the powers behind the strix, it seems to be in tune with destiny, or maybe even be one of the many destinies which work behind the world. More exactly, the Owls are sensitive for calamity and disasters- which kinda supports the idea of Vitae being tied to entropy. They can feel the “arrow of time”, and the way the Darkness grows in the world.

Another innate power of the strix is their ability to embody themselves. On the surface, Embodiment shares certain aspects with Manifestations- but the occult physics behind each of those abilities is quit different. Manifestation works through the dimension of Essence, that is, through Existence. The Ephemeral is able to control its level of existence and manipulate it through Essence. Embodiments don’t work through the Essential Field, but through the Animation Field- they utilize Vitae, not Essence. That means that Embody themselves in the world, they don’t control the level of their existence- they animate the world around themselves, bringing it to life.  They can Embody themselves in the dead, in the undead, in the living. They can merge themselves with an host, or change their state of matter into material and Twilight. They can control darkness and open gates to Dis. All of those are performed by animating the world around them and make it a part of them. They don’t manifest themselves- but become the thing they embody themselves in.

In addition to those standard powers, the strix have their own, more general Dread Powers. Doom powers utilize the innate connection between the strix upcoming, well, doom. The interesting thing is that those powers also influence emotions- which hints that the fate the strix are tuned into comes from the people themselves- or more exactly, from their own darkest fears and desires. Dark hearts are the ones to bring doom, not the stars. Host powers are an extension of the Owl’s ability to embody itself, animating the host further in order to make it more a “part of them”.  Shadow powers come from the connection between the strix and darkness, and enhance the Owl’s ability to embody itself in the dark instead of in an host body. Finally, Vitae powers are direct manipulations of the animation field, similar to what the Kindred do using Disciplines. In fact, they can even learn Disciplines of the Kindred, meaning that vampires only have a very limited access to the wide variety of animation field interactions. The strix can’t use Theban, however (apparently, they lack access to the Theban Matrix as nothing blocks their “Beast”), but they can develop Curac naturally (as it is the way the Beast embody itself in the world)- but they can’t use it without blood. That shows the importance of medium, for it is like trying to use an electric field to move a neutral object- nothing happens. Curac seems to need its own “matrix”, which works through blood. While the strix do have the right potential for Curac and can understand the powers behind it, they do not have access to it by their own because of the differences in matrix.

It is worth to mention that other than Curac, the strix lack access to all other Covenant Benefist when possessing an host, and even Curac they need to develop by themselves. Four of those powers relay on an outside Matrix, which makes sense, and the Coils are transformations of the vampire’s Beast- and with the strix taking its place, the effect of the Coils simply stops working.

And now, some words from our sponsors-

  • Anna Red- a standard example of “teaching/tormenting the Kindred” kind of strix, one which use the Masquerad against them. Cool strategy, I must say- but she is also an example for ho easily the strix can become bored.

 

  • Baron- another interesting strategy, which plays its own Masquerade  against the Kindred. It also shows that some Owls grow attached to their possessed bodies. I do need to add its childer as a to-do Bloodline. Also- it has a freaking murder house!

 

  • Black Cat- this is an example for a strix which wish to to “teach” the Kindred, in its own twisted way. Kinda spooky, I must say.

 

  • Granny- another strix which made itself an essential part of the Kindred society, and this one has a strong affinity with the fate the Owls are tuned to. One of the scariest monsters in this section.

 

  • Hantu- well, well- Hantu is cool! It is a master of Curac, and is hinted to be the power behind at certain Clan. While there is a theory that it has created the Mekhet, we have already established they Shadows have a different origin. The backstory does sounds a bit like the Julii’s, but why does it hate the Mekhet then? As we mentioned before, maybe some Clans were “created” a number of times, and maybe one of their variations was created by the Sorcerer, and later absorbed by the wider Mekhet Clan, turning its rage upon all of the Clan. I think I’ll add this to my to-do list.

 

  • Lady of Shivs- not the strongest strix, but definitely a smart one. I approve.

 

  • Lord of Irons- it really seems like the strix play on humanity’s worse qualities and fears. A nomad monster in the woods? An undead pet? Justified rebellion turned into self destructive terror? Evil grannies? And now- an corrupted police officer. Again, this one is doing it just for laughs. Perhaps the Owls have a strong sense of irony?

 

  • Marty- oh, I love Marty! He is just the opposite of what you expect from a strix.

 

  • Mother- with all of those “Lost Clans”, seeing the birth of a new one does sounds interesting. Unlike other strix originated Clan, this one seems to have far more emphasis on owlish qualities. Maybe that’s a part of the strix not being a single breed. Maybe Mother just has a limited imagination. Anyway, to the to-do list!

 

  • Mr. Scratch- Grimma Wormtounge, the strix version

 

  • Ms. Gem- at first she seems to be the standard kind of strix- the hedonistic one which only seek after pain and pleasure- but then we look on her Shadow Potency. I expected 4 or 5- but instead, nine. Nine! She is the most powerful strix in the book! Apparently, hedonism can take you far. She also has some great knowledge about Mystery Cults, which gives her a nice twist.

 

  • Old Man- a standard monstrous strix, not even sophisticated one. Nothing to see here, move along.

 

  • Pastor Samuel- now, that’s cool! A strix which creates an hunter cell (heck, maybe even a compact!) by claiming vampires are demons from hell and sending his human underlings to deal with them. I’m adding this potential compact to the list.

 

  • Photographer- well, it looks like the strix have a knack for arts too! The classic “trade your soul for beauty” kind of thing. I wonder if it is tied to the Formosae somehow, as the effects of their “bite” are quit similar.

 

  • Ringmaster- another strix which was influenced by pop culture.. or was it? Maybe that monster comes from Rome, where it saw the gladiator arenas for the first time, and was.. inspired.

