Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
also known as Brasov or Corona
People have lived in the vicinity of Kronstadt for centuries, perhaps even for millennia. A palisaded Vlach village known as Brasovia lay on the crest of the Tâmpa at the time of the Magyar conquest. The knez who ruled the village (a Tzimisce elder) and his minions resisted fiercely but they were destroyed by the Arpads and the fort was levelled by the invaders. The survivors were allowed to remain and resettle in the valley below under the watchful eye of a Magyar chieftain appointed by the King, and they languished in serfdom for more nearly a century before the land was bequeathed to the Saxon settlers around AD 1150. Strong walls were erected around the town, and a new citadel (the home of the Burgrave) was built atop the ruins of the old Brasovia ruin.
The Vlachs were again allowed to remain, though they were not allowed to practice their trades within the walls and were obliged to became tenants or farmhands to the Saxon landowners. Many of the Vlachs that work within the walls have settled with Cuman and Bulgar exiles in a small valley nestled outside the southern wall, in a village that they have named Schei. There is ethnic tension between the Saxons of Corona and some of the people of Schei, as well as the neighbouring communes. This stems from the arrogant attitude of the Saxons, who feel that they have rightfully tamed their land without aid, and the resentful attitude of the Vlachs, Bulgars and Cumans, who feel that their contribution and their rights are being ignored.
A small leper colony lies about three miles west and south of Kronstadt, in a rough valley not far from the south road through the Bran gorge. These lepers live a monastic existence, growing their own food, making their own wares and ministered to by their own priest. They beg at the north gate every day, and are not allowed to enter the city. A plague of some sort struck the leper colony in 1202, and their numbers are much reduced.
One of the better defended towns of the Siebenburgen, Kronstadt anchors the south-east of the Saxon cities. Together with Weissenburg in the west and Bistritz in the north, it forms a triangle of security around Mediasch, the hub of the Siebenburgen. Outside of Kronstadt’s walls, the estates of edlers and knights form a protective ring around the town some fifteen miles in diametre. These lands are constantly patrolled by the city guard, the armed men of the individual knights and, to a much lesser extent, edlers. In addition, knights and edlers manage the upkeep of the roads that pass through their lands and tithe one tenth of their produce to the town. As is the case elsewhere in the Siebenburgen, these minor nobles earn their income from the growth of comestibles, the herding of livestock, and the exaction of tolls for their protection along the roads that pass through their lands. Until 1211, all knights and edlers owed their fealty to the Burgrave, Albert Rutan von Swarzberg, and through him the polity of Kronstadt and his own feudal superiors, the Margrave of Hermannstadt, the Voivode of Transylvania and the King of Hungary.
The lands immediately to her east and north are held by Szekler chieftains in service to the Hungarian king, while the west is held variously by either Romanian contes that have accepted the Latin church and a number of Hungarian Ispan’s. These noble’s titles are not strictly inherited (though in practice often are) and the power flows directly from their status as ‘royal servants’ of the king, who can snatch their authority away with a word. The mountains to the south have long been plagued with rebel Romanian contes and communes, who sometimes raid the outlying farms and the rich caravans that make their way through the passes. Beyond the passes lie Cuman tribes, free Vlach contes and, further south, the restored empire of Bulgaria. These nations raid each other and the lands of Kronstadt, and only a fool would send a caravan through the pass without heavy protection and a willingness to silver the palms of Vlach and Cuman alike.
As the first decade of the 13th century closed, the Cuman threat to the south dramatically escalated. More aggressive Cumans from the plains east of the Carpathians and north of the Siret river managed to displace or absorb the more settled tribes of the south-eastern territory centred around the River Buzău. It is said that their ceribasi (war chief), Kordönül, is a particularly brutal and brilliant Cuman commander who has cowed many other regional chieftains into forming larger bands. With their own cousins of Buzău dead, fled or incorporated, these subdued chiefs then began to penetrate the southern Carpathian passes, particularly the Kronstadt-Argeş trade route through the Bran gorge. Under this Ceribasi Kordönül, they launched a series of punishing and relentless raids into the Burgraviate of Kronstadt and the County of the Szekely, penetrating as far the villages surrounding Szentgyörgy (Sankt Georgen to the Saxons) and the foothills of Făgăraș.
Kordönül appears to be a master of the ambuscade, hitting the slower and more heavily armed Saxons then melting away into the forests and mountain passes. His raids against the semi-nomadic Szekely, many of whom still adhere to the steppe modality and are thus more able to counter his attacks, were even more brutal. Men, women and children in the hundreds, perhaps even the thousands, were butchered or else brutalised and carried off to the slave markets of the Black Sea shores. In the spring of 1211, these incursions culminated in a particularly destructive attack on the city of Kronstadt and its outlying villages, including the villages of Etteldorf, Bettel, Lünedorf and Sankt Wolfgang, which were all destroyed or badly damaged.
Having failed in their very reason for being in the area, the inability of the burgers of Kronstadt and their Szekler neighbours to secure their borders caused King Andras II of Hungary to cast about for another solution to the problem of the Cumans. This solution presented itself in the person of the Baron Heinrich von Achern, a half-brother of the Teutonic Order, who claimed that his fellows could succeed where the others had failed. In response to the last, most deadly raid on Kronstadt, Andras II granted Achern’s desires and bequeathed the Burzenland to the Teutonic Order as his immediate vassals. Both the Burgraviate of Kronstadt, and part of the south-western region of the County of the Szeklers, was ceded to the German outsiders. The Burgrave and polity of Kronstadt now owe their loyalty directly to the Order, and through them the King of Hungary. Likewise, while the Count of the Szekely, Tamás Zsoldos, and his stronghold of Szentgyörgy are independent of the Teutons, he is expected to cooperate with and follow their lead.
The Teutonic Knights began to arrive in strength towards the end of 1211. Under the seasoned commander, Theoderich von Lippe, they quickly established Kronstadt as a base of supply and began construction of a series of castles. The largest of these, Dietrichstein, lies 19 miles south-west of the city, at the very gate of the gorge which leads to the distant stronghold of Castle Argeş in the borderlands between Transylvania and Bulgaria. The Saxons of Corona have taken to calling the gorge as the tör (or gateway), and have taken to calling the fortress Törzburg instead, but in time the word that the Cumans and Pechenegs use will became much more famous – Bran. Completed as a wooden castle in 1212, a service village called Törzdorf has sprung up outside it, and the Teutons have begun converting the central keep into a brick fortification. Marienburg (19 miles) guards the north, along the road to Schassburg; Schwarzenburg (10 miles) the west, along the troubled Hermannstadt road; and Kreuzburg (11 miles) to the east, near the former border of the County of the Szekely. As of 1214, a fifth wooden castle is in under construction at Rosenau, which lies approximately halfway between Dietrichstein and Kronstadt. Rosenau itself is intended to be a way-station and supply depot for Dietrichstein, which is intended as the locus of Teuton strength in the region.
Thus far, Commander Theoderich has failed to bring the Cuman ceribasi and his forces to battle, but the German knights have brought a measure of stability and security to the region. Over the last few years, the monastic warriors and their vassals have skirmished extensively with the Cumans through the Tör gorge and throughout the southern valleys and passes of Szekelyland. So far, they have succeeded in securing the immediate environs of Kronstadt and the gate of the gorge at Dietrichstein, but the raids of the Cumans continue to perforate Szkeleyland across its southern reaches. Wherever they strike, the reavers burn, loot, rape and slay without mercy, carrying off the few survivors to a horrid fate across the mountains.
The name Kordönül is spoken with dread throughout the city and the greater territory of the Burzenland. He is imagined as evil incarnate; a devil of the pit, given earthly flesh to test the faith of the good burgers of Kronstadt. But hope remains, for the faith and strength of the Teutonic Knights, puritanical as it may be, gives heart to the people that God yet watches over their struggles.
Titular Ruler: Burgrave Albert Rutan von Swarzberg, who has the title for life. The Burgrave is only a figurehead, however, for his fangs have been pulled by the Commander of the Teutons, Theoderich, as well as Archdeacon Simon and Mayor Metzer.
Cainite Ruler: Prince Karsten von Hornburg, a Brujah who has ruled nominally since late AD 1205, and with the confirmed endorsement of his lord Jürgen von Verden since 1211. Karsten is heavily involved in guild and town politics and has nominal purview of the city, even though Lord Jürgen, who currently makes his formal residence at Marienburg, is present in Kronstadt much of the time.
