Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The Baron's Gangrel
(modified from Constantinople by Night, pp. 77-78)
A storm gathers about Constantinople. The Gangrel family, led by Baron Thomas Feroux has sworn to protect the city, and to ensure the safety and prosperity of the family’s patrons, the Obertus Tzimisce. Since the Baron’s arrival over a century ago, the Gangrel have become indispensable to the security of the Dream. Their contacts among the clan, both in the East and the West, allow them to transport Cainites from one end of the Byzantine Empire to the other, while simultaneously ensuring the safety of Constantinople.
Furthermore, the Gangrel have come to see themselves as not just the protectors of the Obertus, but also the guardians of the Dream. During the troubled times leading up to the rise of the Comneni Dynasty, Baron Thomas formed the opinion that the Antonians, long the self-appointed militant arm of the Trinity Family tree, had become too preoccupied with their petty intrigues, while the Michaelites had grown too effete and lost in their worship of their Patriarch, and the Malachite family were too few. In light of this, he petitioned his then-mentor, the far more diplomatic Symeon, to raise the delicate matter within the Quaesitor Tribunal, and the vote was carried. The decision made, he ordered his followers to begin patrolling the city to enforce the Codex of Legacies. In the decades since, the Gangrel of Constantinople have developed a reputation for harshly policing the city, and their methods have only grown more draconian since they lost their mandate over the Latin Quarter as a result of the Eighth Council. Simmering tension exists between the Baron’s Gangrel and the Latins now, and it is only a matter of time before the added pressure of the 4th Crusade leads to blood in the streets.
Recognised as Scions of the Obertus during the Seventh Council of AD 1081, the Baron’s Gangrel make up one of the largest families. Many of them, however, do not reside in Constantinople. Instead, they travel across Eastern Europe and the Near East on various missions. The Baron grants his people freedom, yet upon the Embrace each shares blood with Symeon in a baptismal ceremony. The Baron’s network of Cainites keeps him informed of developments inside and outside the Byzantine Empire.
The family’s primary responsibility, however, is the protection of Gesu and the Obertus monasteries, a task it fulfills with almost religious fervour. Indeed, it is known among the families that if one absolutely has to find one of the Baron’s Gangrel, all they need do is approach the Monastery of St. John Studius or the Church of Christ Pantokrator, and the Gangrel will find them. Contrary to their barbaric reputation elsewhere, the Gangrel look with awe upon the wealth of knowledge they guard. The Baron also enforces the Codex of Legacies throughout the city, and his followers are particularly assiduous in patrolling the limits of the Latin Quarter, hoping to punish the arrogant Latins for their transgressions.
In keeping with the Baron’s Norman background, his family is feudal in organisation. Thomas is the ruler of his clan, and he grants titles to his subordinates, assigning them places within the family hierarchy. Baron Thomas is Knight Commander, and he is served directly by three Knight Captains, Urbien and Justinian and John Tarchionates. These in turn are served by a number of senior knights and junior squires. Once every three years, the Baron’s Gangrel journey from all over the empire to Constantinople to share news and stories and renew their oaths of fealty. Thomas is the only Gangrel normally allowed to sire in Michael’s city. However, numerous members of the Greek Gangrel bloodline serve him, and he has been known to grant permission to them to take a prospective childe outside the Domain, Embrace them there, and return with them, where he will then formally adopt them as his own. This privilege is granted as a reward on very rare occasions. So far, the feudal order that the Baron applies to his family has served him well, mainly for its ritualised traditions and oaths of fealty, which appeal to the instincts of the warriors that follow him.
The headquarters of the family can be found at the Citadel of Petrion, a fortification along the Sea Walls of the Golden Horn. It exists within a double line of walls, anchored at one end by the small, fortified lighthouse of Phanarion and a formidable gatehouse of the same name, and by the more decrepit gate of Petrion at the other. A single inner gate, called Diplophanarion, grants access to the neighbourhood of Petrion. Immediately south and west of the Gate of Diplophanarion, the ground climbs steeply, and among the humble dwellings of traders and craftsmen can be found a church and monastery dedicated to St. Eustolia. Standing almost directly across from the gate, it has been thoroughly infiltrated by the Obertus monks and the Baron’s Gangrel, and not a few of the residents within serve among the herd of both families.
