Happy February, everyone, and welcome back to another incredible author blog from yours truly! This is a very eventful month. I’ve got a convention, a new release, and so many new projects in the works—but more about those later. To carry on in the theme we began last month, I figured we should do some more delving into the rich and vampiric world of the DVerse—The Dark Vagaries series—and begin by breaking down some more of the world. This month, we’ll start by tackling some clan overviews!
So, let’s get started, shall we, and introduce the world to the Enforcers and Cultists!
Like I touched on last month, each bloodline in the DVerse is different in terms of abilities, proclivities, social structure, and political hierarchy. Some occupy lower tiers than others, and for all intents and purposes, I’m going to spread out our conversations on specific clans by breaking it into a few blogs. We’ll organize based on the hierarchy starting from the bottom of the barrel, up through the working class, into the high end side of things, and ending with the outlier to them all, the Charlatans, since I’ll need a full blog just for them. There are a lot of moving pieces to this whole thing, and everything changes depending on where a vampire is located, and most importantly, when. I’ll do my best to give an overview of how things changed over time and were each clan stands in modernity overall, but keep in mind that a lot of this is variable and there are always, always, always outliers and rule breakers no matter what clan they belong to.
It wouldn’t be fun otherwise, right?
So—bottom of the barrel. The dregs of this society. I’d call them part of the working class, but let’s face it—every clan has to work for its daily blood in some way, and some just have to work harder than others. Not just to eat either; these clans have to work just to justify their existence. The work they do to earn it is unlike any sort of work other bloodlines have to perform, and it influences how they’re permitted to partake, procreate, and occupy society itself.
Historically speaking, the Enforcers and Cultists have always been bottom rung. There are obvious reasons for that. Let’s get into them!
To begin with, I’ll give you some basic clan lore for each to set the stage.
The Enforcers have many different names depending on where one is located. They’re known as stalkers, night hunters, wolves, and so many variations besides, and for good reason. When the world still lived in fear of the dark, they erected walls and barriers to keep out the wolves. Lone predators in the night accounted for so many of the baseline fears of early man, and many of those stories came from encounters with—and, ultimately, deaths caused—by Enforcers. They are the most numerous of all clans and are routinely culled to keep from over-populating any one area. Because of this, they tend to have very short lifespans and struggle the most out of the main, prominent bloodlines. They’re fodder, more or less, and if they aren’t good fodder, they’re likely to be killed off even sooner.
No one knows who the first Enforcer was. The common story that’s treated as the de facto origin of their clan comes in the form of a single female who lived centuries before my series takes place. She has no name, no country of origin, and no characteristics beyond a hunger for blood, a lust for the hunt, and the sadistic desire to spread her dark gift to as many as she could stand to share it with. For every night she hunted, ten would die and perhaps two would come back the next night. When that pattern of killing, turning, killing, and turning repeated for a century or two… Let’s just say rabbits have nothing on Enforcers when it comes to propagation.
But that’s all myth. What are the facts? The name “Enforcer” was a later pseudonym added to the roster. That came about around the cusp of the Dark Ages as it bled into the Renaissance as Europe saw new changes in the vampiric political structure. Human life was in short supply as plague and war scoured the continent. To keep the food supply stable, certain vampiric bloodlines made moves to consolidate power and reorder society for the “betterment” of the species at large. That meant a hell of a lot of culling, and for those who remained, it meant a new leash around their necks to prove their usefulness before “full eradication” could reach the table instead.
Enforcers, therefore, were put to work. As the name implies, they enforced the new rules and regulations imposed on them by the new vampiric elite. The prevention and punishment for crimes such as unlawful fledglings, breaks in the newly instated priority towards secrecy, and the general regulation of blood consumption became their newfound calling. The previously untamed wolves became shackled attack dogs to be pointed and let loose on a target—all at the behest, nay, the beck and call of their supposed societal betters.