Governmental Mix: As the primary settlement of the Burzenland, Kronstadt is a vassal of the Teutonic knights. The power of the Burgrave has grown weak to the point of serving as a near-irrelevant figurehead captain who commands the castle retinue, plus the 10 landed knights of Kronstadt and their retainers. True power lies with the Teutonic Knight Commander, Theoderich, who is the Burgrave’s immediate feudal superior over the territory and city. Theoderich interferes little with the day-to-day running of Kronstadt, having little patience and less time to listen to the complaints of councillors and their penchant for presenting petitions and endless reports.
As such, the Commander allows the mayor and the city council to oversee nearly all aspects of local government. In addition to the Burgrave and the mayor, numerous trade and merchant guildmasters, edlers, landed knights, the parish priest, the archdeacon and Theoderich’s seneschal sit on the council. The former tension between prosperity and security has snapped in favour of the latter; Cuman aggression and the increasing audacity of the mountain bandits and rogue Vlach lords has seen to that. As a result, the mayor’s popularity is now contingent on the appearance of providing assistance to the Teutonic Knights and their building programmes.
Although their masters have changed, the essence of the city’s strength lies in the necessity for military readiness to repel Cuman, Bulgar and Vlach raids on not just the outlying farms, but also the Argeş trade route through the southern pass. The merchant and craft guilds understand this, and support the Commander with considerable leeway to conduct the defence of the city, just as they levied similar support for the Burgrave in the past. Much of the town guard, however, is sponsored by the guilds and loyal to Joachim Metzer, Rolf Rathinger, Bonifaz Bender and their cronies before the Burgrave, let alone the Commander.
In addition to Theoderich and Mayor Metzer, a power bloc has formed around Archdeacon Simon, the agent of the Bishop of Weissenburg. Simon has many ecclesiastical and political connections back west, and his control of church land makes him influential. He is known to have clashed with the more moderate and retiring Father Samuel from time to time, but the parish priest of St. Emeric’s is quick to throw his influence behind his technical superior in most matters. Simon is an avid supporter of the Teutons, and at present his support ensures that Theoderich’s seneschal, Ludolf, has the council firmly under his thumb.
The City Council is 19 strong, consisting of: Commander Theoderich, his seneschal Brother Ludolf, Burgrave Rutan, Mayor Metzer, Father Samuel, Archdeacon Simon, Captain Sir Adolfus of the city guard, 5 landed knights, 5 guildsmasters (including the former mayor Rolf Rathinger and the influential Bonifaz Bender) and 3 edlers (including Karl Dressler).
Military Disposition: Standing army of 480 city guards, responsible for maintaining the wall watch, keeping law and order in the city, and patrolling the outlying roads and villages. Since the troubles began, the size of the city guards has almost doubled, both at the insistence of Commander Theoderich and because many young men have lost home and family to the raids of the hated Cumans. This force is commanded by Kapitan Adolfus Ritter von Ballenstedt, who is ably assisted by Leutnants Heinricus Ritter, Charles Ritter, Abram Ritter, Dieter Ritter & Gebhard Ritter. 73 of these guards are veteran light cavalry of Pecheneg, Vlach and Bulgar extraction who have gained an excellent reputation for being able to counter Cuman tactics with their own. The town guard is funded by tolls on the passes south-east and south-west of the city, as well as a gate toll and land taxes.
The Corona militia is funded by the guild and trade taxes. It can be turned out in times of crisis, and consists of 1020 able-bodied men that are required to practice each saturday out of each month, as well as a further 94 men of the retinues of the landed knights. Kronstadt has a total of 10 landed knights in her service, with a further 5 knights attached to their retinues or that of the Burgrave. Of course, as the Burgrave is the feudal vassal of the Commander, his men are also beholden to the Teutons. Furthermore, only half of these knights are seasoned veterans, as 7 excellent knights and many of their men lost their lives attempting to ward the city against Cuman raids between 1209 and 1211.
In general, at city expense regular guardsmen are garbed in leather armour, a light kettle helmet, a kite shield, a dagger, a club and a spear. A number of crossbow squads also exist. Officers and knights will typically be outfitted with a haubergeon over a gambeson, and will usually carry a sidearm rather than a spear. Several of the wealthiest knights of the city, including captain and his lieutenants, actually own full mail, although they seldom wear it unless expecting battle.
The militia is typically outfitted at the expense of their guilds or their noble. All members of the militia are entrusted with their own gambeson or leather armour, a round shield, a dagger and a hand weapon (usually a spear). On festival days, richer members of the guilds often fund healthy competitions for marksmanship, wrestling or spear fighting, the better to show up their rivals.
Of course, there is no requirement that a militia member adhere to these allocations, and it is actually a source of considerable civic pride to purchase superior arms and armour and return the gear provided by city and guild to their respective armouries. It is not at all unusual to find the sons of wealtheir merchants and guildsmen sporting armour and weapons that are the equal of any knight of the Siebenburgen. However, until the arrival of the Teutonic Order, master armourers were unheard of in the city, so full mail had to be imported. Now, the wealthy of the city are lining up to commision the best armour that money can buy (or, more accurately, endow) but the Order has made it clear that maintainence of their own arms takes precedence. With the pressure of the Cuman threat, the list of commissions is very long indeed…
Population: c. 6400 (79% German [mostly west Franconian, but also Saxon and Thuringian], 10% Romanian, 5% Szekler, 3% Magyar, 3% other including Greeks, Bulgars & Pechenegs), which includes the Teutonic garrison, the many settlrs that came with them and the outlying villages, making it the largest of the Siebenburgen cities for now. Almost 4300 souls live within the walls, while the rest either live in the valley of Schei outside the walls, scattered throughout the land on homesteads, or within the numerous tiny villages that dot the lands of the knights and edlers further out. Perhaps three quarters of that number live and work in the town, while the rest walk to their farms outside the walls each morning. The villages further out, particularly to the south and east, are often palisaded, fortified and fearful, a shadow of their former prosperity. The Teutonic Knights are in the process of fortifying the region further. Most Romanians (who are not allowed in the city after dark without a pass) live in Schei and are employed as house servants or herdsmen. Magyars and Szeklers are traders or factors for their border lords. The Pechenegs and Bulgars are caravan guards who have brought their families to live here. A handful of Greeks work as scholars, scribes and tutors. There was formerly a small community of Cuman mercenaries who had brought their families to live in Schei, but they were all either slain, driven off or sold into slavery because of the depredations of their kin across the mountains.
Language: Although most of the colonists are called Saxons, the most common language heard within the walls is a dialect of Franconian German common to the Moselle and Rhine rivers well to the west of Saxony. Many of the Germans employed by the king to work and administer his mines speak a distantly related dialect of German common to Saxony and Thuringia, and these Saxons (for which the colonists are routinely confused by the Hungarians) frequently travel through Kronstadt also. A good numer of the Teutonic Knights and their retainers also hail from this region, so the High German dialect of Upper Saxony is heard commonly enough, and most of the city’s merchants and officals have taken pains to learn and speak the language quite fluently. Other German speakers without such proficiency in both languages must make a Linguistics roll (difficulty 8) to follow the course of a conversation.
The language of the Vlachs is rarely learned by the Saxons of Kronstadt, but since many of the Romanians of Schei are employed as house servants, the language is the second most common to Kronstadt. Indeed, many Vlachs carry on conversations quite beneath the notice or care of the Germans within earshot of their employers.
Hungarian merchants, officials, and other visitors to the city also bring their language with them. Again, most of the Saxon merchants have taken pains to learn the tongue of their trade partners, and city officials usually have some proficiency in the language too.
It is not too uncommon to hear the turkic dialect of the Pechenegs, the slavic tongues of the Bulgars and the Rus, or the odd phrase of Greek, but few of the residents of the city speak these languages outside of the village of Schei.
Finally, some proficiency of Latin is common to those who have received a proper church education. Few of the commoners of Kronstadt can converse in Latin, but church officials and city clerks have been known to use the language to ease communication at times.
Economy: Fair, but growing increasingly weaker. Kronstadt’s wealth was reliant on the trade route between the borderlands dominated by the autonomous County of Argeş, through to Bulgaria and then the Byzantine Empire on the one hand, and the southern Siebenburgen-Western Hungary route on the other. This route has become precarious due to the Cumans, leading to a considerable downturn in trade. Many years ago, the Siebenburgen moved their goods through Hermannstadt to points south, but this route became unstable due to the war between the Cainites Marusca and Marelle. As a result, Kronstadt enjoyed great prosperity as goods began to circumvent that city and move through Corona’s pass instead. Unfortunately, this golden time seems to be over. Merchants are now turning to the pass west of Weissenburg, and looking to new trade routes through the Banat.
