Vampirism is a spiritual disease, one you can catch. Too many hunters get taken and turned.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Stalkers

Vampires control the night, and anyone who hunts them knows the fear of the dark. If you want to hunt them, you must go into their territory to take back the night. The real scary thing about them, though, is that they are the dark side of humanity. They look, mostly, like us. They still have a bit of humanity to them. We could become them. If they were just pure monster, well, it'd be scary but it's not sinister. Vampirism is a spiritual disease, one you can catch. Too many hunters get taken and turned. Hunting them takes its tool, worse than other monsters. You need to infiltrate their society, and to get near them, you have to do things you're not proud of. Things you're not going to forget or forgive yourself for. You can lose your soul, hunting vampires. And I hope you can stand to see blood, because you're going to see a lot of it. The blood is important, after all.

Symbolically, vampires represent death, sex, disease and grief. They are the corruption of everything we want. They prey on the innocent. They are murderers and rapists, not necessarily in the literal sense, but in the sense of violation. Do not sympathize with them, or they will have you in their clutches. The earliest myths of humanity often involve the walking and hungry dead. In the most ancient times, vampires were perhaps more open in their hunting. People know about them, accepted the danger. In Egypt, for a time, the vampires were central to a divine cult, destroying a king and his reputation forever. But only the most subtle ones depended on conspiracies and cults. What of the Sirens, bird-women who eat men and lured them with song? They were friend to Persephone, wife of Hades, one foot in the land of the living and the other in the land of the dead. Secret texts of the Aegis and Loyalists give other tales of the sirens - that their friendship was a metaphor, to describe something neither dead or alive. That they were as much corpse or ghost as bird or human. They used their powers to inspire fear and dread, and fed by night. If Odysseus - a composite of a dozen or more monster killers - faced them down, the accounts show him neither killing them nor dying - just surviving was a victory.

In India, the Buddhist king Ashoka was said to have faced down a blood-drinking Deva, a divine being on par with a god. Enlightened as he was, he could not be made to worship it. He defeated the Deva, it is said, in philosophical debate - he convinced the creature it was truly divine, and it walked naked into the dawn, killing itself by arrogance. Modern vampire hunters wouldn't want to try that. If it did happen, it probably didn't happen like that - it's just a morality tale. Something, as far as conspiracy scholars can tell, happened during the Western Roman Empire that made the vampires follow the example of their Egyptian forebears in infiltrating human society rather htan the more open examples. No one knows why. Odds are the vampires don't, either. While the public are spared the knowledge of horrors, vampires have gotten good at hiding, and that's a problem.

The Ascending Ones keep an anonymous Egyptian document, supposedly translated from a 14th Dynasty papyrus. It speaks of Amenhotep, son of Amenhotep, Pharaoh of Egypt. The son did not honor his father or the gods, but worshipped only the sun-disc Aten, and named himself Akhenaten. And, in secret, he was right to do it. He did it to defy those who ruled the night, who had overrun Thebes and Luxor and who controlled his father. The two Great Cults that had guarded the God-King were impotent, for the dead violated the True Way and ruled over the living. Even the Cult of Set, to whom the authors had entrusted the protection of the night, fell to them. The vampires killed their leaders and turned the rest. Those they did not kill they enslaved with their blood. The Cult of the Phoenix discovered this, protected the king and convinced him to become Akhenaten, to build a city of the sun where the dead were not.

It was for this reason that the Elixirs were made - to fight the vampires who had taken Egypt for their own. The document claims to be written by Child of Isiris, Seed of the Infertile, the first of the Ascending Ones to master the Elixirs and the first to start their eternal war. He tells of how the vampires convinced the people that Akhenaten was mad, possessed by darkness and demons. He died, sick and old, and his sun, Tut-Ankh-Aten, took the throne, but he and his mother were not as strong as Akhenaten, and they could not keep the peace. The Cult of the Phoenix fought the mob and the Cult of Set, but they failed. The city was cast down, the queen killed, the boy-king enslaved and forced to damn his father, that he might be forgotten. When he was old enough, he was killed and replaced by the high priest Ay, puppet of the vampires. The Cult of the Phoenix took their revenge, grooming their own Pharaoh and coming by day, while the vampires slept. They could not undo what was done - they could only make a new start, and then abandon politics and head into the shadows, to hide among the poor and filthy. They would not forget.

Of course, in truth, the Cult of Set survived. They don't realize the Ascending Ones are still around, of course, and wouldn't recognize them if they did. None of the vampires of the Cult of Set were alive in the ancient days, but they still follow Typhon Set and are still dedicated to vampiric evil. What do they do? Well, they cause chaos. In small ways, mostly - they set in motion domino chains of events that lead to some terrible, terrible things. They sneak into the halls of power and use that power to push towards the collapse of human society. In small ways - kill one person and follow the chain. It only takes one small event to make terrible things happen. Not all of the Cult are vampires - in fact, few are. Many are just ordinary people obeying their masters, unaware of what they are. Cultists, you know. Vampires are master liars, manipulators. And plenty of their servants do know what they serve, but serve still out of fear or lust. Out of the desire of becoming immortal themselves.

The Aegis Kai Doru have a letter, entitled De Ultimo Avium Minervae, attributed to one Valens Valentinus. It speaks of how Rome has abandoned Minerva, but her hunters remain. They blame the Christians, who have rejected the gods and made them turn their backs on Rome. The story tells of how Valens followed the Cainites to Africa. The Cainites, he says, are a Christian sect who, about 50 years prior, were led into "error" by a vampire leader, whom they discovered and slew. They tried and failed to alert the other Christians to the monsters among them, but they were driven out. Some went to Constantinople, but were no more welcome. They died at the hands of vampires. Some went to Britain and vanished, and some went to Carthage and allied with the Circoncellions, who knew about vampires. The Circoncellions were once the Donatists, some AFrican Christian sect that Valens knows little about, but they were driven into the desert to become bandits hiding in crypts. There, they found vampires, and a war between the two began.

That is why the Cainites joined them so easily. Valens followed them, and nearly died after taking shelter in a vampiric tomb. He found the Circoncellions, who saved him from vampires on a later night. He was saved by a man who asked one question: Who is Cain? They'd have killed him if he didn't offer them a gift. He found their children starving and sick, their families diseased and weak, but to a man, woman and child, they knew how to fight. Their numbers were dwindling, so he taught them the secret - the Red Rituals, the Denials. He begs forgiveness from the Aves Minerva, because he believes their time is over. He believes they must pass on their knowledge to those best suited to use it. The time of the gods ois over, and now is the time of Christians, and so Christians must do the work of hunting.

After the fall of Rome, things were terrible - plague, war and death. Perhaps that's what created the fear of vampires. Some say any true tales of vampires date back only to the Middle Ages - that before that, somehow, they didn't exist, that human desire to regain contact with so many dead called them back. Others say that's stupid. What is true, provably, is that in the year 536, the sky turned black. Even in Byzantium, the days grew short, and even at noon, it was only twilight. In Western and Northern Europe, the crops failed and famine came. Chinese histories talk of a choking fog obscuring all light. The Aztec empire of Teottihuacan collapsed under the weight of the famine and the cold. This probably occurred after Krakatoa erupted, creating tidal waves and filling the air with smoke and dust with all the force of a small-scale nuclear war. Why, though? Well, a document in Lucifuge hands dating back to the same period includes a prayer to darken the sky, an old Javanese ritual. Hints in the document suggest it was not written by a living human. Most of the Lucifuge scholars that have seen it believe it a forgery. Whether the volcano erupted due to a vampire ritual or because it was geologically time to erupt, well, the living world became a dead men's playground. Most histories don't talk about it - how could they? The vampires controlled the world. Those that dared to fight faced the hardest time they'd ever seen.

A document from 799 Arabia tells of the Ghul Wife of Baghdad, a beautiful virgin with a great dowry, whom no one knew. They could find no suitors, for this reason, until a man named Nouman saw the girl by chance and was enraptured. He soon married her. Her name was Amina. She was a dutiful wife, but strange - she would eat only a small bowl of rice at meals, one grain at a time after piercing each with a bobkin, slowly carrying it to her mouth. At other times, she would eat only breadcrumbs, one at a time. A servant told Nouman that Amina snuck out each night for unknown reasons. One night, Nouman feigned sleep and followed her, where he found her in a graveyard, speaking with a bloody-motuhed ghul. She joined the beast in sucking blood and marrow from the limbs of a corpse. The next day, as Amina ate her rice, Nouman asked her if it was as good as rotting flesh. She was enraged, and she cursed him to become a dog, and he lost his mind. She disposed of his estate, keeping him leashed and feeding him scraps. She seduced, corrupted or devoured his servants and friends, all the while pretending to be an innocent girl afflicted by a mad husband.

The story mentions Asha, assuming the reader already knows of her. It calls her protector, sheild-bearer. She is not attributed either beauty or breeding - rare in this kind of story. Ash is said to have fought ghuls with a fierce anger, and it was in the graveyards that she found Amina. She followed the ghul-wife home and witnessed her horrors. Asha spoke to the ghuls there, pretending to be one of them, and tricked them into revealing that if their mistress was asked to leave via a certain set of words, she would. Asha knew a little magic, and with a prater she restored Nouman to his full faculties. Together, they confronted Amina and, because of Asha's mystic bracelet, resisted her sorceries. They forced Amina to leave, and then drove the ghuls out come sunrise. The story does not, as one might expect, end with Asha and Nouman marrying. Rather, Nouman thanks her and she moves on.

Amina, in this story, had no weakness ot the sun. Indeed, that only appeared later in vampire myths. Most vampires cannot face the sun, but where do the other stories come from? It could be a misunderstanding, one of those that is all too common in the Vigil. Or perhaps it is deliberate misinformation from vampires seeking to hide their most desperate weakness. Most stories of daywalking vampires claim they lose power in sunlight, but Amina did not. Perhaps only the "default" vampires burst into flames by the sun - Amina certainly fed on the dead rather than blood, so she might be something different - and she had weaknesses herself, such as her inability to eat normal food the normal way. Perhaps it's a tradeoff - a vampire must have crippling weaknesses. The point is, they're not set in stone.

A story by pulp author Vincent Moon in 1932 talks of the man Partha Mac Othna and his companion Franz, who go hunting a killer - the Master of Drachenstein, Lord Yorak, who kidnapped the woman Drusilla to marry him. Drusilla is Franz' fiance. The two have fought monsters on their way to Drachenstein, facing immense rats and wolves. They find an old man in the dungeons, a man who claims to be the former lord, Nicholas Hardestadt, who tells tham that Yorak is a vampire. If he is freed, he will lead them to him. They agree, and they head through asecret passage. Hardestadt vanishes after leading them to the tp of a tower, in which they fgind a deep pit. He reveals himself to be a vampire too, one that seeks to steal their strength to better fight Yorak with. They defeat the monster and break into Yorak's chambers, where they find Drusilla...but she turns out to be a vampire, as well.

Crap? Yes. But it is true that vampires lurked in the Bavarian Castle Drachenstein. In 1197, two men did enter the castle and destroy or drive off most of them. The real question is, how did it end up in a cheap pulp horror magazine? How much is true and how much isn't? It's happened before - Dracula, Carmilla, Frankenstein and others. It seems the trashier the fiction, the more seeds of truth are there. Bram SToker and J. Sheridan LeFanu were human writers who somehow found truth. They embellished for the story or other reasons, and got away with it. Why? Who protected them? Moon's story is rare these days, and how much of it is true? Who was Vincent Moon? Eerie Tales folded before the December 1932 issue containing the final part of the story could come out - the part that would reveal Lord Yorak's fatal weakness. No one is entirely sure why the thing folded. The last issue might still exist, somewhere. Perhaps it contains useful truths - perhaps there were useful truths in the other tales, as well. Or perhaps it's crap, misinformation that will get you killed.

When the Renaissance and Reformation came, science was born...and was hard to tell from magic, the way they treated it. Still, the willingness to experiment and rebel made vampire hunters more skilled than ever before...and the vampires responded in kind, learning subtlety and cunning. The hunters of the West and East also traveled, finding monsters they'd never seen before. A transcribed dialogue, dated 1615, was translated from Italian by a Malleus agent. Two people speak to each other, a monk and a woman. They discuss the death of Erzsebet Bathory and her famous torments, of how Bathory would drink and bathe in blood. They believe that Bathory was a living human woman, however, nothing to do with "the leeches." They discuss Bathory's antics and her methods of torture while sniping at each other over their sexual desires (apparently Father "AB" prefers younger men while Miss L is less ashamed of having a libido).

Countess Bathory was, yes, human. Not a vampire. These two - elder hunters, apparently - found her confusing, but she was just bloodthirsty and skilled at black magic. A human with a taste for blood and the right rituals might be able to steal vampiric powers for themselves without giving up mortality...but what dreadful acts would it require? And, you know, L and AB...well, there's a pair of initials to think about.

Next time: More stories.

More history

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Stalkers

We now have a journal attributed to the Chevalier Theleme, dating to 1705. He writes of his investigations of Chantal De Fay and the Duc D'Assame in the court of the Sun King in Versailles. He believes them vampires. He speaks of one young woman, Bernice Tillius, who is rumored to be promiscuous - not that he puts any store in that - and who was seen with the pair. She returned solemn and pale, and afraid of the Duc. Over three weeks, she sickens and dies. There have been others. Both the pair have strange reflections - the Duc's is blurry and unclear no matter how brightly lit he is, while De Fay's is often missing and, when present, does things she does not do, and does not do things she does. No one notices, but the Chevalier attributes that just to human nature - they don't pay attention to things. Besides, the Duc is an excellent duelist, so who's going to accuse him of being strange? Still, the pair will not enter the Hall of Mirrors. As far as he knows, they have never been seen by daylight, but that is not wholly unusual in the court. They do not eat and do not drink wine...but discretion in drinking is to be expected, and many prefer to eat in private. And then there's the servant. No one notices servants, but even the Chevalier has trouble with this one. He stares at them, but he can barely recall them at all, let alone their sex. He recalls a similar experience in England, many years ago. Apparently it's a vampire thing - perhaps even the same vampire, though he's pretty sure he won't be recognized if so. Vampires often forget others can be immortal, too. So - he is fairly sure the group are vampires. He plans to do his duty, but carefully - one can't just stake a favored courtier. It is not done . Not in France.

