"I shall make my own fate in the lands east of Nod, across the Sea of Sorrows, far from the shores of Eden. I shall establish my kingdom in exile, set my children upon thrones of gold, and rule over Seth's brood as I deem fit. For surely it is better to rule honestly in darkness than to humble myself falsely in the light. Surely it is better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven." -- Caine, Erciyes Fragments III (Temptations)
"Dark Medieval" best describes the setting of our chronicle. At first glimpse, the dark medieval differs little from what we modern folk know as the Middle Ages. In fact, it is one and the same, at least on the surface. Villagers toil the land, living a short and harsh existence, knowing only the present and the word of God. Priests speak of damnation and salvation, while monks keep the knowledge of the lost eras in damp monasteries. All across the continent, feudal lords, from lowly and chivalrous knights to tyrranical kings, rule over all they survey and fight for God in far-off lands. However, beneath the surface, dark medieval Europe is a place of horrors and nightmares where vampires, werewolves, witches and demons are all too real.
The dark medieval world thus blends actual history and fictional horror. It is a brutal time when parish priests warn that the signs of the Apocalypse are everywhere and that devils tempt the pious and saintly. Villages and hamlets exist in total isolation, surrounded by deep woodlands filled with the ghastly howls of man-beasts and the disturbing chants of witches practicing their dark arts. Across Europe, fortified cities have bloomed with the false promise of security and freedom. In truth, their crooked cobblestone streets and labyrinthine alleyways are virtual prisons from which not even the dead can escape.
The dark medieval world is flavored with isolation and desolation. Vast leagues of untamed hinterland seperate villages from cities and hide things that are much worse than mere fabled monsters. Forests are dark and forbidding expanses, shielded by shadows during the day and illuminated by the faint light of the moon by night. The wind howls through towering castles, lone sentinels whose walls have been stained crimson with blood. Superstition and fear keep commoners and nobles alike confined to their homes, cowering around feeble candles until morning comes. In monasteries and universities, scholars and scribes struggle to pierce this uncertain darkness with ancient fragments and half-remembered truths. Kings wage desperate wars to keep the encroaching darkness at bay, the Church tries to spread the light of Christianity through misguided crusades, and the dreaded Cainites rule the night.
Set to begin in 1197AD, this is a historical game, deriving a good part of its dramatic energy and focus from real historic events; the Albigensian Crusade, the conflicts of Emperor Fredrick II and the rekindling of the Guelph-Ghibelline conflict in Italy (to only name three). The chronicle's roots, however, stretch far back to the chaos that spread across the known world after the collapse of Rome, a time when a mighty empire fractured and splintered into the many kingdoms that rule Europe in the dawning 12th century. Historically, the "Dark Ages" refer to the short span of centuries, roughly from the fall of Rome in the late 5th century to the rise of Emperor Charlemagne in the 8th century. However, the term "Dark Ages" perfectly captures the atmospheric merging of history and horror inherent in this chronicle, hence the anachronistic usage.
Although it is based on actual facts and true history, the core of the chronicle rests in the uncharted spaces between the lines of the history books, though some historical events and individuals have been tampered with (chronologically and otherwise) to suit the needs of the chronicle. Though the lives of kings, popes and monarchs are well-documented historically, we know very little about them beyond their supposed deeds, which castles they resided in, and in some cases, what they looked like. Anything else is not known with any level of certainty. The dark medieval night is unknown and uncertain, and the fantastic elements of the chronicle emerge from this uncertainty. This is not some fantasy of elves, dragons and wizards. It is the wonder of a world uncharted, colored by the fear of the unknown. This is a time of terror and daring, of unspeakable evils and unlimited opportunities for those brave enough to risk it all to take them for their own.
The dark medieval world is a huge and sprawling landscape. It is a living entity, rife with untold adventure, and it anxiously awaits those who would face its many dangers. This realm is simultaneously thrilling and dreadful, magnificent and terrible. It offers vast treasures, but they are guarded by treachery, deceit and the complex machinations of Cainites and mortals alike. Nonetheless, faith motivates all who eke out a difficult existence here, for all hope that, at the end of the Long Night, a new morning will dawn. Whether that first glimmer of light shall promise salvation or herald the arrival of Gehenna, none can say. Until then, the denizens of the world struggle for their own rewards, praying for the best, and steeling themselves for the worst.
Welcome to the dark medieval world, weary traveler. Pray you survive the experience.
"The mysteries that lie buried within the world are not new, apprentice. Why do you think they have been buried? Simply because people of the era condemn them now rather than embrace them does not change their nature. This is a potentially halcyon time for us, but men still hate what they cannot understand. Never forget this lesson." -- Regent Ardan Von Reichmann, Clan Tremere
Like rare jewels strung upon a fine necklace, the cities of Central and Eastern Europe fan out across the length and breadth of a sprawling continent. Linking East to West with their drunken spider-web pattern, they serve as the only bastions of civilization in a vast wilderness of barbarity. Most began as city-state satrapies for fallen Rome; garrisons or supply stations serving the soldiery of the far-flung empire, though they now evince the character of their Eastern conquerors. While they are accorded the general courtesy of being named as cities, many are just emerging from their former status as mere barbarian encampments, farming villages, crossroads towns and they are, consequently, in a condition of nearly perpetual growth and change. Despite this furthering of civilization, both physically and psychologically, this is still a harsh and unforgiving land, and its people are never permitted to forget it.
Beyond these relatively safe enclaves of society lies endless wilderness; league upon league of rich plains, dense forests, dark marshes, rocky steppes and forbidding mountains, broken here and there by the crumbling relics of Rome’s mighty, fallen empire. Remnants of old roads, ancient bridges and long-deserted outposts—a rusting weapon or a broken pot standing mute witness to Rome’s hasty withdrawal in the face of numerous vicious, successive invasions. Some Cainites find themselves trapped within these forgotten ruins, besieged by rabid Lupines who wait for them to dare to step outside the confines of these thoroughly walled but otherwise abandoned and crumbling fortresses.
A few hardy Cainites—mostly Gangrel, Nosferatu, and Ravnos—brave the endless trek through Eastern Europe’s perilous wastelands. Most Cainites conducting business outside their circumscribed spheres send mortal agents in their stead whenever possible, and even Cainites native to the region travel infrequently and with great care, surrounding themselves with heavily armed retainers if they are forced to leave the safety of their individual strongholds. The sensible ones stay within their own city’s protective grasp for as long as feasibly possible.
