Lancea et Sanctum

106px-LogoCovenantLanceaSanctum.jpg

Associated Disciplines: Theban Sorcery
To members of the Lancea Sanctum, the self-proclaimed heralds of undead morality, their origin defines everything they are and everything they do. Indeed, the modern sobriquet “Sanctified,” by which the covenant is sometimes known, incenses many elders and traditionalists of the covenant, who prefer to use the Latin “Lancea Sanctum” when referring to the collective covenant. They are the religious and even moral backbone of the Kindred, yes, but they are also self-appointed priests and inquisitors. The most inhuman of an inhuman race, they exalt the role of predator. Universally respected yet universally feared, this covenant constantly seeks power over all Kindred everywhere, not for political rule, as the Invictus does, but to enforce the dictates, attitudes and even thoughts that they believe have been handed down to them from their originator Longinus, and by extension from God Himself. The catechism of the Lancea Sanctum is that they are the ideological descendants of the Roman centurion who used his spear to prod Christ on the cross.

According to the covenant’s dogma, some of Christ’s blood dripped onto the soldier, and this blood gave the centurion eternal life. It also carried with it, however, divine retribution, and though Longinus’ act revealed Christ’s divinity, it did so after an act of faithlessness on the soldier’s part. Thereafter, Longinus was cursed to live eternally, but he could walk only at night and subsist only on the same blood that had proved his undoing. As the creation myth blends into covenant philosophy, vampires are a form of “original sin,” though God allows them to exist, and indeed even charges them with the task of representing the risks of His divine displeasure.

Overview
Perhaps one of the single most fundamental differences between the Lancea Sanctum and the Invictus is that members of the Invictus want to be the rulers of all Kindred while members of the Lancea Sanctum believe that their covenant already does rule in all ways that matter. The fact that its members claim dominance over fewer domains than the Invictus does is of no concern. They speak for God and represent the pinnacle of what the undead should be. Clearly, in the final analysis, true power is theirs.

If the Invictus represents the nobility and aristocracy, then the Sanctified are the priests, bishops, paladins and the religious and spiritual advisors. (Members of the Invictus occasionally refer to the Lancea Sanctum as the Second Estate, in extension of their own metaphor, itself a perversion of the historical first and second estates.) Most of the covenent’s members take their role as ecclesiastical guides to their fellow undead very seriously. Many of the Damned — the Lancea Sanctum prefers the older and more severe term to the more recent “Kindred” — advise Princes and other leaders on religious and moral matters. They discuss theological ramifications of decisions, and point out how a proposed action or an alleged crime violates (or fails to violate) the Traditions as interpreted by Longinus. Some members of the Lancea Sanctum take their duties further still, counseling younger Sanctified on what it means to be a vampire, educating them about the mythology and spirituality of the race, and even advising them on how to be more effective predators. This, they feel, is part of their duty as decreed by their founder — to ensure that all of the faithful understand their place in God’s creation.

And if this were all the Sanctified did, it’s unlikely the Lancea Sanctum would wield the fearsome reputation it has acquired. The Sanctified are determined that all their brethren should follow Longinus’ philosophies. And more specifically, that they should all follow the Lancea Sanctum’s interpretation of those laws. The covenant does not merely advise, it enforces. Its members do not merely preach, they demand. Members of the faction are known for their zealotry not only because Longinus himself was cursed by God, but because they maintain that violence and bloodshed are perfectly acceptable means of conversion.

The Lancea Sanctum is not mindless in its devotion to covenant principles, however, or at least most of its members are not. Violence is not necessarily their first resort. It is far better to convince other vampires of the wisdom and righteousness of their cause than to cut down a potential brother or sister. Nor is the covenant anxious to deplete its own numbers in hopeless or unnecessary conflict. In domains where other covenants hold clear dominance, the Lancea Sanctum is often willing to work with them. Sanctified members advise the current leadership in hopes of both steering its decisions and gaining their own status. They also circulate among the Kindred on the streets, preaching their message of a better way, drumming up support for future activities. The Sanctified are as patient as a cult of the undead can afford to be; violence is not to be avoided, but neither is it to be engaged in without purpose. Once the Lancea Sanctum has determined that bloodshed is the best route to an objective, however, God be merciful to anyone who stands in the way.

