Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
“God cannot alter the past, but historians can.”
It’s impossible to truly understand the current state of affairs in New Orleans without knowing how things developed as they did. Presented here is a brief overview of the most important events in the history—Kindred and kine—of the city.
|Early Nights||The Camarilla imposes order upon an anarchic backwater.|
|The Antebellum Era||A time of peace and prosperity.|
|The Civil War||A Justicar descends upon the Crescent City.|
|The Gilded Age||Reconstruction sweeps aside the old order.|
|The 20th Century||The city’s modern political factions take shape.|
|Recent History||The twin storms of Katrina and a second Justicar’s visit devastate the Big Easy.|
|Timeline||The city’s history at a glance.|
“I am convinced that Sieur de La Salle’s discovery is quite useless.”
—Louis XIV, 1683
The first definite trace of a Kindred presence in New Orleans appears during the city’s expansion around 1720. Save for Pearl Chastain, few of the vampires active tonight are among this initial wave of arrivals. Antoine Savoy’s sire Maria Pascual also arrives in the city with her torpid childe at this time, although the future Lord of the French Quarter will not awaken for several centuries.
Many of the French immigrants at this time are “undesirables,” misfits and criminals of whom the French government is only too happy to be rid. A majority of the Kindred who come with them are a similar breed. Lawless and wild, they feed indiscriminately (increasing the spread of yellow fever), and make few concerted efforts to form any real Kindred government. Some are declared Anarchs and others swear allegiance to the Sabbat, but just as many of these early vampires are simply feral creatures with no concern but slaking their thirst for blood.
The Masquerade survives only because the Kindred aren’t yet numerous enough for their depredations to be noticed among the many other causes of sickness and violent death. Those few Kindred who do attempt to attain some stability, such as Pearl Chastain, meet with little success. Many of the immigrants bring with them slaves from Africa and French Caribbean settlements such as Haiti, granting the Kindred more of a helpless, “unseen” population on which to feed.
The Coming of Vidal
True Kindred government does not appear until Augusto Vidal, a Castilian Ventrue and Archon for the Camarilla, arrives in the city with Alexander O’Reilly’s forces in 1769. Even as the Irishman moves to pacify the locals for Spain’s takeover of power, Vidal uses his influence with several of O’Reilly’s sub-commanders—all of whom are easily persuaded to move against “insurgents and agitators”—to sweep in and intimidate or destroy the most troublesome of the local Kindred. With the aid of his lover and fellow Archon Philip Maldonato, as well as several other local Kindred who wish an end to the chaos of the region, the praxis of Augusto Vidal is born. The few Kindred holdouts, while troublesome, are unable to gather enough force to come near to ousting the new Prince. New Orleans now belongs to the Camarilla.
It is during the 1770s that the influx of slaves from the Caribbean first exposes Vidal to the worship of Vodoun. He develops an immediate loathing for the faith, because it is both pagan (in his eyes) and a corruption of Catholicism (due to the common practice of adopting saints and even Christ Himself into the pantheon of loa). For many years, Vidal supports and encourages the government’s and slave-owners’ efforts to keep the slaves down and to wipe out their religion.
Vidal, Chastain, the Spanish Toreador Maria Pascual and other powerful Kindred involve themselves in the growing sugarcane industry. These ties to sugarcane further reinforce Kindred support for the institution of slavery. No longer are the displaced Africans merely an underclass from which the Kindred can easily feed; now the slaves are also valuable workers for the Damned, just as they are for their mortal masters.
The fires that sweep New Orleans in 1788 and 1794 result in a massive rebuilding in the Spanish style. Vidal takes a direct (albeit minor) hand in that planning, selecting the engineer Emmanuel Costa as his ghoul in 1788. His satisfaction with Costa’s work, and persona, grows sufficiently that he Embraces the gifted engineer in 1795.
Those same fires also destroy the havens of many of Vidal’s remaining adversaries, who assume that the fires were a deliberate attack. Led by the Malkavian Francois Nicholas du Valle, the surviving “rebels” step up their efforts to overthrow the prince. Vidal uses Governor Carondelet’s efforts to prevent upheaval in the city to strike back at the rebellious Kindred.
It is also during this time that Baron Cimitiere first appears in the city, arriving among the refugees fleeing the rebellion in Haiti. He becomes actively involved in several Vodoun circles.
Little changes in Kindred circles until the war of 1812, which gives Vidal even greater weapons in his war against du Valle’s rebels. Du Valle himself attempts to assassinate Vidal, a plot foiled by the efforts of Philip Maldonato and Maria Pascual. Further investigation reveals that Vidal’s childe, Costa, is a co-conspirator in the attempt. A mortally embarrassed Vidal personally beheads Costa in an open court to which every important Kindred in the city is invited. To this night, Vidal has never Embraced another childe out of anger and shame over Costa’s actions.
From around 1815 through 1860, New Orleans prospers as never before. Thousands of immigrants, primarily German and Irish, establish roots in the region, bringing with them new Kindred, who expand Vidal’s own domain. The city grows dramatically as entire new neighborhoods fill up as swiftly as they are built. Sugarcane and cotton crops thrive, resulting in the formation of numerous wealthy plantations and the various other farms, shops and services required to maintain them. The slave population increases as well, and the local authorities grow even more concerned with the slaves’ “heathen religion,” at various times utterly forbidding its practice.
