The Tal'Mahe'Ra (Ghemalish: "Hand-Without-Sun"), also known as the True Black Hand or Manus Nigrum, was an ancient death-cult devoted to the worship of a cabal of beings known as the Aralu, whom it believed to be Antediluvians, that slept in the ghost-city of Enoch deep within the lands of the dead.
To outsiders the Tal'Mahe'Ra is a bizarre paranoid conspiracy of a sect that spends little time in contact with the other factions of Kindred society. But very little is actually known by the general population about the “True Black Hand”, and some vampires consider stories of its existence apocryphal. Its stronghold lies in the Underworld, the realm of the dead occupied by ghosts of things long lost to the modern world.
Its mission seems to be one of shepherding and protecting the world toward an end only it understands. Their vision is similar to the First City as described in the Book of Nod. The sect holds no cities in the physical world as its domains, though it maintains estates and other odd nexuses where it breeds ghoul servants and sends its agents forth into the world. The True Black Hand had its greatest influence over the Sabbat through the Black Hand sub-sect.
The Tal'Mahe'Ra was an ancient organization formed by an unlikely alliance between Chakravanti mages and several vampire clans (notably Assamites), though its members also include other supernatural creatures besides vampires and mages. The Tal'Mahe'Ra parted during the first millennium CE because of different ideas regarding the future of the sect; and though the two factions, the Western and Eastern Manus Nigrum, were not at war with each other, they did not communicate.
During the Dark Ages, the Eastern faction concerned itself mainly with hell and purgatory, where the souls of the unholy supposedly reside after death. The Western faction, however, mainly involved itself in vampire politics and were rumored to plan the obliteration of the Baali.
The Manus Nigrum believed that the existence of so many vampires during the Dark Ages was not desirable and wished to decimate their numbers, which is why they started collecting information about every kindred they came across. They aspired to compile a book with the name and haven of every Kindred and wished to present it to the Antediluvians during Gehenna, so that they would know where to find their childer. They were also rumored to have something to do with the death of some Antediluvians.
In the Underworld, the True Black Hand was eliminated during the events in Ends of Empire when they were the target of a nuclear attack by Stygia and a second nuke launched into the heart of the Labyrinth. Enoch was annihilated, as was the vast majority of the leadership. The Aralu provided no forewarning of the attack, nor any assistance at its commencement, and grew silent afterwards. Even more damaging to the sect was the Week of Nightmares. When the Ravnos Antediluvian rose and began to wage battle against the Kuei-jin, members of the sect rushed to India to assist it. To their disbelief, the ancient did not acknowledge them in any way; the cult simply did not matter to its masters. Coupled with the Aralu's silence, this led to many members of the sect losing faith, and the organization fracturing into small Gehenna cults.
Most of the Nagaraja perished in the attack, and the survivors found refuge among the Green Court in Korea. In exchange for providing a great deal of information regarding recent changes to the underworld, and sharing almost all their knowledge of necromancy, the surviving Nagaraja were declared "honored guests", although not permitted to Embrace. A considerable number of True Brujah struck up a partnership with the Followers of Set, while the remainder disguised themselves as members of other clans. The Tzimisce of the old clan returned to Eastern Europe, even more embittered about working with other vampires than before. The Empyrean Sodality is one cult remnant that continues its work in the ashes of Enoch.
The Tal'Mahe'Ra was a society of vampires dedicated to supporting the Antediluvians in their crusade to destroy other vampires, hoping to be spared themselves during Gehenna. They also aspired to eliminate supposedly impure bloodlines, including the Tremere and Tzimisce.
The Tal'Mahe'Ra was a super-conspiracy and allegedly the oldest sect of vampires still active. In addition, the Tal'Mahe'Ra membership included several bloodlines who were more or less exclusive to it. The Tal'Mahe'Ra also employed several revenant families and specifically trained kidnapped children, known as Chatterlings, to become vampires. Chatterlings typically were embraced when they were 23 years old.
The True Black Hand was concerned with two major events: the first is the eventual return of the Antediluvians, and the second was the coming age when vampiric taint would be eliminated from the earth.
The ruling body of the Tal'Mahe'Ra was the Wazir, a thirteen-person council of 3 Yamasattvas, 9 military leaders known as the Seraphim, and a principal leader, the Del'Roh. The mummy Inauhaten also sat in with the council as an equal. The sect's seat of power was located in the fortress-city of Enoch in the Underworld. Members of the sect had the means to pass regularly between the Underworld and the living world. The Del'Roh resided exclusively in the Underworld.
