Rust Never Sleeps
Associated Disciplines: Mysteries of the Dragon
The curse of vampirism is but an obstacle, a hurdle before achieving true power. Granted, it’s a daunting hurdle, and one that most Kindred are ill equipped to even see as surmountable. For those with the necessary devotion, tenacity and intelligence, the Ordo Dracul, the Order of the Dragon, can provide the means. The vampires of the Ordo Dracul run the gamut from dogged fundamentalists with just as much zeal as any fanatic to coldly secular theosophists simply seeking the means to destroy an enemy.
The covenant as a whole welcomes both mentalities, for both have much to teach. This faction claims an infamous founder — Vlad Tepes, Dracula himself. Dracula is noteworthy because he acknowledges no sire. According to Dracula’s account of becoming a vampire, God turned His back on him, and in order to punish him for his wicked acts, God cursed him with undeath. The most widely accepted story of Dracula’s origin is that God punished Vlad Tepes for his abuse of faith in mortal life. According to certain historical records, Tepes was appointed as a “defender of Christianity,” a charge he then used as a means of advancing his own political agendas and as an excuse for atrocities. In addition to all his crimes against humanity, Dracula ultimately put his own desires before his holy oath, the act that Damned him.
The veracity of these statements remains unproven, of course, not the least obstacle to which is that Dracula himself hasn’t been seen in over a century. Legends of Dracula also ascribe to him strange circumstances. By knowledgeable members of Kindred society, he is suspected of siring a very few childer — but if Dracula wasn’t Embraced himself, what clan could he possibly be, and what does that make his get? By other accounts, he has never sired childer at all, or those he has sired are somehow “failed,” little more than hideous horrors doomed to slake their thirsts in a constant state of mindless rage.
Indeed, the organization that has grown up surrounding Dracula’s teachings is easily as enigmatic as its founder.
The Order’s roots are something of a matter of debate — even within the covenant itself. It is undoubtedly one of the youngest of the major Kindred factions. The Dragons, as they are fearfully (or hatefully) known, have records of apprenticeships as early as the 16th century. With the advent of the printing press, the covenant was better able to disseminate the vast amount of archaic and arcane writings that members require in order to learn and perform their transcendental studies. The covenant experienced a sudden jump in power and membership during the Industrial Revolution, then another in the late 19th century, then yet another in recent decades. It is believed that the covenant grew to power in Eastern Europe, its philosophies traveling with the development of transportation technology, but just as credible theories place the group’s origins in Victorian London and even early New York.
The Ordo Dracul reveres its founder, but in a very different way than, say, the Lancea Sanctum honors Longinus. The Dragons believe that the curse of vampirism can and should be surpassed, that the Embrace is a judgment that can be overturned and even exceeded. Nothing, nothing, is permanent, the Order argues, not even the lingering undeath that all Kindred experience. Of course, no known vampire has ever escaped the Requiem through the Order’s rites (at least not in a manner that others would find satisfactory; it’s quite possible to reduce oneself to a pile of ash or a torpid wretch through an ill-performed observance). Regardless, Kindred are perfectly willing to admit that such things take centuries, if not millennia. Some crucial piece of knowledge must yet be missing, and with the world growing smaller and more integrated as technology uncovers more of it, that knowledge won’t be long in coming.
In that regard, the Ordo Dracul is much more comfortable with the modern world than the Invictus is, though not nearly so comfortable as the Carthians are. Technology isn’t something to be feared, but another tool to be used, and since the covenant prizes mental evolution as much as spiritual progression, elders who wish to retain their standing must shake off the inertia of years and learn how to use a telephone or a scanner. Hidebound traditionalists aren’t overtly snubbed (after all, they might know something useful, and it doesn’t pay to burn bridges), but they do tend to be left alone in their havens to experience the Requiem and perform their research in solitude.