Of course, as frightened as many Kindred are of the Lancea Sanctum, they can take comfort in the notion that mortals have it even worse. The Sanctified have a reputation for being vampires in the truest sense of the word. They are not the mindless, bloodthirsty vandals who represent the worst of the unbound. Nor are they the brooding erstwhile generals of the Invictus, sending followers to their deaths on a whim. No, Sanctified are so frightening because they are so matter-of-fact, even reverent, about their vampiric nature. Ever since the covenant’s founding in the nights following Longinus’ curse, one of their fundamental precepts stated that the true Sanctified must fully acknowledge that he is no longer mortal. Vampires occupy a higher level. They are predators, feeding on mortals as those same Canaille do upon cows and sheep. To be true to the teachings of Longinus and the purposes of the Almighty, a Sanctified has to be a predator and no longer even pretend to be one of the kine from which he came. The Lancea Sanctum has no particular love of cruelty (or at least most of its members do not), nor do their beliefs or laws permit them such wantonness. They simply treat their prey as no better than animals, and this cold ruthlessness is often far more disturbing than any random outburst of conscious malice.

Members
Unlike the Invictus, which appeals more to elder vampires than young, or the Carthians, who tend toward the reverse, the Lancea Sanctum projects an equal appeal to undead of all ages. What an elder looks for in the covenant, however, is often not the same as what interests a neonate.

Most elders join for religious or spiritual reasons. Some come to the Sanctified seeking enlightenment and understanding. They have walked this Earth for many mortal lifetimes and have come to see that they — and their race — must have some higher purpose. They believe that God must have had some reason for making them what they are, and that Longinus’ philosophy offers them at least the first few steps on a path toward answers. Others join the covenant not to seek answers, but to provide them for others. Religious zealots often believe that the entire world would be better off if everyone simply turned to their own way of thinking, and the fanatics of the Lancea Sanctum are no exception. Many elders join (or remain with) the Sanctified not for their own sake, but for the sake of others. They would make all vampires everywhere understand what they are, what they should be and what they must do. They’ll all be better off, then — and those who must suffer and die in the process, well, it’s all for the best of reasons.

Of course, it would be foolish to imply that all Sanctified who seek the conversion of the entire undead race do so for altruistic reasons. Some want to convert their brethren only to exalt their own position. Surely God or at least their superiors in the covenant will eventually reward them. All they must do is prove themselves worthy by converting just a few more non-believers.

The majority of young vampires who are drawn to the covenant are enticed not by any deeply held religious convictions, but by a lack of those selfsame convictions and of any other solid sense of identity. The Lancea Sanctum, more than any other covenant (except possibly the Circle of the Crone), allows and even demands members to accept what they are. For a neonate seeking direction in something so drastically different from mortal life — casting about not only for someplace to belong but for someone who can provide answers for “Why?” and “How?” — few things are as comforting as being told that it is acceptable to be a monster. Even if the newcomer doesn’t believe it yet, being told that she has become something greater than she was is comforting in an unlife otherwise punctuated by new and alien urges.

Obviously, these are generalities, not hard-and-fast rules. Many neonates do indeed join the covenant because they already hold certain religious convictions, and many elders seek the same sense of belonging that attracts childer. And, of course, Sanctified of all ages join simply out of ambition, as advancement is often easier among the Lancea Sanctum than in other covenants.

New members of the covenant are required to make many gestures of commitment to Longinus, to God and to the goals of the faction. They engage in many rites and rituals, and undergo trials to test their fortitude and faith. These tests consist of everything from torture to theological debate. Trials aren’t necessarily used to determine whether a recruit may join the Lancea Sanctum, but those who make a good showing earn the respect of their new fellows. Those who do poorly face months if not years of derision and mockery, often sufficient to drive a new member away.

