by Joseph E. Beason
The following explication of all things vampiric is inspired by and derived from Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles.
Caine was a shaman who was born ages ago, perhaps in prehistoric times. He was a great mage, and learned to bend reality to his will. His greatest powers centered around the manipulation of spirits. One such spirit was the Beast, a dark and cruel entity summoned by blood sacrifice. Caine had many dealings with the Beast, and each believed that it used the other as a pawn.
Caine stretched his life span far beyond that of mere mortals, but even he could not stave off time forever. Caine had used the power of spirits to maintain his life, and so he grew obsessed with finding a way to use this power to gain the eternal existence that spirits seemed to possess. The Beast knew Caine's mind, and sought to lead him down foolish paths, for the Beast hungered for a material existence beyond the fleeting possession of mortal vessels. The Beast convinced Caine that they could be mystically united, granting the Beast a permanent doorway into the material world, and giving Caine the Beast's immortality. Each thought that they could control the other; both were horribly mistaken.
After much painstaking labor, Caine and the Beast bound themselves together. The Beast's secret ploy worked: Caine was killed, his avatar torn from his body and sent screaming into the afterworlds. But Caine's plan worked as well: the Beast lost all identity, becoming a mere source of power. The Beast was taken up by Caine's will, filling his mortal shell, in effect becoming a corrupt version of Caine's soul.
Caine awoke to power and horror. Without his avatar, he could no longer shape reality, and without a steady flow of quintessence through his pattern, he began to die again. He could draw on the Beast's powers, but the pattern of the Beast was empty, unable to sustain itself in the material world. Desperate to survive, Caine fastened upon the knowledge of the Beast's desire for blood sacrifice. Caine ripped open the throat of a goat, and drank of its blood. The blood was taken up by the Beast, becoming Vitae. This power could then be absorbed by Caine to survive, and ultimately prosper.
Caine quickly learned the parameters of his new existence. Blood was the physical vessel by which Caine could take hold of the Quintessence flow that sustained life. Plant juices held too little of the precious quality Caine required; animal blood was better, but the blood of humanity was a greater source of power. Besides requiring Vitae to sustain his Unlife, Caine also felt the hungers and drives of the Beast. All of his former needs and desires were bound up in the taking of blood; the act itself was intensely satisfying. Drawing blood from humans was a more sensual, carnal experience; it fed the Beast's urge for power and dominion.
Caine found that the blood of Awakened beings such as the Garou and Fay, was even more potent. However, the flows of Quintessence through these beings were tainted with a psychic imprint that carried over to Caine. For example, Garou blood brought with it Garou Rage. Caine learned to avoid the blood of Garou, for while it was potent, it broke down the few barriers Caine had to the savage rages of the Beast. These rages would come upon Caine whenever he was hungry, afraid, angry. The Beast magnified all slights, all threats, and urged its symbiote to act as an animal.
Caine's wish for immortality had been fulfilled; as long as he had a supply of blood, he could maintain the pattern that was fixed at the time of the merging. His body naturally sought the original pattern, resisting any physical change to the point of regenerating lost limbs if enough blood was available. Immune to age, he also developed immunity to wounding, disease, etc. He could carry sickness, but it would not affect him. He did have some vulneraibilities. Mystical damage could disrupt his pattern in ways that would heal but slowly. He also became acutely vulnerable to fire and sunlight, forces that wiser theurges had used to keep the Beast at bay in earlier times. Indeed, during the daytime, Caine found it difficult to even move as the Beast became quiescent within him.
Caine learned to use the Beast and his own knowledge of Thaumaturgy to regain some of the power he had lost at the merging. He learned to use Vitae to augment his physical abilities, at first to merely increase them to the limits of mortal flesh, then to perform seemingly impossible feats (Celerity, Fortitude, Potence). He regained his perceptions into the Spirit and Psychic worlds, and learned to manipulate minds (Animalism, Auspex, Presence, Obfuscation, Domination). He developed shape-changing abilities that were but a pale, rigid shadow of his former puissance on this area (Protean). He learned to summon and control the dark essence of the Beast (Obtenebration). In later years, he developed a means to alter his (and others) static pattern (Vicissitude).
Caine still had some human needs, including the need for companionship. After decades of watching his mortal companions whither from disease or age, or perishing on the battlefield, he bgean to search for a way to grant those closest to him a part of his power. As a mage he had used his ability to rule reality to heal hurt. Thus, he sought to use Vitae in the same way, with remarkable success. Those who drank of his blood would in a small, temporrary way take on some of the nature and power of the Beast. They could use Caine's blood to heal themselves, to sustain their lives, and with repeated use, to gain some of Caine's vampiric powers. (The physical powers proved to be the easiest, since they required a simple reinforcing of natural ability with Vitae; the other powers, specially the psychic ones, proved harder.) Unfortunately, the hungers and vulnerabilities of the Beast also came upon them. They flew into frenzies, developed animalistic urges, and even began to hunger for blood. Also, since the blood was the spirit of the Beast, it "obscured" their own souls while it was in their system. Those mages who partook of the blood found they could not access their power so easily, if at all.
Caine also learned at this time that those who repeatedly drank his blood developed a bond with him that existed on both the physical and spiritual planes. They became loving thralls of their new regent, subject to a great deal of control. Eventually Caine and his Ghouls learned that time and great exertion of will could dissolve the web that bound them together.
Inevitably, tragically, Caine went too far. News reached him that a cherished companion had fallen in battle. He rushed to the woman's side, but her soul had already departed. Believing he could call her back, he poured his blood into the corpse's gaping mouth. The Beast found a waiting vessel, and reached to fill it, expanding part of itself into the new form. The woman became the first Childe.