The majority of Kindred immigrants are of the Toreador and Ventrue clans, who now drastically outnumber the Gangrel and Nosferatu who had, in the earliest years, been at least as numerous. Vidal and the other powerful Kindred, some of whom personally remember the divide between High Clans and Low Clans during the Middle Ages, begin to re-associate these “lower clans” with the slaves and poorer classes, treating them accordingly. This is partly out of a desire to reduce the competition for power and resources, but also out of the human need, still present in the Kindred, to classify and qualify those who are different. In effect, though not slaves, the Nosferatu and Gangrel fill the same general position among New Orleans’ Kindred that blacks (and to a lesser extent, Asians and Indians) fill in mortal society at the time. The Brujah and Malkavians compose a middle class not unlike mixed Creoles. The Toreador, Ventrue, and Tremere (though the Warlocks count but a handful of members) reign from the top, as do those mortal Creoles of supposedly undiluted European ancestry.
The attempt to quash the practice of Vodoun instead sends it underground. Baron Cimitiere, who has attracted only a few Kindred allies, develops a sizable mortal following. A powerful houngan, Cimitiere uses his abilities to protect his fellow vodouisants. His following—if one counts both those with whom he practices directly and those who practice with houngans and mambos loyal to him—numbers in the thousands. Cimitiere considers involving himself more substantially in the region’s politics, in particular to counter Vidal’s efforts to oppress or destroy the faith. His initial queries and envoys to the Prince, seeking a meeting, are rebuffed.
As the city grows, Vidal divides his territory into smaller domains based on official parishes. He bestows many of them upon his allies or servants, granting them feeding rights and dominion so long as they obey his dictates. In addition, Vidal decrees that such domains can be inherited. If the childe of a former landowner makes a claim, she has precedence over all other claimants—assuming the Kindred involved don’t give Vidal a reason to rule otherwise.
One of Vidal’s first major such grants occurs when Pascual steps down from the city’s Cabildo, no longer interested in keeping up with the night-to night affairs. As a reward for her service (particularly in saving his unlife during du Valle’s assassination attempt), Vidal awards her the “old city,” that portion of New Orleans dating back to the original colonization that will eventually become known as the French Quarter. This grants her substantial power, especially as she is able to barter permission to feed here during Mardi Gras (a custom that began in 1838) in exchange for boons.
Louisiana secedes from the Union in 1861, but the origins of the conflict go back many years earlier. So too is it with the Kindred. Though Vidal and other Kindred of the South are not responsible for the institution of the slave trade, they grow glutted and content on the blood of plantation slaves. Kindred politics of the South become something akin to the feudal days of Europe: individual vampire lords ruling their fiefdoms absolutely, Embracing only when necessary and thriving in the easy hunting grounds of the slave quarters. Because of their unlives of ease, these plantation-owning vampires grow extremely jealous and protective of their domains. They call themselves the Southern Lords, and they rule areas in and around what will become North and South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Virginia. Vidal maintains cordial relations with many of the Southern Lords and even counts himself among their number.
After an 1850 conclave in Boston, the Camarilla dispatches several Archons to investigate possible breaches of the Masquerade. Reports had filtered back of of these Southern Lords setting themselves up as more than plantation owners. Strange tales of vampires being worshiped as gods, bizarre blood orgies and haunted plantations reach the ears of the northern Camarilla.
Vidal, as a former Archon himself, remains loyal to the Ivory Tower and cooperates with the Archons in their investigations. Yet all but one Archons fails to return to the north. This sole, hideously scarred survivor speaks of the mighty Southern Lords with great respect and even greater terror. He has been reduced to a gibbering wreck of his former self and is mercifully put to the torch.
The Camarilla does not respond and the matter is soon forgotten by New Orleans’ Kindred. While the majority of Louisiana’s mortal citizens approve of the state’s secession in 1860, it causes a split among the Kindred. Most of Prince Vidal’s court support the Confederacy fervently, and even advocate sending messengers to the other Southern Lords in hopes of arranging wide-reaching cooperation against the Union. Their support of the Confederacy is largely due to their support of the institution of slavery, which makes for easy feeding.
On the other side are those Kindred who support the Union. Being Kindred, most have ulterior motives for their decision. Cimitiere, one of the staunchest Union supporters in New Orleans, wants freedom for the slaves because this will benefit the vast majority of his followers, allowing them to increase their positions and status, and encourage additional converts. Many of the city’s Gangrel and Nosferatu support the Union as well in hopes that a Northern victory will either remove Vidal from power or force him to change his political views.
For all the vocalness of his supporters, however, Vidal is curiously silent on the matter. He instructs Pascual and his other allies to work against the Kindred “agitators” as best they can (denying them feeding rights, attacking their contacts and the like), but he uses little of his political acumen to support the mortal Confederacy.
Vidal’s foresight becomes apparent when the Camarilla delivers its decade-long response by ghoul messengers: A Justicar is going to visit all the southern fiefs—including New Orleans—to inspect them. Though Vidal receives the messengers courteously, the other Southern Lords return them, after a fashion, in pieces carefully cut up and sealed in a coffin box and shipped by train from Atlanta. Those Kindred to first inspect the squalid box are haunted by daymares as they sleep, some of them to the point of insanity. Sorcery is suspected, and more rumors of devil-worship, black magic and consorting with spirits of the dead comes up. The Southern Lords have apparently turned to the dark arts in their isolation. In turn, the Southern Lords believe the Camarilla has grown power-hungry and wants their lands. The Civil War provides the perfect impetus for Baylor, the Justicar for Clan Ventrue, to bring the defiant Southern Lords to heel using Union troops as his fists.