A note on Trade: Not quite as wealthy as Bistritz and Mediasch, Kronstadt burghers tend to use coin for trade and luxury items and barter among themselves for more common staples.
Cainites affairs of Kronstadt
More than a dozen Cainites have attempted to claim the princedom of Kronstadt since the demise of Prince Heinricus von Ballen in AD 1170, including his grasping former colleague, Charles von Allstedt. All have eventually fled or suffered the Final Death for their presumption, whether at the claws of werewolfen (who seem especially strong in the nearby mountains), by the machinations of their fellows or perhaps (as has been recently speculated) by the design of the Tremere, whose home chantry Ceoris lies perhaps only 100 miles away as the crow flies.
For a short time, a handful of Cainites resided at peace within the city under the loose rule of Bernhard von Billung. This short-lived era of relative prosperity came crashing to an end in AD 1203, with the apparent death of the absentee prince and the murder of one of his subjects at the hands of another (who was then put to the Final Death for his crime). For a few years the city was once again in a state of flux, with only two regular vampire inhabitants and a yawning vacuum- but this changed with the arrival of Karsten von Hornburg and his lover, Greta Bassum. The Brujah and the Malkavian quietly established themselves and eventually earned the approval of the other vampires in the city for Karsten’s aspirations. His rule was endorsed once more in 1211 by his new lord, Jürgen von Verden, when that Ventrue worthy claimed the Burzenland for his own. Now the city teems once more with Cainites, and the hands of the prince are full ensuring that the Silence of the Blood is kept, domains are respected, and everyone is safely fed…
The current known residents include:
- Jürgen von Verden, the Swordbearer, Overlord of Saxony and Thuringia, Landgrave of Brandenburg, Protector of the Burzenland, Prince of Magdeburg and Grandmaster of the Order of the Black Cross (Clan Ventrue, Childe of Hardestadt the Elder, e. late 10th century AD); although he is not the oldest of Hardestadt’s progeny, the Hochmeister (grandmaster) is without a doubt the most successful and ambitious of the lot. Not yet an elder, in the strictest sense of the defintion, he nonetheless lays claim to almost one-fifth of the territories comprising the Holy Roman Empire. This staggering accomplishment makes him more influential, and dangerous, than elders more than one thousand years his senior. Indeed, only his sire surpasses him in power and even he seems to have adopted the black cross as his device since the first decade of the thirteenth century. Stymied by the bulwark of elder power to the west, Jürgen looks to the east to enlarge his domain, and he sees the divided territories of Clan Tzimisce as weak, and ripe for the taking.
- Karsten von Hornburg, Prince of Kronstadt (Clan Brujah, Childe of Ladislav of Krainburg [d], e. 1149); a fair minded and generally altruistic example of his clan, Karsten established himself quietly in the wake of his predecessor’s apparent demise in 1203. More at ease with a carptenter’s tools in his hands than a sword, he has nonethteless quite capable of fighting to protect his domain. Seeing the writing on the wall, and fearing for the security of his adopted home, he willingly journeyed to Magdeburg and bent the knee to Lord Jürgen in AD 1211. Thus far, the Brujah and his Ventrue master have worked hand in hand for the glory of the Swordbearer’s demesnes and the welfare of Kronstadt (depending upon which one of them you ask), but Karsten’s loyalty may be tested if the good burgers wind up being exploited by the large Cainite population in the area.
- Akuji, the Spymaster (11th gen. Nosferatu, Childe of Kristoff, e. turn of the 11th century); a clever, careful Moor who has (unofficially, at least) served Jürgen even longer than Lucretia, Akuji sits in the middle of an immense web of informants who keep her apprised of events within her lord’s domains. She often accompanies him on his tours, but only rarely on campaign. Her rich voice is capable of spinning tales of distant lands and obscure folklore, and she sometimes swathes herself in bandages or robes and entertains Lord Jürgen’s more erudite or well-travelled guests with her knowledge. However, she prefers to be an unseen presence at court, and her disembodied voice has unnerved more than one visitor who thought themselves unattended.
- Christoff von Plauen, brother-knight of the Teutonic Order and bailiwick commander for Thuringia and the Burzenland (8th gen. Ventrue, Childe of Erik von Baruth [d], e. mid 12th century); the elusive brother Christoff is nominally in charge of the Order of the Black Cross in the Landgraviate of Thuringia from the order’s castle at Zwätzen, outside the city of Jena, which he also watches over in Lord Jürgen’s name. However, he usually leaves his childe, Father Hugo, to watch over his domain while he ranges back and forth on the secret business of the Order and his lord. He was the first of the Order to arrive in Kronstadt, and is responsble for much of the day-to-day affairs. Christoff is thought to be the best swordsman in the Order of the Black Cross, if not the entire Teutonic Order. Together with Sister Lucretia and Baron Heinrich, he is also one of the architects behind the creation of both orders.
- Brother Adalbert, Seneschal of Kronstadt (11th gen. Ventrue, Childe of Wiprecht von Lübben, e. late 21th century); authoritarian to the mortals under his purview but humble to his Ventrue betters, this ancilla is a stalwart member of the Concord and a growing power in the ecclesiastical circles of the region. He is also a firm ally of Prince Karsten, for the two walkers on the via humanitatis have developed an easy habit of keeping each other honest in the course of their duties. Brother Adalbert also serves as confessor to the members of the Order of the Black Cross, who cannot risk the possible violation of the Sixth Tradition by confessing their sins to a mortal priest. When not serving in his role as seneschal, he journeys to a priory of Benedictine monks on the north-eastern fringes of the Burgraviate.
- Otto von Everstein, brother-knight of the Teutonic Order (8th gen. Ventrue, Childe of August von Everstein, e. 1190 CE); the mortal descendant and youngest progeny of the formidable Prince of Haale, and grandchilde to Jürgen von Verden himself, Brother Otto has a bright future among the Eastern Lords. He has the ambition to match it, and few doubt that if Prince Karsten were to fail or fall, Otto would be a leading contender as his replacement. Like his coterie-mates Ludolf, Albrecht and Thaddeus, he is in a constant rotation between the Teuton fortresses in the Burzenland, although he is known to favour the castle at Dietrichstein, where he might prove his worthiness most gloriously. Brother Otto enjoys the mentorship of Lord Jürgen, who is personally overseeing the young Ventrue’s transition on to the via regalis.
- Ludolf von Oschersleben, brother-knight of the Teutonic Order (9th gen. Ventrue, Childe of Rudiger von Goslar, e. 1199 CE); a scarred, one-eyed soldier who was Embraced for his great strength as well as his first-hand experience of the King’s Crusade and the Crusade of 1197. Despite his relative youth in the Blood and paucity of natural magnetism, he is seen as a veteran who anchors the Teutons (and the Order of the Black Cross) throughout the Burzenland. He is considered a nominal ally of the Concord on account of his absent sire’s life debt owed to the former prince, Bernhard von Billung, and thus to his bloodline.
- Thaddeus von Werl, brother-knight of the Teutonic Order (10th gen. Ventrue, Childe of Guy d’Arles, e. 1184 CE); a driven, even puritanical warrior who is widely considered to be one of the most dedicated brothers in the Burzenland. What he lacks in size, he more than makes up with skill and determination, and Thaddeus can often be found among the numbers of the night patrols between Kronstadt, Rosenau and Dietrichstein. His sire and grandsire, Sir Guy of Arles and Prince Kuritz of Lüneburg, are known to speak proudly of Thaddeus’ worthy service to Jürgen von Verden and the Eastern Lords. For his own part, the pious Thaddeus prefers the simple company of his fellow brother-knights, Otto von Everstein and Ludolf von Oschersleben.
- Greta Bassum, the discomforted hedonist (Clan Malkavian, Childe of Sister Justine, e. early 12th century CE)- very much a fish out of water in the moralistic Siebenburgen, this Lunatic enjoys the finer, more sensual pleasures that immortality offers. She and Karsten have been lovers for decades; and she brings out the lighter, more hedonistic side of the Brujah’s personality while he in turn helps her focus on more constructive pursuits. Even so, it was only with great reluctance that she followed him from her more civilised and luxurious home of Klagenfurt. However, once she arrived Greta began introducing a baser element into the city with gusto, and she has come to control a number of the more successful taverns, alehouses and inns in Kronstadt. The arrival of the Teutons has forced her to become more circumspect in her dealings, and she now prefers the refuge of Obfuscate when she moves about the city. Like many of her ilk, Greta is a bit off, but unlike some, she largely succeeds in keeping it under wraps. Her derangement manifests as extreme voyeuristic tendencies, and as a result she knows much of the goings-on of Kronstadt.
