Campaign of the Month: August 2014

The Concord of Ashes

Session One

November 16th, AD 1196

The Meeting
  • Bishop Alfonso makes an offer of a boon to any parties willing to investigate the murders of his two favoured childer, Adrianna and Juliano. His own men have been scouring the Latin quarter for a week to no avail, and he wants people willing to risk travel into Byzantine districts as well as his own territory as he knowsthat his own people are unwelcome. He does not stipulate the conditions of the boon, merely making it known that the favour of the Overlord of the Latin Quarter would be a significant feather in anyone’s cap.
  • Vaclav the minstrel states that he will confer with his master at some point, and services of the Malachite Nosferatu may be offered in return for concessions and boons. He sits at the back of the room and listens in, saying nothing more.
  • Ioannes says that the business of the Latin Quarter is just that, and the Baron’s Gangrel have no stake in it unless the Bishop would care to submit to the Codex of Legacies. This is clearly a sore point, judging by his smirk and the Bishop’s frosty glare. Ioannes asks to be excused from the meeting, and Alfonso holds his temper and lets him go.
  • Gallasyn exclaims that he has no talent for menial work and even less interest. He looks a little panicked at the prospect of having to do either, and the Bishop excuses him readily enough.
  • Sir Jules Talbot blithely comments that his superiors in the Children of Judas may agree to his service in the matter, but he is not free to give it without their leave. He adds that the Children’s services can always be bought for coin of “one sort or another”, and leaves it at that.
  • Alfonso turns in the direction of Sanser, only to discover that he is gone. As you consider this, you’re not really sure when and how the rogue left the room. The Bishop grits his teeth and turns instead turns to some of the elders in the room.
  • Lucien says that he has prior business in the city that precludes any direct aid that he might give, so instead he introduces his childe, Gunther Ritter von Wolfgang, in return for the aforementioned boon. The younger Gangrel seems to be more than ready for action.
  • The Brujah Procet quickly adds that although it would be unseemly for his direct involvement as well but, as a boon is offered he will send his very capable progeny, Sir Conrad de Monreal, later in the evening.
  • Lady Katerina of Adrianople also volunteers the services of her childe, Iulia, saying that she is pleased to aid a fellow clanmate, especially in return for a boon. The younger Lasombra seems to baulk momentarily, but meekly curtsies to Alfonso.
  • Gabor the Bulgar is the last to give his assent, gruffly saying that Veceslav, his childe, has some experience with getting to the bottom of mysteries and knows the city well. He looks forward to the boon and will collect it soon.
  • Notably, Markus Musa Giovanni is absent from the room. He is the only Cainite present in the Saut Aswad to be so excluded.
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The Crime Scene
  • The young Cainites travel to Bishop Alfonso’s lavish mansion in the midst of the Latin Quarter. It is a three story affair, enclosed behind a 12 foot high wall bounded on 3 sides by other buildings of a less extravagant nature.
  • They are greeted by a young man who introduces himself a Matteo. He is the only servant remaining in the Bishop’s household. He explains that he yet lives because on the night of the attack, he was out on the Bishop’s errands and did not return until 7 o’clock in the morning. He found the remains of Adrianna and Juliano after finding the guards and servants dead. Some of the coterie note that Matteo is hiding something.
  • The attack was at dawn, when Adriano and Julianna would have been weak and struggling to stay awake. Adrianna was downed almost immediately but Juliano put up quite a fight before he too was slain.
  • Their haven door was locked. From the inside! Someone must have been in there to secure it.
    There were at least 4 attackers, mortal by the smell of their blood. One was a big man and another was lame.
  • 6 guards and 8 servants were also killed, garotted at various places around the mansion and carried to their quarters. Some effort was made to clean the place up to aid in the element of surprise.
  • Owing to the use of a garotte, the newly formed coterie speculates on whom this skilled assassin might have been. Sir Gunther mentions the Assamites, and that he had heard some of them were in the city. Veceslav claims to be ignorant on the matter, but will contact his clan-mates in the city to find out more.
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The Necromancer
  • Back at the Saut Aswad, Markus Musa Giovanni joins the table. He tells his two bodyguards, Falsinar and Beltramose, to get a round of the house specials for he, Gunther, Veceslav and Iulia.
  • Iulia declines, apparently having taken an immediate dislike to him. She does not explain why, simply shooting him a hostile glare and leaving the room. Markus says to Gunther and Veceslav, “tell the lady that I have no interest in the company that she keeps. I am no threat to her”.
  • He goes on to say that he and his family are mercantile rivals with the Bishop’s sire, Narses of Venice, hence Alfonso’s desire to keep Markus in the dark.
  • The necromancer offers his services, saying that he could call up the spirit’s of the murdered childer if the coterie gave him treasured keepsakes of theirs. He could also conduct a ritual to read the items akin to the Spirit’s Touch.
  • Giovanni is in Constantinople to extend his family’s interests. He is not, however, interested in speculative ventures for his resources are limited for now.
  • He is however, looking to make friends and contacts, and willing to provide services on the cheap in that regard.
  • The meeting is politely interrupted by a tower of a Frank. He is middle-aged, and has the look of a knight about him (Sir Conrad). Markus graciously excuses himself, allowing the Brujah to make the acquaintance of the Gangrel and the Tzimisce.
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The Monastery of Christ Pantokrator
  • Symeon is a regal, sombre fellow who wields considerable influence as co-leader of the Obertus Tzimisce, one of the most powerful family’s in Constantinople.
  • He and Veceslav are acquainted, and he comments that “it is a pity that Myca is away from the city as it is long since Veceslav had visited, and his graciousness has been missed. He must return soon and renew their old acquaintance.”
  • For an acknowledged minor boon, the Quaesitor agreed to contact the secretive Assamites of the city and have one of them meet the coterie at the Saut Aswad the following evening.
  • He also offered, for another favour, to write them a letter of introduction to Baron Thomas Feroux, which might smooth their progress in moving about the Greek districts. The coterie was leery of a accepting a second boon, but promised to consider it.
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Sir Conrad’s House
  • the coterie takes shelter in the haven of the Brujah, finding it to be a tasteful, modest two story house not too far from the monastery. There is a significant Crusader state flavour to the dwelling, and the knight’s servants.
  • A shy boy of perhaps 15 years (Baldwin de Monreal)is seen the next evening. He is a fine chess player according to the other servants, whom Sir Gunther finds to be hopeless at the game.
  • The coterie meets Sir Conrad’s squire, William of Norwich, whom guards their rest during the daylight hours. A young, earnest and serious man he appears to be quite competent in his duties.
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November 17th, AD 1196