Within the cities’ stony walls, commoners have just begun throwing off the shackles of oppressive feudalism while nobles wage age-old blood feuds. Eastern pride battles Western arrogance as each struggles to assert itself over the other. Treaties are forged and broken in a year—or a mere night—as once staunch allies turn to hateful enemies and former foes offer temporary alliances. The enemy of your enemy is your enemy, or so it is said. Old enmities die hard in these uncivilized lands, however, and anyone who implicitly trusts a newfound ally is a fool. People battle one another on religious and ethnic grounds routinely, to say nothing of causes for warfare based on limited resources, land, money, and a myriad of other excuses for human butchery. The Dark Medieval heart burns with vengeance for wrongs committed—perhaps even centuries ago by nameless ancestors—and ache from jealousy, greedily desiring the riches and power of their neighbors. Dark passions tend to overrule enlightened thought in these times, and even the most learned of men tend toward fervor and fanaticism rather than coldly logical detachment and intellectual pursuits.
Like many other regions of the known world, the territories here fell beneath the disciplined onslaught of the Roman legions long ago. Always a civilizing force, the Romans built roads and established trade routes and settlements in Eastern Europe just like every other land they had ever conquered. And yet, the invincible armies of Rome were repelled and overcome by barbarian hoards, driven back to their homelands of Italy, and eventually overwhelmed and destroyed many centuries hence. Why, then, is Eastern Europe so unknowable and savage? The answer to this riddle lies within the land itself.
Blessed with fertile plains, navigable rivers, abundant forests and majestic mountains, the lands of Eastern Europe appear to be Paradise itself at first glance. Beneath that rich beauty, however, lays a sickness that infects every inch of the land—even as it imbues the earth with a mystery and magic that drives successive waves of would-be conquerors to try and possess it at all costs. Those who inhabit these lands seem to prosper for a time, but even the strongest of men and women eventually succumb to the dark miasma of corruption cloaking the earth.
Somewhere beneath the crust of the Old Country’s dark soil lies the midnight-black heart of an ancient demonic entity of unspeakable power, bound to the land itself since before men ever dared tread there. The entity’s True Name is lost to time, but those maddened few that know of the nightmarish beast’s existence refer to it in hushed tones as Kupala. Each beat of its mighty heart spews forth greater spiritual malignancy: hatred, bigotry, terror, unnatural desires, rage, corruption, intolerance and infection. As if the demon heart’s horrid presence alone did not subject the agonized earth to enough thorough pollution, lesser minions of the eldritch entity (known ambiguously as ‘kupalas’ in honor of their dark master) overrun the region as well. Inhabiting certain twisted trees, forbidden caves, misty hollows, and blatantly unnatural land formations, they reach out to strike at the innocent and unwary. These ‘kupalas’ gleefully infect some with mystical diseases, and cruelly maim others like feral beasts, viciously killing or torturing the good and evil alike whenever the mood takes them. It is not entirely unknown for an entire village in some remote locale to unexpectedly fall prey to some unnamed plague or to simply disappear into mysterious mists some stormy night, never to be seen again. If the legends speak true, these entities are a mesh of both flesh and spirit, gibberingly mad and possessed of nothing but a malice and rapacity the likes of which the human heart could never experience. There are countless folk tales regarding those who have bested these horrors, and numerous remedies for repelling them, but the validity of such stories superstitions are, as of yet, unproven.
Not all depredations are committed by the regions Cainites; even those ambitious blood-suckers fear what they cannot understand and have no means of fighting. However, the Cainites feel safe within the sheltering walls of their cities and towns. Locked away in secure and secretive havens, occupied with elaborate power-schemes and political intrigues, consumed by an unholy thirst for blood and eternity, Caine’s damned childer play out their games of dominance. They simply prefer to ignore the creeping malignancy beyond their walls. It puts their twisted minds to rest, and many believe the land and its peoples are much safer that way in the long-term.
Eastern Europe embodies the darkness and perversity of the dark medieval world. An aura of gloom and despair, both physical and emotional, permeates the dreaded region. Terror is palpable in many individuals; subtly visible upon the faces of the mortal populace, its presence manifesting even among the scheming Cainites of the Eastern European kingdoms, although the immortal monsters conceal their fear behind elaborate facades.
And so, while the veneer of civilization and honor lies atop the societies of Eastern Europe, it never truly reaches within, never fully takes root in the land or the people. Beneath the surface of Eastern Europe rests the true barbarian heart, pagan and wild despite any levels of alleged civility, and a savage soul that ultimately may prove untamable. Perhaps only time will tell.
"Ah, the King has reigned for almost five decades now! How entertaining the mortals can be with their trifling perceptions of time. I wonder what they will think when they discover the traitorous revenant bastard has reigned for nearly twice that long?" -- Jarek the Wretched, Clan Nosferatu
Although Bohemia holds the remains of twenty-five-thousand year old settlements, its Dark Medieval existence began with the arrival of the Slavs during the sixth and seventh centuries. Traveling through the Carpathian Pass, a long and treacherous route through the Carpathian Mountains far to the East, they entered through the Moravian Gate (one of many open passes through the mountain ranges of the East, which are referred to as ‘gates’ due to the ease in which migrants may pass through them), a narrow valley branching off of the Carpathian Pass that descends from the mountains themselves and eventually leads into what is now Bohemia. There, the Slavs intermixed with the native Celts and Germans and formed into a tribal group under a powerful Frankish merchant-warlord named Samo. The newfound kingdom unfortunately collapsed upon his death.
A great Western Slavic tribe led by a charismatic young woman and gifted shaman named Libussa moved into the area during the late seventh century, intermingling with the former inhabitants and settling in great numbers. Libussa, recognizing that her swiftly growing tribe was becoming intolerant of a female leader due to the blending of their cultures, chose a powerful warrior named Premysl as her consort and husband. She reluctantly turned the rulership of her people over to Premysl, after Libussa had prophesized that a great city to be named Prague would someday rise upon the site of their chosen home, a city that would outshine all others and be home to kings.
Or, so the story goes. In actuality, the legendary Libussa and her people were host to an ancient Tzimisce Methuselah, Shaagra the Destroyer, a female warrior of great cunning and greater ferocity. Fleeing encroaching barbarian invaders and realizing that her tribe alone could no longer support her all-consuming thirst, Shaagra used her favored ghoul, Libussa, to urge them into westward expansion. Taking their place alongside the earlier arrivals, the newly named Premysl nobility began their bloody quest for the throne.