- Eridanus, the secretive Usurper (Clan Tremere, Childe of Locus, e. late 11th century)- a very careful, secretive magus, Eridanus was uncovered in the Spring of AD 1203, during the investigation into the murder of Eudokia. He has dwelt in Kronstadt for decades according to his own admission, and may have gone unnoticed for much longer but for the impulsiveness of two visiting Warlocks Hesintrada (aka Hette von Borcke) and Benjamin de Tulle. Eridanus is a powerful worker of Thaumaturgy, and while also a master regarding the use of Dominate he has been shown to be less than creative in its use. He has stated that he wishes only to oversee his Domain, the equally secretive Guild of Stonemasons, in peace and secrecy. Given the wealth and power of that body however, few believe him. It is unknown what arrangement, for there is almost certainly one in place, Eridanus has with Lord Jürgen and Prince Karsten, but the Tremere is still known to dwell within the city.
Fallen Cainites of Kronstadt
- Bernhard von Billung, Prince of Kronstadt (Clan Gangrel, Childe of Lucien, e. 1066)- a knight who established his presence in Kronstadt late in AD 1195, swearing his fealty to the Burgrave and the town council upon receipt of his lands. He masqueraded as the son of a Saxon knight who fought on the 2nd Crusade and undertook many pilgrimages hither and yon himself. In actuality, Gunthar ritter von Wolfgang took the 2nd Crusade himself and has established himself as his own son to preserve the Silence of the Blood, and his ‘pilgrimages’ had been journeys on behalf of himself and his sire, Lucien the Roman. He declared himself Prince of Kronstadt in the early winter of AD 1199, and ruled with a loose hand until AD 1203, while still keeping a hand in various international intrigues. He disappeared on the 4th Crusade, and it is believed that he has perished.
- Eudokia of Larissa, the quiet one (Clan Toreador, Childe of Aristoklos, e. very late 12th century CE)- a secretive Grecian that had also been living extremely quietly in Corona for years. Eudokia masqueraded as the exotic wife of the flamboyant Martin Gruen, proprietor of the Welcome Hearth Inn, and the prominent Guildsmaster of the Union of Innkeepers, Brewers and Vintners. Eudokia had raised the observance of the Silence of the Blood to an art form, and was easily mistaken for one of the kine. Her growing influence over the guilds was an asset to Bernhard’s regime, and her control over Kronstadt’s seamier side made feeding easier. Unfortunately for Eudokia and her family, it also aroused the lust of Gero, who expected certain favours in return for his numerous “kindnesses” in keeping order in her Domain. The Gangrel Sheriff secretly attacked and diablerised her in the Spring of AD 1203.
- Gero, the Sheriff (Clan Gangrel, Sire unknown, e. late 12th century)- an assistant voigt (sheriff) of a village outside of Brunswick, Gernot (or Gero for short) was attacked by a Gangrel when he dawdled at his tasks past dusk one evening. He fought his attacker, and while he lost, a stray drop of blood landed in his mouth. When he arose in a frenzy and destroyed several of his lord’s prized cattle, Gernot realised he would need someone to blame, so he conveniently arranged to frame a rival. It was not long before he had to flee from the realities of his position, and the anger of the local Cainite power, Norbert von Xanten. He wandered aimlessly for years, looking for a place that would accept him. Eventually he heard of Bernhard von Billung, and leapt at the chance to serve another Gangrel, and a lord no less. Once more he was a reeve, but of the undead. Gero served his prince faithfully for two years, but became enamoured of the Toreador Eudokia, and he spent much of his time spying on her from afar. He eventually discovered that she was spying on the city for a Greek mistress, and he attempted to use that information to gain her compliance to his lusts. Her rejection of his advances poisoned his heart against her, and he ambushed her as she returned to her lair one night. If he could not have her body, he would take her soul instead, so she would be part of him forever. The heinous deed was uncovered by the Concord, despite his attempts to set up a decoy in the Tremere wanderer, Benjamin, and Gero was executed by the acting prince,Lucien, according to the Lextalionis.
More Cainites to come in the coming weeks
Those Who Have Moved On
- Brother Lukas, the Leper (Clan Nosferatu, Childe of Marusca, e. 1153 CE)- a mild-mannered scholar who has taken the leper colony south-west of the city as his Domain, and sees to the needs of the kine there. It is unknown how long he has dwelt in the area, nor how much involvement he has in the town proper. Most assume that in the usual fashion of his kin, he knows a great deal about the secrets of the town. Lucas is known to be the childe of Prince Marusca of Hermannstadt, and it is thought that he passes on what he knows to her. He served as an advisor and ally of Prince Bernhard, and appeared to be deeply saddened by his friend’s loss, as well as that of Eudokia at the fangs of Gero a scant few weeks later. His last words to the subdued Sheriff before his execution were simply, “such a horrid waste.” The small leper colony in the Bran gorge was struck by a terrible disease in the summer of 1203, and with his brothers dying around him the desperate Lukas journeyed to Constantinople to seek a cure. He has not returned in the many years since…
Frequent Cainite Visitors
- Lucien the Roman (Clan Gangrel, Childe of ‘the Savage’ [d], e. 1st century BCE) A most unorthodox elder who despises the uncivilised ways of his kin, the Roman uses the extensive waterways of the Danube, Rhine and Main to manage his modest mercantile network. He became a frequent visitor to the city in order to secure the claim of his childe, Bernhard von Billung, to the domain. He also briefly ruled at times when his progeny was away tending to the business of the Concord, and in this capacity he passed judgement on the murderer, Gero, in AD 1203. Lucien stoically accepted the loss of his childe, but has stated that he will not give up hope until he has seen Bernhard’s ashes with his own eyes. He has stated that when time and safety permits it, he will head to the lands of Voivode Koban and return with his progeny, or failing that, his remains. After winding up some of the former prince’s family affairs, the ancient retired from Kronstadt late in the Spring of AD 1203. Lucien appears to have reached a private accord with Lord Jürgen since the city changed hands – he no longer visits Kronstadt without the express permission of the Protector, and the villages of Sankt Wolfgang and Lünedorf are now his exclusive domain. The old Gangrel is rarely seen in Corona any more.
- Svenin the Tall, the fearless mercenary (10th? gen. Gangrel, Childe of Bernhard von Billung, e. 1149 CE); A giant, hulking warrior of the Danes, known for his amoral pursuit of riches, his love of war and his loyalty to those whom he has adopted as his cohorts. A resident of Corona before the arrival of the Teutons, he continues to dwell in the city under contract to Lord Jürgen as a scout and soldier. He retains his domains within and without the city, but spends most of his time in the field, scouting the forces of the Tzimisce and stirring up trouble for the Cumans. He is respected for his prowess and his usefulness to the campaign, but the black veins of diablerie have been noted in his aura and, as a result, he is also feared and disliked by most of the Cainites of the Order of the Black Cross. Svenin the Tall is a firm ally of Prince Karsten, and he also acknowledges Brother Adalbert as a fellow member of the Concord.
- Erzebet Toth, the wayward Feral (8th gen. Tzimisce, Childe of Bodor Toth, e. 1167 CE); a skilled practitioner of Animalism hailing from the Szekler peoples, this Fiend is the student of Lucien the Gangrel, who has taken her on in hopes of showing her the errors of her adherence to the via bestiae. They have struck up an odd friendship over the course of their association, and the Tzimisce often accompanies her ancient mentor on his scouting forays into Cuman territory. Despite her noble upbringing, Erzebet finds polite society intolerable; she avoids the city like the plague, choosing instead to feed from the animals of the forest as well as isolated trappers, furriers and other foresters.
- Tiberiu, messenger of the Council of Ashes (10th gen. Gangrel, Childe of Harnuth [d], e. late 11th century CE); a humble, uncouth ancilla who has long made a name for himself providing secure communication between the various princes of Siebenburgen. Tiberiu remains strictly neutral in the many disagreements, alliances and enmities among the dysfunctional Council of Ashes, and they are also comforted by his lack of education. Although most missives between them are written in cipher anyway, Tiberiu’s obvious illiteracy means he has no chance of actually reading them.