Unlike some clans that have seen some hierarchical movement over the centuries, Enforcers have remained solidly at the bottom rung. They lack the overall organization to try for better. They are fledged from random attacks, more often than not, and are therefore populated largely by the homeless, the destitute, the sorts of people who might be walking alone at night. The constant fear of being culled keeps them in line. They’re proof that just because you have numbers, that can only take you so far.
As for abilities, Enforcers are particularly adept at the hunting side of vampiric life. They don’t always know where their next meal is coming from—on paper, they’re only permitted to feed from blood bags allotted to them by their established organizational structure, but something like that can be cut off easily if your worth is seen as lacking, your rank is too low to warrant nightly blood as opposed to weekly, or if you just managed to piss off the wrong person at the wrong time. They’ve got incredible night vision, a keener sense of smell than a bloodhound, and a great taste for blood. Not just in drinking, mind, but in taste. Given a large enough mouthful, they can tell a lot about the owner just from the taste and mouthfeel of it. Needless to say, they’re fantastic trackers, and when they’ve got their prey in hand, they’re also capable of putting it down without much effort on their parts. Unlike most vampires, Enforcers are made for the hunt. Their jaws dislocate to improve the radius of their bite. When surrounded by pure shadow, they can practically disappear.
It sounds pretty impressive when they’re the only vampire clan on the map, but you’ll see as we go that all of this is just a drop in the bucket for the clans that keep them under their boots. While most clans have the ability to mesmerize and compel humans, Enforcers struggle more than most to maintain it. They can influence more than order absolutely, and the mental state of the human matters greatly in terms of its general effectiveness. While there are clans that can influence other vampires, Enforcers, sadly, are stuck with weak-willed, lovestruck, or mentally impaired/inebriated humans. It helps with the hunt, but hardly improves their chances long-term.
Depending on the time period and physical location, Enforcers may appear in the DVerse as analogs to law enforcement, private investigators, spies, bodyguards, grunts, gofers, cannon fodder, and, in some rare cases, even personal assistants to Luminaries and the like.
Most don’t make it out of their fledgling stage (~30 years before the fangs fully develop). If I had to guess, I’d say the average lifespan tends to be about 5-10 years after siring. There are several reasons for this. Culling, rough living, violation breaking due to unauthorized hunting, lack of education, and the general propensity for upper clans to use them as scapegoats are all common. This is also the clan characterized by absentee sires. Most are hit-and-run type attacks that result in a newly fledged vampire being born into the world with no guidance, no education, and little to no hope of making it through the first nights unscathed. If you’re interested in seeing a lot of that for yourself, definitely pick up Letifer. As it’s the Enforcer title in the series, you get a lot of those specifics as we learn how Nines became what he is.
That’s kind of the cool thing about having each book have a predominant clan. We’ll naturally have multiple bloodlines in every book, but with a focus character of a specific clan heading up each book, we’ll be able to explore the unique aspects of a bloodline and all the neat (and not so neat) things that come with that particular territory. And there is always a double-edged sword, no matter how high up a character is in the grand scheme of things. Life’s not simple for the undead, especially not when I’m writing them.
-cue evil laughter in the background-
Ahem. Anyway, that brings us to the next clan on our docket for the day: the Cultists.
Oh boy, where to start with these guys. Unlike the Enforcers, they’re a lot more established in terms of lore, origins, and internal social structure, which is almost ironic given they’re probably the least concerned with unity and clan structure out of all the bloodlines. As I’ve said before, various bloodlines have overarching clan biases that alter the mental processes of the vampires that belong to them. It’s not quite personality changing so much as warping. In terms of the Cultists, though, a significant warping takes place. Those of you who have read Letifer likely noticed this with everyone’s favorite scuttlebug, Rooney. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s do the clan history first, and then get down to specifics.
For starters, their full name is the Cultists of Poveglia. Like the name implies, they originated on what would become a notorious plague island during the time of the Black Death, and unlike the Enforcers, the progenitor of the Cultists is known. Not by many, granted, but by those old enough to care. You’ll actually get to meet them in a future book, so I won’t go into too many details about them just yet. I’ll just tell you that the name they are known by is Striga, and they are very, very, very old.