The search for knowledge is a commonly stated goal of the Order, but it’s deliberately vague. Members of the Ordo Dracul are interested in knowledge, true, but that has more to do with the kind of personality the covenant attracts than with its actual goals. The Dragons seek information about the truth of the vampiric condition, and to that end, they enjoy talking to other Kindred about their experiences, their feelings upon receiving the Embrace, how their bodies have changed, and how their attitudes toward morals have progressed. (The Gangrel in particular interest the Order, and those Savages who join the covenant quickly become some of their most respected members.) The Dragons seek to establish patterns in God’s plan, in the curse of undeath and in any other facet of the Requiem that will lead them to the answer they seek — how to transcend the limits of vampirism.
The Ordo Dracul has a hierarchical structure unique to it, known internally as the Dragon’s Tongue. The Order involves numerous rites and initiations, the completion of which symbolizes the member’s passage from one “circle of mystery” or level of achievement to the next. Progression through the hierarchy seems to correspond to mastery of the Coils of the Dragon, but whether this is true or simply a non-member’s misunderstanding remains uncertain. This structure also serves to protect the covenant’s secrets. The Ordo Dracul is loath to let anyone, even low-ranking members, leave the faction. The higher one’s rank in the covenant, the more she has invested and accomplished and, thus, the more reluctant she will (theoretically) be to leave. Still, defections and renunciations do occur, and with more frequency than the Order would have outsiders believe.
The Ordo Dracul doesn’t need to proselytize. While it welcomes new members, it isn’t as open as the Invictus because its strength depends on the intelligence of its Kindred, rather than on their loyalty. The Order isn’t out to overthrow the existing status quo or to enforce it, nor does it mean to adhere to an ancient set of laws or to venerate a god. Its members seek simply to move beyond, and that attracts a certain class of vampire. Kindred who are dissatisfied with their lot but who attribute that dissatisfaction to a spiritual or mystical state rather than to a political or temporal one make good candidates for the Ordo Dracul. Vampires who believe in some sort of origin for the Kindred, but who lack the zealotry or dogma necessary to join the Lancea Sanctum do so as well. The most accomplished Dragons of the Order tend to come from those Kindred who are open-minded and realistic before the Embrace. They see what they have become and do not immediately accept that the Requiem is the ultimate end of their existence. These sorts of Dragons are the cream of the crop.
Most, however, join the covenant to cheat the curse of undeath, pure and simple. The lure of the group’s high rites draws all clans, and even members of the Lancea Sanctum have been known to leave their covenant, thus committing unthinkable blasphemy, to join the Ordo Dracul. The reverse is also true. Occasionally a member of the Order decides that the ceremonies she observes are sins against nature or a higher power and resolves never to call upon her hard-won knowledge again, passing the rest of her nights in quiet penance for her dabbling in forbidden mysteries. The Order has even noticed that certain specific areas of study induce this response more than others, and these texts and formulae offer a tempting target for young Dragons looking to make names for themselves.
The Ordo Dracul boasts members from all clans. The covenant hasn’t seen that any one widespread lineage has any particular advantage over another. Of course, a given bloodline might spawn members of the Order as one sire trains his childe in the ways of the covenant, and that childe does likewise, but on the whole, the Dragons look past clan when considering members. The decision process has more to do with temperament and intellectual ability. While not all or even most members of the Ordo Dracul are bookish or scholarly, the vast majority are literate and educated at least moderately well.
The hardest part about joining the covenant tends to be finding members who trust other Kindred enough to be willing to teach. That in mind, the first task a prospective Dragon has is to get a potential mentor to notice her. Investigating the Ordo Dracul (which means asking questions of vampires who are experienced enough to know something about the covenant), experimenting with the vampiric form and with the various Disciplines, and trying the limits of the Requiem are good ways to go about gaining attention. If an entire coterie wishes to attempt to find a mentor, its members’ chances improve dramatically. The Order approves of this approach for a number of reasons. Aside from the obvious advantage of having peers with which to trade ideas, a coterie can protect itself better than a lone vampire can, from both enemies and potentially disastrous mystical errors. Also, although the Order’s elders never mention it, a bit of healthy competition is ultimately good for the covenant, as it weeds out members who are only in it to cheat undeath for its own sake.