In 1862, Captain David Farragut sails the Mississippi and bombards several Confederate forts defending New Orleans. Faced with a naval force against which they have no workable defense, the city surrenders on the first of May. That same night, Vidal welcomes Baylor and his Archons into New Orleans and pledges his full and complete cooperation with the Camarilla. General Benjamin F. Butler becomes the Union overseer of the city, and even makes it the Union capital of the state.
Vidal may be sincere in his loyalty to the Camarilla, but he is by no means happy with this outcome. Cimitiere and his followers, the local Nosferatu and Gangrel, and several Northern Kindred all rally around Butler’s banner, working to counter any moves Vidal might make to turn the general into his pawn. These factions might not normally have the ability to stand against the Prince, but Vidal is preoccupied not only with hosting and providing sustenance for the Justicar and his retinue, but Baylor expects him to lend his own assistance and knowledge of the Southern Lords to the “war effort.” Though Cimitiere does not go so far as to attack Vidal’s Kindred followers under a Justicar’s watch, the Prince finds he can do little more than watch as his power is stripped away, his mortal pawns in City Hall removed.
Furthermore, just as he’d anticipated, Vidal faces a challenge for power from a Northern Kindred, a Gangrel Archon by the name of Roger Halliburton. Unusually social for one of his clan, Halliburton makes up for in charm and ambition what he lacks in actual political acumen. Though many of the Kindred he approaches—such as Cimitiere and the Nosferatu Miss Opal—are wise enough to remain neutral, some local Kindred rally to his side, hoping to force a change in praxis over New Orleans once the Justicar departs. Halliburton never gains enough support to unseat Vidal, but he is a sufficient threat that the Prince is forced to make compromises elsewhere he might otherwise have resisted.
Union soldiers occupy New Orleans throughout the Reconstruction. They institute a new government, which consists largely of Northerners, Union supporters and a select few freed blacks. Vidal, weakened on the one hand by the loss of many of his mortal contacts in the government and on the other by the efforts of his rival factions, realizes that he must soften some of his stances in order to make new allies. He ceases fighting the integration of the freed slaves into society long before many mortal officials do. At the behest of several Kindred including Miss Opal, an elder of the Nosferatu clan, he alters and expands the Cabildo so that it no longer deliberately excludes specific clans. Vidal even (grudgingly) offers Miss Opal a seat, but she turns it down, claiming that Pakachilu, the newly-recognized Gangrel Primogen, already represents the same causes that she herself would.
Vidal still refuses, however, to make any concessions to Baron Cimitiere. As fervently opposed to Vodoun as ever, he seethes when the newly freed slaves continue to practice and even expand the religion, and he sees Cimitiere’s growing flock as a true political threat. Some theorize that it is only the greater threat posed by Halliburton and the arguments of Miss Opal and others on the Cabildo who have connections among the poor blacks that prevent Vidal from turning his full attention on Cimitiere. The Samedi houngan, for his own part, refuses to ally himself with Halliburton, precisely because Cimitiere does not wish to draw any more of Vidal’s attention.
Conflict between the newly freed blacks and the white citizens who are still unwilling to acknowledge them as equals grows steadily in the years following the end of the war. This leads to all manner of violent incidents, including a riot over voting rights in 1866 that leaves over 50 dead. Vidal takes the opportunities provided by these events to attack Cimitiere’s supporters in small numbers. The departure of the Union troops in 1877 allows Vidal to make headway in his struggle to regain his full authority, as many of Halliburton’s own agents vanish with them.
Immediately, Vidal cracks down on any Kindred who support the growing power of the freed slaves, determined that nobody will use this new and growing power base as a platform from which to challenge his authority. He combines this with yet another crackdown on Vodoun, supporting all those among the mortal citizenry and in the government who still seek to stamp out that “heathen” religion. This last act cements Cimitiere’s animosity toward the Prince, and he finally opens up negotiations with Halliburton.
They do not progress very far.
The Changing of the Guard
The last years of the 19th century see a rather dramatic change in the politics of New Orleans, as two of its major players are removed from the field. Roger Halliburton, who had an unpleasant predilection for feeding on (and doing even worse things to) young children, finally chooses the wrong victim and is hunted down and slain by an angry mob of Vodouisants. His childe Lidia Kendall will go on to become one of Cimitiere’s most trusted followers.
Within a year, Maria Pascual is destroyed as well, by assailants unknown. Vidal, while certainly not displeased at the loss of Halliburton, is less enthusiastic about the Final Death of one of his oldest allies. He begins careful deliberations to determine who should take over Pascual’s Regency of the French Quarter. Now not the prime territory it once had been, it is still valuable for its easy hunting and as the site of the yearly Mardi Gras celebration.
Vidal never has the chance to make his decision.
Within a few months, the French Quarter is claimed by a relatively unknown Toreador named Antoine Savoy. Savoy claims to have been Embraced in the court of Louis the Sun King and recently been jolted out of a long torpor, due to the psychic shock of his sire’s Final Death. He names that sire as none other than Maria Pascual, and claims she brought him to New Orleans centuries ago while he slept. Savoy has powerful contacts and influence, and shows a complete working knowledge New Orleans politics. He calls in boons owed to Pascual and Halliburton both, and, while many of Pascual’s debtors ignore him, others choose to honor their commitments in case Savoy proves to be an ally worth cultivating. He talks a good game as well, espousing freedom and equality for those who find themselves among persecuted minority classes, both Kindred and mundane. He is eminently charming, seemingly closer to the “common man.” He even practices Vodoun, which ingratiates him with many who still oppose Vidal, even if they themselves are not Vodouisants. Savoy also attracts the attention of Cimitiere, who initially sees Savoy as a potential ally against Vidal. The two Kindred begin serious discussions.
