Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The Children of Judas
(Modified from Constantinople by Night, pp. 69-71)
In every garden there is a serpent. Most Cainites in Constantinople are at a loss to explain why the Settites, under the protection of Michael himself, are valued by the Patriarch and of equal status with the other Scion families. Many believe that Michael’s supposed insanity is partly, if not wholly, the work of the Settites.
The Children of Judas take their name from the legend that all progeny of the traitor Judas were red-headed and cursed to live as vampires. The Settites prize red hair and all family members dye their hair red with henna.
Khay’tall, the high priest of the Settites, was the first of his brood to be welcomed to the city. Before the fifth century AD, the city had been off-limits to his clan. Michael took immediate responsibility for him. This touched off furious infighting among the Triumverate, which threatened the peace of the city for several nights. Then, all went quiet. Soon afterward, the Patriarch announced that the charter of the Settites as an official Scion family under the Toreador, supported grudgingly by Antonius and by the abstention of the Dracon. The Cainites of the city were stunned.
The brothel known as the Silk Road, headquarters of the Children of the Judas, is not just Constantinople’s most notorious bawdy house and tavern but also the nexus of a host of forbidden delights and trades beyond the wildest dreams, and nightmares, of the city’s residents.
Since then, the Children of Judas, though they hold no official duties in the Dream, have proven to be a constant foil for all of New Rome’s vampires. Their primary interest lies in the nurturing of mortal vices, but they also enjoy playing games of intrigue in Cainite courts and halls of worship. The Settites have manipulated human pawns to thwart the various Antonian plans, corrupted assorted members of the monastic orders to upset the Obertus, and wreaked havoc on the Church of Constantinople just to accentuate the ineptitude of the Magnus Orthodox family.
The hardest hit of the Cainites, however, have been the Michaelites, whom the Children of Judas take particular pleasure in upsetting. Great artists have been lost to wine and hashish, writers overwhelmed in their indulgences, and works of beauty tarnished by last minute changes suggested by Settite patrons. At one time Michael had the presence of mind to undo the damage of his unlikely guests, and so a great dance, or perhaps a passion play, of good versus evil, purity and sin, took place within the walls of the Queen of Cities. However, as Michael’s grip on reality slipped, and the call of torpor strengthened, so did his advantage in this moral game of chess.
What upsets the city’s Cainites most is the fact that the Settites seem to engage in their actions for the sheer malicious pleasure of it. The Children are thoroughly entrenched in Byzantine society, and the influence that they can choose to assert over the mortal populace is staggering, even more so because unlike their Trinity counterparts, they are completely united behind their master. Khay’tall is their dark father, Sarrasine is the favoured son, and all follow suit because they know that they can’t keep up with either of them.
A PARTIAL ROSTER OF THE CHILDREN OF JUDAS (who most frequently inhabit the city)
- Khay’tall, the snake in the Garden of Eden (6th gen. Childe of Nehsi, e. early 2nd century CE); although it is thought that he still makes his haven somewhere in the depths of the Silk Road, the ancient Nubian cares little for the petty delights and games of his subordinates. Instead, he concentrates his efforts on the Elysiums of the Families, delivering his silent, damning judgement upon their endless intrigues and pointless games. His intimidating presence has a way of insinuating itself into all facets of the Dream, and as a result his corruption extends to all levels of Byzantine society. The trepidation that he inspires in the members of the Trinity and Scion families is exceeded only by the terror in which he is held by the other Children. Rumour has it that he has Embraced scores of other Settites over the centuries, and that he is an unliving legend to his Decadent European clanmates.
- Sarrasine, the favoured son (7th gen. Childe of Khay’tall, e. early 6th century CE); the most visible and well-known of the Children, this devious elder appears to care for little other than the pursuit of his own pleasure. So successfully does he seek it that many other Cainites, in their pale attempts to imitate him, have fallen under Sarrasine’s sway. He makes the Silk Road his haven and primary hunting ground, although he can be found just as often in the Elysium’s of the city, flaunting his success and enjoying the impotent rage of the Trinity elders, all of whom are powerless to discipline him. The Michaelite known as Galatea is his concubine and constant companion.
