Customs and Traditions
rarely give the Embrace, because it is both a curse and a blessing. When we do
Embrace, we choose those of hardy stock, inclined to fight fate. The qualities
we seek in those we bless are courage, strong will and survival skills. The Embrace
is also a curse, and one given to those mortals who wrong us. The pattern of the
Embrace is similar, whether for a curse or blessing.
We almost never offer a choice. This is a clan tradition. I
say almost never, because there are a few Gangrel who do break with tradition.
The offspring of these Gangrel are considered by some to be inferior stock, even
if they do survive. A Gangrel who is given a choice rarely receives the same respect
of those Embraced traditionally, even after the rites of status.
Embrace as Curse:
For the mortal foolish
enough to betray, insult or threaten one of clan gangrel the embrace becomes a
curse. When the mortal feels safe in its bed or enviroment - a gangrel will pay
the mortal a visit making the embrace as frightening and painful as possible,
then leaves the new vampire where she is sure to be found or perhaps to greet
the morning sun one last time.
The Embrace as Blessing:
A Gangrel sire often chooses a prospective candidate for the Embrace during feeding.
If the mortal prey resists, fighting against what is happening, then his reward
after death may be a taste of Gangrel blood. Our clan makes many Gangrel this
way, dating back to the first warriors selected by Ennoia to fight her war. This
method produces a Gangrel with a fierce desire to survive, even if he does not
have all the tools. We also find prospective Gangrel through observation. While
most mortals remain safely hidden during the night, a few risk the darkness. When
one of our clan encounters a mortal like this, she will watch instead of attacking.
It takes courage to wander these nights, after all. The Gangrel observes the mortal,
watching for any signs of bravery or a knack for survival. Sometimes, a mortal
out at night is simply lost - if this proves to be the case, he becomes prey.
However, if the mortal shows skill moving about at night, is no coward, and maintains
the interest of the observer, he is a good candidate for the Embrace.
After the Embrace, the sire completely abandons his new
creation in the early nights, leaving her alone to face the struggle of survival.
Many do not last beyond even the first night. -It is then, the hunger is the strongest
and the beast rises to the surface. In the hare of that first wild rage, a childe
makes any number of mistakes. If Lupines and mortals don't destroy her, the first
sunrise may. If the sire has chosen well, however, the childe quickly grasps her
situation and adjusts.
The reward for that first night is one of
Ennoia's marks. Any Gangrel resilient and capable enough to survive the first
few nights soon develops the tools we use to survive those that follow. Over time,
the childe must learn to grow claws, speak with the animals, and come to terms
with our strengths and weaknesses. She must also learn to make decisions on her
own, rapidly. Our condition does not permit long reflection on the proper course
to take. Such indecision leads to the Final Death. This is a dangerous time for
the childe, lost and without guidance.
A new Gangrel must survive at least one winter before he is worthy of teaching.
"How many winters?" is often the first question a Gangrel asks upon
first meeting another in the wilderness. A new Gangrel rarely has the correct
answer, and thus reveals himself. Tradition has it that any pup so encountered
becomes a responsibility. The older Gangrel must aid him in his survival and teach
him the ways of the clan, at least until his nature is revealed. If the pup ends
up being from the Cainite broods, the Gangrel leaves him to his fate. Once accepted,
the new Gangrel learns the stories and traditions of the clan, particularly the
greeting ritual and the rites of status. Instruction in the use of our gifts follows.
The lessons include descriptions of our relationship with the Ravnos, Lupines
and Cainites. After months of this teaching, a close bond forms between the student
and teacher, similar to the relationship between a sire and childe among the Cainites.
After this training, a Gangrel is officially a member of the clan.
We do not generally indulge in the Amaranth, preferring instead to
honor the fallen with a simple Final Death. As well, we look upon those who indulge
in diablerie merely to gain power as cowards. There is one instance where diablerie
is appropriate to preserve the spirit of a brave fallen warrior.
The act of feeding a mortal our blood is, for many in 1the clan, a grave crime.
The Cainites indulge in this practice with abandon, it seerns, creating cults
of ghouls to serve them, and this contributes to the distance between our peoples.
There are, however, times when we will create such creatures. In the north, Gangrel
feed warriors with their blood to make them stronger, as a reward for loyal service.
Elsewhere, turning a mortal into a thrall is the step before the Embrace and considered
part of the observation. Nowhere is the act undertaken lightly, though. We are
more likely to feed blood to animals, to ensure loyalty and avoid the problems
of constantly exerting our will over them. Many others claim service from the
creatures of the wild: Lupines, Cainites and even mortals. If a Gangrel wishes
a loyal companion, the gift of blood is often the only way. Even those free of
another's control are mostly creatures of life and day and fear us if they haven't
tasted our blood. The constant state of warfare, real or imagined, that many Gangrel
find themselves in has led to the creation of many ghouls, both mortal and animal.
My hope, shared with many in the clan, is that these numbers will reduce in later
nights. Building a huge tribe of blood-drinkers reeks of civilization to me.
The main social structure
of our clan is the Gather, a coming together of all the Gangrel in an area. The
Gather provides us with an opportunity to meet, socialize and establish status
among the clan. It is how we determine our leaders, make outcasts and solve problems.
