Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
also known as Bălgrad, Gyulafehérvár and Alba Iulia
Like several of its sister-cities in the Saxon citadels collectively known as the Siebenburgen, the walled town known as Weissenburg rests upon the site of an older settlement. In antiquity, the Dacian fortress town known as Apoulon stood nearby, on a small hilltop some thirteen miles to the north-west of the modern walls. As the Dacian realm gained in prominence, Apoulon became one of its most important towns behind Sarmizegutusa, the stronghold of the Dacian king. Due to its strategic importance at the confluence of the precious metal trails and the salt route along the Marisus (now called the Marosch by the Saxons or the Mureș by the Vlachs) river, Apoulon also became a vital link to Pannonia and became known as a centre of culture and commerce.
The touch of the supernatural has always been strong within the area, and the vampyri and varcoloci have long featured in the folk lore and hearth wisdom that has trickled down through the ages. The Tzimisce historians tell tales of the mighty Ionache, first of the Voivodes, and his crafty childe, Demenaus, pitting their power and cunning against that of the Wolves, the dreaded Varcolaci. At times, both of these eminent Tzimisce made Apoulon their base, but Demenaus was particularly fond of the settlement, with its emphasis on culture, commerce and knowledge. Considered to be a sage, historian and architect of civilisation, Demenaus considered the growth and stability of the Dacian civilisation to be his purpose for existing.
Using the name Deceneus, he took an active and public role in the mortal eye, advising the likes of Burebista and Comosicus in matters of civic planning, warcraft and politics. Demenaus chose childer of a similar bent, and under their guidance the town grew into one of the most important centres of clan knowledge and an example of what might be gained if the Clan of Shapers were to act in concert and cooperation. The example failed to find fertile ground however, and the lack of unity among the Tzimisce Voivodes, even under the leadership of one such as Ionache, led to the failure of the Dacian experiment. Betrayals and infighting by their clanmates hamstrung their efforts, and by the time of Decebalus, the influence of Demenaus and his sire had been broken.
When the Dacians finally bent the knee to Rome, Demenaus abandoned the fortress town to a trio of his childer (Scomiso, Durabostes and Lapa) and journeyed abroad. United by bonds of loyalty, friendship and blood, these childer were able to hold the settlement against rivals for over two centuries, proving what their sire and grandsire had always hoped- that the Tzimisce are far stronger united rather than at each other’s throats. They welcomed Roman civilisation and worked together to develop their settlement along Roman lines, while at the same time keeping their Dacian traditions secure. Apoulon continued to grow during the Romano-Dacian period, and the name of the settlement gradually changed to Apulon. It soon became a prominent military headquarters for the Roman legions in the province, and the capital of its own colony- Dacia Apulensis. In response to the increase in trade and population, a river port village, also fortified with the same white stone, soon took shape on the banks of the Marisis. The Triumverate of Apulon tolerated a small number of Cainites in their city and its daughter port, consisting only of their childer and a lone ambassador of the fangless Eternal Senate of Rome.
Centuries of prosperity eventually gave way to rot and decline as the boundaries of the Roman Empire shrank along with its power. Barbarians migrated through the region, in search of better land and easy pickings, and the Romano-Dacians lacked the numbers to stop them. First the Carpi, then the Goths, raided and often destroyed settlement after settlement, driving the Dacians from their lands and slaying those who resisted. With them came the hard Gangrel of the steppes, who fought the Tzimisce fang and claw for their new hunting grounds. The white walls of Apulon kept the barbarians at bay for a few decades, but her port was quickly over-run and became a barbarian hold. When the Goths and their Gangrel masters finally took the fortress in 262 CE, they slew everyone they found, burned it to the ground, and would suffer no one to return. When Attila and his armies rode through, nearly two centuries later, a broken walled village was all that was left of the river port, and only the broken white walls of Apulon remained to give testimony to what Demenaus and his childer had built.
It is thought that Scomiso was destroyed by the Gangrel during the battle for Apulon, but Durobostes and Lapa both fled the terrifying fires in panic. Forever after they blamed the other for the loss of their beloved brother in blood and their city. Both have since fallen to the fangs of their own childer, but to this night the feud continues, perpetuated by bloodlines that were reared on tales of betrayal and revenge.
