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Egyptian Covenant

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Here is writeup for a covenant that figures in to my Vancouver game. Feel free to steal whatever is useful. Please let me know if you find it useful.

Akhu en Kemet

Overview

The Covenant of the Blessed Dead of Egypt (Akhu en Kemet in the ancient tongue) is the oldest extant vampiric covenant. It is very much a native association, tied to geography in a way no others are. Although including religious aspects like the Lancea and Circle, it is slightly less a religious order and more of a nationalist organization. Because of its geographic isolation and relative xenophobia, the covenant is practically unknown by the rest of the Kindred world.

The Akhu believe that their Embrace was a dark apotheosis; Kindred are minor gods, walking the night among mortals. The devout among them believe in the power of the gods of ancient Egypt, and lead unlives that (they believe) will bring cosmic order.

As a covenant dominated by Mekhet, one should not be surprised that the Akhu are secretive and mysterious. They are bitter that their sworn enemies, the Lancea, stole the secrets of their magic, and they fear their ancient nemesis, the mysterious VII.

The Akhu are in all ways conservative. They do things as they have been done. Even in the face of changing time, they are slow to adapt.

Members

The vast majority of members are native Mekhet, followed by Gangrel, Daeva, and Nosferatu in more or less equal proportion. Ventrue are the least common, with most of that clan siding with the Invictus in Cairo. Few who are Embraced by non-Akhu are allowed into the covenant.

History

The first Mekhet arose near Nekhen before the settlements of the Nile unified. Many of the elder Kindred were treated at gods, each residing in a temple along the great river. Others roamed as predators in the desert, content to be regarded as evil spirits.

The Name of the Clan

How Mekhet came to be named, as with most clans, is unclear. Did they adopt the name the Egyptians called them, or did their name become incorporated into the Egyptian language? Did they choose the name after first meeting stranger Kindred, or did adopt the name the strangers called them? Even the eldest among them cannot indisputably claim the source of the name's origin.

There are several theories, based on hieroglyphic evidence. One variant of the word "mek-t" means "protection", which the earthbound gods would likely have provided their followers. Another version of m'khet ("owl+sieve/loaf), when followed by the symbol for stairs or seat, is translated as "within the stairs of judgment" and "within/towards the stairs of judgment", respectively. Both of these fit the view of the blessed dead as the dispensers of wisdom and justice.

Yet another version (m'khet– "owl+wood/(sieve+loaf)") means "assistant"; with the addition of two ideograms "eye+ palace", the word becomes "palace watcher". This term likely arose as a euphemism after outsider undead arrived in Khem to describe the shadowy spies and kingmakers lurking within the halls of power.

Whatever school of thought one subscribes to, it is important to remember two things. First, the language and dialects changed considerably during the 5,000+ years before Arabic became the dominant tongue. Second, none of the other four common clans can claim to bear the name their progenitors bore; they are either corruption of old tongues or near-modern monikers.

For a while, conflicts were between the settled Mekhet of the temples and the wandering Mekhet who trespassed. But as mortals grew more numerous and more ambitious, the undead found themselves in larger intrigues and battles. These pressures forced Kindred to band together, joined by states or by merging cults. So these territorial animosities continued for centuries. But invasion changed that.

The Mekhet had known of the existence of blood-drinkers from other lands. A few traveled to Egypt with caravans, and others in delegations. But when several tribes attacked from the east, Kindred came with them. Where their mortals conquered, so did they, slaying or binding the native Kindred. It was after these attacks that the Egyptian undead realized how alike they were compared to the strangers. It was then that the Blessed Undead came together against the outlanders, forming the first covenant, uniting the Kindred of Upper and Lower Egypt. In time, the ruling Hyksos were driven away, and with them went most of the outlander undead. Some few joined the Great Covenant and took up their ways.

With the crisis past, many among the Egyptian undead would have preferred to withdraw from their alliance. The Cult of Amun supported the leaders of the covenant, as may be expected. Interestingly, the Cult of Anpu threw their support in as well, and eventually most of the other cults and unaligned undead acquiesced. With the structure in place, the Akhu en Kemet grew in power in Egypt, and even began spreading outward towards Mesopotamia and the Mycenaeans. It was during these decades that the Akhu mingled with other lineages of Kindred, for better and worse.

In 1102 BC, a large portion of the covenant met at Pi-Ramesses during the celebration of the beginning of the season of Innundation. It was during this meeting that, like a whirlwind, VII struck. There was fire and darkness, and in the course of the night roughly half of the covenant was exterminated; nearly every member of the Hetkepu bloodline was ash by the morning. In the wake of this savage attack, the leaderless Covenant collapsed. Only decades later, as slumbering elders began to arise from torpor, did the various cults began reaching out to each other again. Never again did the Akhu have any substantial presence beyond the traditional borders of Egypt. The practice of the Hollow Embrace gained popularity during this period, under the (unsubstantiated) assumption that VII would not seek out vampires who had no Ka.