Much was learned of the nature of the Vampire in these early days of begetting Childer. The Beast existed as a kind of spiritual network, with its heart residing in Caine. The Childer of Caine were like the spokes of a wheel, their part of the Beast emanating from the Father. Being farther from the center, they found their powers were more limited than caines. Their children in turn were even weaker, standing farther from the center of what was becoming a spiritual web. The longer a vampire lived, the greater it became bound into the tapestry of the Beast (in effect, becoming of higher Generation). Also, if a vampire Sired frequently, later children would be weaker, the Sire not allowing enough time to rebuild its store of the spiritual "thread" it used to bind others to the Beast. An eventual limit of fourteen generations out from Caine was discovered; a fifteenth generation vampire could not Sire, having no store of the web left to give to its would-be Childe. Certain of the Vampiric powers (now called Disciplines) when practiced by one vampire on another were found to depend on the relative generation of the vampires. This seems to depend on their closeness to the center of the web; a greater part of the Beast can control a lesser part, but not vice-versa.
With time, the identity of some vampires became so strongly bound to their part of the Beast that they passed part of that identity to their descendants. This was the beginning of the Clans and Blood-lines, where certain qualities of the Sire passed down with the Beast, such as a change in the static pattern (Nosferatu) or a facility with certain Disciplines.
The creation of new vampires was inevitable; also inevitable was the act of vampire feeding on vampire. At first it was a matter of hunger: no Vitae was more delectable than that of another Kindred. Then an implication of the spirit-web became known. A vampire farther from the center of the Beast could lower his or her effective generation by feeding on an elder, one closer to the center. In effect, the younger usurped the position of the elder in the Web. This required great strength of will: the very fabric of the Beast is rent asunder. If successful, the Diabolist steps closer to the center of the Beast. The act is a horrifying invasion of the victim; their Beast-derived soul is torn from them; their existence as an entity is destroyed. The perpetrator is not necessarily better off: much of the identity of the victim is carried with its "position" in the web, and must be ingested. Some have commented that when all is said and done, the Diabolist resembles the victim more than the attacker. Because the pattern attempts to hold both parties in their places, the gain in power is not total. The Diablerist cannot take on all of the power of the victim. The attacker is often spiritually damaged after the assault, and may go into a catatonic state while assimilating the new power. It is widely accepted that the trauma of Diabolism (and the process, for that matter) is easier when the victim stand close to oneself in the pattern: those of one's blood-line, especially those whose generation is not much lower than one own. Thus, one's own Sire is often the best victim, from a purely strategic perspective...
In order to control the Beast, caine and his descendants have used many techniques. The most common is adherence to a moral standard of some kind. Typically this is a Judaeo-Christian ethic (Humanity), but can take on any of a number of forms, from a strict monasticism (Children of Osiris), to certain philosophies (Sabbat and other Paths). In some the Beast is contained, in some it is channeled. Some rely on the intervention of other entities (Path of Evil Revelations). One path some take is the quest for Golconda, a state in which the Beast is kept perpetually at bay.
Goldconda requires great discipline and insight. The aspirant must undergo a spiritual quest during which they examine their own identity and that of the Beast. Many do not have the inner resources necessary for the task. Those who are capable are often corrupted: Golconda requires the aspirant to examine the Beast, to know it in detail. Many find it impossible to know the Beast and not embrace it; these are often the most depraved of Kindred. For those few who can achieve self-knowledge without falling prey to their darker self, Suspire becomes possible. In this rite, which is highly personal, and thus different for each Suspirant, the vampire builds psychic and spiritual structures that allow them to separate from the Beast in part. The rages and hungers of the Beast are kept at bay; while blood is still necessary, the need is greatl reduced, as is the desire. By actively confronting the Beast, and straining to look upon it, the Suspirant gains full access to the Beast's mystic strengths, irregardless of their place in the Beast's spiritual web. Golconda is believed to be easiest for both the greatest and weakest of vampires: the great have a fuller understanding of the Beast, being near its heart, the weakest are less fully bound to the Beast and can better isolate themselves from its malevolence.
The ancient conflict between Garou and Kindred began with the Beast, and (some say) will end with the Beast. The Garou believe that the Beast is a manifestation of the Wyrm; some even belive that the Beast is actually a lost shard of the Wyrm, and that the Wyrm's present insanity is due to the loss of this shard. Vampires are thus the avatars of the Beast, and as such must be destroyed. The Garou elders have long since hunted Caine. Their logic is simple: cut off the head, the body will die. Vampires who understand the nature of the Beast fear this may be true: the Beast's heart may be released, or may simply die, thus destroying the unlife-sustaining power of all Kindred. Some believe that if Caine is destroyed, the heart of the Beast will simply be subsumed into another Kindred. Some believe the Beast will regain consciousness, and the Kindred will literally function as the limbs of a great organism. (Some believe this is already the case, and the Jyhad is just a perverse isometric exercise.)
A sect within the Sabbat who follow the Path of Caine have an unusual twist: they seek to diablerize Caine, believing the Diabolist will subsume the heart, and thus become the "new" first generation core. This act will make a member of the Sabbat ascendant over all the Antedeluvians, and may even weaken or destroy some of them as the fabric of the spirt web rewarps itself. These Kindred are thought to be even more psychotic than those that follow the Path of Evil revelations.
The Mages of the world were horrified at Caine's act, and many of the Oracles keep watch to ensure that such a thing does not happen again. At the same time, there is no doubting the power Caine has; his name is legend, while the names of his brothers and sisters in the art of that age are dust.