 

  • Strix Hunter- it takes one to kill one, right? I must wonder if it has some agenda or reason for its killings, or if it really is just to enjoy the act of devouring other Owls.

 

  • Teach- adding a monster teacher to the list of human inspired horrors. That blood magic ritual does sounds like an interesting plot hook. I wonder is it is a some sort of summoning, which perhaps is meant to unlock a gate to Dis and get something out.. or something in. At any case, it is an example for the fact that the strix are so tuned into fate and don’t care about why they do what they do, that they can work complicate missions out of instinct.

 

  • Thief of Masques- it looks like that for those strix which wish to attack the Kindred society, the Masquerade takes most of their attention. It makes sense- without it, the Kindred would probably have to become a lot more monstrous, unable to conceal their nature. An easy way to achieve their goal.

 

  • Varney- a strix which is not only attached to its body, but also growing senile. That’s… interesting.

Before we finish that post, let’s take a few moments and examine what kind of supernatural patron and realm the strix may have in the cosmology.

We know three things about the strix- that they feed upon life, that they are made from darkness and that they are sensitive to fate and doom. We also know that they may have some connection for vampires, even if not a direct one and even if not to all of the Clans. We know that they are creatures of Vice, bound by lesser desires and emotions, like infernals- but unlike them, they aren’t defined by their Vice, only satisfied by it. We know that the fate they serve is one which brings calamity, and that it is connected to the darkness found in other people’s hearts- that is, the reason they are connected to human Vice comes from the same power which manipulates destiny to bring doom. So what do we get from all of this?

Something we’ll call Lilith.

After some thoughts, I’ve decided to make some changes to the name conventions given to the otherworlds of vampires. As the Owls are called the Birds of Dis, it seems unfair to use that name to the realm of the Sponsor. Instead, the place which the Sponsor and the Blood Gods rule will be known as the Graveyard, while the shadow to which the strix, the original inhabitants of the Graveyard, were banished to will be known as Dis. While both Dis and the Graveyard are Lower Depths, the distance between the two is so metaphysically great that Dis to the Graveyard is the Graveyard to the Fallen. Still, Dis is well connected to the Graveyard- it is a two dimensional space, for darkness has no volume. It has no light, no mass, nothing, actually. It is a lifeless realm made out of hungry darkness, smoke and shadows. You could wander that empty space for all eternity without moving even one centimeter, for without light time and space lose their meaning. Still, Dis isn’t truly empty- for one people enter its boundaries, it is filled with everything they brought with them.

The things is, that because Dis is so empty, anything people bring with them fill the whole space. It is not only their physical form- it is their dark hearts and souls. Dis change its shape to take the form of their worst desires, of their evil selves, of things they never wish to see. Dis feeds upon that inner darkness, slowly consuming the life and soul of those who stumble into its depths until only an hungry husk is left behind. Dis is an hole in the fabric of the universe, a two dimensional sink in the animation field, and so only beings with such field (such as vampires) can usually enter it. Others are simply “too big”, and if they do manage to get into that darkness, most of them are never seen again.

And in the heart of the darkness, Lilith, the Queen of Owls, sits upon her shadowy throne.

There are many stories about her Some say she was the first woman, cursed by God to fear the sun and fire and to be a mother of demons. Others say she was a divine creature- a sorceress, or perhaps a dragon- which was betrayed by her siblings and thrown into the void. Some say she is a goddess, a she-demon, or even a manifestation of the first night which ever fell upon earth. Lilith doesn’t bother answering those questions. Very few people has seen her true form, but many have met her- she shows up in dark dreams and black nights, in the mind of a madman or in the shadows of the fearful. She is heard in the last breath of an hanged man and felt in the cold wind of the winter. Lilith is in your heart, that evil self you try to ignore, but may one day bloom into a beautiful monster, if treated right.

Lilith, by her core, is a creature of passion, and she feeds upon those passions. She drinks souls and devours hearts, celebrating in death while singing the requiem of her enemies. One, she ruled the Graveyard all by her own, birthing children from her shadows and sending them to torment the living, creating mockeries of life in the form of the undead. Then, the Sponsor came, and he threw her into Dis- the strix claim he tricked her, but who can believe a word the Owls say? While she is a creature of darkness and death, she is a goddess of omens, too. She is entropy- or, at least, one form of it. She is the end which has no beginning, the long night which would come as the sun would burn out in the sky, leaving behind a black star. She is a force of calamity, leading people to self destruction by drawing them into their finale end. There is no meaning for virtue, no place for light. Everything is doomed- and you should embrace your inner darkness instead of fighting it. Lilith is not a goddess of fate- she is a goddess of doom, and she tries to pull everything to its ultimate demise.

As a goddess of doom, she is one of the Darkness’s few allies- for both of them share their love for dark places, desires and the rising the chaos of the universe. However, there is a key difference- the Darkness doesn’t want to end all things. It enjoys tormenting the living too much. The Darkness doesn’t destroy- it twists, changes and transform to make everything worse. Lilith doesn’t want to make everything worse- she wants everything to end. The world is doomed to fail, and she wants to watch it going down. She wants to watch the sun sets one last time, creating a barren landscape where only the dead roam the earth, feeding upon each other in an eternal spiral of destruction. Only then, in a realm which knows no light, she could finally spread her wings and embody herself in the world.