- Pedrag Harsányi, envoy of Nova Arpad (8th gen. Ventrue, Childe of Nova Arpad, e. 1179 CE); a smooth gentleman of the Hungarian nobility, well-versed in the court customs and fashions of Italy and the Holy Roman Empire. Together with a number of his consanguineous relatives, Pedrag answered the call when his sire was rescued from imprisonment and denigration at the hands of the Nosferatu imposter, Ruxandra. He is his sire’s voice wherever she might need it in the Siebenburgen, and more often than not that requires Pedrag to be in Kronstadt. A ruthless, even sordid fellow, he has a sideline in pandering and is known to be able to discreetly furnish his fellow Ventrue with suitable herd vessels. Curiously, Pedrag has a fast friendship with Greta Bassum, and the two of them are known to hunt in tandem when the Ventrue is in town. Obviously, Karsten does not approve of the fellow.
Prominent Mortal Residents
- Theoderich von Lippe, Bailiwick Commander of the Burzenland for the Teutonic Order; a 40 year old veteran of the Third Crusade, the Crusade of 1197, the Fourth Crusade and more than a dozen short wars against the pagans east of the Elbe, Theoderich is a hard-bitten, puritannical warrior with little time or patience for politics. Indeed, in that regard he is quite similar to his domitor, Lord Jürgen, who ghouled the commander upon his return from Constantinople in 1205. The commander spends all his time overseeing the construction of fortifications or in the field against the Cumans, and so leaves the day-t0-day administration of the Order to his seneschal, Brother Ludolf.
- Albert Rutan von Swarzberg, Burgrave of Kronstadt; An aging knight who has reigned since AD 1182, Albert has a reputation as a drinker and a brawler, but none doubt his courage, sincerity or skill in the field. He attained his position after serving as Kapitan of Kronstadt for a number of years, keeping the southern Pass free of bandits, raiders, and Vlach rebels. He was a favourite of the late Burgrave Joszef von Ballen, and propelled himself into rulership by making an alliance with Mayor Rathinger’s predecessor, Dolf Lugen. Albert married late in life, and chose the fiery tempered and beautiful Livia, a Vlach 14 years his junior. The alliance helped to stablise the trade route to Hermannstadt, but has cost the Burgrave much of his popularity with the people. Despite his best efforts, Albert failed to contain the Cuman threat. In several engagements he was decisively beaten, losing a number of his best knights (including his son and heir, Gerhard) and his strength is now largely spent.
- Jochem Metzer, Mayor of Kronstadt; a protege of Rathinger, this 40 year old salt merchant was propelled into the role of mayor when his predecessor’s health began to slip. He is cut from the same cloth, although perhaps he lacks Rolf’s pure brilliance. Jochem is wealthy in his own right, and despite being put forward as a catspaw to preserve Rathinger’s power-by-proxy, he has accrued a great deal of influence using exactly the same methods that his mentor did. Metz is a hardy fellow, having spent many years accompanying and defending his caravans, and many of the city militia look to his leadership.
- Rolf Rathinger, Councilman; A canny, wealthy merchant and charismatic speaker, Rolf Rathinger was elected to his first five-year term in AD 1189 and had little trouble retaining his position until he stepped down in 1208, citing poor health (he is in the neighbourhood of 70 years of age). And yet, he remains on the city council, and many dismiss Metzer as his catspaw even though it is clear that Rolf is not the man he was even 5 years ago. Rathinger is a political animal, who achieved his dominance by sponsoring the early careers of numerous merchants, becoming the largest landlord within the city limits, and funding public works. Some have been known to grumble (quietly), that he is also not above bribery, and that half of the town council live in his pocket. Rathinger’s fortune is built on the salt and silver trades.
- Simon von Nijmegen, Archdeacon of Kronstadt; a domineering, charismatic priest who is responsible for administrating church holdings within the city and also a number of priories (including the leper colony of St. Lazarus) and farms within the Burgraviate. On behalf of the Bishop of Weissenburg, he also has oversight over the priests of the outlying parishes of the territory, including the popular but meek Father Simon of St. Emeric’s Church. While not exactly loved, Simon is quite popular with the Burgraviate elite, on account of his being the 3rd cousin of Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor (which technically gives him a rank matching that of the Burgrave). The Archdeacon has welcomed the Teutonic Order to the city, and his support for Theoderich has not gone unnoticed by his superior, Hermann von Salza.
- Adolfus von Ballenstedt, Knight-Captain; A distant kinsman to the late Burgrave von Ballen, Adolfus is one of the wealthier knights of Kronstadt. He is the son of a Landsgraf in the Holy Roman Empire, and it is thought that he has little personal regard for his current liege, Albert von Swarzberg, on account of his ‘low birth’ (being the son of a Freiherr). Adolfus is a strict disciplinarian and a pedant, but he is a very fine captain whose men respect him for his long hours and dedication to his duty. Adolfus was wounded in battle with the Cumans in 1211, and he now walks with a slight limp.
- Karl Dressler von Lüneburg, Edler; A relatively recent arrival in the city, Karl and his family emigrated from Saxony in the last wave around AD 1190. A generous and kind man noted for his common sense, he was given a place on the council in AD 1195. Karl is content to oversee his fields, and raise cattle and sheep, but he is honoured to be entrusted with the role. He is influential on the town council, although his power has diminished alongside that of the Burgrave. A melancholy air hangs about the aging edler, for his son beloved son and heir, Bernerd, did not return from the 4th Crusade. Growing increasingly ill and infirm, his fondest wish is for word that his son yet lives, and will one day return home.
- Livia Rutan von Swarzberg, Burgravine of Kronstadt; the ambitious wife of the Burgrave, Livia is still very beautiful despite her nearly 50 years. She is also unusual in that she is not a Saxon. Rather, she is the daughter of a Vlach Conte that accepted the Latin rite and kept his lands as a result. Livia was gifted to the new Burgrave at the age of 14, negotiated along with an alliance to secure the Kronstadt-Hermannstadt trade route. Although quite unpopular with the people, she has become very fashionable among the city elite because of her wit, temper and beauty. In more than three decades of marriage, she bore the Burgrave two sons and three daughters, all of whom are comely and clever. She formerly agitated for a way to make her husband’s position hereditary, so that she might secure her children’s inheritance, but these plans have subsided with the arrival of the Teutonic Order. She has borne the loss of her eldest, Gerhard, with far more stoicism than her failing husband and now concentrates her efforts on Thorben, their second.
- Martin Gruen, Guildmaster; one of the more colourful citizens of Kronstadt and a vocal member of council, Martin serves as the Guildmaster of Innkeepers, Brewers, Vintners. He is also the second generation owner and operator of the Welcome Hearth, the most successful inn and tavern in Kronstadt. Formerly considered to be wayward at best and a wastrel at worst, Martin’s father Klaus sent him on pilgrimage to Jerusalem shortly after the 3rd Crusade. He returned years later as a changed man, more worldly and serious. He brought with him a beautiful Greek wife and two young children, and soon took over the business from his ailing father. His cosmopolitan ways and knack for storytelling soon brought great success to the Welcome Hearth, election to his post and an invitation to council. The disappearance of his wife, Eudokia, in AD 1203 quickly become a cause for much gossip, but the worry and grief that Martin displayed soon allayed any talk of foul play. He remarried in 1209, and was reelected Guildmaster in 1211. Many hope that he will one day be the mayor.
- Father Samuel of St. Emeric’s church; This gentle and good-natured man has been the parish priest of Kronstadt since AD 1179. He is of local birth, and hails from edler stock, being kin to Leutnant Charles Ritter and brother-in-law to Hans Eberhard, the Guildmaster of Carpenters, Builders and Wainwrights. A fine preacher but a shy and retiring man when not on the pulpit, he is thoroughly cowed by his administrative superior, Archdeacon Simon. Father Samuel is nearing retirement, and he is actively looking for a successor among the other priests of the Burgraviate.
- Bonifaz Bender, Guildmaster; the powerful and wealthy Guildmaster of Stonemasons, this rather puritanical and secretive man sits on the town council and formerly constituted the opposition to the late mayor, Dolf Lugen. Bonifaz has largely retired from such maneuverings and no longer constitutes a power bloc himself, though his support is frequently courted by all three factions. He currently gives his tentative support to Archdeacon Simon. Given the powers of the recently discovered Tremere regent, Eridanus, it is likely that Bonifaz is his thrall or servant in some manner. To the Cainites of the city, this would seem obvious, for he is still hale and hearty despite his nearly 80 years.
- Axel Dressler von Lüneburg, Edler; unlike his missing older brother, Bernerd, the second son of Karl Dressler appears to share his father’s mental gifts and sense of responsibility. He has never desired the knighthood, but is instead more interested in managing his family’s lands and looking after the failing health of his father. Axel has taken over the management of Lünedorf for the most part, and also oversees the maintenance of his brother’s inheritance, Sankt Wolfgang. His wife, Brida, is the daughter of Gerhard, the knight to whom Bernerd once squired.
