What if the Salubri survived? [V20: Dark Ages Companion]
Greetings, fellow Cainites!
The title of this blog is the kind of question to make fellow writer and developer Neall Raemonn Price disturbingly euphoric. He has an odd fetish for those three-eyed soul-sucking demonspawn learned vampires know as “Salubri.”
Well, V20 Dark Ages Companion is coming soon, so I thought I’d post to the blog about it.
As covered in previous posts, V20 Dark Ages Companion profiles several domains around the known world, including a couple largely unaffected by the War of Princes, rise of the Inquisition, or fall of the Salubri. In Mangaluru, on the west coast of the country we now call India, the War of Princes’ tendrils fall short of plunging a domain into war. The Long Night persists, and the Salubri rule in concert with the Danava and Ravnos, each of them preying on different castes of kine.
V20 Dark Ages Companion allows us as writers, and you as Storytellers and players, to explore new realms and play chronicles of Vampire: The Dark Ages in different styles to the typical feudal, mediaeval setup of Europe. While we represent domains including Bath (in the British Isles), Bjarkarey (in Scandinavia), and Rome (location fairly obvious), we also go farther afield with the domains of Constantinople, and Mogadishu (in Somalia). And then we have Mangaluru, which is the greatest distance travelled in a Dark Ages book to date. The distance between Mangaluru and the European continent made us ask questions, such as “how would the hierarchy of such a domain be set up?” “how would they treat the kine differently?” “what would be their perspective of the vampire arrivals from their west?” and importantly, “how have recent insurrections and wars affected this relatively remote domain?”
What if the Salubri never fell? We ask this question in the Apocrypha of V20 Dark Ages. We demonstrate a scenario where this is indeed the case with Mangaluru. I explore a similar theme with a sidebar in V20 Dark Ages Tome of Secrets, regarding the Tzimisce. What if the Tzimisce Koldün put ancestral rivalries and blood-borne jealousies aside and banded together against the nascent Tremere? Would we see a different Vienna come the Final Nights? Would we see a different Sabbat and Camarilla?
Dark Ages is a ripe setting for playing out these “What If?” scenarios. Allow your players to set off a series of events not in keeping with the established canon, and alter your own game to fit. Upcoming V20 books such as the Dark Ages Companion and Beckett’s Jyhad Diary are perfect for making subtle or major tweaks to the rich lore of Vampire: The Masquerade. Doing so in the course of a chronicle empowers the players, and makes them feel like they have a genuine impact on the setting.
As per demand from my last blog on V20 Dark Ages Companion, I include below an extract from the Domain of Mangaluru chapter (by Neall Raemonn Price), and extracts from the Apocrypha of Clan Malkavian (by Susann Hessen) and the rituals of Clan Tremere (by Malcolm Sheppard):
A Land of Legend
As told by Malsang of the Nagaraja
The people’s flesh is hot. The spices, you see? Can you not taste the pepper amidst the copper, so like sun-warmed blood even on the most rain-soaked evening? Ahh, those are the only delights left to me. The night is still beautiful, but how I wish I could see the green of the trees once more, how the rain must cause the light of the sun to shatter into a thousand colors. What some call our curse abates in this place, for the land’s blessings are manifold. The sage Parshurama himself reclaimed this land from the sea and built the temple where the Danava now dwell. The sea has blessed us further. Spice has been the blood of Mangaluru, literally and metaphorically. It pools in their livelihood and in their meat. The people pole down the rivers Gurupuru and Netravati, walk through the rolling hills to come here and ply their wares. When the Empire of Rome was late a Republic, that elder of theirs, Pliny, spoke of fearing our pirates. Even then proud Roma refused to face our sailors on equal seas. Lasombra, Ventrue, and Malkavian from Rome, Brujah from Carthage, each sent their childer to our shores, foreign leather planting into the sands over red clay. The Greeks recognized us as one of the greatest fonts of pepper in the entire world, and what their swords could not take their coins bought instead. The Byzars of New Rome come here now, Greek as ever, as do Persians, Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
The triumvirs have been here as long as Mangaluru, and Mangaluru has always been here. How not? The Salubri and the Danava have been close since Saulot received his revelations within the city of Golconda. They and the Ravnos are all enemies of the hated asuratizzaya to the east, driving deep the alliance between the three lines of the Blood. Danava and Salubri have always ruled this land, and the jati of the Ravnos have been their strong sword
arms. They rule with sorcery and legend, demanding blood as payment and giving health as the best of kings. The Children of Danu are not like the Ventrue, lurking under the grand castle of the Premysls, or the Toreador in their fine courts. They garb themselves as holy men, calling themselves Brahmins when they deem to do so at all, and slumber amidst the temple of Mangaladevi, greatest of the Kerala temples. The Kshatriya Unicorns rise in the palaces of kings, existing among the people, hiding in plain sight but watching over them in secret, waiting, protecting.
