Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
Laws and Customs
“When you go to New Orleans, you’re not just going to a city, you’re going to an entire culture.”
“We dance even if there’s no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large, and, frankly, we’re suspicious of others who don’t.”
“New Orleans, more than many places I know, actually tangibly lives its culture. It’s not just a residual of life; it’s a part of life. Music is at every major milestone of our life: birth, marriage, death. It’s our culture.”
What separates the Big Easy from other cities is often not what goes on within the city limits, but how it goes on. Many cities have parades and celebrations, but no place else has anything quite like New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. Many communities have an older or historic district, but there’s only one French Quarter.
As with the city, so too with the Kindred. Prince Vidal—and, in their own domains, Lord Savoy and Baron Cimitière—certainly have their own laws and dictates. What makes the unliving community of New Orleans stand out, however, is not its unique laws, but the ways in which the leaders enforce, and the other Kindred obey, the common ones.
Unless stated otherwise, everything discussed below applies to all portions of the city evenly, as even Savoy and Cimitière are still formally subjects in Vidal’s domain. They cannot entirely ignore his mandates, though they may twist them to their own purposes.
“I know you were born with a whole utensil drawer of silver spoons in your mouth. Your whole-damned generation was raised on the teat of entitlement and few are ever weaned. Being a pretty white girl, the world was your oyster, and being a Malveaux, well, I’m sure that oyster was manically coughing up pearls for you day and night.”
“But Kindred aren’t like that. Among the Kindred, you are entitled to nothing. There are no inalienable rights. You have no rights. Only the elders are entitled, if you will, and only so long as they can hold on to their crowns. The Camarilla isn’t a democracy, but a fascist monarchial dictatorship. In the case of New Orleans, which is ruled by the Lancea et Sanctum, you can also add ‘theocracy’ to that list. The Camarilla doesn’t exist to protect the well-being of its ‘citizens’ as ours purportedly does, but exists to maintain and perpetuate the power of a small ruling elite, namely the princes and other elders, which all-too often comes at the direct expense of younger Kindred, much less the ‘kine.’ The Camarilla and most of its ruling elders belong more to a time and culture of monarchs that ruled by divine right.”
“It isn’t fair. It never was, never will. Poison begets poison.”
—Louis Fontaine to Caroline Malveaux-Devillers
The First Tradition: Masquerade
Thou shalt not reveal thy true nature to those not of the Blood.
Doing such shall renounce thy claims of Blood.
It is, paradoxically, both easier and harder to abide by the First Tradition in New Orleans than it is elsewhere. This is a city accustomed to the bizarre. It is a contender for the highest murder rate in the world, making it all too easy to hide the results of a frenzy or excessive feeding amidst the many others who are little more than violent crime statistics. During select portions of the year, an enormous portion of the population is dressed in outlandish or even monstrous garb, allowing the Kindred to unleash more of their bestial natures without standing out. It is also considered, by those who believe in such things, a widely haunted city, and one inhabited by a large population of people whose religion involves the ritual use of magic. And perhaps most importantly, alcohol and drugs are among the most prevalent of the city’s many vices; all manner of abnormal events can be—and often have been—passed off as the result of too much fun.
Given Vidal’s recent growing obsession with defeating Savoy and Cimitière once and for all, even those Kindred who violate the Masquerade may find the prince too involved in other activities to deal with them. This applies, however, only to very minor violations. Vidal is most certainly not an idiot, and foolish Kindred who assume his preoccupation grants them open license to do anything usually find themselves very warm for a very brief length of time.
Still, between the costumes, the Vodouisants and the chemically induced hallucinations, one might expect the Masquerade to be more secure here than it is anywhere else. And that might be true—were it not for those selfsame Vodouisants and a select few of their Catholic counterparts.
For these people, the supernatural is real. They do not buy into the disbelief and selective blindness of modern culture. The Vodouisants believe in evil spirits; some of the Catholics believe in demons. Both believe that powers of evil stalk the world, that magic and witchcraft work. Vampires do not directly play into these belief systems, but neither are they a particularly far stretch. Many of New Orleans’ inhabitants frequently watch for elements of the supernatural in the world around them, and they have the faith and the will to confront them. Thus, while the very nature of New Orleans bolsters the Masquerade, a select but dangerous portion of the population is far more sensitive to such things, and likely to cause substantial trouble for careless Kindred.
The Second Tradition: Domain
Thy domain is thine own concern.
All others owe thee respect while in it.
None may challenge thy word while in thy domain.
Maintaining the Masquerade means keeping the peace—at least relatively—among the Kindred, and that means a solid process for determining who is permitted to hunt and gather influence in a given area. In New Orleans, that procedure is simple and ironclad. Prince Vidal grants territory. Period.