Once a prospective Dragon finds a mentor, the apprenticeship period begins. This period never really ends. Because all members of the Ordo Dracul are meant to learn constantly, all members can teach constantly. The Order observes “graduation” ceremonies of the most elaborate kind. Indeed, it relishes the fact that even an elder might still be able to learn at the feet of a wiser and more powerful member of the Order (a fact that frightens the other covenants more than they’d ever admit).
Just as it performs graduation ceremonies, the Ordo Dracul also performs initiations as a covenant (though individual mentors might elect to test would-be pupils privately before fully introducing them). It becomes clear within the first few weeks of training whether a student has the right mettle to learn the Coils of the Dragon, which the Dragons regard as the first necessary step in joining the covenant. If the pupil cannot learn at least the basics of this esoteric body of ceremonies — and the reasons for doing so range from simple lack of intelligence to an unwillingness to surrender their souls to spiritual study — the mentor simply stops the training. The pupil might continue to practice what she has already learned, but advancement without instruction is profoundly difficult.
The Ordo Dracul is as much a religious society as a secular one, but only insofar as the vampiric condition cannot be explained without the existence of God. According to members’ beliefs, Dracula was himself cursed by God, much as the Sanctified of the Lancea Sanctum claim that their progenitor was. The difference, of course, is that Dracula became a vampire long after many other vampires had already existed in the world. The Ordo Dracul doesn’t require the fanaticism of the Lancea Sanctum or the Acolytes, because its tenets do not demand it. The Dragons’ philosophies are as rigorously tested as any of their ceremonies, so they work their miracles without worship or reverence to a higher power. Respect, they feel, is enough.
To the uninitiated, the philosophy of the Ordo Dracul is a mire of theosophical and even neo-Victorian postulation. Some Kindred liken the order to a secret society such as the Masons or the Golden Dawn, and such speculation isn’t far from the truth. One cannot argue the facts, though — those who achieve rank in the Order certainly gain benefits and are able to perform acts that other vampires cannot. The main tenets of the Order of the Dragon are as follows.
Nothing Is Permanent: Members of the Ordo Dracul know better than to consider themselves “immortal.” Vampires do indeed die, and without benefit of plotting enemies or slavering werewolves. All it takes is a fire burning out of control or a miscalculation in determining the exact time of sunrise, and centuries of unlife and experience can come to an end. But the Dragons don’t look at this fragility as a vulnerability. They regard their condition as mutable. After all, they reason, if God had truly wished for vampires never to change, He wouldn’t have made the means of their destruction so readily available, and He certainly wouldn’t have given any of them ability to change their forms. As such, the Order looks at sweeping change, even change that seems to harm more than it helps, as ultimately beneficial. A building burns, a plane crashes, the Prince of a city falls, covenants scheme, werewolves attack, and the Ordo Dracul simply reminds its members that nothing lasts forever. This isn’t a bleak, fatalistic lament so much as a challenge. “What can we take away from this change?” If nothing else, every change is a reminder that change is possible.
Change Must Have a Purpose: Central to transcending the vampiric condition is an understanding of why it is necessary to do so. The Order looks at the Requiem as a challenge more than a curse, but its members never forget or deny that it is a curse. In researching and realizing the Coils of the Dragon, and thus changing themselves on a fundamental, mystical level, the Dragons work toward their ultimate goal of leaving their vampiric shells behind. This tenet has a broader application, as well. Every action has a reaction, and until a Dragon can understand the reactions that a given course causes, she is discouraged from taking action at all. This lesson is reflected most keenly in the Order’s spiritual power. The Coils of the Dragon distinguish members from their peers very quickly, providing a superb object lesson in the nature of causality. The more power you gain, the less power you understand. Young members of the covenant, eager for the benefits that the Coils can grant them and enthralled with the notion of going beyond the limits of their state, don’t usually understand that paradox. Many Ordo Dracul mentors regard it as the harshest, but most necessary lesson of the Requiem. If every action isn’t guided by purpose, it soon spirals into entropy and eventually destruction. The Order doesn’t believe in causing foolish chaos and then shirking responsibility for its actions by saying, “Change is good.”
