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The Batraal'im.

What is truly evil? Is it a corruption of the soul? Is it a degradation into the desire for something that is considered forbidden or impure? Some say that it is the result of turning away from, or subverting the true laws of nature and creation. The ‘Batraalim’ claim they know and understand what evil is at the source and have developed their entire direction and covenant to its discovery.

After all, how can you vanquish something if you never really know what it is? In the days before the flood, the children of Batraal were a people devoted to the exploration of the mortal and immortal soul and its purpose. All forms of experimentation were undertaken; from spiritual excess and impoverishment, to physical indulgences and deprivations. Their quests took them to the edges of all perceptions and it is said that at that moment, they experienced a collective rapture, an epiphany, an understanding of the true nature of good and evil.

What followed was a mass decadence that dragged entire kingdoms down. The ‘Batraalim’ led scores of people in orgies of flesh, sexual experimentation, debauchery, physical excess and spiritual rapture. Unfortunately, not all those involved achieved the enlightenment the children of Batraal sought to teach and they developed carnal hungers and depravities that shocked even their would-be mentors. They had opened Pandora’s proverbial box to the world, and the world consumed it without understanding why they did so. It was no surprise to anyone that the other Estates blamed the great flood and all the evils of the world on their ‘Batraalim’ brethren.

The children of Batraal on the other hand did not comprehend the nature of their accusations. What had they done but open the door to a higher learning to everyone, a chance at seeing the greater picture with open eyes. And so they were thanked for their open offering with betrayal and accusations.

The ‘Batraalim’ would argue that no one forced anyone to do anything they did not already want to do, which was to fully explore their innermost desires and learn to control them by understanding its true nature. What is evil you ask? The ‘Batraalim’ would answer that it is the self-deprivation of a passion that makes the heart sing and dance with the greatest bliss. It is the scornful look of those who wish to stop you from discovering your own duality, and in such, learning your true place in this world. It is the cage of ignorance that others visit upon you that would stop you from discovering the true nature of evil and thus allow you to gain power over it. Of course, not everyone is willing to test their theory.

Even in these times, there has been little change in the mentality and Covenant of the ‘Batraalim’. They still seek the path to Redemption by understanding and thus gaining control over their darker desires. However, one should not see all of Batraal’s children as happy hedonists on a peculiar path to spiritual rapture. There are darker sides to the coin; more than a few rotten apples in the barrel tarnish the reputation of the rest. There are those within the ranks who practice violent forms of abuse and pursue less admirable goals, some of which include dark arts and pacts with evil forces. There are growing cases of demonic pacts and the infiltration of the Estate structure and “temples” by malevolent forces seeking to usurp or corrupt them completely.

Unfortunately, one of the firm beliefs in the ‘Batraalim’ Covenant clearly states that acceptance of all ideas and spiritual exploration are not only to be tolerated, but are indeed encouraged. As a result, the Estate and its followers are open to all forms of corruption, a fact that has not escaped the ancients who simply state that their children will either learn to control their evils, or destroy themselves in the process. It is the unfortunate truth that those who are corrupt are those the other Estates look to as an example.

The oldest known ‘Batraalim familia’ is the Zuzim. They lived in the land of Ham before the flood, gaining renown as the "ha'izzuzim"; ‘the strong’. This was not a military or physical strength however. The Zuzim were known far and wide for their ability to make others stronger within themselves. However they were conquered and uprooted in a war which they did not instigate. Some would call them victims of circumstance, the Zuzim refer to themselves as having suffered for the weakness of others. They are as close to martyrs as the Ben-Hiyyah, and looked upon by other ‘Batraalim’ as icons of blameless ideology.

Most ‘Batraalim’ families live with their mortal brethren in a communal home or structure they call temples. Their families are well aware of their nature and are often found willingly taking part in Estate affairs as well as sharing the journey of enlightenment their immortal loved ones partake. To be invited to attend one of the evenings of the ‘Batraalim’ Estate is to shed all inhibitions and indulge all aspects of one’s soul, good and evil.

There are two taboos however that the Estate will not bend or break; the sanctity of life and the innocence of the children. To the ‘Batraalim’, life and children are the most precious and sacred of gifts, and thus they look down upon and severely punish those who would wantonly take another’s life or harm a child in any way. Thus the children of the Estate are not allowed to partake of any vice or tribulation that could rob them of their precious innocence. As a matter of fact, before being able to participate in any of the Estate’s regular activities, a child must come of age and undergo a rite of passage into adulthood; this is the same for mortal and immortal children. Only then can they taste of the fullness of what the Estates has to offer.

The ‘Batraalim’ themselves are not ruled as an Estate body, but rather as small groups or cloisters that answer to a figure head who doubles as the master of ceremonies, or priest(ess). This individual is usually well versed in many forms of vices, and is closer to understanding the true nature of corruption than anyone else found there. However, this loose organization and its open policy to explore as one wishes makes them easy prey for the darker powers, and many such cloisters have followed their leaders into complete and utter decadence.