The sect was cellular in structure, with less than 200 members loosely organized in smaller cults orbiting and being manipulated by the Wazir, most of which were intentionally kept in the dark about their true connection to one another.
The Hand claimed to wield considerable power and influence in Kindred affairs through all of the major sects.
- Sabbat: The Black Hand was thought to be formed as a front for the True Black Hand by many members, although the sect simply corrupted the practices of the Lost Tribe (a sect of Caine-worshippers), who had themselves cast their lot in with the anarchs of the Anarch Revolt. There are around 60 vampires in the False Black Hand (mainly older members), who are members of the True Black Hand as well – including Seraphs Izhim ur-Baal and Djuhah. The True Hand exercised little effective control over the False Hand – with almost all members of the Black Hand taking the organization's (false) stated goals at face value. Attempts by Izhim and Djuhah to make a more effective front did little more than arouse the suspicion of other Sabbat factions. The True Black Hand generally attempted to drive the Sabbat towards war with the Camarilla rather than hunting down Antediluvians, and assisted in brokering the treaties that ended several civil wars within the Sabbat, fearing a loss of control by the sect's leaders would lead to the harm of their ancient masters.
- Camarilla: (Also known as Camarilla's Hand). The sect has claimed that almost a dozen Princes are members of the True Hand, as well as at least 40 primogen and a Justicar. Although some members of the Camarilla undoubtedly took orders from Manus Nigrum operatives, the extent to which they understood the sect's goals, or were able to provide meaningful assistance, is unknown.
- Another 50 Hand members have havens in the Middle East, among the Followers of Set, the Assamites, and the Kuei-jin.
There were unconfirmed reports that the Hand had operatives within the Inconnu (just as the Inconnu likely had operatives within the Hand), and the Hand also claims to have had several non-vampire supernatural members, including a Mummy, an Abomination, a small number of mages, and some few wraiths. They controlled three ghoul families.
The founding bloodlines of the Manus Nigrum were the Old Clan Tzimisce, the Nagaraja, and the Danava. The True Brujah came to round out their ranks by the end of the first millennium CE. These bloodlines were rare, and almost to a man belonged to the sect. Their numbers and organization were greatly diminished following the destruction of Enoch. Other unique bloodlines that came to align themselves with the sect included:
In modern nights, the sect had opened their doors to some extent to nearly all clans and bloodlines, save of course for the Followers of Set. The presence of the Giovanni and the mainline clan Tzimisce were tolerated by the Harbingers and the Old Clan respectively; and even Troilites, Lasombra, and Tremere recruits could be granted consideration, but they were often met by hostility from the outset, and the onus placed on them to prove their loyalty and mettle was enormous.
Enoch was reportedly home to four Antediluvians in torpor. Their exact identities were not known, but they were collectively called the Aralu. The names listed on three of the crypts were Nergal (thought to be [Ventrue]), Ninmug (thought to be [Nosferatu]), and Loz (thought to be [Toreador]); the fourth was unknown.
This fourth one was later named Al-Mahri in the Gehenna supplement and later in V20's books; this name, as well as the names "Arikel" and "Ventru", appeared on an inscription on the tombs of the Aralu as detailed in the book Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand.
Their auras were visible with Auspex but still they were impossible to find. It was said that Loz had already awakened though and was just waiting for the right moment to rise.
The concept of this conspiratorial sect composed mainly of vampires in the World of Darkness that supposedly provided order and structure to the outer cult was developed in Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, one of the major books to come out of Andrew Greenberg's editorial era at White Wolf. It is one of the most controversial supplements for the line because it contains an enormous amount of "spoiler" information that massively revises the entire Vampire theme and mood. It has a reputation as the apotheosis of the "Vampions" concept: Vampires as superheroes in some kind of dimension-spanning alien-invaders game.
While the bulk of Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand is nominally canon, as the events discussing Ends of Empire indicate, the Tal'Mahe'Ra order was exterminated without mercy. The Vampire Storytellers Handbook Revised details the remnants of the True Black Hand in some detail and establishes that they were almost entirely wrong about everything. The True Brujah have continued to appear in Vampire supplements, but everything else is either ignored or supplanted (such as the Old Clan Tzimisce being a somewhat different bloodline of the clan, and Vicissitude being an integral part of Tzimisce culture from the start).
The third major book on the Sect, the V20's The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal'Mahe'Ra brings the organization back and assumes that it was not, in fact, destroyed.
|Vampire: The Masquerade Sects|
|Anarch Movement • Ashirra • Camarilla • Independent Alliance • Independent Clans • Sabbat|
|Inconnu • Lost Tribe (Black Hand) • Tal'Mahe'Ra|