Death is only the Beginning
In nights long past, all of vampire society united under one common banner, at least as far as the Western World was concerned. This organization was known as the Camarilla, corresponding roughly to a later Spanish word meaning “power group” or a cabal of confidential advisors. The Camarilla’s might was unchallenged — anywhere Imperial Rome held sway, so did the Camarilla. It is even suspected that many Kindred customs that survive to this
very night had their roots in Camarilla structure, such as
the notion of Princes who govern autonomous domains.
While proof of pre-Roman vampirism is rare or incomplete,
almost all Kindred accept that pre-Roman vampires
probably existed. They are commonly understood to have
been savage, monstrous and completely disorganized. If
anything, their “society” was probably little more than
scattered, vague domains populated by a single vampire
and any broods he chose to foster. The now-defunct
Camarilla was the first successful attempt at a true Kindred
As the Roman Empire collapsed, however, so did the support
structures of the Camarilla crumble. As Kindred require
the blood of mortals to keep them vital, they rely on mortal
society as a foundation for their own. With Europe fragmenting
into isolated, feudal domains during the Dark Ages, Kindred
society had little choice but to do the same or fall entirely
into the barbarism of old. The nature of the Kindred themselves hastened the ruin of
the Camarilla, as well. Ever scheming and jealous, few vampires
who rose to prominence in the Camarilla social order
did so out of a sense of altruism or justice. The Kindred then
as now craved power and influence, and such could be obtained
by crippling rivals’ access to the same.
It comes as no surprise, then, to see that from the remains
of the shattered Camarilla came several different factions,
each espousing a different policy or philosophy upheld bylike-minded elders and charismatic demagogues. Where once
a single organization had stood, a handful of distinct covenants
emerged from the bleakness of the era. This development
even set the standard for later covenants to distinguish
themselves from established Kindred society.
Many of these covenants perished through the centuries,
destroyed by opposing factions, absorbed into similar ones,
rooted out as heretics or simply abandoned as invalid. Vampires
cast about for covenants with which they could align
themselves in hopes of achieving power, but they remained
ever wary that those factions would demand too much in return
or limit them too greatly with dogma.
As history progressed, two groups of European Kindred
formed an alliance. As mortal society’s strength hailed from
the twin pillars of the Church and the state, these covenants
formed their own version of the balance between
temporal and pious power. The Lancea Sanctum, a dire and
evangelical covenant claiming a Biblical origin for vampires,
rose to claim a position of prominence as the spiritual
leader of the Kindred. Its counterpart, known as the
Invictus (a reference to the group’s Roman origins), positioned
itself as the vampiric nobility. In domains where the alliance was powerful, the Invictus served as political
ruler of the Kindred, while the Lancea Sanctum made sure
residents were duly worshipful of God and mindful of a
vampire’s place in the world.
The alliance between the Invictus and the Lancea Sanctum
was an effective model and was easily hidden among the
layers of mortal society it emulated. The allegiance experienced
great success, and it soon spread across Europe not unlike
the feudal model from which it drew its structures.
Not all Kindred supported the alliance’s supremacy, however.
Many old domains that harbored Kindred who observed pre-
Christian and even pre-Roman rites and mythologies dissented.
Although they never formed a unified front, given that their
beliefs and geographical locations were too disparate, an undercurrent
of rebellion occasionally prevented the alliance from
taking hold in numerous places. Magic drawn from the Old
Ways held the Lancea Sanctum’s dark miracles at bay, and the
pagans held their own in many cases. These faiths survive tonight
as a loose coalition of factions, rarely organized but definitely
powerful, and with their own spheres of influence. United
only by common belief in a female progenitor or patron of the
race of Kindred, the covenant known as the Circle of the Crone
cultivated power through appeal to less overwhelming policies
than the alliance’s conquering tactics.
Another Kindred covenant eventually reared its head in
Eastern Europe, fronted by an infamous and popular leader
drawn from the ranks of the mortal nobility. This covenant’s
founder claimed that no vampire had Embraced him, but that
he had been abandoned by God. Thus forsaken, he became
one of the Damned. Teaching a philosophy of vampiric transcendence,
this leader and his followers, the Ordo Dracul, upset
the balance of power between the Invictus and the Lancea
Sanctum and rushed in to seize what it could in the resulting
instability. The idea of transcendence appealed to many Kindred,
and thus the ideals of the Ordo Dracul took root and
spread outward. From the covenant’s foundation sometime
during the 15th or 16th century to the nights of the 21st, the
Order continues to grow in power and increase in influence.
Time passes externally for the Kindred, even if their own
bodies remain locked in stasis. To many vampires, the feudal
model upon which the alliance had built its power was an anachronism
by the 18th century. As the mortal world rallied to the
cause of new forms of government, many young vampires
adapted new systems of politics to the society of the Damned.
These Carthians don’t always agree on what sort of political
system is best, but they find common disillusionment with the
outdated modes of governance to which so many other Kindred
cling unquestioningly. Such philosophy finds a home especially
in the New World, whose own sovereignty was won
from the clutches of aristocratic nations. The Carthians believe
that it can be won for the vampiric order as well.
As the modern nights unfold, a strange state of balance
exists. In the Old World, many domains still honor the rule
of the alliance. Here and there, small pockets of resistance
cleave to the ways of the Circle of the Crone, while the
Ordo Dracul still reigns in Eastern Europe. In the New World,
however, something much more resembling an equal footing
exists. The Carthian cause attracts new followers, especially
among the young, who have never known noble rule
and who have no reason to suspect one exists as the world of
the Kindred opens up to them. The Invictus and the Lancea
Sanctum still wield power, but the alliance is far more tenuous.
Individual domains often belong solely to a Lancea Sanctum
Prince or an Invictus Prince, with little effort made to
preserve the customary relationship that survives between
the two in the Old World. The Ordo Dracul and Circle of
the Crone each has no small support, too, though their New
World incarnations are steeped less in the traditions from
which they hail and more in the mindset of viable (if somewhat
arcane) alternatives to the undying atavism of the
It is under these circumstances that modern vampires
find themselves Embraced. Covenants that have long been
allies fragment, while new alliances form nightly to oppose
the existing powers that be. The Lancea Sanctum and
the Invictus are strange bedfellows — except where their
differences have driven them to factional war. Seemingly
opposed covenants such as the Circle of the Crone and the
Carthians feud over ideology — except when they bury
the hatchet to face mutual oppression. The world of vampires
is truly gothic, with barbaric anachronisms still in
place where they had been centuries if not millennia before.
At the same time, technology and the world’s cultural
Zeitgeist manifests in a spirit of rebellion that offers a
chance to cast the old shackles aside and replace them with
new and exciting ideals. The world is at once medieval
and modern, and the society of the Damned embodies every
aspect of that paradox.
On occasion, a group of historians, unification-minded
Kindred or downright conspirators makes some effort at
reestablishing the Camarilla as it was in the nights of old.
To date these efforts have been doomed to failure, fracturing
under the weight of whatever high-minded (or underhanded)
politics spawned the idea. That’s not to say that
some future attempt at consolidation wouldn’t work, just that it has yet to.