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Though the start of this story takes place near the end of the 12th century in Medieval Europe, this is not the 12th century found in history books. Most of the landmarks are the same: Rome, London, Paris and Constantinople stand, but their streets are narrower still and filled with shadows where cutpurses and unspeakable things lie in wait for the unsuspecting.
Special Items and Locations
The Council of Ashes
Galtre, a small, independent country that lies along a major trade route from Western Europe to the holy lands, was once ruled over by a council of seven vampire princes. This was known as the Council of Ashes.
Unfortunatly for reasons that are unknown to the Kindred population, the council disbanded and withdrew to their own domains, leaving the land to the rule of humans.
Stone Tablets found at the Tihutia Keep
Thus, I set down my true visions that I may remember and keep the Path I have chosen. Only I of us all shall know the turth and this shall be my shield and spear. Most exalted shall I be in the time of the Final Days. Even the Father shall quail before my might.
Let the lesser ones war one upon the other, each hearkening to the omens I have foreseen. Fools all! By my guile, they know not the actual signs, but merely shadows of those things that shall be.
Let the world tremble when I come in my might and majesty, for I shall rule above our Father, above the Mother who gave succor to our Father, above the children of Seth, yea, even above God himself. Let the lines be drawn for I now stand at the center of whirlwind that will come.
Most Kindred of the high clans (and even a few from the low) identify themselves by the court they reside in. A court is a collection of domains and ruled over by a Lord Prince. Many courts identify themselves with one or more clans, such as the Court of Avalon in England thats ruled mainly by the Ventrue. Most courts have no serious agenda beyond survival and aquisition of power for those in charge, but there are always exceptions.
Like Princes, the rank of Lord Prince is accorded not by age, but by influence and power, and it is a relatively recent addition to the Kindred hierarchy. A Lord Prince is simply a prince of princes—a potent elder or in some cases a Methuselah—who claims influence over a number of princes and their domain or a single court. Much of this arrangement is feudal in nature, the lord parceling out his domain to younger Kindred in return for their oaths of fealty and support.
In the begining domains were simply a Kindred’s hunting ground, the size merely depended on the age of the Kindred. As a Kindred grew older, they required more blood to sustain them thus they needed more territory to hunt. In these nights however, territory becomes more a status symbol than pratical hunting grounds. Princes claim large domains (cities, towns or city districts in some larger cities) and grants other kindred to stake small pieces of it as their own, provided they follow the prince’s rule.
Although it is not tied to age, the title of prince is nonetheless one of singular importance to Kindred. A prince is a Kindred who has claimed a large domain as her own, forcing other Kindred to bow to her rule. The Prince’s power includes the rights of granting permission to create childer, to claim domain within their domain, to determine where to feed and having the power of destruction of another Kindred (or granting it to their agents like the Scourge). In earlier nights, the title of prince went to the oldest Kindred in the area, but a Kindred claims and enforces a princedom in recent times through political savvy and force. Many princes in the 12th century are elders, but many Ancillae, and even some neonates, are staking their rights as princes as new cities and towns emerge. It is easy, however, to proclaim oneself prince; it is harder to maintain and support that statement against other Kindred. From the position of Prince branches several lesser stations that serve the prince those are: Sheriff (prince’s enforcer), War master (leader of prince’s army), Seneschal (Prince’s right-hand man), Scourge (prince’s private executioner), Keeper (spiritual advisor), Chamberlain (social organizer). A Prince may have one, all or even none of these positions in his court.
A group consisting of anywhere from three to six Kindred that has banded together for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is for a specific task, other times it is simply the need for allies to survive the nights together. That said, coteries aren’t happy bands of friends rollicking through a domain. The mistrust endemic to all Kindred doesn’t end with the formation of a group. Coteries are subject to the same internal squabbling, double-dealing and, on occasion, outright betrayal as any other Kindred institution.
Hierarchy of the Damned
Blood binds all vampires, but it is age that determines their standing and position in Kindred society. Although a vampire’s undead pedigree (measured by sire, clan and blood potency) is important, real respect comes with age. Vampires who have survived for centuries, have amassed great power and have faced countless challenges are the dominant powers in Kindred society. However, age is not everything. A complacent elder can easily be destroyed by an ambitious neonate, and only the foolish lose sight of this harsh reality. Age might mean power and influence, but a Kindred stagnates without action and purpose, making him easy pickings for the young and cunning.
The newly created, childer are young and still under the charge of their sires. They are regarded as children but are seldom treated with love or compassion. Once a childe has learned all that is needed (in a period that can last several nights or decades), her sire presents her to the eldest vampire in the city, usually the Prince. It is up to the elder vampire to accept the childe into Kindred society and proclaim her a neonate or destroy her.
Considered full vampires, neonates are young and eager to make a name for themselves. They are young knights in the feudal atmosphere of Kindred society. Although Europe is overpopulated by vampires, there are still enough cities, towns even castles and road-side taverns where young neonates can stake their claims.
A vampire becomes an ancilla (the singular term for Ancillae) after his first 100 or 200 years of unlife. Although they are not yet elders, Ancillae have proven themselves in Kindred society and established themselves as power to be reckoned with. They are respected and granted prestigious positions such as advisors and men-at-arms to older Kindred.
Elders are the regal authorities of Kindred society. Most elders are centuries old, some Embraced during the rise of the fall of Rome or before. They rule cities and large domains, upholding Kindred laws and keeping younger Kindred in line and subservient. They have become entrenched in their power, and they will do anything to maintain it. Scheming and backstabbing, elders have grown comfortable with immortality, and they fiercely defend the status quo.
The real power in the 12th century rests with the handful of Methuselahs who stand above the elders in age and influence. Usually centuries, even millennia old, Methuselahs know no equal. It is said that a change comes over vampires when they reach this age. Physically, these vampires slumber for weeks, years or even centuries falling to torpor with growing frequency. Emotionally, they become sullen and withdrawn, overcome by a deep sense of melancholy and desperation.
Legend and rumor within Kindred society believes that each clan was created by an originator (with the exception of Clan Tremere, whose bloodline was created through their dark blood magic), ancient vampires who slumbers hidden away from the world, whose blood potency has become so great that no amount of slumber will help dilute their blood. The end times for vampire society (called Gehenna) is said to begin with the rise of the Antediluvians who devour the lesser blood of all vampires in order to quench their unending thirst. At this time it is only rumor and speculation as to whether these beings actually exist, most vampires have yet to try searching for them (saver perhaps some of those in Clan Malkavian, who boasts several Antediluvian “Scholars”) for fear they might actually find them.