The common story of why Cultists are the way they are is simple, and it hasn’t changed much over the centuries: Cultists are singularly dedicated to finding “cures” to their vampirism. Centuries of experimentation by Striga triggered the ability to daywalk in all of their subsequent progeny, and that one small victory created an outright obsession throughout the bloodline to accomplish more, no matter the cost. Of course this is the story non-Cultists pass around. The truth is, as it always is, much more complicated than that.
I’m not sure if or when I’ll get into the truth of that particular matter. I don’t have every book outlined just yet, so it may come up or it may not. We might revisit some characters in the future once I know how much of their story will be told and how much won’t, and then we can learn more in later blogs. You know, like a big minor character write-up or something. For now, just know that Striga is more than meets the eye, and the baseline “truth” this bloodline operates by isn’t based in much truth at all.
Not that any of them would know it, though. Not enough of them are old enough to know, and of those that are old, most aren’t capable of caring.
Cultists don’t come from any specific “stock,” as it were. There’s no real qualification one has to meet to be considered, no particular lifestyle one had to live to mesh the best into the fold. Cultists tend to force their mindset onto their fledglings through the act of fledging itself. Over the course of centuries upon centuries of experimentation, every Cultist is corrupted. Infected. Sick. The plague lives inside their bodies, inside their blood, and the danger of being near one can kill a healthy human within a matter of days. Direct contact with their blood will kill in minutes, so the only way to create a new Cultist is via injection. Syringe. If a person survives the “procedure,” they’ll experience a complete subversion to their worldview, their thought processes, and most importantly, their priorities.
You’ve become sick with an infection we all share. A cure must be found. You will help us find it.
From there, it’s a simple thing to put them to work.
In the Dark Ages, “work” could mean many things depending on who managed the territory they operated within. Medical examiners, torture experts, the sort who process and manage the cullings that were all too common back then… Cultists have few—if any—compunctions when it comes to morality. They are singularly focused, and that focus can be shifted, not altered, based on how well one argues that their prerogative aligns with the Cultists’ overarching goal. If there’s dirty work to be done, they’ll do it, so long as they’re permitted to do what they want with the remains—or what will become remains soon enough.
We’ll get into it a bit in Mortigena, but there was also a fairly large population of high-blooded vampires who would sire fledglings for the sake of siring fledglings. I could write a whole blog on the intricacies of sire-fledgling culture alone, but suffice to say, there’s a certain innate connection that occurs with that bond, and some sires who view it in specific terms. A fledgling is weak, defenseless, and needy. Most struggle to feed without a sire’s help before their fangs have fully grown in, and when those fangs do grow in… Well, some sires don’t fledge fledglings for the right reasons.
If you’ve got a fledgling on the cusp of being full-fledged and don’t like the look of them now, or if you’re a soon-to-be-fledged vampire who’s noticed your sire’s attention waning with the size of your fangs… Let’s just say Cultists used to provide a secretive “service” that would handle that for you. It was all a lie, naturally. Wives’ tales. But the story still spreads because a sire in that position doesn’t care enough to go looking for a fledgling on the outs with them as it was, and happy endings are easier to fabricate than bad ones, especially to those who need those happy endings to be the real deal.
Modernity paints Cultists in only a slightly better light. There’s less torture, but I can’t say it’s still not within their purview. They don’t exist in large numbers. They’re too dangerous to be allowed to propagate freely, especially as cities become more densely populated and the risk of infection too high to entertain. They assist Enforcers occasionally as medical examiners, body disposal, clean-up crews, and information sources when the information being sourced comes from very specific circles of influence. They earn their keep to keep on living and largely serve as a deterrent for others who might consider breaking the rules. The threat of being thrown to the Cultists as test fodder has existed for nearly as long as organized vampiric structures have. It’ll likely persist for quite some time yet. It’s just that good of a deterrent.
