The Kindred Of London

London's Kindred average quite young for such an ancient city. Between the Great Fire, the Blitz, and the inexorable call of torpor, few of the city's presently active elders have been around for more than three centuries - little more than some, much younger, American cities.

The Covenant affiliation of London's Kindred is (very roughly), Carthians 35%, Invictus 25%, Circle of the Crone 15%, Ordo Dracul 9%, Lance Sanctum 11% , Sun-Walking Knights 3% and Unbound 2%. The Unbound fall into two categories - too young to have chosen a Covenant, or too old and powerful to need the support of one - with no real middle ground.

The Carthians

The Carthian Movement, which dominated Kindred society from 1941 to 2008, has recently suffered some major setbacks. It's still the most populous and powerful of the Covenants, but its influence is under increasing threat from a newly resurgent Invictus. Logically, this should have united the faction-prone Covenant, but in fact, it's more divided than ever.

The Web faction (named after the prominent mortal socialists Beatrice and Sidney Webb) is becoming more and more irrelevant. Their basic ideology - that the Kindred should try to influence mortal society to achieve a vaguely defined "social justice" that essentially amounts to equality of outcome imposed by an enlightened elite - is looking increasingly dated. Despite the financial crash, the Euro crisis, and the Occupy Movement, the mortal world has largely given up on socialism, and very few Kindred were ever sold on the idea to begin with.

Their main rivals, the Gekkos (from the movie character who declared that "greed is good"), are faring somewhat better. The Gekkos had always maintained that grandiose attempts to re-engineer mortal society for the better were bound to fall victim to either the law of unintended consequences, or the inherently corrupt nature of the Kindred, or both. The Kindred, they claimed, should focus their efforts on watching each others' backs, helping each other maintain their Humanity - and on getting rich. (If you're going to be around forever, you might as well be comfortable). The Dumas Revolt gave conspiratorial social movements a bad name in all three Poli and added resonance to the Gekkos arguments, even as the financial crisis concentrated Kindred minds on their own economic well-being. That same crisis, however, left the Gekkos and the emboldened Invictus competing fiercely for a slice of a shrinking economic pie. So far, it's a pretty even match, but the Invictus are pulling ahead on points.

The usual Carthian viewpoints - Humanists, Radical Collective Coteries, and others - can be found in both groups (although the Web boasts the bulk of the Humanists).

The Circle of the Crone

Marginalized for centuries, the Circle of the Crone has been undergoing something of a Renaissance since the Age of Aquarius in the 1970s. Some of its new members are, as one Carthian dismissively sneered, "Flower Children with blood under their fingernails", but curiously, a number have been scholars and academics who were given a chance to take their interest in older cultures and belief systems to a new level. As a result, London's Crones tend to be older-looking, smarter, better-educated, and more conservatively dressed than their popular stereotype would suggest. The Semioticians make up a significant portion of the Covenant's London membership.

Although their numbers are small compared to the Carthians and the Invictus, their occult knowledge - the new-blood scholars of the Circle tend to be particularly proficient at Cruac - give them a position of considerable respect. It helps, too, that their Hierophant is the oldest and perhaps the strongest member of the Council.

The Crones weathered the Dumas Revolt largely unscathed. A few of their younger members were compromised by the Seers of the Throne, but the bulk of the Covenant remained loyal to the far more formidable Seer who leads it. The Circle held itself largely aloof from the fighting save for those few occasions when Dumas and his followers directly attacked the Covenant's holdings and interests.

The Invictus

Written off for decades, the First Estate are back in a big way. London has an Invictus Prince again, and an Invictus Councilor. Its financial interests have taken a major turn for the worse since the banking crisis of 2007/8, but an economic crash offers long-term investors the chance to buy at the bottom of the market. In any case, many younger Kindred in other Covenants have been almost wiped out by the downturn; the Invictus, with its deep pockets, is seizing the opportunity to build goodwill and accumulate favors by helping them out.

The Carthians aren't happy at the resurgence of their rivals, but the more realistic among them see the present situation as the least-bad option. The present arrangement preserves the core of the Carthian Council system; a coup engineered by the Eagle, a serious threat before an Invictus Prince from House Skade created a roadblock to the idea, might not have. It helps that the Invictus leaders are mostly savvy politicians who are used to selling their ideas to the Carthians.

The majority of the Invictus is still primarily focused on making money, but they are gradually expanding their influence in mortal and Kindred society as well. The Covenant is definitely on the way up.

The Lancea Sanctum

The Lancea Sanctum had a good war. It was the only major Covenant to escape infiltration by the Seers of the Throne and their allies, and the Sanctified were at the forefront of the Kindred's fight to put down the Dumas Revolt. While it hasn't entirely escaped the long shadow cast by Simon Mercadier, Collier's Covenant - and its leader - are so obviously and radically different from the regime of his unlamented predecessor that the stigma is fast fading.