The state of Great Moravia, which included Moravia, Bohemia, and western Slovakia, become quite strong in 833AD, when good relations with the Byzantine Empire prompted Prince Ratislav of Great Moravia to send forth for Christian missionaries to convert his people to the ways of the White Christ. Cyril and Methodius, known as the Apostles of the Slavs, arrived at last in 863AD and converted much of the fledgling country’s commoner population to the new state religion; Eastern Greek Orthodox Christianity. The two also developed the Slavonic Glagolitic script together (the comprehensive written language of the Slavs for centuries yet to come, used to translate Latin into Slavonic and vice versa) and received permission for sermons to be given in Slavonic after the lessons were read in proper Latin.
Sometime around 880AD, the powerful Premysl family began construction of Prague Castle, which dominates one of the promontories overlooking the dark Valtava River, and it was finished by 886AD. The castle was intended to serve not only as a fortress and Premysl family residence, but also as a fortification to guard the resting place of the ancient and deadly Shaagra. Duke Borivoj Premysl, the ruler of fledgling Prague at the time, was baptized by Bishop Methodius in the same year as a sign of good faith and an attempt to sway more Slavic pagans in Bohemia to convert to Greek Orthodox Christianity, the eastern Christian faith. His move succeeded, and made his family convert all the more swiftly, assuring they were now favored for sovereignty over other rival families who still clung to the old ways. He built a fine wooden church inside the castle five years later and dedicated it to the Virgin Mary, much to the pleasure of Eastern Europe’s Christian kingdoms, and of course, Constantinople itself.
In 907AD, seeing a need for greater fortifications, Shaagra insisted on building a new stone castle two miles upriver from Prague Castle. Accordingly, her dutiful family built the ominous castle of Chrasten-Vysehrad, which was completed in late 912AD. Most settlements arose around and between the two fortresses; the two most important ones of which, one known as the Little Quarter, sprang up at the foot of Prague Castle, while the other, Old Town, grew steadily around the base of the promontory upon which Chrasten-Vysehrad sits.
Intermarriage between the Premysls and other prominent noble families allowed them to claw their way to the top in no time flat. Shaagra rewarded her most useful servants with her potent blood, dark powers and unnatural longevity. These loyal servants, in turn, intermarried with close relatives, who were also generally ghouls, until some within each new generation were born with the Tzimisce Methuselah’s tainted blood already in them. Other family members found strength through the practices of the forbidden arts of magic; some practiced even darker and more secretive rites. The powerful family of Premysl (some of whom were revenants by this point) thus emerged as the supreme power in the Sovereign Kingdom of Bohemia, with Prince Wenceslaus Premsyl (also known as King Vaclav I) as the sole ruler. Other Tzimisce found that they were unexpectedly welcomed among Prague’s dark and winding streets as long as they openly acknowledged Shaagra’s preeminent place.
Shaagra began to slip into torpor soon after Wenceslaus took the throne. Lacking her counsel and direction, Wenceslaus was thrown back upon his own devices. Attempting to feebly shake off the ancient vampire’s yoke, he turned to outside help rather than relying on familial power to hold his sovereign throne. Wenceslaus solemnly swore allegiance to the German Holy Roman Emperor Henry I in 929AD, which caused the influential Bohemian ruling classes to withdraw their support from him almost immediately. German Ventrue began to enter Bohemia cautiously, theoretically to assist Wenceslaus and further Ventrue ambitions, but really to establish themselves politically and economically in a land that was never their own. They did nothing to stop the murder of the revenant prince only a few years later, hoping to provoke a time of turmoil that would allow them to take complete control.
Prince Wenceslaus’ younger brother, Boleslav, murdered the crowned prince in 935AD and created a powerful state, ruling over Bohemia, Slovakia, Moravia, and even parts of Silesia and southern Poland. His rule was troubled by repeated attacks from the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, who through his allegiance forged with the deceased Wenceslaus, viewed the rebellious assassin Boleslav as untrustworthy and a traitor to the throne. Though Boleslav tried to ignore his dark familial duties, his relatives made occasional trips into the hidden crypt where Shaagra slumbered and fed her the blood of unlucky captives. After Boleslav’s death on the battlefield against Emperor Otto I in 967AD, Boleslav II became crowned prince and expertly stabilized the kingdom. Fearing further attacks from Christian monarchs of Western Europe, Boleslav II appealed to the Pope in Rome and founded the Arch-Bishopric of Prague in 973AD. This caused a tremendous power struggle amidst the noble houses of Prague, as this shift of power would involve yet another mass religious conversion; from Eastern Greek Orthodoxy to Western Roman Catholicism. A few Toreador and Lasombra, vying for control of the Church, began to creep into Bohemia and establish themselves in Prague.
Bretislav, Boleslav II’s successor, achieved a permanent union of Bohemia and Moravia, though he was forced to depend on German advice to keep the Premysls in control. A Ventrue, Rudolph Brandl, took control of the reins of power for the first time and Bohemia and raised himself to the position of the Prince of Prague. He offered an alliance to the few Toreador in Prague, simultaneously keeping Bohemia in the grasp of the Holy Roman Empire and cutting Lasombra rivals out of the Church of Bohemia.
Many mortal wizards and scholars took up residence in Prague, drawn to the city by the presence of Jewish scholars and Kabbalists, who had flocked to Prague in hopes of protection from persecution. Their Cainite counterparts from House Tremere soon covertly followed. Nosferatu and Cappadocians arrived and found a place in the Jewish Ghetto. The practice of medicine thrived there; Jewish chirurgeons gained great knowledge of anatomy through the study of corpses (unlike their Christian counterparts, who were forbidden to do so by law).
In 1091AD, a devastating fire at Prague Castle prompted the Premysls to move their court to Chrasten-Vysehrad and began replacing old wooden fortifications for sturdy stone ones. Shaagra was secretly moved to a carved cellar beneath Vysehrad, where she remained in deep torpor.
Briefly held by Poland in 1102AD after a sudden and vicious invasion, Bohemia reasserted its independence through an equally vicious rebellion. Attacked by the Hungarians in 1107AD and 1112AD, Bohemia repeatedly fought off foreign invasion while various townships that made up the city became more unified. A noted trade route since the beginning of the tenth century, Prague soon boasted a market to rival those of the greatest Western European cities. New buildings sprang up to accommodate the influx of German merchants. One of the first stone bridges in Eastern Europe, Judith Bridge, was constructed in 1123D to connect both banks of the Valtava River to one another. New Town developed rapidly soon thereafter, with stone houses and Romanesque churches dominating the landscape.