Rituals And Observances
The most important relationship in the covenant is that of the mentor and pupil. Rites and practices vary greatly among mentors. While one might keep lessons extremely informal, another might treat her pupils like novitiates in a monastery, forcing them to copy manuscripts or perform menial tasks for most of the night and instructing them in the ways of transcendence for only the last hour before sunrise.
The covenant as a whole does observe a few important rituals, however, and some individual teaching methods have become widespread enough to mention.
Titles And Duties
As mentioned previously, the mentor-student relationship is the backbone of the Order of the Dragon. Many members introduce themselves as their mentors’ protégés (if a mentor is well respected), and an elder Dragon with an especially promising student might even reverse the compliment, calling herself “[so-and-so]’s master.”
Not all members of the Ordo Dracul are constantly embroiled in the process of learning, however, and the covenant has great respect for those who take up the other duties that the Dragons consider important.
Guardians: Among the reverent Ordo Dracul, the Guardians are responsible for looking after the aforementioned mystical sites. The covenant has several reasons for wanting to keep other beings out of these nexuses. First, an uninformed fool with a bit of mystic talent but no proper training (by which the Dragons mean any magical being who is not a member of the covenant — the Lancea Sanctum and Circle of the Crone in particular) could potentially destroy the site’s power and wreak havoc on an entire area. In fact, vampiric urban legend perpetuates tales of ill-performed rites on a particularly powerful site, courtesy of covens of mortal wizards, Lupine shamans and satanic cults. Second, places of power are valuable resources, and when the Order possesses one, that is both an asset for itself and an asset denied to rivals. As counterpoint to this, the Ordo Dracul knows that many of the other covenants of Kindred would destroy such sites rather than let the Dragons make use of them, or at least make them bargain for access. Third, such mystical sites are always changing, and while they normally change over the course of years or decades, sometimes magic takes a great leap forward and the Order likes to know about such events as soon as possible. Finally, the covenant asserts that some sites are truly symbolic or spiritual and deserve protection from defilement as well as from simple destruction. Guardians are usually those Dragons with a bent toward martial prowess and stealth. They are rarely prepared to end their unlives in pursuit of their duties, however. After all, nothing is permanent, and throwing away an unlife over something that might change in a mere 50 years is just foolish.
Kogaion: Every city with a significant Order presence has a pre-eminent Guardian known as a Kogaion. He protects the city’s maps of ley lines and nexuses, the locations of its greatest mystical treasures (if not the treasures themselves), and a roster of all Dragons in the area. Most often, the Kogaion memorizes this information or records it in riddles, codes and dead languages to keep it from falling into enemy hands. The title itself seems to be of Thracian origin, meaning “the magnificent’s head.” A new Kogaion is elected only when an old one dies, steps down or becomes untrustworthy (and being declared untrustworthy requires a statement to that effect from at least seven other Kogaions). Being declared a Kogaion is one of the greatest honors of the covenant, but it also effectively cuts the vampire off from other members of the Order. Everyone respects the Kogaion, but since she is an obvious target for enemies of the covenant, no one wants to associate closely with her. Kogaions are frequently hermits, sought for consultation and advice but very rarely for long-term apprenticeships. Kogaions also tend to be frighteningly powerful with regard to the Coils of the Dragon… though some simply believe they are.
The Sworn Of Dracula: Little is known of the Sworn — from the outside, they appear to be sub-factions or sub-covenants within the Ordo Dracul. A few Kindred suspect that the Sworn of Dracula number three distinct groups, each of which is associated with some higher branch of the Dragon’s Tongue. Most vampires outside the covenant don’t even know the names of the Sworn, though three distinct titles do seem to be consistent where the Order grows to any appreciable numbers: The Sworn of the Axe, the Sworn of the Mysteries and the Sworn of the Dying Light.
The Mysteries Of The Dragon: Central to the Ordo Dracul is the philosophy of transcendence, the desire to rise above the limitations of the cursed vampiric form. Learning the Mysteries allows a Kindred to “cheat” certain aspects of the Requiem. For instance, a vampire might be able to slow his mystical metabolism, consuming less blood than normal when he rises each night. Another aspect of transcendence might allow a Kindred to slake his thirst on animal blood, no matter how potent his own blood is. By defeating these incarnations of vampirism, the Order believes it is on the right path toward eliminating or escaping vampirism entirely — with the goal of attaining the next level, whatever form that takes.