Certainly, the process appears more complex than that. Many of the city’s regents have themselves parceled out their territories to even more Kindred. The simple truth, though, is that with a few exceptions, nobody holds rights of domain in New Orleans without being a loyal ally, or at least useful tool, of Vidal’s. Vidal can easily rescind any of these layers of fealty should he choose to do so, which makes him the ultimate arbiter of domain in New Orleans.
This, of course, might seem to fly in the face of the current political situation in the Big Easy. After all, both Savoy and Cimitière claim their own domains, and they have divided those territories among their followers as well. How, then, can it be said that Vidal is the last word in the city’s regency?
Simply, both the Baron and the French Quarter lord attained power at times when Vidal was unable to prevent them from doing so. They have such a firm claim on their territories now that even the prince cannot shake them. And, of course, they can divide their own domains as they choose. In the modern nights, however, Vidal makes absolutely certain that those territories do not expand. On several occasions, Savoy has “offered” one of his followers a territory in Vidal’s domain in an attempt to expand his own influence. The prince has not been shy about calling anyone who partakes of such an offer a criminal, and dealing with them accordingly.
Many of New Orleans’ domains match the borders of the local parishes, and Vidal tends to think of all of them as religious entities as much as political ones. Regents are expected to watch out for the spiritual welfare of any Kindred active in their domains, either tending to such matters themselves if they are of the Lancea et Sanctum, or calling for a priest to deal with issues of faith if they are not. Although Vidal does not make any great effort to enforce the requirement, he mandates that all Kindred requesting feeding rights in a domain, and the regent who is either granting or refusing them, do so through a brief but elaborate religious ceremony. In it, the petitioning Kindred swears loyalty to the regent, to God, and to Vidal himself. If the regent is of the Lancea et Sanctum, they grant permission by offering a blessing to the petitioner. If they are not, they must have a priest present who can do so. Refusal of permission, however, requires nothing but a statement to that effect. Vidal requires that all regents inform him if they have granted permission for another Kindred to dwell or feed in their territory for longer than a few nights so he may keep track of community ties.
The Third Tradition: Progeny
Thou shall only sire another with the permission of thine elder.
If thou createst another without thine elder’s leave, both thou and thy progeny shall be slain.
Vidal takes the Third Tradition very seriously, and very literally. He does not enforce a blanket ban on the creation of progeny, but all who seek to sire a childe must first gain his permission to do so. Failure to do so is punishable by final death—for sire and childe alike.
One exception exists to this otherwise ironclad rule, however—see “Tattletale” below.
The Fourth Tradition: Accounting
Those thou create are thine own children.
Until thy progeny shall be released, thou shall command them in all things.
Their sins are thine to endure.
Vidal strictly enforces the notion that the sire is responsible for the actions of the childe. Until the childe is released to be their own Kindred, the sire suffers equal consequences for anything the childe may do—up to, and including, final death for sufficiently severe violations. To make matters even more hazardous, the sire cannot decide on their own when to release the childe from their tutelage. Just as they must petition Vidal for permission to create, so too must they petition for permission to release. (Vidal often delegates this decision, which he considers to be of lesser import than permission to sire in the first place, to others of his court.) This involves a combination Lancea et Sanctum/Catholic prayer ceremony, which includes the symbolic christening of the newly released childe with a bit of Kindred vitae. Only after this has occurred is the sire freed of responsibility for the childe’s actions.
Unlike most other princes, however, Vidal interprets the sire/childe relationship in the other direction as well. The sins of the father are, in truth, visited upon the childe in New Orleans. Until the childe is released, they suffer the same punishment as their sire does for violating the laws of the domain, just as the sire suffers should the childe transgress. This seems an unfair process to many outsiders, but Vidal follows it religiously, as it ensures that, should he need to destroy or banish a lawbreaker, the criminal leaves no untrained and uneducated—and perhaps vengeful—childe behind.
Vidal does allow the young, unreleased childer of criminals a means of escaping their sires’ fate. If the childer come to the prince (or any authority figure loyal to Vidal) with news of their sire’s planned activities, if they can prove that they made what efforts they could to stop the crimes, or if they are willing to aid the prince in arranging the capture of their sires, Vidal may declare them released and preside over the ritual described above.
Vidal does not particularly expect the childer to be all that effective in their efforts; they are, after all, barely neonates. Rather, it is a test of resolve and loyalty, as well as a determination of whether the young Kindred may prove useful if allowed to survive.
The Fifth Tradition: Hospitality
Honor one another’s domain.
When thou comest to a foreign city, thou shall present thyself to the one who ruleth there.
Without the word of acceptance, thou art nothing.