A civilizing influence and a center for learning, the Great University of Prague arose in Old Town, financed by the Ventrue Prince Rudolph Brandl and the wealthy and all-powerful Premysl dynasty. Many of Europe’s greatest minds went to teach and study therein. With the university came a couple of Brujah parasites, there to study and to seek lands where they could put their philosophies to the test.
The Ventrue ruler of Prague invited a Tremere ally, who was under pressure from the Tzimisce of Hungary, to enter Austria with his cabal and attack Tzimisce holdings there. With the Tzimisce thus occupied, the Prince turned his attention to holding off his Lasombra rivals in Germany. So, with the collusion of the Ventrue Prince of Bohemia, the Tremere established themselves in Austria, eventually taking Vienna as their new secondary headquarters.
Bohemia remains an autonomous kingdom in 1197AD, though still a member of the Holy Roman Empire's various direct satrapies. Its capitol city of Prague serves as a major trade epicenter and an outpost of civilization on the edge of what most of Europe considers the barbaric East. Most people forget that Prague lies further West than even cherished Vienna. The people of Eastern Europe view Bohemia as a possible ally against a takeover from the West, feeling that here in the ‘magic city’ of Prague the people might better understand their views. Poised between East and West, thoroughly linked to both, but truly part of neither, Bohemia must tread a careful path or be swallowed in the ongoing struggle between opposing cultures.
"Truly? All you require is your faith and honor to protect you, good sir? You should tell that to your armor and sword, then. Were they possessed of a mind, I bet they would be most dismayed to be found so unusually useless." -- Sir Lukasz Nemecek, Clan Brujah
In the dark medieval era, mortals are generally members of one of three categories of people: those who fight, those who work, and those who pray. An individual’s status is generally fixed and immutable; tales of peasant farmers becoming ennobled through daring deeds, mystical or divine intervention, or even due to pure luck are mostly just fairytales told for the amusement of the common folk. If a nobleman or noblewoman discovers that his or her spouse had peasant blood intermingled in their family history, the marriage could easily be annulled with all rights and privileges bestowed upon the true noble in the situation. People in the dark medieval take rank and privilege very seriously. The slowly emergent merchant and artisan classes are beginning to blur these fixed lines of society somewhat, but the time of the prosperous and empowered middle class has yet to come.
Those who fight are the warriors and nobles of the realm. Being noble is a birthright, not a privilege, and these high-borne folk consider themselves aristocrats who set trends in fashion and manners among their peers and lessers. Chivalry, courtesy, grace and hospitality are of paramount importance to the typical noble. A noble lady has these rights because of her father’s birthright and eventually her husband’s union, and she is also expected to uphold the ideals of her station publicly, which could theoretically include political and military obligations as well as mere social ones. It is military service that truly defines and exemplifies the essence of what it is to be a feudal lord; the fact that he should use his leisure and freedoms to perfect his skill at arms sets him apart from the hard-working peasant, who has little if any leisure time to enjoy. In exchange for an almost unlimited freedom to rule his territories as he deems fit, the lord owes military allegiance to his royal superior, usually a Duke and/or King. The lord’s responsibilities include raising and commanding troops in times of war, protecting his serfs and vassals, and acting as judge and jury with local disputes.
Those who work are the peasantry; farmers and craftsmen of countless types. A few may be prosperous and have their personal freedom, but most are mere serfs, bound to the land like property of their noble betters. True freedom is extremely difficult to obtain. Stories say that if a serf can run away from his lord’s land, evade capture for a year and a day, and join a merchant guild of some sort, he will be written-off by his lord and given up. This, unfortunately, is not true whatsoever and has led to more than a few gullible and idealistic serfs being strung up in the square for treason once captured. If an ambitious serf can save his meager earnings and then somehow persuade a trustworthy and reputable third-party to purchase his freedom from the local feudal lord, then he might actually win his freedom. In many cases, serfs are freed by the feudal lord himself, perhaps as a kind gesture but more likely because he can no longer afford to keep the serfs, for whatever reason. Roughly ninety-percent of Europe’s population during the dark medieval era is some form of peasantry; approximately sixty-percent of that ninety-percent are serfs. Seldom do these commoner folk ever journey more than a day’s travel from their home village. Life for the peasants and serfs centers on work, family and faith.
Those who pray are the clergy of the Church; the priests, friars, monks and nuns. Some are wanderers, healing the sick and perhaps teaching nobles’ children during their earlier years. Others dwell in priories, convents or monasteries, ostensibly living a simple and pious life. The fact is, most members of clerical orders are the sons and daughters of nobles. The religious orders can afford to pick and choose whom they shall admit, and generous donations offered from a hopeful family certainly can help to insure the acceptance of its favored son or daughter. They have taken positions in the Church primarily because they are the younger siblings of a high-borne family. Estates of ecclesiastical lords share many commonalities with the typical noble’s manor, though instead of a steward, the post is referred to as a clerk or cellarer. Otherwise, the structure and management is quite similar, generally speaking, and in some cases, monks and friars are skilled in combat as well as more peaceful arts. Daily work for a run-of-the-mill cleric involves a ritual of prayer, study, music and management of their estate. Moreover, the religious orders’ ordained intent is to serve as counselors and spiritual guides for nobles and peasants alike.
"Armies of mortals marched to our cause, shouted our praises, and died in our name without ever knowing why. Their palaces were bloodied, their cities crushed and their holy places defiled. And still, that was not enough for us. Brother fought brother for the sake of spilled blood. In the end, all the Children of Caine were destroyed, leagues of mortals lay massacred, and only we hated few remain. How shall I face you now, my Sire's Sire? How shall I answer your rage?" -- An Unknown Antediluvian, Erciyes Fragments VI (Transgressions)
A medieval army on the march is a fearsome thing for all who behold it; even those who march within its ranks. Hundreds or even thousands of soldiers, knights and camp followers spread across the defender's countryside in search of food, water, forage, plunder and ransom. Oftentimes, what they cannot take or enslave, they burn to the ground and put to the sword. The defenders, falling back behind the curtainwalls of larger cities and great castles, do very much the same, herding animals and valuable belongings into cramped strongholds and leaving the countryside generally denuded of flocks, crops and people. Peasants surge into the cities for safety, while nobles hold up in their stoney bastions. The mere passage of even a small army through its own rightful territories means a potential famine and economic depression as its clerks buy up all necessary supplies in bulk at wildly inflated prices.
