Damnation City: Vampires

Perhaps more so than the werewolves and the wizards, who see the city through spiritual eyes and mystic lenses, the Kindred exist in a Chicago that doesn’t look so different from the one that mortals see. Vampires, after all, shadow mortals. The Kindred stalk where the living stroll, hunt where the mortals play and kill where the mortals live. The places vampires frequent are often frequented by mundane folk as well.

After dark, the Kindred come out to prowl the night-black alleys of the Loop, to enjoy its aged and stable sky-rises and hunt in the shadows at their feet. They stalk the wide sidewalks in the sodium-orange glow of streetlights and flirt in the wood-walled and mirrored hotel bars near the lakefront. They meet with blood-addicted bankers on the asphalt plains of empty parking lots and bite the throats of tourists beneath dripping fire escapes in tall alleys packed with rain-slick trash bags.

The Loop is the center of downtown, home to the Board of Trade, courthouses, the Sears Tower, banks, big business and that big Picasso statue. The Loop virtually deserted at night, but the Kindred still claim it and insist that visitors (Lupines, sorcerers and others) respect the Damned’s purview. Outsiders are expected to ask permission from the Prince or his representatives before doing anything within the Loop that a mortal couldn’t do. This is largely a formality, at least in the short-term. There are no vampire police patrolling the area, so unwelcome acts (violence, occult rituals, settlement) are seldom quickly opposed. But the Kindred eventually find out about everything that goes on in the Loop, and then slowly put the screws to those who are unwelcome. Thus, some part of the Loop might be in the hands of werewolves or mages tonight, but it all goes back into Kindred hands later on.

Even with wizards and monsters laying claim to much of the Loop, no single supernatural faction controls the Sears Tower, though urban myths say otherwise. Urban myths paint it as a black dagger in the back of the plains memorializing the conquest of the American West, a tombstone for the native werewolves of yesteryear, an antenna the wizards put up to catch intelligent radio signals from outer space, a monument built by the Freemasons to curse the undead and a hundred other insane ideas. The Ordo Dracul acknowledges the Sears Tower’s influence over the lives and Requiems of all in its shadow, while the Invictus says the Sears Tower is just a remarkable and gaudy symbol of mortal futurism. Most Carthians dismiss the mystic rumors as Acolyte scaremongering while some Acolytes back away from the Sears Tower, making weird hand gestures and muttering about things that were old when humanity was young. Some among the local Sanctified say the
Sears Tower is haunted and doomed, a modern Tower of Babel that God Almighty will smite on some future night to punish humankind for its greed. In truth, no one knows for sure or wants to find out. The Sears Tower doesn’t seem to bother the mortals much, though.

Union Station has been werewolf territory for years, which is why many Kindred lackeys and nomads who visit the city come in via el trains or private cars and vans. The massive, sunless stretches of tunnels that branch off from the station are more commonly considered open turf, however, though vampiric tunnel-rats claim stretches as their own. To this night, no Kindred can be sure why the Lupines keep their finger on the train station, but the lack of reliable access to outlying trains goes a long way towards keeping undead nomads in check. Kindred looking to ride the rails out of, or into, Union Station may have to negotiate with the
werewolves to do so. That alone is a good reason for the Lupines to keep their scent on the place.

The courthouses and banks and centers of fiscal power that tower around Union Station are where wizards and Kindred vie for influence and sometimes meet to conspire or deal. The ancient symbolism built into so many of the Loop’s structures is either pleasing or beneficial to mages, or so it seems to some vampires. The occasional interactions that occur with mages in the nighttime quiet of the financial district often take on a tense tone of psychological banter and social sport, rather than outright conflict. The Kindred can get the money, power and blood they need from the financial district without going through mages, and there’s enough of all three to satiate vampires and wizards alike. But mages and vampires like to keep their secrets to themselves and that is sometimes enough to get one prying into the other’s business.

The Kindred have been dripping like oil into the power structures of the city for decades, and they are not going away easily. Their direct lackeys — ghouls, blood-addicts, people tweaked and trained with Majesty or Dominate, well-paid lawyers and simple victims of blackmail — outnumber the mages and their allies in most cases. On the other hand, mages are awake in the daytime, during business hours, so they can do a great deal of work directly, without puppet proxies. That’s a considerable advantage in the eyes of many vampires.

But, of course, no one wants a war. The Loop may be a treacherous place to visit on many nights, but no one wants it to become utterly dangerous every night. So the vampires and the mages and the werewolves angle and scheme, so all responses are proportional, so the tides of influence ebb and flow and the polite fiction remains in place that “the Loop belongs to the Kindred.”

Meanwhile, the 800-pound gorillas in the corner, the faction that drifts out of the Sears Tower with mindless ease, are the ones who really rule the Loop. They are the ones who outnumber the Kindred’s toys by hundreds to one: the mortals. The Loop truly belongs to them, though their reign is such that few truly realize how close they come every night to the evil watching jealously from the shadows.

Damnation City: Vampires

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