Well, that’s it for this week! In the end I haven’t talked about ghouls and revenants- I think i’ll wait with it for Half Damned. At any case, next week there won’t be a post, for I will be in vacation. The week after, I will make my next Open Development post about werewolves on the First Temple… or am I? Stay tuned 😛

Open Development 2: No Person of You Shall Eat the Blood (V:tR)

So while I first thought about choosing the gameline for out Dark Era in advance, after some thought it came to me that it didn’t really made sense. Being locked on a gameline, while helpful to focus your efforts, could be block your creativity and blind you to the “right” choice for the Era. So, instead, I have decided to investigate how each of the gamelines (and perhaps some Blue Book templates, like Inferno or Second Sight), may exist in the times of the First Temple- and the first one is, of course, vampires.

When thinking about vampires in Judaism, two things immediately jump to your mind- Lilith and the prohibition to eat one’s blood. The connection between Lilith and Requiem is almost too easy to ignore- after all, in Hebrew the very translation of the word “strix” is “Lilith”. A great demon bird which devours the breath of sleeping children and has spawned a legion of demons to avenge herself allows us to integrate the Owls to the setting easily.

The prohibition itself, however, does not connect to the vampires of mythology- according the accepted interpretation, it was made because eating the blood of animals is claimed to be a form of idolatry, even though the alternative does claim that the spirit of the animal is found in its blood. At any case, most agree that the bible talks about the blood of beasts and birds alone, so one can still “eats their own blood”. However, those are the CofD, and in our setting the reason for the prohibition is much simpler. Its vampires.

As we can all agree, the most immediate interpretation of the verses about blood-eating is “you aren’t allowed to be a vampire”, which is funny, as usually no one asks you. The punishment for the act is called Kareth, usually interpenetrated as “death by heaven”, which actually makes some sort of sense- those who eat blood are vampires, and they are, usually, dead. However, there are other people who drink blood other than vampires- ghouls for example.

Looking at things that way brings the prohibition under an whole new light- it is not about forbidding you to be a vampire. It is about forbidding you from being in a Blood Cult- you must not eat the blood of vampires, you must not bind your will and life to theirs in exchange for longer lifespan. The punishment for that is “death by heavens”, which is sometimes known as shortening the sinner’s lifespan- which, again, makes sense. Other interpretations include “death without children”, or “banishment from the afterlife”, or a combination of those punishments. At any case, Kareth sounds like a fitting punishment for both vampires and ghouls- being cut off from the afterlife, from society, from life itself. You are no longer part of this world, and you are doomed to exist alone for all eternity.

Too bad vampires don’t follow the rules.

The Kingdom of Israel during Solomon’s rule is an important crossroad in the Ancient Near East. While the exact countries which were in regular contact with the Monarchy isn’t well defined, we know that Solomon had alliances Egypt, Phoenicia, Mesopotamia, the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, with some even suggest India. While I don’t think we need to go that far, if we consider that the amount of women Solomon had is proportional to the number of countries and nations he had an alliance with, we can be sure that it means quit a range of influence. As in order to satisfy his women he made them temples in honor of their gods, that makes Ancient Israel into some sort of melting pot, where all kinds of different faiths and traditions clash and mix together. Unlike other similar Eras (like To the Strongest), such mix of cultures is not considered a good thing- it may even be a sin, actually. Strictly forbidden. However, the dead are not the only ones to break the rules.

Considering the situation, we can more or less assume we are likely to meet in that Era- the first, and most widespread Clan is, undoubtedly, the Daeva. With their origin in ancient Mesopotamia, the Daeva have had centuries to strength their control over Near East. Their Elders even remember the collapse of the Bronze Age, and most of them have witnessed the escape of the Israelite from Egypt and their conquest of the Canaan. We can safely assume that most of them don’t fondly remember those times, as the Judges swept through the land and destroyed many of their precious Blood Cults.

The way I see it, the Daeva generally see themselves as living incarnations of their gods, undead divinities which exist to be worshiped by the living. Before the coming of the Israelite, they took the role of gods, each of them gathering a Blood Cult to serve them. However, the new situation has brought a dilemma to the Clan- some stay faithful to the old ways, challenging the priests of the Israelite with miracles of their own. Others choose to adapt, leaving behind the role of gods to take one which fits more to the new age- demons. After all, if they are being hunted at any case, at least do it with style. While their cults were repressed under the rule of kings Saul and David, something changed with Solomon’s rise. Acceptance to other gods has started to rise in the Kingdom, and the Blood Cults- both demonic and divine- start to flourish once more in the Old Lands, bringing hope to the dead.

The other obvious Clan is the Mekhet- Pharaoh’s Daughter is explicitly mentioned in the bible as Solomon’s favorite wife, which was meant to sign the alliance between Israel and Egypt. That alliance has also brought trade between the two countries- and where the merchants walk, vampires follow. The way I see it, the Mekhet of the Era are mostly (if not fully) Hollow, and they bring with them their own culture and their own Shadow Cults. That’s not the first time the Daeva and the Mekhet have interacted with each other, but they are still far from seeing each other as Kindred- especially since the weird way the Mekhet Embrace their own, and the competition between the the cults of the Daeva and the Mekhet’s.

I still don’t have an opinion about the Nosferatu and the Gangrel- especially the former. The Gangrel seem to be, after all, the most ancient of Clans, so they are probably could be found in the First Temple. The Nosferatu, however, seem to be strongly East European- even though their description seems to hint about an older origin. If we use the theory that the Clans weren’t created only once, but that different Clans with similar Disciplines were created a number of times with the present Clans being the ones which survived, absorbed or killed off the competition, there may be a local iteration for the Nosferatu, with more or less the same curse and the same Discipline spread. Perhaps we could take a look at one of their Bloodlines and choose the best one for them (the same could be used for the Gangrel, if needed).

However, one Clan which I really don’t think should be dominant is the Ventrue- apparently being created during the fall of Troy, they are a relatively young Clan compared to Daeva and the Mekhet, not to mention they are still recovering from the Greek Dark Ages. I imagine that most of their population is found around Greece, making them practically unknown to the vampires of the First Temple.