The Citadel of Petrion itself is kept intentionally run-down, at least to outward appearances. In truth, it is of stout construction, maintained both by funds raised by John Tarchionates and by the beneficence of Symeon. Within the walls it consists of a barracks, a stables, and a smithy, and numerous secrets doors and tunnels allow ingress and egress from the structure. At any one time, every one of the Baron’s vampire vassals has a subterranean cell given over for their exclusive use, and many of them choose to use their proficiency with the Protean discipline to earth meld into the dirt floor of these rooms each morning. At least a score of ghouled city guards, and many more enthralled animals, also dwell within the fort.
A partial roster of the Baron’s Gangrel commonly found in the city
Since the turn of the 12th century, and especially since the likelihood of the 4th Crusade’s path loomed ever closer to the city, the numbers of Gangrel loyal to Baron Thomas has been steadily growing. Many worthies have existed among their number since the inception of the family, and while a good number of these Cainites have since moved on to their own ambitions, they remember their oaths, and they answer his call. Although the youth of the family means that there are relatively few provincial scions that answer to the family, the relative cohesion of the Greek bloodline, their pride in the Byzantine capital, and their personal respect for the Baron, has fostered a number of alliances. Justinian has been busy in recent years, moving between provincial capitals to recruit fresh faces, remind old ones of their roots, and forge new alliances with Byzantine broods. As a result of these efforts, some 20 Gangrel now stand ready to defend the city at all times, and half that number again have promised to make themselves available in very short order indeed, should the Baron call.
- Baron Thomas Feroux, Knight Commander (7th gen. Gangrel, Childe of Marie Feroux [d], e. late 11th century CE); Although he might hail from Norman France, the glory of the city, the Trinity, and the Dream seduced Thomas long ago. Protecting them is not jut his raison d’être, but his very salvation, and his passion and judiciousness are infectious. He considers the defence of the Obertus family, the Library of the Forgotten, and specifically of Gesu himself, to be his sacred charge, and he would sacrifice everything, and everyone, to see it done. The Baron is habitually a picture of iron self-control, but it is said that when his Beast threatens, he is capable of great, terrifying fits of wrath.
- Justinian, Knight Captain (6th gen. Gangrel, Childe of Abaza the Turk, e. mid 11th century CE); a towering warrior, considered to be second in skill and valour only to the Baron himself, Justinian has served loyally for more than a century. However, he is seldom within the city walls, as his role is to act as something of a trouble-shooter for the family. He wanders the empire, both near and far, striving to keep friendly relations open with other provincial broods of Gangrel that swore loyalty during the Comneni rule. Since the storm of the 4th Crusade has begun to gather, Justinian has returned to the capital, and brought a number of young Gangrel with him.
- Urbien, Knight Captain (9th gen. Greek Gangrel, Childe of Agatone, e. early 10th century CE); despite his waif-like appearance, this Greek Gangrel is the oldest of the Baron’ family, and practically an elder in his own right. This vampire has seen more than 3 centuries, almost all of which have been spent within Constantinople — within its walls, on its rooftops, on its streets, and under them. Few know the city like he, and as such, he is Thomas’ most capable spy. Urbien hates what the Latins have done to his home. He ceaselessly patrols the borders of the Latin Quarter, and takes special pleasure in punishing those who step out of bounds in the most draconian of manners. No Greek is more hated by the Latin vampires than he; a status in which he takes some pride.
- John Tarchionates, Knight Captain (8th gen. Gangrel, Childe of Thomas Feroux, e. late 11th century CE); a brusque, terse aristocrat from a prominent family with estates in both Thrace and Nicaea, and relatives in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. John is a natural leader, with impressive military experience, and considerable influence among the aristocracy of both the capital and the near provinces. He also moves easily through the courts of the Trinity families, making him a great asset to his sire. Justinian might command greater admiration by the rank and file, but John is likely Thomas’ heir should the Baron fall in battle.
- Mother Agnes, Knight (8th gen. Gangrel, Childe of Thomas Feroux, e. late 11th century CE); seen by her fellows as the heart of the family, and the voice of common sense, Mother Agnes enjoys an influence sponsored by compassion and empathy in a hierarchy that is all too military at times. In addition to seeing to the emotional nourishment of her fellows, she tends to the animal servants of the family, both ghoul and mundane. She also maintains a shelter in the neighbourhood of Hepscalion which (so long as they heed her desire that they feed lightly) serves as backup herd for the family in times of dire need.