Vidal finds himself unable to do anything about this arrogant upstart who has simply waltzed in and taken over a valuable territory. Savoy has just enough backing and support in the beginning to maintain his grip, and, by the time he becomes a strong enough factor for Vidal to focus on him, that grip has tightened. To this date, Vidal has never acknowledged Savoy’s claim to the French Quarter or formally appointed him as its Regent, but neither has he ever been able to oust the Toreador.
The turn of the century sees an expansion of industry in New Orleans and a corresponding expansion in the areas of influence of the Kindred. Vidal, who already claims substantial influence in city government and local churches, expands his areas of influence to include the growing corporate arena. Savoy branches out in the areas opened up by organized crime and, eventually, Prohibition. Based in the French Quarter and other poor areas, he also manages to insert himself into the New Orleans socialite scene by working through charities. More than once, he and Vidal find themselves attending the same function; the French Quarter lord takes a perverse delight in striking up friendly conversations with Vidal. Cimitiere’s influence increases as a growing population of poor blacks go to work in the factories and similar blue-collar jobs.
Both Vidal and Savoy initially underestimate the power a rival might wield if he gains influence over the products their own pawns sell and trade. Furthermore, Vodoun continues to grow at a substantial rate—especially during the Great Depression, when mortals of all stripes seek hope and faith in new places—and while Savoy holds some influence in the religion, Cimitiere is still the primary Kindred power in that arena. It is these years, then, that set up the triad of Kindred power in New Orleans, one that remains largely unchanged to this night.
Other than the boost given to production, the First World War has little direct impact on New Orleans or the Kindred who dwell here. Of far more immediate concern to the Kindred is the falling-out that occurs at this time between the potential allies Savoy and Cimitiere. Initially heartened by Savoy’s purported attitude toward the poor and his veneration of Vodoun, Cimitiere comes to believe that the Toreador’s faith is a charade. Savoy, or so Cimitiere maintains, does nothing without political motivation. His support of Vodoun, of the poor, and of mortal and Kindred minorities is all a front to buy him the loyalty of the lower classes, the strata of society where Vidal has the least power. For his own part, Savoy finds Cimitiere to be a zealot and an unreasonable idealist who refuses to make “proper use” of any power that comes his way. From being potential allies who together might even have toppled the great Vidal, the pair swiftly become staunch adversaries. While they have cooperated to thwart some of the Prince’s schemes, such alliances are always short-term and filled with mutual distrust.
The Storyville Murders
In 1915, a rash of murders strike the area of the city known as Storyville, located in one of New Orleans’ poorest districts. Oddly enough, while the killings are quite brutal, involving substantial amounts of blood, the victims all seem to die swiftly from the first wound. The police investigation lasts months: Whether their failure to locate the culprit is due to the killer’s cleverness or the simple fact that the police can’t be bothered to give their all to crimes that take place among the poor black community is open to interpretation. The crimes eventually cease, with as little rhyme or reason as they began.
Nobody has ever found evidence to prove Kindred involvement in the murders, but both Cimitiere and Savoy are known to have investigated the matter. Neither one has come forward with any results.
A Deal With the Devil
For a brief period of time—less than a year—the hostilities between Prince Vidal and Baron Cimitiere cease utterly. On several occasions, Vidal actually meets with Cimitiere, their meetings remaining cordial if not particularly friendly. Savoy, terrified at the prospect of an alliance between the pair, takes to a comparatively reckless expansion of his own territories, determined to be prepared to ward off a potential combined assault.
It all proves unnecessary. Whatever plot or alliance the pair are cooking up apparently amounts to naught. Within months, they both return to their old ways, their enmity as strong as ever. Furthermore, Vidal is able to regain his lost territories with little trouble, as Savoy had moved too swiftly to cement his gains. In fact, Cimitiere is able to take a few poor neighborhoods from Savoy as well while the French Quarter lord is defending himself from the Prince.
The Great Depression
The Depression is a better time for the Kindred than it is for mortals. While even the greatest Kindred take a hit in the wallet, Vidal and most of the other powerful vampires of New Orleans are sufficiently diversified that they suffer less than mortals of comparable wealth and influence. Additionally, more poverty leads to more homelessness and more crime, all of which are boons to Kindred feeding. Few Kindred would call the Depression a “good time,” but most of them weather it with relatively minor inconvenience.
In fact, at least one of New Orleans’ Kindred is able to thrive in this environment. With the rise of jazz in the 1920s comes the appearance of nightclubs, and the Nosferatu known as Sundown takes advantage of the opportunity. He begins with a single establishment, a jazz club that happens to be Kindred-friendly, with private rooms (even made available as emergency havens, for the right fee) and a rather unusual selection of beverages in the “members only” section. Sundown’s focus on Kindred customers allows him not only to thrive during the Depression, suffering no noticeable loss of income or prestige, but even to open several additional establishments. Both Vidal and Savoy become regular patrons of his establishment, and the apolitical Sundown finds himself wielding more potential influence than he ever wanted. To date, he has rarely taken advantage of that position, but should he ever side specifically with one of New Orleans’ three factions, his support might well tip the balance of power.