The medieval army is also an unwieldy collection of component units that are both proud and quarrelsome. The pennons in the breeze each mark a capable knight and his stately household, a city's district militia or a deadly mercenary band. Thrown together by their feudal lord's summons, the army is a great shifting mass of rival strangers with few common tactics and little common training. Its units fight together for a few months then disperse, with many of its members still strangers to one another. Only the renowned crusader armies remain in the field as a whole for more than a mere season and have time to become a proper, coordinated military force.
The army is the result of months of dilligent planning. To assemble the Bohemian royal army in preparation for a time of war, for instance, an enclave involving a meeting with the King and his Dukes is undertaken. If war is properly declared after this meeting meant to ascertain whether war is necessary and potentially beneficial, the Generals of Bohemia's armies are dispatched to the various royal vassals, commanding those who owe military service to appear with their household troops at a certain date and time at a specific location. Meanwhile, other Generals are busy purchasing supplies and arranging for the transportation of the rallying troops, spending their lords' money sparingly when possible. Royal administrators in the service of Dukes and Barons negotiate with landholders, the Church, particularly wealthy merchants and prosperous guilds for sizeable loans. Other clerks negotiate with mercenary captains for their band's service in the army, and do whatever they can to dig up every last scrap of information about the region where the war is to be fought from pilgrims, merchants, immigrants and spies. Most kingdoms in central and western Europe operate similarly and follow like patterns of preparation.
The royal vassals also follow the same process. They in turn send various messengers their own numerous vassals, purchase adequate supplies and arrange for financial loans for the war efforts. Often, people (including those not involved in the upcoming conflicts) choose to update their wills and put forth extra effort to attend mass and confess their sins. Affairs are settled, then left carefully in the hands of landholders' wives and trusted seneschals.
Royal clerks set up the muster point and record the arrival and equipment of each attending landholder. How many soldiers and knights show up depends on the popularity of the king as well as the royal cause for warfare. Granted, refusing to attend the king's summons for war when service is due is often considered a highly traitorous act tantamount to outright treason. Soldiers serve a for a myriad of reasons. A short Bohemian campaign against rebel forces outside of Brunn promises more swift and certain plunder than the years-long crusade to Outremer.
Whenever a landholder needs to raise an army against his immediate neighbor, the process is much quicker. The messengers need only reach a few key vassals and bring them a short distance to a local muster point. Logistics also are much simpler. Still, the number of knights and soldiers responding, and the speed of their response, depends on the landholder's popularity, the opportunity for plunder, and who the intended foe to defeat is. These smaller-scale conflicts are rarely mandated by the edicts of a king, and are instead organized by Dukes, Barons or even the efforts of a singular lesser lordling. As such, refusing to attend the campaign is rarely measured as an act of treason, and instead seen as an act of defiance and disrespect. How this is dealt with varies significantly from fief to fief and lord to lord.
The large counties of western Bohemia (along the borderlands between Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire) rely not on standard feudal levies but on taxes and paid soldiers. The lord's officers demand payment from their vassals, who send money or hire soldiers to serve for them. The eastern Bohemian counties (on the borders of Poland, for instance) rely mostly on civic levies, paid soldiers and hired mercenaries. Their forces are arguably better trained but serve only as long and as they are paid. Unpaid mercenaries may choose to desert, change sides for better pay, or merely fight with the bare minimum effort to survive and abandon the field mid-conflict rather than take any losses.
Landholders owe military service to their feudal superiors. In many parts of Europe, this is a basic foundation of the government. Everyone born in the vast majority of European kingdoms grows up as part of this blatantly militaristic society, and as such, the personal customs and moral expectations mimic the war-like society that surrounds them. Traditionally, a landholder owes forty to sixty days per year in military service and equipment, as well as horses befitting his station. The wealthier the landholder, the more people and auxiliaries (archers, crossbowmen, peasant levies) he owes in service. A typical baron might have his own household force of fifteen deadly knights and thirty trained soldiers per knight in service, with the right to summon as many as sixty or seventy such knights with their own squires and soldierly forces as well. A simple knight of unimpressive stature might only have himself, a son or two as squires and a half-dozen household soldiers worthy of war. Bishops and abbots owe service as other landholders do; they provide soldiers and knights based on the lands held by their churches as ecclesiastical territories.
Towns, by default, owe military service as part of their rightful charters. A typical town might owe somewhere between twenty and one-hundred soldiers. The town might provide its own militia of young men drawn from each neighborhood or parish. Wealthy towns might hire a company of professional soldiers if they have an interest in making sure the army does well (or have concerns about being potentially attacked). Even wealthy merchants and guild advocates who dwell in highly urban environments are not immune to feudal military obligations, and even if they themselves are not expected to march off to war like knights and soldiers, they will be taxed heavily by the crown during war-time, pressured to make hefty loans to warlords, and intimidated by martial forces to sell all their supplies at cheapened rates. This can bankrupt an unprepared merchant, or at the very least, leave him on the verge of destitution due to such war-efforts.
The landholder's duty is complex. Since most of the obligations are oral, not written, a landholder who is not enthusiastic about a summons or whose lands are restless or not faring well might show up with the smallest numbers of soldiers that is socially acceptable. In Bohemia (and some other kingdoms across Europe), a landholder can send money and goods to his feudal superior instead of going himself or sending his own men off to war. This is a beneficial plan for landholders who are widows, minors or otherwise not expected to properly lead troops into a battle far from home. The custom (known as scuttage) is gaining favor with many monarchs because it allows them to hire a better-trained, more cohesive body of troops. A landholder who does not serve in battle often forfeits the potential gains in reputation, glory and plunder, however.
There are numerous reasons to march off to war despite the risk of life and limb, however. The sense of duty to serve instilled in almost all medieval people of feudal societies ensures it is difficult to refuse such summons even if no direct feudal obligation binds the individual in question to service. The likelihood of earning coin wages from services rendered if a professional soldier or mercenary as well as the chance to plunder and pillage enemy strongholds, cities and villages that do not honorably surrender means a lowly knight or even an ambitious peasant could find himself quite a wealthy sum of valuables and goods if their war endeavors pan out beneficially. The expectation that captured knights and feudal lords will ransom themselves, their armor, weapons and horse to earn freedom unharmed represents a large potential sum of money for their captor. Renown is a major factor as well, as those who earn great glory in battle improve their lot in life and earn a fine reputation faster than virtually any other means; even titles and land can be bestowed upon mere peasant soldiers if they show particular valor or wisdom that turns the tide of a battle for the better. Lastly, a warlord generally possesses the legal authority to offer pardons to prisoners who serve as soldiers in open combat; even those suffering from political or religious disgrace can sometimes serve to regain favor and redemption in the eyes of the society at large.
