Fellowship of Judas
Vampires are driven by many passions. Many are people who tried to escape the burdens of life and yet could not deal with life after death. Others are former victims who turned into predators or were predators in life and now pursue their unnatural lusts after death. The Fellowship of Judas is made up of those who seek redemption. Their purpose is to amend for their crimes by protecting humans from beings like themselves, predators both human and supernatural. The Iscariots risk all against a variety of threats including the Combine, The Cabal, The Hellfire Club, the followers of the Darkness, and other foes. Their war is their form of penance.
The Iscariots are a small but dedicated group. Their goals are selfless, but their methods are somewhat questionable. They see themselves as warriors fighting shadowy organizations like the Cabal, other Undead, and any supernatural hunters of humans. Their alleged founder and leader was the great traitor of Biblical history, and their goal is to undo the harm he and others like him have inflicted on the world.
The traditions of the Fellowship speak of Judas Iscariot, the great betrayer who in remorse hung himself. At the Threshold between Life and Death, Judas had a vision of the future. Of the events he had helped set in motion. He saw empires fall, wars rage, and untold numbers suffer. His desperate desire to redeem himself and undo some of the disasters he foresaw allowed him to return from the Threshold and be Unborn. Fleeing Palestine, Judas traveled at night, preying on those who preyed on others: bandits, brutal soldiers, and corrupt priests. He also collected followers from among them, all former criminals or exploiters who repented their sins in life or at the Threshold.
Judas and his band traveled to Egypt, establishing a network of Undead and mortal followers as they went. Never daring to show themselves to Christians out of shame and fear, the Iscariots nevertheless helped the new movement. Even though Judas and his followers could not stop the most savage persecutions. Their actions saved thousands of Christians. Eventually Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and other religious groups were in turn persecuted. As a result of their powers and long life, the Iscariots became aware of a hidden force behind the crimes and persecutions. Beneath the corruption in the Roman and Persian Empires, the Vampires discovered a secret group of manipulators who helped turn a religion of peace and love into a force for persecution and genocide. The excesses of emperors and the atrocities of barbarians all were pieces of a larger pattern, one designed to keep humans ignorant and enslaved.
The legends of the Fellowship claim that soon after Judas and his chief followers discovered this hidden force, it discovered them. A furious secret war ensued. A conflict between the Compact of Constantine, as it was known then, and the Iscariots. The Fellowship of Judas was too small to achieve any lasting victories. For centuries, the Fellowship has been a thorn in the side of the Cabal, but little more. The Fellowship has been successful, however, in destroying a number of lesser threats such as certain Dark Covenants and Mad Cults.
To the Fellowship, Unlife is a time of testing and choices. They believe that those who return to the world as Vampires do not have to surrender to their hunger and lusts, but can do good works to justify their unnatural existence. The Iscariots worship the concept of Free Will. Living or Undead, it is in the power of everyone to choose to do the right thing.
In their case, “doing the right thing” is opposing the forces that conspire to keep humankind mired in ignorance and brutality. The Fellowship knows of the shadowy organization known as the Cabal. Traditions claim that the Cabal was behind many important and crucial events in the world. From the Crucifixion to the Inquisition, from acts of genocide and class warfare to the manipulation of economies and governments, drug trafficking, and the corruption of the media. Most Iscariots become Undead conspiracy theorists, finding links between disparate events, suspecting hidden forces are behind all or most major happenings.
Fighting the Cabal, and other such organizations, is the main goal of the organization. If they can uncover the secrets of these shadowy organizations, the Iscariots may help humankind take control over its own destiny. Only then can the Iscariots rest in peace, or so they believe.
The Iscariots choose new members from those who have damned themselves by their actions or cowardice. Many suicides are met by Vampire Iscariots at the Threshold and are forced to contemplate the consequences of their actions, the pain and suffering they inflicted on their loved ones, or the things they might have achieved. Those who repent and want to expiate their sins return from the Threshold as Undead members of the Fellowship or manage to escape death and become living Iscariots. Other Iscariots find still-living sinners and offer them a chance to undo the harm they’ve done. Non-Undead members are usually Mundane, but a large minority are Gifted characters with diverse metaphysical powers, including the Disciplines of the Flesh.
The Leaders of the Fellowship are called Followers. It is said that Judas Iscariot recruited the First Twelve in imitation of his Teacher, and that the First Twelve then went on to create a network of Undead and other undesirables. The Followers all bear a tattoo on their wrist: a stylized letter J, surrounded by mystical symbols. These tattoos have a unique magical “signature” that Undead, Gifted humans, and others can perceive, and they cannot be counterfeited. There are less than a hundred Followers worldwide. They are all powerful Undead, at least two hundred years of age. Their knowledge of the hidden forces in the world is vast and deep, and rarely shared with others.
The rank-and-file are the Iscariots, recruited by the Followers into the Fellowship. The Iscariots take an oath never to refuse a request for aid from another member, to accept the missions given to them by a Follower, and to never harm an innocent. About one half of the Iscariots are Vampires. The rest are human, both Gifted and Mundane, or other Supernatural beings, including some Relentless Dead and Phantoms.
Recruiting Undead members occurs in the Threshold, the realm just between the world of the Living and the lands of the Dead. Many Iscariots prowl this world, looking for tormented and damned souls to rescue. The spirit of recently deceased humans, most of them suicides or criminals, are approached by an Iscariot and forced to face the consequences of their actions, of the cowardice inherent in taking one’s own life, of the harm inflicted on others by one’s carelessness, greed, or cruelty. Those who show no sign of repentance are attacked, their souls mauled, and if possible dispatched to the Pit, the hellish realm where demons torment the spirits of the wicked. The ones who wish to redeem themselves undergo the Unbirth, and are admitted into the Covenant.
Undead are not the only ones given a chance to make up for their actions through service. The Iscariots also approach living humans who are also guilty of grave sins, and they are given a similar choice. Many of these humans become dedicated members and are as knowledgeable and effective as the Undead. A few eventually undergo Death and the Unbirth and continue their work as Vampires.
The Fellowship prefers to operate on its own, but members often find it necessary to collaborate with other groups. For the most part, the Iscariots keep such cooperation to a minimum, and do their best to prevent their “allies” from learning any information that could later put them at risk. For example, if the Iscariots met with a band of Pariahs in a safehouse, they would never use that safehouse again.
The Iscariots know a great deal about the Sentinels and Storm Dragons groups, but prefer to avoid them. Vampires, no matter how well-intentioned, do not mix well with Vampire hunters and both the Sentinels and Storm Dragons are monster-hunters. Only in the most extreme of circumstances would an Iscariot work with the Sentinels; the Storm Dragons are considered a bit better, but not much.
The Pariah urban shapeshifters are considered to be kindred souls to the Iscariots. The Fellowship often volunteers aid and information to help the Pariahs, although never in ways that would endanger themselves.
Skills and Abilities
Vampire members typically develop extensive Undead powers and a few learn magical abilities. Gifted members favor Magic, Necromancy, Seer powers, and the Disciplines of the Flesh. There are even a number of Inspired humans in the group, whose faith has become so strong that they can perform miracles. Apparently, the Deity does not seem to mind that they are working side by side with Undead, something that would drive most theologians to distractions if they knew about it.
Most Iscariots were recruited from among the damned and the losers of society. Many were thieves, junkies, drug pushers or murderers. Others were misfits and geeks, unwanted and unloved people who often took their own lives out of spite. They may come from all walks of life, from high school and college students to people living on the fringes of society.