Dakini

by Stacey Lawless (6 Nov 94)

"O Mother mine, Daughter of the Mountain!

Why are you clad like this?
You have put your feet on the body of a god,
and you have no trace of shame,
you have placed your feet on Shiva,
you are naked and wear no covering,
your tongue is lolling out and flicking,
your long hair is flowing loose.

But, O terrible wife of Shiva, you are chewing the flesh
in your hand for the sake of saving this world..."
(Hindu devotional)

The Indian subcontinent is the borderland between the West and the East in many ways. It is a many-layered mixture of cultures, traditions, races, and religions, and it is the home of many strange and exotic creatures--including a group of Kindred who might be a clan, or might be one of the oldest bloodlines in the world.

The Dakini are perhaps an offshoot of the Assamites, or of the Toreador. Then again, there are many Kindred who believe them to be one of the Eastern Clans. It cannot be denied that the Dakini have an ancient lineage, nor that the elders of the bloodline are incredibly powerful. Whatever the origins of these Kindred, they are honorable, passionate and proud, fierce warriors and skilled artists who love and hate with equal intensity. However, other vampires regard them with fear and disgust.

The reason for this is that the Dakini are all murderers. They spend much of their time stalking and slaying both Kindred and kine. Murder is their religion, their preferred method of gaining vitae, and often, it seems, their main form of recreation. Though they aren't active diabolists in the manner of the Sabbat, many Dakini have the black traces of diablerie in their auras, and their predation upon the kine strains the Masquerade badly. To most Western Kindred the Dakini appear to be decadent monsters, who wantonly slay to satisfy their twisted desires, heedless of the danger they pose to the rest of vampire-kind.

Yet there is more to the Dakini than meets the eye, and beneath their wicked facade lie some very good reasons for what they do. The Dakini kill to feed, because they must. It is the weakness of this bloodline that only the blood of the dead can sustain them. All living vitae, be it animal or human, is no more good to them than water is. Some of them will scavenge for their nightly meals, but too often the only way for a Dakini to feed is to stalk and kill someone.

This weakness is also the reason for the almost religious emphasis the Dakini place upon murder. Forced as they are to kill for their very survival, many of them have embraced a philosophy which sanctifies their existences and justifies their bloody work. This philosophy is in fact a Path of Enlightenment, and is called the Path of Nataraja. The majority of the Dakini practice it.

The Dakini claim that they were the first Kindred in India, and the Assamites have a few legends that seem to support this. It is definite that the Dakini, along with the early Ravnos, were intimately involved with the ancient Indus Valley Harappan culture, and that when other Kindred arrived along with the Aryan invaders they found the Dakini arrayed against them. The invaders won that struggle but the Dakini remained active and strong in the new order of things, sharing power with Gangrel, Toreador, Malkavians, and Nosferatu; and later Assamites (who entered India along with the first Muslims.). The Kindred of India evolved a vampiric culture that was distinct in many ways from that of Europe, and the Dakini played a major role in it.

Sometime during the early years of the Moghul Empire, a Ravnos committed the Unforgivable Act against Sarasvati, Maharani of Benares. Nobody knows the true nature of the Act, as Sarasvati refused to speak of it ever after and the Ravnos are all liars, but it was said to be a heinous trick of truly legendary proportions, and many fanciful tales circulate still which purport to describe it. Whatever the Unforgivable Act was, the fury--and clout--of Sarasvati was so great that she rallied her bloodline to drive the Ravnos from India, along with their proto-Gypsy retainers. As a result, relations between the Ravnos and the Dakini are cool to this day. However, the bloodline had no real vampiric enemies until the British East India Company, with its Ventrue overlords and Tremere backers, came to India.

