FROM: Lotario Acuto
Investigation into the Tremere of Kronstadt
March, Year of Our Lord 1203
Immediately after the conclusion of the investigation into the murder of Eudokia
The coterie known as the Concord of Ashes assisted in the uncovering of the murderer of Eudokia of Greece and Kronstadt. During the investigation it was discovered that a ‘Tremere Chantry’ or stronghold of the warlock vampires, was located in Kronstadt, hidden in the secretive Stone Mason’s Guild.
PERSONS OF INTEREST
- Knez Veceslav of Tihuta Pass, a Shaper diplomat, Concord member
- Prince Yulia of Weissenberg, a Shadow diplomat and scholar, Concord member, Concord member
- Maude, a Crone of the Clan of Death
- Lucien of Rome, an ancient Gangrel sire to former coterie member and elder of Kronstadt
- Erzebet, a Shaper warrior neonate entrusted to the care of the Concord, and ‘apprenticed’ to Lucien
- Eridanus, Regent (leader) of the Tremere Chantry in Kronstadt
- Hesin Trada (aka ‘Hette’), a noble-woman warlock Tremere from Venice and rival to Maude
- Benjamin, a Tremere warlock specialising in transporting personnel and goods
- Lotario Acuto, Michaelite investigator
Upon learning of the presence of the Tremere Chantry, the coterie was visibly shaken, as was I. That the Tremere could have a presence entrenched in the town for so long spoke measure for their competence and raised serious questions about their links to town and regional politics. To what extent had the previous princes fallen foul of warlock politics? What alliances had the warlocks made with the other supernatural denizens of the area?
(For example Benjamin mentioned, under questioning, he was not preyed upon by the local werewolves when he travelled about. Was this due to some pact?)
Veceslav raised the possibility of an immediate assault on the Tremere Chantry before they knew we were aware of their existence. I suspect his anger at the Tremere – a matter of clan politics – stirred his blood to violence. And I admit his argument carried weight. Who knew what they were capable of when aroused, when prepared? Even given my steadfast desire to avoid physical conflict of a deadly nature, fear lent a certain amount of fire to my limbs and inclined towards bravo-ism.
Yet, it was the very unknown nature of the warlocks that caused us to stay our hands. Lucien phrased the argument best by stating,
“I have not existence for a millennium by taking foolish chances battling the unknown.”
Yulia backed the Roman’s counsel. It seems she has a reputation among her colleagues for common sense, and so an immediate assault was removed from the options. Still, action was required. The question of Benjamin was a concern.
The Tremere transporter argued against his own destruction. I sided with him on this. Veceslav, of course, argued for destruction as an object lesson to the Tremere. I countered by saying that negotiation would net him more information, more scope to move up or down in his reactions, increasing hostility or decreasing it as the situation saw fit. The Knez relented.
Another argument against any attack would be the necessary risk to the Silence of the Blood; a matter that given the Church politics of the region – and particular of Kronstadt – was too high a risk to contemplate. No, a direct immediate assault carried too much risk. Any attempt to remove the Chantry would involve mortal politics, and hence time.
Oddly, Erzebet said nothing. While she is usually quiet of tongue, she also did not know the politics at play here. The intractable war between her clan and the Tremere was an unknown thing to her. A neonate indeed!
Maude was silent, pondering the magic at play. I learned later she was weaving webs in her mind, planning out how she could use her magic against the Tremere to scout and spy. I remain unaware of the specifics, but she seems to be trusted by the coterie to perform near miracles of obfuscation and information gathering.
The decision was made to send Benjamin to Prince Nova Arpad. As, nominally the leading prince of the Seibenburgen, it was for her to decide matters of policy. As this matter would have possible ramifications upon the spheres of mortal politics, it was felt best if Prince Arpad was consulted.
I noted with some interest that Prince Yulia, while acknowledging Prince Arpad’s preeminent position, did not speak of her as a superior. Neither did Knez Veceslav. The Concord of Ashes is its own political power, and walks in alliances, not feudalist subservience.
Animal messengers were dispatched immediately to Prince Nova Arpad, via Weissenberg. Prince Yulia has a capability with this, as does Lucien. Should I return for any length of time, there would be a need to replicate their networks, and possibly even learn their abilities of Animalism.
Even with the enhanced animal messenger network, it would not be until another night before Prince Nova Arpad replied. The rest of the night was set to hunting for the others, and for me, the establishment of my network. Two weeks had set me up well, but further work needed to be done to move into the vacancies created by Eudokia’s passing – such as coming to an arrangement with the innkeeper of the Angry Axeman and ensuring his supply of blood after I depart.
(I hope you understand, Vashtai, that I do this out of practicality, not a disrespectful desire to step into Eudokia’s still-warm haven.)
