Some people never seem to like staying in one place for long. The Gypsies are one of the oldest such groups, but they have plenty of company, from the traveling performers and craftsmen of the Middle Ages to modern-day truckers, roadies, and carnies. Some of these drifters are not what they appear to be, however. A few have powers that set them apart from the rest of humanity. Some are no longer, or never were, human. The Nomads are among them.
Ferals, or Therianthropes, are humans whose souls have become intertwined with Animal Spirits. Particularly the spirits of predatory creatures. They are the werewolves and other were-creatures of legend. For the most part, existence as a Feral is an unmitigated curse, rendering the victim unable to control the savage impulses of their bestial side.
A few manage to gain some measure of independence from their curse, either through sheer strength of will, the use of magical rituals, or the intervention of some powerful entity. The Nomads are mostly a gathering of the latter type of Ferals. Founded by a handful of werecreatures during the dawn of history, the Ferals made a pact with two ancient Moon deities, gaining control over their animal impulses in return for a pledge never to settle down permanently among humankind. The deal protected both Ferals and any potential human victims, and in time members of the Covenant came to relish their wandering existence.
The Nomads now haunt the highways and back roads of the world. They can be found running fairs and concert tours, driving big rigs, or simply drifting aimlessly, staying in one place long enough to make some money before moving on. Wherever they go, the Nomads seek other Ferals, trying to recruit them into their ranks before their curse consumes them. They are also pledged to hunt supernatural beings who prey on humans.
The core membership belongs to a handful of families who can trace their ancestry to the Bronze Age. These bloodlines all have one thing in common: they carry the curse of lycanthropy. Every new generation produces a number of Ferals, humans with the partially bestial souls. The rest of the Nomads are evenly split between Mundane or Gifted, but essentially human, members of said families and other nomadic humans and creatures who have joined their caravans.
Part religious cult, part mutual aid society. The Nomads follow, but not quite worship, two entities that claim to be the ancient Sumerian Moon Gods. Their blessings protect Ferals from the worst part of their bestial nature and in return the members of the group must follow a number of rules. The main ones requiring them to never dwell among humans, and to hunt down those who would prey on humanity, especially other Ferals. For most of its history, however, the Nomads have concentrated mainly on surviving and living their lives. Their wagons and cars and big rigs have been a haven for misfits, oddballs and fugitives of all kinds. It is not easy to join the Nomads, but those who do are wholly accepted, any past sins or crimes notwithstanding. Fiercely loyal to one another, the Nomads consider treason to be the worst possible crime.
The legendary origins of the Nomads have been passed down orally from generation to generation. A number of artistic members have woven the tale into poems, songs, and even a few full-length novels. At the heart of all the tales, epics, ballads and overwrought prose, a few alleged facts stand out. Over three millennia ago, thirteen Ferals from different parts of the world, such as the woodlands of Northwestern Europe, the steppes of Asia, and the heartland of Africa, arrived at the shores of the Tigris River. All of them had been kings, warlords and high priests in their own lands, until their pride, cruelty or arrogance brought the Feral curse upon them, and an uncontrollable rage that had destroyed their lives and those of their loved ones. Some had traveled enormous distances, through vast wilderness and ferocious tribes, following rumors and visions of a cure for their condition, while others already dwelled in the land of the Two Rivers, the ancient cradle of civilization. There the travelers were greeted by the avatars of the God and Goddess of the Moon, Nannar and Ningal.
The gods did not have a cure for their condition, however. All the Ferals involved had committed some great sin or crime, and had been punished for it with the curse. What Nannar and Ningal offered was redemption and a measure of comfort, for themselves and for their entire lineage. The Ferals would never rule again, but must instead serve. Those who accepted would be doomed to walk forever the Earth, unable to call any land their own. They would own neither cattle nor slaves, and make a living through trade or services.
Seven Ferals accepted this. The other six refused, and a fight broke out. The seven fought the six, and, although they lost two of their number, were victorious. They killed the six and offered their bodies to the Moon Gods as a sacrifice. This is called the Last Sacrifice, as the Moon Gods decreed that the Five and their descendants should never spill blood in their name again.
The Five gathered what few possessions they could carry, and those who had chosen to follow them in their quest and now in their permanent exile. They set to wandering, never to call any land their own. As the group grew, it divided into smaller ones.
The Nomads served as scouts and mercenaries for the Assyrians and the Persians, for Romans and Greeks. They rode with the Scythians and Huns, or stood against them. They traded on the Silk Road and on the shores of Britain. When the Old World discovered the Americas, many Nomads traveled there. They were on the early wagon trains heading West, and worked as cattle drivers and railroad builders. And they never stayed in one place for long.
Although they rarely went out of the way to fight supernatural predators, the mandate of the Moon Gods could not be ignored. The Nomads found themselves battling undead monsters in plague-ravaged Europe, demonic cults in war-torn Middle East, and servants of the Mad Gods in the Himalayas. Often, they had to track down and destroy former members of their group who had surrendered to their bestial side.