The ruins of Apulon remained a haunted place. For centuries, few people had the courage to settle in the area and only the mournful howl of wolves, both natural and supernatural, kept the dead company. Eventually however, the Vlachs returned to the banks of the Marisis, now known as the Mures. At the turn of the 8th century CE, they founded a new settlement on the foundations of the river-port, strengthened the ruined walls with a palisade and added a wooden keep. They named it Alba Iulia, though the Slavs who traded with them came to call the settlement Bălgrad. Both names conjured the image of the haunted white walls of Apulon, and served to give it a landmark in the memory of the traders who heard of it. The childer of Durobastes and Lapa immediately set to fighting over the growing town, but neither could take and keep it for long.
By the time the Magyars arrived at the turn of the 10th century, a powerful family of mortal conte’s had ruled the area for three generations. Loyal to their powerful kinsman Dux Gelou, who styled himself Voivode of Transylvania after the immortal lords of the night, this comital family first traded with the Magyars, and then later fought them when they grew belligerent and Gelou called his banners. After a bloody war, the Vlachs were defeated and Gelou’s kin were forced to submit to Hungarian over-lordship. Before the turn of the 12th century, the last Conte de Alba Iulia, Constantin, was removed from his position and his family were divested of their lands altogether for refusing to convert to the Latin rite. As a reward for cleaving to their Orthodox beliefs, Constantin and his family were reduced to serfdom and forced to work the land of their new lord, a Hungarian Ispán appointed by King Ladislaus. The settlement was now called Gyulafehérvár by the Hungarians that used it as their base for coordinating the trade of wine from the north and salt from the east, but the Vlachs never ceased calling it by the name for which they had known it for centuries- Alba Iulia.
Fifty years later, when the Saxon delegates approached King Géza II, Gyulafehérvár and the territory around it were one of the primary points of negotiation. In return for supplying Hungary with their expertise in the King’s new gold and silver mines and their willingness to defend the borders of Transylvania, they wanted strategic sites that could not fail to enrich them. King Géza was pleased to granted them a charter over the settlement, now much reduced to a squalid fishing village and trading post. The first wave of Saxon migration arrived in 1150 CE. They swiftly used stone from the same ancient quarry to rebuild the walls, and small but strong citadel was built over the remnants of the old wooden keep. In the decades since, the Saxons have transformed the ancient port into one of the economic powers of the region. Once more, it would appear that Apulon rises, at least in spirit.
Gold, silver and copper come from the Apuseni Mountains to the west, salt from Reghin in the east travels via Mediasch, which also specialises in crafted goods, and more salt as well as wine from Turda in the north all leave Transylvania via Weissenburg. Much of it moves in turn along the Mureș to the Hungarian west- the river ports of Arad and Szeged both serve to spread the produce of Transylvania farther afield. The rest is taken through the mountain passes to the Slavic south, where it finds markets in the Serbian river ports of Belgrade and Niš, and finally Ragusa on the Adriatic Coast.
The Bishop of the Siebenburgen has made his home in Weissenburg, making the city the centre of ecclesiastical power and scholastic learning in Transylvania. Considerable wealth accompanies church patronage, and the influence of the archdeacons of each Saxon city finds its impetus and conclusion here. Holy Church is a powerful force in this place, and the current bishop, Klaus von Osterholt, is renowned both for his piety and ambition. Cainites must tread lightly and carefully within Weissenburg, paying extra attention to the Silence of the Blood lest they run afoul of one of the bishop’s agents.
And yet, trouble also brews for *Weissenbur*g. Vlach rebels dwell in the Transylvanian Alps and the Apuseni Mountains. They claim to fight for the Orthodox rite, though their concentrated raiding of trade shipments hints at more prosaic motives. The varcolaci still haunt the forests, occasionally harassing the outlying settlements and ruthlessly destroying any Cainites they find. No less than four Tzimisce Voivodes surround the Burgraviate, agitating war amongst themselves and using the mortal boyars and Ispáns in their schemes against each other. Lastly, since the 1180’s an eerie and unsettling pall has settled over the city. Some claim that the city has become haunted, and point to the forlorn ruins of Apulon with sage nods.
On a more prosaic level, the burghers of Weissenburg are mistrustful of new arrivals, not wishing to spread their hard earned wealth around. The added stimulus of mass hysteria at reported ghost sightings and denied migration from troubled Hermannstadt has caused a small exodus from the city. A rival settlement consisting of these scorned and fearful burghers called Mühlbach has arisen nearby on the banks of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebe%C8%99_river, a mere stone’s throw from the border of the Burgraviate. The Saxons of Mühlbach have succeeded in gaining a charter from the Hungarian King, and despite their small numbers (less than 600), they are becoming a thor in the side of their larger neighbour.
