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The Curia Covenant

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By Kismet Rose + Nathan Light

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Introduction

They say the Roman Empire fell long ago, but the undead know better; its spirit lives on in one of the few vampiric covenants with global reach. Of course, the Curia assumes that all vampires fall under its purview, so its estimations are inflated - but it is the largest known sect. The Curia traces its origins to roughly 50 B.C., when a number of vampires traveled to Rome for a unique assembly. They were concerned about the growing tide of new leeches running loose in their territories. They also saw a need for the Empire’s structure and values in Kindred life. These elders used hierarchies and customs of the time as templates for organizing immortals and handling supernatural affairs. They established regional ties but allowed local leaders to maintain their power. And over the following centuries, tenets were developed for private and public life. These are the strict laws the Curia is known for in modern nights.

Curia vampires - known collectively as Curiae - are usually found surrounded by mortals and ghouls, since the sect promotes personal power and responsibility in the mortal world. After all, keeping the city in line and the blood supply safe are concerns for every immortal. Living connections also help Kindred keep up with the times and hold onto their humanity. And retaining one’s humanity is the key to staying in control, not just for one night but for centuries. The Curia preaches tight control of the Beast within by shunning the worst urges. Order and stability are paramount, and sanity is fragile. Since vampires have ways of bringing out the worst in each other, larger groups are discouraged. A sire, a mentor, and a few carefully chosen allies are the most a Kindred should need night-to-night, except for special circumstances. Their formality and repression give Curiae a stuffy reputation, but they tend to enjoy some of the wealthiest and safest havens around.

Despite being a long-standing sect with rigid organization and an established history, disagreements occur about nearly every facet of its existence. Some Kindred argue that the Curia had its first stirrings in ancient Greece among philosopher-vampires. They insist on reverting to “older” titles and values, calling the Roman model twisted and flawed. Nothing conclusive has been presented, however, and no lasting changes have come about. Some cities link Curia teachings to religious doctrines and that is entirely allowed, but historically, the Curia allowed a freedom from faith that could not be had in the mortal world. “Lost writings” attributed to early Curia thinkers circulate widely, especially in the era of the internet. These documents introduce controversies about different aspects of Curia law and suggest improvements - some more radical than others. Unrest often follows such apocryphal essays, but the riots that result have led to more shifts than any faux Greek tablet or devotion to a deity.

Overview

The Curia spread with the Roman Empire at its height, becoming entrenched in Southern Europe and the Byzantine Empire during the Roman decline. Princes began the practice of sending delegations to reach out to unaligned cities, which led to steady gains in the early Middle Ages. These ambassadors used violence only in self-defense and stayed only as long as needed to parley with local rulers. The Compact they offered, as it was called, taught about Curia goals and offered various types of aid for joining. It needed to be sealed in blood by the figure(s) in power, but generally promised to leave current leaders in place. Requests for help resulted in debt to whichever regional Prince responded. Additionally, a representative called a quaestor was sent to live in a new Curia city to report its progress for an agreed period of time. If a quaestor found that a ruler threatened the stability of a city, replacements or reinforcements arrived to take over or support a swift, local vampire coup. This basic process has not changed much over the centuries.

Curia territories have always been more vulnerable to assaults by outside forces than corruption from within. That was true when facing the invasions that weakened Rome and is true against outside assaults in modern nights. Princedoms change hands but not nearly as often as some hope. Elders step in to stop ugly schisms or insane tyrants from going too far, but even that is rare; being forced to deal with the human public can soften a vampire’s edges and provide things they care about too much to risk. The hierarchy can be hard to break because of its many levels and its consistency. Too much deviation from what is expected makes the undead suspicious and helps them root out spies. And there are always incentives to report misbehaving Kindred to superiors before they get far out of hand.

But Curiae can often be caught without enough firepower to defend themselves, especially since they travel with few Kindred. Their ties to institutions are not always difficult to uncover, destroy, or use as leverage. The more brutal their enemies are willing to be, the worse Curiae tend to fare, if only because they care about the body count. And the more outraged they become, the more they risk losing themselves to the Beast when seeking revenge. Firm command of police and military forces has been the saving grace of many Curia elders - but only if they were able to act in time. What’s worse is that the Curia’s key opposition, the Sabbat, has spent centuries figuring out new ways to attack. Violent raids might be exciting, but they are rarely the first tactic; they come after months or years of Sabbat spies preying on a city’s weaknesses.