As the power of Egypt faded and invaders descended, foreign Kindred followed in greater numbers. Over generations, the native Kindred either converted or subverted the strangers. As the new covenants arose, so did the old identity reassert itself; the Akhu en Kemet strove against the crusading Lancea et Sanctum and, to a lesser extend, the Invictus. The Akhu claim that the Lancea stole the secrets of their magic, changing it and calling it Theban Sorcery.

In the 13th century AD the battle against the Lancea was largely won, although some Invicta have held on to modern times. Since the 18th century, members of the Ordo Dracul have sojourned in Egypt, with less enmity if not more trust between the covenants. In the 19th century, members of the Bak-Setcheri bloodline settled in London, taking a scholar as a ghoul and later as a Childe. He wove a story of ancients which rang of truth but did not point directly to the Akhu en Kemet. The branch of the Bak-Setcheri called itself the Libitinarius, and drew on Roman, Greek and Egyptian elements for all public trappings and rituals. Indeed, most Libitinarians claim membership in the Ordo Dracul and know little or nothing of the ancient Covenant of their lineage.

Modern Nights

Now the Akhu dominate or outright control Kindred society across Egypt – excepting Cairo. Cairo is controlled by the Invictus, and even with pressure from the Akhu that is unlikely to change in the near future. The Nesew, or leader of the covenant, traditionally resides in Luxor, although Alexandra supports a larger population of Kindred.

The Akhu en Kemet is dominated by elders. Because of their rites protecting those in torpor, elders suffer the Fog of Ages to a much lesser degree than Kindred in other Covenants. Neonates are expected to toe the line with the basic philosophies and cosmology of the ancients; those who grew up steeped in monotheistic cultures must either accept a new truth (and many are convinced in time) or learn to fake it well. The latter seldom gain much status in the Covenant.

If there is a saving grace for young Kindred, it is that the conservatism of the elders results in few Embraces compared to Kindred elsewhere. Cities which in America would be teeming with vampires may hold only a handful in Egypt. So long as a Kindred stays within the bounds of vampiric law and custom, he has access to all the resources the city has to offer.

The Akhu have the same predatory tendencies inherent to all Kindred. Although inevitably there is conflict between individuals and factions, the combination of ingrained cosmological belief and time-tested custom quells the worst of this. Each member knows their place in the world, and most realize that restrictive laws are protection as well as obstacles, and breaking them threatens the societal structure that ultimately benefits all Covenant members.

Because the Akhu en Kemet has looked inward for so long, the Covenant is practically unknown outside of Egypt. As the mortal world expands and interconnects, it is becoming harder for these Kindred to ignore the outside world. Since the 19th century, there have been scattered forays into Europe, the Americas and elsewhere. Modern communication systems have allowed Kindred to form mortal intelligence networks, learning most of what they wish without leaving the security of their homeland.

Bloodlines of the Mekhet

Over its long history, the Mekhet begat a great number of bloodlines, some of which have survived to modern times and others which are themselves young. Here are the more important ones that date from antiquity and can be found among the Akhu :

Hetkepu: Mekhet who can see and speak with spirits. They were very influential until most were destroyed a catastrophic VII attack.

Khaibit: The bloodline excelled as shadow warriors, night guardians and assassins.

Bak-Setcheri: This bloodline specializes in caring for those in torpor. A small offshoot of the bloodline joined the Ordo Dracul under the name Libitinarius.

Hem-Ma’at: Founded around 700 BC by the Childe of an Akhu Mekhet who travelled among the Persians. Originally called the Artavardiya (“Doer of Justice”), the bloodline was renamed to fit in with Egyptian sensibilities. They are a bloodline of judges, trusted because they are themselves bound to truth.

Benefits:

All full members of the Covenant have access to the mystic Discipline called Heka. While many rituals are open to all, some are jealously guarded by different cults within the Covenant.

Philosophy:

Ma’at

At the heart of the belief system is the concept of Ma’at. It is a complex and pervasive principle dealing with balance and harmony of the natural order. It also covers justice. It was through Ma’at that the universe was originally structured, and without Ma’at the universe will fall into chaos and destruction.

And where do the undead fall in the natural order? They are, essentially, minor gods – blood-drinking, sun-fearing gods – charged with preserving the basic order of the world. What this means exactly will vary by the point of view of each Kindred. Some do this through guarding spiritual gateways, others by quelling or inciting political or religious movements. Many seek lost knowledge, but are more likely to hoard esoteric lore than to get it into the hands of those who could use it. The average Akhu cares less for the state of the temporal world than for the city or even neighborhood where he resides. However they choose to live, members of the Covenant are expected to respect the hierarchy. The temporal and spiritual leaders of the Akhu have authority – but have obligations to their inferiors as well. At least in principle, each individual’s power is circumscribed by custom. In practice, well, they’re vampires, but in general the ideal holds well enough to keep the framework stable.