As with World War I, the Second World War affects New Orleans primarily on an industrial and economic level, a boon for which many of the city’s Kindred are grateful. Vidal’s and Cimitiere’s influence in production temporarily wanes, as the mortals with whom they were accustomed to dealing with ship off to war and are replaced by elderly or female workers, but this constitutes only a minor setback in most respects.
The Civil Rights Era
Each of New Orleans’ three most prominent Kindred make use of the racial violence that marks the beginnings of the civil rights movement to strike at one another. Cimitiere and Savoy hide their assaults on Vidal and on one another under the guise of random violence and street crime, while Vidal is able to mask his own activities behind mortal police actions. It should be noted that Vidal has no personal motivation for keeping the black populace poor and unrepresented—he successfully abandoned that particular prejudice when he acknowledged the need for change after the civil war. Still, he tends to support the white power structure because this is where the majority of his own influence lies, and because he knows that both Savoy and Cimitiere hold substantial influence among the city’s minorities.
Vidal begins to focus ever more intently on Savoy, who has become the greatest political rival Vidal has ever faced. The French Quarter, which had reached its nadir of disreputability in the 1920s, sees an upsurge of attention in the 1930s when, despite the Depression, preservationists and locals work together to clean it up and rebuild it. The next few decades see its evolution into the tourist Mecca it is tonight, and, suddenly, Savoy holds dominion over not merely a historical neighborhood but one of the most financially valuable and easily hunted territories in the entire city. Powerful Kindred are now willing to offer substantial favors in exchange for feeding rights in the French Quarter, which Savoy uses to cement his power in other neighborhoods as well. Savoy is no longer an irritant; he has positioned himself as a potential challenger for the Princedom of New Orleans itself.
Vidal responds by cracking down severely on domain and feeding rights. While he cannot directly harm Savoy, Vidal strips away some of the territories Savoy had granted to others outside his immediate sphere of influence. Vidal adopts a stricter custom of introduction, insisting that all Kindred newcomers to the city announce themselves within several nights of arrival. He can do little to shake Savoy’s grip, but his activities prevent the French Quarter lord from expanding any further.
The Prince further expands his own influence into the growing space-age industry and tourist industries not directly related to the French Quarter, such as the new Louisiana Superdome sports stadium and the hotels and restaurants that spring up to service the fans. Due to his contacts in city government, he is able to move on such projects—investing money and suborning important personnel—well before Cimitiere or Savoy. By the mid-1970s, despite Savoy’s dominion over the French Quarter and other neighborhoods and Cimitiere’s almost total influence over the Vodoun community, Vidal is as secure in his power as he’s ever been.
It is also at this time that Miss Opal, who had vanished some three decades earlier, emerges from her torpor and sets about regaining her position as unofficial spokesman for the Nosferatu. When Miss Opal first reappears, she begins tentative discussions with Cimitiere, but the pair never become overt allies. Perhaps because Vidal seeks to expand his base of allies, or possibly because he fears what might happen should Cimitiere gain widespread Nosferatu support, the Prince once again offers Miss Opal a seat among the Cabildo. This time she agrees, believing like Coco Duquette that she can do more to change the system from within. Due to Miss Opal’s vocal support of the Anarch cause, Vidal has more than once regretted his offer in the years since.
The Iron Fist
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Vidal’s crackdown grows even more oppressive. Young or visiting Kindred suspected of sympathy with Savoy or Cimitiere often find their privileges in New Orleans revoked or scrutinized by the overzealous Prince.
Although no longer able to turn city officials against the Vodoun community, Vidal encourages the Kindred to victimize that population wherever possible, granting numerous feeding rights in vodouisant neighborhoods. Mortal allies and pawns of Savoy find themselves snubbed by politicians and businessmen who had welcomed them (and their contributions) mere days before. And Kindred criminals citywide find themselves subjected to far more severe punishments than had once been the norm, up to and including an increase in blood hunts and executions.
This state of affairs persists with few changes throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Some Kindred wonder if things ever will.
Katrina changes everything.
One year and one week ago, New Orleans was drowned. One year ago to this day, the nightmare wave began.
New Orleans was one of the richest kingdoms of the South, but this is New York. The blood of the world flows down our streets. Certainly, the finance and immigrant trades reach around the world, but they’re distant vessels, at best. We are the heart. Na- tional tragedy? Why should we care? Even the bridge-and-tunnel coteries don’t feed much further than New Jersey. We’ve had our own apocalypse this decade and we’ve come out the better.
We had forgotten about family.
The blood of every Kindred in this room is foreign, tapped from the foolish or the sleeping or the beloved. We become, through the years, creatures of our neighborhoods and homes. We are men of the street or angels of the cemeteries. We call each other Kindred, but we so rarely mean it. We mean dead, undead, vampire, rival… even enemy. We forget that we are joined by blood long since drunk, that we are joined by the Embrace not only to our sires but to our clans and to all Kindred.
One year ago, we were reminded.
I see faces tonight that have not haunted this hall for years. You’re here for answers. Let the record show that the wave began with the murder of Taylor Shipman, Toreador of the line Helena, by her own illegal childe, Hans Kirmani, found larvae. I promised you I would discover why. I promised only to find more murders the next night, to be roused from my own bed not an hour past noon by a screaming in my skin. Many of you experienced the same brief and certain knowledge of cousins’ passing, and no few of you became brutal or ravenous as your families in the Old South perished or starved.