The question of the Tremere, Benjamin, was dealt with rather artfully by Veceslav. No messy staking or violence. The knez quietly, almost sensually, removed Benjamin’s shirt, baring the Tremere’s chest. He then touched his chest and moved the ribs of the Tremere away from his heart. The Tremere was horrified. I admit I was entranced by the subtle beauty of what I saw. When the heart lay exposed, protected only by a thin layer of skin, Veceslav smiled sadistically into the Tremere’s eyes and tapped, almost gently, a wooden stake into the Tremere’s heart. The whole experience was brutal, chilling, and beautiful to behold.
Maude, in the meantime, performed her scouting mission. She informed us all in a council held before dawn, that she had ‘turned into a spirit’ and ‘glided through the walls of the Guild’. She encountered what she referred to as a “ward”, a magical barrier of some kind that burned her as she passed through it. An alarm was sounded as she passed through the walls. She remained unseen by the mortals present, but her unease grew when she saw a “stone dog” prowling the hallways of the guild. Maude turned and left the building before being spotted. Maude had been burned by the “wards”, and retired to mend her hurts.
(I believe she was using the hospice at Kronstadt as her haven. Her apprentice, a mortal, runs this for her. Maude has several such hospices spread across the Seibenburgen; in Weissenberg, Kronstadt and Mediasch. She welcomes all, providing healing services for all comers, and charging the wealthy while curing the poor for no or little cost.)
The following night a note was sent to the Stone Mason’s Guild, asking for an audience between the Concord of Ashes and the Tremere present at the Chantry. A note soon came in reply, confirming the appointment and setting a time.
Word had come from Prince Arpad, that she would accept the responsibility of dealing with the Tremere, and take Benjamin into custody. The Tremere transporter was sent to her, unceremoniously, but with some sense of irony, in a brandy barrel.
Knez Veceslav, Prince Yulia, and myself attended. Prince Yulia’s bodyguard, Agmundir, accompanied his mistress. My argument that Maude remain behind to prevent antagonising her rival was agreed upon by the others. We went well dressed, myself disguised as a wealthy Italian merchant. Our only arms were Prince Yulia’s dagger and Agmundir’s war-axes. We came in peace.
The Stone Mason’s Guild was quiet on our approach. As we came to the door, the stone gargoyle above our heads moved, and looked down upon us. I could have sworn it was grinning.
The door was opened by Eridanus, a grey-bearded bald-headed Cainite. Behind him stood Hesin Trada, a pretty thing with a sneer on her lip.
“Greetings,” the grey-beard spoke. “You wish to parley?”
“Indeed we do, Master Warlock, Mistress Warlock,” I answered. “May we come inside?”
“Yes,” said the grey-beard. “Come into our lair.”
He smirked at his words, and escorted us into a meeting room.
He and she waited for us to be seated at a large table. Some mortal with the demeanour of apprentices yet bearing the subtle marks of the supernatural about them, hovered nearby. I believe they were mortal capable of wielding or using magic of some kind.
Upon seating, I made the introductions.
“Knez Veceslav of Tihuta, Prince Julia of Weissenberg, her bodyguard, and I am Lotario, a Michaelite.”
“I am Eridanus, Regent of this Chantry,” he replied. “This is Hesin Trada, my second.”
With the introductions done, and polite diplomacy established, the conversation moved on. All contributed. The essential points of the conversation were as follows:
- The Tremere stated they have been in Kronstadt for (at least) 50 years.
- The Tremere stated they wish to live quietly, pursuing their studies and staying out of politics other than what is necessary for their own safety (such as subverting the Stone Mason’s Guild, presumably).
- There Tremere stated that they have stayed hidden and out of politics ever since they arrived.
- Now that the existence of the Tremere is known to Prince Nova Arpad, then Eridanus would inform his superiors in “Cay-or-is” to seek further information.
- Eridanus did not seem pleased that the coterie now knew so much, but he seemed sanguine enough to learn to cope.
- Eridanus repeatedly expressed his intent to check back with superiors before making any policy decisions. His mission was simply to establish the Chantry and keep it as a firm base of operations in this, the closest large population centre to Cay-or-is.
- Eridanus was gratified to here that the coterie had no prima facie desire to see civil war brought into the Siebenbergen and hence would not immediately inform the Shapers as the location of the Tremere in Kronstadt.
- Eridanus acknowledged that any change of state, such as an expansion of Tremere influence or presence in Kronstadt, would result immediately in informing the wider Siebenburgen, and hence the Shapers, of the location and presence of the Warlocks. War would swiftly follow. All agreed this was not desired.
- Prince Yulia, when asked, acknowledge Prince Nova Arpad was the titular head of the Seven Cities. She portrayed a certain amount of distaste at the concept.