There is, however, another to take their place- originally developed for the Requiem for Azar expansion together with Deionscribe and Arcanist, as Clan by the name of the Mumvuri exist in south-east Africa. Each of them carries his own manifested Beast- a small bird which hungers for blood. While they were originally conceived as a Lost Clan, I have thought about revising them, and I think they would make an interesting addition for that Era. At any case, the Mumvuri population in the Monarchy is a bit low compared to the other Clans, with the most coming as part of the trade between Israel and Sheba, perhaps even following the Queen herself as she visited Solomon.

Talking about Lost Clans- there is one another we can expect to find land of Canaan, one which tracks its very origin to the Levant, years before the Temple was built and the Israelite came from Egypt, from a time were five cities stood proud, and five kings ruled with iron fist, spending their time with celebrations of sin, vice and decadence. Five cities which were punished for their sins, and collapsed under their own weight. Five cities which their legacy still haunts the night, motivated by unnatural hunger, the blood of gods and curse of demons. The Akhud.

During that Era, the Akhud are yet to become “lost”- even though they aren’t among the most populous Clans in the Monarchy. They are also still to become VII, if they ever did became them. Still, they are seen as outsiders, devoted zealots motivated by the ideals which even death couldn’t put down. For that Era, I’m going to use my own version of the Akhud, which is a bit different from the one presented in Thousand Years of Night- in fact, I’m going to treat the curse presented in that book as their Elder Bane, while keeping the one I’ve made for them. While they don’t necessary kill other vampires during that Era, they are still not very well trusted, whispered to be demon soldiers and product of pure horror. Other vampires speak about them as mass murderers and diablerists, unstable monsters which has made pacts with demons and similar terrible beings. Those stories may not be true now- but one day, they may be. They will be.

The next thing we need to consider is Covenants. We already know that Egypt’s vampires comes with their own sophisticated cultural structure, based upon the cults of great gods. Sure, some of the cults has crumbled or destroyed (I need to check the timeline), but enough of them stand strong. On the east of Canaan, the vampires of Mesopotamia have their own Covenants, including the mystical Coven of Nanja and the Voice of Shullat- and if I’m not mistaken, the En rules Babylon even during that Era (even though I’m not sure he already made the pact with the Alu). Each of those Covenants would have its foothold in the Monarchy, but Canaan’s vampires seem to have developed their own society.

As it was mentioned, before the Time of Judges and the coming of the Israelite, the Canaanite vampires has operated in a form of many separate Blood Cults which worship their vampiric patrons. With the attacks of the Judges and the reforms of Saul and David, things has started to change in the All Night Society- lone cults ha bonded together, sharing information and resources in order to survive. That process has catalyst a flexible unification of the cults, which took the name of Mizbehakh HaElilim (“altar of the idols”), which exist to maintain the divine blood ceremonies granted to them by the goddess- ones that in modern time would be known as Curac.

However, while pagan vampires have their own traditions, the Israelite have brought their own monsters from the desert- they may have escaped Egypt together with their herd during the Exodus. Maybe they came from another place entirely, stumbling upon the Israelite after escaping their own cursed place. Each of them carries a demon in their heart, sealed by a powerful blood magician in a nameless city. Each of them believes that each sin carries a punishment, and the wicked are to be hunted. They break the laws and challenge tradition in order to judge the dead and punish the fallen. The Akhud gather around them like flies, drawn to their zeal and willingness to make great sacrifices in the name of faith. They are the devil’s advocates. The Ahranite Brotherhood.

That gives us at least 5 Covenant which may be dominant during this Era- the Great Cults of Egypt which wield a variant of Theban Sorcery, The Coven of Nanja and their Merges Sorcery, the Voice of Shullat which fills the Carthian niche (even though their Covenant Benefit may be different- perhaps something about transmitting information), Mizbehakh HaElilim and their proto Curac and the Ahranite Brotherhood (or Blood of Ahran, still haven’t decided on the name) and their Ahranite Sorcery. While it fills the 5 splat system, the fact is that 4 out of the 5 hold some form of Blood Magic. I wonder if I could think about an Invictus like Covenant in order to balance it a bit.

Anyway, after finishing with the main splats, we need to ask ourselves which what kind of Bloodlines may show up in this Era. I think that one Bloodline per Clan is the top we need to get, or even that may be too much. The most asked Bloodline is the Qedesha, as those holy prostitutes track their origin to the First Temple and the practices of certain Canaanite priestesses (although among priests was a male version called as Keleb). At any case, that seems to be a great opportunity to update them. I think the Neglatu could also feature in that Era, although I can’t find in what language the word “Neglatu” actually is. The Naditu would fulfill the place of Daeva Bloodline, especially since their role as living gods- although I can only imagine how they would clash with the Qedesha, as both take the part of holy prostitutes (may be used to support the Mekhet/Daeva tension). The Annunaku may take the place of Gangrel Bloodline, and the Nosferatu’s may be the Noctuku (again, not sure about the language). I may even include an Akhud Bloodline in here!

And finally- antagonists. As we have already mentioned, the strix already has an established place in the setting in the form of Lilith’s spawn, or the lilim. The owls of the night fly in the dark sky of the First Temple, nesting in abandoned lands and devouring the breath of the young. They creep into the bodies of the dead and wake them into a mockery of life. Charms are made against those demons, while many track them to Mesopotamia, and blame the Daeva for their origin. The Daeva, however, keep their mouth shut about the subject. While the First Temple has a developed culture of warding against the Birds of the Night included in the many cults of the Mizbehakh, the clash between the Blood Cults and the Israelite priests and Judges should have weakened the defenses against them- but it doesn’t. Apparently, Solomon has used his magic to develop defensive spells, ones which banish the smoke of shadows to the hell from which they came. The Owls are afraid of Solomon- and that scares the shit out of the vampires.