Vidal demands strict adherence to the Fifth Tradition. Officially, any newcomer even passing through New Orleans is required to appear before the prince and request permission to stay or to feed. On a practical level, however, Kindred staying less than a few nights are somewhat exempt from this rule, if only because not even Vidal and his people can possibly discover and keep track of them all. Anyone who remains long enough to be discovered by the Kindred community at large, however, had better present themselves at the earliest available opportunity—and ignorance of the custom or of how to locate the court is not an excuse. (And God help the newcomer who, through accident or ignorance, presents themselves first to Antoine Savoy or Baron Cimitière. Given Vidal’s recent crackdown on anyone allying with either of those factions, seeing them before seeing the prince is, in and of itself, usually grounds for significant penance.)
Unlike many of his other rituals, Vidal does not have an elaborate religious ceremony for welcoming someone to his domain. He simply demands that the newcomer take a brief oath of obedience to Vidal and his laws in the name of God, Christ, and Longinus—and no, religious objections are not sufficient to avoid taking the oath. Once that’s done, one of the lesser court functionaries offers the new arrival a brief overview of said laws and sends the new arrival on her way.
The Sixth Tradition: Destruction
Thou art forbidden to destroy another of thy kind.
The right of destruction belongeth only to thine elder.
Only the eldest among thee shall call the blood hunt.
Officially, Vidal’s word on the matter of the Sixth Tradition is firm and inviolate. Kin-slaying is punishable by final death, pure and simple.
As is always the case with the Kindred, the truth is a bit more complex than that. Vidal has made it very clear to certain circles of his followers that any attacks on Vodouisant Kindred or followers of Antoine Savoy will not be investigated too closely, so long as they are subtle and non-disruptive to Vidal’s own rule. This doesn’t mean the prince will turn a total blind eye, as he cannot allow himself to be seen as either inconstant or weak. Should the perpetrators prove careless, allowing themselves to be identified or caught, their punishment will be no less than anyone else’s. Still, the notion that Vidal will not make too concerted an effort to root them out has encouraged Kindred with a predatory mindset to attack followers of Savoy and Cimitière—precisely as Vidal intended.
The above applies only to the killing of certain Kindred, however. Vidal steadfastly refuses to permit diablerie in any form, and anyone found guilty of that crime will suffer final death, no matter who they may have destroyed in the process.
On the rare occasions that Vidal calls a citywide blood hunt, he does so by summoning all available Kindred to court and then performing last rites in absentia over the subject of the hunt. The message is, to put it bluntly, unmistakable.
Crime and Punishment
This is arbitrary, abusive, egotistical. It’s nauseating. It’s being used against her. Perhaps in truth that is the worst of it for her. Maybe she could excuse such a system if it worked for her. But not this. She is unaccustomed to being so without power.
—Caroline Malveaux-Devillers’ initial reaction to the prince’s justice
The Kindred citizens of New Orleans, like all Kindred, scheme to advance their own agendas, and many consider the laws of the domain nothing more than inconveniences, speed bumps to be ignored. Those who dwell under Vidal’s rule swiftly learn better. The prince has a truly draconian sense of justice, a mix of the Old Testament and Machiavelli. Vidal not only believes strongly in an eye for an eye, but he dislikes having to repeat a lesson. Although the distinction is informal rather than rigid, Vidal and his court generally divide Kindred offenses in the domain into three separate categories.
Crimes such as poaching another’s territory, dealing with Vidal’s rivals, refusing to participate in mandatory court functions or religious ceremonies, failing to present one’s self to the prince after several nights in the city, or moving against the interests and pawns of important Kindred (and similar violations) are considered minor infractions of the city’s laws.
Penalties are commensurate with the crime and may involve simple reparations, loss of domain or title, public chastisement (and loss of Status), physical mutilation severe enough to take nights or weeks to heal, and partial blood bonds. Repeated offenses draw more severe penalties and may eventually result in banishment from New Orleans. More and more often of late, Vidal frequently has been allowing his sheriff Donovan to bestow these lesser sentences, rather than involving himself in “minor” issues.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vidal draws a distinction when it comes to major criminal acts in his domain—civil and religious. Civil infractions include conspiring (rather than just dealing) with Savoy or Cimitière, deliberately avoiding presentation or otherwise attempting to hide from Vidal’s notice for great periods of time, violating the laws of Elysium, and similarly grave offenses.
Vidal takes these matters extremely seriously. On rare occasions, a perpetrator might get off easy, with nothing more than a complete blood bond or loss of substantial influence (or both), but Vidal is this merciful only when the lawbreaker is someone useful to have around, or when he would make powerful political enemies by handing down more severe penalties. Under most circumstances, the perpetrator is either banished from New Orleans or, if the crime was particularly heinous or the result of repeat offenses, executed.