Titular Ruler: Hartmut Cochem Burgrave von Weissenburg
Cainite Ruler: Prince Iulia
Governmental Mix: Moderately powerful Burgrave currently dominated by an allied power bloc consisting of the Bishop of Transylvania, the Mayor of Weissenburg and several powerful Guildmasters. The Bishop, his Archdeacon, the Parish priest and several devout edlers and knights hold 8 seats, the mayor and his Guildmasters hold 6 seats, and the Burgrave and his loyal knights and edlers hold the remaining 7. Politics in the city are characterised by back room deals and tense public spectacles.
The City Council is 21 strong, consisting of: Burgrave Hartmut Cochem, Bishop Klaus von Osterholt, Mayor Koloman, Archdeacon Lambert von Trier, Father Ruprecht, Kapitan Merten ritter of the city guard, 5 landed knights, 7 guildsmasters, and 3 edlers.
Military Disposition: Standing army of 150 city guards, responsible for maintaining the wall watch, keeping law and order in the city, and patrolling the outlying roads and villages. This force is commanded by Kapitan Merten ritter, who is ably assisted by Leutnants Luitpold ritter and Wilhelm ritter. The city guard is funded by tolls on the roads approaching the city, as well as a gate toll, land taxes and the Mureș ferry.
The town militia can be turned out in times of crisis, and consists of 620 able-bodied men that are required to practice one saturday out of each month, as well as a further 55 men of the retinues of the landed knights. Weissenburg has a total of 5 landed knights in her service, with a further 12 knights attached to their retinues. The Weissenburg militia is funded by a combination of guild and trade taxes, and the unusually high number of edlers (24) who dominate the rural Burgraviate.
Finally, the Bishop of Transylvania has no less 56 men at his command. The Bishop’s Guard are responsible for the safety of his person, the sanctity of the Cathedral, and the security of the extensive church property in the region. They possess the finest arms and training of any fighting force in the Siebenburgen, and number several veterans of the 3rd Crusade in their ranks.
Population: c. 4100 (65% Saxon, 28% Romanian, 4% Magyar, 2% other). Perhaps 1800 live within the walls. Most Romanians are employed as house servants or work the land farther out as serfs. Perhaps 160 Magyars live within the city, most of whom are children of the wealthy lords that surround the territory. They are sent to the city to make use of the fine tutors and Church schools that can be found here. Most of those tutors are Greeks and Italians, though not a few local Saxons have earned a name for themselves. Finally, Slovenian and Bulgarian traders are not at all uncommon in the settlement.
Economy: Strong, based on a confluence of minor trade roads that flow through it as the gateway to the Siebenburgen.
Weissenburg sits at a crossroads of the trade routes of the wine growing regions to the north, the salt mines to the north and north-east, and the gold and silver mines to the west and north-west. Flat bottom river barges laden with salt and other goods pass through Weissenburg, travelling the Marosch (Mureş to the Vlachs) from origins as far away as Reghin (home of the Voivode Visya) in the north-eastern part of the plateau, Arad and Deva in the west (both strongholds of Voivode Rustovitch) and through to Szeged in Hungary (which holds a powerful Arpad castle).
For the past few generations, the gold and silver trades have been disrupted by rebellious Vlach nobles of the Orthodox persuasion, who harry shipments from their hidden bases in the hills and mountains to the south. As a result, Weissenburg sees much traffic from the King’s soldiers and other agents, making it a hotbed of national intrigue during the summer campaigning season.
A note on coin: Owing to the strong foreign mercantile climate, barter is rare within the city proper, and like Mediasch, Weissenburg has adopted the brass obol in addition to the silver denar.
Cainite Affairs of Weissenburg
The first, and until recently only, prince of Weissenburg was a noble Cappadocian elder of Moselle by the name of Rowena d’Alexandre. Studious and contemplative like most of her clan, Rowena was the oldest of the The Council of Ashes, and decidedly the oddest. Her stated reason for joining the Council was actually a desire to study the ruins of Apulon, but her presence in the growing settlement did much to raise the city’s academic profile. She ruled (to use the term very loosely given her remote and studious nature) for 22 years, until 1172 CE. Ultimately, Rowena proved to be inadequate to the diplomatic challenge of balancing the belligerence of the surrounding Tzimisce Voivodes, who made existence for she and small court intolerable. Prince Rowena vanished without a trace, and some wonder if she still languishes in agony in a Tzimisce dungeon. Others believe that she fell to the depredations of the infrequent varcolaci attacks in the area.