The organization of the army below the ranks of noble lords is broken into several broad-stroke groupings. Above all, one form of soldier dominates the warfare in the dark medieval world; the mounted knights. Heavily armed and armored, commonly trained in the arts of war from a young age, these heavy troops can run roughshod over lesser forces with relative ease. They comprise, however, only a small part of the available military and are only common in western Europe and Outremer, together with those areas of eastern Europe such as Hungary and Poland that have adopted the common western techniques of warfare. They are found in virtually every country in Europe almost without exception, therefore. Most knights hold enough land to support themselves and their war horses, and to pay for their quality armor and weapons.
Sergeants are, in a military sense, lesser knights. Socially, they are knights who hold less status (and therefore less land) and are usually less well equipped than a proper knight. They still often use the title of 'Sir' like their knightly counterparts and have the same rights and obligations as any other landholding noble (even if they do not have land of their own). An army usually has similar numbers of knights and sergeants, the exact ratio varying by battle and by kingdom. Knights and sergeants are the heavy cavalry and heavy infantry; the men in quality armor who lead charges into the enemy forces.
The next grouping, significantly more complex than the previous, are that of the mercenaries. Mercenaries are men (and on extremely rare occasion, disguised women) who decide to attempt to escape poverty, overpopulation, starvation and chaos by joining or forming mercenary groups. Their individual training and experience will vary wildly. It is rare for their leaders to come from a knightly background, but some are landless knights or sons who have no chance of inheriting. A mercenary leader, in theory, can be knighted for loyal service and valiant glory in battle, taken into a major noble household as a household knight or given an office and entrusted with an important garrison.
Most mercenary companies are organized into small units of up to three-hundred soldiers. They often come from overpopulated areas with poor soil, particularly areas prone to weak leadership, rampant crime and frequent combative struggles. Bohemia is blessedly free of such places compared to many other kingdoms, but the small city in south-western Bohemia known as Budweis is notorious for churning out local mercenary companies. Unlike most military groupings, mercenary companies could be from virtually any kingdom originally. Encountering a primarily French mercenary company in Bohemia, for instance, is not particularly unusual.
Mercenaries are extremely unpopular with proper knights and sargeants, urban dwellers and the respectable medieval populace as a whole. Often slandered as ruthless "sell-swords," even the most orderly and honorable mercenary companies are viewed with distrust and animosity by society at large. What manner of person, they reason, would turn their back on society as a whole to wander the world in search of plunder and coin at the expense of casual murder? To the medieval mind, there is a distinct difference between mercenary killing (tantamount to murder) and soldierly killing (a casualty of righteous warfare). Additionally, mercenaries who break away from the more "official" command structures and begin ravaging the countryside are a frequent menace to be dealt with in any given kingdom. The Third Lateran Council of 1179AD denounced these wandering mercenaries as little better than heretics, and the reputation has stuck. The unsavory reputation of mercenary companies can prove to be a valuable intimidation tool, however, and many towns, monasteries and villages would rather surrender than risk being pillaged by such men. If captured in battle, however, most mercenaries, unable to be properly ransomed, are often executed along with their camp followers.
The next grouping is the largest, and is that of common soldiers. Common soldiers are the general backbone of any army's might. They may be free peasants, town levies or even men-at-arms. Some serve for pay (usually equivalent in sum to the yearly income of a capable craftsman in a town) or for promises of plunder rights. Others serve because their home community is required by feudal duties to supply a certain number of warm bodies and appropriate equipment. Their training is generally anywhere from poor to nonexistent. Their equipment is usually a mix of armor and weapons, generally out-of-date and in ill repair. Knights attack common soldiers mercilessly, as they are worthless for ransom like mercenaries. Some common soldiers are even overridden by knights' charges from their own side during combat. Those who survive their service as a soldier generally return home changed men, never to re-enlist or appear in the army's rolls again.
Soldiers who are part of a knight's household or mercenary company tend to fare better. Their equipment is in better condition, they generally have some combat training, often as archers or shield-men. Their lord generally fights near them and protects them from their own overzealous forces. Their lord may even choose to ransom them if captured, which gives those wearing a household badge some value for proper ransom, especially in numbers.
The last sizeable grouping of individuals that compose an army's structure is that of the so-called "camp followers." A medieval army, contrary to modern conceits, is not made up of just soldiers and knights. It is among the chaotic mass of camp followers that nearly one-third the army's ranks can be found.
Warlords depend on clergy to maintain morale by preaching, offering confessions and communion to the soldiers on the eve of battle, and helping to bury and offer last rites to the dead and dying. Saints' relics and blessed banners from major abbeys are commonly carried into battle and must be tended and protected by appropriate clerics and specially assigned soldiers. Large war-carts with religious insignia are common rallying points even during combat. Friars and priests commonly travel with the baggage train and sometimes with small groups of attending servants (usually scribes and the like).
Well-traveled merchants, scouts and even religious pilgrims will often guide an army through unfamiliar terrain; drawn maps are virtually nonexistent in the dark medieval world (and the few that do are notoriously unreliable). Skilled scouts and spies as well as traitors from beyond enemy lines help the marching army find and avoid strongholds, river fords, mountain passes, roads, cities and villages, as well as supplies.
Engineers and miners build siege equipment (such as siege-towers, battering rams, catapults, etc.) and dig tunnels (known as "sapping") beneath curtainwalls to undermine their structural integrity or burrow under defenses. Some armies carry the needed parts of siege engines with them; others send lightly armed foraging parties out to find sturdy wood when a siege begins. A typical army also brings a surprising number of blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers and other craftsmen to maintain its variety of necessary equipment, from weapons and armor, to massive siege-engines and horseshoes.
Grooms and carters care for the horses, assorted livestock and supply wagons. The average knight has at least two horses, which need grooming, food and water. Many armies, if possible, bring small amounts of livestock to be slaughtered and eaten during the journey to the destined site of combat (especially if the intended battle site is far away). If the army is camped at a siege, grooms and carters also have the unpleasant duty of disposing of a prodigious amount of animal manure.