Vidal hails from a time when hanging was considered the most dishonorable of deaths, reserved for lowly criminals, and he maintains that practice tonight. Obviously, hanging does not destroy the Kindred in and of itself, but Vidal has the condemned hanged either outside or in a chamber with eastern exposure, and he does so mere seconds before the rising dawn. This combines the dishonor of the gallows with the final death of sunlight, a combination Vidal finds eminently acceptable and everyone else finds rather disturbing.
Vidal considers these far more serious even than civil crimes. The Testament of Longinus, which Vidal believes is the literal word of God transcribed by the Dark Prophet, specifically exhorts Kindred to follow commandments that the Camarilla would later codify as the First, Third, Fourth, and Sixth Traditions. Therefor, the prince considers breaking those Traditions tantamount to sinning against God Himself. Open violations of the Masquerade, siring a childe without Vidal’s express permission, abandoning a childe who has not been formally released, killing another vampire in any circumstances other than a legally declared blood hunt or last-ditch self-defense, or committing diablerie under any circumstances are all religious infractions. Vidal also considers defacing a church or practicing witchcraft to be religious violations, but he has not, to date, been able to enforce this interpretation with any regularity.
The prince of New Orleans reserves only one punishment for those who flout the laws of the divine, and it’s the same traditional penalty that has existed for centuries: Burning at the stake. True, in the modern era it may not involve a wooden post and a pile of kindling, but all Kindred who dwell in New Orleans soon learn that to earn Vidal’s true displeasure means consignment to the fire in one form or another.
The Blood Hunt
As do some other princes, Vidal considers participation in a blood hunt to be absolutely mandatory. He does not call hunts lightly, but when he does so, it is because the target (at least in his view) is a dangerous criminal. Vidal sees no difference between refusing to participate in a hunt and actively aiding the lawbreaker in escaping its tightening grasp.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that every Kindred in the city must be on the street with fangs bared and weapons drawn. In fact, Vidal demands that his hunters be as subtle as possible; engaging in a blood hunt is not considered justification for violating the Masquerade. He prefers that most of the Kindred simply seek out the troublemaker, perhaps attempting to anticipate their moves if they know the lawbreaker personally, and report their location once discovered. Kindred hunters are to make use of any mortal contacts they have—particularly, but not exclusively, those in law enforcement, travel and transportation, and the criminal underground—to aid in the search, so long as they can do so without revealing the true nature of the prey. The blood hunt allows other Kindred the right to slay the transgressor, but Vidal would rather they leave that to his own people where possible.
If Vidal knows in advance that he will soon be calling a hunt, he has been known to use his influence to arrange a parade or some other sort of widespread demonstration for the night of the hunt. (He is particularly fond of calling blood hunts during Mardi Gras, though obviously the opportunity to do so arises only occasionally.) This allows the hunters a bit more freedom of activity, as strange events and street violence are far from uncommon during such affairs in the Big Easy.
Most cities have numerous Elysia. New Orleans has countless Elysia. Contrary to the common image, one cannot simply appear at any given Elysium on a random of the week and expect to run into crowds of vampires exchanging veiled barbs behind artistic commentary. Typically, only one Elysium site at a time hosts a city-wide Kindred gathering, and usually only one or two times a week. This site is known as Elysium Primo and lasts for as long as the event does.
In New Orleans, two official Elysium Primo are convened every weekend night, along with a third unofficial one. On other week nights, the city’s Kindred see to their own affairs, though a few vampires with nothing better to do can still be found haunting Elysium’s empty corridors.
On Sunday nights, the Lancea et Sanctum hold midnight mass at a local church. Mass includes liturgical rites, communion (the drinking of blood symbolically transubstantiated into that of the Dark Prophet’s), a sermon, and similar trappings to a mortal Catholic mass. All Sanctified within the city are expected to attend.
In cities ruled by covenants other than the Lancea et Sanctum, midnight mass is usually exclusive to the Sanctified and Kindred close to them or hoping to curry favor. In New Orleans, attendance isn’t mandatory, but isn’t quite optional eiher. Mass is where Prince Vidal holds court and includes the announcement of princely edits; news Vidal wishes to disseminate to his subjects; the presentation and release of new childer; the bestowal of titles and many grants of domain; the judgment and sentencing of criminals; the hearing of petitions; and other such business that concerns the city as a whole. Since Hurricane Katrina and Vidal’s withdrawal from public affairs, Philip Maldonato typically holds court in the prince’s place.