That is the plain truth. The nightmare wave was passed by sympathy of the blood, your own veins throbbing in tune with those of your extinguished relatives. There were no malign ghosts or demons; you may return to your perversions without fear of such things. We were afflicted for our kinship to a city of the Damned. She was our sister, and living or dead we have discovered we do share her blood.
In the nights following the evacuation of the herd, and the breach of the levee, many Kindred apparently starved and dozens were exposed to sun and even fire. We do not have enough information to estimate how many Kindred died in the days and nights after the hurricane. From the accounts of refugees, as well as the pangs suffered by the assembled, we know that many of them met violent deaths. No doubt some of those had abandoned their Masquerade. Others may have been killed during rescue attempts by mortals. We can attribute some of those to a task force of the federal Army. I know that fact, in particular, has caused concern and paranoia. However, I have confirmed at considerable expense that there was no directed government effort which identified or extinguished Kindred.
What began as an investigation became a war. Wights swarmed from their graves to be dispatched by Archons. Honored Kindred became insomniac and feral. Some of them stand among you even now. I fought alongside and against you not one block from this hall. I saw a woman carve the witch-sign VII in her arm even as I transfixed her with my spear. While each of you saw horrors, a brave few faced them. I give my thanks.
I promised that I would disclose the fate of those afflicted who did not recover. Those innocent, I have consigned to soil and torpor. Those who murdered or committed diablerie have been given to the sun.
You have heard that I announced clemency, absolution in the name of my father and of the holy Church. Let me be clear: that is forgiveness for sin, not a finding of innocence. No few of you suffered nightmares or madness, but that suffering was only a symptom of the Damnation we all share, and our sin in perpetuating it. How many of you have sent your bastards and accidents to the South? How many supported the sinecure of your ancestors in New Orleans, after they had committed crimes so black even my father in his mercy exiled them? I ask, but do not think I do not know. I grant forgiveness with full knowledge of your crimes, every one. A week of nightmares and war left me with a domain in tatters and a year to find the truth, and I have found truth.
I remind you again of Hans Kirmani. Damned by the thinnest trace of blood, driven to anguish by the death of relatives whose names he never heard. How much thicker are our own ties, we genuine Kindred? What sins have we inherited or birthed? We all lost someone in the nightmare wave. I grieve for them as much as you; Taylor Shipman herself was a faithful friend and cousin.
I mourn, but I do not shirk. I accept Damnation for myself and my family and I will see you do no less. Whether we venerate the Father or the Soldier or the Crone, whether our prayers reach to Lilith or Dracula or Caine, we are all Kindred. Let us remember that, and let us remember New Orleans.
Thank you. Enjoy your forgiveness and your remaining nights. A vigil will be held in the chapel until six; please follow Pietus.
A memorial for those lost to the storm, read before the Court of New York City by Prudence Mathers, Founders Day 20
- 1682: The French explorer Sieur de La Salle arrives at the Mississippi River and claims the region for France. If any Kindred activity existed in the area prior to the arrival of the French, it has been lost among the legends of the Choctaw.
- 1701: Sieur de Bienville becomes governor of Louisiana and first begins planning for what will become New Orleans.
- 1717: France grants John Law’s company a charter for controlling Louisiana.
- 1718: Bienville selects a capitol site on the river and names it after the Duc d’Orleans.
- 1719: The first large importation of African slaves and French prisoners arrives in New Orleans. The first evidence of Kindred presence in New Orleans dates to this time, as found in legends of the local slave population.
- 1721: French engineers lay out the street plans of the city. The Toreador Maria Pascual arrives with her torpid childe Antoine Savoy around this time.
- 1722: Official capitol of the Louisiana Territory moves to New Orleans.
- 1727: The Toreador Pearl Chastain arrives in New Orleans in the midst of a group of French settlers.
- 1729: Indian massacre at Natchez. Local legend maintains that newly arrived Kindred used the French/Indian hostilities as a cover to strike at Choctaw Kindred elders.
- 1731: Louisiana officially becomes a colony of the crown.
- 1757: Pearl Chastain begins to make a name for herself in and around the city. Although she does not claim the title of Prince, she is the closest thing the Kindred of the city have to such an authority.
- 1762: France secretly cedes Louisiana to Spain via the Treaty of Fontaine. A cabal of Cordoba Ventrue claim credit for influencing the governments involved into making this deal, but this might be little more than Kindred arrogance.
- 1763: Treaty of Paris confirms the cession of Louisiana to Spain.
- 1766: Don Antonio de Ulloa arrives to govern Louisiana; the people revolt.
- 1768: Under pressure, Ulloa departs for Spain, abandoning New Orleans.
- 1769: Alexander O’Reilly, an Irishman in the employ of the Spanish government, arrives with 3,000 troops. In a bloody series of engagements, they secure the city for the Spanish government. Along with O’Reilly comes the Ventrue Augusto Vidal and his lover Philip Maldonato, two Camarilla Archons determined to claim the city for the Ivory Tower and bring order to the anarchic Kindred of the region.
- 1770: Vidal formally stakes a claim to the Princedom of the area. Using his influence with O’Reilly’s men and rumors of “insurgents,” he uses available soldiers to eliminate or drive out most Kindred who would challenge his rule. Chastain wisely offers Vidal her support. Over the next several years, Vidal is first exposed to Vodoun, the faith espoused by many of the Haitian and Caribbean slaves. Due to both his noble upbringing and severely Catholic faith, Vidal takes an instant dislike to the religion and discourages its practice among the Kindred.
