ToTB Alternatives II:
A Truth Concerning the Ancients
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You will notice in the title above that it does not say 'the' truth about the Ancients - since I am not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers, and certainly don't have enough hubris to believe that my own theories can completely supersede what the creators of this mythos have to say. At the same time, the very same creators encourage their followers to think for themselves and to make informed decisions about what parts of the whole are suitable to be included in whatever local version of the game is being played.
And so, I am going to lay out the truth about the ancients as it may apply to an alternative storyline that does not include the 'truth' of the 'Time of Thin Blood' - but rather, treats those truths as myth and superstition..
For reference sake, 'the Ancients' refers to the ages and Generations beyond Elder and stronger than 6th. Those of you that read my previous article concerning the age/generation correlation and the 'Time of Thin Blood' will know that I do not believe in the direct correlation between age and generation - which I believe was sufficiently refuted in that essay. This essay, then, is meant instead to deal exclusively with the concepts of age, generation, and the corollary to power that is stated and implied by both.
Anyone that has actually stopped to read the source books provided for this mythos are no doubt as acutely aware as we are of the constantly repeated affirmation that Antediluvians are beings of god-like and earth-shattering power, capable of unimaginable inhumanity and world-shaking feats. The explanation of this point of view is that vampires gain power as they age, and after ten thousand years that power would be as inconceivable as the might of God herself.
In order to better launch this essay and provide a basis for what I am going to explain, I am going to list here several points that are maintained by White Wolf as being axioms regarding the ancients.
All Antediluvians are over 10,000 years old. ('Time of Thin Blood' supplement)
Antediluvians are of the Third Generation only. ('Vampire' main source book)
All Antediluvians possess god-like power. ('Vampire' main source book)
Antediluvians can only be sustained by the blood of other vampires. ('Time of Thin Blood' supplement)
Most Antediluvians have been in torpor for several millennia, as have numerous Methuselahs. ('Time of Thin Blood' supplement)
Antediluvians are directing the great vampire 'Jihad' - many of them from torpor. ('Vampire' main source book)
'Gehenna' is the time when the ancients awake for their final battle, in which they will consume and destroy all other Kindred life in the process of their last battles. ('Vampire' main source book)
These are the basic established tenets of the Antediluvian mythos, and are generally accepted and touted as 'facts'. Unfortunately, not all of it could be possibly true if you follow the logic of everything else that is known about vampires. Add to that an intelligent marriage of history and mythology and a little research, and you will discover holes in these 'facts' large enough to drive several trucks through - side by side.
In the beginning - for the sake of this dissertation we must begin somewhere - there was Caine, who was cursed by a petty and seemingly insane God, thus apparently creating or destining Caine's vampire nature. After an unspecified period of time, Caine embraced three Childer - Enosh, Irad, and Zillah. To Enosh he gave a great city, which was named Enoch after that first and best loved of Caine's Childer.
Caine was born in 9100 BCE, and cast out of God's favor as a young man - not more than 100 years later, one would suppose. Writings state that Caine wandered alone for an 'eon' - an indefinitely long period of time - before coming to a city of mortals where he soon was made king. Note here that this city already existed and was not built by Caine, Enoch or Enosh, or any other vampire - contrary to many of the other writings. ('Book of Nod' supplement)
Enosh - also known as 'Enoch' - is an actual biblical figure just as Caine is (called 'Cain' in the bible). Enoch is apparently born around 8800 BCE, and was also a young man at the time of his embrace by Caine. Therefore, the city that would become Enoch existed in 8800 BCE.
Soon after his embrace, Enoch apparently asked for siblings, and Caine made two more - Zillah and Irad. These three are then said to have learned the secrets of the Embrace, and went about embracing more without thinking (Book of Nod) before Caine finally called a halt to it all.