Official business of court is held almost exclusively at Sunday Elysia. Doors are closed to newcomers as soon as mass begins: Vidal frowns upon tardiness and wishes to specifically exclude Kindred who want to attend court and skip the sermon. Thus, vampires who wish to stay abreast of political affairs must listen to the Sanctified as they preach their faith, whether they share that faith themselves or not. This is one of the more obvious demonstrations of the Lancea et Sanctum’s rule over New Orleans and it is unlikely to ever change: Vidal truly believes he is fulfilling Longinus’ commandment to evangelize and spread the faith to nonbelievers. Whether they convert or not is immaterial, though so much the better if they do.
As its name implies, midnight mass begins at midnight. Business of court is almost always conducted afterwards, a not-so-subtle reminder that temporal affairs are of secondary consequence to God. Once court is finished, Maldonato announces where next week’s mass will be held, and the gathered Kindred are free to leave or socialize among themselves. (Attendees may also leave earlier: this is acceptable during court but severely frowned upon during mass.) Since there are usually no planned entertainments, most vampires do not linger for nearly so long as they do at Friday Elysia. There’s nothing to do besides talk.
Fridays are when “secular” Elysia Primo are held, typically at mortal sites of culture such as museums, art galleries, music halls, and the like. There is usually an exhibit or performance of some kind to entertain the Kindred and provide a common subject of conversation. It is considered crass to talk exclusively about politics (or at least, to look as if one is), since Elysium is meant to be a place of reflection, contemplation, and intellectual discourse. Still, intrigue runs thick beneath the surface.
In comparison to Sunday’s Elysium Primo, Fridays have a more relaxed feel. Kindred who don’t want to sit through mass, such as many Crones and Anarchs, may show their faces at Friday Elysia. Friday Elysia typically begin earlier in the evening than Sunday Elysia. Exact starting times vary by event. It’s usually still late enough in the evening for even late risers to get up, hunt, and see to a few affairs. (Elders tend to be later risers than neonates and their habits are catered to.) Gus Elgin announces the time and location of next week’s Elysium Primo at the opening of the current week’s.
Philip Maldonato, Antoine Savoy, and most local Camarilla luminaries can usually be found at Friday Elysia. Augusto Vidal and the Baron rarely attend.
Antoine Savoy holds his own court on Saturdays. In comparison to Vidal’s court, the French Quarter lord’s is much less formal and ritualistic, though it covers much of the same business: edicts, public news, grants of titles and domain, the hearing of petitions, and so on. Savoy punishes criminals much less often than Vidal does, at least publicly, and is much more open and responsive to requests from his subjects. He announces the time and location of his next court at the close of the current week’s. The usual location is the Evergreen Plantation, but he’s been known to change it around to spice things up.
Once court business is over, Savoy usually turns over the show to Reynaldo Gui, who handles the evening’s entertainments. These can be dances, artistic performances, games of chance or skill, and any number of other activities Savoy’s people think would be fun. Reynaldo Gui has actually instituted a suggestion box. Invariably, though, the event is less intellectual in nature than Friday Elysia, and progresses (or, depending upon one’s point of view, degenerates) into an orgy by the end of the night. Copious bloodletting is another constant of Savoy’s parties, whether between Kindred sexual partners or the freely provided mortal vessels that Savoy bids his guests enjoy themselves upon. (It’s considered good manners not to kill the vessels, but doing so isn’t punished.)
Savoy’s detractors call his parties “bread and circuses,” but there’s no denying they make the French Quarter lord quite popular with his subjects, and serve as weekly demonstrations of his wealth and influence. There are quite a few attendees who prefer to skip the “boring” business of court and only show up for the partying. Savoy doesn’t mind this and says anyone who wants to attend his parties is welcome. While Elysium Primo on Fridays and Sundays are attended by Kindred from all clans and covenants, Savoy’s court is attended almost exclusively by his partisans, Kindred seeking to curry his favor, and less ideologically-minded vampires simply looking for a good time.
Additional Elysia Primo
Vidal convenes additional Elysia Primo on a semi-regular basis. Many are held on the same nights as mortal festivals and holidays, or in commemoration of dates and events significant to local Kindred, such as the anniversaries of Hurricane Katrina or Vidal’s declaration of praxis over the city. (Held on Christmas night; it was common in old times for monarchs to crown themselves on Christ’s birthday.) Times and venues are usually announced at the regular Friday or Sunday Elysium Primo.
The Baron does not convene his own Elysium. Instead, his followers gather at the Vodousaint rites he holds among his mortal flock. Unbelievers are distinctly unwelcome at these functions.
Other Local Customs
While the preceding description represents the primary Kindred Traditions and customs, Vidal and New Orleans have their own customs as well, laws that do not stem directly from the Traditions but are nonetheless an integral part of the city’s identity.