During World War II, many Nomads were classified as Gypsies and killed by the Nazis; that period also saw some of the strongest supernatural events since the great plagues that shook the Middle Ages. Most surviving Nomads fled to North America, where there was still plenty of elbow room for a nomadic lifestyle. There still are many Nomads in Europe, Asia and Africa, however, from truck drivers plying ancient trade routes to mercenaries fighting little dirty wars.
The Nomads can look at the world in two very different ways — half full, or half empty. On the one hand, most members are cursed, which means that they are likely to turn into a dangerous monster, or their children are. On the other hand, most Covenant members like traveling through wide open spaces, seeing new things and people, and setting themselves somehow apart — and above -the common run of mankind.
They do not have much in the way of a hierarchy. The bulk of the Nomads are considered roughly equal and without formal status other than member of a Family. Although they tend to follow the lead of the strongest of their immediate group, the equivalent of an “alpha male” in wolves. Groups with more than ten Nomads must have a Chief, who usually owns the business the group works for or in some cases, is elected by the group. Chiefs do not have to belong to a Family, although over half of them do. The highest rank in the Nomads belongs to the Heads of the Five Families, who are chosen by the previous Heads and named as their heirs. They are supposed to be the wisest and most experienced members of the Family in question, and are usually chosen from among the Chiefs. More than rank, tradition and consensus bind the group. The Nomads are very conservative when it comes to the rules, and those who try to break them are almost always rejected by the entire organization.
Roughly one half of the Nomads belong to one, or in some cases two, of the Five Families. Bloodlines that can be traced back thousands of years. All members of these Families are linear descendants from the five Ferals who achieved a great deal of power and enlightenment. They lived for centuries, begetting hundreds of children before passing on. These Ferals were all present at the first Gathering in the lands of Mesopotamia, some 3,000 years ago, and they founded the first Tribe, which some generations later broke apart and spread through the land.
One is born into the Families by either the male or the female line. All that matters is that one of the person’s parents belonged to one of the Families. The only other way to join a Family is by marriage. Family members tend to marry outside the Family, although they most often choose Nomads if possible, from among those not belonging to one of the Five Families. Adoption occurs, but is very rare and only a Feral of the appropriate species is considered. When members of two Families marry, which is discouraged to prevent inbreeding, a mystical test determines which “lineage” applies to the child.
Not all Family members are Ferals, and not all Nomad Ferals are Family members. The Families have traditionally more rank and status, however, and this has often generated some resentment from the other Nomads. In an internal conflict, Family members typically stand with each other against the rest, and some Nomads put the interests of their particular Family above those of the group at large.
A little more than half of the members of the organization do not belong to the Five Families. They are people who have been inducted into the Nomads for any number of reasons. Fellow wanderers who have proven their worth or performed a valuable service for the Covenant, for example. Ferals are the preferred candidates for invitation, for obvious reasons, but they are not the only ones. Any Nomad can sponsor the admission of a new member, but full acceptance is only possible from a Chief. If a group of Nomads too small to have a Chief wishes to “adopt” a new member, they must find the nearest large group and gain an audience. The candidate is asked formally why he wishes to join, and given an impromptu test of the Covenant’s rules and traditions. Some Chiefs may require that the candidate pass some form of test, usually of bravery, wisdom or strength. This usually happens only when the sponsors are themselves relatively young and untried, and it always is taken to mean that the Chief does not fully trust their judgment in these matters. Once the “newbie” is admitted, there is usually some hazing involved, especially in larger groups, like a traveling sideshow.
Non-family Nomads never rise to the highest ranks in the organization, but other than that their status is roughly the same as everyone else’s. They share the secrets and responsibilities of the group, and are expected to follow the basic rules and laws of the group. Over time, some of these members have started their own family lines, but they do not have the same status as the Five Families. Relatives, even offspring, need to be invited into the group just as any other outsider.
Besides Ferals, who make up about one fourth of the membership of the Nomads, other Gifted or supernatural members include Magicians, Necromancers, Bast, Fey, several Ghosts and Phantasms, and the odd Undead. The Nomads will accept almost anybody, regardless of their species or powers.
The Nomads have often encountered practitioners of the Old Craft in their travels, and in general have a good relationship with that Covenant. Many Wicce have married Nomads in the past, and their children, Feral or Gifted, may travel in Nomad caravans if they desire.
Most other organizations are dealt with on a case by case basis. Encounters are likely to be brief and localized, and most organizations have only sparse knowledge of a wandering group often mistaken for Gypsies with an unusual number of shapeshifters in their ranks.
Skills and Abilities
Most Nomads have some Pilot or Driving skill. Nomads are also likely to have Occult Knowledge and Myth and Legend Skills, especially those related to Ferals and the Moon Gods.
A large proportion of the group are Ferals. Of those, the majority belong to the Five Families, Feral bloodlines, each with its own animal species. Besides Ferals almost any other type of Gifted or Supernatural character is possible, as well as Mundanes. In their travels any wanderer who proves himself to the group may be accepted in its ranks. Courage and loyalty are the primary qualities of any would-be Nomad.