Inns, Taverns & Alehouses of Kronstadt
As a prominent trade hub of Greater Hungary, the city of Kronstadt boasts as many as 25 inns, alehouses and taverns to provide lodgings and entertainment to the locals, the German miners and traders, Magyar nobles and merchants, and travellers from farther abroad. Most are small affairs, boasting no more than a half dozen rooms and a small hall for the service of food, wine or ale. The larger and more successful ventures are detailed below.
The Welcome Hearth- The largest and most prosperous inn and tavern in Kronstadt, the Welcome Hearth is a three story affair that stands a stones throw from the Pass gate. It is owned and operated by Guildmaster Martin Gruen and his wife, Albreda. It was formerly a more simple, two-story affair, but Martin bought up some of the surrounding property with wealth earned abroad (some say that it was his late wife’s dowry) and expanded the inn more than two-fold. The Hearth has a reputation for cosmopolitan variety, exotic food and hospitality, and it is popular with visiting merchants.
The Golden Crown- Recently eclipsed by its rival, the Welcome Hearth, this inn and tavern is owned and operated by Emil Gastwirt, a hard-nosed businessman who is good friends with his neighbour, Mayor Rathinger. The menu and wine is hardy, traditional German fair and customers pay for quality. The Crown (or Corona) is a landmark, being the first inn encountered by caravans arriving through the Citadel gate. It is still frequented by merchants from abroad, but many will go farther to enjoy the famed and fashionable hospitality of the Hearth if they are not too fatigued from their journey.
The Moon and Stars- Yet another inn and tavern, perched on the eastern end of the town square, next to the forbidding structure of the Guild of Stonemasons. It is smaller and humbler in every way from her two rivals, the Welcome Hearth and the Golden Crown, except for the notable fact that it is one of the few structures in Kronstadt built almost entirely out of stone. It is named for an impressive sculpture that adorns the hearth. It’s owner and proprietor, Albrecht der Lahme, was an apprentice stonemason before an injury destroyed the use of his right arm, and he still has many friends among his former guild. He has a reputation for intelligence and does not suffer fools, nor haughty airs. Most of his regulars are stonemasons, and visitors tend to be Magyars and Szeklers who appreciate the spare accommodation and cooking of his Hungarian cook, Ada.
The Raven and the Axe- a new establishment opened by a retired warrior who moved to the city from Constantinople in 1205. Wigstan is the descendant of an English Saxon noble, and his very distant ancestry-in-common with many of the Saxon miners and administrators in the king’s employ has lent him a certain cultural cache in the city. Many of them choose to stay exclusively at the Raven and the Axe when they are in Kronstadt. His inn is close to the citadel, and a number of the city guards have taken to stopping in for a jack of ale, hoping to hear stories of Wigstan’s life as an officer of the Varangian Guard.
Hammer and Scythe- A salt-of-the-earth establishment one street away from the town square, this alehouse is popular with the craft-guilds and those free farmers that commute to their fields but live within the walls. It’s taciturn owner, the immensely fat Alfons der Eber, proudly boasts that his alehouse serves “simple fair and cheap ale for simple and honest folk.” It has no rooms for rent, and is usually closed for business by eight bells at the very latest. Bristling with the typical men of the city, it is a good place to keep a thumb on the pulse of the emerging power of the peasant class.
The Angry Axeman- A cheap tavern popular with the town guard, some of the militia, and the retainers of Kronstadt’s knights. Caravan guards are welcome enough, so long as they are Saxon. It is the most raucous establishment in town, and rumour has it that some of the back rooms contain a brothel. The Axeman is situated in the poor south-western quarter where farmers and house servants make their homes. The wine is watered and quite often sour, but it is cheap and plentiful. In terms of food, little other than bread, cheese and broth can be had here. The owner of the establishment is Heinrich das Böse, a former mercenary who settled in the city when age caught up with him. As his name implies, he is an angry man who tends to do his own bouncing.
The Crossed Knives- A low-rent dive in the village of Schei, this tavern is run by Timotei the Tall, a Bulgarian Vlach who arrived in the area in 1209. Timotei is a surly, scarred fellow who is notorious for his talents with a knife and his hard-drinking, brawling lifestyle. However, he is undeniably cunning and it is rumoured that he has insinuated himself into the city’s underworld. His tavern has certainly become a locus of dishonest activity both among the Vlachs and the city in general.
Other Notable Locations
The City Walls: Well-armed guards patrol the walls and guard the gates at all times, especially after sundown. The wall is split by gatehouses in the south, north and east (often referred to as the Tâmpa, Pass and Schei gates) while the western gatehouse is attached to Kronstadt Citadel. The walls of Kronstadt are crenellated and stand some 22 feet high. They are anchored by fifteen towers, which are maintained by Guild taxes.
Kronstadt Citadel: this small keep sits on a hill overlooking the northern plains and the road that leads to Schaasburg and the Szekler settlement Szentgyorgy (Sankt Georgen to the Saxons). On the eastern flank of the keep stands the Citadel Gate. The Citadel serves as the headquarters of the town guard, as well as the armoury for the militia and a prison for lawbreakers awaiting trial. Knight-Captain Adolfus can be found here much of the time overseeing the security and integrity of the town.
The Teutonic Knight Commandery and Hospital of St. Mary: this new structure is a small gate keep that was erected around the Tampa gate in 1212. It has room for almost 120 brother-knights and serving brothers, and is overseen by Brother Ludolf, the local seneschal of the Order. At least one Cainite brother and a number of mortal brothers of the Order of the Black Cross, are in residence here at all times. The infirmary is a seperate building where a dozen nuns of the Order tend to the sick and injured of the city. When Sister Lucretia von Hartz visits the city, the hospital serves as her haven, and the commandery itself is refuge to most of the Cainite knight-brothers when they are in the city.
The City Square: the centre of business and social life within Corona, the square hosts market days and church fetes on a regular basis. A number of guild headquarters are based on the square, as well as the Church of St. Emeric and the Inn of the Moon and Stars. The square also has two public stocks and a large well, from which each house may draw two buckets of water each day free of charge.
The Church of St. Emeric: The headquarters of the parish of Corona is a large building of a squat and sturdy stone construction. Situated on the town square, it is a hive of activity each day, as it works to provide services for the several thousand people that live within the walls. Attached to the church is a rectory, where Father Samuel, 3 Deacons and a number of servants reside. A small hospital and hospice, for the use of pilgrims or victims of misfortune, is also attached to the rectory. Archdeacon Simon also has quarters and offices at the rectory of St. Emeric, although he chooses to reside at his own (rather more grand) residence nearby.
The Tâmpa: Also known as Zinne or Kappellenberg, the Tâmpa reaches some 3000 feet at it’s peak and dominates the skyline to the south of the town. Game is plentiful on the mountain, and the Burgrave allows the peasants the hunting of small (never noble) game on the slopes. Bears, wolves, snakes, ravens and eagles are all common enough on the Tâmpa, and the mountain hosts a profusion of rare butterflies and wasps. Game trails wend their way throughout the forests of ash, beech, elder, and larch.
Schloss Corona: This majestic redoubt overlooks the town about midway between the peak and the smaller crest of the Tâmpa, and is built upon the ruins of the Vlach citadel of Brasovia. Hardly the largest nor most formidable of a number of artful yet forbidding castles over-looking the Siebenburgen, the castle is still nigh impregnable and serves to give the burgers extra reassurance, even if it does take a a quarter hour hike up a switchback trail to reach it. The trail is known as the ritter strausse for the armed and mounted patrols that constantly use it. While his extensive farms lie elsewhere in the Burgraviate, Schloss Corona is the home of the Burgrave, his family, and some 80 soldiers of the town guard, commanded by several of Albert’s loyal knights and sergeants at arms.
The Valley of Schei: This narrow valley just outside the eastern wall is the home of the Vlachs and Bulgars that serve the various households in the city or have husbands among the mercenaries or caravan guards. They retire here before dark each evening, though they do not lack protection as Charles Ritter is assiduous in his patrols through the valley. It is a quiet and eerie place for the patrols- the muddy road being deserted except for the odd stray cat or dog. With but one exception (the Crossed Knives), the Vlachs and Bulgars do not have inns, taverns and alehouses, choosing to adhere to their ancient traditions of locking and barring their hovels after dark. They do have a small wooden church, and their priest, Preot Dragos, is thought to be uncommonly pious and deeply superstitious.
