Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
The Krewe of Janus
“They were here, Caroline. In this apartment. The body was a threat to their beloved Masquerade, so they disposed of it. They left these as a warning that if you continue to be a threat to the Masquerade, that they will so dispose of you.”
“They treat it like baseball. Three strikes and you’re out. Except it’s forever. No more innings. First offense, like that other, uncolored ice cube, is allowed to slide. The cube melts, leaves a little water, but no harm, no stain left. Second offense, and they go after someone or something you love. And it may be subtle, but it isn’t pretty. Third, and the ump throws you out of the game.”
“Altogether, the Krewe of Janus aren’t that bad. In fact, you might even call them selfless or even fair, if it weren’t for the fact that their vitae poisons everything they are and do.”
Louis Fontaine to Caroline Malveaux-Devillers
• Perceived Goals: Protecting the Masquerade
• Meeting Place: Unknown
• Prerequisites to Join: A history of responsibly upholding the First Tradition; some useful talent or resource in maintaining the Masquerade; minimal partisan leanings in the Bourbon-Hardliner conflict
• Required Backgrounds: Status (Krewe of Janus) •+
• Known Members: Harlequin; many others believed
The Krewe of Janus was founded in the early 1900s by Harlequin through his connections to the mortal Mardi Gras krewes. The Malkavian originally intended the Krewe to be a vampiric continuation of his mortal social life, but the coterie’s purpose soon evolved in response to the escalating factional struggle between Vidal and his two rivals. All three Kindred leaders attempted to enforce the Traditions within their respective territories, but they refused to work together and coordinate efforts on a city-wide scale. Furthermore, New Orleans was a grossly overpopulated city by Kindred standards, meaning that violations of the Masquerade were already a persistent problem. Nightly enforcement of the First Tradition had long occupied much of then-Sheriff Bastien’s duties. The heightened conflict between the three elders strained his ability to keep up.
Harlequin initially stepped forward to keep things from getting out of hand during his beloved Mardi Gras. The festival wasn’t as famous in the early 1900s as in the 21st century, but the influx of mortal and Kindred visitors still meant the Masquerade was stretched thinner on Fat Tuesday than any other night. Harlequin recruited other neonates to assist him, all of whom wore masks to conceal their identities: it was a longstanding tradition for the mortal old line krewes to keep their memberships secret. Harlequin named their organization the Krewe of Janus, after the two-faced Roman deity. (The old line krewes were likewise named after classical deities). They cleaned up Masquerade breaches and found their efforts much appreciated by the city’s elders and the Guard de Ville, whose hands were quite full.
As time went on, Harlequin branched out from Mardi Gras to other festivals like All Saints’ Day, Halloween, and St. Patrick’s Day. The Krewe of Janus took an increasingly “proactive” approach towards Kindred they identified as persistent Masquerade violators. At first they merely reported such criminals to the sheriff, then left disturbing warnings in havens. When the Krewe targeted the ghouls and mortal associates of Kindred who ignored these warnings, Robert Bastien raised no objections—it was less work for the Guard de Ville. Harlequin started to clean up Masquerade breaches and target violators outside of festivals. Once again, no one objected.
The Krewe’s membership—and boldness—steadily increased over the years, particularly as Mardi Gras exploded in popularity and drew enormous influxes of mortal (and Kindred) visitors. The Krewe’s efforts became indispensable to maintaining the Masquerade during this hectic time, particularly after Sabbat incursions grew into a persistent yearly problem. Harlequin left the Guard de Ville to handle direct altercations with the Sword of Caine and cleaned up the aftermath.
Come the 21st century, the Krewe of Janus plays a vital role in maintaining the First Tradition. Neonates fear the Krewe as a bogeyman with eyes and ears everywhere, watching for—and punishing—violations of the Masquerade.
The only time the Krewe acts openly is during Mardi Gras. They greet the massive influx of Kindred into the city, warning the newer and younger ones to keep their feeding discrete for the good of the Masquerade. Any threats are dealt with swiftly, and the Krewe makes it clear who was behind the retribution. Even so, all the Krewe wear masks when policing the Masquerade. This is partly done to protect the members’ identities, but also out of simple respect for tradition (members of the city’s oldest mortal krewes keep their identities strictly secret as well).
The rest of the year, the Krewe works quietly and secretly. Through Obfuscated spies, media monitoring and simple detective work, they watch for threats to the Masquerade. Few things escape their notice. Once they spot a threat, they rarely fail to find its perpetrator. Initially, they will leave mysterious warnings for the vampire to cease their activities, such as notes in their havens, “hauntings” created with Obfuscate, or messages delivered by Dominated mortal allies of the target. If the vampire does not heed these warnings, the Krewe quietly eliminates them. Few fail to listen.