India at that point was reeling from the collapse of the Moghul Empire, and various factions, mortal, mage, and vampiric, were battling each other for supremacy. The British and the Ventrue were able to exploit the disarray and seize economic control of the country with relative ease. The other Kindred of India were from clans that were familiar to the West, and thus the Ventrue were able to coexist with them fairly easily, but the Dakini were another story entirely. Virtually unknown to the West before then, to the Masquerade-conscious Ventrue they seemed exotic and cruel, callous brutes who were little better than the Sabbat. It didn't help that the proud Dakini fought tooth and nail to retain their ancestral power.

The Ventrue began rooting out and destroying the Dakinis' sources of power and support. One of these was the Thuggee cult, a secret society of assassins which the Dakini had controlled for centuries. In addition to providing a fertile recruiting ground for Euthanatos mages (whom the Dakini had a loose alliance with, based on similar interests) and Assamite Kindred, the Thugs had long provided the Dakini with retainers, spies, soldiers, and a supply of easy blood (the Thugs strangled their victims). Working through a young British officer, and with the assistance of the Tremere, the Ventrue broke the back of the Thugs in a few short years. The Dakini retaliated by Embracing several hundred Thuggee prisoners, thus touching off a vicious shadow war that culminated with the Sepoy Rebellion. The British crushed the Dakini-backed uprising and the embattled bloodline reluctantly sued for peace, becoming grudging members of the Camarilla. Still, hatred for the Ventrue runs deep among the Dakini, while the Ventrue themselves regard the "savages" with cold disdain.

Today, though mortal India has won independence from the British, English Kindred still control many areas. Things are tense between the Dakini, the other Indian Kindred, and these foreigners, which contributes to the nation's political unrest. Recently, the Dakini have made several bold moves to consolidate their power. At the same time, younger members of the bloodline have begun migrating to Western nations, particularly Great Britain and the United States. The elders of the Camarilla are worried about this, as they consider the fierce, independent Dakini to be one of the greatest internal threats to the Masquerade. Repeated requests to the elders of the bloodline that they bring their errant childer to heel have been met with polite indifference. The Camarilla suspects the Dakini of being up to something, and has appraised several Justicars and Princes of its concerns.

Nickname: Doomstalkers or Thugs

Appearance: Because most Dakini are of Indian heritage, they share the characteristics of people from that area: dusky or dark skin, dark eyes, and black hair. Like most vampires, their skin grows paler over time; however, their blood gradually darkens in color until it is black.

Haven: Like most vampires, the Dakini generally dwell in the cities, both for ease of hunting and protection from shapeshifters. Many keep elegant homes and apartment suites, furnishing them with an almost Toreador-like taste for beautiful furniture and excellent art. Others, however, dwell among the urban poor. It is easier to hunt undetected in the slums, and these Dakini are well-positioned to take immediate advantage of urban unrest. Both styles of Dakini haven are generally well-fortified, and most Dakini keep at least one hideaway in the sewers or burial grounds.

Background: The Dakini tend to Sire prolifically, as many of their childer go mad shortly after the Embrace and have to be extinguished. However, the bloodline is not casual about how it picks its Neonates. Generally a Sire-to-be will secretly observe a prospective childe for some time, to determine the human's suitability. Dakini frequently look for these qualities: strong will, a strong personality, a passion for life, and interests or aptitudes outside of killing that would benefit both the Neonate and the bloodline. Once the decision to Embrace has been made, the Sire spends a good deal of time training the childe in the arts of murder (if necessary) and in Dakini philosophy. This training period traditionally lasts for three years, after which the Neonate is presented, first to their grandsire and great-grandsire (wherever possible), then to the Prince or Maharaja of the city. After that the new Dakini is on her own.

Character Creation: Almost all Dakini are of Indian descent, though Europeans and Americans have been Embraced in recent years. Many of them have soldier concepts, though artists, dilettantes, criminals, and politicians are fairly common among them. Their Natures and Demeanors are usually similar, but occasionally wildly different. Any Attributes may be primary, but Talents are the primary Abilities. Popular Backgrounds are Mentor (the sire, grandsire, or great-grandsire) and Generation. Note: Dakini may NOT take the Herd background, as their clan weakness makes it irrelevant.

