Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The last remaining Paragon of the Trinity of Constantinople, this ancient is the Dream Incarnate- extant hope that Cainite and Man can find heaven on earth together. He spends much of his time now in torpor now, haunted by the loss of his lovers.
(this piece is an expansion of the character, as presented in Constantinople by Night, pp. 103-104)
Few Cainites extant in the Long Night have had the pleasure of gazing upon Michael the Archangel, Patriarch of the Dream of Constantinople. However, many of the icons and mosaics of the many churches within the empire bear his likeness.
On the rare occasion that he deigns to make an appearance among his fellow Cainites, it said that the Patriarch appears in the form of the Archangel Michael, entirely composed of stained glass. Light, as if from a noonday sun, shines through his form, and emotions play upon his halo. His face is unchanging in its calm benevolence, he exudes warmth and love, and brilliant wings of white spread wide as if to embrace those basking in his glory. Those who have seen his form have said that he inspires immediate supplication, and joyful reverence of the glory of God.
Variously known throughout his long years as Mi-ka-il of Ebla, Beshter the Wanderer and a host of other names, the Ancient now known as Michael the Patriarch, or Michael the Archangel, is one of the oldest “active” methuselah’s of the Long Night. While others among his very few peers may boast greater power, more influence among the Children of Caine, and certainly (particularly in these nights) rather more coherency, none can truthfully claim to have created such a powerful legacy, for Michael has literally shaped the most influential civilisation in Europe and the Near East. Together with the the Dracon and Antonius, he founded the Dream of Constantinople in the 4th century CE, and for centuries the city prospered under their tripartite leadership. Michael provided the inspiration for the enterprise, the Dracon its spiritual vision and Antonius its material structure. For more than four centuries the Dream brought about a Golden Age of Christian civilisation in the East, and for four more its echoes have inspired both immortals and mortals alike.
The story of this ancient vampire’s origins are a subject of legend and speculation. Those tales are frequently discussed among the Michaelites, the countless Toreador that descend from them and the multitude of Cainites that have long felt the influence of the Dream.
It is said that Michael was Embraced in the Mesopotamian city of Ebla in the 22nd century before the birth of Christ. At that time, Ebla was thought to hold perhaps a quarter of a million souls, a veritable Rome or Constantinople for its day. For centuries it was also the home of the Toreador antediluvian, who moved through the circles of noble and commoner alike, inspiring wonders of art, architecture and literature. In his more lucid days, Michael was heard to say that in his barely remembered mortal years he was a mere scribe, the son of a foreign visitor in the king’s court, gifted with a beautiful face and a gift for turning a phrase. Both brought him to the attention of Ishtar (as Arikel was then known), and she brought him across to be her heir as god-ruler of the city. Hunted by another Cainite of her own vintage and a legion of her enemy’s combative childer, the antediluvian moved on after a short while, and for the last 50 years of the great city’s existence, Mi-ka-il existed as a virtual god as he sought to guide Ebla to further greatness. He was worshipped and adored by the mortals as the son of Ishtar, and he developed a taste for that worship- a tendency that would remain a constant for much of his existence.
When Ebla fell to the Akkadians (and their Gangrel and Assamite masters), Mi-ka-il was secreted out of the city by retainers, and taken to the city of Kish, on the Euphrates. When he returned at a safer time he found Ebla deserted and broken, scourged by fire and razed to the ground. He entered into a period of deep grief and melancholy after the loss of his home and his followers. After discovering that Akkadian vampires were hunting him for his blood, he changed names several times and kept on the move around the Fertile Crescent. Unfortunately, Mi-ka-il was used to being adored and finding his sustenance among those worshippers, and cults inevitably formed around him wherever he went. For centuries, his existence was a delicate balance between his need for survival and his need for worship.
Beshter (as he had come to call himself) eventually chose to remove himself from the threat and embarked on a journey of self-discovery; he left the East and travelled to the West. In the centuries to come he took in the lands of the Egyptians, the Hittites, the Greeks and the farthest flung colonies of the Phoenicians. He had long since transferred his passion from writing to the arts of metalwork, painting and sculpture; Beshter sought out the greatest mortal and immortal masters to study with wherever he went. With each journey his conviction grew that in return for their sustenance the Children of Caine could provide a great service to the Children of Seth- they could physically remember the past in a way that mortals could not, and inspire the future with the lessons of that past. Furthermore, with their immortal years the Cainites could actually guide men to rule more wisely, and avoid the disasters that ruined the great cities of old.
Perhaps 500 years before the birth of Christ, he came upon the city of Byzantium, a colony on the Bosporus built by Byzar the Megaran. The fledgeling trading post and coastal colony captured his heart, but it was already claimed by a Cainite of some power and he moved on after spending the best part of a year there.
Finally, Beshter came to a proud settlement in Latium, a city built on seven hills with a river winding through them. The city and Republic of Rome, with its powerful Cainite Senate and proud republican ideal, entranced the Toreador and he settled in to shape the city with his appreciation for wonder and beauty. Even then he was one of the oldest Cainites in a city of elders, matched or rivalled in years only by a handful of others such as the monstrous Tiamat. He left the excessive politicking to the likes of Tinia, Camilla, Mithras, Alexander and Montano, choosing instead to focus on the arts and the cultural convergence that occurred under the aegis of the Roman model. For over 500 years Beshter dwelt in Rome, counselling when asked against the corruption, bloodlust and pointless intrigues of his fellows, and seeing the worst qualities of the Cainites infect their mortal pawns. Moved by his wanderlust and frustration with his peers, Beshter frequently volunteered as a diplomat for the Eternal Senate. His eloquence and charisma brought many powerful Cainites into the arms of Rome, and it was in this capacity that he met his two great lovers, Antonius the Gaul in the first century BCE and the Dracon in the second century CE.
