Elysium: The Elder War
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 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 Inconnu, other vampires, 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 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 covenant claim that soon after Judas and his chief follower Nehsi discovered this hidden force, it discovered them. A furious secret war ensued, a conflict between the Compact of Constantine, as the Combine was then known, and the Iscariots. The Fellowship has been successful in destroying a number of lesser threats, such as certain dark covenants and mad god cults, however.
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 Combine. Covenant traditions claim that the Combine 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 Combine (or, more accurately, identifying the actions of the Combine and then fighting it) is the main goal of the organization. If they can uncover the secrets of this shadowy organization, the Iscariots may help humankind take control over its own destiny. Only then can the Iscariots rest in peace (or so they believe).
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 Iscariots can perceive, and they cannot be counterfeited. There are less than a hundred Followers worldwide in modern day. They are all powerful vampires or ghouls, at least two hundred years of age. Their knowledge of the hidden forces of 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 or ghouls; the rest are human (both gifted and mundane) or other supernatural beings, including some werewolves and wraiths.
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 repentence are attacked, their souls mauled, and if possible dispatched to the Pit, the hellist 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 vampires. A few eventually undergo Death and the Unbirth and continue their work as vampires.
Allies and Enemies
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 coterie of Camarilla vampires in a safehouse, they wold never use that safehouse again — to them, it would be "compromised."