- 1779: Spain goes to war with England; Louisianans ordered to act against British. The remaining Kindred who oppose Vidal’s reign launch a guerrilla war against his supporters.
- 1780: Spain gains control of all the former Louisiana Territory from England.
- 1782: Maria Pascual, Toreador Primogen and wielder of powerful influence among the growing sugar cane industry, becomes a powerful ally of the new Prince. Her support inspires many of the “rebel” Kindred to accept Vidal’s rule.
- 1788: Fire destroys nearly every building in New Orleans.
- 1793: Pope Pius VI establishes the Louisiana Diocese. The Ventrue claim a hand in this decision as well.
- 1794: New fires destroy 200 buildings; Church of St. Louis rebuilt as a cathedral. These fires also destroy many of the havens of the remaining rebels. The survivors, led by the Malkavian Francois Nicholas du Valle, believe the fires to have been a deliberate attack. They redouble their efforts against Vidal.
- 1795: Vidal Embraces the Catholic architect Emmanuel Costa.
- 1799: The Samedi Baron Cimitiere first arrives in New Orleans, along with a population of Haitian slaves.
- 1800: Treaty of Ildefonso provides for retrocession of Louisiana back to France. Vidal, horrified at the notion of French rule in his domain, immediately sets about pulling what strings he can to change the situation.
- 1803: Thomas Jefferson buys Louisiana from France for $15 million. While it would be foolish to claim Vidal responsible for the Louisiana Purchase, he does press for it with what influence he holds.
- 1805: New Orleans is incorporated as an American city.
- 1811: German Coast Uprising sees the largest slave revolt in American history. The Tremere Elsbeth von Steinhäusser is dispatched to New Orleans by the Council of Seven after her childe, the city’s previous Regent, meets Final Death at the slaves’ hands.
- 1812: Louisiana admitted to the Union; the War of 1812 begins.
- 1814: Under cover of the battles of the War of 1812, du Valle begins a rebellion against Vidal’s rule.
- 1815: Andrew Jackson defeats British troops at the Battle of New Orleans. Du Valle attempts an assassination of Vidal, aided by the Prince’s own childe, but the attempt is thwarted by the efforts of Pascual and Maldonato. Both du Valle and Costa are put to Final Death. To this night, Vidal has never taken another childe due, some say, to the shame of Costa’s betrayal.
- 1826: Marie Laveau gives up hairdressing.
- 1834: Madame LaLaurie’s depravities are exposed.
- 1835: Marie Laveau is the undisputed voodoo queen of New Orleans. Creole-American hostilities divide the city into three municipalities. Vidal begins parceling out various neighborhoods and areas to his allies, granting them their own territorial rights.
- 1838: First Mardi Gras parade takes place on the streets of New Orleans.
- 1849: Baton Rouge becomes the new state capitol.
- 1852: Three municipalities once again consolidated into a single city. Vidal allows his allies to maintain domain rights. The French Brujah Coco Duquette arrives in New Orleans the same year.
- 1853: More than 11,000 people die of yellow fever.
- 1850: The Camarilla dispatches a coterie of Archons to investigate Masquerade breaches by plantation-owning Kindred (collectively known as the Southern Lords) throughout the Southern United States. They discover nothing untoward in New Orleans, but these findings become moot when all but one Archon fails to return.
- 1860: Baylor, the Justicar for Clan Ventrue, sends word via ghoul messengers that he is going to visit and inspect each of the Southern Lords’ fiefs. They return his messengers’ heads to him in boxes.
- 1862: New Orleans falls to the Union during the Civil War. Baylor makes the city his headquarters in his campaign against the Southern Lords. Vidal offers the Justicar his complete cooperation, and whether due to this show of loyalty or his prior centuries of service as an Archon, retains control of New Orleans. One of Baylor’s Archons, an unusually charming Gangrel named Roger Halliburton, takes an interest in the city.
- 1864: Baylor relocates his headquarters to Atlanta.
- 1865: Civil War ends. Baylor punishes the surviving Southern Lords by destroying each and every one of their childer (in some cases, also their biological sons and daughters) and returns to Boston. Halliburton resigns from his post as Archon and becomes a permanent resident of New Orleans.
- 1865: Pascual steps down from the Cabildo and becomes the first holder of what has become known as the French Quarter.
- 1869: Marie Laveau retires, passing her mantle as New Orleans’ supreme voodoo queen to her daughter Marie II.
- 1870: Historic steamboat race between the Natchez and the Robert E. Lee.
- 1875: Marie Laveau withdraws from public life.
- 1877: Reconstruction officially ends. Vidal relents his class biases enough to cease fighting the integration of slaves into society. He also stops opposing the entry of certain elders to the Cabildo based on clan; Miss Opal declines to become the first Nosferatu Primogen of New Orleans, however. With the departure of Union troops, Vidal increases his efforts against Vodoun practitioners and against those Kindred forming a power base among the newly freed slaves. This includes Baron Cimitiere on both counts. Cimitiere finally begins negotiations to ally with Halliburton.
- 1881: Marie Laveau dies. Her daughter Marie II swiftly fades into obscurity.