Titles and Duties

Prince/Princess

In the beginning of the sect, two consuls were agreed upon by the local populace, and they had the power to oppose each other. These were usually the oldest and most established vampires in the city. This led to stalemates often, however, so the office morphed into a single Imperator/Imperatrix. In medieval times, the office became known as the Prince or Princess, which continues into modern nights. While age has continued to be important, younger vampires with enough support have risen to prominence more often in the last 500 years than the centuries beforehand. This vampire must be supported by the majority of the Tribunal but otherwise has broad powers over all other Kindred in his or her domain. The Prince doles out lesser parcels of territory, approves petitions to sire new vampires, and handles dire breaches of city safety or the Traditions. He or she can also restrict uses of powers or objects, access to particular mortals, and the creation of ghouls, but being too restrictive will cause backlash. In all but the most pressing matters, the Tribunal has a voice, but the Prince has the final say over anything that the Tribunal cannot reach a consensus about.

Consuls

Members of the local Tribunal are elected to represent and guide various groups of vampires. Consuls need a reputation more than anything else, so patience and popularity propel them more than age alone. Which groups have enough power to be recognized and vote depends on the city in question. Some Consuls represent strains of Kindred, particular lineages, life stages (neonates, ancillae, elders), powers, or eras. For instance, if a city has a host of Kindred who Turned or were Embraced during the Roaring 20s, they could elect a member to send to the Tribunal. While a representative can be refused or ignored, that can be a dangerous mistake, depending on who stands behind them.

Consuls are diplomats first and foremost. They are expected to learn the concerns of their group, dispense advice, and assign mentors to new undead (if none step forward). They gather intelligence about mortal or supernatural events that could impact Kindred and decide what is worthy of taking to the Prince. This often means that Consuls act as ambassadors to other supernatural creatures, assign vampires to influence mortals or institutions, and check up on the ghouls of their underlings. If they want to get anything done, they have to get to know the other Consuls and seek to win their votes. Together, the Consuls balance the power of the Prince.

But Consuls are not simply advisors and politicians. They are responsible for punishing non-capital offenses if no sire or mentor has done the job, including seizing assets, restricting territory, or forbidding contact with agents. An underling can appeal a harsh sentence to the Prince, but doing so can be a terrible error - whatever the Prince decides is final, and the Consul will not be happy about being overridden, either way. There are cities without Consuls but they tend to leave the Prince overwhelmed with his or her duties. Likewise, there are areas with weak Princes and all of the real power in the hands of the Tribunal, but they are usually plagued with intrigue between the Consuls. Regardless of the imbalance, the city suffers as problems slip through the cracks and fester before they can be resolved.

Sheriff

A few famous Imperators during the Empire had Prefects - warriors tasked with military matters in the territory. A Prefect was given permission to move freely, inspect any suspicious location, and take Kindred in for judgment. When a threat was too pressing to wait on, a Prefect had the authority to destroy it. This position was rife with potential for abuse and did not work in many cities. In later times, a Knight was given a code of conduct by the Prince and the Tribunal ensured abuses were fewer and tolerable. In the 1800s, the post was renamed to blend in with law enforcement; a Sheriff in America is called by a similar rank in other countries. They patrol the entire area for significant threats to Kindred interests and investigate leads given by other sources. If a Sheriff is on the scene, they handle vampires lost in frenzy and witnesses to unusual events. Sheriffs can be ordered to guard the Prince or another vampire and to act as executioner when one is required. If a sire cannot bear to put down their progeny, the Sheriff will step in. One thing that has not changed is that a Sheriff is appointed by whoever holds the most power - Prince or Tribunal - and generally loses their rank if their patron(s) are ousted.

Other officials may be appointed by the ruler or voted on by the Tribunal, depending on the city’s needs. Many cities will have Messengers to deliver official communications to other Curia territories. Provisioners are also common and keep track of clean blood, as well as areas where prey is sparse; their counsel is sought anytime new domains are to be given out. Places that value lore have Archivists, those with many Kindred events have Seneschals, and those that uphold mysticism have official Oracles. Particularly rigid courts have Oathmasters to keep track of Blood Oaths and debts with other cities’ Kindred; especially decadent courts have Revelers to handle the highest entertainments. Lesser offices, such as Morticians and Scouts, are filled as necessary by Consuls or Sheriffs.