Harlequin is the Regent of the Masquerade. The Malkavian’s “parish” consists of any site with an ongoing Masquerade breach. By Vidal’s decree, the Krewe of Janus may enter (and temporarily take over) the domain of any vampire for purposes of upholding the Masquerade. Indeed, Kindred who interfere with the Krewe’s duties are considered guilty of trespassing, even within their own domains, and can be punished accordingly by Harlequin.
In practice, Harlequin recognizes the need for good politics and that conflicts with influential Kindred make his job harder. He typically makes an effort to keep regents in the loop about the Krewe’s activities and (when possible) coordinate Masquerade clean-ups alongside a regent’s own people. Most regents appreciate the Krewe’s efforts to uphold the First Tradition and accept its members’ presence in their parishes as cost of doing business if that means a Masquerade breach goes away.
Harlequin cares less about playing nice with unimportant Kindred, though—especially ones whose perceived inattention or poor judgment led to a Masquerade breach in the first place. The Krewe rarely gives notice when they turn a neonate’s domain upside down to repair a breach. The Krewe often stakes or mind controls troublesome neonates who stumble upon their activities in order to keep such licks out of the way. The Krewe also ransacks havens and pries into affairs unrelated to a neonate’s immediate Masquerade breach under pretext of investigating further breaches. (After all, Harlequin holds, if they broke the Masquerade once they might have broken it somewhere else.) Harlequin cares little for the ill will this engenders and seems to enjoy stomping on the toes of licks who treat the Masquerade with insufficient reverence.
• Elders: New Orleans’ elders are fond of the Krewe of Janus, because it handles the night-to-night maintenance of the Masquerade and allows them to spend their time on other pursuits. Most elders, it’s also presumed, would like to place the Krewe under their thumb, but none have made any serious known effort to do so. Harlequin is keen avoid becoming overly tied to a single elder, most of whose peers would take umbrage at a single Kindred coming to dominate the Krewe.
• Augusto Vidal: Prince Vidal is a notable exception to the elders’ fond attitudes and remains lukewarm to the Krewe’s efforts even a century after its inception. He would prefer the coterie to exist under his direct control, and were it not for their activities in Antoine Savoy’s and the Baron’s territories, it’s probable that the prince would have placed them under his sheriff’s supervision (or else forcefully disbanded the coterie). As it stands, the prince grudgingly finds it preferable to let a neutral third party help enforce the Masquerade in the French Quarter than to let Savoy do so by himself. (Breaches of the First Tradition are less of an issue in the Baron’s territory, due to his smaller number of followers.)
• Antoine Savoy: The Toreador, for his own part, is all-too aware of his rival’s tepid feelings regarding the Krewe and has made Harlequin many lucrative offers to further tie the coterie to the Bourbon Sanctified. The Malkavian has gracefully declined each such overture to date. The Krewe’s sole aim, he repeats, is to uphold the Mask.
Harlequin acts as the Krewe of Janus’ spokesman and leader. He is the only Kindred who is widely known to be a member of the coterie. Most of the city’s influential Kindred can name at least several other members. The Nosferatu can probably the name the most. Some rumors say that Miss Opal the only vampire outside of the Krewe who can identify every face behind the masks.
It is unknown how the Krewe organizes itself internally or how many total members it has, but it’s believed to be one of the city’s largest coteries. Particularly paranoid whispers say the Krewe is large enough to be a covenant in its own right. Certainly, there are good odds that it’s bigger the Tremere or Ordo Dracul.
Kindred who wish to be of service to the Masquerade can approach, or be approached by, Harlequin to join the coterie. Kindred with skillsets or resources useful for maintaining the Masquerade are the most likely to be offered membership. They must also not to be too close to Vidal, Savoy, or the Baron—Harlequin is keen to maintain the coterie’s political neutrality. The Krewe is believed to have elaborate initiation rites in the same style as the mortal old line krewes, and a probationary period designed to test would-be members’ commitment to upholding the Mask.
Krewe of Janus Status ••••
Lineage: 9th gen. childe of Clarice Barabet
Status: Bourbon Sanctified •••, Camarilla •••, Hardline Sanctified •••, Malkavian ••••
Coteries: Harpies •••, Krewe of Janus ••••
Harlequin is the founder, leader, and spokesman of the Krewe of Janus. His efforts with the Krewe have made him a highly respected figure in the city who remains above the partisan fray—although he’s traditionally enjoyed better relations with Vidal’s and Savoy’s people than the Baron’s (Mardi Gras was traditionally a racially divided holiday), and he seems to personally get along with Savoy better than the prince. Still, the Masquerade comes first to Harlequin, and he labors to uphold that greatest of all masks with an obsessiveness that only a madman could have.
