Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Fall of Night

Before we can understand vampire society in the Long Night, we must look at how it came to be. Vampires are static, unchanging creatures, locked in place forever at the moment of their death. But even such things can be forced to change by the sweep of history, and the need for survival.

In the earliest days of history, vampires ruled over the mortals as gods. Some proclaimed their divinity, and came to rule directly over the burgeoning cities that were coming into existence. Those of the most powerful blood could claim to be gods themselves, while the weaker were forced to admit they had limitations, and were merely the children of the gods or emanations.  At the time, few mortals cared for such distinctions, and gladly dedicated their lives to these mesmerizing creatures who could bend metal, catch arrows, command beast and man, and whose blood offered life itself. Inevitably, such creatures were unsatisfied with just one city or one tribe, and sought to expand their dominion, to raise themselves up as god over all, and to make their brethren submit to their rule. Those that would not submit were consumed, and thus the Conquerors grew ever more powerful.

It was a brutal and violent time. The most successful inevitably forced the weaker, whose fear and jealousy had been aroused, to conspire together. Though it took a thousand years, the Conquerors were defeated by lies, betrayal, and assassination. Those who survived joined the ranks of the quiet ones, the ones who never sought the throne of heaven, but were merely content to be worshiped by their own cults and their own followers. Of course, the nature of the Beast meant that even among the Cultics there was conflict and death. But not for them the march of armies or the sacking of cities. They used subtler methods, attacking each others herds and followers, spreading lies and rumors to discredit their opponents priests, and using disease and disfigurement to attack their power.

And of course, as always, there were the wanders. Those that claimed the between places and the edges, who drifted between the cities of man and kept their own council. They never pushed history in their own direction, they never commanded anyone, but were always there, on the fringe, watching and waiting.

The rise of the great Empires brought an equally great change to the undead. First Persia, then Greece, then, finally, Rome spread peace and trade throughout the lands. The undead prospered as the mortals did, and they sired freely. Not all of the young ones desired to hide in a cave or an isolated temple; they wished to join the mortals and live among them. Well, live among them as much as an undead thing can. They shook off the robes of divinity, and adapted the clothes of the man. They used their gifts to take over various domuum and villas, lording over the families and the slaves, and proclaiming themselves Patricians. They too, naturally, came into conflict, but they settled their problems like men do--with poison and blades.

Both the Cultics and the Patricians thought of themselves as Lords of Humanity, and told tales of how they had guided man in the direction they desired. The truth was, they were more focused on blood and games and petty conflicts to truly matter to mankind. History continued, but for many, this was the golden age, when the undead walked where they would, took what they desired, and lived as the pleased.

Of course, all good things must end.

First came the Christians. Possessing a power heretofore unknown among the undead, then grew from an obscure cult to a dominant power in an astonishing amount of time. Their faith turned once loyal slaves against their masters, and their mad clerics swarmed through the cities, burning and destroying the old holy places. Even the Patricians were not safe, as those who would not submit to this new religion were singled out. And a vampire, once noticed by the herd, has not long to live.

Then came the diablerists. The followed the marauding hordes of Germans and Huns who swarmed the borders of the Empire, but came not for land. They were vampires, but different than any that had been seen before. They were silent, and fast, and incredibly deadly. They did not battle among themselves, but worked in groups to take down the most powerful and consume them. The destroyed many of the eldest, and the wisdom and knowledge of centuries, perhaps even millennium, passed with them. While their numbers were few, these diablerists first ravaged Europe, then Africa, then finally the East.

Just as things began to settle in the West, if only for most of the vampires were no more, the followers of Muhammad arose in the East. Their swift sword brought the ancient lands under their rule, and they to had no toleration for the blood drinking monsters in their midst. Those that had seen the rise and fall of Babylon not once, but twice, met their end either at the sword and flames of the mortals, or the fangs of the diablerists.

And so few survived in the classical world, but the mortals were no longer united, no longer so driven by their passion for the faith, and no longer did savages claw for their blood. Much was lost, but certain lessons had been learned. If the Cultics were all but dead, the Patricians still carried the blood, and it was to them that the burden of building a new society fell.

This new society is based on power, and domination. No longer will childer be released to find their own, now such travels endangered all. Instead, they are to submit to the rules of the Elder, the most powerful and, perhaps, only vampire. They are to be ruled by their sire, and their sire by their sire, for all time. A concept such as "rights" does not exist--only the Elder has rights, the rest make do with privileges grudgingly granted and quickly snatched away. Few if any remember the days of Rome, and fewer still know of anything from before.  None know the truth, and so the truth becomes a weapon.

The Elders use not just their powerful blood and age to control their childer, but knowledge itself is a tool of control. The Elder can proclaim to be the First Vampire, and who is there to challenge him? Perhaps one of the wanderers who travel by, but these are pathetic wretches, cursed by the Elder (for so they claim, and why would they lie?), and cast out. And if not the First, then the beloved childe of such, and the sole repositor of the knowledge and wisdom the childer crave.

And what is their knowledge? Some claim to be demons inhabiting mortal flesh. Others are Nephilim. Others still are supposedly Judas, or Lazarus, or the Wandering Jew.  A dozen cities, a dozen variations of the origin, but all telling the same story. The Eldest is important, and singular, and chosen. You are lucky to be alive.

Each community operates on its own. Most contain only a handful of undead, and they approach the world as they see fit. Some seek to be like mortals, others view it as their duty to tempt them, or corrupt them, or to try to redeem them. A few cities contain more of the undead; some are even claimed by more than one Elder. Such arrangements either end in death and war, or a cold stalemate that only leave the Elders even more powerful. For the Elder of one bloodline, no matter how much he hates or fears another, sees no virtue in aiding any rebellious childer. An Elder was an Elder, and all must submit to their whims. The most powerful, the most charismatic, might claim for himself the title of Eldest, but this is rare. More often, they all claim descent from one even more powerful Elder, who either lays tragically dead or deep in slumber, waiting for the time to rise and judge the Childer.

All keep themselves apart. They can not live as the Patricians had, secure in luxury and gold. They keep to the dark places, the caves and the ruins and the catacombs. The forgotten places and the haunted ones. For, above all else, they are damned. And so peace, of a sort, has lasted among the dead for a thousand years. A childe obeys his sire, and the sire obeys his sire, and thus had it been ordained since the dawn of time, and there is no reason to think anything would ever change.

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