The Invictus is the aristocracy of the night. Neofeudal and corrupt from within, it is nonetheless a powerful covenant that draws strength from tradition. The Invictus claims to trace its roots back as far as ancient Rome, if not before.
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 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.”
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.
Thought on Others
- The Carthian Movement - Cannot comprehend the value of self
- Circle of the Crone - Idolaters without enlightenment
- Invictus - Strong outside, hollow within
- Lancea Sanctum - Emphasize order instead of improvement
- Unaligned - Usually beneath notice. Usually.
Known Ordo Dracul
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