It is important to note that all of these major offices can be acquired directly or under the pressure of having been chosen. While enterprising vampires can maneuver their way into power, they can often be stymied by opposition or their lack of popular support. On the other hand, vampires with no political aspirations may find themselves with titles they did not want or ask for. Some are trusted to do the work, a few are widely adored or feared; others are given duties as a kind of test, or to put a check on their personal power. Regardless of how much they may wish to refrain, few Kindred are able to turn down a title once it is offered in public at an official event, with many other vampires in attendance. There is simply too much to lose by shoving such an honor back in everyone’s faces. The few brave refusals on record have been followed by sabotage, widespread disrespect, and flight from the city in question.

Members

As stated previously, the Curia assumes that vampires are basically under their banner until shown otherwise. This includes the newly turned, the ancient, and everyone in between. That does not mean all cities and vampires are immediately granted the privileges of official membership; it does mean that Curiae will be non-aggressive and offer full membership when they meet unknown Kindred. They will also assume that other vampires want the civilization and order that the sect provides. This assumption has been taken as arrogance by many - and is certainly based in the sect’s belief that its way of unlife is best - but has led to more new members across the globe than violent overtures.

Adjusting to the Curia lifestyle is rarely as easy as it seems it will be when the Compact is sealed. Even peaceful vampires balk at all the new rules, at the presence of a quaestor judging them, or at the blanket denial of the Beast’s urges. Kindred who want to explore the vampiric condition may resent being forced to rely on the living for so much of their prestige and give them so much of their time. Those from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds may find the dogged pursuit of wealth and influence over mortals to be distasteful, especially since mortals who disappoint Curia standards are so easily discarded. Some vampires genuinely and desperately want the control the Curia offers but struggle to change their ways, which could be decades or centuries old.

Historically, the Curia has been influenced to various degrees by the prejudices of mortals. While this was most true in the ancient world, it remained a significant obstacle in the Middle Ages and continues to pose problems in modern cities. Those who had been born slaves fared the worst in Roman times, as they were deemed inferior stock, unworthy of status until they performed miracles to earn their “freedom” (sometimes a second time, after having acquired freedom in their breathing years). Curiae of despised races and faiths have had to work against stubborn biases in order to obtain - and at times, maintain - rank and privilege. Female vampires of all but the upper crust have had to be the most manipulative, connected, and vicious in order to prove their worth. While modern mores have made many cities more equitable, it doesn’t take much for old prejudices to show up in conversations and beliefs about a vampire’s worth.

Regulations

The Curia is founded on the Traditions, a set of restrictions formally known as the Ius Lamia. They are the most strict rules of the sect with the harshest penalties for violation because they provide the stability that all vampires need to survive. No one is above the Ius Lamia, and high ranking Curiae have been assassinated by the dregs of their cities for trying to hide their sins.

The First Tradition: The Separation

The First Tradition demands The Separation - that is, the separation of the mortal and supernatural spheres. Trusted and controlled servants may come to know about the existence of the otherworldly but they must never be let into secrets, able to prove anything, or allowed to share their knowledge with others. This not only includes knowledge of vampires but the secrets of other supernaturals. It is far too dangerous for mortals to know for certain that the supernatural exists.

It is the duty of all Kindred to pervert what is written, spread false tales, and ruthlessly squash rumors on the right track. Any records must be claimed and hidden or destroyed outright. Mortals must have their memories fixed, their reputations ruined, or their lives taken to protect the hidden world around them. There are no exceptions to this rule, and Embracing a troublesome mortal is usually seen as a violation, leading to an immediate Blood Hunt against the sire and their offspring.

The Second Tradition: The Domain

The Second Tradition, The Domain, follows ancient precedent about one’s home. Even the lowest vampire deserves a place to call their own. It might be a small parcel, but while a vampire is in their domain, their word is to be respected first and foremost (so long as it doesn’t violate other Traditions). Curiae are also held liable for what happens on their property, especially when it comes to protecting blood and privacy for the Kindred at large. Curiae must keep an eye on any land they have been granted by the Prince or Princess.

Likewise, the domains of others must be honored. A vampire is expected to announce their presence when they are in another vampire’s territory, regardless of status, and are expected to report problems to a domain’s master. This is meant to prevent hunting in others’ backyards and other intrigues that lead to violence. If a vampire fails to shepherd their domain or grossly violates that of another, they will lose their claim altogether. This Tradition also extends to vampires in a new city; they must seek the Prince or Princess’ leave to stay before doing anything else. Failure to do so could lead to exile before sunrise or, in hotly contested cities, immediate execution.