Right here we see that there were obviously many of the Second Generation - though exactly how many is left to conjecture. I say Second Generation because quite obviously the three Childer of Caine were the First, since Caine himself could not be the First Generation of his own descendant line. ('generation' - a body of living beings constituting a single step in the line of descent from an ancestor)
Even if we are extremely conservative and postulate that each of Caine's three Childer only embraced three themselves, this still leaves at least nine of the Second Generation. It is also unreasonable to think that these Second Generation Childer did not embrace Childer of THEIR own. I personally find it hard to believe that Caine would find his Childer doing exactly as he had done as unwise - a more likely estimate is five or more Childer for EACH of the First Generation, and an unknown number for each of the Third. That is much more reasonable to consider as looking to be getting a little out of hand.
Whether there were 48 vampires or close to 115 or more (the four originals and an undetermined amount of offspring), it is further written that after Caine called a halt to the embrace, the vampires lived in comfort in Enoch and both Kindred and city flourished for 'many ages'. In this form of archaic reference, 'age' is a synonym for 'lifetime' or 'generation' - in purely mortal terms the average span of time between the birth of parents and that of their offspring. In modern terms this is about 25 years, but if biblical evidence is to be believed it could have been as much as 300 years in the time of Enoch.
And the Flood came.
As I have stated before, the best Flood theories place this cataclysm at roughly 5600 BCE - meaning about 3200 years after Enoch became Caine's city. I would imagine that 3200 years satisfies ANY definition of 'many ages'.
At the time of its destruction, Enoch was said to be the seat of a 'mighty empire' - not bad considering that this predates all evidence of human civilizations, though it does not predate certain myths including Judaic and Sumerian tales of great civilizations that existed prior to the Great Flood. The reason that this reference to a 'mighty empire' is important is that it gives a clue to another error in perception regarding the first Kindred and the First City. The error is that Enoch was the only city of its kind at the time, and the only place that vampires existed. Of course, in order for the Antediluvian myth to stand intact, Enoch MUST be the only city and the only place where vampires existed at the time.
The misconception here is twofold - one of mythology and the second of archeology.
The mythological mistake is the assumption that the Great Flood of myth covered the entire planet. This mistake is often made due to the fact that many cultures across the globe share a common flood myth, and this is usually assumed to be evidence that the Flood must have been a global catastrophe - and has spawned many of the most ridiculous pseudo-scientific theories ever written. Modern geological evidence points to a cataclysmic flood of the Tigris-Euphrates valley - possibly due to the recession of glaciers, or quite possibly simply a larger version of the commonly violent changes known to periodically affect those rivers at the best of times. Either way, this would have been the 'end of the world' to the Mesopotamian culture that inhabited the region at the time. The fact that the legend of a Great Flood is shared by other cultures in the world is a product of cultural exchange and Christian missionaries in much later years. Some scholars have reached pretty far to try and tie together Flood myths the world over - but the error of this is in the simple examination of the myths and stories themselves. The Christian myth speaks of a drowned world in which all life perished save what could escape in an ark - very logical when one considers an early agricultural society with a few domesticated animals living in a valley. The Chinese version speaks of a rising of the waters until refuge could only be found on mountains and in tall trees - quite logical for people living near a great river on a flat plain. In other words, every culture has a story involving a flood just as they have a mythological explanation for any other type of cataclysmic and uncontrollable event.
The archeological mistake is not paying attention to the cultural tendencies of the peoples of the period. Again I reference the statement that Enoch was the center of an empire. This predates the Urduk period of the Tigris-Euphrates (4300 - 3100 BCE), but most logically followed a similar pattern - one central city with a king that ruled several other outlying cities each with their own kings. In Enoch, the king was a vampire, and according to the texts this was a decision made by the human population - not by Caine himself. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that the kings of these other cities within this empire would also be vampires - Caine's offspring - since the mortal population would no doubt demand some form of equality for the secondary cities. It was common practice for all the rulers within an empire to be related through some kind of familial bond - the theory being that family was stronger than politics. This also made sense if one considers that this early empire of Enoch may have spanned a diameter of 300 miles or more - roughly a weeks' journey on foot for a strong runner. These kinds of distances were simply too far to attempt to rule from only one seat of power - but not too far if each held a representative of the chosen 'royal line', especially if those royal persons could communicate between themselves over vast distances with a thought. One might assume that the kings of these outlying cities were ghouls of the vampires of Enoch and commanded from afar by their vampire domitors - but considering that a ghoul must be fed at least once a month, this would mean spending at least half their time every month traveling back and forth from Enoch and not getting anything else done.