To some of the Covenant's secularist critics - especially in the Carthians ranks - this is a mere PR sticking-plaster covering the Sanctified's more fundamental problems. It remains a religious, Christian-derived Covenant in a society which is increasingly post-Christian and post-religious. Year by year, the pool of believers from which it can draw new recruits grows smaller. (Of course, some neonates are driven to religion by the search for meaning following the trauma of their Embrace, but this is a chancy thing at best). The fastest-growing religion in Britain is Islam, a faith which denies the essential divinity of Christ, and hence the entire foundation of the Sanctified's beliefs.

On the other hand, while religiosity is declining in society as a whole, evangelical and other Christian movements are starting to make a comeback. The Covenant is finding new recruits among the new immigrant communities from Eastern Europe, especially the Poles. (Ironically, the Malleus Maleficarum has recently become more active in London for the same reason). As its pariah status fades, it's beginning to attract more interest from young, newly Embraced Kindred in search of a deeper meaning to their existences. And it's starting to forge a tentative political alliance with the First Estate. Collier dismissed previous Invictus leaders as mere money-grubbers, but Donatein is the kind of man he respects - a self-disciplined soldier sworn to the service of something larger than himself.

The Covenant's existing strengths remain. Despite the slow rehabilitation of their reputation, they still aren't large or influential enough to attract time-servers or careerists. If you're a Sanctified in London, it's because you really, really believe. And if you do decide to join, you're far more likely to find a welcome, and a mentor, than if you joined a Covenant that has fewer problems with recruitment. And your mentor is likely to be quite old and quite powerful, because Sanctified recruitment, though now slowly increasing, has fallen off sharply over the last five or six decades. The Sanctified have a voice at the highest level; their Bishop is automatically a member of the Council (albeit mostly so that the rest of the Council can keep an eye on him, which at least is a sign of their respect for his effectiveness). Finally, of course, they have Theban sorcery, which they guard more jealously than a miser guards his gold.

The Ordo Dracul

If the Lancea Sanctum had a very good war, the Ordo Dracul had a very bad one. Never a numerous Covenant, its ranks were split fairly evenly between Thomas Wyncham's "Humanists", who believed in moral and ethical principles very close (too close, some whispered), to the Ladder-Sworn's heretical beliefs, and Mary Aldridge's "Researchers", who advocated a coldly logical philosophy of research and experimentation regardless of the human suffering and death that might result. Frustration over the political ascendancy of the Humanists led a significant percentage of the Researchers to throw in their lot with the Seers of the Throne. Something close to a civil war broke out in the Dragons ranks during the Dumas Revolt, and by the end of it, about half of the Researcher faction were either in torpor, or in exile, or destroyed outright.

Bloody Mary herself played no part in the Researchers' betrayal, and had no idea that it was taking place. Apolitical and concerned almost exclusively with her own research, she was nonetheless loyal to the Covenant and utterly unsympathetic towards her former followers. The end of the Dumas Revolt saw the Researchers a cowed and broken faction, and Wyncham more firmly in control of his Covenant than ever - but it was a shrunken Covenant, its reputation diminished by the number of traitors in its ranks, and its power reduced by the loss of many of its most powerful elders.

Still, the Coils of the Dragon are a powerful lure and the number of neonates petitioning the Covenant for membership scarcely diminished. Some wondered whether the Dragons would be forced to relax their notoriously stringent entrance requirements in order to replenish their numbers. Rather than do that, Wyncham bolstered the Covenant's political position by allying it with the Sun-Walking Knights. Still, the Covenant is politically weaker that it's been for some time, and its lack of political involvement has changed from a choice to a near-necessity.

Despite its reduced circumstances, the Dragons' occult interest and knowledge continue to make them the de facto primary ambassadors to the other supernatural factions. The Invictus, of course, isn't willing to let them be the exclusive ambassadors; that would give them far too much power. Its own emissaries, notably House Skade, have the unofficial mission of thwarting the Dragons' monopoly in this area.

The Sun-Walking Knights

The Sun-Walking Knights first appeared in London at the end of 2008, led by Gabriel Thurston, a former Carthian and a former (and current) member of the Council. Small in number and lacking in resources, they parlayed a weak position into a seat on the Council thanks to several factors. Firstly, there was Thurston's personal reputation as a former and founder member of the Council. Secondly, they were able to cultivate political alliances with both the Carthians and the Ordo Dracul, Thirdly, they played a big role in the fighting during the Dumas Revolt, a not-too-subtle demonstration of the firepower that they were bringing to the table. Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, their contingent of free-willed ghouls proved to me more skilled and effective at gaining and holding wealth and power than anyone anticipated.

The Knights are still a largely unknown quantity with an uncertain agenda. For the moment, their focus seems to be purely on establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in Kindred society. Whether they have any deeper objective remains to be seen...