- Anna Sgorina, Knight (8th gen. Gangrel, Childe of Thomas Feroux, e. early 12th century CE); An ardent follower of the Dream, this passionate and well-spoken woman is the nearest thing the Baron has to a true diplomat. She is often tasked with attending Trinity family gatherings, and she does her best to keep him apprised of the bewildering intrigues to which she is witness. In 1202, Anna was sent to Venice to observe the Cainite Council of the 4th Crusade and, if possible, to steer it around rather than through Byzantine territory. Obviously, she failed, and now she prepares herself for the defence of her home.
- Verpus Sauzezh, Knight (8th gen. Greek Gangrel, Childe of Hectorus [d], e. mid 12th century CE); a short, strapping Turk who often serves as his lord’s go-to man, despite his middling rank in the family. His clan heritage is that of the Greek Gangrel, and the gifts of his bloodline, together with his facility at blending in among the ruck and run of foreigners in the Latin Quarter, makes him one of Baron Thomas’ best spies. Verpus is also a fierce and canny warrior, more than capable of leading an attack both in the urban environment of the capital, or leading his brothers on a raid at the far ends of the empire. His devotion is exceptional, for he has sworn the Blood Oath to his master, but it is known that Verpus longs for the company of his countrymen.
- Eustathios Glycas, Knight (8th gen. Greek Gangrel, Childe of Harabilus the Shadow [d], e. late 10th century CE); the least well known of the Baron’s knights, Glycas is also one of the oldest, and the Baron’s most accomplished spy. Indeed, using his mastery of Obfuscate and Protean, he made a decent living as such in the Latin Quarter for decades before entering Feroux’s service. His temperament is atypical for what one would expect of the Gangrel and certainly for one of the Baron’s knights, for he seems shy, even retiring, and perhaps a little anxious. However, he has shown himself to be a stalwart member of the family, and capable enough in a fight when called upon to stand with his brothers and sisters. At such times, he fights in the form of a lean Anatolian leopard.
- Ioannes, Squire (11th gen. Greek Gangrel, Childe of Voleta [d], e. late 12th century CE); yet another of the Greek Gangrel, this shameless street hustler and petty thief is a frequent visitor to the outskirts of the Latin Quarter, where he indulges in all manner of vices. Ioannes is, nontheless, an invaluable agent for the Baron, as he is quite adept as an information merchant and agent provocateur . He frequently serves on the cordon that prevent the Latins from slipping out of bounds to hunt in the heart of the city but, unlike Urbien, Ioannes is quite willing to send them packing back to their hovels with a friendly, pointed warning, and the recognition that they owe him for his good humour. He primarily answers to Glycas.
- Loukia Kalekina, Squire (7th gen. Gangrel, Childe of Justinian, e. late 12th century CE); the audacious, cocky progeny of Justinian, Loukia left the city to tour the empire soon after he Embrace, enjoying many adventures in Trebizond, Armenia, and northern Anatolia. She returned to the city with her sire in 1200, and has served as his eyes and ears in the city ever since. She soon fell in with the Brujah SIr Conrad de Monreal and the Toreador known as Komanos of Stomion, and the 3 formed a capable coterie that served the whims of Natalya Syvatoslav, Baron Thomas, and Petronius. Loukia is a talented combatant, due to the intense training of Justinian, but her true talent lies in networking streetwise or unorthodox contacts.
- Aethelstan Wulfhelm, Squire (9th gen. Gangrel, Childe of Manuel Dalassenos, e. mid 12th century CE); a provincial Gangrel and descendant of Justinian, this former Varangian Guard has long wandered Bulgaria, Cumania, Transylvania, and Serbia. He returned to the capital with his great-sire in 1202, and now seeks to make inroads among the elite corps that he once called home. His sire heads a small provincial brood that have taken residence in Thessalonica since 1185, where he endeavours to unseat the powerful Tzimisce prince, Lars Sveengard. Aethelstan is a tacit, sometimes sullen, figure and the rest of the family gives him a respectful distance, for he is clearly wrestling with some deep-seated grief.