Women, often the wives of the common soldiers, follow the camp to carry water, cook meals, mend and launder clothing, and other similar duties. Horses and soldiers in the field both require a large amount of water, which has to be manually carried or carted from the nearest spring or river to keep the army strong and efficient. Prostitutes who travel with armies are often called "camp girls," and gather around military encampments for fairly obvious reasons. Many camp girls are refugees who seek food and money to support their families or seek the protection of a soldier from the foraging parties. Often women help with foraging and pillage, care for the sick and dying, and pick over the fallen on a battlefield, dispatching the wounded who are not worth a ransom and looting the dead. Refugees (men, women and children) will also gather around a defending army in hopes of being protected or to earn an opportunity to strike back at the enemy invaders alongside true soldiers. These refugees often fill various menial roles as they are able.
Merchants, male and female, follow the camp or travel to it with vital supplies at exorbitant prices. Some obtain their wares from plunder or looting and then sell the loot back to the army. This can prove to be a double-edged sword, depending on how well the campaign is going. If the army is doing well, they will negotiate prices shrewdly but will be willing to buy from these intrepid profiteering merchants. If the army is worn and weary, desperate and bitter, they may very well overwhelm the merchant, heedless of the criminality of such an action, and take their wares for their own as needed.
All these people march along with the army, which fortunately moves at a slow pace more often than not. Usually, camp followers pack up the tents and gear while the soldiers are starting to march, which puts them at the end of a long line of forces moving along a road or across the country. Nonetheless, camp followers are known to defend the camp and marching train in case the army is overrun or the baggage is attacked.
When an army pillages a seized town or a battlefield, camp followers are there with them. As with soldiers, they can be punished for unauthorized looting (but rarely are). Some camp followers will also invariably act as scouts and foragers. They generally take charge of the baggage train and can easily hide any equipment or items they need within it. Additionally, without formal duties, they can slip in and out of the army with relative ease as well. Those wishing to stow away amidst the military movements would do best to sneak in amongst the rabble of the camp followers.
"How terribly disappointing. You seem absolutely determined to die rather than cooperate with us. I assure you, that is not an either/or proposition. A shame you do not wish to be healed, really." -- Abbot Garinol Broucek, Clan Cappadocian
Medical care in the dark medieval is a frightening concept for both noble and peasant. From fluke maiming accidents on the feudal manor to grievous wounds suffered in pitched battle to the torrents of unidentified and nameless illnesses and diseases one can acquire, the chances of someone suffering from infections and an agonizing, prolonged death are disturbingly high. Though it is a common misconception that people of the medieval era dropped dead at thirty years old, the reality of the situation is that if a peasant lived a full, healthy life and avoided injury and sickness for the most part, they could theoretically survive well into their forties and fifties on average. Nobles and royalty, due to the privilege of living in cloistered walls and at lower risk for contracting disease or being injured doing manual labor, could live to a ripe old age, surviving into their sixties or, in rare situations, even their seventies. Granted, surviving in the dark medieval world to die on old man or woman in one's bed was infrequently the case, but it did happen every now and again, particularly among the higher nobility.
Peasants believe superstitiously that anything from curse words to unlucky numbers and evil gestures can cause sickness, and even the better educated nobles have little actual understanding of the cause and effect processes of contamination, infection and disease. Smoke and soot from campfires, iron stoves and fireplaces cause frequent irritation to the eyes of most folks, and poor sanitation in the kitchens contributes to complaints of dysentery and food poisoning. Cities and towns are befouled with human and animal waste—since toilets and plumbing have not been rediscovered yet, the use of outhouses and latrine ditches (to say nothing of those who simply do their business wherever it is convenient) is the rule of the day, insuring that sanitary conditions are virtually nonexistent in places of civilization. Gong farmers, men and women who’s unfortunate job it is to patrol the streets and alleyways of cities and towns once a week (usually on Saturdays) with a shovel and cart, collecting feces of both animals and humans, to cart off to the gong pits outside of the city walls. The excrement is then mixed with rubbish, compost and other bio-degradable materials to create a potent fertilizer that is often sold by the sack full to agricultural farmers and orchard-keeping monastics. The cities are also infested with rats and mice, as well as small colonies of feral cats. Rural areas are significantly cleaner and less malodorous for understandable reasons, lacking in much of the vermin commonly found in the filthy cityscapes. Most infections that would be considered simple to cure in the distant future could prove life-threatening in the dark medieval era. Influenza and pneumonia are rampant and unstoppable, to say nothing of usually fatal to those afflicted. Women greet pregnancy and the prospect of childbirth with fear of death as much as hope for new life. And both humans and livestock suffer from fleas, lice and other such unpleasant parasites.
Surprisingly the clerics, despite certain laws forbidding it, are among some of the best healers available. Some well-educated nuns and monks have studied ancient Greek and Roman texts on medicine and anatomy (the few that survived the centuries and have been approved, translated, duplicated and disseminated throughout the Church) and most have a decent grasp of herbal remedies, even those that help fight encroaching infection and ease pain and suffering. A few noblewomen and peasant wise-women are also talented healers as well. The Jews of Prague in particular are adept healers, as no such commandments against studying human remains has impeded their ability to develop impressive medicines and treatments for all manner of ailments. Arguably the most gifted healers in Europe, the Jews are nonetheless widely distrusted and bigoted against, insuring inadvertently that they only get to routinely heal their own people. This significant loss is lost upon most Christian folk. Cainites fortunately have to worry little about such matters, both because of their undead natures and natural healing abilities. Their ghouls, however, may well feel the impact of poor medical knowledge and sickness more directly. Too easily do the Cainites forget that their ghoul servitors lack supernatural hardiness and vigor like themselves, even if most ghouls are typically in better health due to the vampiric blood in their system compared to most mere mortals.
Additionally, there are no cosmetic surgeons of any sort in the dark medieval world. Warts, poorly set bones and battle scars do not simply go away with time and healing. Minor bodily defects that can be quickly corrected in the twentieth century are commonplace and virtually irreparable in the twelfth century. Physical beauty is highly prized among all social classes since nearly everyone has one or several noticeable bodily imperfections; as much merit is placed on wealth and power as good looks. Now consider the Cainites for a moment. The Embrace that transformed them from mere mortals into the immortal undead has erased most battle scars, marred flesh from smallpox, misshapen limbs from poorly set bones after a mere tumble off of a horse, and other unsightly imperfections of the flesh. The Cainite’s physical prowess and ability to unnaturally regenerate allows them to be much more attractive than the average person. Their unblemished flesh, unearthly allure, and impassioned gaze can be more than many mortals can resist, and most Cainites have become more attractive since their Embrace due to these supernatural changes. In the dark medieval, like the present times, people often rally around men and women who are pleasing to the eye. Having such vigor and beauty often guarantees most Cainites, as well as other supernatural creatures of the dark medieval world, a distinct measure of power and command over others.