In any case, Prince Rowena always kept a small court and generally allowed her seneschal, the Nosferatu Octavus Silberschmied, to run the city on her behalf. The Lasombra Brother Carsten, a childe of Liseta Illuminada of Esztergom, was also a capable servant. Octavus fled the wrath of the Voivodes to parts unknown in 1174 CE, and Carsten disappeared in 1175 CE. Since then, several Cainites have tried to establish Domain in Weissenburg. All have failed and either fled or gone to the Final Death. The place suffers now from an unlucky, haunted reputation in Cainite circles.
Known Cainite Residents
- Prince Iulia of Weissenburg (Clan Lasombra, Childe of Katerina of Adrianople, e. 1182 CE)- A secretive Vlach who purports to be a descendant of the last Romanian Count of Alba Iulia, this neonate established herself quietly late in AD 1198. Iulia has quickly moved into every sphere of Council power through the judicious use of Dominate, blackmail and diplomacy. She has made overtures of peace and cooperation with the traditionalist Tzimisce of the southern hills and western mountains, seeking their endorsement for her claim as prince. So far, her gamble has paid off and she has held the princedom since 1200 CE.
- Manfred Schwarzewald (Clan Nosferatu, Childe of Octavus Silberschmied, e. 1158 CE)- This charming, sly ancilla was Embraced by the former Prince’s seneschal from amongst the salient “merchant aristocracy” arising in the newly chartered city. He served Octavus and Rowena as their spy-master. He always kept a low profile and it is not clear whether he fled with his sire in 1174, has remained in Weissenburg quietly the whole time, or returned at some point in the meanwhile. For his part, Manfred is not in the habit of giving anything away for free, least of all his whereabouts. He serves Prince Iulia on a quid pro quo basis as her spymaster.
- Crispin Herkel (Clan Cappadocian, Childe of Dietrich von Steyer, e. 1198 CE)- A native of Weissenburg, this neonate is a loyal member of Iulia’s small court, and of the same bloodline to Sister Maude, the prince’s coterie mate. He made his fortune buying the finished product of the gold and silver craftsmen of his town, and then peddling the merchandise far away as Arad, Szeged, Belgrade and even Buda-Pest. Too young in the blood to serve in any meaningful court capacity, he nonetheless shows promise as a seneschal in the near future.
Frequent Cainite Visitors
- Sister Maude Kleisl (Clan Cappadocian, Childe of Else Ainring, e. 1155 CE)- An irrascible lay nun who appears to be an ally of Iulia, this crone has made several appearances in Weissenburg in recent years. She appears to be investigating the fate of the former (or perhaps late?) Cappadocian ruler of the city, Prince Rowena d’Alexandre. She has also taken an interest in the well-being of the mortals of Weissenburg, and gives freely of her healing knowledge to a small hospice in the poorer part of town.
- Dietrich von Steyer (Clan Cappadocian, Childe of Kyros of Antioch, e. 813 CE)- A miserly, staid elder of Vienna, Dietrich was an old friend of Rowena d’Alexandre and is also apparently the distant ancestor and mentor of Sister Maude. It was he that first asked the nun to come to Weissenburg to find his lost friend, and Dietrich has made the journey himself a number of times in recent years. He involves himself with the same hospice that Maude frequents.
- Tiberiu the Messenger (10th gen Gangrel, Childe of Harnuth [d], e. 1090 CE)- With Prince Nova’s stated intention of reforming the Council of Ashes, Tiberiu has once again been called upon to provide communication between the princes of the Siebenburgen. He can be found in Weissenburg perhaps once each month, although he finds the pious air of the place disturbing and does not linger if he can help it.
Prominent Mortal Residents
- Hartmut Cochem Burgrave von Weissenburg-
- Bishop Klaus von Osterholt-
- Mayor Koloman Wolsfeld-
- Archdeacon Lambert von Trier-
- Father Ruprecht-
- Kapitan Merten ritter von Aach-
- Ludwig Konz- Guildmaster of the Gold, Silver & Copper Smiths
- Paul Steinmetz- Guildmaster of Stonemasons, Engravers & Quarrymen
- Gothilf der Stier- Guldmaster of the Guild of Blacksmiths, Farriers and Knife-makers
- Alfonz Cochem- Guildmaster of Merchants and Traders
- Adam Zimmermann- Guildmaster of the Carpenters, Joiners, Cabinetmakers and Boatwrights.
