Vampire the Requiem: Court and Commonwealth
The Court of D.C.
Washington D.C. is comprised of 3 main factions. Washington D.C. is ruled by a partnership of the Invictus and the Lancea Sanctum. The current leader of the Lancea Sanctum, otherwise known as the Bishop, has been a loyal supporter of the current Invictus Prince since he came to power. The Invictus uses the Lancea Sanctum to deal with threats the Invictus would rather not and in return, the Prince has allowed the Lancea Sanctum to set up 3 sanctuaries. The 3rd faction in DC are the Carthians. Since the nights of the early 90s, they have been divided in their purpose. Part of the Carthian movement joined with the Prince in order to create stability within the city. They demanded representation in order to do it. The other portion of the city’s Carthians have remained wanting for a real political change and due to other ties that keep them there. From time to time it is uttered that a member of the Ordo Dracul, Circle of the Crone, or Baltimore Carthian Movement has infiltrated the other 3 covenants. Sometimes these rumors are true and the imposter ferreted out and sometimes it results in the removal of someone’s rival by false accusation.
The Setup of the Court
At the top of the court is the Prince. It is he who makes decrees, issues blood hunts, gives tasks, and enforces the traditions. As head of the city, the Prince acts as legislative, executive, and judiciary branch. Beneath him are the officers of the court. Prince Johannes has 3 loyal “children” who fill the necessary duties of the court. The eldest and most loyal serves as seneschal (the Prince’s assistant and court manager), the next in line as Sheriff (enforcer of the Princes law), and the youngest as Master of Elysium (groundskeeper and liaison with the venue). Other positions within the court are filled by other members of the Invictus and other citizens of the court.
When the Prince decides to issue a new law, he usually will draft it and then pass it through a small council of elders. This council includes representatives of the 5 houses, the 3 sanctuaries, and the 2 Carthian movement leaders. This council doesn’t actually get to make changes to the law, but rather it only gets to veto the law if the majority of the council agrees that the law should be discarded. The Prince gets his way a significant portion of the time due to the fact that the Prince has a large sway over the representatives from the 5 houses. However, when the Prince tries to push a severely detrimental law, the council has been known to unite to veto it.
The court meets every month and usually representatives of the 5 houses and a few other chosen members are required to attend. Other members of the kindred community are welcome to attend each monthly session of court and some do sporadically. Every new Vampire must present themselves to the Prince upon entering the city and it is usually best to do so within your first month. It has been known that the Prince will usually call a blood hunt on vampires who spend a month and a day in the city without presenting themselves to him.
Every 6 months, an Elysium is held. All vampires in the city and beltway districts are required to attend. Usually this is done so that major announcements might be made, but also so the Prince and Seneschal get an idea of how many Vampires are still in the city. Both court and Elysium are places where neither disciplines nor violence can be used unless there is prior approval from the Prince. It tends to be only court officers who are meant to maintain the peace and safety of the proceedings who are allowed to use disciplines. As far as violence goes, duels are allowed, but when they are usually require that the dueling parties be forced to leave the premises of the Elysium for another nearby location that is outside of public view.
Court and Elysium are rather formal affairs and all in attendance are required to wear formal attire. The gatherings themselves begin with a formal ceremony of the entrance of the Prince, where any new decrees or important announcements from the Prince are made, and then followed by announcements from each of the houses in the city. Next, each Lancea Sanctum Sanctuary is to present upon their work in the city and then any other person in attendance may use the moment to speak freely of accomplishments they have achieved in that month.
After the opening ceremony, any new Vampires may formally present themselves to those gathered where they are usually required to state where they intend to live and where they have come from. At that point a meal and time for mingling is provided. After an hour or so, the gathering reconvenes for the Prince to hear grievances and settle disputes. An hour is usually set aside for this time unless a matter truly requires more. The entire court does not have to attend that proceeding and can instead opt to continue mingling in a side room. The end of court/Elysium is marked by the Seneschal announcing the time and place of the next gathering and by remaining behind to wrap up any other official court business.
The Invictus are the purveyors of the Feudal rule that exists in DC. Divided into 5 great “houses”, the invictus aristocracy tends to compete among each other for most of the positions and resources in the city. The Prince claims all of DC as his domain, but parcels out much of it to those families that have earned favors from him. All spaces not owned by an invictus family is seen as a common space usable by the rest of city’s vampires. All 5 houses only owe their allegiance to the Prince. The Prince often sits above the rest of the politics of the houses, usually only descending into the fray from time to time to keep competition from getting out of control. Differences between the houses can get rather cut throat, but the Prince has agreed to a system of settling disputes by either duel or usually through mortal proxies.
The 5 Houses
The Invictus has never operated as 1 cohesive group. There have always been a few “houses” operating out of DC that have risen and fallen through the years. The Prince himself had been a member of a house that had represented continental European immigrants at one time. Today there are 5 houses that vie for control under the leadership of the Prince. Around the time of the Princes ascendancy, there had been another houses\ that vied with Van Etten for power, but after the coup he successfully eradicated them and their influence from the city.