When it comes to culture itself, Cultists have some tried-and-true traditions they stick to. They’re incredibly easy to spot, which is good news for those who want to avoid them. Their infectious nature has left them physically altered, and the risk for corruption and infection so great that they don’t go anywhere bare-skinned. Cultists always wear masks. Plague doctor masks were a fashion for a time with the size of the beak denoting the rank of the one wearing it. Over time that faded and gave way to more practical garb. Modernity shows them wearing gas masks, radiation gear, Hazmat suits.
Most people, if they’re lucky, don’t know what a Cultist looks like under their masks. For those that do… they don’t forget the sight easily. Of course, that’s operating off the assumption that whoever got close enough to see a maskless Cultist survived the encounter. That doesn’t happen often! The rule of thumb is that a vampire can interact with a fully masked, fully skin-covered Cultist just fine. A human can for a time, but prolonged exposure will make them sick (nausea, diarrhea, intense like a flu). Direct skin contact will make a vampire sick—not an easy feat—and kill a human after a short but severe sickness similar to the plague, likely within 3-4 days. Consuming the blood of a Cultist will be akin to poisoning a vampire. A human will die painfully but thankfully almost immediately after something like that. Still, not pleasant, no matter how you slice it.
Cultists tend to congregate in dark, unfavorable places. They daywalk, so they don’t fear the sun, but they prefer to sleep the night away, and therefore enjoy being in places they won’t be bothered by other vampires. They don’t have havens the way most do. You won’t find your next door neighbor a Cultist in the apartment across the hall. Abandoned buildings, old factories, sewer warrens, and old subways are their preferred stomping grounds. Their work elicits a lot of screams. It’s not the most conducive thing when it comes to being good neighbors.
When it comes to their abilities, we’ve already discussed daywalking. They’re also incapable of feeling pain of any kind, are unable to mesmerize humans or vampires, and have no real ability towards compulsion. I don’t think their brains are wired that way anymore, and they can’t fully grasp the concept to begin with. By extension, they’re fully immune to it from other vampires, and most Charlatan gifts struggle to make much of a dent in them either if the gift in question is of the mental persuasion. It may not sound very impressive compared to the Enforcers, but believe me, any sort of immunity towards Charlatan gifts is a boon worth having.
I’m sure there’s more to tell when it comes to Cultists. In fact, I know there is. As I begin working on future books, more will write itself. That’s just the nature of the game, and the nature of a world this big. I haven’t had the chance to write many Cultists yet, and I can’t wait for that to change! But as it’s nearly midnight while I’m writing this, I’ll leave it at that for now.
Now that we’ve got two out of seven down, let’s open things up to questions since I’m sure there’s some curiosity about the world, the characters, and the process of writing all these stories. Questions this month come from Instagram, Twitter, and personal messages!
What happens if a Cultist injects another vampire with the juice they use for siring new vampires? What about a human if they’re bit and then injected?
That’s a wild question and not something that ever comes up, unfortunately. I think if you tried to make some weird ass hybrid this way it’d just result in the human dying in a really painful way. For a vampire… I think any sort of Cultist sludge they might inject would just make them really, really sick, and that’s pretty intense since vampires don’t really get “sick” in any conventional way. They can vomit and what not under the right circumstances, so I think getting injected would involve them being unable to keep any blood down for a very long time. They’d probably be unable to move very much, and it’d be… painful. Probably like injecting acid into your vein, except they don’t have the relief of dying eventually to end it. It’d just have to work itself out of their system.
On the topic of hybrids in general, I’d say this isn’t exactly the right IP for something like that. There’s no established lore in place for something akin to dual-classing bloodlines and what not—bar this one thing that’ll happen at the end of the series, but even then, it’s not exactly a common thing and there are other lore things that contribute to it happening.
Fun theoretical though!
Which clan is your favorite? Why?