Philosophy
The Lancea Sanctum believes, quite frankly, that its members are the chosen of God. Sanctified are not inherently superior to other vampires, but exalt themselves by accepting the teachings of Longinus wholeheartedly. One night, all vampires will come to worship God and venerate Longinus as the Sanctified do. The Lancea Sanctum maintains that it is the duty of all good and faithful Sanctified to hurry that night along. Thus do they constantly proselytize, seeking converts to their way of thinking long past the time that other covenants might give up and move on.

Longinus himself occupies the position of Dark Prophet. While he is not the “first of the undead” according to sect beliefs, he was certainly one of the first to be something other than a self-motivated monster, little more than an animal. With Longinus arose a code of ethics. His act of prodding Christ with the spear is more important than the man or vampire — Longinus’ import follows that act, not vice versa. He is a “sin eater,” representing the evils that man commits in the absence of faith, and his punishment is its just repayment.

This philosophy leads to a strange dichotomy of beliefs that rivals the most extremist and even bizarre of mortal faiths. The philosophical precepts governing members of the Lancea Sanctum — or at least those members who truly believe in what they do — seem almost mutually exclusive, yet the covenant has managed to hold them together for what might be centuries or even millennia.

Commandments And Traditions: The first and foremost rule the Lancea Sanctum observes is that the Traditions are absolute and inviolate — mostly. The covenant seeks to encourage all vampire society to adhere strictly to those precepts, for only by doing so can the Lancea Sanctum honor its progenitor and bring the rest of the undead closer to understanding him. At the same time, however, most Sanctified are pragmatic, and their leaders know that the covenant will never succeed at its divinely appointed task if they allow themselves to become weak. Sanctified therefore Embrace childer, though it flies in the face of the Traditions. They prefer to convert other vampires where possible, but they know that the covenant would atrophy without the occasional infusion of new blood. Similarly the Lancea Sanctum does not hesitate to kill those who threaten its objectives (though again, Sanctified would often prefer to convert or at least circumvent such enemies where possible). Murder, too, is permitted because the covenant could not survive otherwise. Strangely enough, true believers among the Lancea Sanctum do not claim that they are exempt from the Traditions they break. Rather, they maintain that they willingly risk God’s displeasure for the sake of the larger community, much as Longinus himself was cursed for making the mark on Christ that proved his divine nature. They accept whatever judgment is finally levied upon them for doing so. The Lancea Sanctum will not, however, choose to violate the Tradition of Secrecy, at least not in the sense that it lets mortals know exactly what vampires are. Members of the covenant understand as well as any others how vital the Masquerade is for the survival of the race, and thus the satisfaction of their divine charge. Of course, violent members, having taken philosophical lessons of superiority over the kine to heart, consider killing witnesses to vampiric acts an acceptable means of maintaining secrecy. Covenant leadership frowns on such brazen behavior and has been known to chastise or dispose of Sanctified who draw too much attention. They know, however, that to rein in the entirety of the young generations would vastly curtail their recruiting power — assuming they could do it at all — so they grit their teeth and make every effort to clean up after careless childer.

Guidance: All Sanctified are worthy of spiritual guidance. True believers in the covenant’s cause never turn away any vampire, of any affiliation, who seeks aid or advice on religious matters. In fact, covenant law prohibits members from refusing any such petition. Obviously, this stricture allows for reasonable interpretation. A Sanctified need not invite a known enemy into her haven with open arms, nor must she stop in the middle of a gun battle to comfort a companion who’s having a crisis of faith. Where possible, however, the Lancea Sanctum serves the entirety of vampire society as priests and advisors, and it is through this reaching out that the group gains many of its most faithful adherents. Even if conversion is not viable, the covenant believes that by providing aid it can only bring other vampires that much closer to God.