So, it is likely that the Flood only affected the valley of the Enochian Empire, and it is reasonable that the vampires of the time were spread out among several cities across a relatively broad distance for the period. It is conceivable that some of them simply slipped away from the fringes and wandered out into the rest of the world to have Childer of their own - rebelling against Caine's Law just like there seems to have been rebellions against everything else at one point or another. Unless we are to believe that not ONE vampire disobeyed that directive in over three thousand years.
It is also interesting to note that the passages relating to the Enochian Era contain references to Caine's offspring 'wandering here and there' and 'engaging in their dark ways' despite his warnings and disapproval. This is supported in the 'Erciyes Fragments' where it states openly that Caine's offspring were both near and far, and that they defied his commandment in secret or openly depending on proximity. This would support the much more reasonable theory that Caine's Law was disobeyed quite often, and that vampires did spread farther than just the local region of the Empire. If one follows this theory, it becomes impossible to account for exactly how many generations were spawned by Caine's offspring, or exactly where they all wound up. A very important note here is that the passage 'many ages' (many generations) was written by a Kindred hand - NOT a mortal one. This might lend further credence to the idea that pre-Flood embraces led to many further Generations than just the first three.
But - back to the Flood.
In the bible, the Flood lasts for a year and ten days - 375 days in all. The writings in the 'Erciyes Fragments' speak of the offspring of Caine being trapped beneath the waters and being forced to feed off of one another to survive - in the face of a lack of any other source of blood. Almost any vampire could survive being caught in a flood, but after a year it would only be the very strongest that could live through the fighting for survival under the waters - or the extremely lucky. The 'Fragments' also clearly state that many Kindred survived the Flood, and the 'Book of Nod' clearly shows that the First Generation survived as well, to be later killed by their own offspring in a great war that followed the Flood.
I must pause and note that it is right here that the 'Third Generation Antediluvian' myth is completely shattered. The 'Fragments' states that the Third Generation was created by the Second AFTER the Flood - while the 'Book' intimates that they were created before AND after. Therefore, there are vampires of the Third Generation that are both of pre- and post-Flood origin. In other words, not all Antediluvians were (or are) of the Third Generation, and not all of the Third Generation are Antediluvians. And finally, since this clear period of creation for the Third Generation spans a period between 8800 BCE and about 3500 BCE, this means that a Third Generation vampire embraced during this period could be of anywhere between 10,800 and 5,500 years old.
Let us return to our so-called 'axioms' then:
All Antediluvians are over 10,000 years old.
Obviously wrong - they can be anywhere from just over 10,000 years old to as little as 5,500 years old - and those are just the ones spawned in the embrace periods specifically mentioned in the available texts.
Antediluvians are of the Third Generation only.
Also wrong - Kindred of the First and Second Generations also survived the Flood, though the first are supposedly accounted for in tales of their destruction. Interestingly, the missing second Generation is never mentioned after the Flood - though their existence is postulated in several other places up to and including the modern sources.
Now, let us move on to the rest of the myth - the part regarding the supremacy of these ancient creatures.
The basis of this myth is a simple preconception - vampires become more powerful as they age, therefore an incredibly old vampire must also be incredibly powerful. It seems simple and logical in a very straightforward fashion - but it makes vast and erroneous assumptions and ignores basic truths about vampire kind. It implies that this increase in power is not only automatic, but also that these ancients started at a power level vastly greater than any modern vampire can conceive of.
The question here becomes - 'why should the Blood work differently for the ancient Generations than it does for any of the measurable modern ones?'