Unsurprisingly, Vidal and his policies are strict indeed on this particular custom. Vidal expects lesser Kindred to acknowledge his station, and the station of the city’s other elders. This is both a religious and feudal divide so far as Vidal is concerned, and failure to follow it can lead to both a breakdown of government and an eruption of violence as the Beasts of New Orleans’ Kindred war for dominance. Failure to show proper deference isn’t (usually) a crime per se, but it is grounds for substantial social snubbing and even political reprisal. At gatherings with both Vidal and Savoy present, the prince has even been known to berate younger Kindred for not showing proper respect to the French Quarter lord. The dictates of etiquette are too important—especially given the instinctive Kindred reaction to other Kindred—to be ignored under any circumstances.
Church and State
As a devout Catholic and a devoted member of the Lancea et Sanctum, Vidal rules his domain very much like a Catholic diocese. True, he refuses to take the title of archbishop, but he—and many of his fellows among the Sanctified—still consider themselves religious leaders. This is particularly clear in his expectation that regents will not merely keep the peace in their territories but also see to the spiritual needs of the Kindred who dwell there.
As implied above, nearly all court functions in New Orleans have at least a small element of religion to them. At their simplest, they involve oaths of loyalty sworn before God. Many others borrow entire aspects of Catholic practice, from the christening of new childer to the communion—which involves drinking the blood of a mortal priest—at important court functions. Opening and closing prayers are common, and Vidal and his fellow Sanctified actually hold Mass for certain religious holidays throughout the year. All Kindred involved in these affairs are expected to participate, regardless of whether or not they believe in the same doctrines as Vidal himself.
The court’s religious leanings enter all aspects of the Requiem for Kindred dwelling in New Orleans. Newcomers who are members of the Lancea et Sanctum or appear to be devout Catholics are much more likely to receive permission to remain in the city than those who follow other faiths. Similarly, such Catholic Kindred receive domain rights and permission to sire a childe with substantially more frequency. By the same token, those who show a particular leaning toward Vodoun or the various pagan faiths find themselves subtly (or, in some cases, not so subtly) persecuted. Many are forbidden entry into New Orleans outright, and in the past several decades, no Kindred of a non-Abrahamic faith has been granted regency or permission to sire. (Some have done it anyway, with varying—but usually unfortunate—results.) Vidal maintains that this practice is in keeping with religious doctrine, but few Kindred are blind to the fact that this allows him to build up his own following while preventing Savoy and Cimitière from doing the same.
Perhaps one of the strangest carryovers of Vidal’s mortal faith, and one of the most useful yet potentially dangerous to his Kindred followers, is the practice of confession. Vidal makes the Lancea et Sanctum’s priests available to take the confessions of other Kindred, just as mortal priests hear the confessions of their own congregation.
Obviously, in most circumstances, the notion of a vampire voluntarily confessing their transgressions to another—particularly one in a position of authority—is ludicrous. Vidal, however, has dangled a fairly enticing carrot before them. Kindred who make regular confessions, so long as they are honest and detailed, often receive forgiveness for their crimes, rather than punishment.
The risk they take, of course, is that the Kindred have no way of knowing which crimes can be forgiven, and which are serious enough that an admission, even within the bounds of the confessional, will lead to punishment. The line of demarcation varies, depending on which of Vidal’s priests is hearing the confession, on what sort of mood that Kindred is in, on whether the crime has had any repercussions for Vidal’s rule, and so forth. For the most part, Kindred who take advantage of confession will admit to minor transgressions—feeding in someone else’s territory, participating in a “non-approved” religious ritual, conspiring to take another Kindred’s influence, that sort of thing—and will leave out more serious crimes such as diablerie or cooperation with Savoy or Cimitière. Siring a childe without permission, meeting with one of Vidal’s rivals but not allying with him, and slaying but not diablerizing a vampire who is not one of the prince’s followers, all these acts constitute a gray area that may or may not result in forgiveness.
Adding to the worry is the fact that Vidal expects those who confess to do so consistently. If a Kindred offers confession for one transgression and then fails to confess another that Vidal later finds out about, the prince is likely to punish the criminal all the harder. So the Kindred of New Orleans must weigh the risks and benefits of admitting their sins to their priests, fully aware that either course might lead to a worsening of their situation.
New Orleans was founded as a French colony in 1718, almost 100 years before the United States took possession of the city as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Even after Americans settled in the city, the native Creole population disdained English and continued to speak French in everyday use. English did not truly displace French until the Civil War, when the occupying Union government made its use compulsory in schools. As late as the 1920s, one could still find old women in the French Quarter who didn’t speak a word of English. French took a very long time to die out in New Orleans, and even today, persists in rural parts of Louisiana as a “private language.”
As go the kine, slower go the Kindred.