And yet, De Fay approaches him in his chambers. She says she killed his valet. No real regret in it. The Chevalier asks why, and she explains - there is no Theleme, so he must be false. But then, he counters, there is no Demoiselle de Fay, either. Probably no Duc D'Assame. She agrees, and tells the Chevalier that she is here about D'Assame, but not on his orders. He is intrigued. She apologizes for murdering the valet and asks the Chevalier to do her a favor: kill the Duc. He is shocked, and asks for an explanation. She tells him, once, she was a farmer's daughter. She and her entire family were murdered by violent, inhuman killers. The Duc dug her from her shallow grave, turned her into a vampire. He taught her how to be a noble. And she never questioned how he found her. Why he cared. She discovered now, however, that the Duc was behind her family's deaths. She had thought he helped her track and kill the murderers, but it was too easy. And then, in a moment of weakness, the Duc accidentally let her read the truth from him. And so, the Chevalier works with De Fay, tricks the Duc into a duel. The Duc is the better swordsman, but the Chevalier has the power of the Devil's blood, and eye contact is all he needs. He beheads the Duc and turns him to ash. He leaves, but knows - one night, he will need to come for her.

Vampires fighting each other isn't rare. In fact, of all social monsters, hunters are most likely to find vampire internal conflict. You might think to use that to your advantage. This is difficult - playing the game of politics with the undead is often violent, means picking sides and trying to get out before they suborn you, if you can. After all, can you trust your own mind? You certainly can't trust them. They are born to betray. Best to be careful. Especially if you escalate their wars - there's a lot of collateral damage when vampires fight.


A satirical paper named Judy, Or the Essence of London was published in 1877. It talks about the author Vincent Moon - yeah, that Vincent Moon. He wrote a novel, The Adventures of a Dead Man in the Land of Malkavia, which was turned into a play. It was not a good novel, quite dull in fact. The play did well, however. In the first act, Mrs. Hawthorne pleads with her husband's corpse not to leave its grave and go to the mythical land of Malkavia, and the actors portray it well. The deaths are very convincing, as are the special effects, such as a cloud of darkness. Some, apparently, feel there are unhealthy implications to it all, but not the author. The stories of fainting and development of blood diseases by some of the audience were surely exaggerated.

We jump forward a bit to the Somme in 1916 and a diary from World War I. The gas attacks keep coming, worse each time. The author hates watching men die. A sixteen-year-old, Private George Owen, dies in an attack. Three others died, as well, but with their masks on - Private Rhys John Jones, Corporal Rhys Owen Jones and Private Timothy Holme. They did not choke. The gas masks were fine. But they were dead. Owen's body was much different - bloody, not peaceful and pale. Captain Graves, the author, is told by one of his lieutenants, Mad Jack Sassoon, that this was no gas that killed them. He saw something the night before, something he wants Graves to help him face. The two decide to do this alone, as Mad Jack doesn't want the men put in danger. They go, armed with flare gun and gas masks, and they wait. They watch. A figure approaches, draped in shadow and wearing a colonel's uniform. His skin was the same color as those killed by the gas, his eyes dark pits. He was too young to be a colonel. He calls out to the pair, says he won't harm them, but then he recognizes Mad Jack. The man vanishes, and Graves feels something at his neck before he spos Jack fighting the figure, beating it with his revolver. The man has teeth like needles, and Graves shoots him. It does rather little but make the figure pause. Jack takes the creature down with a flare, burning it to death. They watch the corpse burn, and Jack tells Graves that this wasn't the worst he's seen. Neither man likes that thought at all. Then the machine guns begin to fire overhead.

Jump to 1955 and the early years of VALKYRIE. They intercept a memo in Hong Kong, sent by the British. It implies that they have British counterparts - MI18, or the DRU. The memo refers to Kuala Lampur's New Village, a set of guarded towns resettled by the locals under British direction to avoid Communists propagandizing at them. The DRU appear to have run into a problem - some panicking old man surrounded by the corpses of his family, all of whom are entirely missing blood. There was blood at the scene, but not enough. The man kept repeating the word penanggal, and there is a scent of vinegar. The word comes up again two days later. The scene is cleaned, but the scent remains. An interview with the locals reveals that the penanggal or penanggalan is a bizarre type of Malay vampire, a woman whose head detaches itself by night to fly about trailing organs and devouring blood. Those they feed on that survive contract wasting diseases and soon die; the old man has suffered this fate. They are accompanied by the scent of vinegar. They prefer to eat infants, but can feed on anyone in times of need.

The DRU decide to hunt the creature down. They discover three more incidents over the space of a month, all within three miles. They prepare an ambush, failing to prevent a fifth incident but tracking the scent. The monster attacks, seizing a Gurkha with her innards and killing him. They fire on the creature but do very little. It seizes another man and flees. They chase, but the man dies on the move, the creature apparently able to feed while fleeing. It hides in a house, which they breach. They find a headless body next to a barrel of vinegar, and the walls are lined with vinegar and surgical disinfectant in bottles. They smash the bottles and place the glass around the body in a circle, this being a way to kill the creatures in folklore. (Apparently the glass gets wedged in the organs and cannot be removed.) Two days later, they burn the house down. The attacks cease. They prevent the press from reporting on the events. Whoever wrote the memo also wants to transfer out.

Some vampires are just fuckin' weird. The ghul, the pennangalan. In Babylon they had the Ekimmu, a ghost that rose to feed on blood but had no body. In the Outback is the Yara-ma-yha-who, which has an immense mouth but uses suckers on the hands and feet to steal blood. The West African Asiman is ethereal and hides in human bodies, emerging at night from the host as a glowing figure or ball of light. The Ch'ing Shih of China is pale as death and has talons on its fingers. It flies at immense speed. Indian vampires have reversed feet, back to front. The Filipino Aswang are revolting old women with oily holes in the armpit, who kidnap victims and leave replicas behind made of rubbish, which sicken and die. She eats her prisoner only after the funeral.

The Barrett Commission had George Roberts interview a man named Joe Randolph in 2006. He had fallen in love with a woman he survived Katrina with, but was unfaithful after. The relationship went sour, and the rent went unpaid. They moved in next to a voodoo temple. But that wasn't the problem. The problem was the owls. Owls everywhere, hooting all the time. Jenny, the woman, kicked Randolph out. He killed her, and he claims it was the booze that made him do it. He killed her and had sex with the body, because of the owls. And under him, she started to move again, whispering his name, touching him. It wasn't her, though - she stopped eating, went out each day and made him do terrible, monstrous things. She made him kidnap children and have sex with them as she watched, then she'd kill them and drink their blood. When she got bored, she'd make him cut her to pieces. She died a second time as the owl watched. At the end of the interview, George puts something on the table - it sounds like it might be a gun, because he tells Randolph to "be a man" with it.

Howie Greenaway gave a talk at ClamCon IV in 2009, a talk about Fortean film-making. These days, anyone can do it - so you have a lot of chances to film stuff, but it's really, really easy to fake things nowadays. Telling reality from a hoax is hard. He shows off some film from a blog - a crowded street, with a girl in front talking about politics. That's not the important part. He points out a blur on the left, frame by frame. The blur moves, like a person. The resolution's not great, but you can tell that the people around that guy aren't blurred. Anyone who'd fake it wouldn't go to that much detail. It's not too hard, but it's pointless. The blur looks transparent, but it's not - it's opaque and uses optical illusion. There's something behind the blur. It moves with the blur, reflects nothing else in the film. It's just a blurred, superimposed image over another blurred image. Nothing underneath the two blurs. Not a blur over a man on the street. That's too thorough for a hoax. It takes only three seconds for the blurry guy to cross the street. The presenter never knows he's there. So...why? It could be faked, but why would you?

Vampires can do that. Some of them can't even be heard over phone lines. Some don't have shadows. Most can be heard on the phone, but show up blurry in mirrors or on film. It's hard to notice, and it can be a curse, but often people these days blame CGI. Many vampires can temporarily clear up their images - but they go back to blurs shortly after. It's frustrating, and you have to ask - why? Why show their face to the person hunting them?

To your average cell, vampires aren't romantic or passionate. They're monsters, period. They kill people and break families. Often, hunter cells form in the aftermath of a vampire's attack. They're so hated, so feared, because they look like us. They come out only at night, so any sign of what they are is hidden in the dark. They hide, like a parasite or a disease. They're contagious. If they want, they can turn you into one of them. They can turn your children. Reliable information on how to kill them is hard to get - you can't just go to the library to get Vampire Killing For Dummies. Any internet info is, obviously, suspect. All you have is pop culture, and that means the vampire is in luck - it won't cower from your cross, it just shoots you. Partial information can be worse than nothing. If you think you're safe because vampires have to be invited in...well, you're in for trouble. And worse, they're manipulative. They can control people. The cops, your bank manager, the neighborhood association head. They turn people without even making them vampires. They can destroy your entire world. A cell that's alone against a vampire has tough choices to make - do you go in during the day? What if you find the corpse, but there's people around? Pull the fire alarm before lighting the place up? What if it's not comatose in the day? What works? Sure, stakes are easy to make and gasoline burns. Guns don't help much. Explosives do, but that's not legal to make or own. Also, not subtle. A lot of hunters die, fighting vampires. Learn to watch and wait. Figure out the pyramid they use to stay in power - their servants, and their servants' servants. Take it down, one brick at a time. Start small, and work your way up. And watch out, because they'll do it right back at you.

It didn't take Ashwood Abbey long to realize vampires were real. The first member to kill a vampire was the founder, Reverend Ogilvy. He and his buddies went to Edinburgh in search of rumors of one, armed with garlic, crosses and stakes, plus an elephant gun, a saber and some holy water. Several died during the hunt, but the vampire did, too. They preserved the head and hung it as a trophy. It taught them - use brute force, it works better than herbs and questionable faith. They hunt vampires not just for fun, though - vampires mess about in high society, and when a mayor you're supposed to own is secretly in thrall to a vampire, that's just so embarrassing. This is their playground. The Abbey are snobs, and they hate the idea of inhuman vampires taking their role in society. They should know their place. Still, they don't try to kill them all. Some vampires are so interesting, darling. Those ones, the ones with style, should be kept around for a while. Until they get dull or prove to be worse monsters than the Abbey. The Abbey likes to invite vampires to parties - it gives a chance to watch them up close, and they'll even let vampires feed on them, for the spectacle of it all. They even make sure there's an easy way to get stakes at the parties by breaking the tables. Sometimes they drink the vampire's blood. It's a great high, you should try it. Sadly, it can be addictive, so best to find a supply of vampires to hunt. They don't understand the properties of the blood, besides the euphoria it can produce. This has caused problems before. They know it can be addictive, but so can anything pleasant. They vaguely realize those who spend a lot of time around vampires tend to get attached to them and sometimes go rogue. Around once a year, the Seattle chapter holds the "Charity Drag", where they focus for a month or two on lower-income areas to find vampires. Then, they take a weekend in the slums, hunting and slaughtering the beasts. They claim it's for the benefit of the poor and underprivileged, but the other Seattle hunters are often less than impressed.

The Long Night know that vampires are a plague of the End Times, sent to kill a quarter of the world. They are demons escaped from Hell, vanguards of the Antichrist. They are more than monsters - they are symptoms of blasphemy and heresy. The Long Night has quickly learned that vampires don't fear holy symbols, holy ground or holy water. This has only made them more certain they are Devilspawn mocking God's works. They point to tales of succubi and incubi to explain why vampire bites feel so good. Long Night hunters are rarely convinced to become vampires, and their fellows kill them quickly. They may hesitate in the killing blow until the victim begs for Jesus' forgiveness, however, and may even imprison a monster and "purify" them with whips and canes until they do, in order to spare them eternal damnation. They've had some success in vampires seeking absolution, praying with them and then going out to watch the sun. They believe a vampire that dies repentant and in the sun's cleansing light by means other than suicide has a fair chance of going to heaven. Doing it takes a hell of a lot of faith, of course. More commonly, vampires fight and die in battle against the Long Night. They take the wounds of these battles as marks of their suffering in the name of Christ, without regrets. They aren't suicidal, however, and will do their best to ensure as many hunters survive a battle as possible. After all, losing means worse than death - it means possibly getting turned. Better to run than to make a stand if there's a chance of survival.

The Loyalists of Thule have records of vampire myths from all over the world, dating back massively long times. Even old stone tablets they believe came from Thule. They record and spread these myths as much as they can, both the old and the more modern ones. It gives them a lot of knowledge on what vampires can appear as. They especially fear the clever vampires - the ones who experiment, who know forbidden things. At least one vampire worked in the camps, you see, and their blood rituals are worse. Plus, they're an erosive social influence. They often seem rather fascist to the Indebted - most cities have vampire society ruled by an autocratic Prince or Prefect. They crush dissent. They seduce humanity, hidden in the shadows. These authoritarian monsters cannot be abided, and their monstrous rule all too often influences the local human populace. It must be torn out. Of course, the Loyalists prefer to hang back and give others information. But they don't just rely on that - they know that vampires have secrets, too. Any time the Loyalists can get a secret a vampire wanted kept hidden, they shout it to the heavens. They tell anyone who'll listen. It's easier said than done, though - it takes patient, sneaky and subtle hunting to get at those secrets without dying. Often, it means infiltrating their society as blood sources or servants, or playing power games right back at them. It's tricky and dangerous, but when it works it's exceptionally lucrative in information. They also go crypt-delving. A notable contingent want to learn the origins of vampires, which are surely ancient indeed. It might help them end vampirism forever, they feel.

Network Zero want to reveal vampires to the world. It's all about the truth. The problem is, you can't catch vampires on film. They're masters of propaganda and stealth. They manipulate and fake information - and that's the worst thing you can do, for the Network. They lie to bait in victims with classified ads, they manipulate stocks, they perform great injustices all the time. Whistleblowers vanish, secretaries get brainwashed. Some hunters go mad from paranoia and blame everything on the vampires. The Secret Frequency wants to expose it all, but it's practically impossible to do. Their main weapon is useless against vampires: the camera. Vampire videos are easy to dismiss as hoaxes, and they're pretty much impossible to defend. They've tried everything - Kirlian cameras, thermal cameras to show vampires as heat-dead areas, IR shots that remove some of the blur...and highlight vampire bone structure, for some reason. They don't get detailed images, but they can point out the fangs and other oddities. Sometimes they get help from Null Mysteriis with this; other times VALKYRIE steals their equipment and footage for a pittance of cash. Netzo plots out vampiric hotspots, which they call GY (graveyards) and gather what information they can. Some of them have been at it for a decade now, but won't share anything they have, ever. They're too afraid of being compromised. The goal is to get enough to go live - which, for them, means storming a TV station, hijacking it and transmitting the "truth" far and wide. The problem is, half of what they have is conjecture and they are kind of insane.

Next time: Null Mysteriis and more on vampires.