At the Center of the World

The Covenant believes that Egypt is the spiritual center of creation. As the power of a vampire is centered in his heart, so the universe is likewise affected by what affects Egypt. Further, the Akhu en Kemet believe the world’s first vampires originated in the Nile valley (a point contested by other covenants) as minor deities. As such, they feel that, as lesser gods, they have both the power and the obligation to keep the world on track. There is debate as to what the other world’s Kindred are – the childer of apostates, or descended from the gods of other lands – but the Akhu know themselves to be a step above the outsiders who have lost the path of the gods. That outsiders completely disregard Egypt's crucial position in the grand scheme merely shows how tragically confused they have become.

Be Wary of Change

The Akhu are in all ways conservative. They do things as they have been done. Even in the face of changing time, they are slow to adapt.

Rituals and Observances:

There are few rituals in which all Akhu are required to participate in. The most important rites in each cult are performed in private by the priests. Some cults do have communal ceremonies to release magical energies or to strengthen bonds between the members. Individual Akhu may send prayers to their kin in torpor to ease their passage, and some will send hymns and prayers to the gods to gain favor in their own unlives.

Titles and Duties:

Note: where two names for a titled are listed, the second is the female version.

Nesew (“King”): The nominal leader of the Covenant, both in temporal and religious affairs. The Nesew is highly respected and influential, but although in theory he wields total authority over every Kindred and cult in the covenant, he is careful to exercise little direct control outside his personal domains. Indeed, much of the leader’s activity is carefully circumscribed by custom. By tradition, the Nesew resides in Luxor.

Tjatey/Tjatet (“Vizier”): The Nesew’s lieutenant, focused primarily on temporal affairs. The Tjatet is the more a part of night-to-night activities of the Covenant than is the Nesew, and thus wields more functional power.

Nekht Kheru (“Strong Voice”): Functions as the herald for an authority.

Kenbet: Court, held by a council; equivalent of primogen council.

Herey-tep/Heret-tep (“Prince”): The equivalent of Prince. The alternate term “Nomarch” is also popular, especially among the less conservative members.

Imay-er (“Overseer”): Position granted by the Herey-tep over various domains.

Setchem (“Judge”): Acts both as judge and legal counselor for leaders. More often than not, a Hem-Ma’at fills this position.

Sen/Senet (“Brother/Sister”): The rank and file of the covenant.

Hem-netjer-tepey: High priest, leader of a cult

Hem-hewet-netjer: “temple priest” leader of a cult in a given city

Wa’eb/Wa’ebet: lesser priest of a cult

Cults

Many Kindred personally venerate one deity above all others. The more important gods and goddesses have cults with their own priesthoods and ceremonies. A city may have more than one cult functioning, but often one is ascendant. In practical terms they function as both power factions and guilds. The larger ones resemble guilds; for example, several cults carry knowledge about weathering the effects of torpor, but the cult of Anubis is without question the authority on the subject.

Cult of Amun: Predominant of the vampiric cults, and universally Mekhet. Tradition holds that Amun (whose name means “hidden”) was the father of all Mekhet. Until the waning of the New Kingdom, the vampire priests of Amun were renowned for their command over spirits. Although the Hetkepu have never fully recovered from the VII attack millennia ago, they are still among the most knowledgeable of any vampires in regards to the spirit world.

Cult of Anubis/Anpu: The second-largest cult, they specialize in the study of torpor, and know more about preserving both body and mind of the sleeping Kindred than any other cult.

Cult of Nephthys: Those who serve the Mourning Goddess are often called upon to assist neonates in coming to grips with their new state. This usually takes the form of counsel, but may also involve helping the new vampire to loosen any awkward ties to their former life.

Cult of Seth/Sutekh: On the surface, this cult is dedicated to chaos and war. As such, its members have been persecuted in many domains ever since Hyksos were overthrown. Their true aims are more nuanced, however –– they do sow discord and conflict, but within the greater harmony of the cosmos. To a Sethite, chaos brings freedom and the potential for greater strength. They are also militant against spiritual interference, for in their minds spirits bring tyranny rather than freedom.

Cult of Sekhmet: Those who follow Sekhmet are feared warriors, guardians and assassins. When the nesew seeks vengeance, a follower of Sekhmet is usually his instrument.

Cult of Ha: The followers of the God of the Western Desert are few, but are the sole claimants to the dunes and oases beyond sight of the Nile Valley. Few undead would brave the empty wastes, and none can tread the trackless sands with such unnatural ease.