Inns, Taverns and Alehouses of Weissenburg
- The Red Oak Inn-
- The Black Boar Inn-
- The Loyal Hound Tavern-
- The Dancing Bear Alehouse-
- The Silver Fish-
- The Happy Boatman-
Other Notable Locations
The City Walls: Well-armed guards patrol the walls and guard the gates at all times, especially after sundown. The walls of Weissenburg are twenty feel tall, and are distinctive both for the age of their foundations (1200+ years), and their white colour. The walls are fortified by 14 towers, which vary in height from 28 to 35 feet tall. The city proper is set back about 1 mile from the banks of the river, perfect range for the ballistae that sit atop the towers.
The City Square: the centre of business and social life within Weissenburg, the square hosts market days and fetes on a regular basis. A number of guild headquarters are based on the square, as well as the Church of St. Denis and several inns and taverns. The square has also has two public stocks and a well.
The Mureș: A relatively narrow, serene river, the Mureș (or Marosch to the Saxons) snakes its way down the eastern and southern flanks of the city, where it slows and deepens enough to make a good port. Elsewhere, it is perhaps twenty feet deep at most, and no more than 40 feet across-perfect for the two-lane traffic of the flat-bottomed barges of the trading folk that constantly put in at the trading post.
The River Port: situated a little over two miles south of the city walls, Weissenburg’s port is a busy hub of mercantile activity during the day, and the centre of the city’s more rowdy elements by night- boasting as it does of two taverns, an alehouse, an inn and several secret brothels. The Bishop constantly sermonises about the evils of the vice-ridden outpost, but on this issue the rest of the council seems to privately disagree. Among themselves, they shrug and say that a little corruption is good for business- so long as it is outside the walls. The area is heavily patrolled by the city guard, day and night. Most of the merchants live inside Weissenburg, and a goodly number of them walk or ride out to the port at each dawn.
The Church of St. Denis: This church, dedicated to the headless saint of Paris, is the largest in the Siebenburgen. It is attached to the Bishop’s palace, and is currently undergoing renovation to replace its wooden walls with stone. The church exudes an aura of pure holiness that Cainites cannot set foot in the nave without feeling discomfort.
The Bishop’s Palace: Undergoing construction of a significant enlargement and stone extensions, the Bishop’s palace puts every other structure in the city to shame. The walls are 12 feet high, and contain a barracks and armoury for the Bishop’s Guard, offices for the deacons of the Siebenburgen, a large garden and a small seminary. Like the Church of St. Denis, Cainites find the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace uncomfortable at best.
The White Citadel: Designed by the extraordinary Nosferatu master architect Zelios, this fortification stands atop the foundations of a series of wooden forts that have been raised and razed over the centuries. They in turn were built over as Roman castrum, and it is thought that several subterranean chambers might still exist under the castle. The citadel of Weissenburg is home to the city guard, the armoury and is also the residence of the Burgrave.
The Ruins of Apulon: On a bare, haunted hilltop about 11 miles from Weissenburg stands a ring of broken white walls. Apulon is said to be haunted, and few of the Burghers are brave enough to approach the place even during the day. Perhaps half a mile away from the base of the hill lies the nearly abandoned hamlet of Hügeluhren, where a number of brave souls have returned to farm the fertile land here.
NOTE: It is known to only a few that Lady Rowena d’Alexandre still exists, and never left her city. She has remained hidden in a secret subterranean lair under a house in Hügeluhren since her disappearance, slipping in and out of torpor and engaged in mad experiments to stir up the nercopolis of Apulon. Rowena was driven hopelessly mad by a Malkavian enemy and the vicious Tzimisce Marelle, who had been offended by the Saxon’s meddling with the sacred Dacian site . Iulia, Maude, and Bernhard found the elder and subdued her, later transporting her to Frankfurt, where a Salubri ally of Julia Antasia managed to restore much of her mind. Lady Rowena remains in Hügeluhren, conducting her experiments in secrecy and far more safety than before. She is still deeply paranoid and prone to violence, and only Dietrich may visit her in true safety. He has sent some of his herd among the Chriegler famiy to Hügeluhren to rebuild the hamlet and be of service to his old friend and colleague. Iulia also visits on occasion, hoping to make use of Rowena’s extraordinary library of the occult, but has so far been denied access by the cagey elder.
To be Continued