More compacts and conspiracies

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Stalkers

Null Mysteriis doesn't really see vampires as an enemy. They are something to be studied, quantified. They're not evil - they obey their instincts. It just happens that their instinct is to prey on humans. But do you call a lion evil when it kills for food? That's just what it does. It's a predator, and so are vampires. Not that they're going to let it happen - a lion that attacks humans has to get put down, and vampires that kill their prey, they need that too. But that's a temporary solution. Better to understand the source and fix it. Don't fight the symptom, fight the disease. Of course, it's not an easy problem. One roadblock is the often contradictory nature of vampire lore - everyone tells different stories and uses different methods. Telling fact from fiction is very difficult, so the group experiments as much as they can. They send out information via private journals and websites, most of which is detailed physically but ignores all social aspects of vampirism.

Null Mysteriis tends to treat vampires like animals or disease rather than people. The Rationalists want to continue the current (slow) experimentation before making any hasty decisions, preferring controlled experiments to anything else. They tend to believe vampires are humans suffering some kind of disease, and their work focuses on identifying and treating it. They reject most Open Mind work on vampires as quasiscience and nonsense at best, and believe the Cataclysmicists are paranoid. The Open Minds don't say vampires are unnatural, but question how much more vampire blood has to be tested without any new revelations. They prefer more personal work on "live" subjects - bombarding vampires with radiation, say, or seeing how they survive on just animal blood and plasma. They play with hypnotic suggestion and other unorthodox and strange methods. Rumor even has it some have become blood-addicted slaves to vampires in order to study the condition. They find the Rationalists too pedestrian and the Cataclysmicists rather alarmist. The Cataclysmicists are least likely to experiment on vampires, preferring to use the studies done by others. They originally were the peer review board, and they noticed a big upswing in what Null Mysteriis has termed Homo haemophthisicus , worrying they might hit critical mass. They wanted to remove the problem somehow, and their reigning theory is that vampires aren't human at all - it's divergent evolution and the rise of a new species. They call them Haemophtisicus sapiens and want to exterminate or at least quarantine them, pointing to the Neanderthals as an example of the last time intelligent humanoids competed with each other. The threat is too great, and vampires are physically superior to us.

The Union know vampires like to think they're superior. They use and abuse humans. It's all been done before by corporate fatcats, too. Vampires are just another example of power oppressing the little guy. They are a threat to entire communities, spreading disease, lowering property values with violence and harming people with their political games. Plus, they fight dirty. They'll throw cops at you and worse, they'll go for your job. Your income . That's a problem. The Union's biggest issue, though, is how decentralized they are. They're all over the world, sharing advice via the internet. They have lots of information, but no organization of it whatsoever - not even a Killing Vampires Megathread. They don't have time to track everything down and collate it. The Union's simple in its response, at least. Vampire causes you problems, you kill it. Period. Done. The only good vampire is a dead one - really dead, very dead. The Union only really notices them when they cause problems, see, generally through arrogance and cruelty. And then, the wrath comes down on them. People always underestimate the little guy, but the Union knows that the power is the people. One on one, you're no match for a vampire, so don't go alone. Take a group. Sure, someone might die, but you're gonna win. You win, the next fight gets easier. Still, direct combat's not always viable. Sometimes they camp in dangerous areas - so use the city against them. Get their old abandoned house condemned. Use numbers to sway votes. Be a union. Activism can force politicians, even those controlled by vampires, to do what you want when violence won't work. The Union, in general, knows that a stake to the heart immobilizes vampires, that edged weapons are better than bullets and that you want to hunt by day if you can. Occasionally, they know more if you go hunting through the boards, but they know nothing about vampire society at all - they focus more on just killing them. The Politicals, though, are often interested in organizing protests against vampire-controlled interests more than murder. Vampires breed pretty fast, after all, but an institution? Take that down and you have a lasting victory, whether that means being a whistleblower or firebombing a vampire-controlled business.

The Aegis Kai Doru have secret archaeological evidence that vampires have existed since before written history, tracking the human herd. They know that all vampires were once human, and that most of them understand humans well - but also that some vampires forget that. They are an apex predator, savvy and canny, but the Aegis doesn't see them as nearly as big a threat as werewolves or mages. Not that this means they're ignored, mind. They have all kinds of tools - a square inch of Mary Magdalene's skin, the scrolls of Simon Magus and more. Occasionally, a vampire wants those things for some reason - power, say, or to study, or because it's a pretty bauble, or so they can destroy it for symbolic reasons. These vampires need to be removed. So do any vampires that try to hide information from the Aegis, a sure way to annoy them. However, vampires can also be valuable sources of knowledge, and the Aegis has bargained with them before. They're happy to trade information at times. What they won't trade away are relics of any kind - for sale or for rent. (Officially. Unofficially, some people do it. Most only manage it once before they vanish.)

The Scroll are the most frequent part of the Aegis to ally with vampires - they have the most to gain and the most to lose. They want vampiric knowledge and lore, and are happy to trade information as leverage to buy vampiric service. Many older vampires are prone to long periods of sleep, in which their memories become polluted by dreams. The Scroll can offer to keep track of the truth for them, something these ancient vampires are happy to negotiate for. Of course, just as many are happy to kill the Aegis until given what they want. But sometimes the risk is worth it. The Sword, meanwhile, focus on those vampires who threaten Aegis interests. They like to kill them. They specialize in tracking down vampiric weak points, the flaws of their schemes and organizations. They destabilize those, then move in for the kill. They are targeted, precise and really enjoy collapsing vampiric power structures. The Temple care when a vampire has a relic. They'll do anything to steal it - stings, robberies, assassinations. Or money, if that's what it takes. Some vampires only want relics for their artifactual value or their looks, so they're happy...well, relatively trade them away if the other option is firebombs.

Vampires cause suffering in their communities - especially the parts that watch out for the community. Those are the parts that notice when others go missing, after all. They feed on the weak, the helpless, the ones that fall through the cracks - the very people the Ascending Ones protect. The Brotherhood of the Southern Temple believe in purifying the soul by alchemy, and they know that if vampires have souls - a big if - that soul cannot be improved or changed. It is rotten, reflecting nothing. And internally, vampires transmute blood to something...other. They often want to study that blood and its transmutation, to better use it in Elixirs. So far, any Elixirs involving vampire blood have worked in granting power...but it remains terribly, horribly addictive and corrupting, even when transmuted within the temple of the Ascending Ones' bodies. The Knife of Paradise are angrier. They are religious, deeply involved in their communities and often part of ethnic minorities in the inner city. They call on their communities to help their hunt, something many vampires are not prepared for. They can strip away some of the protective layer of minions by using their culture against them. (This doesn't always work perfectly - religious issues can get really divisive.) They try to protect the community while keeping vampires secret, strengthening them by outing corrupt cops or building new community services. The Knife are also the most likely to try diplomacy, if they think it's the best way to keep their community safe. The Jagged Crescent just see vampires as competition. A vampire peddling his own blood can put a good dealer out of business, you know? And that business is vital to fund the conspiracy. It's not about protecting the addicts - they kill themselves already - but about protecting the cashflow. So they kill vampires, because these are their streets and their customers. It's a war, a war fought on street corners with gangs.

Cheiron understands that vampires are valuable. Vampires are one of three things. First, they can be resources. Cheiron likes money, secrets and magical blood. If they can steal that from vampires, so be it. Second, they can be customers. Vampires want - they want a lot. What if you sell 'em drugs to help them look alive or digest food? Sure, we can make an offer. They'll take sufficient money, but prefer when a vampire sells out another and sends them in for...testing. Third, vampires can be allies. Most of them are stupid, but some aren't. Cheiron loves investors, and a smart, higher-order vampire? Why compete? Play nice. It rarely lasts forever - someone always betrays - but that's a problem for Future Cheiron, and it's part of why Field Projects Division exists.

Field Research spies on vampires - you need to stay one step ahead in this corporate battlefield. They infiltrate places vampires have infiltrated, playing janitor, temp or secretary. They gather as much dirt on these infiltrated companies as they can to prepare for hostile takeovers, and sometimes for publicity. Vampires fucking hate publicity. They flee under pressure, and Cheiron is good at publicity and pressure. Lesser vampires will run. More potent ones will play the game back at you, but hey, that's business. It's all fun as long as the bottom line's all right. Cheiron also enjoys recruiting the servants of vampires - the problem is, most of 'em are blood addicts. Their loyalty is absolute, and when they get cut off they often die of old age. But hey, that just means the agent is loyal to them if they control the blood supply. The trick is getting vampire blood that doesn't enslave or addict people. Manufacture of artifical blood has not yet worked, though occasionally the experiments produce interesting effects, including creating feral half-vampire monsters that do nothing but feed. Rumor has it Cheiron operates black sites where they milk vampire captives of blood to pay their addicted agents. Of course, it's an all-or-nothing gig - you can't serve a vampire and Cheiron at once. These Renfields, as they're called, are only worthwhile while they're loyal - they're not even any good as parts. When they betray...well, some of the stuff kept in the DNAlogy Life Sciences Lab are always hungry. Like the pigs. They don't mind the taste. Cheiron doesn't really bother retrieving vampires for processing, though. They're not turned away, because the blood can always be put to some use - it's a great anti-clotting agent, for example. But there are some projects that may up the price on vampires. Burkhard Charteris is championing the use of heavily diluted vampire blood as an anagathic over the counter, with the full strain for sale at a very, very high premium for the elite. (Madonna's not gettin' any younger, as Burkhard puts it, but if we can get it right she won't get any older, either.) They don't have the mass amounts of blood needed to pull the project off, though. It's currently going through the bureaucratic tangle that is Cheiron red tape, and once it gets through? New orders, boys. Bring in as many vampires as you can find. All of them.

The Lucifuge often feel empathy and pity for vampires. They can't help what they are. But there's also disdain - they don't even try to throw off Satan's chains, most of the time. If the devil's own children can, why can't they? The Lucifuge watch vampires, to tell if they're evil. Many act as counselors and therapists to the undead, helping them unburden and keep themselves from embracing evil. Vampires are often rather grateful for this service, and will share secrets with their therapists. It can make a bond, if a tenuous one. Still, some Lucifuge just see vampires as demons inside corpses, creatures of Hell that must be purged. For them, the only mercy is the stake and the torch.

The Denial prefer to offer vampires the chance at redemption. Most never got a choice about becoming what they are, and they can learn to resist the calls of the blood. They can do good, or at least refrain from evil. Those that will not seek redemption, however, must be dealt with. Some kidnap these vampires and torture them into turning from evil, while others stake them and store them until such a time as they can be convinced by wiser agents. Others just kill them. The Reconciliation more often believe that vampires cannot deny their nature, and some believe them to be literal devils. They are more likely to just put them down. The Truth, for their part, seek out the eldest vampires to learn from them. They're hard to come by, these ancient ones, and sometimes it's better to just try to find their journals or artifacts or progeny. The goal is to find the truth of the Lucifuge's origins - knowledge that the eldest vampires might, with luck, have fragments of.

The Malleus know that vampires are one of Satan's greatest tools. It didn't take long for vampires to realize they were a threat. It has been a long shadow war of trickery and deceit, and the Malleus has taken to dismantling the mundane holdings of vampires in order to get to the canny bloodsuckers guarded by them. They disrupt cults, break up businesses and often take advantage of the inherent competitiveness between vampires. European vampires know to keep their heads down around Easter - it's the time when the Malleus are strongest, and it's not unknown for them to capture vampires, torture them for days and then leave them out for the sun come Palm Sunday. As long as everyone hits quota by Lent, everyone's happy.

The Order of Saint Longinus never worry about where their leaders take them. They have just one job: kill vampires. Especially the ones who claim to serve God or have his sanction. They often venerate Saint Longinus as some 'Dark Father' - a grotesque blasphemy that cannot be allowed. The Order loves killing those vampires. The Order of Saint Ambrose can barely handle the amount of information they have on vampires. They're always on the lookout for new IT people to help with it. They back up the Longinus boys, building extensive databases of vampiric power networks, collecting information both digitally and on the street. The Brotherhood of Saint Athanasius are not so careful. They are firebrands, ready to burn half a city to get to a nest of leeches. Officially, vampires aren't their business. They often get involved anyway. They've actually gotten into trouble for this, having interrupted communications between the other Orders in an effort to get the jump on vampires. It doesn't help that most of them are basically Papal terrorists, not too worried about collateral damage.

Task Force: VALKYRIE have their work cut out for them with vampires. They have to play the spy game - and vampires are good spies. Plus, for some reason, the conspiracy is weird about vampires, sometimes helping them more than hunting them. Agents often wonder why some vampires are just let go with minimal harm. For them, vampires are just another kind of terrorist, hiding in plain sight. They're secret, don't communicate with each other and they cause fear and chaos. They are insurgents. At least officially. The Prince and The Art of War are both required reading for anti-vampire agents, often supplemented with Greek myth as an object lesson in what vampire politics looks like. It seems to be what vampire society is based on.

You'd think it'd be easy to just have a policy on vampires, but they can't manage it. Some are high priority threats, to be killed ASAP, but others are just allowed to live by the brass. No one really knows why except at the highest echelons. Confirmation of vampiric involvement in a situation requires following the Stearne Protocols, a list of approved and unapproved procedures to hunt haemophagic ENEs. Supposedly, it's to keep agents alive, but they're so arcane and confusing that people often die trying to figure them out in the field. The Stearne Steering Group, or SSO, has been maintaining the protocols since 1952, meeting once a decade to decide on policy changes. Always the same three days - December 20 to 22. To understand the protocols requires Stearne certification, which authorizes agents to pursue independent investigations. The waiting list for the cert course is practically eternal, and agents always seem to get knocked out as they near the front of the line - they get jobs the day the course is offered, the testing facility is moved unexpectedly and so on. Some people actually get the cert, rarely, but they never talk about what the test is like. Ever . Without the cert, you're supposed to rely entirely on orders from someone with it. In practice, bureaucratic mixups often leave cells on their own.

Project: ADAMSKI rarely has much to do with vampires - they leave very little evidence to cover up. Really, it's just the witnesses they have to deal with, often via memory wipes. Strangely, these witnesses often go missing or die anyway . Weird. Project: FORT has the least contact with vampires, being outside their remit entirely. Sometimes they run into them by accident, though, or mistake a vampire's actions for a Fortean event. You hear about gatormen in the sewers and nope, it's a vampire. Oops. They often get overlooked by Stearne agents, so they have greater freedom in those cases. Project: TWILIGHT, on the other hand, is run by Stearne-cert agents. They've got a lot of kills logged on vampires. The confusing part is how targets are chosen - no one seems to get why some vampires just get ignored. Or why orders sometimes change mid-mission without warning. It's hard work, especially given how pervasive and manipulative vampires can be. It's a wonder they've been kept out of the upper echelons of government so successfully, really. A wonder and a lot of hard VALKYRIE work.