Covenant Laws

There are a great many customs and rules both written and unwritten which guide the Akhu en Kemet. But there are several rules that carry as much weight at the Traditions do outside Egypt. They are known as The Elder Laws.

Diablerie: Devouring the soul of the Akhu invites your own destruction.

Diablerie is a crime worthy of destruction, full stop. That isn’t to say it is never done. But the fate of a soul is determined in the next world, not in this one. Even the lawful destruction of a Kindred only extends to his physical body.

Right of Rest: The resting place of the Akhu is inviolate.

Disturbing a Kindred’s resting place is a great sacrilege. Not even the Covenant leaders would violate a crypt with impunity, whether a haven from the day or a hundred year torpor. Of course, they have no such qualms about burying the entrance in rubble, or waiting for the sleeper to emerge and then staking her.

Domain: The King in Egypt, the Prince in his city, the priest in his temple, or the brother in his haven: All owe the holder of a domain respect.

This parallels the common tradition that even Princes should be respectful inside a subject's haven, though that haven is within the greater princedom.

Balance: No king is so great that he stands above Ma’at; no desert dweller is so small that he is beneath the notice of Ma’at.

The flipside of the previous law, this dictum reminds that even the powerful have limits they should not cross. All have a part to play in the order of the universe; authority should be respected, but authority should also be respectful. One should note that wise use of power isn’t necessarily a “good” use in the mortal sense. Good and Evil are human values which can change in definition from generation to generation. On the other hand, Chaos and Order are cosmic values which never change – although their quantities may wax and wane.

Accounting and Progeny: The blood is sacred. Use utmost care in choosing who to share it with. Until the offspring takes their place among the Akhu, The maker is accountable for their actions.

While this Tradition suggests the stigma attached to siring an inappropriate Childe, in reality the Childe’s behavior reflects on the Sire long after he is released. This is one reason why few Childer are created. Potential sires may watch, study, consult kin or priests, and generally overthink the situation until the candidate has past his prime so to speak. It is considered far better to withhold the gift of immortality to a worthy mortal than to have to destroy a mistake.

Hospitality: A brother owes the traveler shade and protection, and the traveler owes respect. Show honor to the one who sojourns in your house, for in time you may be a sojourner. In a land of sun and sand, this law is necessary for travel. Invoking this law keeps the peace among rivals.

The Veil: Do not reveal your true nature to those not of the Blood.

Yes, this is the Masquerade, and it is perhaps interesting that the Law didn’t include this tenet before the decline of the pharaohs.

View of the Others:

The Akhu en Kemet do not proselytize. An outsider wishing to join the Covenant will find suspicion and several formal trials before being accepted. The Akhu naturally feel superior to Kindred of other lands, and outsiders should tread carefully. Here are some generalized attitudes towards other covenants:

Carthians: Newcomers, experimenting with new ways to survive and rule. By their nature, they will never find stability, for the “power of the hour” will sweep out the new “old” and bring in the latest “new”.

Circle of the Crone: Some among the Circle seem very congruent with the Akhu in temperament and belief, even worshiping the same gods. This is a fallacy. First, the Acolytes have so many disparate belief systems and methods; even the worship of Isis can vary wildly from one circle to another. Secondly, their rituals involve copious amounts of blood, a sacrifice many Akhu feel is not universally appropriate. In spite of these differences, the Blessed Dead are more likely to find peace and even alliance with local Acolytes than with any other Covenant.

Invictus: While respect for age and authority is a cardinal virtue among the Akhu, power for power’s sake is not encouraged.

Lancea Sanctum: The belief that the undead are chosen by an almighty deity to be agents of evil is laughable to a Covenant that believes in neither monotheism nor evil. Ideology aside, the Sanctified’s early activities in Egypt – searching, slaying, and stealing – earned eternal enmity from the Akhu.

Ordo Dracul: The relationship of the Akhu with the Ordo Dracul is, relatively speaking, amiable. Most Dragons who come to the desert are respectful scholars, and there are blood ties – albeit distant – to consider. The Blessed Dead know better than to trust them, however. A scholar’s willingness to travel to foreign lands is as dangerous in his greed as a crusader is in his righteous wrath.

Unaligned: The Unaligned are viewed with suspicion in Egypt. They are outside the order of things and therefore unknown quantities. When anything threatens the stability of Akhu society, it is often the Unaligned who are the scapegoats.

Symbols: Compounded ankh, djed and uas nb. The ankh is flanked by the heads of a cobra and a vulture.

Ankh: Life

Djed: Stability

Uas: Power and dominion

Cobra: Represents Lower (northern) Egypt

Vulture: Represents Upper (southern) Egypt

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