Rust Never Sleeps
When one hears a vampire refer to the existing Kindred order as the “despised aristocracy of the undead,” the speaker is probably one of these free-thinking spirits — those whom the vampire world has dubbed somewhat misleadingly as one of the “unaligned” or “unbound.” They are the rebels, outlaws and iconoclasts of vampire society, those who freely (and often intentionally) flout the so-called rule of the elders among their kind.
Independent Kindred can also simply be apolitical vampires, those who acknowledge only their own authority but who don’t necessarily make a grand show of defiance against Princes and Regents. There are as many reasons to renounce the entire notion of covenants as there are Kindred among the unbound, everything from paper-tiger rebellion to acknowledging no greater authority than the self to free will to downright bizarre mystic philosophies and even heresies.
The unaligned are fiercely independent, and many would sooner face the rising sun with a smile than spend eternity in submission before another creature of the night. While they do not truly compose a covenant, the unbound are often overlooked individually and considered in a collective rabble with others of their mindset, despite the fact that they have no shared organization. Still, enough commonalities occur that they can be discussed as a phenomenon, even if their status as a formal covenant is nonexistent. If a vampire disdains the prevailing governmental structure but doesn’t belong to any structured covenant of her own, the rest of Kindred society almost always considers her one of the unaligned.
“Independent” Kindred resent or otherwise don’t buy into the neofeudal establishment that is modern Kindred society. They’ve been around as long as any of the covenants, if for no other reason than by virtue of the fact that as long as there is a political movement going on, someone will oppose or take no interest in it. In nights past, some politically independent vampires were occasionally known as “anarchs” or “autarkis,” a reference to their disregard for ironclad laws and orders among the Kindred. Those vampires cared nothing for the proclamations and decrees of heavy-handed Princes, and to a great extent, wished nothing more than to be left alone. In those nights, the unaligned were considered foolish, but ultimately harmless, as long as each individual member was smart enough not to jeopardize himself and his kind through his lawless actions.
The spread of an informal unbound sympathy would change all this. Many lawless, practically careless Kindred did much to shake up the world of vampire society in a very short time. Lines were blurred, boundaries crossed and dreadful decisions made, all in the name of independence from the established order, and that was the part that caused a stir. Although what passes for an unaligned “movement” has since settled down a bit (or at least retreated to the shadows of the domains in which such Kindred are found), the damage wrought upon the unbound was done. Tonight, more than a few elders among the covenants have taken the actions of particularly truculent unaligned as representative of the gestalt… or at least capitalized on the aftermath thereof in an attempt to clamp down on such rogues.
Just as the Invictus is plainly attractive to elders, so too is unaligned existence a magnet for the young and downtrodden among the Kindred. Neonates make up the preponderance of the unbound, and new believers discover independent urges with every passing night. Many would-be unbound renounce their affiliations following eye-opening or humiliating experiences in one of the covenants. Sometimes this occurs early on, with a bitter neonate loudly claiming independence for succor and release. Other times, the taste for freedom attracts ancillae who tried for decades to play the vampiric political game but were simply outmaneuvered or disgusted by the toll it took on them over time. The independents probably see more “converts” than any of the covenants, which is yet another reason why these outcasts are often held in such low regard by the established covenants.
Although a great many unaligned Kindred are neonates or young ancillae, this is not to say that no elders renounce sectarian ways. A number of older Kindred, primarily those of the Mekhet and Gangrel, prize the unbound for their freedoms, and might even seek to turn their influence toward uniting local unbound under a common banner in hopes of forming a neo-covenant that advances their own agendas. In fact, these few manipulative elders are responsible for the hostile attitudes that certain cells of independents harbor toward more formalized groups of Kindred. This isn’t to say that every elder goes independent in hopes of building a private army. Many elders among the unbound are quite content simply to ignore social strictures that they personally find distasteful. In the eyes of many “established” Kindred, with elder power comes responsibility, and interpersonal pressures occasionally force into covenants those elders who would be more satisfied if they were freed from such duties.
The guiding philosophical principle behind the unaligned mindset is the fundamental conceit that every vampire — like every man — is free. Regardless of clan or age, no Kindred should be forced to bow like some lowly serf before the feet of a provincial undead governor. Not surprisingly, the unbound find the notion of vampiric titles and duties contemptible. They recognize no “Prince” to whom they should show self-effacing obeisance, and they regard the entire notion of formalized social debts as wholly unnecessary. Each of the Damned is, practically by definition, an individual, removed from the brotherhood of mankind and thrust into solitude for all eternity. The unaligned tend to feel that vampire-kind needs no phony system of forced indenture to make sure that each Kindred keeps his word and honors his promises. As alone as they are, vampires realize that all they truly have is their word — without the aid of unnatural and artificial hierarchy — and they act accordingly. Those who don’t are weeded out naturally, and not by the arbitrary will of an elder.
This sole idea forms the approximate basis of the independent ideology, but like any solid foundation, it embodies itself in a number of night-to-night practical principles. These trends of the unbound mindset give individual Kindred a sense of self, while providing a necessary grounding in the realities of unlife.
Again, note that these aren’t formalized codes of belief among the unbound. Each independent Kindred is her own Prince, or at least wishes to be. These are simply the most common points of agreement among a non-covenant of ruggedly individual vampires.
Vampiric Nature Is Solitary: To the unbound, the twin notions of freedom and individuality — as they pertain to vampiric existence – have their roots in the simple truth that vampires are solitary creatures. The soul of a Kindred is solitude. It is shut out from the world it knew before the Embrace and forced to survive the Requiem as a wolf among the flock, dipping in and out of the fringes of mortal society while never truly integrating with it. The same applies to the new world into which a Kindred is thrust upon his Embrace. While many view vampire society as a sub-level resting beneath and within mortal society, the unaligned tend to reject this view on the whole. To them, the notion of a “vampire society” is a shamefully forced contrivance, a deliberate attempt by power-hungry elders to enforce structure and order where there is none. Vampires are bestial, undead predators. Forcing them to coexist under fabricated pretense is a recipe for disaster. Only by respecting the natural Kindred state — that of isolated, independent equality — can harmony be found among the Damned.
Power Corrupts: The unaligned are no fools (by and large). They tend to see how terribly power corrupts among the living. Compound the problem with undeath, literal bloodthirst and the prospect of an eternity of the same, and the result is disaster waiting to happen. The unbound can believe that the Kindred are the last creatures who should be in a position to wield great power over themselves, let alone over one another. They’re called “the Damned” for a reason, and the Damned should not be leading the Damned. That’s a caravan that can only travel straight to the gates of Hell, and the unbound know better than to fall into such an ill-fated line. Better that each vampire concern himself primarily with his own progress along his own road. This is not to say that independent Kindred eschew power and influence. They are still vampires, and many feel that the only way to fight fire is with fire. Even those who don’t can still appreciate the benefit of amassing great amounts of wealth or sway in various mortal circles. The important distinction is how and in what manner their power negatively affects those of their kind. Being aware of one’s solitary nature does not mean pretending that other Kindred don’t exist. This very mistake has earned more than one well-intentioned unbound her share of trouble. The trick is to learn how to balance the acquisition of power with the legitimate needs and desires of one’s neighbors. And, of course, the acquisition of vampire-specific power and influence is considered dangerous ground among the unaligned, which is why many prefer to stick to mortal spheres of influence.