Next time: The Barrett Commission, or: Fuck you, vampires not getting mine.

Barrett Commission and Maiden's Blood

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Stalkers

Rumors of conspiracy in the top echelons of society will never go away, not so long as there are people who aren't part of that society. (Plus, y'know, conspiracies exist. Any backroom dealing is, on some level, a conspiracy if it affects enough people.) The Barrett Commission exists to protect high society, however, from the monsters - particularly vampires - that seek to control and influence it to their own ends. They're not the first. In Rome was the Shadow Senate, in Istanbul there were special tribunals, in post-Revolutionary America there were the American Philosophical Society and the Chestnut Street Compact. Today, there's Task Force: VALKYRIE and the Cheiron Group. The Barretts are just the most recent expression of a basic idea: only those in the halls of power can get rid of the monsters stalking those halls. They police the ivory towers, protecting the world's most affluent assets and trusting that it will trickle down to everyone else eventually. They have representatives in governments, corporations, hospital boards, the military. They were formed to address the supernatural threat to commerce and governance. These aren't spoiled rich kids or weak socialites, though. They are the men and women who claw and scrape and force their way to the top, the ones with plans to stay there. Some are born privileged, certainly, but the fat, complacent nobility who are blind to or make deals with these beasts need not apply. Only the driven are invited in - everyone else is a security risk.

The Barrett Commission is named for one of its three founders, Revolutionary Colonel Shaun Barrett. He was appointed by President Adams (the first one) to investigate some strange bookkeeping in the office of the Governor of Delaware, with the assistance of banker Alfred Bredelmeyer and his niece Elizabeth Ducat. They investigated for months, discovering amazing depths of graft, which seemed to bypass the governor in places. They tracked it back to a fat, bloated monster, hungry for blood and money. It was apparently tied to a number of important Dover families. They killed it, burned its estate. Barrett rode for Washington to get the President to examine everyone even slightly connected. He was killed in Baltimore before he arrived, shot by an unknown gunman. Bredelmeyer was found dead, bled out from a neck wound within a fortnight, and his radical desire to investigate every major family of the US was forgotten. Due to the sexism of the time, however, Libby Ducat was spared. Her diaries and letters preserved Barrett's good name, and her discretion preserved his mission. She kept a list of trusted allies and got word to them. Soon, the list grew. The Commission no longer pursued official status - any attempts at that seemed to fail, as though someone were watching. They still exist now, a secret cabal of the wealthy and powerful. They operate as they ever have - a group of powerful individuals united in secret to root out monstrous parasites on the world's most lucrative institutions.

Due to the reach of individual members, the Commission appears deceptively widespread, but their numbers aren't actually large. They've gone well beyond one young woman's coded messages to a handful of people, though. The story of Ducat, Bredelmeyer and Barrett is told to each new member, if a bit warped by the passage of time, and the moral is clear: trust no one. Scrutinize even other members. For all the good they could be doing, after all, they are the most disloyal compact in the world. There's always one or two who think they can profit by a deal with the devil - and then it's time once more to amputate an arm of the organization to save the whole. Personal greed is their greatest weakness, and their peers the only foe that nears vampires in danger. They claim to be patriots, but each has secrets that render them vulnerable to blackmail and extortion.

The Commission prefers to hunt in the boardroom, not the street. They're not untrained in violence, though - a little blood is nothing when hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake. Ultimately, though, they're about fighting smart. Influence and pressure, the gentlest pressure, can topple a monster's schemes if the monster is too ambitious. If that's not enough, well, God gave us guns. The group focuses on vampires, largely because vampires always seem to be the ones targeting high society for control and influence. They look human, but you can spot them - no pulse, no temperature, no love of sunlight. If they find other monsters hiding in the shadows, they'll act, but it's vampires that take up most of their time and which they know the most about.

The Suits are the big business arm of the COmmission, the Forbes 500 warriors. They're not altruists by any means, but they are saving the world, in their own way. After all, no world means no profits. Historically, they were the smallest branch, but it's no secret that business has had an increasing control over government and military interests. That's not because of the Barretts directly, but it's certainly raised the power and interest of the Suits. The Quorum are politicians - mostly attaches, lobbyists and clerks. Some representatives and senators, sure, but never in the spotlight. Better to be kingmaker than king, and the few that hold public office make sure they're always part of the crowd, a voice among many. The Five Stars are the smallest but growing segment of the Commission - top military leadership. The growth is not so new as some younger members think, though - it's a renewal. Once, most politicians were military, and the military were key to the formation of the Commission. With their reinvigoration, they're starting to challenge the methods the others use, as they tend to be less wealthy and more accustomed to direct solutions.

Status within the Barrett Commission is tied to...having status. The bigger you are in the world, the bigger you are in the compact. They are unique in that anyone with money and power can buy their way to the top from day one. Still, experience is still more valuable than money, and someone with known abilities is worth more than some idiot trying to protect their assets. At one dot, you're part of the group but probably only know a few immediate peers. You know the Commission is bigger than you, but not how big it really is. You get a small stupend, gaining a dot of Resources, to a max of 5. Already at 5? No replacement bonus. Too bad for you, rich kid. For three dots, you've swum with the sharks and gotten out alive. You know a little about what's behind the curtain. You get 3 dots worth of Mentor, either a new one or added to one you have, to a max of 5 dots. For five dots, you're a leader among leaders. You have nearly limitless resources and assets, and gain two dots of Contacts.

Stereotypes posted:

Aegis Kai Doru : Last week we caught an intruder in one of our museums. Turns out the pajama-wearing little troll was claiming to be on our side, raving about some dangerous gewgaw or another. I told him to come back during business hours wearing proper pants and we'd talk. Then I set the dogs on him. I mean, really.
Ashwood Abbey : Eventually you grow up and realize life is more than where you're sticking your privates next. You want to grow old and die rich? Stay the hell away from these Country Club perverts.
The Cheiron Group : You ask why we never thought about incorporating and advertising in the back of magazines. Why not just paint a target on all of our assets and invite the creatures in? Where you see a strong corporate gate I only see the holes in the fence.
Union : Oh, by all means, protect your family and friends. At the end of the night you'll save, what, three lives? Four? Never mind the millions of dollars of GNP falling out of our nation's pckets like a sieve that could save four thousand lives. You want the big picture, work for management.

Literally the most generic possible logo.

The Maiden's Blood Sisterhood has members that'll tell you their spirits have been alive since the beginning of time - since Lilith refused to lie with ADam since God cursed Eve to painful childbirth, since Marduk tore Tiamat in half. They don't all buy into this mysticism, of course, but they all agree on this: the group offers its women safety and sanctity - and more importantly, a chance to strike back at their abusers. The Sisterhood was born out of privilege and character on the campuses of the Ivy League Seven Sisters schools, all-girls colleges that offered temptation to the more academic sort of vampire and those that liked isolated students. The Sisterhood began as one woman protecting her students and grew into one shared even beyond the Seven Sisters. They are a pact of mutual protection, leadership and community service, the sorority Pi Alpha Kappa. Outside of academics, they are known mostly for being benefactors of women's shelters.

In late 1957, Agatha Brewer taught mythology and religion at Wellesley University, where she'd gone to school. As one of the younger teachers, she wanted to change the world, spearheading the inclusion of Women's Studies on the curriculum and working closely with her students. It was from this personal vantage that she began to notice a disturbing trend - weak, pale students who could barely keep their eyes open. Good students going missing for weeks. At first she thought it was just wine and Harvard boys - certainly that's what her fellow professors thought. They assured her that it wasn't rare for girls to come more to catch a husband than a diploma. She remembered a few such girls from her time at school, but felt driven to investigate further. The girls she found were staying up late, yes, but had fallen prey to some pale woman claiming to be in touch with the great Crone aspect of the triplicate goddess, a woman who forced the girls to do things, to serve her and give her their blood. Agatha had enough.

The next night, she gathered some of the faculty and students, most notably Lena Corwen, daughter of a powerful donor. They broke up the ceremony, forcing hte blood witch to flee and liberating the students. Only a year later, though, it started over. This time, Agatha and her friends didn't give the monster a chance to flee or return. They became the first chapter of the Maiden's Blood Sisterhood, taking off on Agatha's drive and Lena's parents' fortune. They watched for monsters feeding on the young and naive, learning hard lessons, losing some of their members. They wondered if it was worth it, but Agatha knew it was. She studied strategy, codes and more. By the start of the next year, Pi Alpha Kappa had moved just off campus and new age was dawning. They spread into the city, working for civic duty in the day and protecting the townies by night. They branched out to Bryn Mawr, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Vassar, Barnard and Radcliffe, then their surrounding areas. No one paid much mind to what seemed a Seven Sisters take on Skull and Bones, so they spread in plain sight without being noticed. By the 80s, they were in dozens of colleges across the US and Canada, making inroads even into Europe. Their public face was women's shelters and soup kitches, dubbed Sister Shelters. This gave them more to fight, and more to fight for. Their puplarity actually forced the public face onto them, with girls competing to join the ranks of a not-quite-secret society sorority without ever realizing the real criteria for entry. It's not grades, not wealth - it's dedication, commitment and the will to defend people. (Not always physically - violence is often the last on the Sisters' list of ways to fight.)

With each graduating class, their reach widens. Not that every Sister continues to serve the hunt directly - they've done their tour and want to go home. Their experiences will haunt them, both good and bad, and...well, once a sister, always a sister. If someone shows up on their doorstep with two wounded and a corpse, you're expected to pitch in, even after graduating. But alumnae exist for this compact. They become contacts in major industries and positions of influence, spreading across the world. Of course, the wider it spreads, the more noticeable the holes in the net become. In 1976, Wellesley fired Agatha Brewer after a student accused her of impropriety. She maintains her innocence and has thrown herself fulltime into the organization, albeit purely in an executive capacity due to her age. Very few ever meet her. Rumor says she's a vampire, a witch, stays active in disguise or so on. Only a few know the truth. Lena Corwen went missing in the field in '88. Two of the girls who returned from that hunt swear she was killed, but refuse to discuss any details, even now.

oh no it is misandry what horrors oh my stars

The Sisterhood started with vampires, and that remains their main target. Vampires are a symbol of terrible abuse - less abuse of women, despite their feminine bent, and more abuse of the young. Students are dumb. They can't help it - they're just teens and early 20s. Vampires are immortal, Faustian seducers, taking advantage of the young and weak. Every year, more vampires, particularly young ones, flock to college campuses across the world. Universities are a perfect hunting ground - it's like shooting fish in a barrel. They're so needy! Vampires can offer so much, and then feed without repercussions. Some older vampires also enjoy colleges - they're very old-fashioned places, full of pomp and circumstance, which is very comforting to certain monsters. Of course, the Sisterhood's run across all kinds of monsters. They have learned to effectively use diplomacy, negotiation and compromise as well as violence - monsters, after all, can be people, too. That just means, though, that any creature wants something , and if they want it enough, you can find room to negotiate. Witches, though, are a weird area for them. There's an express mandate: if you find a witch and there's no immediate threat to people, the case must be reviewed by the Pleiades Council before anything is done. This was reportedly started after a chapter killed a Bryn Mawr student reported to be a witch, and the investigation nearly shuttered the entire sorority. Despite being a reasonable and clear explanation, it hasn't stopped rumors that one or more members of the Pleaides are themselves witches.

The Pleiades are the national organizers, based out of Wellesley for the most part. They oversee the university society and business end of the compact. OPther than a few adminstrators, they are known to consist of seven women who make all managerial decisions. Their identities are secret to all but a few chapter heads, and they mostly watch from on high. The Amazons are the...well, the military arm of the Sisterhood. They don't have to be fighters, though - conviction and backbone are more important. Of course, they all get trained in self-defense, but they're more than willing to try diplomacy. The Graces are the caregivers, sponsors and recruiters, the ones that work the soup kitchens and shelters, looking for women to bring in. Their main targets are the women with nothing left to lose, everything to gain and a desire to give something back.

Status in the Maiden's Bleed is about rescuing new members and fighting predators - any predators. All predators. Many girls graduate and move on with their lives, just helping out active sisters as needed. Men can join, but always end up plateauing at Status 3 or so. Status 1 means you're sponsored and met the local stewards, either via university or volunteer work. You are a Daughter or Son of the Sisterhood and get 2 dots of Allies, to a max of 5. At 3 dots, you're a full initiate and have recruited at least three others. You are a Mother or Father in the circle. Local and neighboring chapters know your name and you can call on them. You get two dots of Safehouse, either new or boosting an old one. At five dots, you are an invaluable resource, one of the Crones. You can draw on the strength of your sisters and your spirit, gaining the Indomitable Merit free. If you already have it, you get two dots of Retainers instead, to a max of 5.

Stereotypes posted:

Ashwood Abbey : They are just predators preying on predators. The symmetry couldn't be any more disturbing and we are wont to call them monsters just the same.
The Cheiron Group : Lots of our sisters are recruited by powerful foundations and corporations after college. More still have been approached by this organization. European, I think. Funny thing, those that join seldom show up to the reunions. Some aren't heard from ever again.
Lucifuge : Let's face it, we're Ivy League, a lot of us are used to our last names opening doors for us. That spooky girl in lab, though, to hear her tell it there's a lot more to her blood than all of us combined. She gives me the creeps, that's all I know.
Null Mysteriis : I went to a large enough school that the Sisterhood wasn't the only game on campus. This group - real bunch of eggheads - were looking to disprove everything they caught wind of. What a waste. It should come as no surprise most of them were men. No offense.

College girls fight vampires.

Next time: These are our streets, motherfucker.

Night Watch and Cainite Heresy

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Stalkers

Who protects people on the streets no cop will touch? Every city has a neighborhood everyone wants to forget, a place so bad, it's just easier to pretend they're not there, to let them self-destruct. And there, the vampires thrive, hunting without repercussions. For these places, there is the Night Watch . They're the last to leave the clubs each night, the ones who ride all the late trains and buses, who never come in until dawn, hunting the things that walk the night. They are vigilantes, watchmen who leave no one behind. They have a message for vampires: you can't stay here. This is not your place. Go away.