Clan Disciplines: Auspex, Celerity, Rumali

Weaknesses: Dakini cannot digest the blood of the living. The blood they imbibe must come from a deceased human or animal--or vampire!--for it to provide them with any sustenance. Each point of living blood that a Dakini drinks becomes inert in her body, taking up space in her Blood Pool but providing no benefits and doing nothing to ease the Hunger. This useless blood will remain in the Dakini's system until purged somehow.

Note: Dakini can drink from other vampires without having to extinguish them first, as Kindred are by definition already dead. Some Dakini cultivate vampiric allies whom they are willing to risk being Blood-Bonded to, in case they need to feed in a hurry and the situation prevents them from hunting.

Organization: In India the bloodline controls Benares, many smaller cities and towns, and Delhi, which has become the seat of its power. These cities are divided into several traditional fiefdoms composed of both physical territory and political interests, each ruled over by a Raja or Rani. These nobles answer to the Maharaja of the city, who is the final arbiter of all disputes and who makes executive decisions concerning the entire city. This structure is very much akin to the feudal system practiced in medieval Europe. While all vampires are expected to know their place in the political structure, they have a fair amount of leeway in how they go about their business provided they stay within the proper bounds. Outside these cities, the Dakini keep in loose contact with one another. Members will aid one another freely, but all debts are expected to be paid in full.

Dakini in the West tend to be loners, ranging far from others of their kind. However, some of them have been Siring as they go, so this situation may change before long.

Gaining Clan Prestige: Perhaps surprisingly, the Dakini award little to no prestige for skill in murder. In a bloodline where all are killers, they feel, such talents are far too commonplace to be worthy of extra attention. Instead they prize knowledge, especially of metaphysics, and art. Thus important discoveries and works of art that are beautiful and insightful can earn one recognition within the bloodline. The clan also respects power, and gaining political advantages is another way to win prestige. The Dakini also respect those who struggle toward Golconda, as they know the way is particularly difficult for their bloodline.

Quote: "You say that we are evil, you call us 'monstrous' because we take pride in our work. Is it monstrous to be true to one's nature? We must kill; why not do it well? The tiger, too, must kill to survive, yet you do not call tigers evil... You think us depraved because we meddle with your well-laid plans, but we simply understand that the old must fall to make way for the new. And, like tigers, we test our prey, searching for weaknesses..."

STEREOTYPES

The Camarilla: "The sect of our allegiance is nothing but the puppet of the enslaving Ventrue and Tremere. One day we will break the chains that bind us to this cloying relic and show our fellow-slaves that the Dead have nothing to fear from the living."

The Inquisition never touched India, and so these brazen fools think that all humans are like the superstitious sheep they butcher at home. They don't realize the danger their bloody antics pose to all of us. Should any come to my city I will lead the hunters to their very doors--perhaps then these animals will begin to understand.

Friederich, Ventrue Prince of Bamberg

The Sabbat: "These Kindred have come close to understanding the truth of our existence, but terror keeps them blind. The Gehenna they fear is a necessary phase in the world's evolution, nothing more. Even worlds must take a chance on dying."

These vampires waste too much time in philosophical pursuits, but their talents are highly desirable. Fortunately their ties to the Camarilla seem weak. We should do what we can to sever these ties, whenever possible. If they do not join us then, we can simply let the Camarilla pick them off.

Illona, Tzimisce priscus

The Inconnu: "We have a lot of respect for these ancient ones. They have attained true enlightenment, and their wisdom and power are very great. They seem to have some understanding of the work we do, and for this we honor them as much as possible when we hunt them."

'Tis said that these black-blooded beasts gave Saulot the crucial insight he needed to achieve Golconda. If so, I cannot imagine what it was. Were it not for the fact that some of my comrades are originally from this dark lineage, I would not believe the Dakini to be vampires at all, but something worse! We must watch them most carefully, and do what we can to curb their excesses.

Weyland, fifth-generation Gangrel

GLOSSARY

Amrita: The Dakini equivalent of "vitae", they use it to refer to dead blood, which to them is the only kind worth drinking.