The Third Tradition: Family

The Third Tradition is that of Family and calls for responsibility over Kindred one has created or agreed to mentor. The local ruler must give permission to Embrace; unauthorized Kindred are usually destroyed. A vampire must announce to their Consul if they are taking on a ward. Either way, a younger vampire’s actions is a reflection on their elder. They must not be allowed to engage in reckless behavior, and their superior is liable for their messes. A vampire should only be released as their own master once they have proven they will follow Curia dictates. This means a sire or mentor can be tied to underlings far longer than they anticipated - and will likely be blamed if their students make grave mistakes in the first years following their release.

Related to this is a restriction on destroying fellow Kindred. Curiae must seek permission of the Tribunal to kill another member of the sect (other sects may be fair game, depending on the local ruler and the sect at hand). They must address the Prince or Princess if they believe a Consul or Sheriff should be executed. At any level, a petitioner must prove the target deserves to die and bring evidence of their crimes, and the ultimate judgment is not in their hands. A petitioner can be granted the sole right to hunt the offender, but another vampire may be given the task instead (often, the Sheriff).

If an offender is particularly dangerous or their crimes are egregious, a Blood Hunt will be instated. Once proclaimed, a Blood Hunt gives the offender until sunrise to escape the city and invites all Curiae to join in the pursuit. The prestige of bringing down a vampire thus condemned is enormous. The offender’s domain, ghouls, mortal ties, and other resources are also open to attack (and can be claimed by others in the process), so long as they are not too public or important. In any case, the Princess or Prince usually has the final say; a Tribunal can overrule them, but this is rarely practiced.

Key Tenets

The Curia is rich in philosophy and advice to guide nightly life, but in truth, every parable and treatise is based on a few key tenets. These come directly from the mors maiorum, the “way of the ancestors” which guided Roman society. They have been expanded upon to account for the unique pressures that Kindred face in the battle for sanity over the ages. The respect that one gains for following them is largely the same, however, and the social penalties for being weak in these areas can be just as oppressive as they were in the ancient world. Younger Kindred have resisted these ideals more in recent centuries, as such customs have seemed increasingly out of step with the mortal world. The old ways continue to win - at least until dissatisfied Curiae jump ship to another sect, a violation which may or may not be forgiven by local rulers.

Pietas

Pietas is taught as dutiful respect, particularly for those above you but extending to all in the sect. Those in command should be obeyed, and fellow Curiae should be treated as distant relations in a family with noble heritage and high expectations. After all, one cannot claim to be superior without acting accordingly, especially with other vampires. At least the pretense of civility is expected at Kindred gatherings where violence is forbidden (which is to say, the vast majority of Curia events). Sires and mentors are to be given great respect at all times. Sires give the gift of eternity; mentors grant guidance even to those not of their making.

Gravitas

To practice pietas, one must cultivate gravitas - honorable self-control. This is even more difficult for Kindred, whose Beasts are always threatening to lash out and act impulsively. Therefore, in the Curia’s philosophy, gravitas represents a necessary, ongoing dedication to restraint. The Beast has no room for love, honor, or empathy. It cannot create or preserve. The release and power it offers lead to thoughtlessness and nothingness. Humans are not always much better off. Mortals fail to control themselves because of their ignorance and hurry to live while they can, but vampires can learn more than a century can grant, and should not hurry into mistakes. Vampires should strive to see the larger picture and avoid the stupid errors mankind makes repeatedly.

The bottom line of gravitas and the Curia dogma is this: Vampires should be better than human or Beast. The greatest gifts of the civilized world - the arts, community, love, and so on - must be used to strengthen a vampire’s hold on reality. They do not make a vampire weak until and unless control is abandoned. A Kindred who is too coddled by luxury to defend him or herself is not honorable. A Kindred who is too loving to protect the object of their affection loving does not deserve it. When the time comes to spill blood, it should be done swiftly and well, but with full awareness and guidance of the higher faculties. If a vampire loses a battle to the Beast, they must examine what went wrong and fix it. Above all, they must not keep giving in. Gravitas is the only way for a vampire to win their mind in the war against the ages.