- Sir Jules Talbot, the Latin Serpent (8th gen. Childe of Sarrasine, e. early 12th century CE); this charming and roguish Englishman is more frequently found haunting the Elysiums of the Latin Quarter rather than those of the Trinity and Scion families. His niche within the family is as a slum crime lord, exacerbating the desperate straits of the poorer mortals of the city and heightening the sense if impending doom that seems to hang about the Queen of Cities. As a result of his depredations, many are forced into lives of thievery, thuggery, prostitution and even slavery. Needless to say, he is popular with the masters of the Latin Quarter…
- Anastasia Theophano, princess of serpents (7th gen. Childe of Khay’tall, e. late 10th century); judging by her name, this ancilla may be the tavern seductress who, in life, rose to become the empress of Byzantium by her successive marriages to Romanos II and Nicephorus II Phocas as well as her affair with with John I Tzimiskes. She is certainly a great beauty, an extraordinary dancer, and her vintage is just about right. Sarrasine has also been known to mockingly speak to her as basilissa (empress) and Eusebestatē Augousta (Most Pious Augusta) from time to time, although it is worth noting that even the favoured son’s jests cannot be trusted. Anastasia Theophano is the ally and business partner of Sir Jules Talbot in the huge brothel and tavern known as the Eye, which squats in the middle of the Genoese Quarter.
- Galjin, Messenger of the Word (7th gen. Childe of Khay’tall, e. early 10th century CE); a warrior and hunter cut from similar cloth to his sire, Galjin was Embraced once it became clear to Khay’tall that his Decadent faction of Settites had grown extensive not just in the environs of the empire but all throughout the Mediterranean. Although his role is to ostensibly carry word of Khay’tall’s desires and heresies abroad, it is a poorly kept secret that Galjin is an enforcer who has destroyed Decadents that would seek to diminish his sire’s influence. He travels wherever Khay’tall tells him, and is only occasionally in the city.
- Decius, the Roman anachronism (8th gen. Childe of Siro, e. mid 5th century CE); a saturnine member of the Decadent faction who was an early adherent and favourite of Khay’talls. He was a fixture at many of the early events surrounding the rise of the Children of Judas before his untimely disappearance in the late 6th century. He reemerged in 1168, revealing that he had been attacked and driven into torpor by parties unknown. Alas, the Children had moved on without him and while his association with Khaytall is an ancient one, his status and position in the family has never quite recovered. He spends much of his time hatching “get rich quick” schemes in hopes of returning to power. He and Jules Talbot have a noted antipathy towards each other, based on Decius’ high-handed attempts to cut into the Englishman’s power base.
- Jezebel, mistress of courtesans (9th gen. Childe of Antonia (d), e. early 10th century CE); very much the quiet achiever among the Children, Jezebel concentrates her efforts among the wealthy elite of the craft guilds and only rarely involves herself in the games of the ancient mortal aristocracy or Family politics. Her capacity to artfully squeeze the blood and gold from the formerly proud artisan class has been a source of much amusement to the Settites and considerable vexation to the Michaelites, who seldom pass up an opportunity to shun her in Elysium. Although a descendant of Khay’tall, she originally hails from Thessalonica, where her sire and consanguinous brothers and sisters were a power before their destruction during the Norman sack of 1185.
- Gallasyn, nominal member only (8th gen Toreador. Childe of Enasius (d?), e. early 3rd century CE); once the Muse of Sculpture, this Artisan fled the city when Michael started interfering with the works of his servants. After wandering the Mediterranean for many years, he returned and threw himself on the Patriarch’s mercy. Alas, Michael was unmoved and refused to allow him to reenter the Trinity family ranks. However, seeing the talented Gallasyn falling into despair, Khay’tall saw an opportunity to drive a dagger into the heart of the Michaelites and he instantly offered the sculptor a place in the Decadent ranks. He was the first, but assuredly not the last, to fall. Now he exists as a hollow wreck, existing only to feed, abuse, kill and wallow in his despair.
- Sophia, the fledgeling (9th gen. Childe of Decius, e. 1195 CE); the most recent addition to the ranks of the Children is a young lady of the minor Byzantine nobility, a talented, educated schemer and seductress who was the secret lover of Michael ‘the Fat’ Comnenus. Decius used her wiles to drain the coffers of the patrician and allow court introductions where he was otherwise having difficulties maneuvering. Quite taken with the mortal, and recognising her ability to help him, the old Roman vampire expended an ancient boon in order to gain permission to Embrace the young woman. So far, Sophia is just finding her feet in the treacherous society of the Byzantine vampires, but her sire expects great things from her.