However, the Lilim are not the only ones who wait to hurt the dead. Stories about a terrible being known simply as Mastema are whispered in the Cacophony- a being which claims to be the father of all evil, which seeks to devour the souls of the living dead, claiming them as its own. Even though the Edimmu are yet to come walk the earth, stories about wind demons from the east are already being whispered in the All Night Society, as Pazuzu sends its armies against the spawn of Lamashtu. The mysterious Alu already seek vampire souls to host them, and many whisper they are the spirits of a Clan lost centuries ago. And that without mentioning mortal threats- priests and prophets, Canaanite and Israelite, soldiers and prostitutes all dedicated to fight the dead, in their own way.

And of course, we can’t forget about dear old Deborah.

well, that’s it for this week! Hope you like my view of vampires in the First Temple, and please say what do you think! The next OD post would be about Werewolf, but it would only take place after finishing the strix examination post for vampire. See you next time!

Chapter 9: Cacophony of Lost Souls (Covenants)

Usually, in modern literature, vampires like to be around other vampires. They create social structures for themselves, they make laws and force punishment. They have their own government, their own rulers and leaders. They are social beings, which hide their sharp fangs under a smiling porcelain mask. That’s interesting, especially when we consider the fact that in myth and folklore, vampires are usually loners- they are cursed creatures, freaks of nature which return to a semblance of life. They are monsters, and monsters don’t gather together to have a (blood red) tea party. That product is an outcome of the romanticization of vampires- making them into something inspiring, instead of revolting. From fear, to temptation. From that, it looks like there is something we can learn about Requiem’s own vampires.

That covenants are a product of the Man, not the Beast.

Let’s look on the vampire psychology- a vampire with maximal Monstrosity is known as Draugr. Those things are usually the standard, mythological vampire- loners, monsters, undead nightmares which exist only to drink the blood of the living. High Humanity vampires, however, are what you would usually see in literature- sophisticate monsters which follow the rules they made for themselves and cling to what they were like dress which no longer fit, but when you squeeze yourself into it you can imagine you weight 5 pounds less. Most vampire are somewhere in the middle- the dress is already a bit thorn and stained with blood, but it is better than running naked and howling to the moon like a madman.

In many ways, Covenants, even those which dedicate themselves to celebrating the vampire existence, are all products of that psychology. They allow the vampire to make herself a place in the All Night Society, to add her own voice to the grand choir of the dead. By taking her part in the covenants, she can readjust the dress a bit- she can patch a few holes, or clean it up a bit. Around her, there are other others who feel like her, who understand her choices and way of life. She can talk with them, she can share with them. Each sings their own requiem, and together they create a great cacophony, which would drive humans mad but is sweet to the ears of the vampires.

The Beast can’t do something like that. The Beast despise things like that. Vampires are predators- they should act accordingly. They should prey upon each other, fight for territory and drink the blood heart of anyone who cross their path. They shouldn’t make themselves a place in the world, creating a different meaning to what being a vampire actually means. The Beast doesn’t allow them to be humans- but the Man, their own soul, longs for it more than anything else. The Covenants are a product of that struggle, an agreement between the two sides of the vampire’s mind and soul- from one side, they aren’t allowed to be humans. From the other, they can’t be mindless monsters. The Covenants allows them to be something else- something which has human traits and monster traits in the same time. The Covenants allow them to be vampires.

Now, while there are many Covenants in the core (most are only described only by a single paragraph), in this post we would focus only on the main ones (I have considered talking a bit about the Broken Covenants, but with the Gallows Post being described in Dark Eras, the Legion coming from RfR and the Tenth Choir showing up in the upcoming Dark Eras 2, that only leaves the Children’s Crusade, and I’ve never liked those kids). As those are social structures, we are not going to see a lot of “occult physics” in here- although there would be a bit about it when talking about the supernatural gifts each of the Covenants  grant to its followers.

First we have the Carthian Movement. While the group names itself after Carthage, they are quit a modern creation- even though even they can’t agree on a specific time of their formation. Most agree on the French Revolution, but the New York Movement claims to be first. I won’t be too surprised to hear that at least some Movements do claim that the Covenant’s origin does come from the ancient city-state, no matter how ridiculous it may sound. The truth doesn’t really matter- just like the fact that Carth is still around, publishing in blogs and pushing the Revolution. The Movement is, at its essence, an ideal- and ideals are the ones to define the truth, not the other way around.

The Carthian Movement exist in order to bring a revolution in the vampire society- it wants to test new ideas, attempts new methods, to do things which were never done. The Movement doesn’t give you a set values which you must adapt to- it wants you to make shit by yourself, to bring fourth your own ideas and make the world adapt to your way of thought. The Movement even turn upon itself, as any revolution which exist in static for too long ends with dictatorship. The Movement exist to bring fourth change- which defies the very idea of being a vampire. They challenge the static nature of death by celebrating change and changing their nature- but sometimes, it isn’t as much of a change as much as it is a snake which feeds upon itself. The Movement runs in place, making one revolution after the other without actually achieving any permanent accomplishment- and when the vampire runs out of strength and can’t run any more, the Beast roars and devours him whole.

The special leverage the Movement grants to its people is known as the Carthian Law. Unlike certain other Covenant specific benefits, Carthian Law does not actually require some kind of supernatural matrix to activate- both of its effect and requirement are, in fact, quit mundane. It work through the different laws the vampires make to themselves, and requires the user to be a part of the Movement. No Vitae, no Willpower, no Discipline dots which effect the vampire’s animation field- nothing. It just require you to be important enough in the Movement, and a matrix of laws to work through. That’s it.