They started in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, winter of 1970. Crime and decay are in control of the Hill, and no one cares. The vampires move in, since there's no cops. They bring drugs, prostitution, violence, anything to control the human populace, the herd. They overtake the streets like a truly malignant cancer. Riley Lewis, Vietnam veteran, and Andre Sandoval, son of a murdered cop, both lose people to vampires. They're already mad from last year's race riots. The police ignore them. They team up with their buddies, Pedro "Pookie" Baez and Leonard Witherspoon. They head down to an old crack house being used as a lair by some vampires. They gun down the servants as the sun rises, burn the house down. No cops, no fire department ever get called. Within an hour, the neighborhood is celebrating them. They head to all the entrances and spray the words 'Night Watch' on them, claiming their patch. The fire burns out, they salt the earth and wait for nightfall. Word spreads like wildfire, with revenge on its heels. The vampires launched a strong response. Leonard and Pookie vanish overnight, found bloodless at opposite ends of the neighborhood - a message. A warning.

What the vampires get is a mob, ready to help Riley and Andre finish the job. Not all of 'em had the same name for the monsters, or know what they were facing, but they knew it was time to act. War broke out. All the cops wanted was to do was contain the violence to the Hill, which was fine by the Watch. Local legend says that a cop assigned to Oakland district saw Riley and Andre once, in early spring. Andre was bleeding fro mthe neck, Riley walking with a limp. They tag the wall right in front of the cop. When they asked why he made no arrests, the cop laughed and said he was only to get involved if they did anything on this side of Baum Boulevard.

Word spread. Others began to adopt the Night Watch name and tactics. Riley and Andre didn't want to waste what they'd done when the immediate threat went away. They formed patrols throughout Pittsburgh - at first, the locals thought rough young men were coming to riot and rob. But no, these men fought muggers and attackers. The mayor privately decried them as vigilantes and tried to quash the stories. The cops weren't in any hurry to stop them. Some say it was this model that inspired Curtis Sliwa to form the Guardian Angels ten years later in New York. Either way, Andre and Riley hit the road to help set up the other Night Watch sets. Through the gang explosion of the 70s, they were offered as a positive alternative to gangbanging. In many ways, though, they were little different as a lifestyle. Neither paid much (either from drug sales or robbing vampires) and both shortened the lifespan considerably. They ended up having to fight not just monsters but gangs not interested in having crazy motherfuckers tell them how to run their turf. Andre had big plans, hoping to spread the Night Watch everywhere, to invigorate and reclaim neighborhoods from the dead.

Didn't entirely work out. Hill District's fallen into urban decay, gangs and drugs, despite the Night Watch. For every kid that buys in, many don't. Riley Lewis went back home in the 90s and successfully negotiated a gang ceasefire for several years, but it fell apart as gentrification came and the residents tried to resist. Riley died in the late 90s. Some say gang retaliation, but truth is, some of the weaker monsters originally fled in the 70s. One came back, no longer weak. It killed Riley, stealing his head and heart as trophies. Andre's still alive, but he took a bullet in Baton Rouge, hit in the spine in the crossfire of a fight. Andre's stuck in a wheelchair and wrestles with depression. His girlfriend, Gracie Mae Ramirez, acts as his proxy now, basically running the New Orleans Night Watch. Her hands are really full.

The Night Watch know it's war out there - if it's not the gangs, it's the vampires. In your worst nightmares, it's both working together. They come in, set up shop, getting their fingers into everything. Gangs take the kids, arm them and shove them out to kill. Dealers peddle their drugs. Vampires sell blood and horror, working the streets like a chessboard...if you had something less than a pawn. The Night Watch won't have it. They don't just protect their house or block like the Union - they're proactive. They walk the beat like any cop, kick down doors, burn nests. They shoot up monsters and mobsters. Action before reaction - reaction means you're defensive. ACtion means you're the warrior. The more civic-minded cells, like Andre envisioned, fight street crime as much as vampires. That often gets overlooked, though - the monsters are fight enough for many, but hey, that's how it works in theory. When they started, they'd wear red bandanas to show solidarity. These days they don't use identifiers to avoid being confused for gangs and to keep a low profile - the cops aren't fans, usually. They're supposed to stick together, at least two at all times.

Life in the Night Watch is dangerous, often short. Their methods and lack of organizational support get a lot of young people dead. Still, it's either sell drugs, join a gang or do good by inches with the Watch. You burn bright, even if you burn fast. You kill those that would kill you. Ironically, their deaths are often reported as "tragic gang violence" when they died to be something greater. They're a little different in every city, though. In Philly, violence is skyrocketing, and the Watch are very aggressive. Some say they're as bad as the gangs, shaking down residents for the cash to hunt, running guns, brutalizing any monster they find without discrimination or mercy. In LA, the Night Watch are proactive, but they focus on protecting people obsessively. Their leader, Oscar Martinez, is a Buddhist and has brought Buddhist philosophy into their activities. They make heavy use of the homeless in their ranks, and protect them from desperate vampires with a fierce vengeance.

The Night Watch is also divided into different sets. The Street Angels are the most public face of the Watch, taking their name from a quote from a woman saved by Andre himself - she said he came out of nowhere, like a street angel. Unclear if this influenced the Guardian Angels or vice versa, but it's the common name for the guys who walk the beats. The Archangels are the elites in an area, at least three confirmed kills. They have wing tattoos on each side of the neck, to symbolize how the monsters can't touch them because they have angels on their shoulders. The Chain Gang are the old hands, though with these guys that means 30 or 40. They tend to have retired from the street, serving in a more organizational way. They are also the more socially capable members, working as the face with the authorities, organizing neighborhood defenses and hosting seminars.

You earn status in the Watch by killing vampires, protecting turf and taking back streets. There's room for charisma, but ultimately, this is war measured in broken fangs. At one dot, you've got your own kit and beat. Your neighborhood knows you're with the Watch. You get a free specialty of Streetwise (Who's Who), Larceny (Fences) or Stealth (Stalking). At three dots, you've had an impact at a local level, keeping folks safe or killing vamps. Your name comes up at the national level as someone to talk to when people are in your hood. You call some of the shots in your set. You get two dots of Retainers. Five dots, you're an old hand regardless of age. You've served the city, the community and the Watch as a whole. You're practically a celebrity in the Night Watch and certainly in your neighborhood. You get a dot of Fame.

Stereotypes posted:

Ascending Ones : Those cocksuckers have been dealing dope on this block for half a decade. What, I'm supposed to mind my manners 'cause they claim to be fighting the same fight? Obviously not, motherfucker. Obviously not.
Task Force: VALKYRIE : Man, I would not come to my hood with all that kit on. People are gonna think those dudes are ATF or SWAT and run out the back. They got an interest on these streets they can come see me. I'll show them where the problem is.
The Long Night : I believe in God just fine, son. But my God don't sound like the same dude those guys are talking about. They hunt for their reasons and I hunt for mine. They can help if they want. Just don't come preaching up in here.
Union : Yeah, we got a few things in common. No doubt, no doubt. But we aren't the same, hell no. They think they come out of the bad neighborhoods. They think they got it hard. Fuck that noise, man. They need to come up in this block, see what happens when they ignore the problem or when they only try to protect their own houses, you know?

Who is Cain? A monster spots prey on the dance floor, goes to find her, but she's gone. He feels something in his pocket. A note wrapped around a small knife. He unwraps it, reads it. Who is Cain? Suddenly, he realizes, everyone on the floor's not dancing. They're watching him. He has nowhere to run. Who is Cain? A corpse comes home to her lair, finds it ransacked. Someone smashed everything. The entire collection of literature is gone. All that's left is red spraypaint, a hieroglyph and one sentence. Who is Cain? A young vampire loves to kill. He is pursued by madmen in rags with knives, and at every door, every alley, they whisper. Who is Cain? The ancient killer corners the mortal that has troubled him so long, who destroyed so much. He takes her by the throat and squeezes, but she spits three words at him. Who is Cain? She repeats it as her body collapses. The live grenade she was holding falls to the floor. Who is Cain? Welcome to the Cainite Heresy.

The question matters more than the answer. Those three words are a battle cry. Once, long ago, the Cainite Heresy was an actual Christian heresy. Now, it is something more, broader. It is independent of religion, of politics. It rejects all belief systems of the world. It refuses to pretend the supernatural does not exist. They keep themselves secret, the Cainites, but they seek to reveal the vampires to the world. They know the truth will out, one day. Many believe that vampires are the literal descendants of Cain, the First Murderer. Every one of them has suffered at the hands of a vampire. Blood sources, slaves, people who lost family. The Cainite Heresy gives them a place. The more they hunt, the more they wonder - what's really going on? Where do they get their information from? How do they know - and they always know - where the vampires are? Who taught them magic? They are madmen, but they have power.

The Heresy does not bother to explain its history. They don't care - they survive, and they hunt. They keep detailed records on vampires, but nothing on themselves. They don't care about the past. They die often, and often before they can pass on their knowledge. They teach their magic and pass on one fact: vampires must suffer. All else is insignificant. If the Lucifuge, Loyalists and Malleus ever talked to each other, they might piece it together - the Cainite Heresy of the early medieval period were a heretical sect in thrall to a vampire selling some mad story about the Mark of Cain and the role of humans as cattle to vampires. The Malleus have a letter of Saint Jerome, a 4th century translator and writer, unique in any collection - it has no copies, anywhere. IT is addressed to Jerome's friend and soon-to-be enemy Rufinus, telling him about the Cainites. They are a former heresy, claiming to be deceived by a demon wearing a corpse, but they saw the truth and killed it. They are true to the faith, but dangerously unorthodox. They believe some of the dead bear the Mark of Cain, that these undead feed on the innocent by night, that they are neither man nor corpse or devil and must be destroyed lest they become masters of the world. Their motto, their greeting, is 'Who is Cain?' but they have no answer to this question beyond the obvious. Many seem to think Cain is still alive. Jerome goes on to talk about witches and devilish signs. The Malleus have always kept an eye on vampire hunters.

The Lucifuge have the only and fragmentary copy of the the Euagetaematicon, a text attributed to a man named Vitericus Minor. IT is a 14th century codex, copied from something much older. It talks about how the Mark of Cain is really God's blessing to the dead, the burning of the sun and the thirst for blood. Cain, it says, is God's agent on Earth. Jesus is but the agent of Cain, who still walks. Jesus is a mere dupe, peddling dark miracles to prepare the living to be cattle. The missing sections seem to imply that Cain empowered a vampire to be the mirror to Jesus, a dead messiah preparing the vampires to be the predators. It is not the most heretical book out there. A gloss in the margin by a Lucifuge agent reads 'They have cast off their shackles; they yet survive. This I rescued from the flames, that we might remember.'

The Malleus have a chronicle of an event in the Carolingian era. One page describes a group of 'paladins' who pursue witches or perhaps revenants, only to be ambushed by mad peasants. The peasants beat them to death with sticks, quite easily. The reason? So they could get to the monsters and kill them themselves. In the Munich library of the Loyalists, an octavo lists 30 groups offensive to God and governance, who must be suppressed. The printer was the same one used by John Calvin. The seventeenth group is the Cainite Heresy, who receive only a few lines. It says they "provoke fears in the populace of the invisible world and of the dead, that anarchy may result." It says they are witches, "whose obsession with destroying the works of Satan has led them into error. They employ the tools of Satan against Satan, not heeding the admonition of Our Lord that a house divided against itself cannot stand."

The Aegis are obsessed with witches. A set of Latin documents from the Scottish Saint Andrews, including one dating back to the 6th century, from the time of the mythical prince Ambrosius. It was found with a hand-written translation, a vial of still-fresh blood from the period and four human knuckle bones. The text describes an occasion where the AEgis tortured a supposed witch, who took a very long time to break. When he did, he said that he was using "magics denied the hungry dead, the better to deny them their provender." He had been slave to a vampire but was now free. They tortured him further, but he said nothing more. By the time they were done, he looked barely human. The text ends with this. "We do not regret our mistake, for through it we know that these men are men like us, who may have aided us in our work. Keep watch over his treasure, and should his brothers return to claim them, offer them to those who would use them wisely, along with his mortal remains, that they may know it as a sign." Evidently, they never saw the Cainites again. A Cainite might know what to do with the blood, but would have no idea what the knucklebones were for.

The Lucifuge has access to many journals attributed to the prolific and perhaps fictional Chevalier Theleme. In the volume marked as being from 1812 to 1843, he describes an occasion in the early 1800s in which a group of Russian commoners destroyed a vampire he'd been pursuing with magic, then turned on him. They went too far, and he flew into a rage and slaughtered all but one. Before he killed that one, they spoke. The man thought him a vampire, had suffered under vampires, and could not be reasoned with. His desire for vengeance blinded him.

Next time: More Cainite history that Cainites don't know.

The Truth of Heresy

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Stalkers

Project TWILIGHT has an eyes-only 1967 report detailing an opreation in which they sought to find links between anti-Vietnam protests and vampires. Nothing direct was ever found, but an agent infiltrating a peace group found a bunch of gippies that thought the government and war lobby were being controlled by vampires. The walls of the commune, the agent said, had the usual mix of subversive graffiti but also the slong 'Who Is Cain?', which the commune would not explain. After has asked, they treated him with suspicion. A 2005 ADAMSKI report from Baghdad talks about suspected insurgents who thwarted efforts to cover up an incident. They'd taken extreme measures to kill a vampire enclave but also to ensure that US authorities would find the remains. Why remains uncearl. They didn't harass or harm the ADAMSKI team directl, but the operation was a failure. Cheiron, meanwhile, issued a direct in 2006 saying that "any groups naming Biblical figures as part of a pretext for their attempts to preempt or deny potential resources should be avoided."

Most vampires don't know about the Cainites. Some day, but really, they just don't know much about vampire hunters in general. Sometimes, it seems like all the living ever do when they discover vampires is start cutting chair legs into stakes. More sensible vampires might realize that the Catholic Church or the US government are on to them, but even then, they're inclined towards arrogance when humans are involved. They're cattle, unabl to really hurt him. Vampire society has survived over 2000 years, after all. Now imagine how they feel aobut a group of people who seem like a bunch of random lunatics shouting about Cain and seeking revenge. Of course, they have blood magic, and shouldn't. But if the vampire survives the incident, even after realizing this group is a problem they're going to have trouble convincing anyone else.