Conversion: Those who will not voluntarily open their eyes must be forced to see. Violence is never the first choice, but if the undead refuse to come to the Lancea Sanctum, and if the Sanctified believe they can do so with minimal danger to their own standing, they have no qualms about shedding blood. Strictly speaking, conversion by the sword is impossible. A vampire can easily claim to have converted, and then flee at the first opportunity. Those who do not die can afford to wait for their chance. In regions where the covenant holds dominance, the Lancea Sanctum can enforce its laws and the Traditions with the most dire and horrifying of penalties. Other vampires in the territory might not actually believe as the Lancea Sanctum does, but by God they’re going to act as though they do! And who knows, maybe when they’ve been forced to behave like Sanctified for long enough, they’ll see the wisdom in such an unlifestyle.

Rituals And Observances
Few organizations, be they Kindred or kine, can match the Lancea Sanctum for sheer quantity of rituals. As the primary religious faction among the undead, the Sanctified have a rite, an observance or a tradition for many aspects of the Requiem. It would be impossible, even in many times the space available, to describe them all. Presented here, then, is a small selection of some of the more important or common rites and traditions. It’s important to note that while these practices are observed wherever the Sanctified can be found, they often differ in detail from domain to domain or even from coterie to coterie. Like all religious ceremonies, they are defined as much by their performers as by their intended meaning. The specifics given here are therefore standards, not necessarily universal. Note that the use of the term “Priest” in these descriptions represents a formal position, not the more general concept that all Sanctified should “serve as priests” to their brethren.

Theban Sorcery: To hear the Sanctified tell it, its members are capable of no less than miracles themselves. In truth, the Lancea Sanctum does possess a potent form of spiritual magic, though whether it performs literal miracles is up for debate. At some point after the covenant formed — purportedly in the third century AD — some of its members followed a Roman army into Thebes (“Thebias” according to fragments of a journal supposedly recovered from the march). There, a legion of Christian soldiers was drawn from the local ranks. When members of the covenant accompanied the Theban legion on its march to Gaul, one of their number brought with her the secrets of this magic, which she claimed to have learned from an angel on the journey. To this night, the covenant studies and practices this sorcery, which it uses to demonstrate its power, “prove” its chosen nature, and to punish transgressors against its dictates.

Creation Rite: The induction of a new childe to the Requiem is a powerful event for the Sanctified. On one hand, it symbolizes the continued growth of their covenant and the birth of another disciple of the faith. On the other, it is a violation of the very Traditions that the Lancea Sanctum has sworn to uphold. The Creation Rite, then, is a combined celebration of the new childe and an act of penance for his sire. It must be conducted as soon as reasonably possible after the childe is Embraced, ideally at the very time of that Embrace. A Priest or other high-ranking member of the Lancea Sanctum conducts the rite, which involves substantial prayers and litanies recited by the Priest and the sire. The childe is then anointed (described below), and blessed with a burning brand. The brand does not touch the flesh of the childe. Rather, the Priest waves it over her not unlike the Catholic christening. The sire, however, is exposed to the brand, which is placed directly against his chest. Contact lasts only a moment, but crying out or lapsing into a fear frenzy from the flames is a mark of shame. Only when this rite has been completed is the childe considered “truly” Sanctified, and a childe whose sire holds up well is accorded more respect than one who does not. Multiple variations on this rite exist, as few Lancea Sanctum domains and coteries operate in exactly the same fashion. Some Creation Rites involve the sire exposing herself to the rising sun or to night-long sessions of flagellation with barbed whips. One particularly dangerous variation involves the childe (after being blessed) staking his own sire and then setting one of her extremities alight. The purpose is for the childe to let his sire burn just long enough to leave a wound, yet not so long as to risk Final Death. If the childe performs well, the sire is lauded for her choice. If the childe does not perform well, the sire usually isn’t concerned with anything else said on the topic.