That means that, unlike certain other benefits, Carthian Law is not an extension of the vampire nature- but of the Covenant’s. Following the “Movement as an ideal” theme, Carthian Law is how the vampire can call upon his own Covenant’s metaphysical existence in order to help him. Among all other Covenants, the Movement in unique by the fact that it is, in a way, alive- it actively acts and interferes for the benefits of its members. It is Carth, the faceless leader which exist everywhere an nowhere. That makes the Law into an astral ability in nature, an idea which interact through the astral space in order to influence the real world. As we are yet to investigate Goetia, the exact nature of interaction is not well defined- but we can assume that by following the Ephemeral beings rules, the Law is the way the Movement force itself existence upon reality- or, in other words, it is an outcome of its Influence.

The next Covenant is the Circle of the Crone- the bloodiest of all (maybe but Belial’s Brood, but they are yet to show up in 2E). Among all of the Covenants, it is the one which celebrates the vampire existence the most. They accept their own Monstrosity, they accept their Beast. They let go of their Humanity and ride to the wilderness. Even their Blood Magic demands them to let go of their former self and accept that now, they are monsters, and that they should celebrate that. Being a vampire is something natural, they say, it is a part of the natural order. You are not an abomination- you are the next step at the food chain, another level in the ladder toward evolution. In that case, what stops them from crossing the finale threshold and becoming all Draugr? What makes them different from the mad, demon worshiping Brood?

Their divinity.

You can’t be a part of the Circle without accepting the Goddess. The Crone is not some distant divinity worshiped from afar- she is inside of you, inside of every vampire, pulsing with Vitae and hungry for blood. Countless small cults worship her by countless different names, but they accept her. She is inside of them, beating in their undead heart, screaming in the darkness of the night. When they call upon her, they call upon themselves- upon the darkest, bloodiest parts of themselves, but it is still them. They become the Goddess incarnated, and carry her rage and hunger upon the living. They aren’t simple monsters- they are divine beings. That gives them a frame, setting them a few boundaries- sure, a very flexible frame and very loose boundaries, but it is still here. You aren’t just a monster- you are a divine monster, and while it ain’t a lot it is enough to stop you from falling into Draugrhood.

Curac, the Blood Magic of the Covenant, is the most terrible of all vampire powers, for it is a direct manifestation of the Beast. That’s why the Strix can use it. That’s why it requires Vitae. That’s why learning it is a Breaking Point and it caps your Humanity. Curac means that the vampire accepts her own Beast, and gives the Beast a greater hold over her body. In a way, it means that the vampire permanently sacrifice parts of her mind to the Beast, to allow it to manifest in the world. Curac permanently intensify the vampire’s animation field, and as such strength its interactions beyond the regular limits, on the expanse of the soul. The spent Vitae is used to extend the vampire’s field and cause changes not only on her own body, but on the world around her. In many ways, you could think about Curac as “Influence” used by the Beast to force its nature upon the world (hence the use for Manipulation). Still, there is one strange thing we must ask ourselves when investigating Curac.

Why the blood?

After all, we have already establish that Vitae is not blood- blood carries Vitae, but there are other mediums for it. Breath, for example, or the shadows of the strix. Yet, the Owls, while being masters of Curac, can’t use their own Vitae to perform the rituals. Instead, they require Kindred Vitae- or more exactly, blood. The supernatural energy of life by itself is simply not enough. Curac demands blood- but why? The sort answer is “magic”, but what we are doing is is not magic, but science, and to science we shall turn! Now, what we have here is a process which requires not a certain amount of energy (as we already established that Vitae is a quantized value), or a certain dimension through which the process is preformed (as both are Vitae)- but a difference in the potential value- Blood vs Shadow. That hints that Shadow Potency, while connected to Vitae like Blood Potency, has different physical qualities- and more on that in the Owls’ post. all we can say in here is that there is an importance not only to the source of the supernatural energy, but also to its medium, be it blood or shadows.

After the Circle, we have the Invictus- part feudal society, part crime organization, fully dedicated for material power and wealth. They see themselves as the direct descendants of the grand Camarilla, the power which maintains the vampire society against all other threats. They are the reason the vampire society has survived until now, they say to themselves. They are the true unconquered, the ones which survived where others died out, a conspiracy of silence which rules the world. They maintain the Traditions, they maintain the structure, they main the hierarchy. Without them, there is no vampire society- not in the true sense of the word. There are just scattered coteries which fight each other for nothing more than this night’s meal. The Invictus rules, and the others follow- at least, that’s how they see themselves.

The main motivation behind the Invictus is power- they exist to rule, to shape, to act. They crush their enemies and force their shattered remains to their rule. They may act as an aristocratic society, the most rational and in control of their Beast of all other Covenants (and in many ways, they are), but under the surface, they are the same monsters as the rest of their kind- hungry for power, territory and control just as every other predator. That denial of their true nature may be the reason for why the strix hate them so much- for they reject their Beast and cage it in fancy prison of gold, playing at being human instead of accepting their own Monstrosity.

In order to cement their hierarchy, the Invictus use their Oaths to bind both themselves and others. Unlike Carthian Law, Invictus Oaths do rely on the vampire condition, working through Vitae or Disciplines. That’s not surprising, as Blood Oaths are one of the oldest representation of “blood having power”, right next to blood sacrifice. The fact that only the Invictus has access to binding such Oaths hints, however, that it is not a natural ability for most vampires. It is a technique, an acquired skill which the Invictus use to bind others to their will. We can assume that the power of the Oaths work through interactions of the two animation fields- the vassal and the liege- and forcing them through certain conditions. In a way, Oaths are some sort of programming language, which allows the Notary to directly adjust and force certain interactions of the two fields under the decided conditions. In sort, Oaths are all about programming the vampires, using an interface more user friendly than developing and forcing the Beast to your will.