The Dragon’s Tongue: A forked line of progression, the Dragon’s Tongue is the structure through which covenant members progress as they learn more secrets and master greater aspects of their condition. While comprehension of the hierarchy by those outside the covenant is cloudy at best, it appears that all members follow a single path of progression up until a certain point, after which the member chooses a specialty to follow. Various members of the covenant lay claim to numerous titles, but whether these are actual functions and responsibilities or mere honorifics has yet to be ascertained by outsiders. The Dragon’s Tongue is an oblique concept. It is distinct from the Coils of the Dragon, but knowing the Mysteries of the Dragon seems to be requisite for advancement in the Dragon’s Tongue. In layman’s terms, the Dragon’s Tongue seems to roughly equate to rank while the Coils of the Dragon are similar to capability or potential.
Finding The Wyrm’s Nests: The world is constantly in flux, on levels that not even the Kindred can perceive. Long ago, the Ordo Dracul noticed that certain places hold magic better than others. These areas, variously called “nexuses,” “holy sites” or “dragon nests” by different cultures, don’t stay static. They migrate as flows in the mystical energies of the world push them. Likewise, new sites of power spring up every year. The Order has determined that many places that mortals consider haunted or cursed (or blessed) are simply the result of this energy being “washed” into a new locale. Every few years, then, the Dragons re-draw the mystical maps of the world, plotting sites and the current of mystic power toward them (sometimes called “ley lines”). This practice takes place over the course of weeks and months, normally beginning with the week preceding the winter solstice, as it gives the map-makers the most time to work. A certain amount of reverence, if not outright ritual, accompanies these mapping efforts. The mystical cartographers are treated with the utmost respect, and being sent to verify the existence of a nexus is considered something of an honor among the Order. It’s generally accepted that any mystical artifacts discovered at such an investigation remain property of those who find them (after the covenant has a chance to catalog and examine them, of course).
Following The Dragon’s Tail: A teaching technique that has become popular as mortal populations increase, Following the Dragon’s Tail is meant to illustrate that no change happens in a vacuum. The mentor accompanies her student on a hunt, and instructs her to kill one mortal in the course of feeding (not usually a problem, especially if the student has taken well to her studies). The mentor then instructs her to follow the innumerable chains of events that death causes. Who does the mortal leave behind? What does her obituary say? Does anyone mourn her? Who shows up at her funeral? Does a police investigation ensue? How much effort do the police put into it? Do other vampires become involved? Reportedly, the first Kindred of the Order to enact this lesson still follows the effects that the murder he committed had on mortal society… more than 200 years later. In less formal terms, a member of the Ordo Dracul said to be “following the dragon’s tail” takes care of loose ends, or plots some scheme and attempts to predict results for every stage of the plan.
Honoring The Mentor: Not required, but certainly not discouraged, the practice of annually honoring one’s superior(s) among the Ordo Dracul hierarchy has become commonplace. Every covenant member who chooses to partake in this custom has a different method of showing reverence, and of course it very much depends on the mentor in question. For some teachers, a gift (books, a favored type of vessel, an archeological find stolen from a museum) is best. For others, a demonstration of what the pupil has learned in the past year makes the best present. Coteries of Dragons who study under the same mentor sometimes collaborate on a way to honor their teacher… but just as often they compete to decide who can elicit the most appreciation from her.
*Steriotypes of Others
*Carthian Movement: Cannot comprehend the value of self
Circle of the Crone: Idolators without enlightenment
Invictus: Strong outside, hollow within
Lancea et Sanctum: Emphasizes order, instead of improvement
UNaligned: Usually beneath notice. Usually.
Carthian MovementCannot comprehend the value of selfCircle Of The CroneIdolaters without enlightenmentInvictusStrong outside, hollow withinLancea SanctumEmphasize order instead of improvementUnalignedUsually beneath notice. Usually