Vampire the Requiem: Court and Commonwealth
In the eyes of those who don’t understand it — and, admittedly, of some who do — the Invictus is the despised aristocracy of the undead, the gentry who did nothing to earn their position but who would do anything to maintain it. They’re the landlord, the overseer, the dictator. The Invictus might not truly hold much more authority across the domains than the other covenants do, but it makes such a big deal about what power it does have that many Kindred often associate it with the highest offices. The Invictus often tries to portray itself as among the oldest covenants, with or without justification. Oldest or not, the covenant is certainly tenured. It has vast interest— and influence — in mortal affairs, and many outside the covenant see it as the guardian (sometimes excessively so) of the Masquerade
To an extent, the common perception of the Invictus is accurate as far as it goes, but it leaves the greatest depths of the covenant unexamined. The so-called First Estate is, at its heart, still rooted in the feudal system. It was purportedly during some stage soon after the collapse of the Roman Empire that the Invictus developed into what it is tonight, cementing a dogma that its elders claim (accurately or not) actually predates the fall. Call it divine right, the natural order, rule by the strong or whatever you like — the Invictus operates entirely as a system of linked monarchies. Everything is about power. Those who don’t have it want it, while those who have it want to keep and increase it.
Ultimately, then, the Invictus exists in part to maintain order among the Kindred. Like any aristocracy, the First Estate suffers in lawlessness. Only through an ordered existence and the rule of law can the leaders of the covenant maintain their power. With the possible exception of the Lancea Sanctum, which has religious motivations for its actions, the Invictus is the most draconian covenant when it comes to enforcing the letter of the Traditions and Kindred law. It maintains the illusion of freedom and opportunity within the covenant, cloaking its tyrannical system in metaphors of “government by the fittest,” in hopes of appealing to those outside its ranks, but the group is truly more concerned with keeping order among its own ranks.
The Invictus believes in keeping as much power as possible in its own hands, and in constantly acquiring more. A good member is one who either advances his position in society, or who aids other Invictus Kindred in advancing theirs. Apathetic or ineffective Kindred are tolerated only as lackeys and pawns. The covenant’s overarching philosophy has spawned several other guidelines, all on the level of unwritten rules. That is, nobody’s going to write them down, but everyone who’s been in the covenant more than a short while knows better than to casually ignore them.
The Invictus Must Be Respected
Without a doubt, the Invictus prefers to announce its presence, yet it isn’t stupid about it. Members of the First Estate are experts at backroom deals and covert schemes, and they keep a secret as well as anyone. If the Invictus holds power in a region, though, it wants the Kindred to know that it’s in charge. Doing so inspires others to flock to its banners; after all, everybody likes being where the power is. Making a public show also helps squash any opposition to the faction’s local goals, since many Kindred are reluctant to take on a member of so powerful a covenant while they would have less objection to challenging,
say, a Carthian leader. Finally, displays of power are simply a social convention.
The Invictus is extremely hierarchical and very formal. Its members often demand the respect and status they feel they’re due. Many Invictus Princes and other leaders who choose to hold formal courts announce their covenant allegiance without ever saying the word “Invictus.” The Invictus, alone among covenants, considers itself to be an actual entity, worthy of admiration. The Invictus alone not only demands oaths of loyalty to local covenant leaders, but considers them paramount above any and all other allegiances. It’s probably this practice that creates the illusion that so many Princes are Invictus. Because Invictus leaders often make such a point of their covenant affiliation, more so than those of other covenants, the First Estate is associated with the position.
Mortals Are Power
While all the covenants understand the need for the Masquerade, the Invictus focuses most heavily on not merely infiltrating but manipulating and influencing mortal society. In the covenant’s quest for political dominance, it wastes no opportunity — and six billion kine represent quite an opportunity. Most elder Kindred of all covenants wield some amount of influence in local affairs or among businessmen, but when one pictures the vampire sitting at the heart of a web of corporate, political, criminal and social connections— a rare but extant stereotype — one probably pictures a member of the Invictus.
The Invictus in the DMV
The Invictus remain strong in the region with control over the entire court of DC and with nominal acceptance in Baltimore. In DC, the Prince Johannes Van Etten has established a monarchical court and a corresponding aristocracy that keeps the cities kindred in check. All who wish to remain in the city are pawns in the game of each regent and the other power players. The Prince is too strong and all others have yet to find a means of dislodging him or his cronies.
In Baltimore the Invictus exist, yet no one pays them any attention as they are completely cut off from the Prince. As part of the agreements that ended the war between the court and commonwealth, what few Invictus aristocrats were there were allowed to remain. The Carthians quarrel wasn’t originally with the Invictus but with the Lancea Sanctum and as such, those in Invictus ranks were left largely alone. When fighting began between the two factions, those in Baltimore found defensible positions with many mortal servants to keep most of their members safe until a peace could be quickly worked out.