In modern vampires, the newly embraced of any Generation carry the vast potential for how powerful they can become, but in the first nights after their embrace they are nothing more than a big bundle of potential only slightly more powerful than their former mortal incarnation. True power comes with study and experience and is garnered over a long and active period. This is true whether they are of the Eighth Generation or the Thirteenth (the range allowed for in the core Creation Rules). A Fledgling Neonate of any Generation is still a weakling in their first nights - separated only by the quantity of Blood they can force into action at a given moment. If one follows the 'Elysium' Creation rules for Elder vampires - which include rules for 'Pretenders', strong Generation vampires of minimal age and experience - one will find that this is true of all Generations all the way back to the Fifth. Are we then to believe that something changed drastically somewhere in the course of two Generations?
I'm not buying it.
Therefore, it is far more reasonable to assume that the ancients are powerful simply because they are incredibly old, and have had a great span of time and experience behind them in which they struggled and strove to increase their ability. This would still make them incredibly strong, and very formidable - but there is another factor that must be considered - torpor.
It is claimed that most of the ancients reside in torpor, and have been doing so since before the rise of the Roman Empire (around 500 BCE). What, then, do we know about torpor?
Torpor - the vampire enters a death-like trance. He may do nothing, not even spend blood, until a certain period of time has passed. (Vampire core book)
Spending Blood in every other circumstance is considered automatic and doesn't even require much thought, and yet in torpor a vampire cannot even perform this most basic of functions.
Therefore, a vampire in torpor is certainly not growing stronger or learning new things - in fact, they aren't doing anything at all. (Which puts to lie the idea that sleeping vampires are directing the modern Jihad.) If most of the ancients have spent part of their millennia-long existences in torpor, or even just the past 2,500 years, this vastly reduces the amount of time that they have had to spend on improving themselves. Suddenly the god-like and incomprehensible become a lot more imaginable. Given the fact that the 'Elysium' creation rules for Elders also postulate that it is more difficult for vampires to learn new things as they advance in age, this lends more credence to the idea that the ancients are not the gods they are painted out to be.
So - back to our axioms:
All Antediluvians possess god-like power.
Obviously wrong. Antediluvians can possess levels of power from the merely incredible - equivalent to any vampire in excess of 1,000 years, all the way up to vastly formidable. The point here is that an active Methuselah - having been awake their entire span and over 2,000 years old, could be just as powerful as one of the younger ancients who has been spending the seemingly required time in torpor.
Most Antediluvians have been in torpor for several millennia, as have numerous Methuselahs.
Possible, but not necessarily an axiom. Part of this supposed 'truth' is based on the idea that if an Antediluvian was awake, everyone would know about it - because it would be like Zeus come down from Olympus for a stroll. If, however, one follows the logical theory of a broad spread of possible degrees of ability for the ancients, it is reasonable to assume that many of them could be wandering around posing as lesser Generations or vampires of lesser age (one must watch out for those diablerists, after all) - and no one would be any the wiser.
Now, let us deal with the last two axioms that are put forth in the Antediluvian myth.
Antediluvians can only be sustained by the blood of other vampires.
This is based on the 'Methuselah's Thirst' concept - a Flaw first described in the 'Black Hand' supplement. 'Methuselah's Thirst' is a condition in which the blood of mortals no longer sustains a vampire, and they are forced to drink Kindred vitae in order to survive. It is called what it is because it is believed to be a failing of the very old, and from that standpoint it is believed that the older a vampire gets, the more potent the vitae it requires in order to survive. The 'Elysium' supplement, however, adds to the explanation of this Flaw, and reveals that it is an acquired taste and psychological addiction - NOT a physical or necessary development at all.
Furthermore, the system explaining Blood Pools contradicts the assumption that older vampires require more potent foodstuffs. The progression shows that the stronger a vampire's Generation is, the more vitae they can hold in their body at any given time. While a Thirteenth Generation vampire has no more vitae than a mortal has Blood, a Fourth Generation vampire can comfortably contain the equivalent of five full mortals within their bodies. This concentrated vitae is the real secret behind the ancient's supposed power, and also begins to explain this myth about ancient thirst. The volume of blood in that Fourth Generation vampire is no greater than in the Thirteenth, but it is highly concentrated, and hence far more potent. If you were an ancient looking to fuel up in a hell of a hurry during some terrible fight to the death - where would you turn, to five or six mortals - each of whom take several minutes to drain, or to one or two of your lesser counterparts that can give you the same effect in a fraction of the time? Survey says - say goodbye to a couple of vampires. If this kind of shortcut practice was repeated often enough, and some of these transgressors developed a taste for it (mortal blood is like an impossibly pleasurable drug to any vampire, just imagine what Kindred vitae is like, or concentrated Kindred vitae) - it certainly wouldn't take long for the young to believe that the ancients just drank them dry as a matter of course.