Fides

The last tenet involves the concept called fides. Mortals might not expect a sect of vampires to espouse trustworthiness and reliability, but these ideals are as important as those above. This does not mean that vampires cannot have secrets or tell lies; the world does not allow for that. Instead, it means that in the most vital matters, Curiae will tell the truth and that they can always be relied upon to work toward the greater good of the sect. They can be expected to keep their promises and will not hesitate to swear Blood Oaths, if the situation calls for it. They will have no other affiliations more important than the Curia. Members will not sell each other out to hunters or enemies and will not support intrigues that weaken the Curia. This includes serving other supernaturals denizens, such as demons, since they go against pietas, gravitas, and fides in their being, methods, and goals. Fides is what keeps the Curia strong in ways that other sects are weak. It maintains order and consistency and grants brotherhood in the long night. Failures of pietas might go against elders and failures of gravitas might harm mortals, but violations of fides go against everyone and everything the Curia stands for.

Rituals and Observances

The Curia as a whole has not been known for mystical events. Cities are free to invoke whichever gods they like, and religious services were common in ancient nights, but few bother with occult matters in modern times. Instead, gatherings are arranged to celebrate achievements

The Introduction

A vampire’s formal introduction to Curia society generally occurs after the Embrace, but for those who turn on their own, it happens once a mentor and the ruler has accepted them. It is as close to a birthday celebration as vampires get, with a gathering of as many Kindred as possible so the new member can be seen by all. The ruler and Consul related to the initiate are absolutely expected, though most Consuls will arrive to see if they can make more connections. Small gifts (usually minor favors, cash, clothes, and the like) are demanded of those who arrive, but extravagant gifts are usually shunned by the initiate’s sire and mentor. Not only are they seen as suspicious ploys for the initiate’s affection, but they are also viewed as spoiling a vampire who must learn to strive for what they deserve. While Kindred can call on the new vampire after their introduction, it is only good form to do so through their sire or mentor. Trying to meet with them privately while they are freshly undead is a faux pas that could result in words with a Consul.

The Release

It is not every night that a young vampire is deemed worthy of becoming their own master and a member of Curia society in their own right. Thus, a ceremony is held to memorialize and applaud the work of the greater vampire and the attainment of the lesser. It is a highly ritualized service in a church-like environment, and being present for such a solemn occasion tends to gain favor with elders. The sire or mentor is chained to their underling and must walk up the aisle barefoot over a path of hot coals, traditionally one foot of coals for every 2 years of the relationship. Those who show little pain during the process enjoy some additional respect from the Kindred in the weeks to come. A participant who tries to escape the coals dooms the whole ritual, which cannot be performed again for another two years, adding another foot of torment to the walk.

If they reach the front and the end of the coals, the appropriate Consul will announce the achievements both participants are known for and strike the chain apart with a sword. At that point, the service of the sire or mentor is finished and their childe or ward announces their name to all. Some younglings have taken the chance to change their names, either to honor those who helped them or to spurn them. As the feet of the participants are cleaned by ghouls, the guests rise and form lines to offer their thoughts and gifts. Once that is done, a reception follows. The participants’ wounds are not healed until the last guest leaves; their discomfort is a reminder that they must step carefully on their own in the nights to come.

Ascension/Descent

The rise of a new Prince, Princess, or Consul is celebrated as they see fit (generally, in grand fashion, for at least a night but sometimes as long as a week). Extravagant gifts and favors are welcome but any Curiae can attend, including fresh members with little to offer. The newly elected official can host the event entirely on their own or accept donations for the event; there are benefits, either way. Being able to afford a bash without aid is seen as a sign of strength, while inviting the community makes donors feel like they are valued.

On the flip side of the coin, the demise of a long-standing member is a blow to the community. As soon as it is safe to do so, the Consul attached to that member is expected to hold a memorial for them. It is common practice for Consuls to include the input of childer and wards into the ceremony. The ritual itself can be a simple sharing of memories by those who attend or a known religious routine. If the deceased was a member of a covenant or an obscure faith, the ritual can be quite odd. Some have been held in languages known to few vampires left on Earth; others have called for bloodletting. Guests are expected to bear it. Childer and/or wards work with Consuls beforehand to decide how to deal with the deceased’s estate. Any bequeathments are made at the end of the ceremony, including gifts to guests and deciding who will inherit ghouls or domain. It is not unheard of for enemies to be given items, as a way to smooth things over with the childer or wards left behind - so it is common for enemies to stay all the way through services for those they loathed.

No matter the case, rituals which involve “lower” instincts and wild ecstasy - including orgies, mass brawls, BDSM, and the like - are verboten to Curiae. These activities cater too much to the Beast and cannot be allowed.

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