Blood in the Water
A clan is a vampiric lineage. The Kindred acknowledge five clans, and all Kindred belong to one clan or another. The most widely accepted theory regarding clans is that they are like “families” of vampires. Members of clans all inherit certain mystical commonalities, from acumen with certain Disciplines to traditional shortcomings for their particular type. One of the failings of the “families” theory is that none of the clan progenitors are reliably known, and only a few are guessed at with any degree of confidence. Certainly, the clans came from somewhere – but where? In a modern context, only two Kindred are known to have no clan, and they haven’t reliably demonstrated that they’ve been able to Embrace over the course of their Requiems. These vampires, the legendary Dracula and the Roman centurion Longinus are responsible for the creation of certain covenants, not clans, but might they be on a path toward clan creation themselves? And if the origin of clans doesn’t lie with certain progenitor vampires, from what source do clans originate? If Longinus and Dracula have no clan, who’s to say that other, more secretive Kindred haven’t also suffered the curse in some way?
Tonight, the influence of the clans is felt almost everywhere. The five clans have a presence throughout the Western world, or so it is believed. The Kindred definitely came to the New World along with the early colonists, suggesting that these vampires are European in origin, or that they grew out of the civilizations that first populated the world and followed the movements of mortal men. Oral histories and sparse records indicate that some vampiric presence existed among the tribal cultures of North America before its colonization, but whether these creatures were members of clans or solitary, unique beings – or even if they were truly vampires at all – cannot be determined. While information on the Far East is fleeting, members of the five clans are known to be active there, as they are in Africa, South America, and much of the Middle East. Still, little is known about how indigenous culture shapes the understanding of clans in all these regions, and anyone attempting to study the phenomenon is probably wise to take no presuppositions with him.
A bloodline is like a clan, but its characteristics are not so universal. It might help to think of a bloodline as a “sub-clan.” Not all vampires are members of bloodlines. Each bloodline has a parent clan from which it distinctively diverges, yet claims descent. Kindred scholars have no reliable estimates of how many bloodlines exist in the world tonight, because bloodlines can arise at any time and few of them would stand up to be counted, even if some formal roster of them were made.
The Daeva are emotional, sensual, and desirable. Sexual predators and sensual hedonists alike populate the ranks of these succubi-seducers.
Among Kindred historians, the Daeva are suspected of being one of the oldest clans of the Damned. Their moniker suggests a Persian mythological origin, and their abilities that they could be related to the demons from which they take their name. A few ancient writings suggest that the progenitor of the line was a Kindred known as Aesma Daeva, but vampiric scholars debate whether this individual was actually undead or the writings merely draw comparisons to the Persian demon of lust and anger.
The name “Daeva” predates the commonly accepted origin point of Kindred society, generally understood to parallel the ascension of Rome. Certainly, some incarnation of the Daeva existed before them, but whether they had their own society or were merely a rabble of lust-crazed revenants is unknown. After the rise of Rome, the Daeva had become an inextricable part of Kindred society, and vampiric history shows that they were very active in the Camarilla, the first known social contract of the undead.
The Gangrel are primal, hardy, and savage. They embody the myths of vampires turning into animals or otherwise changing form (wolves, bats, mist).
Many Kindred believe that the Gangrel clan is an old one, but due to the Gangrel’s bestial nature, few records exist that can connect their origins to any specific time period. While the murky pre-history of the Kindred contains any number of legends about bestial vampires, not all of those tales coincide with the hallmarks of the Gangrel.
Geographically, the Gangrel seem to hail from what is tonight Eastern Europe, where they came in contact with the nascent Camarilla and were reluctantly drawn into that society. As Rome’s holdings moved westward, so, too did the Camarilla and thus the Gangrel. Historians also theorize strong Gangrel roots in what is modern Scandinavia. Since those early nights of society, the Gangrel have chosen the outlying borders of domains for their own territories. As such, Gangrel are often seen as pioneers, eking out an existence where domains will later form, or as scavengers, clinging desperately to territories and refusing to yield once domains have fallen.
The Mekhet are quick, discreet, and wise. Legends of vampires hiding in shadows, preying secretly on victims, and even learning secrets no one else but the keeper is supposed to know probably refer to Mekhet activities.
Some of the oldest Kindred known to the vampiric world are members of Clan Mekhet, though most spend their time harrowed by the cold sleep known as torpor. While most are predisposed toward solitude, some have traveled with mortal armies and are even suspected of forming undead mercenary factions of their own. As with most other clans, nothing verifiable is known about the progenitor of the Mekhet line. Many stories depict reclusive Mekhet cult-leaders or masters of schools of stealthy soldiers, so the clan might have origins that about the Pharaohs or philosopher-kings of the Classical or Ancient worlds.
The name Mekhet itself gives some clues as to the clan’s origin, as it is an Egyptian word for “amulet.” Some of the most venerable elders certainly bear features that might be described as Egyptian, while a few have classical Hellenic complexions, which isn’t surprising, considering Greece’s proximity to Egypt. The commerce between the Egyptians and Greeks, and later the Romans, corresponds with the legendary travels of members of this clan, as well as their formative role in the nascent Camarilla. Since that time, the Mekhet have traveled wherever shadows have fallen, wherever secrets lay hidden, and wherever Kindred call upon others to give them counsel.
The Nosferatu are stealthy, strong, and terrifying. Their very presence unnerves people, whether by physical ugliness, foul stench, or nebulous personal malignance.
Studies of Nosferatu legend suggest that the clan is relatively young, possibly originating not too long before the rise of Rome, and possibly among the peoples it conquered. Certainly, the Nosferatu were active among the clans of the Camarilla, but proof of their presence before then is spotty at best. And yet, claims occasionally surface about very old Kindred who, if not Nosferatu, are strikingly like the Nosferatu. Whether these vampires are indeed members of the same clan, are Kindred of some “proto-clan” that became the Nosferatu, or are entirely unrelated can only be guessed at.
Legends of the Nosferatu are historically heaviest in central Europe, particularly in Germany, northern Italy, and eastern France. Early records describing what seem to be broods of Nosferatu also originate in modern Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece, with some indication of presence in north Africa as well. Like the Gangrel, Nosferatu tend to either seek out territories before or after most of Kindred culture bothers with them. Unlike the Gangrel, though, the Nosferatu adapt relatively quickly to the presence of other vampires, relying on their monstrous nature to make a place for them in the society of the Damned.
The Ventrue are regal, commanding, and aristocratic. Vampires as everything from Eastern European lords on the mountain to gentrified nobles to modern corporate raiders belong to this clan.
Surprisingly, the Ventrue are understood to be the youngest of the clans, almost certainly originating in Rome itself, probably in tandem with the formation of the Camarilla. While their history is relatively short (in vampiric terms), it is also distinguished, as the Ventrue are made to rule. Although none remember the name of the first Ventrue, various vampiric histories do ascribe the origin of the clan, which was believed to be a covenant, to a single female vampire. A darker history implies that this Kindred was not the first of the Ventrue line, but that she consumed the soul of her own sire, and in so doing founded a new bloodline that rose to the status of a proper clan.
As might be surmised, the Ventrue have historically been strongest in Europe, from which they grew into North and Central America, but their presence elsewhere in the world has been relatively minor. As a clan, their numbers are probably fewer than those of any other clan, but such things vary by domain, as one vampire community might consist of nothing but Ventrue – likely all the preeminent Kindred’s progeny.