Asura: The Dakini make ghouls for use as retainers, but they call them asuras instead. The word "ghoul" has a very different meaning for them.

Ghul: Pronounced like "ghoul", this world refers to a cursed, devolved sub-bloodline of the Dakini.

Maharaja: Basically, the "Prince" of a Dakini-controlled city. The feminine title is Maharani.

Raja: Basically, a "Primogen" member in a Dakini-controlled city. The feminine title is Rani.

Rakshasa: Ferocious man-eating, shapeshifting demons. The Dakini use this word as a catchall term for the Changing Breeds. The rakshasas they are most familiar with are the Cat (Khan and Bagheera Bastet) and Caiman (Mokole) varieties, though there are also Wolf rakshasas in the forests.

Shambhala: An alternate name for Golconda. There is an old fortress in India called Golkonda, and many Dakini feel it is an affront to this exalted state of being to make it share a name with a mere place.

Ustad: "Tutor", a title often given to those who Sire.


THE GHULS

There is a sort of decayed branch of the Dakini, wretches who most Indian Kindred feel would be better off extinguished. The Dakini call them "Ghuls" after the fashion of the Moslem invaders of India. They also refer to the Ghuls as "untouchables".

When the Dakini can be persuaded to discuss the Ghuls at all, they say that seven hundred years ago, a bandit chieftain made his lair somewhere near Benares. He was a vile, cunning and depraved man, ravishingly handsome and splendidly rich. He was clever, too: though a particular Dakini who called herself Sindha had long been trying to control him and his bandit army, he had been able to resist her wiles and worm out of her traps at every turn. Sindha could not help but admire the cunning and evil of her quarry, and finally she came to him in person and asked what she could offer him to entice him into her service. The Kiss, he named as his price, for he found the power it offered to be too much to pass up. And Sindha, more fool she, agreed to it.

Hardly had the bandit king died and been reborn, when he twisted in his Sire's arms and, grabbing the sabre he had carefully hidden for just such an occasion, struck off her head. He only had drunk a little from her corpse before it withered into dust, so he stormed into the night to rouse his men. The hunger and blood had made him drunk, and he fully intended to drink and slay any and all his army came across that night.

But he had killed his Sire before she could tell him anything of the race he had joined, and no matter how he ripped out the throats of the hapless travellers he found and slurped down their hot, still-living blood, his hunger was not satiated. In fury, he beat his own men 'til scarlet ran from them, but this living blood did not ease his thirst either; it was like water to a dope fiend. He frenzied then, ripping into his men and their horses, til the sun rose. The bandit king fled its burning rays, and still in frenzy ran to shelter. The many of his army who had not been lucky enough to escape lay as mangled wrecks on the earth, interspersed with raw chunks of horseflesh, and became a feast for the flies and kites.

At dark, the bandit king returned, ravenous. Though he was no longer in frenzy, the Beast, always close to his heart, had dug its claws in deep and its feral light glimmered behind his dark eyes. He was unable to find anything alive to rend and kill, and hunger beat at him until, desperately, he fell upon the bodies of his former servants. The little blood left in their veins was thick and clotted, stinking and laden with the eggs of flies, but it was laced with the cool dark wine of death, and he was, at last, able to ease his hunger. But the horror he felt at drinking from the spoiling bodies eroded the last of his sanity, and the Beast claimed him.

Thereafter he scavenged from cold funeral pyres, from slaughterhouses and battlefields and the vulture-towers of the Parsees, and murdered anyone he could for their fresh amrita. He was no more than a brute, but a vile and cunning one, and he eluded the Rakshasas and Sindha's avengers for nearly a century. During that time he now and again grew anxious for company, perhaps from a last glint of cultured sensibility, and would dishonor the Blood in his veins further by feeding it to a beggar or brigand after slaying them. Sometimes he would later devour these companions; more often he drove them away after a few nights. These wretches went on to scavenge and murder as their Sire had taught them, and some of them Sired, and the more clever ones learned how to be cunning and hide, so that when the disgraced Dakini came hunting, they could never be certain they had eradicated the bloodline.