- Giorgos, Squire (10th gen. Gangrel, Childe of Aldwin the Saxon, e. late 12th century CE); frequently found patrolling in company with Urbien, this squire shares the older Gangrel’s dislike of the Latin Quarter and its denizens. He is doughty, rough sort of fellow, not at all comfortable in a social setting outside the company of soldiers and his fellow Gangrel. Indeed, he was Embraced from among the Tzakone guards precisely because of his “soldier’s soldier” persona, and he not only maintains his ties to the city guard, but actively retains employment among them. Through his sire, Aldwin, and his grandsire, Seward, both of whom were Anglo-Saxon Varangian Guards in life, he claims descent from Baron Thomas himself. Both Aldwin and Seward left the city to oversee and protect the Anglo-Saxon colony of Nova Anglia in the Crimea, but they have since returned to closer cities, heeding the summons of their liege to defend the capital.
- Borislav the Silent, Squire (10th gen. Greek Gangrel, Childe of Urbien, e. mid 12th century CE); a mercenary and occasional thief, this Bulgarian was Embraced by Urbien after losing a brawl over stolen goods and winding up with his throat cut by some aggrieved Pisanos. He is not quite mute, but would rather remain silent much of the time, as the damage to his vocal chords did not head entirely when he was brought across. His rasping whisper is a source of shame to him, and is typically reserved only for his Baron, his sire, and Giorgios, his coterie-mate. He rarely leaves Urbien’s side, patrolling the boundaries of the Latin Quarter for foolish Latins who might cross. As one might expect, he despises the foreigners at least as much as his sire, and he reserves his greatest bile for the men and Cainites of Pisa.
- Paul Tenedos, Squire (9th gen. Greek Gangrel, Childe of Eustathios Glycas, e. 1166); A whip-thin, handsome rake of a man, this Gangrel of the Greek bloodline is noted among the family for his streetwise manner and sly ways. An honest and talented, if somewhat risky, trader in his breathing days, Paul was driven into penury by unscrupulous Venetians, and he turned to smuggling and fencing stolen goods to feed his family. His exploits eventually brought him to the attention of Anna Sgorina, who championed his Embrace to the Baron when Paul contracted, and fell deathly ill, with measels. Thomas repaid a boon owed to one of his knights by allowing Glycas to bring the young man across, and then formally adopted Paul soon after. He would eventually leave the city to wander, but returned when the call went out in AD 1199. [NOTE: Paul Tenedos suffers the Final Death at the hands of the crusader known Sir Wendel of Burgundy during a raid on Felix of Vaucluse in January of 1204.]
- Stylio, Squire (9th gen. Gangrel, Childe of John Tarchionates, e. late 12th century CE); This bull-necked, scarred Cainite was the illegitimate mortal descendant of John Tarchionates. Unwanted by his parents, he was adopted by his eventual sire and raised with a military education. Upon gaining his majority, he eventually became a noted rising star in the firmament of Manuel Comnenus’ later reign. Unfortunately, his fame was no defence against a Turkish sabre, and he was mortally wounded in a skirmish east of Nicaea in 1173. With his Baron’s permission, John took wing and flew to Stylio’s side, Embracing him on his deathbed. In the years since, the young Gangrel has been an able second to his sire-grandfather. [NOTE: Stylio suffers the Final Death at the hands of the crusader mercenary known as marcel-de-villiers during a raid on Felix of Vaucluse in January of 1204.]
- Heraclonus the Archer, Squire (9th gen. Greek Gangrel, Childe of Krastyo the Bulgar, e. early 12th century CE); a patriotic, honourable soldier and mercenary from a nigh-on defunct provincial family active in Bulgaria and northern Thrace, Heraclonus answered the Baron’s call in 1199, when his sire and grand-sire, both engrossed in the rise of the restored Bulgarian empire, refused to do so. His perceived disloyalty earned the disapproval of his own bloodline, but he levels the same charge at them for failing to heed their oaths, given freely almost a century ago. As his moniker might indicate, he is a brilliant archer, and he busies himself teaching the weapon to the family ghouls, many of whom have taken care to learn Witness of Darkness, to use their bows in the dark.
- Basil Burtzes, Squire (10th gen. Greek Gangrel, Childe of Sophronia [d], e. mid11th century CE); something of a pirate for much of his existence, Basil returned to the city after being recruited by Justinian. A smuggler when he was mortal, he and his sire left the city well over century ago, pursued by agents of the Antonians on account of his unlawful Embrace. They eked out a living in the shadows of provincial ports until Sophronia was slain by Normans during the Sack of Thessalonica in the 1180s, and Basil continued a pointless, shiftless existence for many years. In 1199, he agreed to help the city, and although this was initially as much out of self-interest as belief in the Dream, after his induction he quickly seemed to become a true believer, committed to the reduction of Latin influence and the restoration of Byzantine greatness. His role is generally to keep an eye on the Golden Horn, monitoring the waterways for signs of Latin attempts to bypass the cordon of the Baron’s Gangrel.