Of course, Beshter himself was not immune to the pettiness and villainy inherent to the Children of Caine, and he continued to almost instinctively form cults of worshippers eager to bask in his greatness and give up their blood. At his worst, the Toreador took many lovers, sired numerous progeny, and discarded both with little thought other than his own gratification. By 68 BCE, he had taken the potent Ventrue elder, Antonius the Gaul as his lover. The Gaul was a notorious intriguer, noted for his efforts to have the empire conquer his native land. He and his supporters engaged in every kind of power game that first Republican, then Imperial, Rome had to offer. Beshter, however, aspired in the least to be something greater than a mere Cainite and he curbed the worst excesses of his lover with gentle words and diversions.
Beshter also spent time travelling throughout the territorial acquisitions of the empire. He studied the conquered peoples and assimilated the cultural qualities that he approved of. Whenever he left Rome to wander, his friends Antonius the Ventrue and the Dracon of the Tzimisce guarded his interests and his childer. He in turn returned the favour by representing their endeavours when he was present in the city. The Triumverate, as they came to be known, presented themselves as steadfast friends and lovers to their rivals. Behind closed doors, however, Antonius and the Dracon were jealous of Michael’s love for the other, and they vied for his affections. The drama appealed to the Toreador’s vanity, and he grew used to playing them off against each other to maintain the status quo.
During a journey to North Africa in the 3rd century CE, Beshter encountered adherents of the fledgeling religion known as Christianity. Curious about their tenets, he returned to Rome and had the city’s Nosferatu spy on their secretive cells in the catacombs beneath the capital. Many of those Nosferatu were drawn to the new religion, and converted. They returned to Beshter and spoke passionately of the doctrines of Christianity, and the methuselah was inspired to convert himself. Some of his detractors have speculated that the Toreador was moved by hubris; that the similarity between the chief and most potent Angel of the sect and his original name renewed his divine self-obsession and ancient vice. Whatever the case, Beshter soon changed his name to Michael, and took the sect under his personal protection.
After the crises of the late 3rd century, Michael and his lovers realised that the empire was deteriorating, and in no small part because of the interference of the Children of Caine. After some years of debate, and many more of preparation, the three Cainites left with a small number of their progeny and a number of other supporters, abandoning the failed Eternal Senate, the fractured and fractured glory of Rome, and those of their childer that were unwilling to embrace change. Together, the Triumvirate and their supporters moved en masse to Michael’s fondly remembered Byzantium.
The Triumverate ejected, destroyed or subsumed the Cainites that lived in Byzantium, and then watched over the Emperor Constantine and his successors. Under their guidance, the Byzantine empire avoided the centuries of blood, fire and ruin that engulfed the West. Michael, Antonius and the Dracon created the Dream: a world where vampires were not just predators, more than the limitations of the Curse levied upon Caine, a symbol that Heaven can exist on Earth, and that vampires can be its protectors and shepherds. There was no “Dark Age” in the eastern empire, no failure to hold back the barbarian tide, no loss of civil amenities and little reduction in value of life. The East entered a Golden Age for centuries, and even after the dissolution of the Triumverate in the eighth century and Antonius’ subsequent destruction, the memory and promise of that Dream remains.
Despite the echoes of the greatness that was, however, the truth is that its founders no longer protect it. In the absence of their leadership, their experience and their vision, the Byzantine empire falters and fails to live up to the Dream. The Dracon entered a state of melancholy for the best part of a century for abandoning the Obertus and Constantinople to his heirs. Michael himself spiralled into an increasingly delusional state, unable to come to terms with his guilt over destroying his ancient lover.
He marshalled his faculties and resources one final time in the ninth century, ruling openly as Byzantine Emperor Michael III, stabilising the empire and creating a time of prosperity that lasted for more than a century. By 900 CE, Michael had slipped into a state of cyclical torpor that continues to this day. The methuselah spends years at a time in torpor, arising only to act in ways that make sense only to his addled (or perhaps enlightened) mind. The Cult of the Archangel, created and maintained by the Magnus Lasombra, has come to worship Michael as the incarnation of the actual Archangel Michael, “He Who is Like God”, and the delusional Ancient has done nothing to disabuse the world of this notion.
The erratic behaviour of Michael is echoed by his Muses, of whom only Petronius appears to be lucid. The younger Michaelites are in even worse shape, for they seem especially disposed towards corruption, holding themselves as they do against the impossible example of their Ancient founder. And how could their mortal charges hope to succeed in their crafts with the madness and predation of those who should watch over them? Petronius tries to single-handedly prop up the failing family by taking nearly all their responsibilities upon his own shoulders. He engages in endless, exhausting intrigues with the other families, hoping to create unity out of discord. He has also sought to add new blood to the family in an effort to reverse this decline but so far, his efforts have had only limited success.
And in the meanwhile, the Dream rots and Constantinople’s enemies gather. Some wonder if perhaps Michael could end all of the weakness, all the uncertainty, if he could but be woken from his fitful slumber. After all, he did so once before. Others wonder if perhaps the Long Night could survive the explosive awakening of a 3000 year old vampire if indeed it did occur…
It is said that Michael’s heavenly form lies in torpor, inside a great church below the Church of Holy Wisdom. This benighted church is an exact physical replica of the Hagia Sophia, though it is lit only by the light emanating from the still form of the methuselah. The Magnus Orthodox Lasombra, and Sarah the Chaste in particular, control access to his body, and the Cult of the Archangel holds its services there to worship his connection to the Divine. No one has been foolish enough to seek to trespass Michael’s haven in recent memory, and it is whispered that Angels guard it still.
Lineage: Childe of Arikel