The Priory of St. Lazarus: Situated in a small and verdant valley some five miles south west of the walls, the leper colony opens out onto the Argeş road. The monks and lay folk beg on the road and at the town gates, and are not permitted within the walls for any reason.
The Ruined Orthodox Abbey: Once situated on the slopes of the Tâmpa, this monastery was burned out during the Magyar conquest. It’s blackened and broken shell can still be faintly seen from the walls of Kronstadt, and the Saxons have made a number of evil tales regarding the haunted place.
The Eastern Forest: While the strongest and oldest farm steads and villages straddle the Schassburg/Sankt Georgen, Hermannstadt and Argeş roads, the newly assarted possessions to the east and south-east are bounded by almost impenetrable hills and dark forests. While farther from the direct path of raids and invasions, and ostensibly secured by the holdings of Szekler chieftains farther east, the eastern forest has a fell reputation and it is avoided by the god-fearing Saxons of Corona. Of course, the Vlachs who dwell in the southern and eastern communes are a superstitious sort, but they know the eastern woods well and they use it to hunt small game and otherwise hide from their Saxon overlords.
The Northern Forest: this dark wood is particularly thick with game, and the richer merchants, knights and nobles of Kronstadt have taken to using sections of it for hunting and other recreational pastimes. Indeed, a good number of privately owned hunting lodges dot the verge of the wood. Other sections are quickly falling to the woodsman’s axe, as trade, defence and fuel all require exorbitant amounts of the resource. The northern road to Schaasburg and Mediasch cuts through its eastern expanse.
The Törz Gorge and the Argeş Road: From the Pass Gate, the road loops around the northern hill and heads west, then south. The fertile farmlands here are the oldest around the city, and the road gradually heads into hillier and more uncertain ground before entering a wide gorge, some 30 miles south west of Corona. The troubled southern pass leads to the autonomous alpine border lands between Hungarian Transylvania and the newly revived Empire of Bulgaria. The road passes the lands of defiant communes, pagan holdouts, bandit strongholds and the castles of powerful Vlach Conte’s, who keep the rest in a strained semblance of order and exact tolls for their trouble. Razvan of Argeş is the strongest and nearest of this loose confederation who would see the rise of Vlach rule on both sides of the the Alps. The Argeş trade route continues all the way to the navigable beginning of the Argeş river at Razvan’s brooding castle (some 80 miles south of Kronstadt) on the easterly bank, where it becomes a water route that eventually joins with the Danube. There trade routes split off to Bucharest, Sophia, Preslav and the Black Sea. This road is heavily patrolled by the Teutonic Order as far as 30 miles out, for the southern reaches are currently infested with Cuman raiding parties.
The Hermannstadt Road: This trade route was formerly a very well-patrolled route and a vital link to the westerly cities of the Siebenburgen, particularly Hermannstadt (which lies a mere 90 miles away). While the route had always been troubled, the alliance between_ Burgrave Albert Rutan_ and_ Conte Iancu Mastronescu_ was until recently a powerful force for stability along the route, allowing Kronstadt’s goods to disseminate to Weissenburg and beyond. In the mid 1190’s, rebellious Orthodox co went to war with those among their ‘treacherous’ cousins that had accepted the Latin rite, and the mountains south of Hermannstadt erupted into war. Together with rumours of monstrous wolves of unusual size and ferocity as well as other, even worse, monsters that stalked the night, trade between Kronstadt and Hermannstadt has become choked and unwieldy. This situation initially benefitted Corona, as its profile as a trading partner with the south rose with Hermannstadt’s decline. The road is little travelled now, and the people of Kronstadt (now feeling considerably more charitabler to their western brothers) have made overtures to the grateful Hermannstadters regarding joint efforts to clear it. The tenuous trade with Bulgaria and points further south is now seen as too valuable, and the Cuman threat too dire, to bother with petty municipal politics.
The Schaasburg/Sankt Georgen Road: Continuing north for five miles outside the Citadel gate, past the verge of the northern wood, this route then splits into two roads, one to the Szekler town of Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sankt Georgen to the Saxons) 20 miles to the north-east and the other winding to the far north-west of Schassburg some 77 miles distant before finally looping farther west to find Mediasch, Weissenburg and Hermannstadt. This is a very safe road for much of its route, passing as it does through the protection of numerous Magyar and Szekler lords, who often insist on small ‘gratuities’ or donatives to escort and protect caravans.
The Alt (Olt) River: A powerful, wide river that wends its way south, through northern Szekelyland before bending back to the north at the small estate of Brenndorf, less than 8 miles east from the walls of Kronstadt. It then cuts around the new fortress of Marianburg and continues north for another 20 miles before turning west and south, through the Vlach county of Făgăraș and carving a gorge through the Transylvanian Alps. In more peaceful times, the Alt served as a source of recreation and aquaculture, as well as a means of transportation, to the people of the Burgraviate but now few people are willing to go so far from safety. Only a few canny (and well armed) Szekler merchants use the river with any regularity now.
The Outlying Settlements
Dietrichstein (also known as Törzburg or, much more rarely, Bran): a wooden castle with a donjon already undergoing renovation to stone, this strongpoint holds a secure seat atop a 200 foot high, steep, rocky hill. Much of the forest nearby has been cleared, giving the castle a commanding view of the Tör road. It is the strongest fortress of the Teutonic Order in the Burzenland, and it sees the most action against the Cumans by far, but the headquarters of the order lie many miles to the northeast, at Marienburg. The service village holds some 60 souls, but the castle itself is manned by almost 200 members of the Order, although as many as a third of them are on patrol at any one time.
Schwarzburg: standing some 4 miles further west of Weidenbach, and thus a good 9 miles from Kronstadt, this wooden castle squats atop a wide, black, kettle-shaped hill. The service village holds as many as 95 Saxons, most of whom are direct vassals of the Teutonic Order charged with growing food, keeping bees, fashioning harness, breeding horses and fishing the Burzen river, which lies a few hundred yards to the south and east. 45 members of the Order currently guard the outpost. Schwarzburg guards the road to several prosperous Hungarian estates as well as the vaunted County of Fogarasch (known as Făgăraș to the Vlachs), where Conte Iancu, a latinised Romanian lord, holds sway. Schwarzburg serves the Teutonic Order as a waystation for patrols that cooperate with the Vlacj borderers in reopening the troubled Hermannstadt-Kronstadt road.
Rosenau: a small village on the Weidenbach, some 7 miles downstream from the vllage of the same name, at almost exactly the middle point between Kronstadt and Törzburg. 15 serving brothers of the Teutonic Order man a watch tower and supply compound on the hill overlooking a settlement of 45 people, most of whom are farmers. Helmut, a miller in the service of the Order serves as the unofficial elder of Rosenau.
Marienburg: one of the new Teutonic Order strongpoints, this village and wooden keep stands some 10 miles to the north of Corona; holding a large hill overlooking the confluence of the mighty Alt (Olt) river and its somewhat more subdued tributary, the Hamrud (Homorod). Although Törzburg s the most noted of their new possessions, Marienburg is the heart of the Order in the Burzenland. When he is not in the field, this is where Theoderich von Lippe makes his residence. More than 200 villagers and almost 100 knight-brothers, half-brothers and serving brothers also dwell here at any one time.
Tartlau: the north-easternmost of the wooden castles built by the Teutons, standing 11 miles east of Kronstadt and 14 miles east of Marienburg. The service village is populated by vassals of the order, some merchants and a number of families that have taken advantage of the stable trade between the Burzenland and Szekelyland to set up inns. Tartlau stands about 6 miles north of Sankt Wolfgang, and slightly further north the ground turns marshy near the Alt, which borders the Burgraviate from Szekelyland. Only 40 members of the Order man Tartlau, but the commoners of the service village add a further 150 to their numbers.
Kreuzburg: the south-easternmost of the Teutonic Order’s outposts, this wooden castle has none of the pretensions of security or stability enjoyed by Marienburg or Tartlau. Rather, it is an armed camp, used to police Sankt Wolfgang, Lünedorf, and the Vlach communes in the heavily wooded south of the Burzenland. It is also a staging ground for cooperative patrols into the southern reaches of Szekler territory. The knight-brothers, half-brothers and serving brothers (numbering 70) here are the most experienced outriders and rangers that the Order can boast, and their Christianised Pecheneg auxilliaries (90) fight for good pay, and the promise of slaying their Cuman enemies. Kreuzburg stands on a hill overlooking a large assarted clearing, east of Kronstadt by some 15 miles. Tartlau is 4½ miles to the north-west, and Sankt Wolfgang is just 3½ miles to the south-west. It is the easternmost boundary of the Burzenland; a winding, 8 mile path further across the forested hills terminates in the coldest, most dangerous southern valley in Szekelyland, where many grueling skirmishes have been staged in recent years.