Houses usually act as a Feudal institution. There is usually a matriarch/patriarch who rules the house. Those who have childer usually pass on leadership to their eldest when they go into torpor or when they fear the schemes of their opponents. Underneath the head of the family is usually some sort of advisor figure and then those willing to do leg work. Most of the houses in the city consist of 3 – 6 vampires, depending on the Prince’s willingness for members to embrace mortals. All of the Houses, however, have deep ties to institutions through out the city. Members of the Lancea Sanctum and the Carthian Movement must be careful in what sort of mortal allies they seek to cultivate as each house tends to stake a claim on certain institutions and populations.
There are three methods for members of the DC court to settle disputes. Adjudication from the Prince, a formal duel, or a Challenge of the Kine. While a duel is usually the quickest means of settling a matter, it is the least predictable and often lends itself to being the most dangerous for those involved. A challenge of the Kine is often done by members of the community who have long since shred any last sense of humanity they might have once had. Whereas, adjudication by the Prince tends to be a long drawn out process that costs a lot of money and is just as likely to yield unfavorable results for both parties.
Adjudication by the Prince is a long and costly process that requires offended parties first take their claims to the Seneschal. The Seneschal will then look through a time in the near future in which the Prince is capable of bringing the dispute in front of the court. Once a time is selected (usually 6 months to a year from the time it is brought to the Seneschal) the Seneschal will require that both parties pay a rather significant fee. Many Vampires can’t afford the Prince’s steep fee and usually opt for other options. Once the fee is paid, the two parties wait for the appointed date at which point the Prince gives both parties a small amount of time to bring their cases forward and then the Prince asks for any witness testimony. Only the testimony of a Vampire is respected as mortals can be ghouled or dominated far too easily. The Prince then hands down a decision and once he makes a decision he does not reconsider. Whether it is fair for anyone doesn’t matter to Prince.
After many individual spats between the houses and covenants, the Prince resurrected an old rite found in Invictus communities. Those who take offense from another party may issue an official challenge. The challenged individual is allowed to set the conditions of the duel. Usually the time, place, weapons to be used, and limitations of the duelers (first blood if he really wishes just to drive home a point or to the death if he wishes to see greater consequences). Each party will always choose a second who can act as an intermediary or negotiator, serve as a proxy if necessary, or another person who is there to make sure the conditions of the duel are honored. If an individual dies as part of a duel, that matter is deemed to be settled by the Princes court and the dead party’s allies and friends are not allowed to seek retribution (although they may always make an official challenge).
The other means allowed to members of the Court is a skirmish fought by mortal proxies known as the challenge of the Kine. After a formal challenge is issued and conditions set, the parties in question are given a certain amount of time to brainwash, bribe, blackmail, train, or equip mortal proxies. The seneschal is made aware of any challenges of the kine so that he may have a court official there to help maintain the masquerade. At the appointed time and place, the kindred’s mortal proxy or proxies will fight it out usually to the death with their opponents. Other kindred are not barred from watching and some enjoy purveying a challenge of the kine. Some kindred enjoy maintaining a stable of fighters although doing so in areas close to the DMV are pretty challenging. Any and all results are final and only in the event of cheating (usually determined by the court official in attendance) is a rematch or other sort of retribution allowed.
The Lancea Sanctum
The Lancea Sanctum are given a few sanctuaries throughout the city. The Prince has decreed that any person may flee to the Lancea Sanctum sanctuaries to temporarily escape the justice of the Aristocratic Houses or any other party they may be fleeing. However, that sanctuary is temporary unless, that individual is able to invoke the rite of Obsequium Sui or “Service Before Self”. By invoking this rite, the refuge promises to become a willing servant of the Sanctuary and the order that maintains it. If their request is granted by the manager of that sanctuary, then they will be inducted into that order and forced to live an unlife of servitude.
Obsequium Sui is not an all powerful right however. The Prince can always leverage the Bishop Anthony Davis to deny an orders right to give sanctuary. It has happened a few times in the past and in those instances, it isn’t long until the individual suddenly goes missing. The Sanctuaries act as gathering points for a number of the kindred and while there are other groups within the DC Lancea Sanctum, it is only the Sanctuaries that are given some sort of representation in the ability to vote against Princely decrees.
Lancea Sanctum Sanctuaries
Most sanctuaries are places for Kindred to rest and restore themselves before they go back to their work of instilling the fear of god in mortals. Each Sanctuary is run by a Priest or an Abbot who’s responsibility is to lead mortal clergy in conveying the message meant for mortal congressional goers. The Priest or Abbot is also meant to watch over the Kindred of their congregation and helping to be their brothers keeper. God instilled each member with the beast to serve his justice to mortals, not to help satan by causing unjust and rampant murder. Each Priest and Abbot is to help keep each Kindred in touch with what humanity that might remain.