- At any one time, several more squires can be found moving about the Greek districts of the city, or carrying messages to allied broods in the near capitals. As a result, at least a dozen more Cainites from the surrounding regional capitals, each bearing the provincial scion family status of captains, knights, and squires, can be called to the assistance of the Baron within a few nights time.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER FAMILIES
Due to the pressure that the Latins exerted during the Eighth Council of AD 1185, the Baron and his Gangrel lost power in the Latin Quarter. As a result, Bishop Alfonzo and his rivals among the Pisanos, Genoese, and Amalfitans were able to invite vast numbers of Cainites into their restricted demesnes, more than doubling the undead population of Constantinople. This angers Thomas because it is an insult to the hard work that his Gangrel have performed for a century, and also because of the pressure that it places on mortal population’s health and the Codex of Legacies. Baron Thomas blames the Antonian Ventrue for this development, because it was their weakness and disunity that allowed the Latins to gain so much power.
Unwilling to allow this disastrous state of affairs to continue, in frustration Baron Thomas has publicly broken with the sacred old order, deriding the failure of the Antonians and the inactivity of the Michaelites. In several political stand-offs, he has publicly aligned himself with Autokrator Natalya of the Lexor Brujah, and he also appears to be working closely with Malachite on political matters too. Those in the know understand that a new power bloc has formed. Interchangeably referred to as the Covenant of Three or, more sarcastically, as the New Trinity, this extended coterie now drives much of the purpose in the defence, maintenance, and ultimately the hoped for recovery of Constantinople.
Years ago, Baron Thomas’ agents abroad reported the likelihood of the Fourth Crusade, and the possibility that they would take the land route through the Byzantine empire. The Baron knew that the state of the provinces was too unstable to permit this, and he warned the ruling families that they should make preparations. Their reaction was, at best, half-hearted. The Antonians immediately began a lengthy process of debate regarding which of them should go to Venice, resulting in political paralysis that still had not settled the matter by AD 1202.
Unwilling to risk use of the politically ineffectual Antonian Ventrue, he sent his own representative to Venice in an attempt to deflect the Crusade. Anna Sgorina was quick to admit that she was inadequate to the task, but did her duty nonetheless. Thomas listened to her advice, and called upon other contacts to supplement her influence. The Crusade is reportedly headed to Egypt, but news has now reached Thomas that the Dalmatian city of Zara was recently sacked and handed over to Venice. In response, he has sent word to his followers in the provinces, led by Knight Captain Justinian to watch the Crusade closely, and be ready to act against them if needs be.
Also, the Gangrel no longer have freedom to persecute and try all Cainite offenders of the Codex of Legacies. Together with the large numbers of new arrivals in the Latin Quarter, this has placed extraordinary strain on the rule of law and order in the city. Two of his squires were murdered near the Genoese Quarter in AD 1199, and one of his knights, Niketas, disappeared outside the Saut Aswad in 1201. Investigations into these crimes have yielded no results thus far, as the resources of the Baron’s Gangrel are stretched far too thinly. Baron Thomas suspects that Bishop Alfonzo has an Assamite in his employ, but does not have the authority to even question him. A shadowy war is in the offing between the Narsene Lasombra and the Baron’s Gangrel, and only a fool would dare be caught out of bounds in this charged climate.
RELATIONS WITH OUTSIDERS
The Baron’s Gangrel have always attracted those Canites with a sense of honour and bravery. The family’s feudal nature promotes a strong sense of belonging, and its duty to protect the Cainite monks only furthers this sense of community. Outsiders are welcome among the Baron’s Gangrel, so long as they are prepared to take Baron Thomas and Lord Symeon as their feudal superiors, prove their dedication to upholding the Codex of Legacies, and swear to defend the Obertus Order and their magnificent library unto the Final Death. Having said that, a number of the Baron’s Gangrel, led by Urbien the waif are particularly distrustful of Gangrel of the Frankish and Latin persuasion, and will make their lives difficult until they have proven their loyalty.