New Orleans’ vampires were far slower to change their linguistic habits than the city’s shorter-lived mortals. In fact, it was considered a faux pas to speak English in Elysium until well into the 20th century: French was the official language of court. Kindred who didn’t speak French resultantly found themselves quite excluded from social functions. American-born neonates who didn’t speak the language were taught by their sires, but not all neonates had “proper” sires who were willing or able to do so. This linguistic divide increasingly alienated “improperly raised” neonates from their more privileged peers and the city’s elders. Even many “proper” childer increasingly resented having to learn a foreign language and getting mocked in Elysium for their accents or verbal slip-ups. Wasn’t this the United States?
Antoine Savoy was the first Kindred elder to adapt with the times and made English the language of his court in the 1920s. This move was very popular among neonates and helped establish his reputation as a more easygoing alternative to the ultraconservative prince. Vidal held out until 1969, the 200th anniversary of his praxis over the city, before finally declaring that Sanctified clergy and the officers of his court would use English when conducting official functions (with the exception Sanctified rites, which would continue to be held in traditional Latin). Some Kindred expected the hoary Ventrue to resist change for even longer: Prince Mithras of London mandated the use of Latin in his court until the 17th century. French was never the Castillian Ventrue’s mother tongue, however, nor his Moorish seneschal’s, and he was less attached to it than city’s francophone elders.
After 1969, an old guard of francophones vociferously continued to use French in everynight conversation. Pearl Chastain, following her rise from torpor, was the language’s most ardent defender: her mandate to use French at Invictus social functions was one of the actions that soured many younger Toreador against her, although her loyal childer and grandchilder (every one of them a Creole) were happy to continue speaking their native tongue. Clarice Barabet, Francesca Dumont, and Dominique Toutain also estabished themselves as ardent French defenders: the fact they were harpies meant the language would not soon die out. Many non-francophone elders who’d learned the language also appreciated that “coarser-mannered” neonates couldn’t understand their conversations.
Still, by this point, younger generations of Kindred were making increasingly little effort to keep up with French. Use of the language in everynight Elysium conversation steadily declined throughout the ‘70s, ’80s, and’90s, despite the best efforts of francophone holdouts. Hurricane Katrina and the final deaths of multiple francophone elders (including Barabet, Dumont, Toutain, and Chastain’s second-eldest childe Barthélemy Lafon) finally put an end to this remnant of Creole culture.
Come the 21st century, French usage still persists among some of the city’s older Kindred, but primarily as “private language” much like in rural Louisiana: speakers use it in private or semi-private rather than in public, unless they want to make an obvious point of excluding non-francophone neonates from their conversation. Fondness for the language persists, however, and neonates who speak French (beyond the basic high school level) can impress as an elder as being somewhat more cultured than their peers.
Clearly, Prince Vidal prefers to allow only those who share his beliefs to thrive within his city. Although his persecution of those who follow different faiths than his own is subtle and indirect, his policies are substantially more hostile to members of specific Kindred families and factions. Specifically, Vidal takes issue—sometimes to a lesser extent, sometimes greater—with three specific demographics. (Caitiff and thin-bloods, of course, are as discriminated against as they are in any city ruled by a deeply conservative prince.)
Vidal’s dislike for this most inhuman of clans is not nearly as strong as it once was. At one time, the prince refused to allow the Nosferatu even to participate in his court. Obviously, this is no longer the case. Miss Opal, a Nosferatu, sits on the Cabildo (primogen council), and the sewer rat called Sundown interacts with every one of the city’s major players. Vidal has clearly come to accept the clan as a part of New Orleans.
However, Vidal has not completely lost his antipathy for the clan, nor are they treated as equals in his city. Vidal hails from a time when Cainites were divided into high clans and low clans, and the Nosferatu were the most despised and downtrodden of all the latter (indeed, their sobriquet during the Middle Ages was “lepers.”) Though Vidal can accept the changing realities of the times, like may elder Kindred, he has difficulty abandoning the attitudes and prejudices of earlier eras. Furthermore, it is a poorly-kept secret that the prince finds Miss Opal one of the most aggravating of his primogen, due to her support of the Anarch cause; he doesn’t wish her to expand her power base either.
Thus, while Vidal does not overtly act against the Nosferatu and does not automatically refuse them the right to dwell and feed in New Orleans, he is very selective about how much freedom he allows them. A Nosferatu newcomer to the city is more likely to find his request to stay refused, based on all manner of possible excuses, than would a Ventrue or Toreador under similar circumstances. Similarly, much like the racism that pervades much of mortal society, a Nosferatu accused of violating the Traditions is far more likely to be found guilty, and their punishment may be more severe. The sewer rats are aware of this pervasive discrimination, but find they can do precious little about it. Indeed, among many Nosferatu it has become an ironic mark of honor, a sign that Vidal fears them more than he’s capable of dealing with objectively.