- A number of Children of Judas, such as Marzuq, Serpent of Rum (8th gen. Childe of Sarrasine, e. early 11th century CE), Georgios of Smyrna, purveyor of forbidden delights (7th gen. Childe of Khay’tall, e. early 9th century CE) and his piratical childe, Gaston (8th gen. Childe of Georgios, e. mid 11th century CE); travel the ports of the empire and as far as afield as the Holy Land, North Africa and Marseilles, expanding Khaytall’s corruption and doctrines. Each spends about 3 months each year in the city.
Khay’tall acts as the High Priest of the Settites, and oversees the worship of Sutekh in the incarnation of the Adversary, or Satan. The Children of Judas’ hierarchy is fluid. With Khay’tall at the top, all Children beneath him jockey for position. To maintain their favour in Khay’tall’s eyes, the Children endlessly intrigue and play amongs themselves. However, in practice, they are almost without exception continuously undone by the sly elder Sarrasine, who is known by the rest of the Cainites of the city as ‘the favoured son’ of Khay’tall. Finally, the Settites come and go as they please, and Khay’tall instantly gives them membership in the family as they do so, which means that the Baron’s Gangrel must let them pass. This causes the knights no end of headaches.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER FAMILIES
Hated for who they are, but in power because of their advocate, the Children of Judas are widely believed to have Michael’s ear. Officially, the Antonians and the Obertus are at odds with this supposed “lesser” Scion family. However, many Cainites who belong to the Trinity secretly meet with the Children because of what they can provide: regular feeding stock from the Settites’ huge stable of mortals (necessitated by the need to maintain the Secrecy of the Blood, given the city’s recent Cainite over-population), the fulfillment of interests and desires too shameful to mention publicly, the promise of Michael’s support, and, of course, the dirty secrets of others.
The strongest rivalry, however, exists between the Children of Judas and the Michaelites. The Settites have taken it upon themselves to test the Toreador the hardest because they are all childer of the Patriarch. Since the Michaelites have already largely succumbed to either their influences or the mad veneration of the Patriarch himself, Khay’tall has chosen to strike at their Achilles’ heel, their stable of mortal artists, to add insult to their injury. The creation of a new fellowship of Reformed Michaelites, who seek to return their brothers and sisters to the original mission of the Trinity family, has been taken as a pleasant challenge and change of affairs for the Settites, who were beginning to grow bored with the ease of their success.
The Children of Judas ply their craft against the almost hapless Toreador. With only Petronius, his few supporters and the dubious aid of Magnus to actively resist their efforts, the Settites have successfully insinuated themselves into the Michaelites’ artisan guilds. Mortal artists of great potential are now being lost to vice. Even Toreador outside the family structure, such as Gallasyn, have fallen prey to their games of corruption. The Settites exert such an influence over the Toreador in Constantinople that the Cainites’ efforts may well lie at the root of the debauchery and degeneration for which the clan as a whole is later known. They look at the arrival of the elder Eletria with relish, and wonder how they can bring her down.
Despite appearances, however, even the Settites have suffered setbacks in recent years. The Antonians no longer provide the Children with the challenge that they need to hone their manipulative skills, and the Venetian Lasombra have proved to be far more troublesome than Khay’tall expected. The massive over-population of the Latin Quarter has led to great strain on their formerly iron-clad control over Constantinople’s vice trade, as many of the newcomers are attempting to carve out their own niches with the Bishop’s permission.
Despite their protestations of innocence, Bishop Alfonzo and his Narsene Lasombra are now also actively working to subsume the Settite power base in their territory, and a number of very useful pawns of Khay’tall and Sarrasine have been found murdered since AD 1196. Where subtle-handed manipulation, blackmail and addiction once served to keep the mortals under their control, the Children of Judas have been forced to rely more heavily on Dominate, Blood Oaths and threats of murder to keep their thralls in check. The Children of Judas and the Narsene Lasombra continue to maintain relations, but they are by no means cordial as they were in the past.
RELATIONS WITH OUTSIDERS
Despite the Settites intrinsic desire to corrupt anyone who comes along, they have recently found themselves in need of allies. The challenge of the Narsene Lasombra, combined with the loss of a number of small avenues of influence over the Antonians and the Michaelites, has led to reconsideration of their role, at least as far as Sarrasine and Sir Jules are concerned. While those who associate with them might be tarred with the same brush, great advantage and wealth can be attained by doing so. The Children might trade and, even play fair, if it will help to preserve their position. Stranger things have happened in their twisted relationship with the Dream.