These Ghuls, as the Dakini came to call them, learned to hide among beggars and lepers and feed from the dead wherever they could. Many took to following merchant caravans, killing and robbing any stragglers, and sleeping in the cargo by day whenever they could. Along with these caravans, the Ghuls spread across India, into Persia, and beyond.

Ghuls still exist, and can be found in India, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan; rumors also place them in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Iran, and every now and then, Iraq. They are not many in number, but they are very good at hiding and at not drawing attention to themselves. They are craven and nearly as opportunistic as cockroaches. All of them are lost to the Beast, and most of them would barely qualify as sentient. A handful, however, have managed to hang onto their minds. These are usually the ones who Sire, are almost always the oldest Ghuls around, and can be truly dangerous.

Habits: Ghuls usually scavenge their amrita from any dead they come across, but they will kill for it and do so fairly often. Occasionally they will eat the flesh of the victim as well, but no-one is sure why, as they cannot possibly derive any nourishment from it. Some lurk in the countryside, feeding from and terrorizing villagers, but most Ghuls keep to the cities, where they can avoid the Cat Rakshasas and have more plentiful food.

The more intelligent Ghuls hide in slums, where they blend in with the urban poor and diseased. Some of them have organized gangs of human wretches as Retainers. Bestial Ghuls make their dens wherever they can; in New Delhi, one popular place is beneath the stone ghats (huge stone steps) that descend the Ganges' banks and into the water, and the ghat-Ghuls will swim the river at night and climb into boats (though they must be wary of the Caiman Rakshasas, who kill every Ghul they catch).

Organization: Generally speaking, none. In fact, they seem to have little regard for their brethren and regard other Ghuls as not much more than competition or potential amrita.

Rumors persist, however, of large gatherings of Ghuls deep in the jungles or high in the mountains, of the remains of bonfires replete with charred bones (human, animal, and otherwise) near where the Ghuls are supposed to gather, of weird and unpleasant carvings on earth and trees, and sometimes flesh, of chants carried on the wind that sound almost like Latin learned by rote, or like less pleasant things, of a corpse found in a shack in Lahore, killed in a darkly ritualistic fashion, the blood used to paint strange symbols on the walls.

It is unknown if these rumors point to the existence of a Ghul cult, or are falsehoods spread for some mysterious purpose. Little evidence has actually been put forward to prove the rumors. Many of India's Kindred, however, fear that something evil has come to make its home in their country.

Appearance: The Ghuls share the dark skin of their Dakini forbears, though they frequently seem pale due to the dust and dirt that often coats their skins. Their hair is matted and filthy, their eyes and cheeks hollow from mortal disease or malnutrition. They are universally skinny, and between this and the dirt it is hard to say what age any given Ghul looks like. The ghat-Ghuls of the river cities are usually a bit cleaner by virtue of spending time in the water. They wear rags, or nothing.

In the last hundred years, a few Ghuls have been caught who displayed stranger appearances than their fellows: leathery, withered skin stretched tight over the bones, caved-in noses, and receded gumlines. Their blood was found to contain traces of embalming fluids and spices, leading their Ventrue captors to speculate that the strange appearances resulted from the Ghuls (or perhaps their Sires) feeding on embalmed corpses. With the spread of the Samedi bloodline, some Kindred have noted similarities between these Ghuls and the "mummified" type of Samedi, and wonder if there is a connection.

Disciplines: Usually the only one these debased Vampires ever develop is Celerity, although a few seem to have picked up the rudiments of Auspex. Rumali is completely unknown among them, despite their Dakini origin.

Every so often a tale drifts around of this Ghul who displayed Potence, or that one who Earth Melded, or the one who vanished in plain sight. These tales are given little credence; after all, where could these degenerate beasts find anyone to teach them Disciplines?