The Harpies

The Harpies

The harpies are the gossip-mongers, the rumor mills, the status-givers. They are the word in the wrong ear, the ones who can make a vampire's unlife miserable for the sin of wearing an ugly tie or returning an insult. Many of the best (the most observant, the sharpest tongued, the wittiest) harpies are elder age, although not a few talented ancillae hold their own in these halls of hidden power. Neonates are rarely anything more than assistants and apprentices to established harpies, simply because they are too new to the nuances of unlife's etiquette to understand what's happening. A neonate who attempts to ascend to full harpy status too soon finds her betters turning on her mercilessly; most have the ambition verbally flayed right out of them by this treatment. If she's lucky, they'll simply let her embarrass herself.

Harpies are rarely appointed outright. Those with the necessary skills were often part of the elite social scene in life, spending their lives as famous gossips, dilettantes, and socialites. As in life, these social butterflies however where the beautiful people can be found, and simply fall in doing what they did before. They are unimpressed with preening, demonstrate remarkable insight into both vampiric and human nature, and can boast an unerring ability to see through pretense and pose.

A leading harpy may choose to name an assistant or two, particularly in a city with a sizable Kindred population. After all, even the best harpy can hardly hope to keep up with the things when there are Elysiums occurring at both the Academy of Fine Arts and at the local Hard Rock Cafe. A major metropolitan city, such as Vienna or London, may contain at least six Kindred who are considered to be the main harpies, in addition to the 20-plus others who serve as additional eyes, ears, and sources of material. In a smaller city, as few as two may hold the position, although the question of who is actually in charge is another matter. For the most part, the Harpies are from the "social" clans, such as the Toreador and Ventrue, but not a few elder Brujah or slightly more lucid Malkavians have been known to occupy the seat as well.

Not only concerned with who said what to whom, harpies are also interested in the intricacies of Kindred etiquette. There is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things, and the harpies make sure things are done right. Someone on the harpies' hit list often finds himself banned from all the premiere social gatherings, and it is not all that difficult to incur this sort of ostracism. Rudeness, crudeness, speaking out of turn, showing disrespect or blatant stupidity - all of these can place a vampire squarely in the harpies' crosshairs.

While some might sneer that the disapproval of a few "old biddies" doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, the harpies (and their victims) beg to differ. In an era where the most recent news can be passed nigh instantaneously between harpies along a web of gossip that staggers the imagination, the harpies in one city can assure an offender that he receives a less-than-cordial welcome in any city he visits. It is the harpies who assist with the brokering of and recording of prestation deals. Harpies are often called on to assist their princes when dignitaries visit. In these modern nights, the harpies are busy indeed, dealing with the ramifications of email as a proper method of correspondence, the propriety of requesting an elder to step through a metal detector or the polite way of suggesting that a potential disease-carrier hie himself to the lab for testing.

Harpy Tactics

When the harpies cut loose, they do so with razored tongues honed sharp enough to glisten. While insults may not seem like they would matter much to a vampire, in an arena where wit is the only weapon (such as Elysium), a vampire who relies on brute strength is helpless before the harpies' assault. A particularly cunning insult will be picked up and repeated by dozens of other Kindred, humiliating the target wherever he goes. Just as bad is the snub, a cold shoulder turned by the harpies and those currying their favor en masse. A vampire ostracized thus is in an impossible position - he can't walk out without making more of a laughing stock of himself, while staying invites more frustration and barely audible titters from those in on the snub.

While these techniques are mild compared to, say, ripping someone's throat out with Wolf's Claws and a healthy dose of Potence, one must remember the context. The Kindred well in a society wherein internecine violence is strictly proscribed; one cannot respond to an insult by hauling off and slugging one's tormentor unless on is very, very careful about it. A vampire targeted by the harpies literally cannot strike back without incurring the wrath of the prince, the sheriff, and the harpies' clan elders - a host of enemies who are capable of turning any lone offender rapidly into ash. Social warfare becomes the only accpetable warfare, and the harpies have everyone else outnumbered and outgunned.

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