"You scoff because I am but a meek waif in your eyes, naive and young. You laugh because I stand my ground, because I dare you to follow through on your intentions, and because I taunt you for being so foolish. But when I stand over your bleeding and broken body a moment from now, you will know the error in your judgment before you are finally permitted to die." -- Lady Ecaterina the Wise, Clan Brujah
Being a woman in the dark medieval era is much the same as being a woman in any age, figuratively speaking. Women are a little oppressed and a little suppressed, more than a little exploited and more than a lot undervalued. Social status is the most important modifying factor in the lifestyle of medieval women.
A female serf or villager is not considered a ‘lesser’ person, though her efforts and talents are exploited in different ways than a typical peasant man. Most of the time, in peasant households, the labor of men and women is differentiated along the traditional indoor/outdoor division—men work in the field, women work in the home. Practically, this is only sometimes the case, though most traditional individuals would prefer it this way. A humble medieval woman’s work includes spinning, weaving, sewing, brewing, cheese-making, curing meats (when available), cooking and cleaning—all of which are respectable professions that are generally associated with the hearth and home. She also does the bulk of any foraging for supplemental food stuffs (like nuts, berries and the like), general gardening, weeding, haymaking, and domestic animal tending, including the feeding, milking, washing and shearing tasks. She takes part in the autumn harvests of her lord’s fields, unless specifically excused from the labor, and helps with the harvesting of her family’s own crops. Often, women can serve as itinerant paid labor at harvest times, earning as much as their male counterparts for identically back-breaking work. Nonetheless, more often than not, wage inequities tend to heavily favor men over women in the majority of professions, and the chauvinism prevalent in the era tends to insure many occupations remain firmly within the purview of men alone.
Unmarried women can legally own property and in the absence of suitable male heirs can also inherit from her father. Women of all social classes have rights to personal property dedicated to their own support by law and custom. Women can sue and be sued by others, make wills, create legally binding contracts and plead their own cases before both manorial and royal courts. Married women of all classes are ‘under the rod’ of their husbands and cannot legally gainsay any actions their husbands might take with their properties, even if the husband should sell it against the wife’s will. A married woman also cannot plead in court herself without her husband nor write a will without his explicit consent. A woman recovers many of the rights that are allocated to her husband’s judgment when and if he dies, as well as taking possession of one-third of his properties and chattels as her own legal dowry. Widows can be forced to marry by their liege-lords and frequently are; though they can also choose their own remarriage partners provided they are willing to pay a large fine to the manor for the privilege.
Well-to-do women occupy a slightly higher stratum of status in the dark medieval era than their more humble sisters. The wife of a prosperous burgher is no mere serf or run-of-the-mill peasant and cannot be treated as such; she is a person of dignity and worth, an important and respected member in her community. Noble-borne women and women of the slowly expanding middle-class of merchants are typically better educated and better respected than some men of the same social class. Girls often receive instruction from private tutors or board in convents that contain schools for girls; at least one such school in Bohemia, located in Prague’s Noble Quarter, has been in existence since the late ninth century. Well educated women typically know how to read and write (sometimes in vernacular, infrequently in Latin), are taught sufficient mathematical knowledge to manage household accounts and are polished with etiquette and ladylike graces such as embroidery, singing, poetry composition and music.
Highborn women occupy an important place in the rural manorial society of the nobility, often taking a leading role in the life of the manor. When her husband is away from home, be it making war or visiting court or even on a business trek, the woman becomes the head of the household, running her husband’s estate in his stead, managing the staff and making all legal and financial decisions. Women have even been known, on rare occasions, to directly defend their lands and those of their husbands by exerting force of arms in times of war and to conduct aggressive military actions in retaliation for actions taken against them and their estates. Nonetheless, the vast majority of noble women are never trained in acts of martial prowess as such would be perceived as distinctly unladylike and unsavory. Their skills at warfare are instead limited to the knowledge of general war tactics and negotiations. Peasant women are even less likely to receive combat training, as such brutality would never be expected of them save in remote pagan communities. Exceptions exist to this martial rule, including illustrious and powerful women such as Joan of Arc and Queen Elizabeth of England, but again, these are rare exceptions to the rule, not the rule.
Women of the urban classes work outside the home at a wide variety of crafts and professions. They may be teachers, midwives, laundresses, lace-makers, and seamstresses, and even hold places in normally male-dominated professions—weavers, fullers, barbers, carpenters, saddlers, tanners, blacksmiths, and numerous other such unexpected professions. Wives typically work at their husbands’ crafts, and when a man dies his widow will often continue in his trade, teaching it to her sons and daughters in equal measure. Nonetheless, women may not hold officer-level positions in the guilds, but they may hold guild memberships, which can be inherited by her children, male and female alike.
Politically, however, women of all social classes have virtually no voice whatsoever. Noble-borne women enjoy a slightly better standard of access to the realms of power than their peasant counterparts, where as heiresses, wards and peers in their own right they have some readily apparent value among the nobility, and thus, some finite and vicarious influence. Women in high holy orders can also exert some considerable influence by virtue of their positions as non-married feudal landholders; the well-reputed abbess of a sizeable convent can wield the sort of authority in localized politics that even an Arch-Bishop could envy. Women of the commoner classes are more thoroughly disenfranchised, unfortunately, as they are not even permitted to sit on town councils or to serve as provosts in other official capacities. This unfortunate situation, if anything, has merely provoked more ambitious and cunning women to better utilize their ‘womanly wiles’ that many men know and love, thusly insuring their own vicarious power through the fondness engendered in empowered men beholden to their ‘charms’. Though immoral and frowned upon to an extreme, this manipulative practice still sees use among nobles at times.
It bears noting, however, that unlike mortal society, gender does not divide Cainites much at all; there are almost as many female princes as their are males. While some particularly prejudiced male Cainites might hold on to their mortal preconceptions about the 'fairer' sex, only the truly foolish underestimate their female counterparts. Becoming one of the damned greatly evens the playing field between sexes, after all.