This is such a hard question. All of them kick ass in their own ways, and it really does vary on the day which has consumed me with brain rot at any given moment. Personally, I think I relate most to Nicciave. They are, as I always describe them, rats perpetually fleeing a sinking ship. They’re all about survival at all costs, scrambling for altitude in a world that seems to always be on a downward spiral. They’re incredibly Machiavellian, which is always my favorite type of character to play and write and just generally think about, and I just find it a lot of fun to take a character which anxieties and worries, crank that fear up to eleven, and see what they’ll do to keep their head above water. They’re the most fun to apply pressure to, I suppose, and that makes them unpredictable and oh so fun to explore.
But if we’re talking more overall/based on how cool or fun a clan can be… I’d probably say Charlatans. While Nicciave always think they’re doomed, Charlatans are doomed. There’s no two ways about it. They’re hunted, maligned, and woefully outnumbered in a world that doesn’t care to see them succeed, let alone live. Despite that, they’re so incredibly strong, and some of their numbers are so powerful that it’s a wonder they don’t rule the world. They follow the old saying that the meek shall inherit the earth… We’ll talk more about all of that when it comes time for their blog write up, but trust me, it’s just a lot of fun to play with.
To summarize, I think that my favorites always tend to be the sort of clan or character that exists with its back against the wall from the start. I love applying pressure to see what will happen, to see what direction they might lunge in once things get too dicey to stay in the shadows any longer. Caged animals are the most fun to write, and the Nicciave and Charlatans are the clans that most encapsulate that idea as a whole.
There are plenty of characters from every clan, though, that can do the same, but you’ll get to see that for yourself once we get more books out!
Who is your favorite Enforcer? Also, while you’re at it, favorite Cultist?
-cracks my fingers- I thought you’d never ask!
Favorite Enforcer: I know there will be some Letifer fans out there who will resent me for it, but I can’t say that it’s Nines. I do love Nines, but I think my favorite Enforcer I’ve made thus far is Dodger, a character who was incorrectly introduced in a chapter of Apotheosis a few months back. I say incorrectly introduced because I forgot that they don’t exist in that timeline—at least, not at that point. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Ahem.
Dodger was the proto-typical Enforcer fledgling—attacked and turned off the street, abandoned by their sire, and left to figure things out by themself and await culling. They slipped into the Enforcer ranks but found it difficult to mesh well with the rough types who filled the organization. They were a pencil pusher in life, after all, and were better suited to boardrooms than pounding the pavement for rule-breakers. Lucky for them, a call came out of an oldblood Luminary looking for administrative support. It wasn’t a call an Enforcer was meant to answer, but Dodger saw their shot and took it. If they hadn’t, culling would’ve been their only solid prospect.
That’s how they met Guinan McKay, an original steel baron who rose to prominence alongside the Rockefellers and Carnegies. We’re dealing a lot with alternate timelines and what not with Guinan and Dodger—technically, they only meet because Guinan, a friend of Elijah’s, failed to get his promised fledgling, Nines. I don’t know if Dodger will make a proper appearance in any of the books because of this. They honestly only exist because I spent entirely too much time world-building the idea of what Nines’s life would have looked like if he had wound up a Luminary as intended. Guinan shows up in Apotheosis though, so who knows. Maybe there’s room for Dodger to eek by again in other ways.
To give you the gist, though, Dodger is a bookish, sexy librarian-type corporate exec lowblood doing business in boardrooms with the top of vampiric society. They are hyper-aware of their perceived deficiencies and therefore overachieve constantly to maintain respect, and are therefore incredibly competent and discerning. Guinan, to contrast, is a workaholic self-made scion who never forgot his salt-of-the-earth foundations. It’s not love they share, but a high level of compatibility, mutual respect, and dedication to getting the job done at any cost. They’re very fun together. I do hope I can do something with them both in the future.
Now, my favorite Cultist. This one’s harder. I don’t have that many Cultists, but the ones I do have are so fun. It’s hard to pick! Rooney is, of course, my favorite scuttlebug. Letifer fans all love rooney. He’s the best, truly, but if we’re talking origin stories and what not, my favorite Cultist is Striga.