The Gather is the chance for each of us to have a voice in the matters that affect
us all. To call a Gather, the Gangrel leaves special signs like rock piles and
broken branches in the local area. Nocturnal animals pass the word as well, after
the one calling the Gather recruits them. It can take a few nights before word
reaches all the Gangrel in an area, so a Gather is not something to call for a
rapid decision. The summoned Gangrel collect at a prominent local landmark with
easy access to cover from the sun. The proceedings of a Gather are deceptively
simple. As a Gangrel arrives, she introduces herself to the Gangrel already present.
The rites then begin, with the newly arrived Gangrel competing with those present
to determine her status. If the Gangrel present are powerful or particularly aggressive,
the rites could take a few nights to complete. After establishing status, we proceed
to the business of the Gather. A Gather is a place for discussion about everything
- warnings, the presence of Ravnos, exchanging of stories, and messages from local
Cainites are common topics. The war with the Tremere and the subsequent alliance
with the Tzimisce dominated discussions at my most recent Gathers, for example.
Each Gangrel at the Gather speaks if he desires, a process that can take several
nights in a larger Gather. No Gather lasts longer than a week past the first speech,
however. After seven nights, the proceedings break up and we scatter.
We have a few very simple rites for determining the ladder
of dominance among us. Individual combat is the most common, without the use of
claws, teeth or weapons. The combat only ends with the incapacitation or surrender
of one of those involved. If the opponents are evenly matched, the combat can
become very dangerous with a risk of frenzied madness. When two of us meet for
the first time, we use the combat rite. If the two know each other well, they
commonly only use the combat rite to symbolically re-affirm their relationship.
This is more of a spar than true combat. The other rite used is the boast. Those
involved exchange boasts, trying to top one another with the extent of their bravery
and ability. They boast of things they can do, not what they have done, and continue
until one of them either demands proof or concedes the contest. Demanding proof
means that both participants must complete their last boast, with success and
the difficulty of the boast determining their position.
The Gathers are not all friendly. Rarely, one of us will call
a Gather to form the Revel (also called the Wild Hunt). The Revel is a war party
of the local Gangrel, united against an enemy. The highest-ranking member of the
Gather leads the Revel, seeking battle with the enemy. In a Revel, we put aside
our personal quests for glory, and work together to destroy our prey. Often the
last thing a Ravnos sees is a horde of us rushing from the woods as one mass,
screaming battle cries. The invocation of the Revel is a sacred thing, one I that
all Gangrel must honor. We have no tolerance for cowardice and punish it strongly.
Failing to participate in a Revel can lead to banishment or even destruction.
The Grand Gather and Revel:
The Grand Gather
is an almost mythical meeting. One hasn't been called in nearly 750 years, since
before the fall of Rome. In principle, it is a meeting of the entire clan, but
there are always some (or even many) who cannot or will not come. No Gangrel has
earned enough respect or accumulated enough power to summon a Grand Gather in
these nights, so it will likely remain a thing of legend. A Grand Gather lasts
for weeks, as Gangrel arrive from all over and spend nights re-establishing their
status through the rites. The one who called the Gather will face the most challenges
- failing to win these challenges will result in his destruction and the end of
the Grand Gather. Grand Gathers organize massive Grand Revels, where the entire
clan goes to war on a single target. The Grand Gather also discusses matters that
affect the entire clan, or allows a powerful Gangrel to prove herself to the rest
of the clan, to lead it in times of trouble. Among the kine, Grand Gathers are
an ill omen indeed. So many of us require quite the feeding stock, and legend
says that Grand Revels have laid waste to whole countries. Such blights tend to
attract the attention of Lupines, leading to still further bloodshed. It is glorious!
Something Old, Something New:
the Gather and the Revel, we Gangrel have few rules and rituals, especially in
comparison to the stifling ways of the Cainite broods. When two of us meet, we
exchange a greeting that includes our name, a few of our deeds and an indicator
of our physical age. Outside a Gather, the younger defers to the older. Age in
this case is determined by years - a Gangrel who survives one hundred years gains
more respect than one who has survived only a decade, no matter who their sires
are. Survival and bravery are our only true measures of ability. A Gangrel who
has animal features, the mark of Ennoia's favor, also gains respect. There is
a fine line here, however; we balance the number of features against age. Too
many such features at too young an age are a sign of insanity, not favor. Too
few features on an older Gangrel may be a sign of cowardice. There is no hard
rule about too many or few - it is a matter of instinct. When we sense that one
of us has gone too far, we will shun him to avoid the spread of his ills. We Gangrel
extend our respect to those not of our line in certain situations. When a Cainite
shows great bravery, in battle or otherwise, we treat her as something of an equal
until she proves herself unworthy. Some of us also occasionally join Cainites,
extending to them a kind of clan status. Cainites given this status can then take
part in the Gather and the rites, if they wish. Gangrel will respect any status
earned by a Cainite at the Gathers. Keep in mind, however, that such outsiders
must be very careful. Should they prove themselves cowardly or dishonorable -
and most are - they will pay a terrible price, and so will