Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The so-called Voivode of Voivodes, Vladimir Rustovitch, is the most temporally powerful Tzimisce in the clan. Provided he can back it with force and success, his power is akin to a Cainite monarch. Many Ventrue would give a king's ransome for his head...
This lord is the epitome of Eastern nobility. His face is saturnine and sardonic; a slight smile forever graces his countenance. He is tall and well built, bedecked in finery that conveys nobility without foppishness. He was Embraced with long, flowing hair of chestnut and full, finely groomed beard but he often has his retainers shave his whiskers and cut his hair shorter as the mood takes him.
The symbol of Voivode of Voivodes Vladimir Rustovitch. The bat on a field of gules, bordered with sable, has always been his, but the coronet was added as a symbol of his authority when western heraldic traditions began penetrating the Kingdom of Hungary.
(The following is an expansion of the excellent background provided in the supplement Under the Black Cross , pp. 95-96)
Voivode Vladimir Rustovitch epitomises every Tzimisce strength. The tyrant is a brilliant strategist, able to command armies to do his bidding while simultaneously overseeing his retainers. Vladimir is a true leader, as comfortable wielding a sword as he is using the levers of political power. Though he prefers overt signs of authority, the Voivode of Voivodes is also an able manipulator when the situation calls for subtlety.
Rustovitch emerged from the contestant tribes of the emerging Hungarian state in the late 10th century, an ancilla hungry to expand the wilting demesnes of his late sire, Kosczecsyku. Some say that Vladimir deposed and destroyed his sire, who was a particularly strange koldun given to long periods of isolated esoteric study in addition to seeking rulership of the land. Others claim that Kosczecsyku over-extended himself in quarrels with the black furred Lupines that infest the Carpathians and the Apuseni mountains; that he was torn to pieces for attempting to make their hunting grounds his own. Whatever the truth, Rustovitch destroyed most of his consanguineous siblings and established himself as heir to his failed sire’s legacy. Only two of brothers-in-blood are known to have survived his purge; both Csiskos and Mischa have taken refuge with a number of Vladimir’s rivals and enemies over the centuries, acting out their petty revenge by using their firsthand knowledge of his motives and methods to arm others against him.
As a Voivode in the fluctuating and contested eastern borderlands between the Kingdom of Hungary and the land of Transylvania, Rustovitch had ample opportunity to indulge his appetites for blood, battle and intrigue. In time, he would carve out a territory running between the Apuseni Mountains and the emerging cities of Arad and Oradea, often at the expense of older and more individually powerful voivodes such as the koldun Visya (who to this night, continues to associate with and shelter Csiskos), who was forced to shamefully flee his demesnes for the Transylvanian interior. While he does not hesitate to engage in warfare, careful strategy and instructive demonstrations of brutality are the tools for which Rustovitch is known. Although he is hardly the oldest Fiend in the land, his dramatic success against the Arpad Ventrue in the War of Griffons and Dragons in the 1130’s allowed him to claim the lauded title of Voivode of Voivodes. In addition to his large fief and his own feudal dependents, this allows him to act as overall military strategist for the clan as a whole, although in truth the divided nature of the Tzimisce makes this authority conditional on Rustovitch’s feared reputation for continued and brilliant success. Many elders and ancillae have been displaced by his ambitions, and a few have even done the unthinkable and thrown in their lot with the Arpads in an attempt to bring him down. Few, even among the Tzimisce, can claim such passionate enemies.
In his august role, he has come to see himself as the secular and temporal counterpart to none other than Yorak, high priest of the Cathedral of Flesh and paragon to the Metamorphosist road. In addition to dozens of knezi and more than a hundred lesser Fiends, no less than 12 other voivodes look directly to Rustovitch as their immediate liege, and perhaps ten more offer their nominal support. All claim knezi with lackeys of their own, although they are spread throughout the length and breadth of Transylvania, the eastern Alföld of Hungary and the bans of the northern Balkans. However tenuous his title, he is a undeniably a powerful force equal to Cainite Monarchs in other lands. Certainly his prowess has humbled the Arpad Ventrue known as Bulscu, who has long styled himself as Monarch of Hungary.
If his rise to power was a testament to his tactical genius, the fact that he has remained there for decades is a testament to his understanding of the power of intrigue. Beyond his armies, Rustovitch has spies and agents scattered across Europe. It is said that his people have even infiltrated the court of the King of Hungary, and in these troubled nights it is certain that many mortal lords of the Alföld owe him their allegiance. Even the Obertus family, until lately of Byzantium (including Lord Symeon and Myca Vykos), have done homage to the Voivode of Voivodes and provided him with information, and in return Rustovitch has demonstrated a willingness to put the ancient Obertus- Voivodate feud behind the clan.
The major chink in Rustovitch’s armour, however, is the Tremere. Before he assumed his role as Voivode of Voivodes, he was one of the more successful of the Tzimisce warlords at pushing back the Usurpers and punishing their transgressions against the clan. However, in the latter half of the 12th century, the effort seems to have stalled. Ceoris still stands, and the Tremere grow in power each year while the strength of the Tzimisce fractures under the weight of infra-clan conflicts and the pressure being brought to bear on the western flanks of their domains. And while he struggles with the Usurpers, Vladimir must watch his “friends” carefully, for he knows that any number of other voivodes are willing to challenge him at any opportune moment.
Rustovitch takes the presence of the Ventrue in Transylvania, be they Arpad or Eastern Lord, as a personal insult. The Land Beyond the Forest has always belonged to the Tzimisce, and they have belonged to it. The Gangrel and the Nosferatu belong also, but they accept the position of the Tzimisce as the rightful wardens of the land and are thus worthy of respect. The Ventrue and the Tremere ignore and challenge that authority, rather than show due deference. Any suggestion to the contrary is enough to put someone on the wrong side of the Voivode of Voivodes.
Knez Veceslav of Tihuta has indicated that in his mortal years, he served Voivode Rustovitch as envoy for some time. Indeed, he has hinted that he and the voivode were on excellent terms, that he was often consulted both for his knowledge of Byzantine culture and custom and also for his understanding of the Vlach and Bulgarian politics south of the Transylvanian Alps. While he was eventually compelled to return to his masters among the Obertus Order, and later Embraced by an ousted voivode of negligible status who then made the deplorable choice of allying with the Arpad Ventrue, the relationship between Vladimir and Veceslav appears to remain remarkably cordial.
Lineage: Childe of Kosczecsyku (d); further lineage is unknown, but he is suspected of being the grandchilde of either Yorak of the Cathedral of Flesh or Shaagra, the Vukodlak of Prague.
Embrace: Thought to be AD 876.