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Unmasqued




History
#1
History

Long Story Short

Vampires have existed since the beginnig of time; since Caine, the first murderer, was cursed with roaming the Earth forever, exiled from humankind and from the warmth of the Sun. Maybe out of loneliness, maybe out of spite, Caine passed his curse to his newfound companions, who, in turn, chose to share it with their selected followers. Thus, the earliest generations of vampires were made.

These ancient vampires - later known as the Antedeluvians because of their remote origin - grew different from each other, developing varied powers and being saddled with different weaknesses. They Embraced more and more people, building Clans to their images; entire lineages of vampires meant to serve their masters.

The vampire species was a quarrelsome one - not unlike humankind, one might argue. Feuds and hatred grew rampant between the first vampires, wars were dragged through centuries and millennia, for reasons both terrible and petty. The Antediluvians, and Caine himself, went dormant into hiding; exhausted by their consuming fights, but still raging against each other even in their slumber. Their existence became a legend, their vengeful return a terrifying myth.

Of all this, humankind knew nothing. Because, for all their differences, on one thing almost all vampires agreed: their existence must have been kept secret from humans - to prey on them more easily, to stay safe from their torches and pitchfoks, or even to protect their blissful ignorance.

Vampire society grew more complex; Clans took pride in their traditions, larger Sects were created to support different goals. Among them, the Camarilla was the most devoted to secrecy. They called it the Masquerade - the imperative of hide their existence no matter what. Its members were taught to pass themselves off as humans, assume mock identities, hide in plain sight - or else. They manipulated mortal society to their ends, claiming to 'respect' humans, but being uttlery ruthless when it suited their needs.

The main opposing Sect, the Sabbat, namely scoffed at such hypocrisy, despising the Masquerade itself, claiming vampires should accept their monstrosity with no restraint. In practice, however, Sabbat vampires were equally frightened of being hunted by daytime; while less careful than their opponents in hiding their nature, they were equally zealous in disposing of all witnesses.

So humankind remained clueless, as vampires continued their secretive existence. Powerful vampires fought for more power, younger and weaker ones just tried to survive, used and abused as they were by their leaders.

The End of the World as we Knew it

Until it changed. The Sabbat had warned against it - Gehenna, they called it; the end of the vampire world. In the end, however, they didn't prove any more prepared than anyone else.

It all started on 28th June 1999, when the first Antediluvian rose, still blinded by ancient rage, consumed by millennia hunger and madness. Then the others followed, resuming their fight. It started in India, but it spanned all over the globe. It lasted no longer than a week, but it was enough to change the world forever.

Vampire society was shattered in a night. Some were straight-out killed by the Antediluvians, who despised a progeny they saw as worthless. Others were maddened by the very blood than ran through their veins, by the mystical link that connected them to their ancestors: as the Antediluvians ran amock, their descendants were also driven to fight against each other for no purpose. Their very powers went out of control, at times stonger, at times weaker, in all cases unpredictable. The Masquerade, or any semblance or secrecy, fell apart as well. Supernatural powers went wild in plain sight, maddened vampires sleepwalked into the sun and were burnt to ashes, displays of impossible speed, strength and outright magic were seen by the millions - and promply filmed and broadcasted for those who had missed the show.

The very rare humans who already knew about vampires - fanatic groups devoted to hunting down all supernaturals - dropped any restraint as well: the jumped at their chance of slaughtering all they could, preaching others to join the fight. No need to say, they were obliterated as well, however not without claiming their good number of victims, and revealing to the public all that they could.

And then in a few days it was all over. Entire Clans had been wiped out, either by their Antediluvians' fury or by any other form of blind violence. As Caine himself rose, ready to slaughter his despicable offspring, another force came to smite him, the Antediluvians, all remaining contestants. Some says it was the hand of God, whose patience had been tested one time too much. Whatever it was, it seemed that vampirekind was gone for good.

As for human society, it had suffered much fewer losses than one could expect. As vampires were mainly raging against each other, the main loss for humankind was their own innocence. Despite the shock and astonishment, however, humans seemed to carry on as they had used to do. Especially since, now, vampires seemed to be a thing of the past.