Now, how does a heresy last 1600 years? Society doesn't work that way. Civilizations have risen and fallen in less than that. Sure, becoming powerful enough to take on the establishment can work - it did for Christianity and Islam - but they change when they do that. The Cainites have lasted 1600 years without ever becoming an establishment. Sure, the fourth century Cainites would have trouble recognizing the modern ones, who have no regard for history. But they're still Cainites, and simply, the reason for that is that there has been a constant for them - they exist in the context of vampire society. They don't really understand it, though they have a better idea than anyone else. They barely scratch the surface. But that doesn't matter. As long as there are vampires, people will suffer under vampires. They can't help it. Sure, a vampire can pretend to be humane, can feed on animals over people, but over time, they are tempted. It becomes too easy to feed on the living. It's just what they do. And as long as they do that, people will exist who survive and seek revenge. And some of those will be found by the Cainites. Never many, but they don't need many. And there's one other reason: the magic. They have magic stolen from vampires, and that gave them something to guard and pass on. Something to protect. If they hadn't, they'd probably have died out in the middle ages, but the centuries-long war with vampires to protect those secrets kept them going. It gave them an enemy to fight against.

The Cainites are proof of a truth vampires hate - if the human race knew about them and organized en masse to destroy them, the vampires would lose. Sixteen hundred years and they've not even kept track of the Cainites. Sure, sometimes they suspect organized resistance, even wipe out a region of Cainite cells. But they keep coming back. They survive, and they always will as long as there are vampires. They are locked into an eternal war, one they don't understand and cannot stop. The vampires can't help being what they are, and that means there's always more Cainites. Even taking that into account, though, it's still odd that htey survived. They're too scattered, siolated and separate to function as a worldwide conspiracy. But they do, and it works. Somehow, a cult of brainwashed slaves turned against their master. They stole vampiric magic. Someone or something helped them, but the reason is unclear. The highest ranks of the Cainites don't tell anyone, ever, but when they reach a certain point of experience and respect, they start to get...messages. Tips, information, leads. Notes arrive in the hands of grubby messengers, emails come from no address. Letters arrive, postage paid but no postmark or postman. Who sends them? Who gets the secret reports the Cainite leaders send back?

It could be another, smaller and older conspiracy. One that preserves and aids the Cainites. The Nine Daughters of Nibiru, perhaps, still exist - or their severed heads, anyway, three of them kept alive by ancient magic. They sing constantly of what will be and has been, and a hereditary line of scholars and guardians watches htem, transcribes their words and keeps track of the CAinites. The heads know the names of the Cainites' leaders, recruits and foes without ever being told. (No one talks to severed heads.) They give the orders, passed on by their guardians. Most of their agents aren't in the know. In Mesopotamia, the Nine Daughters fought vampires, half-divine monsters that were the truth behind myths of immortal Daevas. They fought the vampires through seven empires until they realized the world was changing and they could not endure. They manipulated a sect duped by a vampire into gaining freedom and stealing blood magic.

That's all a lie. In the fourth century, the last remnants of the Birds of Minerva found the terrible truth of Rome - vampires were its secret masters, plotting to turn humanity into cattle. After dozens of failed assaults, they suborned the Cainite heresy and disappeared into the shadows, to use the Cainites as their army.

That's all a lie. The Cainites are tools of the Inner Church, a secretive order that command several other conspiracies to unknownable ends. They are the ur-conspiracy, seeking total control of the world, and a the vampires are their greatest threat. These Cenobites of the Inner Church may not be human. Any house can be their cloister, any person may be "pvershadowed" by their Monks and Nuns, their will and memory used to send messages to their Cainite dupes. The Cainites are but slaves to another force.

That's all a lie. God Himself exists and guards the CAinites. Not the God of the Bible - at least, not the sane parts. He doesn't need devotion - He needs service, and so He sends His angels, His Dominions, in many forms. They command the Cainites. Their duty is to destroy the vampires, for they are God's sole mistake, the fallout left by the Mark of Cain.

That's all a lie. Vampires control the Cainites. Everyone knows vampires factionalize and fight each other. One faction, which hardly any hunts know of, is dedicated to wiping out other vampires. All of them. That's why so few know about them - they're a bigger threat to their own than to humans. They are a slightly different kind of vampire, too. Harder to spot. So they rarel;y get hunted. Anyway, no one knows why they hunt other undead, but they've existed since at least the time the Cainites rebelled against their former master. They weren't behind that, mind you - the original Cainites really were just very, very lucky and very, very strong-willed, and their former master was just kind of nuts, rather weak but still dangerous. These other vampires have their own way of fighting, but what better way of killing vampires than making them public? It's insane, yes. If the Cainites ever found that the Sources were the monsters they hate, they'd go mad. But how likely is that, really? They've been covering their tracks ofrever. By the time a message arrives, the vampires have moved on. Even if a Cainite were to figure it out, what would they do? These vampires taught them how to hide. And what truly fanatical Cainite - and they brainwash a lot of their members - is really going to believe the ultimate hand behind 1600 years of vampire hunting is a vampire? Clearly this vampire just killed and replaced the "real" Source. Or maybe they just deny it all. And even if not, how would they convince anyone else? CAinites kill traitors - revealing the truth means they'll probably kill you.

That's all a lie. The Cainites are the literal agent of Cain, ancient progenitor of the vampires, who regrets his mistake. And this is the least believable of any explanation. MAybe one of these is true. Maybe none.

Once, the Cainites were nomads. In the age of cities, it's more common for them to camp out for years or decades. An invitation-only encounter group for "blood disorders" that meets twice a week. A policy think-tank in the Welsh Assembly. Small businesses hiding amidst the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs of Kolkata. A group working for a police detective in Buenos Aires. A cult camped in the basement of a church. Cainite cells have nothing in common. Some have autocratic leaders. Others are democracies. Some are run by committee. Secrecy is the only thing they share. They have access to stolen magic and the Sources, who provide them with information and the means to learn more if they need it. Their safehouses are often mobile, however. Buses, cargo cars on trains, traveling fairs and trailers. Even the static ones have a lot of transport available - commonly, they're bus or train stations. Transience is common for the Cainites.

In the middle ages, they had a courier network, sharing signs and passwords. They knew eeach other. They uses printing presses in the Reformation, though it was dangerous. Every so often, some of their pamphlets show up. The Loyalists have one. The Aegis have one that somehow gained magic powers. The only mark to identify them is the Cainite Sign on the cover, the symbol the Cainites have used since the beginning. It is a design meant to represent the First Murderer, and it is found across the world. Few know what it means, least of all the vampires who, according to Cainite lore, are too busy deciphering their own symbols. That probably isn't so - the meaning of the sign is pretty obvious in practice. It's on the walls of burned out lairs, of places where it's no longer safe for vampires to hunt, and the places where, in two nights, every Cainite in fifty miles will come to fight the dead. The Cainite Sign does not mark safehouses or Cainite lairs. It is not a mark of safety - it is a sign of war. To see it is to know, the Cainites have been here or they will be here, and fire walks with them.

The Question is 'Who is Cain?' and it is a war cry. It means a vampire won't be walking away. (Usually. Not always.) It's the only thing that has remained truly constant in the Cainite history. They always ask the question. Cain and Abel sacrifice to God. Cain farms crops, Abel herds animals, and both bring the best of their produce. God accepts Abel's blood offering, but rejects Cain's wheat. Cain is offended, killing Abel. A midrash on the scriptures say Abel mocked Cain, who killed out of anger. God found him, asked where Abel was. Cain asks, is he his brother's keeper? God curses Cain for his anger, his murder and his impudence. The mark placed on Cain changes him, and God says those who harm CAin will be cursed to the seventh generation. Few stories say what the Mark of Cain was. The Cainite version says he was turned into the first vampire, that he defied God in discovering he could pass his curse to the dead. Cain is the one true living vampire, still out there walking the Earth. Perhaps he's sorry, perhaps he isn't.

Cainites are obsessed with vampires, enough to ignore other monsters, but sometimes they mistake a witch or other monster for a vampire. Desecration of corpses, shapeshifting, blood sorcery and, well, blood are not unique to vampire attacks. And once you're fighting them, well, it's too late to back out just because they don't burn in sunlight. Still, they focus on vampires. They know quite a bit, but not all of what they know is true. Cainites know that there are many kinds of vampiure, but the most common are highly social and near human. They call these the Families. Lore differs on how many there are - three, five, 12, dozens. Every time they think they know, something new comes down the pipe. Is a vampire who commands bees a new type of Family, or just an isolated freak? Do the ones who serve some Christian heresy count as a Family or just a faction? Three Families are solid, though - the Creeps, who hide from view, can be clairvoyant and often know magic spells. The Beasts, hideous and often shapeshifters. Some worship Satan openly. And the Masters, who can control the minsd of people and animals. Sometimes directly, sometimes via subtle emotional manipulation. Either way, you need magic to handle them, and they are the most dangerous. As different as they are, though, the Families share certain abilities and weaknesses. All of them have supernatural physical abilities, albeit to varying degrees. They don't age, but do appear less human over time, becoming more predatory and less able to deal with people normally. They can make themselves warm and mimic life, but not for very long.

Cainites know that vampire blood is addictive. Drink the same vampire's blood three times, you are their slave. If you drink vampire blood after being bitten, you become a vampire. If they killed you when they bit you, you either become a Family vampire of the same kind as them or a Minion. If you were alive after the bite and drink their blood, you become a Half-Vampire. Half-Vampires can be cured; the others can't. The Families have a variety of powers - mind control, clairvoyance, shapeshifting, something like Stigmata, turning to shadow, raising storms. They all share a weakness and fear of sunlight and fire. Stakes won't kill them, but will immobilize them. Burning them to ash is the only way to permanently kill them. Bullets don't work. Most of them, but not all, do not show up in mirrors or film except as blurs. No one knows why. Folkloric weaknesses mostly don't work, but very rarely a vampire will fear them, and there are rituals to enforce those old laws.

Act cautiously when dealing with vampires. They vary wildly in power and usually have something you don't expect. Never face them alone. Never face them without a plan. Observe them for a while first. When you go in, take them by surprise. Ask the question. And the eldest, most dangerous vampires will take suicide missions. Drug yourself up and use yourself as bait. Strap firebombs to your chest and go into their sanctum. The Cainites know, above all, that they lack a lot of information. Their knowledge is not monolithic and it's nowhere near complete.

They know that vampires can create Minions - less potent, less intelligent monsters. They often seem like mindless zombies or rabid dogs. Unlike more social vampires, you can't talk to a Minion - just kill it. They are dangerous out of sheer physical power. Treat them like you would a mean-eating tiger. Keep your distance, lure them out, kill them from range. In folklore, they say a half-vampire is the child of a human and a monster. This is false. Half-Vampires are made from living humans, just as full ones are made from the deead. No half-vampire is born that way. They are servants and guards, still living but possessed of some vampiric power. They have no fangs, but do need blood to survive, some of which must be vampire blood, which is their primary weakness. They are controlled by the vampires that feed them. As long as they drink the blood, they do not age. They are never quite as powerful as their masters. They are not weak to sunlight and still look and act human even after centuries. They can be cured. When they are deprived of blood, they go with withdrawal, but can survive. This doesn't mean they're worth saving, though - most are still slaves, even if they cease to be half-vampires. All of them age quickly to the age they should be when the blood runs out. Sometimes they go rogue, and some rare few have become Cainites after being cured. Still, often the best ones are the dead ones. The Cainites know how to spot them, how to torture them. They are often rather confident in their dealings with half-vampires, unafraid to kidnap and interrogate. They'd fear to do so to full vampires, thanks to mind-control powers, but half-vampires feel pain and respond to torture - most often, the threat of stealing their blood. They will almost always talk if you take their blood and promise to give it back. OF course, they never do give it back, but the half-vampire needn't know that.

Since the start, the Cainites have also known of creatures that can live in corpses and make them vampires. These are a different kind of monster. In their normal form, they appear as owls, bats, cats or rats. Insubstantial ones, which fly into and take over corpses. They have some of the powers of the Families. Sunlight doesn't hur them. These Thieves, however, cannot keep the corpse from rotting. The big thing, though, is behavior. They're alien, inhuman creatures who act in ways that make no sense. It's easy to mistake them for Family at first, but they work alone. Always. They keep corpses to wear in their lairs and enslave victims to be food, waiting to be killed and worn. They are very, very hard to kill. Destroying the body just drives them out. If you do this and drive them into sunlight, they die, but that's not easy. Some magic can kill them, but the Sources rarely teach these magics because Thieves are so rare. One Cainite foudn the only way to kill one was to lure a coven of witches to face the thing. The witches killed it, yes, but also the Cainite, who was the last host body.

The Cainites are aware of other kinds of vampires, too. Unlike the FAmilies and Thieves, who appear worldwide, these vampires tend to be regional. You find Asian monsters that eat breath or livers, Indonesian heads that detach from bodies and trail entrails in search of blood. The Philippines have a living vampire, a normal woman by day and a monst er by night. In the Middle East, the ghuls devour corpses, and China and Japan have creatures that walk the line between vampire and ghost. Across the world, dead women and suicides can re-enter their own bodies to search for revenge and blood. All of these take different tactics, and even the Cainites have only fragmentary lore. The Sources know less about these creatures. You're on your own with these.

Next time: Unofficial tenets of the Cainite Heresy.

Canite Doctrine; Tactics

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Stalkers

The Cainites don't really have a strict set of rules, but there's definitely some solid signs to tell you're dealing with a Cainite. They are uncompromising, a cult, and they promote and perpetuate a certain mindset in their members.

1. There is no salvation apart from us. Either you're with them or against them. If you aren't in league with them, you're damned. In league with the vampires whether you like it or not. Whether you know it or not. You are in or you are out. It spreads paranoia and ultraorthodoxy, though given the Cainites that mostly means 'KILL ALL VAMPIRES.' Most fundamentalist groups and extremists believe the world is against them, no matter what, and the Cainites are no exception - they just have proof that their monsters are out there. It doesn't matter that the vampires don't know they exist - they're there . The only solution is the Cainite Heresy.

2. The outside world is worthless. Anyone not with us is doomed. Nothing good can come of the damned outsiders. The Cainites are in the world but are not of it. They see everything through the lens of their hatred of vampires. Everything is a vampiric plot. No development is good. No good news, ever. No compromise. The only good comes from dead vampires. You capture one? Don't matter, vampire's still out there. You take down some werewolves? Don't matter, vampires still out there. Free innocents? Nice, but don't matter. Vampire's still out there. Vampire sides with humanity, helps you? Don't matter. Vampire's still out there. No mercy. No compromise. No middle ground.

3. Compromise is a really, really bad thing. The ultimate sin. You do not ever compromise on the mission. You do not leave vampires alive. You don't work with slaves to vampires - and to the Cainites, that's nearly everyone. Now, mind you, the Cainites do compromise. They work with other hunters. They just never consider themselves part of the group, even when they are. It's a sort of doublethink that lets them keep a good relationship with other hunters whom they privately consider deluded and ineffectual.