I can’t talk too much about Striga just yet. They’ll show up in a big way in a future book, and so much of their story is integral to future plot points. What I find so fun about them, though, is how they look. The really cool thing about making Cultist characters is designing them. They have to have a mask, full body coverings, and that means you can play around with their design a whole bunch. Striga, the sexy bastard, comes from Venice, or what would become Venice eventually. They wear Venetian carnival masks and wear long, body-hiding cloaks. The dichotomy of a beautiful, porcelain face hiding the very idea of Death and Pestilence incarnate… I just find that so very fun, and since I talked about Guinan a bit with Dodger as a love interest, perhaps I’ll tease Striga’s, too. Though, to give a Cultist a love interest is… difficult. I think you already understand why.
Rience is a fucking weirdo. A freak of the highest order. You’d have to be to simp after someone—nay, something—like Striga, but alas, he does. He does big time. Rience is a very, very old Triarii. He was sired in what I call “the old way,” which means he was subjected to one of the most intense and deadly forms of fledgling any vampire can go through. We’ll get into it during the Triarii blog, but trust me, any Triarii subjected to it who manages to walk away afterwards… They’re badasses. The most badass of the bunch by far. He was a warrior in life and never thought that needed to change in death. In fact, now that he’s even more predisposed to hunting and killing, he thinks that this should be the calling of every vampire, and most certainly every Triarii. The more death you spread, the stronger you are, so you can imagine the nigh on religious experience he suffered when stumbling over what he thought was a battlefield littered with dead… and instead of seeing a victorious army celebrating on the other side, saw only a lone figure amongst the corpses.
A beautiful, porcelain faced figure wearing an ornate mask.
The whole concept is War is in love with Death with these two, and while War burns hot and can hunt down the object of his desire and adoration, Death… is uncaring. Blind to it all. Woefully unaffected. It’s a game of eternal cat-and-mouse with the mouse blind to the game itself and the cat desperate for the sweet sickness the plague-bearer carries—it’s the one force capable of sending Rience to his knees, after all, in a world that can’t do much of that anymore. Bodies follow like rose petals in their wake. It’s fun, and I can’t wait to go more into it in future books!
But I think that wraps it up for this month. To be honest, I could go on for pages and pages and pages about all the intricate little details of this universe. You should see my lore documents I keep for myself! There are multiple ones, and all of them are over twenty pages long. But! I don’t want to overload you guys, so we’ll end it here and let it be until next month. As always, if you’ve got more questions or wanna gab in the comments, feel free! I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this!
One last thing before I go: I’m sure you all know about my new upcoming title Ossuary (as previously featured on one of these blog posts just a few months back). This fun horror novella drops on Valentine’s Day, the 14th, and there’s still time to pre-order a copy if you’d like one! While I can’t offer paperbacks through pre-order on the sales page (Amazon is really dumb about things like that), I do have signed copies I’m managing on my own! Just pop over to the books tab and click on the link featured at the top of the page. Fill out the form, and boom! You’ve got your signed copy reserved!
This is a great way to support me directly. When you buy from me via this order form, I’m able to eliminate the significant cut Amazon takes when they manage the orders for me on the sales page. It runs a little higher in price, but I try to make that worth it by throwing in autographs, bookmarks, and even stickers when I’ve got them on hand. So, if that’s something you’d care to do, please consider buying from me directly. Either way, you’ll have a great new read to look forward to, and one hell of a fun way to celebrate the most romantic day of the year—with vampiric survival horror, of course!
But that’s it! For real, I’m done now. Thank you all for the support no matter what form it comes in. Be it through book sales, comments, or even just reading this blog—it all helps me out a lot and gives me new heights to aspire towards. If you’re going to be attending Anime Crossroads in Plainfield, IN later this month, definitely swing by my table so I can thank you all in person.
Until next time,