Holy Trinity Catholic Church
Established in 1787, Holy Trinity Church is located in Georgetown and was founded before the actual establishment of the city. Holy Trinity Church was where the original Lancea Sanctum ruler of the Parish of the Mid-Atlantic came from. After the Schism, the Archbishop disappeared and the church became a small Sanctuary through negotations with the Prince. Since that time, the congregation has been led by Rev. William Ryan.
Greater Mount Cavalry Pentecostal Church
The Greater Mount Cavalry Pentacostal Church is actually part of a larger network of Pentacostal churches up and down the eastern seaboard. The church was only relatively recently established in the 1970s but has since become a big player among the Kindred communities Lancea Sanctum. After the coup that removed the Cardinal who was catholic from power over DC, kindred from Greater Mount Cavalry moved into to close the power vacuum within the local Lancea Sanctum. Currently led by the Bishop Anthony Davis, the few kindred that serve this movement emphasize a personal relationship with the divine and each other. They are often called to be their brother’s keeper which often for kindred members manifests in keeping each other accountable for preying on known “sinners” and perceived dens of evil. They see the mortal arm of the church as the carrot and the kindred arm the stick, but are willing to harm both members and nonmembers alike who stray from their godly duties. The Kindred of this group often support the works of their mortal counterparts quietly.
Capitol Hill Baptist Church
Capitol Hill Baptist Church has been a long standing institution of Capitol Hill. Originally erected in 1867 by mortals who wished to try and heal rifts between northerners and southerners, it has slowly morphed into a more evangelical intsitution over the years. The kindred who have created this as a sanctuary often feel it is best to hide among the mortal ranks and rather than harm mortal members, track the networks of sinning mortal members to enact retribution on those individuals . Led by Chris Herndon, the Kindred of this sanctuary treat sinning congregants as plague bearers. They terrorize those that enable their congregants to sin with a zealous enthusiasm.
The Carthian Movement
The Carthian movment of DC suffered tragically during the Great Schism. Many Carthians were killed in the fighting and most eventually fled to Baltimore. A small contingent stayed behind hoping to grow numbers after their final pardon by the Prince and the establishment of the Kenilworth Regency. Two factions survived the fall out: The Constitutionalists and the Populists as they tend to be called.
Currently led by Raheem Muhammed, the constitutionalists were a group of realists or at least thats what they’ll tell you. Towards the end of the fighting between the Lancea Sanctum and the Carthians, it became quite clear that the Carthians wouldn’t be able to keep fighting alone. The Constitutionalists reason that if the Lancea Sanctum continued to hold power, they wouldn’t stop killing until all the Carthians in the city were dead. As the Carthian position became more and more desperate, Johannes Van Etten reached out to make a deal: “Die fighting the Cardinal or help me take power and survive”.
It was out of sheer generosity that Van Etten even allowed the Constitutionalists the right to create the veto board that exists today. After the fighting was over and Van Etten installed at the seat of power over Washington DC, the Carthians who had helped him remembered how he had saved them. Their leader Raheem was given the neighborhood around his haven as his own regency as a gift to those who helped Van Etten’s ascent.
The Constitutionalists took their name from an insult hurled at them by their populist brothers. The populists levied the charge that the Constitutionalists would settle for a Constitutional Monarchy rather than fight for pure Carthian ideals. The older members of the movement are no longer sure if the Populists were right or not, but its too late to go back and change the deal now. They label themselves realists and yet they still lobby the Prince from time to time about reforms they wish to see implemented. Hell, surprisingly enough the Prince even occasionally enacts their suggestions. It’s not a perfect system, but it seems to work better than what the alternative could have been.
The Populists believe they are all that remains of the fight for the great reform the Carthians sought 25 years ago. Most Populists tend to be younger Vampires who felt that the war with the Cardinal could have been won many years ago. They still dream of a time when all Vampires can come together and determine their collective fate peaceably and fairly. The elders of the invictus and a few among the Constitutionalists often call them naive.
They’re led by the great Jada White, who never completely agreed to all the Prince’s demands for power. When the dust had settled and the Cardinal was deposed, Johannes Van Etten knew they would need to be dealt with. So much Vitae had been spilled that Van Etten decided for the city to move on, he would need to budge – something he doesn’t do much anymore. Van Etten granted White the right to rule the Kenilworth Gardens area as her regency to do with as she pleased. Since that time many Populists have moved to that area of the city to live in their democratic paradise where they choose a leader every few years. For Jada the arrangement has worked out in her favor. While she isn’t always the leader, she is the one who the court recognizes as legitimate and if she needs leverage she can always use the fact that the Prince will allow her to do what she wants in her regency.
The regency at the moment is led by Jada after the failure of recent popular neonate brought economic and political instability into the area. The populists recently returned her to power in a hopes of curing the economic blight where they live. Van Etten cares not for any of the Kenilworth Regency’s business as long as the Populists know that inside the regency, the masquerade is kept and outside the regency his rules go.