- 1890: The Matranga Mafia family murders David Hennessy, the chief of police. After they are tried and acquitted, a mob lynches and hangs 11 of the 17 members waiting to be brought to trial, bringing the Mafia to popular attention for the first time. Charles Matranga becomes boss of the family after Joseph P. Macheca is lynched.
- 1894-95: Both Roger Halliburton and Maria Pascual are destroyed—the Gangrel at the hands of a crowd of Vodouisants angered at his predilection for preying on their children; the Toreador by assailants unknown. The Final Death of his sire jolts Antoine Savoy out of his nearly 200-year-long torpor. Marie Laveau II drowns in a storm the same year.
- 1896: Antoine Savoy publicly steps in as Pascual’s heir, becoming the self-declared Lord of the French Quarter (Vidal never formally appoints him as its Regent). Though Vidal is alarmed by the sudden appearance of this unknown elder, Savoy has sufficient access to Pascual’s knowledge and political allies that the Prince is unwilling to challenge his claim to the Quarter.
- 1897-1913: Vidal and Savoy clash frequently as the Lord of the French Quarter expands his influence into other neighborhoods and builds a substantial power base among New Orleans’ disenfranchised. The city develops the three-way stalemate between Vidal, Savoy and Cimitiere, which persists to this night.
- 1914: Rumors spread that Vidal and Cimitiere hold a series of meetings. Most local Kindred dismiss these rumors as highly improbable, given the hatred between the two Kindred.
- 1915: A rash of killings, called the Storyville murders, takes place in the city’s poorest districts. Both Cimitiere and Savoy investigate the possibility of Kindred or occult influence, but if either party finds anything, they do not make their knowledge public.
- 1925: The Nosferatu known as Sundown opens his first Kindred-friendly club in New Orleans. Vidal and Savoy begin jockeying for Sundown’s support, but he remains neutral.
- 1931-36: The French Quarter blossoms into a tourist Mecca. This grants Savoy a substantial increase in power.
- 1935-41: Vidal and Cimitiere’s influence in industry wanes a bit, as many of the individuals with whom they were accustomed to dealing depart for war.
- 1949: Miss Opal disappears, leaving power among the local Nosferatu in the hands of several hand-selected proxies.
- 1957: The 24-mile-long Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opens.
- 1974: New state constitution adopted.
- 1975: Miss Opal rises from torpor. This time, in hopes of improving her clan’s standing from within Vidal’s government, she claims a seat on Vidal’s Cabildo.
- 1977: “Dutch” Morial is elected the first black mayor of New Orleans.
- 1991: Riverboat gambling legalized. Some Carnival krewes stop parading.
- 1994: Hotel building boom begins with word of expansion of convention center.
- 1996: Statewide referendum on gambling rejects further casino development. Purportedly, Savoy and Cimitiere cooperated (reluctantly) to influence this decision, as much of Vidal’s power in the modern era comes from those tourist industries not connected to the French Quarter.
- 2005: Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans. Mass numbers of Kindred meet Final Death. The mandatory evacuation almost completely depopulates the city, leaving its vampires bereft of sustenance; many flee to Houston, Baton Rouge, and other nearby cities. Ambitious Kindred in Houston and Baton Rouge take advantage of the upheaval to depose their Princes and make the so-called “Katrina refugees” complicit in these coups in return for shelter. Vidal calls on his Old World contacts among the Camarilla, who dispatch a Justicar and retinue of Archons to maintain order in New Orleans. Baron Cimitiere disappears and is presumed deceased; most of his Kindred followers meet Final Death. Antoine Savoy’s holdings in the French Quarter are comparatively undamaged, but he loses several of his oldest allies (including the city’s Sanctified Bishop, Clarice Barabet). New Orleans is left a ghost of its former self. To this night, most neonates in New Orleans are ones Embraced after 2005.
- 2006: A regional conclave is convened in Houston by Justicar Lucinde to address the impacts of Hurricane Katrina in Gulf Coast cities. Vidal retains praxis over New Orleans and the new regimes in Houston and Baton Rouge are formally recognized (much to the chagrin of Marcel Guilbeau, Baton Rouge’s deposed but surviving Prince). Some of the Katrina refugees are permitted to remain in their new cities until New Orleans recovers; a few become permanent residents, while others are turned out and disperse across the country. Vidal and Savoy continue their power struggles, but seemingly without heart. The two have almost nothing left to fight over.
- 2007: New Orleans has a population of 300,000 (2/3rds of its residents pre-Katrina). A goodly number of Kindred return to the city by this point, but the local All-Night Society still retains an almost shellshocked character. A moratorium is placed on the right to Embrace. Vidal withdraws almost completely from public and even more of the city’s night-to-night administration to Seneschal Maldonato.
- 2008: Hurricane Gustav. Several Kindred meet Final Death, but the destruction is minor compared to Katrina’s. Baron Cimitiere reappears in the hurricane’s aftermath, much to Vidal and Savoy’s displeasure. Most of his Kindred followers were destroyed during Katrina, and with Embrace rights suspended, the Acolytes start to rely far more heavily upon mortal influence.
- 2010: New Orleans’ population has climbed back to 340,000 (76% of pre-Katrina levels). Remaining Katrina expatriates from the city have largely moved on with their unlives; Vidal revokes the moratorium on new Embraces but still grants them sparingly. Kindred immigrants from other cities begin to appear in significant numbers.
- 2014: New Orleans’ population reaches 378,000 (84% of pre-Katrina levels). By this point the city has mostly recovered from Katrina, but deep scars remain—and lead many to wonder how badly they will fester.