Anointing/Blood Baths: Used whenever a Sanctified obtains a new rank or position, the Anointing, which must be conducted by a Priest or recognized covenant official, involves little more than a recited litany, a series of formal responses offered by the supplicant, and the drawing of any one of several religious symbols on the supplicant’s head. The drawing is done in blood, and the supplicant is forbidden from washing it off until the next night. (Recently Anointed Sanctified do not frequently go out among kine.) This ceremony is why many Lancea Sanctum officers, officials and agents are referred to, collectively, as the Anointed. Among some young Sanctified, the Anointing assumes a more primal form. They celebrate such events not with a simple touch of blood but with what is called a Blood Bath. The Blood Bath serves the same purpose, but the subject (often along with the other participants) is literally drenched in blood. Those who do not enter frenzy are accorded great respect, while those who succumb are mocked for their lack of control. Elder Lancea Sanctum members consider the Blood Bath a corruption of an ancient tradition, but as long as young Priests do not conduct it in such a way as to threaten the Masquerade, critics bite back their distaste and “let the whelps play.”

Midnight Mass: Led by one of the highest Lancea Sanctum officials in a city, a Midnight Mass is simply that: A prayer service to God, held in the dark of night. Some truly devout Sanctified domains hold such a mass several times a week, but they occur only once or twice a month in most Sanctified-dominated cities. All covenant members in the region are expected to attend on at least a semi-regular basis. Many other rites, rituals and celebrations, often including Creation Rites and Anointings, occur at Midnight Mass.

Others: Among the dozens if not hundreds of other rites not listed here are the Fire Dance (a ceremony popular among young Sanctified in which they dance around or even through fire to prove that they can master the vampiric weakness), the Mysteries (a yearly festival of celebration and thanksgiving that all local Sanctified are expected to attend), and acceptance and allegiance rites (trials and sworn oaths when first joining the covenant or a particular coterie). In addition to those rites that are more or less universal, domains and even individual coteries often have their own rites, developed internally and not shared with the rest of the faction.

Titles And Duties
As with the Invictus, many of the Lancea Sanctum’s titles overlap with local positions of authority. Many do not, however, and those that appear common often have a unique take on them.

Bishop: The religious leader of the Lancea Sanctum in a domain is called the Bishop. The Prince may rule the city, but the Bishop is the highest authority where the Lancea Sanctum is concerned. Many Bishops hold other positions in the city power structure (such as Regent, Seneschal or Primogen), even if that power structure is not Sanctified-dominated, as most Princes are wise enough to recognize the substantial power a Bishop holds. Bishop duties include all those of a Priest, but he is also responsible for managing the local activities of the covenant as a whole.

Archbishop: This is simply the title that most Sanctified Princes choose for themselves, as Archbishop fits the Lancea Sanctum mentality far better than the secular title of Prince. The Archbishop, surprisingly enough, is usually not the same person as the Bishop, as the responsibilities of running a city usually do not leave time to serve as Bishop as well. The Archbishop does outrank the Bishop, however, so he can overrule the Bishop when necessary.

Cardinal: In those few cities where a single leader is powerful enough to serve as both Archbishop and Bishop, she often chooses to take the title of Cardinal. Cardinal isn’t a “formal” covenant title the way the other two are; it’s really just a vaunted way of saying, “I hold greater office than any two of you. Who would dare challenge me for it?”

Priest: A Sanctified responsible for the spiritual teaching and guidance of other vampires is known as a Priest. Some Priests serve as advisors to their local government. Others serve as Priest to a specific coterie (and many coteries larger than three members have one). This position is largely informal, but occasionally has the formal recognition of Lancea Sanctum leaders behind it.

Inquisitor: Answering only to a Bishop or Archbishop, an Inquisitor is responsible for hunting down heresy, disobedience and treason within the covenant. He has power to investigate anyone or anything, and all wise Kindred fear him. Although he technically has only low rank, his authority while conducting an investigation borders on absolute. In cities where a separate Sheriff exists, these two are often at odds. If an Inquisitor is not supported by the local Prince, he had better be careful how he handles relations with other covenants. The Inquisitor may find himself isolated in accusations or charges levied against vampires of other followings.

Stereotypes Of Others
Carthian Movement: Faithless but determined
Circle Of The Crone: Heretics, witches and worse
Invictus: Overly focused on temporal strength
Ordo Dracul: Spirituality gone wrong
Unaligned: Iconoclasts and apostates

Lancea et Sanctum

Rust Never Sleeps KristopherHedley KristopherHedley