Our Current Predicament

They were not, however. For reasons never really understood, a few vampires had been spared by the massacre. They were the youngest, the weakest - helpless things that had spent the Gehenna hiding, their blood too weak to be affected by their ancestors' call. Those who argued about a divine intervention were divided on the reason of their survival: were they given a second chance? Or were they just too insignificant even for God's wrath?

Whatever the reason, the last vampires had other more immediate concerns: how to survive in a world unmasqued, with none of the power structures that used to oppress them, but also to give protection? Unlike their now lost masters, they weren't overly powerful, neither had they armies of servants. They were cursed individuals who barely understood their world. A few tried to hide again, although clumsily. New vampires were made, as a remedy to loss and loneliness, and this just exacerbated the issue. In the end, going public was less of a choice, and more of an established fact.

Vampires existed, and now everyone knew about it. Were they ultimately doomed? Were the torches and pitchforks ready for the hunt?

In some part of the world, that was true, and vampires were hunted to the last of them as sinful monstrosities. Elsewhere, however, reactions were more mixed. As for the US, there was no lack of slaughter, of preachers calling out vampires as the ultimate abominations. Not everyone was equally at ease with killing what looked like sentient individuals, however, and their legal status as 'people' was the object of an endless debate. A good number of people - pop culture aficionados - actually found vampires cool, which perhaps helped, perhaps detracted from their cause.

A second-row TV host called Bobby Payne, turned vampire after the Gehenna, took his chance to grab the spotlight, portraying himself as both a sob-story and a sex god depending on the night. While always a controversial figure, Payne helped making vampirism a less alien, more familiar phenomenon. When, on 5th January 2003, he was killed by a trigger-happy Catholic nun from Tulsa, even his detractors found opportune to show some sympathy.

The issue of vampires' personhood was never really settled, in philosophical terms. Legally speaking, however, it was settled that, if companies could count as persons, so could do the undead.
Political rights were a different matter: it's still discussed if vampires should be allowed to vote; on paper, nothing says they can't, but coincidentally, elections are all held strictly by day.
A few more principles were established, settling the new cornerstones of vampires' status. In 2005, State of California vs Harrison made apparent that no new vampire could be created, as it was equated to murder. This did not stop a determined vampire from turning who they liked - except, they now had to jump through loopholes to avoid punishment, claiming the Childer was not theirs and that nobody knew who was responsible.
The Commonwealth vs Rogers, in 2008, on the other hand established that vampires could not be killed if not in self-defense - which was a turning point, even though one could find courts more or less generous in stretching the concept of self-defense. State of Mississippi vs Mill was quite straightforward in ruling how a frenzy did not count as insanity, and that one was still fully responsible for the damage they caused. As for most traditional ways of feeding, it was no surprise they were harshly punished as various forms of assault, necessity defenses being almost never accepted.

There was no lack of new options, however. Because, as vampires' existence became the new normal, a few people saw the business opportunities that came with it. Slaughterhouses started selling at a respectable price the blood they once used to dispose of (animal blood is foul to taste for vampires, but it still beats starving or being jailed). People sold their own blood for money as well - from priced blood escorts who advertised themselves as delicacies, to desperate people willing to be bitten for a hot meal. Not to mention those who enjoyed it as a kink: from edgy-looking clubs to truly shady corners, all major cities had at least some place where humans went seeking for transgression, and vampires for a cheap lunch.

Other than kinksters and blood dealers, most humans would rather have little to do with vampires. Sure, in some circle having that one quirky vampire friend was a booster for your popularity, however you did not want too many of them in your neighborhood. Major religions still called them devils and monsters, being just shy of openly advocating a hunt. People with too much spare time started flamewars about whether vampires are people on all popular social media, creating memes either spiteful or sympathetic, but in all cases sort of embarrassing.

As for vampires themselves, some of them missed the good old times - especially if they had no direct experience of it. Those who did, most often did not miss the rule of their Elders, or the hard choices that secrecy imposed. Some hoped to regain the old power through different means, some just wanted their place in the world. Almost all resented their current role - something between despised monsters and exotic freaks - but there is time to work on that. The best thing about being immortal is that you don't need to be in a rush.
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