- The conclusion reached was “we know you’re here, and we are watching you” versus “we are peace loving scholars who wish only to pursue our studies”.
With the messages delivered and the intent of both parties established, leavings were taken. The Tremere are prepared to deal, but will not yield their efforts and simply move on. Presumably, every there knew everyone was lying to at least some degree.
Hesin Trada did ask after Maude. She was informed that the coterie felt it best not to bring her so to avoid any unpleasantness and risk distracting the discussion. Regent Eridanus thanked the coterie for this foresight.
As the coterie left, I looked back and observed the auras of the gargoyles on the roof. While the one above the door was sculpted identically to the others, only it had a pale aura. I observed only that gargoyle moving, but when it was still it was indistinguishable from the others. I would surmise that the gargoyle is some kind of creature animated by the Blood, a kind of vampire in the same way the Tremere are vampires, hence its pale aura. More than this I do not know.
I did not see the presence of the moving “stone dog” Maude spoke of. I would surmise it is another stone-vampire like the gargoyle on the roof.
If these stone-vampires require blood in the same way as other vampires, then the presence of these two (at least, there may be more), in addition to the two Tremere at the Chantry, would be placing a strain on the health of the residents of the Stone Mason’s Guild. I have mentioned this to Maude and asked her to, via her hospice, monitor the health of those associated with the Stone Mason’s Guild. I have also advised the agents I left in the town to assist with gathering this information as they catalogue the political allegiances of the Guilds of Kronstadt.
It should be noted that animals stayed away from the Stone Mason’s Guild. Maude mentioned that ‘warding against animals’ was very simple magic to do. It is worth passing this information on to our agents; if there is a part of the city that animals (especially rats or bats) will not go, then this could indicate some sort of supernatural presence. As I do not have the power to manipulate animals, I am constrained in how I investigate this further.
Within the Stone Mason’s Guild there were several mortals. Some were ghouls, but not many. More common were what I assume were mages, mortals with magical powers and abilities. Given the magical powers of the Tremere, I wonder at the link – which came first and what is the exact nature of the power dynamic? Regardless of the intricacies, the presence of mortal mages inside a Chantry is significant, for their presence would add considerable defensive might versus any frontal assault.
I had no opportunity to observe the magical abilities of the Tremere. I do note that Benjamin considered Hesin Trada his superior in magic, and she was the second to the Regent. All spoke of their “superiors”, those to whom they answered. Benjamin equated the concept with “elders”. Considering Benjamin could shoot fire from his hands, the fact that the others are more powerful than him suggests that direct confrontation should be avoided.
- The Tremere have established a stronghold, a Chantry, in Kronstadt. It has been located there for at least 50 years.
- This Chantry is protected by magical defences, mortal politics, mortal mages, and stone-vampires, as well as the two Tremere currently lodging there.
- The Tremere share close links with mortal magicians.
- The Tremere use a strict hierarchy system. The similarity of this to Guilds makes Guilds more susceptible to their influence, particularly Guilds known to be secretive or having secretive rites. Presumably cults and mystery religions or monastic orders would hold similar vulnerabilities.
- The Tremere come and go by day, using standard smuggling means common to Cainites.
- The Tremere are aware of their tenuous political position in the Seibenburgen and wish to avoid direct violence. This would indicate there are possibilities for deal-making.
- The coterie known as the Concord of Ashes is anti-Tremere, but this hostility is based on personal loyalty to Knez Veceslav, not wide-spread idealism.
- To Concord of Ashes pays lip-service respect to others, but is aligned primarily with its own members, and the elders they represent.
With the matter of the Tremere dealt with, at least for now, the coterie prepared to return to the Crusade. This was done to return-and-report to Prince Garry of Zara, and to honour the mission of Prince Bernhard, to assist in harm minimisation of the Crusade’s passage through Byzantine lands.
I expressed my desire to go with them on this, feeling that to keep tabs on the Crusade would be beneficial to yourself, to the Great City, and to all Michaelites.
Lucien asked the coterie to go to Zara, to carry on with Bernhard’s mission for Constantinople. Lucien stated he will pack up and travel east to investigate the possibilities of rescuing his childe from Koban.
I also expressed an interest in returning to Kronstadt, citing the reasons of desire for domain used earlier by Benjamin. These reasons were accepted and, should I return, my leadership in Kronstadt would be supported – provided I stood aside on the return of Bernhard.
Lucien insisted with no small amount of gravity that Bernhard’s family, the Dressler’s, was to remain untouched and free from my influence so that when his childe returned, they would be unharmed and uninfluenced.
With a return in mind, I sowed what seeds I needed to ensure upon a return my network will spread here without too much trouble.
We set out soon for Zara. I will write again from there, and do what I can to keep tabs on the Crusaders.