The 'Elysium' supplement supports this by stating that this kind of addiction can be caused by many things, and is NOT developed by all old vampires simply as a matter of course.
And finally - Antediluvians are directing the great vampire 'Jihad' - many of them from torpor.
There might be some truth to this, but at the same time, both evidence and logic really dictate otherwise - especially since this smacks of yet another 'Fate' or 'Destiny' myth. The part about doing it from torpor is pure fantasy, as we noted earlier.
First, let us simply look at common sense and logic. I will keep this short and simple since the logic should speak for itself.
One does not survive for five to ten thousand years by being careless, reckless, or by taking risks with your own life. If you HAVE lived that long, it means that you value your existence, and will most likely take great care to preserve it. Is it logical then to be pushing your offspring towards the brink of an Armageddon when you will have to step forth and fight for the right to survive - risking your neck against others that are as powerful as you are? Bloody unlikely, It is far more reasonable to assume that you are walking softly and being very polite to your neighbors, as they are to you - the exceptions being the ones among you that have gone irrevocably mad, but those ones rarely last long once exposed, just look at 'Ravnos'.
Evidence, on the other hand, points to the fact that conflict among vampires follows as a logical progression from increased population and weaker Generations being conceived. This follows a clear and natural logic seen everywhere from the animal world to modern psychology - overpopulation breeds conflict, and the young are invariably impatient to have what the old seem to possess - power and authority.
When you only have a few vampires - say a few hundred in a given territory - there is no need to squabble because there is plenty of room for everyone. But - like too many people in a house, or too many rats in a cage - as the population in a given area increases, so too do the incidents of conflict, and before long there are struggles over the possession of dwindling resources. 'Wealth' becomes measurable in terms of having more of whatever is valuable than your neighbor, and with measurable wealth naturally arises avarice and greed.
Just like so much else among vampires, the great 'Jihad' is nothing more than a myth - perpetrated by the old that are visibly in charge in order to absolve themselves of blame for their squabbles over material wealth, influence, and temporal power. 'It isn't OUR fault we send you out to die in this big stupid war, we're as much pawns as YOU are.'
Of course there are those that will point to the 'Book of Nod' and the 'Erciyes Fragments' and outline the passages that claim Caine and his get are cursed by the Angels to forever squabble amongst themselves - and it is true that this passage is in there. But then again, Caine was supposedly banished by God and cursed to be an outcast from the sons of Adam for all time. And yet Caine was welcomed into the first city, and worshipped by the people there. I smell a contradiction.
'It isn't OUR fault we direct you to fight each other, vampires are just made that way.'
Every single one of God's supposed binding curses has been eased, circumnavigated, or foiled to various degrees at various points in time - from Caine's acceptance into the First City to the modern Sabbat fire-dance rituals - why then believe that this curse of infighting has survived intact and sacrosanct? If there is one truth to be gleaned from all of Kindred history, it is that Caine's offspring are remarkably adaptable and creative, capable of incredible strides in overcoming their own failings - as well as incredible folly because of them. In that way they are exactly like their progenitors and cousins - mortals.
Therefore, the ancient ones we all fear are not quite the horrible god-like beings they have been painted out to be, and may be very different from the stereotype we have all been fed, and the current state of the world is very unlikely to be the work of shadowy, incomprehensible forces playing at puppet games from beyond a slumbering grave, and more than likely it all boils down to what it always has - the fault lays with us and our own lesser natures.
And once again - Gehenna turns out to NOT be lurking just around the corner, and the truth just may be more wonderful and fascinating than any myth.
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