Weidenbach: situated some 5 miles north-west of the city, amidst a large copse of willow trees on the banks of a small stream (for which the settlement is named). Weidenbach was formerly a prosperous outlier estate housing some 380 souls, administered by the wealthy Ballenstedt family. The village was struck by the Cumans in 1211, but it was saved by the efforts of the Kronstadter milita and guard. Now it is an armed camp of just 130 people, with a wooden palisade and guard towers surrounding the village, church and manor house. It is the home of Adolphus von Ballenstadt, the captain of the city guard, although owing to his duties he is seldom present. His wife, Gertrude (daughter of Burgrave Albert Rutan) manages the estate for him; a formidable woman, she refused either to quit the manor nor have her 3 small children moved to the city. She is assisted by her matrilineal second cousin, Florin the Vlach, who is a skilled ranger and cavalryman with many ties across the hills in Făgăraș.
Hopfendorf: assarted in 1165; this small estate is a centre for the growing of hops and the harvesting of lye. Peopled by 70-odd hardy folk, it is guarded by a wooden manor house fortified with an 8 foot log wall. Hopfendorf stands 10 miles north-west-north of the city. It is the home of the Annweller family, of which Knight-Lieutenant Charles of the City Guard hails.
Holbach: a small, stone tower, wooden keep and palisade that was assarted in 1198 and has been held in trust for the city watch ever since. Holbach exists to guard one of the more treacherous paths to Fogarasch and Hermannstadt, a road that has oft been plagued by Vlach “bandits” that refuse to accept the Latin rite. Heavily wooded, the switchback trails are especially hard-going and inappropriate for heavier traffic, but they do afford a fast means of reaching the lands of Count Mastronescu. Holbach stands some 15 miles west of Kronstadt. It is garrisoned by some 30 sergeants of the City Guard, who rotate in and out every 3 months. Only the middle-aged knight-lieutenant and ranger, Abram, and his son, Heinrich, is a permanent resident.
Krebsbach: a small keep and village of 44 souls belonging to a deposed Vlach count (and his deceased Tzimisce overlord) lies here on a small hill, overlooking a crabbed valley (hence the name). It is used by the Kronstadt guard as a garrison to stage patrols of the northern road to Schaasburg, as well as to prevent another troublesome Vlach lord from claiming it. Like Holbach, Krebsbach’s garrison of 30 men rotates in and out every 3 months. Unlike its neighbour to the south, the garrison is commanded by Sir Eduard Lepp, who holds the title to the settlement. Krebsbach is situated 15 miles north-west of the city.
Helsdorf: assarted in 1173; another small estate on the Hamrud (Homorod), on the farthest fringe of the northern wood, some 9 ½ miles north of the city. It is populated by little more than 50 men, women and children, most of whom make their living trapping in the northern woods or herding sheep. Over half of them are Vlachs.
Bettel: the first of the assarted lands, having been cut in 1156 (leading some of the burgers to refer to it as Neustadt instead of Bettel). It is a defensible site on the road to the Tör pass, sandwiched between the south bank of the Weidenbach and the smaller stream known as the Szwarzbach. This fortified stone tower and manor, as well as the prosperous service village of 135 people, were utterly destroyed in the Cuman raid of 1210. The edler family who held the title to the place (the Löwenstein’s) were almost wiped out defending the place. Their youngest son, Matthias, was raised as a ward of the Rutan family and, almost having reached the age of majority, hopes to marry and reclaim his birthright. Bettel is being rebuilt as a supply depot for the new wooden castle at Rosenau, some 4 ½ miles further south. Steep, wooded hills rise quickly behind the village, which lies about 8 ½ miles south-west of the city and just 3 ½ miles south of Weidenbach.
Honigberg: assarted in 1173, this estate sits 6 miles north-east of the city. A stone tower and attached wooden manor, protected by a palisade, broods on a hill overlooking a small village of 65 souls. A fortified stone church is being built in the centre of the settlement. The wooded hill (called the Burgberg) gradually slops upward into a into a high ridge, with a tall watchtower manned by Sir Karl von Elkheim (one of the Burgrave’s best knights) and his 20 men.
Etteldorf: assarted in 1161, this village formerly existed 3 miles south of Lünedorf, further upstream on the Tatrang. It was owned by the Hofheim family of edlers, who owned mining rights for the gold that had been discovered in the area, but Etteldorf never really lived up to its potential. Never a large settlement, it was remote and improperly fortified, and utterly unprepared for the Cumans that found a way through the rugged, difficult pass to the south in the summer of 1209. In the first assault on the people of the Burgraviate, the village was looted and razed, its population slaughtered or carried across the mountains. The small village and manor is still a haunted ruin.
Lünedorf (Tărlungeni): this settlement is situated 9 miles east of the city, overlooking the Tatrang (Tărlung) river on its west bank. The settlement was not assarted, but rather granted to the Dressler family of edlers in 1191, in return for promises to fortify it and expand the Saxon influence further into the heretofore neglected eastern woods. The Vlachs who have dwelt here for generations continue to quietly call it Tărlungeni, but never within earshot of their Saxon landlords. A small estate consisting of a fortified, motted manor house, a 12 foot, roughly square stone wall protected by a strong gate and a single guard tower, added in 1210. The village formerly held 162 souls, but now numbers only 94 inside a rude, yet effective, palisade. The church is constructed of stone, and anchors the village fortification. The estate is under the protection of Lucien.
Sankt Wolfgang: assarted 1196 and formerly marking the eastern boundary of Saxon control, this defensible estate lies at the junction of the headwaters of the shallow Tatrang (Tărlung), Zizin and Seaca rivers. It consists of a fortified, motted manor house with a 12 foot, roughly triangular stone wall protected by three guard towers. The village consists of some 64 hardy folk, all Saxons, who dwell within a wooden palisade. The former haven of Bernhard von Billung, the manor has been fortified with the wealth and expertise of his ancient sire, Lucien the Roman, who now makes his home there. It lies east-north-east of Kronstadt, some 11 ½ miles out. The estate is under the protection of Lucien.
Cărpiniş: an ancient Vlach village of 84 people that has bowed to the inevitable and accepted Saxon suzerainty, this commune sits on a hill overlooking the Tatrang (Tărlung) river, almost equidistant between Lünedorf and Sankt Wolfgang. The village elder, Ionut, is obliged to organise the tithe and tax for the village, which is gathered by the Dressler family on behalf of the city. By virtue of his domain over Sankt Wolfgang and Lünedorf, the commune is also under the protection of Lucien.
Zizin: another commune of 65 Vlach souls that have reluctantly surrendered their self-determination to Kronstadt, although they maintain closer ties to the more independent communes to the south-west than either Cărpiniş or Lunedorf/Tărlungeni. Zizin les on the banks of the river of the same name, about 2½ miles south of Lünedorf. A Saxon magistrate, Hans, dwells in the village, supported by 6 men-at-arms, and he organises and collects tithe and tax as needs be.
The Southern Vlach Communes: 4 small villages dot the wooded valleys and hills to the south of the city, lying close enough to each other to offer mutual defence but far enough to allow plentiful game and tillage. Between them, their population numbers almost 500. The Vlachs have dwelt here for many generations, and formerly existed in a loose confederation with the three communes further north (Tărlungeni, Zizin and Cărpiniş) and the old conte of Brasovia (before that lord was humbled and his castle burned). Until the establishment of the city of Kronstadt, they enjoyed almost complete autonomy from the Magyars and Szeklers that ruled the territory, and after the Saxons settled, the burgers of Kronstadt found it difficult to impose their will also. Eventually, the more northerly communes were forced to abandon the confederation, and now, under pressure from the Teutons, the southern Vlachs have finally been humbled as well. The Order and the City Guard patrols keep a close eye on these villages, however, both to bring the Latin rite and to prevent unrest, for the memory of independence is still quite fresh here. The closest of the villages to Kronstadt is Baciu (also called Batschendorf, 5 miles) to the south, and then moving eastwards Turcheş (Türkeschdorf, 6 miles), Cernatu (Zerndorf, 6½ miles) and Satulung (Langendorf,7 ½ miles). Many of the Vlachs herd sheep; they know the hills and mountains to the south far better than any Saxon, Pecheneg or Teutonic Knight. Also, the wool they produce is of particularly good quality. Magistrates from the city take tithe and tax here only under heavily armed guard.