4. The whole world works like we say it does (even the parts that don't). Like most religious and political extremists, the Cainites shoehorn everything into their worldview. Uncaring world? Vampires. Terrorism? Vampires. Childhood obesity epidemic? Vampires. Sexism? Vampires. Racism? Vampires.

5. We're working towards our own version of the apocalypse. The only victory is the destruction of all vampires, everywhere. All of them. Completely. Forever. Their servants probably have to die, and other monsters on the way. There is only one ending, and it is a world purged of vampiric taint. Once that happens, it'll all be perfect. Except, you know, for all the folks that have to die.

6. If you leave or we kick you out, you never come back. Sometimes, Cainites decide that the kill-'em-all methods of the Heresy aren't the whole story. They start to ask questions, to look for other ways. And they get kicked out for it. No appeal, no explanation. Just a warning: talk and you die. Then they're cut off. Ostracized utterly by any Cainites. But they watch. And if the Heresy decides they've turned traitor, they're marked for death along with anyone they know.

Despite all this, Cainites can work with other hunters. They might not trust, though, and won't reveal their affiliations or magic for a long time. They'll demand no mercy be given to any vampire, even if they accept any other monster as potentially okay. They will make vampires public, no matter what any other member of the cell says. And maybe it's worth it - they fight like demons. And they do protect people, look out for them. The Cainites are extremists, but they aren't evil monsters. They're decent folks, by and large, with a warped and twisted hatred and belief system. They are fanatics, but they fight for the human race, and if they forget that, they lose their edge.

The Cainites split into three main ideologies. The Extremists want the vampires gone, now. Right now. The only hope for human survival is to solve the vampire problem. Mass destruction, publicizing them all, get the government on our side. One day, the authorities will know and understand, and they plan for the day when the cops can round up vampires and lock them away or execute them. The Revolutionists believe the media and government are compromised. Mass destruction of vampires must come from the people. They try to broadcast whatever they get, to wake people up. They often come off as insane and aren't usually very good at talking to people, but they have faith. The Fatalists are the most common, however. They think that no one can help. Only the Cainites have the tools needed to take out vampires. They have a sad tendency to take non-Cainite lives a little lightly, and that's a slippery slope.

Cainite status comes from killing vampires. Nothing else. Just killing vampires. Methods matter, however - if you keep your cell alive and not at risk, you're a hell of a lot more respected than the guy who risks them with berserk raging. At one dot, you're initiated into the Cainites and can take Rites of Denial merits. For three dots, you get an almost uncanny sense for when vampires are near. You get Danger Sense, with a bonus if vampires are involved. At five dots, the Sources have begun to talk to you. They send you email or communications. You get a three-dot Mentor.

Stereotypes posted:

Network 0 : I know a man who's willing to get any visual evidence you have out on the Internet. But he never does anything with my footage. That's the problem when you're facing something that doesn't show up on film. He asks too many damn questions.
The Loyalists of Thule : A friend of mine spent some time hunting with this librarian. He said the guy was really committed...but not in the right way. As if he had something to prove. Useful, but not trustworthy.
Task Force: VALKYRIE : The vampires run the government. The men in black cars might be bringing the monsters in, but answer this: if they're so concerned about protecting the nation, why do they spend so much time covering up? Don't give me that crap about "protecting the public." They're up to something. If they really cared, they'd have made the monsters the enemy in the War on Terror.
Malleus Maleficarum : The vampires run the Catholic Church. We've known that since the beginning. The only question is: which ones? Sure, you see the Catholic witchfinders bringing down the vampires, but they seem to be strangely blind about which ones they bring in. We know the dead have factions. One of them is using the Catholics. Mark my words.

Next, we get some new tactics focused vaguely on vampires. Setting shit on fire, staying awake for long periods, distracting with bright lights and loud noises. Some new merits - military ConLang, resistance to supernatural suggestion, immunity to vampiric blood bonding. And then there's the new endowments. Everyone has tools that specialize in killing vampires, if not always many of 'em.

Task Force: VALKYRIE's anti-vampire research has kind of tapered off these days, but they have some early successes that they keep using. Hod Rounds (one dot), wooden bullets. The first wooden bullets were used in WW2 as tracers for grenades or training bullets used in desperation. Wooden bullets don't work too well...except for against vampires. Compressed fibers around a soft core of mistletoe, which heats on firing and builds up pressure, eventually shredding on impact. They're cheap to make, but VALKYRIE uses them only infrequently - agents tend not to like the low-tech approach, they're embarrassing. It's also hard to get a lot of them, for some reason. No RFID needed to use 'em. And yes, it has to be mistletoe. Nothing else. The occult symbolism of mistletoe with death from Balder and Virgilian associations is significant. Not, mind you, that supply will tell you that - they just want you to shut up and stop asking questions about the wooden bullets. They're shitty weapons against anything but vampires, but will splinter inside a vampire, dealing far more damage than most bullets do. Plus, with good aim you can pretty easily stake a vampire with one of the splinters.

The Huginn Visor (2 or 3 dots) were designed when someone realized most vampiric mind control required eye contact. They are made of dark, reflective glass to render that nearly impossible. Normal sunglasses have proven useless in this, but the visors are polarized specially and treated with strange chemicals. There are jokes, not entirely inaccurate, that the shit they use to treat them is made from faerie wings. The main style of visor is just a pair of sunglasses, but they can also come in contact lens variants - stealthier and harder to get rid of. The lenses are a bit less efficient, though, making eye contact slightly easier than the glasses. In all cases, they do cause trouble with low-light vision in the agents, though.

And then you've got the Logehammer Personal Flamethrower (4 dots). Fire is the great equalizer, and vampires are particularly vulnerable. Flamethrowers date back to the 5th century, as Byzantine troops would pump Greek fire at their foes. Modern ones are more advanced but fundamentally similar - fuel reserve, gun housing, ignition system. Strictly, they don't shoot fire - they shoot flaming fuel, which you can bounce off walls, for example. The Logehammer seems traditional...but it's not, especially when you consider the strange green flame it shoots. It is not antifortification, but antipersonnel, as hot as a bonfire and as intense as a gas fire against normal mortals and most monsters. However, vampires are especially vulnerable flame, and something about the green flame is enough to drive vampires made with fear, forcing them to flee the scene in most cases.

The Malleus Maleficarum use Saint Flacre's Staff, also called the Benediction of the Rose. Saint Flacre brought fallow earth to life. This power, to enliven plants, has been turned into a weapon, Stakes work because vampires are a rejection of God's will, and the touch of life is so hated that its contact is a terrible burden. This blessing just pushes that further. Historically, Saint Flacre banned women from his parish, so this Benediction is also banned from women by tradition, though women are now a part of the Malleus. The Benediction of the Rose is used for women - it's based on Saint Rose of Lima, who performed similar miracles, and the changes are purely cosmetic. Any object blessed this way can be used to harm vampires and pierce their hearts just as a stake can. The best tools for it are unalloyed metals, unprocessed wood and unquarried stone. More processed materials stil lwork, just less well. It must be sharp and sturdy, though. The blessing requires prayer over the item while using it to disturb earth or dirt of some kind, preferably soil. Occasionally, plants sprout from the wounds.

The Malleus know that vampires are liars. But no lie escapes God's sight. By invoking Saint Frances de Sales via La Langue Des Saints, the Malleus can act as confessors, commanding the truth of the monsters. With prayer, they can focus and force monsters to tell the truth before God. The monsters must answer as truthfully as possible, compelled by magic - though truth is still flexible, based on what the monster believes, not objective reality.

The Song of Daniel can be used to keep beasts from harming the user...and that includes the beast in the heart of the vampire. It's doubtful this is the actual hymn Daniel used, but still. It calms animals and the rage within monsters. This can be used to approach a specific creature or to move through nature without disturbing it. It also calms the frenzied berserking that vampires and werewolves are often prone to, bringing clarity to their minds.

Loyola's Fire calls on the light of God via Saint Ignatius of Loyala. It must be uttered over a cross or holy object most of the time, but can be done at penalty by faith alone. It brings light - literal, physical light. This is technically a side effect. The main effect is that the light will drive vampires mad with fear, and also drive back ghosts, zombies and other undead. They will do whatever they can to escape the light, and it drains their will while it touches them.

The Mantle of Orleans is associated with Saint Jeanne D'Arc, held deeply in regard by the Malleus. It invokes her success in lifting the siege of Orleans in but nine days, blessing allies in battle. The prayer must be continued to get the benefits - stop praying, and the power leaves your allies. The strength it gives is very real - the hunters gain defensive skill, speed, poweri n battle, for as long as the prayer continues, so long as they stay within 50 yards.

Next time: More Endowments.

More Tactics

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Stalkers

The Lucifuge have found the power to deny vampires access to blood via the Prima Dictum. After all, blood is their power, too. They curse vampires with the authority of their ancestors, tightening the vampire's limbs, almost like rigor mortis. The vampires find it very difficult indeed to move and use their dark powers.

The Lucifuge also know the power to command the dead to rise - Abbadon's Call. Supposedly they compel a demon to animate the corpse, but it could be a spirit or something else entirely. These zombies are always shambling, simple creatures with no mind for complex instruction. They can fight, but only in the most straightforward way. They don't defend themselves. They have no regard for their own safety. They fall back to death after a certain amount of beating, and once they do, they can't be raised again. They last for only a few hours at most, most of the time, but with truly extensive effort they can be made permanent. Well, until destroyed. They do not heal by any means, after all.

You've hard of the Mark of Cain, but there is also the Mark of Lucifuge, a lesser form of the mark of sin. They must touch bare flesh on a vampire, branding them at a touch. Nothing can rid the beast of the mark, even after the burn heals. It will not wash off or be carved out. Its glowing light cannot be covered by anything. Any and all Lucifuge that see the mark recognize the mark and its unholy nature on sight. Humans and most hunters can't see it - but the Cainites and the Malleus can. Monsters can see it, too. The Cainites, in fact, claim it is a very familiar sign indeed. The power works on non-vampire monsters, but only with greater effort.

Who is Cain?

Many things walk the dark, and for this, the Ascending Ones have the Hunting Sight of the Asp (1 dot). It is made from cobra's venom, fish liver oil and opiate alkaloids, made into an eyedrop. It opens the user's vision to the infrared spectrum, sensing heat with their eyes. This provides a number of benefits - they can see those in hiding by the heat, spot undead by the lack thereof, spot werewolves because they run hotter than normal. It can also help read emotions, which alter body temperature.

There's a legend of an Ascending One whose wife and family were enslaved by vampires. He went to Nehebkau, Guardian of the Underworld, for help. The god offered a chance - to approach in the skin of a vampire, at the cost of closing the afterlife to the hunter forever. He didn't care. If his soul was the cost to free his family, so be it. Thus did Nehebkau weep for him - and he used Nehebkau Tears (5 dots). Drinking them would allow him to move as a vampire for one night, but at the end of the night he would die, his soul lost. He took the poison and felt himself die, but stood up once more. He walked into the vampire stronghold unassailed, leading his family out and saying goodbye to them, to their warmth. As the sun rose, he fought, his spirit's purity welling up within. The darkness tore loose in him, and he vomited up a single, fat scarab onto the sand, surrounding it with his blood and bile. It spoke to him in Nehebkau's voice, telling him his purity would allow him to live once more, and he stood and returned to his family. There are few who lose the elixir now, save in direst need. It is made from pig's blood, mercury, natron and formaldehyde. If used correctly, mixed perfectly and consumed with proper conviction, it not only allows the user to feign vampiric undeath, but to return afterwards by coughing up a bloody scarab. From sunset to sunrise, the user is in all ways a vampire. All ways. While a vampire, they lose all Endowments and ability to risk willpower, and get penalized when using Tactics. They can feed on blood to restore willpower and have all the advantages and disadvantages of being a vampire. If done right, they turn back at sunrise. If done wrong...well, some are poisoned. Others become vampires forever.

The Aegis Kai Doru have a few vampire-specific relics. Greek myth is full of monsters similar to vampires, notably the Lamia, a woman cursed by Hera for catching the eye of Zeus, forced to become a baby-stealing breathdrinker. She often gets conflated with Lilitu of Mesopotamia, the mother of monsters. Several half moon plates, the Scales of Scylla (2 dots) have been recovered near her supposed home, near the Straits of Messina. Each plate is larger than most people's hands, and supposedly comes from Scylla, the sea monster that was Lamia's only surviving child. Use of the relic allows passing unseen by Lamiae (in symbolic and practical terms, vampires). You draw blood and polish the scale. Anyone's blood. Any who touch it then become invisible to vampires - but not their mortal servants. The scales shine unnaturally when the blood is applied, but there is no visual indicator that they're working except for the vampires not noticing you at all. They'll still see anything you disturb, though, and they can spot you if you draw attention to yourself.

Recently, the Aegis Kai Doru acquired the Worm Pipe (5 d0ts). It is a long, carved wooden pipe showing what seem to be serpents or worms spiraling its length. It was long believed to just be a Native American legend until it was found in a pumpkin patch. It is a very tempting, dangerous tool. Legend has it that a hunter lost his wife to childbirth and sought out the land of the undead Worms, hoping to bring her back. He begged them to save his wife, and they agreed, giving him the pipe to return her to life, but changed, a part of her staying with the Worms. Currently, the unique relic is locked away, not meant to be used, for it can resurrect the dead. Some believe it is an old vampiric relic, meant to curse humans with death's taint. A man named Grellich is said to have used it to revive a fallen cellmate, but killed him again on seeing what he became. Tobacco must be burned in the pipe, drizzled with the user's blood. You inhale the sickly sweet smoke, then blow it into a corpse no more than a week dead. It returns to life possibly vomiting up worms, roaches or stomach lining, coming back alive but beaten up and bruised. They are mostly normal, but suffer from an incurable minor insanity, are pushed closer to their breaking point mentally, are now more susceptible to vampiric mind control, feel an unnatural fear or lust distracting them when fighting vampires, gain social benefits with vampires and can now sense the magic of ghosts, vampires, the Reanimated and all other unliving beings.

Cheiron has plenty of vampire parts to use for design, and they've come up with some creative uses for them. The Voice of the Banshee (1 or 3 dots) draws on myths of wailing creatures like banshees and terrible lures like the Sirens. These creatures may be related, distantly, to vampires, and when Cheiron ran into a banshee woman in the Thames, she tranqed it and took it home. Sadly she got hit by a bus before she could collect her bonus. The vocal cords were extracted from a few of these rare specimens, allowing the recipient to make a high-pitched keening sound outside human hearing range. It agitates animals and deafens anyone with supernaturally acute hearing. This lasts as long as the cry does, and it can be so loud as to damage these monsters' ears. Humans are unaffected. More potent variations also allow the induction of depression in victims that can hear it.