The Krewe of Janus’ ghouls are one of the coterie’s most valuable assets. They are some of the best-trained and loyal in the city, and give the Krewe a real edge against other Kindred.
The Krewe maintains at least a dozen ghouls, none of whom are blood bound to a single domitor. Instead, they are partly bound to all of the Krewe’s members: this keeps them loyal to the coterie and its mission, rather than any single vampire, and allows the Krewe to maintain more ghouls than any of its members could on their own.
For their part, the ghouls’ dedication to maintaining the Masquerade borders on fanatical. They believe the Masquerade exists to protect mortals from Kindred excesses. Since vampires are too powerful to destroy, and are by nature paranoid and power-hungry beasts, they will always seek to control human society. Only the self-imposed check of the Masquerade keeps them from waging open war to attain total domination over mankind. By protecting the Masquerade, the Krewe of Janus protects the entire human race.
The Krewe’s ghouls are divided into three roles: monitors, investigators, and enforcers.
• Monitors are well-placed in human society and keep tabs on potential threats to the Masquerade. There is known to be a ghoul in NOPD’s homicide department, a ghoul in City Hall, and a ghoul in at least one major hospital. Numerous others are believed to exist. These spies dutifully report suspicious activity to their Kindred masters, who may then dispatch investigators or look into the situation themselves. The monitors also have contacts among New Orleans’ other Kindred and ghouls, and use these sources to solicit information about potentially problematic vampiric activities. In such situations, they keep their connections to the Krewe secret, often claiming to be the ghouls of some interested elder.
• Investigators follow the leads found by the monitors and Kindred members of the crew. They mostly work during the day, when the danger of discovery by Kindred is at a minimum. Many of them are experts at breaking and entering, sabotage, and other extra-legal skills, since they never know where the trail may lead.
• Enforcers are the fighting arm of the Krewe. Many come from military or law enforcement backgrounds and have received extensive anti-Kindred combat training.
All of the ghouls cross-train, so they have some knowledge of each others’ specialties. Working for the Krewe of Janus is a full-time job.
Ghoul Status •••
Status: Ghouls •••
Originally ghouled by John Marrow at the height of the Spanish Influenza, the light-skinned quadroon has continued his mortal trade as the chief mortician of Metairie Cemetery. During the ‘70s, Maurice was “gifted” to the Krewe of Janus by the Nosferatu as part of the prolix diplomatic deal that ultimately lead to Vidal (begrudgingly) recognizing Miss Opal as the sewer rats’ official primogen. Since then, the schizotypal necrophiliac has used his position and skills to protect the Masquerade. Unlike the Krewe’s more physical Mardi Gras enforcers or secretive spies, Maurice puts on faux funerals for Kindred who need to publicly ‘die’; he also prepares and disposes of corpses created by Kindred excesses. Apart from his skills as a mortician and love of graveyard poets like Robert Blair, Thomas Gray, and Edward Young, Maurice is a virtuoso of wax modeling, and his eerily life-like (or corpse-like depending on one’s view) wax models populate many a local and foreign wax museum—as well as private collection of both kine and Kindred.
Status: Ghouls •••
Not many people take Mr. Hush for an assassin. He’s soft, mellow, and introverted. He’s sensitive, occasionally bashful around girls, and enjoys being read to. He dislikes noises and crowds. He can’t stand noise—which is why he kills. He knows peace in the quiet after death. Death is peace. He looks upon himself as a preserver and giver of peace. He’s more than a little touched, in his own way, and some Kindred speculate he had too many sips of Malkavian vitae in the mixed draughts the Krewe of Janus gives out to its ghouls. He’s one of the Krewe’s most lethal killers, but he doesn’t view himself in such terms. He just keeps things peaceful and quiet. That’s what the Masquerade is, if you ask him—peace and quiet. His name, Mr. Hush, derives from his “love” of silence and the fact he always speaks in a whisper. The city’s older Kindred call him Mr. Silencieux. Those who the Krewe marks for death never hear him coming, and he’ll genuinely believe he’s doing them a kindness as he ends their life. Outside of his duties to the Krewe, he’s known to spend time in the company of Elyse Benson. He appreciates how neat and quiet she keeps the Wedding Cake House.
Status: Ghouls •••
The Krewe of Janus’ foremost ghoul stationed in Tulane Medical Center.