By nature, the children of Batraal are characterized by their attractive and alluring features and their nonchalant demeanors. They are deceptively cunning and very charismatic. They are not evil as one would paint them to be, but rather free souls seeking to entice others to follow them on a path of inner discovery.

They are also very passionate. They love life and it is not uncommon to see them in fits of deep depression when someone they know dies. They believe that all life is precious, and should never  be wasted, thus they abhor suicide or any indulgence or act that would end a life. What is the use of discovering one’s soul if the final intent of the experiment is to extinguish it? That is why you will never see ‘Batraalim’ indulge in a murder spree, or purposefully overdose someone they love. These are not the type of practices they encourage. What you will see, however, are addictions and vices that may well take their subjects to the edge of death, raising the stakes of the experiment to new and most dangerous levels.

Any persona concept is acceptable, from the street harlot, or the alchemist who is continuously perfecting the ultimate drug, to the consummate warrior who seeks the ultimate meaning behind the violence. Traits are equally varied, but a strong Charisma and Will are definite assets.

‘Batraalim’ must choose one favorite vice during persona creation, something that is intrinsically tied to the character’s history. This particular experience is their favorite, and is preferable to other types when multiple choices are offered. They must also see what other vices arouse the demon inside them, as per their Estate curse.

Although the children of Batraal are firm believers that their way to Redemption is exactly what everyone needs, the rest of the world may not share their point of view. It is this arrogance, and nonchalant abandonment to their vices that hampers them before it actually begins to help them. Thus, all ‘Batraalim’ begin the game with 3 points of Redemption and 6 of Sin. This reflects their willingness to dance with the devil to get into Heaven.

The Tutelage:

Even initiates who may have spent their entire lives around many forms of excess have no idea what they are about to experience in their tutelage. Once thrust out of the shell of innocence, and shown the extent of the corruption of the world around them, they are then introduced to the evil within.

Little by little, their warder leads them from one pleasure and vice into the next. The entire experience is to subject them to as many possible effects so that they can discover what releases their inner demons, their desires, and what makes them lose control. Once discovered, the initiates must temper and solidify their power over these weaknesses all the while discovering more on what will become a continuous journey of discover of self and their own demons.

The Goety of Batraal:

‘Batraalim’ have the innate ability to hear the whispers of a soul’s deepest desires, its darkest dreams and its foulest temptations. Knowing this, they use their Goety to expose this foulness, unrooting it, bringing it to light and amplifying it tenfold until it engulfs the individual’s soul, utterly. This may seem particularly evil, but consider it as shock treatment, a way of making those individuals realize that they do have an issue and forcing them to deal with it before it deals with them. At the highest levels of competence, they can easily entice an entire room into relenting their self- control and indulge in all the forms of debaucheries that their hearts may desire. It is important to note that the ‘Batraalim’ do not go around invoking their Goety on a whim, nor do they use it on just anyone. In fact, at Estate evenings no one uses any Goety powers at all! They take great honor and pride in their role as those who visit enlightenment upon the most needy. Those who are already on that road of their own accord usually need little help.

The children of Batraal have nonetheless faced their demons and are not afraid to stare them in the eye. For every new vice that they encounter and successfully take control of, they automatically receive a +1 bonus to their difficulty marker per dot of their Minor Virtue to resist any of its further temptations. This bonus also translates to any roll that is done in an attempt to aid others in overcoming those same vices. Alternately, constantly seeking out and being exposed to all types of vices has left them with an innate instinct on how to locate such things and to procure them. When attempting to find, purchase or elicit any type of vice, the ‘Batraalim’ automatically gets a +1 bonus to their difficulty marker per dot in Minor Virtue on all rolls. They always know where the nearest festival is, the best wines, wildest brothels or the most crazed of battles.

A disconcerting trend of late is the fact that some ‘Batraalim’ have begun to enter into covenants with darker forces in attempts to acquire the advantage of forbidden Goety. However, one should note that these dark Goety are “investments” and the forces bargained with have full intention of eventually collecting their “dues”. It would be foolish indeed to believe that one can get the better end of the bargain.

Batraal’s Curse:

‘Batraalim’ walk a fine line between heaven and hell, purity of the soul and corruption of the flesh. It is a dangerous path indeed, for Sin is common when one seeks it out. Each time they try a new vice and fail the initial unmodified Will roll, they automatically lose any Minor Redemption bonuses against that vice at any future date. Should they botch a roll on the attempt, they gain an age penalty modifier on any further attempts to resist it. When caught in the thralls of this failed vice, they will act out on their base instincts, often performing actions they normally would not. While so enthralled, all rolls suffer an age penalty modifier which will persist until they either make amends for their actions, get the vice out of their system, or perform any other penance as required.

Furthermore, should any ‘Batraalim’ harm someone they hold dear, or especially a child, they automatically incur an age penalty modifier on all mental and social rolls as their conscious is racked with regret, until they make amends for the wrong they have done.

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