As everyone know, the “natural partners” of the First Estate are the Lancea et Sanctum. The Church of vampire kind, the faith of the damned. People constantly argue that the Lancea are not Christian- and they are right, but they are also not not-Christian. They are closer to Christianity than, say, Christianity is to Judaism, as their basic faith and trapping rely on Christian imagery. They are strongly influenced by Christianity for historical reasons, and it is a part of their nature. But still, bellow the surface, bellow their faith and prayers and saints and angels, the monster still roars- and for a good reason, for God decreed them as such. The Lancea gives vampires a reason to exist, something to help them sleep at day and hunt at night. They are monsters, they are damned- but God has wished them to be so.

The principle of the Sanctified is given their monstrosity a purpose. Yes, they are damned. Yes, they are bound to do terrible things. Yes, the night is dark and full of terrors- and you are one of them. However, if you do it by God’s name, sin turns into a virtue, evil turns to good, crime turns to justice. All you have to do, is follow God’s will- and who knows God’s will better than its Church? The Invictus rule the vampire’s mind. The Ordo Dracul rule its body. The Lancea rules its soul. Where the Circle prosper in thousand voices, each singing its own song, the Lancea has a single voice, and those who listen to it may find redemption through being God’s willing angels, meant to test the innocence of mankind. Those who don’t, are damned- and God’s angels punish the wicked.

Much of the Lancea’s power relies on its ability to preform miracles. You can call yourself God’s willing servant as much as you want, but in a world were everyone can run faster than a moving car or break walls with their bare hands, you need something more than simple faith to convince the masses that they need to be on God’s good side. True to its name, Theban Sorcery can be traced to Egypt, were it was granted by an angel called Amoniel, and is claimed to manipulate God’s curse. Trying to point the fact that the Egyptian Sun God was called Amun, which had its cult centered at Thebes, which his faith was dominant during the New Kingdom that it was practically monotheistic, and that certain Elders which survived since the days of ancient Egypt show an interesting capacity to use similar kind of sorcery would probably end with your Finale Death. Do not question God (and more importantly, its Church), is one of the core foundations of the Sanctified belief, after all.

Whatever the power behind Theban Sorcery may be, one thing is for certain- Theban Sorcery is powered by the Man, not the Beast. It requires expanding Willpower instead of Vitae, and draws power from Humanity instead of Monstrosity. It also requires a physical sacrament, a object which draws the divine power and bring fourth the magic. It is an intellectual process, requiring working by the ceremony instead of forcing the world to your will. Dots in Theban Sorcery don’t strength the Beast- they contain it. They don’t intensify the animation field- they direct it. The sacrament, the ritual, the cost of Will are all meant to tune the vampire to the forces of Heaven, and ask from them to preform the miracle.

In other words, we need to think about Theban Sorcery less as the vampire’s own ability, and more of the vampire’s ability to tune to a greater occult matrix. The Sanctified preforms the ritual and “wish it to happen”, forcing his field to create an interaction with the “Theban Matrix”. The ceremony itself creates the Supernatural Potential Value (similar to the vampire’s Beast), which creates the field that would create the miracle. The interaction between the vampire’s own supernatural field and the ritual’s allow him to preform the magic and create the desired effect, when the ritual is a part of the Theban Matrix which weaves the divine energy together. The vampire tunes her own field to the Matrix in order to create the miracle, which means she has to control her own field to do so- which requires the soul to be in control of the process, for it means reshaping and controlling the Beast. The Beast, of course, sin’t happy for that- but nobody asks her, and it is all done for God’s glory.

The last main Covenant is the Ordo Dracul. Where the Invictus and the Lancea build themselves around the Man, and the Circle and the Movement express the Beast, the Ordo Dracul cares about neither and try to transcend them both. The Order is not about being a vampire- it is about being more than a vampire, something which is not forced upon you but defined by you. You were cursed. You now cheat that curse. You choose your own fate, and all that mambo jambo about “accepting your curse” or “vampirisim as a natural state” can go to hell.

That makes the Order into both the least human and the least monstrous Covenant. While most vampires choose one of the sides, the Dragons wish to cheat the system and find their own way out. They experiment on themselves and others, leaving behind their old self in exchange for terrible changes of their body and soul. They experiment on their own Beast, forcing upon it changes which aren’t natural to it. They gather occult information and communicate with the other denizens of the darkness. They search for the strange, the unexpected, the things no one understand and use them to shape themselves, to evolve, to become better than who they are and spit in the eyes of their makers. They decide their own death on their own terms, and those which object would be burned in the Dargon’s fire.

The Mysteries of the Dragon are a direct representation of those transformations. Unlike other powers, the Mysteries don’t shape or direction the animation field or influence its interactions with others- they directly transform the Potential Value which generates the field, forcing it to change in ways which aren’t natural to it. In other words, they directly experiment with their Beast- with an half of their own soul!- in order to make themselves something.. different. They don’t simply modify the field’s geometry- they change the very mathematical function which describes it, making it that the Beast is no longer, truly a Beast. Doing so is the most terrible thing one could do to herself- and so no one should be surprised the Dragons do it.

While the Coils are direct self transformations of the vampire’s Beast, Scales allow the vampire to force similar changes on others. In a way, Scales are long range interactions of the vampire’s new animation field with other animation field, which creates outcomes considered impossible. Those interactions allow the vampire to manipulate the animation field of other creatures in the same ways she manipulates her own, forcing unnatural changes on her subject’s soul for their own benefits. Among all of the Covenants, the Order has the greatest control over the animation fields, and that’s represented in the radical transformations they preform on themselves and others.

