The narrator of this story is Nikos, a Vampire of respectable age (about 550). Usually, in Vampire society, age brings status and influence, but Nikos shuns both, considering Vampire politics rabid, futile and, most of all, beneath him. He calls himself 'Autarkis', the old word for a Vampire who exists outside of the species' power structure.
Nikos has studied the different kinds of supernatural beings in the World of Darkness for quite some time and knows far more about witches, werewolves, faeries and other strange beings than the average Vampire does.
I had presented myself to its young Camarilla Prince ... In the world of Vampire: The Masquerade, the Camarilla is one of two relevant political Vampire groups. It emphases order, hierarchy and the merit of not getting caught. The ruler of the Vampire population in an area is called a 'Prince'. Sometimes the title goes to the most powerful, clever and ruthless Vampire. Sometimes it goes to the one the really powerful believe to be 'harmless enough'.
So I presented myself to him ... A Vampire wishing to exist in a city has to get the Prince's OK for that.
as a young Brujah ... Among Vampires it is considered very important which 'Clan' (= Bloodline) you belong to. Clan Brujah is best known for its strong numbers, lack of respect and organization and for generally being a pain in the butt. Its members are renowned for fighting skills and lack of self control.
...a city on the frontier to the Anarch Free States. On the Vampires' maps, California south of the Bay Area are the Anarch Free States. They have no princes and pay allegiance to neither of the powerful groups and are looked upon warily by both.
...but a lot wiser than to claim my own heritage. Nikos belongs to the Tzimisce Clan, originating in South-Eastern Europe. The Tzimisce are known for their manners, arrogance and cruelty, also for their ability to shape living flesh as if it were clay. Most Tzimisce support the Sabbat, the other main political group amongst Vampires, so they are generally not welcome in Camarilla cities.
I always got along well with the Brujah. They are brave, independent and intelligent ... Nikos is showing his age here. When he was young, the Brujah clan regarded learning and courage as highly as skill at arms.
... the worst in me, and you wouldn't want to see that. Another aspect of the body-shaping ability is the ability to assume a combat form that looks vaguely like Giger's Alien.
some might say to be haunted by the odd ghost or two is a small price for having crossed the Giovanni more than once ... The Giovanni are a Vampire Clan made up of Italian necromancers. Nikos had some run-ins with them and both sides keep grudges.
and certainly not, as some have hinted, Caitiff ... Caitiff are clanless and generally considered the scum of vampiric society.
... blowing my own little masquerade. 'Masquerade' is the name for the myriad rules Camarilla vampires generally observe to avoid drawing attention to their existence.
... could swallow a grown Lupine in one gulp. Lupines, or Werewolves, do not like vampires and are more than able to turn the average, unprepared vamp into mincemeat.
... the supposed machinations of the Antediluvians. The Antediluvians (=Those Who Pre-Date the Great Flood) are the Eldest of the vampire clans, beings of mythological power. Vampiric eschatology claims that one day the Antediluvians will rise and devour their Childer.
... only Lupines and Gangrel go on after they can't stand anymore. The Gangrel are another vampire clan, known for wildness and toughness, though not necessarily for sophistication.
... I felt the wildness about her and recognized her as one of the Fair Folk. Imej/Lizzy is fae, and all supernaturals of the World of Darkness tread rather carefully around her kind (provided that they'd recognize them). Most of the time the Fey seem pretty harmless, and then they freak and summon a fire breathing dragon or start eating your car ... The Fey need human dreams to survive.
a battlefield between Tremere and Ventrue even then ... Tremere and Ventrue are two more Vampire clans, both very politically minded.
Although I wasn't even alive then, the very mention of crusaders still makes my hackles rise. Nikos was born in Constantinople in the early 15th century. He's referring to the 4th Crusade here.
Kate and Florian are allies and associates of Nikos, although he wouldn't call them 'friends'. Sometimes she calls them his 'kumpañia' (= gang). Kate is a Gangrel, fierce, fearless and loyal. Florian is of the Ravnos clan, a trickster and con man with a wicked sense of humor.
Antoino is a contemporary of Nikos. He is of Clan Ventrue and Nikos considers him a boring bighead, although he grudgingly respects him.