The Seat of Kings
The Salubri have named themselves rulers since Kulashekara Alupendra, king of the Alupas, made the city his capital. The Alupas were always second to the Chalukyas of Badami, the Rashrakutas, the Calukyas of Kalyani, and the Hoysalas — whichever dynasty held the imperial throne, the Alupas were quick to bend the knee, and so remained favored signatories. The Shepherds attached themselves to Alupendra’s court, ensuring their pawns and angers-on remained strong and in good health. They made sure the king’s political enemies and those traders who faltered in their profits made their way to Mangaladevi, to pray for holy deliverance. They found it: sacrificed and consumed to fuel the Sadhana of the deva Danava. Those blood sorcerers, in turn, protected the prophets from all enemies. Both hold the Ravnos, commoners in status if not in caste, under their taloned thumbs, much to their chagrin. We came much later, and only the insistence of the Salubri that the city was welcome to all was our salvation. Common vampires coming to Mangaluru must bring a mortal with them as tribute, one whom they will not miss. If they fail in this, they must procure one from outside the city, for many of the lesser mortal traders who come to Mangaluru fall under scrutiny as soon as they step off their ships. The Salubri judge their impact on the city, the Danava scry their karma, and if the trader suffers under the weight of his sins, Ravnos take him in the night. The majority of these sacrifices go to the Danava, the smallest remainder to we, and by our combined patronage Mangaluru remains safe by blood sorcery. We make more of it
than the Danava, clearly — not blood, nor meat, nor soul is wasted by we — but their magics are empowered by their gods, so clearly the sacrifices seem worthwhile. They are the only mortals who perish at the fangs of vampires within the city, though — an unholy murder, performed without sanction, will only result in the swiftest and most terrible vengeance. The travelers and traders taken are relatively few in number, while the residential people of the city and dedicated herds keep safe Mangaluru’s Cainites.
Peace and prosperity guide the night’s activities. Divinatory magics allow the Salubri to guide foreign vampires to auspicious victims, enriching the capability of the city to support a Cainite population. Even a Trembling One visiting the city (and there are many) can expect an ironic smile and warm welcome from a Salubri. And why not smile, for are they not victorious? What the Hellenic Cainites deemed Elysium rules over the city entire. The combined power of Sadhana and Valeren find any who seek to break the peace before the thought even occurs to them. The Shepherds are open about their challenge, telling every Tremere neonate who comes to take a message back to their chantries: Mangaluru is a refuge, one the Tremere may assault if they dare. The Children of Saulot are there, and they are waiting.
For each deadly sin, there is a Malkavian who represents it. The very sin of sloth is called dejection in some Orthodox writings, and one who suffers from depression will certainly be judged slothful rather than ill. When a neonate emerges and finds his new mind inextricably tied to one of these sins, he will regard himself as wicked or cursed. While other vampires will see in him the mark of Malkav, they too will consider him stained with wickedness, not illness. Kine are less merciful yet — knowing nothing of the curses of Caine, they will see sin without reason.
This state is a mixed blessing. Most Cassandras of any notable station come from these ranks — they are the ones who most readily accept the premises of their surroundings, and they are the ones who seem most rational. Some believe such Seers only descend from those Malkavians among the Coronati — Malkav’s childer who sucked vitae from the earth surrounding where Malkav was once struck down by Set — in order to preserve him and spread his madness. But these Coronati childer are the sinful, and theirs is scorn to reap. Among Cainites, the Coronati childer are often compared with the Nosferatu. Their minds are not sick, but twisted and warped into unholy patterns. Their souls carry the ugliness inside that the Nosferatu carry openly.
Sin and pain stain their souls, whether they suffer uncontrollable bouts of rage or megalomania, or obsessively arrange their possessions just so. They manipulate the madness in others, spreading insanity like a plague.
Even those whose predilections do not run towards true sin will face the same stigma among vampires — if a Childe of Malkav does not display the touch of true madness, then her peers consider her one of the sinful.
Wield the Spear of Damnation (Level Three Ritual)
This ritual recalls the legend of Caine itself, dedicating a weapon to satisfy a vampire’s nature just as the Dark Father cursed himself, when he raised a sharp stone against his brother. The Tremere writes Genesis 4:10 (“And he said, ‘What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.’”) upon an edged weapon in purported angelic script, during a meditative trance. This requires one hour. From that moment forward, half the lethal damage inflicted by the weapon (rounded up) converts to blood points, filling the wielder’s pool. This persists until the weapon has harvested the caster’s Thaumaturgy + ritual successes in blood points. Blood so harvested doesn’t inflict extra damage (it comes straight from blood shed by the wound), but is of the target’s type. Lupine blood remains doubly potent, and other blood types have their signature effects.