Many of the other Kindred of New Orleans have picked up on this. Of all the newcomers and young neonates of the Big Easy, Nosferatu without powerful patrons find themselves ostracized by other Kindred with greater frequency than most other clans. Of course, this situation practically begs for a particularly motivated coterie of Nosferatu to exploit it.
The Circle of the Crone
Whereas Vidal’s bias against the Nosferatu and the Ordo Dracul is somewhat discreet, there’s nothing even remotely subtle about his dislike of the Circle of the Crone. Vidal is a devout Catholic, he’s a devoted member of the Lancea et Sanctum, and one of his two worst enemies practices a Vodoun-oriented form of Crúac sorcery. Any one of these facts would be sufficient reason for him to despise the Acolytes; considering all three, it’s a wonder his actions against them are as restrained as they are.
The laws of the court forbid the practice of Acolyte religious rituals and assembly by Circle members for political purposes. Many see it as splitting hairs, but Vidal does not forbid Acolytes to assemble for religious rites that do not tie directly into traditional Circle beliefs; it is this loophole that allows Cimitière and other Acolytes to gather for Vodoun ceremonies. Vidal knows that to take that last step and attempt to forbid the local Kindred from participating in Vodoun would both drive the few Vodouisant Kindred not already loyal to Cimitière over to the Baron’s camp and would force a confrontation between prince and priest that neither is yet ready for.
These nights, Vidal refuses to grant permission for any Acolyte not already dwelling in New Orleans to remain in the city for any length of time, and he demands knowledge of all new arrivals’ covenant affiliation as part of their presentation. Similarly, those who already dwell in the Big Easy can forget about siring childer or becoming regents. Vidal would sooner grant an official court position to a Nosferatu member of the Ordo Dracul than he would grant territory to an Acolyte. The prince has even been known to have his Lancea et Sanctum priests spiritually cleanse any location or territory used by the Circle of the Crone before granting it to another vampire.
The Ordo Dracul
The Ordo Dracul certainly doesn’t have it nearly as bad in New Orleans as the Circle of the Crone does. This is, undoubtedly, due to three distinct facts. The Ordo Dracul isn’t innately tied into religions that most Catholics—such as Vidal—view as pagan. The Ordo Dracul does not claim among their numbers one of Vidal’s greatest rivals. And the Ordo Dracul presence in New Orleans is so small that most local Kindred don’t even know they’re here.
All that being said, the Dragons do not stand particularly high in Vidal’s estimation. They practice a form of sorcery substantially different from theban sorcery, and this marks them as witches in the eyes of the Lancea et Sanctum. Vidal dislikes the Dragons’ focus on overcoming the Kindred condition, something that he believes was mandated by God. Finally, he is certainly aware that Lidia Kendall, one of Cimitière’s most trusted lieutenants, is a Dragon. Vidal does not make any particular point of persecuting the Ordo Dracul, but neither does he make a habit of granting them permission to enter his city or offering them domains or titles if already present.
The Night of Unfettered Dreams
Vidal may be strict, religiously fanatic and iron-fisted when it comes to his dictates, but he’s not stupid. He knows that he reigns over a population of ever-hungry, instinct-driven predators, and that no vampire can keep the Beast fully leashed all the time. Furthermore, they dwell in a city that plays host to all manner of debaucheries, from the gambling and drinking and gang violence that occurs on a nightly basis to the yearly Carnival, where all manner of inhibitions are left at the city limits. The Kindred, who always seem to echo the mortals around them, could hardly be expected to experience all this without some of it rubbing off on them.
Vidal, therefore, allows an outlet, in the belief that letting off steam now and again will allow the Kindred of New Orleans to better maintain control on other nights. On two nights a year, once toward the end of Mardi Gras and once on New Year’s Eve, Vidal relaxes the restrictions that rein in his undead subjects. The First, Third, Fourth, and Sixth Traditions still hold, and violators can still expect to be punished severely and finally. But all other laws of the domain are relaxed, if not ignored outright. For one night, the Kindred can feed where and when they will, associate with anyone they like, practice whatever pagan rites they feel the need to indulge in. Vidal himself tends to go into seclusion on these two nights, unwilling to observe the effects of lawlessness even as he recognizes the psychological need for it. The violent crime rate in New Orleans spikes on these two nights, for fairly obvious reasons.
The night following a Night of Unfettered Dreams sees a swift return to the status quo, and Kindred who allow their desires to get the better of them and try to continue the party for a second night swiftly find that, while it may be a new year for the mortals or Mardi Gras may still be going on around them, Prince Vidal offers no more leeway than he does on any other night. In fact, Sheriff Donovan and the hounds have orders to be particularly strict immediately following the Night of Unfettered Dreams, to be certain that Kindred understand it was a one-night-only deal.