Vampires can do a lot with eye contact, and Cheiron decided to see if the eyes had anything to do with it, using advanced medical science to somehow lock the vampire's soul inside the eye. For some reason, doing this makes the eye discolored and unsightly - maybe the soul looks ugly. They're trying to fix this bug, but so far, no luck. These milky, sightless eyes can still sway the minds of those that meet them, but it's kind of hard to get people to do. Most agents cover them with an eye patch when not using them. They are disconcerting and half-blind the user due to their lack of actual vision, but they grant the agent mind-affected power similar to vampires. Only one kind of power per eye, though, and two will make you blind. The variants Cheiron has allow for inducing confusion, fury, hypnosis, sleep or terror.

The Cainites do not understand the Rites of Denial. A very long time ago, they were given insight into a ritual blood magic, possibly stolen from vampires themselves. They know the rites, can invent new ones, but they do not understand how or why, and they don't rally care. Being a Cainite is not about asking any but the one question. The Rites of Denial are just a weapon to kill vampires with. Their rituals require use of blood, which they carry in small vials. This blood must be used in the rites - smeared on weapons, drawn on walls, drunk and spat out. Often there are other ritual actions involved. Everything must be done, a sort of equation of magical actions to produce the desired result. No faith needed, no prayer, no entreaties - just focus and commitment to action. Some may add religious touches to their rites, but it isn't strictly required. Cainites do not learn the Rites from other Cainites, either - they're taught by the Sources. They send messages when they want to teach a new Rite. The message explains exactly how to perform the Rite, very straightforward. It's rather disturbing, really. The Cainites willfully ignore all mysteries around this and try to get others to do the same. It doesn't always work. The Rites also work on just about anything undead, or anything created from or bonded to vampire blood. Nothing else. Rites do not have dots. You can buy them seperately, have as many as you want, but you only get one free.

Aggravate works thusly: Drizzle some vial blood on your weapon, held in your hand. Use your forefinger to swirl the blood into the Cainite Sign or something roughly approximating it. It will feel heavier, more powerful. Your hands will hum and you will feel blood rush to your ears. Only melee weapons may be enchanted, and the weapon will be much more accurate and easy to use, and will harm vampires better. This only applies against vampires, their minions and other undead.

Befoul is a cruel trick. Sprinkle phial blood, a bag of salt and a handful of dead leaves somewhere. You foul that location against vampires. Vampires cannot slumber in that place, cannot use their powers there, cannot expend blood there. It is toxic to them. It lasts for only a few nights, but that's long enough. Any vampire that does slumber in this location will be harmed by doing so.

Behold is done by dabbing phial blood on the skin in the Cainite Sign, marking it on the forehead. This reveals to the user the existence of any vampires they see, making them appear as vile, deadly monsters. This does not work on those hiding themselves, magically or physically, but the hunter is very good at sniffing them out.

Deny requires leaving a line of salt on a door threshold along with a drizzling of phial blood. Vampires cannot cross that line or enter by that portal - and it works on any portal, not just doors. Windows, too. They can only cross it if invited by the user, at which point they may enter freely. Anyone hurling the vampire across the line will find they bounce off the empty space above it and take damage. Magic can be used across the line, though - mind control, for example.

Evade requires smearing a line of blood on the ground with your thumb, then stepping over it. This grants supernatural speed - whenever chasing down or fleeing a vampire, anyway.

Invoke forces vampires to obey their folkloric weaknesses. You pick one folklore bit to enforce - garlic, say, or poppy seed counting, or wild roses. You then hold phial blood in your mouth and spit it over the item in question. For a time, it will repel and harm vampires, until the next dawn. They may not come near it, and it will burn them and push them to frenzy.

Mark requires the user let a coin soak in phial blood for up to an hour. Then, it and the blood must be held in the mouth. This grants a bonus to any attempt to stake or decapitate a vampire, lasting until you spit the stuff out, swallow it or around an hour. Getting smacked in combat will often make it hard to keep in your mouth without spitting or swallowing.

Obligate requires you to find a vampire's footprint. Any footprint will do. You must slick a rusty nail in phial blood, then place it within the footprint's bounds. Wherever the vampire is, they are "obligated" to remain in place, unmoving. This must only be used within an hour of the footprint being made, however, or the magic will fail and the nail will burn your hand. If it works, though, the vampire's foot numbs and locks into place, unable to be moved by any force except sheer willpower. EVen then, the vampire will be sluggish, dragging their foot the rest of the night. The paralysis lasts only up to an hour, however.

Pilfer allows you to steal secrets from the vampires' minds. You must drip phial blood in their ears and ask them what they know. You then suddenly know one of their secrets - anything they want no one, particularly you, to know. It only works once per vampire, however.

Prohibit requires you drizzle phial blood on the wrists of someone you want to protect, then smear it into an X. They must ask the person, "Who is Cain?" The target's blood goes cold in their veins. Any vampire that sucks that blood finds no sustenance - only pain and hurt. This pain only comes once during a bite, but none of the blood has any value. You may not protect yourself this way, just others. It lasts until sunup or sundown, whichever is first.

Question is the question. Who is Cain? The answer does not matter. You paint your tongue and teeth with phial blood an hour before you ask the question, then chew a sprig of mint. When you quesiton a vampire, it digs into their mind. They go literally insane from it, an insanity of your choice, and a bad one. It lasts for months.

Reflect requires you whisper 'Who is Cain?' and draw the evil eye over one of your own eyes in phial blood. Before it dries, it must be flecked with kohl, mascara, coal dust or something else that's black. This protects against a vampire's powers should they require eye contact, and if the vampire tries anyway and can't manage it, they are affected instead. This works against memory alteration, emotional manipulation and hypnosis, and lasts for one hour.

Unmask helps track vampires. Daub phial blood on the eyelids, and the first vampire you look at is revealed to the world. They show up perfectly in mirrors and photos and videos. In fact, they stand out, bright and clear. Those nearby suffer a sudden fear of the beast, unconsciously recognizing it as undead. They will hurry away, but not panic. Hiding becomes exceptionally difficult.

Next time: Vampires, how do they work?

Properties of Vampires

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Night Stalkers

So, vampires. Most of them are nocturnal, unable to do much by day. They consume blood and sometimes flesh to survive. Everything they do takes on a patina of hunger and damnation - even the noblest act is always off, when they do it. Older vampires tend to be more potent, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. The majority of vampires refer to themselves as Kindred or the Damned, and they create new vampires via Embrace - drain a victim dry, then put blood into them again. Vampire blood. But not all vampires work that way.

Null Mysteriis declared in 2008 that it was impossible for vampirism to be spread by just a bite - the infection would spiral out of hand too fast and everyone would be vampires already. They turned out to be wrong. Often, vampiric infection takes a while to set in - days, even. It’s rare, at least. Other vampires exist because of curses, rising spontaneously. Sometimes suicides provoke it, when particularly brutal. Other times, murder can do it, or improper burial. Sometimes, a person is born with a caul, or a tail, or a full set of teeth, or at an evil time. They can become vampires when they die, rarely, or are born half-dead and vampiric. Some vampires actually do suffer from advanced, semi-mystical diseases. And some of them are demonic, either possessing corpses or due to infernal pacts.

Most vampires feed by biting and drinking blood via retractable fangs. They can seal bite wounds by licking them, leaving only a bruise, but only if they were the biter. Not all vampires are like that, though. Some must bite messily and painfully, while others clamp over mouth and nose with distended jaws to drink breath. Others consume dreams, luck or memories. Psychic vampires consume the will to live, draining energy and willpower. Dream eaters feed on emotion, mostly, typically by touching sleepers. They experience the dreams they consume and may appear in the victim’s nightmares. Their victims often go insane. Breath-stealing works a lot like blood-drinking, just in a different area. It can cause respiratory ailments. The weirdest kind are sin-eaters, ritualised vampires who consume the burdens of another’s sins to help lighten their souls. The ritual involves bread and salt, and the sin soaks into the bread, staining it with blood.

Vampires, being undead, are resistant to many forms of attack. They don’t breathe, so strangulation’s kind of useless. Punches to the gut don’t wind them. Their hearts don’t beat, so they have no blood circulation to cut off, and choke holds are no good. Their necrotized flesh feels little pain, so bullets don’t do much besides kinetic damage - damage to organs they don’t really use anyway. Their nervous tissue conducts electricity poorly, so shocks aren’t a great tool, either. Even lightning’s just a tingle. They can’t be stunned or knocked out easily. Drugs and poison are useless, though corrosive acids work fine. Combustibles work amazingly. And there’s a way to poison them or drug them - they suffer the full effects of any drug in the bloodstream of their prey.

Vampires may use the blood they consume to heal themselves nearly instantly, or to strengthen their undead bodies. If they need oxygen, they milk it from the stolen blood rather than their lungs. They like to use this to their advantage, both in ambush and in the fact that they don’t get tired after long exertions. Despite this, vampires can breathe if they want, though mimicking biological behavior requires expenditure of blood. Any food they eat while doing this is messily vomited back up shortly afterwards.

It’s not all upside, though. Vampires are intensely emotional beings at times. Hunger drives them to frenzied killing if it gets too great, and self control is always difficult for them. While in a frenzy, vampires are uncontrollably violent, barely intelligent and utterly inhuman. Sometimes, they just try to eat anyone nearby. Other times, they feel humiliated and fight to dominate their foes. And other times, it’s fear, and they’ll do anything to escape. In all three cases, they have no morality at all while frenzying, and will do anything to achieve their innate goals. Mental control magic barely functions on them, and they become physically boosted.

There’s other weaknesses. The camera thing. Sunlight, fire. Paralysis when a stake is plunged through the heart. Not death - just sleep. And it’s not a universal. Unfortunately, nothing about vampires is truly universal. Some of them enter periods of extended sleep on occasion, called torpor, which can be roused from by the taste of blood or certain demonic interference. While in torpor, their memories often shift and change. Vampires can sometimes consume each other to gain power.

The human slaves of vampires are known as thralls, ghouls or blood dolls. Some hunters call them Renfields. Ghouls consume the blood of vampires and gain power from it. They have many of the powers of vampires, but less so, and are immune to the sun. However, they must keep drinking the blood each month or assume their natural age. Plus, vampire blood is addictive. One drink feels good. Two causes you to become enamored with the vampire. Three or more is a full-blown, slavish obsession with them if you’re not lucky and strong-willed. Animals and plants can also be made into ghouls of a sort. Animals work much like humans, but plants become (very slowly) mobile and can bind those their master wants to stop in vines or roots.

After some new power frameworks to make new monster powers from, we get the Bloodjackers, AKA the Owls. The owls are terrible creatures, and they make people do terrible things. They are also known as the Strix. In their natural form, they are shadow or fog or black owls with horn-like tufts. They aren’t truly physical, and objects pass right through them. They prefer to hide inside dead bodies, controlling them from within to perform the vilest of deeds. They love to use and abuse the senses of the body, often via horrible actions and mad hedonism. They especially love wearing vampire bodies. The Owls are not human and can barely pass for human when they speak, but not out of any animal or incomprehensible nature. They’re just monstrously cold and callous. In both natural form and corpses, they are weak to fire and sunlight. They cannot move in a corpse while the sun touches them, though it causes no pain or damage to whatever they are in - even a vampire. Fire burns any body they wear in terrible ways. While outside a body, sunlight will kill them. You can spot an Owl by the eyes - the eyes always shine yellow, like an owl’s, and they can see in darkness.

Other variants of the vampire exist across the world. In Ghana are the Adze, disembodied spirits that sometimes appear as red fireflies, feeding on children and teaching secrets to sorcerers. In the Middle East, you get the Algul, vampires bound to cemeteries, sometimes unable to leave. They are a type of djinn or demon, thought to feed on infants or perhaps animate their diseased corpses as servants. The Bhuta of India are spawned by violent death and feed on any human fluid at all - blood, semen, feces, urine. They lurk on dark roads and waylay travelers. The Empusa of Greece can take any face they like and are masterful liars. Some serve demons or witches, and few serve themselves alone. The Japanese Hannya are women who died in childbirth, who travel in packs and let out terrifying screams. They are most vulnerable to their own children, who often turn out to be monster slayers.

The Incubus and Succubus of Western folklore attack the sleeping, consuming dreams and sexual fluids via intercourse. They kill very slowly, draining over the course of months, and sometimes sire or bear children, primarily deformed or insane ones. Some of these children become hunters. They are often associated with Lilith, herself associated with owls and semen theft. The Jiang-Shi of China (aka Chiang Shih or Kiang-Shi) are inhuman, pale creatures with terrible claws. They are not weak to fire, but to electricity of any kind, and can leap great distances. The Ohyn of Poland are born with cauls over their heads, living vampires. They can be killed like any man, but must drink blood to live and can have many dark powers. They age at half the human rate.

The Penanggalan of Malaysia is a head, neck and bunch of trailing intestines. They’re almost always female and prefer to hunt children and infants. Their bites spread wasting diseases like cholera to survivors, and they fly very fast. They have no hands ands cannot do anything that requires them. They leave their headless bodies behind, usually in a cellar somewhere, and broken glass through the body’s heart kills them. Revenants of European folklore are strange vampires, risen after violent deaths. They drink blood but rarely to hurt people, seeming more interested in surviving to take vengeance on their killers. They cannot be harmed by weak blows at all, and return to death when their vengeance is complete. They tend not to care who gets in their way. The Ubour of Bulgaria are swollen, mindless beasts that rise after 40 nights buried. Their insides are liquefied and jellylike. They eat anything - literally anything. They are often slow but monstrously strong. Fortunately, they attack only when something gets in the way of eating. They are mindless and mute. If killed, a black cat emerges from their throat, for some reason. And the Vrykolakas of Greece are possessed by demons, who merge with a dying soul. They know the name of anyone they meet, along with details about them - family’s names, where you were born, how old your pet dog is. Anyone they kill rises as one of them, though at a fraction of the sire’s power. Fortunately, if the first one dies, so do all of its children.

After this, we get some advice on running games involving vampires and how to use them in different genres. It talks about various vampire archetypes - addicts, aristocrats, blood witches, nightmares, the possessed. It tries to offer ways to make research scenes fun and interesting, and how to complicate them with mistaken folklore or movie knowledge. Then, it ends with some discussion of vampires in Philadelphia, the Hunter city. I’m not covering it, but it does contain some interesting vampires, some fun Hunter takes on Vampire stuff, and some neat hooks like a mystical disease that makes you desire human blood.

The End.

So, what's next - Spirit Slayers (Werewolves) or Witchfinders (Mages)?