The last Covenant we should mention in here is VII- even though we won’t get into details. There isn’t much known about VII other than the fact that they kill vampires, draw their symbol in the crime scene and may have some connection to the strix- either as allies or enemies. Three of them (the Ahranites, the Betrayed and the brainwashed vampires) would be discussed when we’ll get to VII’s book. The God Machine cult sounds a lot like the Holy Engineers, so we’ll talk about them in the Danse Macabre. The Blood Cult sounds interesting, and I have considered about connecting it to the Tenth Choir- but as we get that Covenant in Dark Eras 2, we’ll have to wait and see what ends up with them before making the connection. The shadowy doppelganger reminds me too much of the Nameless from Montreal, so I’ll put it on my to-do list. The strix hunters also sound like something interesting to explore- even if not as VII, for they sound a bit too “good guys” for my taste.

Now, after establishing the main Covenants, let’s talk about their patron Blood Gods, shall we?

The Carthian Movement were already established as having their very Covenant as a patron, an astral construct with life of its own which exist to bring fourth new revolutions. The manifestation of that construct would be Carth- the faceless leader of the Covenant, which inspires the Movement to continue and rebel, to continue and change, to continue and challenge and old order. As an astral construct, Carth should exist in the Temenos- even though the Temenos is, well, the place for human souls. However, as we said before, there is no requirement for being a vampire in order to use Carthian Law, so we can assume that it is enough for Carth to be in Temenos, although s/he may exist in a vampire equivalent of the Astral instead- but I do enjoy the thought of a vampiric astral construct which devours other ideas and make them a part of it. Anyway, treat it as high Ranked Goetia.

The Circle of the Crone should also be a simple one- it is guided by the Crone. The question is, of course, what the Crone actually is. We may try to connect her to some primordial power of vampirism- but we have already established the Sponsor for that, and I’m not comfortable with making the origin of vampirisim into the special patron of one Covenant. We can, instead, make her a powerful, ancient vampire which has became a divine deity by its own, and that she see herself as the mother of vampires and maker of monsters. That, however, sounds a lot like how we have established Echidna- and I must say I have no problem with that interpretation. Sure, it makes Echidna as the patron of both a Clan and a Covenant, but there is no reason why it won’t be the case. The Crone may also be her own thing instead- a great spirit of death and creation, perhaps even a Pangaean, which became worshiped by vampires. That could also work- so I’ll think about it for awhile and write my finale decision in the sum up post (even though my opinion is definitely not “canon” and everyone are free to make their own decisions about their cosmology). Please, feel free to say your opinion about this subject!

As for the Invictus, I am definitely going with something in the style of an ancient vampire as their patron- the one which has created the Blood Oath Programming Code, and is the dead heart around which the Covenant gather. Following Danse Macabre, I’m going to call that character the Emperor- nothing more than a rumor inside of the Invictus, an urban legend which which is whispered in the Cacophony. Rumored to be powerless and controlled by an council of elders, he sits in center of the Conspiracy of Silence, being the foundation stone upon which the whole structure is built. He doesn’t need to actually do anything- only to sit on the throne, but without him the whole Covenant would fall apart. What is even less known that while the Emperor is replaced from time to time, its spirit never leaves- for long time ago, the true Emperor has left its own physical body, and it takes the one offered to it by the Council. All Oaths are made in the Emperor’s name, and he is the one to enforce them and punish the oathbreakers.

The Lancea’s situation is a bit complicated- after all, they claim to follow God, but it looks like God may actually be Amun. That brings up the question of where exactly Theban Sorcery comes from- does it come from God? Or is it the power of an ancient Egyptian deity? Maybe God is actually the same being as Amun of Thebes? Perhaps he stole Amun’s Theban Matrix? Or his faithful simply hijacked it for their own uses? At any case, the point is that the true nature of Theban Sorcery isn’t that relevant- Elohim’s existence was already established in the setting as the patron of Mortals, and it makes sense for him to use vampires to test their innocence. He definitely chose Longinus as his champion among the dead, and it is Longinus, not God, not Amoniel and not Amun, which is the saint and patron of the Covenant. Perhaps the Theban Matrix is not an invention of God. Perhaps he stole it or loaned it or traded it or share it with Amun. Perhaps Amun still has some sort of influence about the Matrix- but it is relevant. All that is important is that Longinus stand for the Damned, and that his faithful can use Theban Sorcery in his name. That’s all.

Finally, the Ordo Dracul have their own being to follow- less of a patron and more of a role model. Dracula. The finale fate of Dracula is unknown, however, which means we can play around with it a little. In order to do that, I have decided to establish the existence of a being known simply as the “Dragon”. The Dragon is, in many ways, the goal of every vampire of the Order- an archvampire, a creature which transcended both life and death. Some say that it was the one to teach the secrets of the Mysteries to Dracula. Others say it is Dracula. Or maybe it ate Dracula. Or Dracula ate him. At any case, the Dragon is a terrible being, which may have been a vampire once but has nothing in common with them anymore. It is a great predator, protected from sun and fire, from the whispers of the Beast and dirge of the Man. If it was ever human, it forgot it millenia ago. It is locked in Dis by the Sponsor itself, out of fear from the creature’s great power. It is bound by 7 seals forged by both him and Lilith, blessed by the blood of every Blood God and other divinity. It is an awful entity- but the Order wish to free it. It wish to be it. Whether they know it or not is an whole other kind of story- but one day, another Dragon would rise, and it takes one to beat one.

And that’s all for Covenants! I’m sorry I post it only now, but I have found a job and it means I can only work on the blog on weekends. That changes the regular time of publishing posts from Monday to Saturday. The next post would be an Open Development one, as we’ll start thinking about the place of each gameline in that potential Dark Era. See you next week!