A new look at the Crime Scene
  • Sir Conrad visits Bishop Alfonso’s mansion, keen to get a handle on the investigation.
  • He convinces Matteo to let him take some belongings of Juliano, Adrianna and several of the guards- Guiseppe, Guilelmo and Anselm. He is given Juliano’s bible, some jewellery belonging to Adrianna, a broken dagger belonging to Guilelmo, a dice bag belonging to Guiseppe and a set of rosary beads belong to Anselm.
  • He also questions Matteo more closely on the childer. Apparently Juliano, in spite of his lavish lifestyle, was a firm believer in the Cainite Heresy. He was also a very fine hand at knife-fighting. Adrianna was a lover of luxury, pleasure and wealth.
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The Vizier
  • An old man with along white beard and wearing a mix of Byzantine and Arabic styles seeks out the coterie at the Saut Aswad. He introduces himself as Fajr.
  • He is deeply curious by nature, and fond of small talk. He discuss theology and the occult with Veceslav and Iulia at great length before they manage to turn the conversation to their needs.
  • Veceslav cleverly turns a near-faux pas about “Assamite assassins” to his advantage, learning from the rambling Fajr that none of the Banu Haqim in the city are assassins, as a condition of their secret residence is a pledge to the Trinity Families that they keep their knives to themselves. Furthermore, there were few assassins in the clan at all until the Crusades stirred things up.
  • Fajr does comment that he knows of a secret Christian sect of assassins that has been active in the east of late. He has heard that they are called the “Sicarius” or some such. He will look into them if the coterie wishes. Sir Conrad returns at this point.
  • The old Assamite will help the coterie, on the condition that Veceslav arrange for him to either peruse the “wondrous Tzimisce library”, or obtain copies of certain rare tomes for him. Veceslav agrees on his honour to attempt to gain permission for the former, or guarantee the latter (albeit with an inward grimace, knowing that another boon will owe to Symeon and the Obertus!)
  • He then reads the items: Juliano was a priest of the Cainite Heresy, and secretly doubted his sire’s dedication. He was also in love with Adrianna, though he also knew that she saw him only as a sexual partner.
  • Adrianna’s jewellery overwhelms him, leaving Fajr speechless for nearly half-an-hour. At last, all he can say is, “this one was a very, very naughty girl!”

*Guilelmo was little more than a drone, thoroughly conditioned with Dominate;

  • Guiseppe was an inveterate gambler, and secretly a catamite;
  • Anselm, new in Alfonso’s service, suffered from deep pangs of conscience over his service to a devil, feared for his soul and was desperate for a way out.
  • Fajr ends the interview at this point, saying he can do little more until he is presented with more items to read. He does stay to make conversation though.
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Confessions of a wastrel
  • Gallasyn invites himself to sit at Veceslav’s table, clearly drunk (at the least).
  • He proceeds to rant at the Tzimisce, claiming that he was one of the original Michealite Toreador of 800 years previous. In fact, he was the original Muse of Sculpture, he says with a meaningful look, clearly expecting Veceslav to be suitably impressed.
  • The wastrel goes on to say that he left the city when Michael started to interfere with the creative processes of his Muses. “How could we be expected to create with such a glorious, overbearing presence breathing down our necks?!”
  • Gallasyn wandered for centuries before he realised that there was nothing else in the world like the Dream. He returned, but Michael wouldn’t take him back.
  • Apparently, Michael’s overweening pride is causing the Dream to fail. ’Pride cometh before the fall. A priest told me that! What would he know? He was never the Muse of an Archangel, eh?”
  • The rant continues, “What does it matter, anyway? I heard a Cainite prophet talking about Caine’s own twin sister, Kalistheniaor Calinina or some such. She is coming to purify the evil material world with the cleansing goodness of the Holy Spirit! If you aren’t a saint by now, it is far too late. Gehenna is nigh, and we’ll all be dead soon…”
  • A well-dressed man brushes past the table, and Gallasyn finds himself to be taken with the fellow’s fancy shoes. Veceslav quite forgotten, he wanders off…
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A Serpent in the Garden
  • Sir Conrad is approached by Sir Jules, whom greets him as a fellow Englishman (having failed to correctly place the knight’s accent).
  • He proudly mentions that he is a Child of Judas, doing his part by working to bring down the Dream by providing temptation to Michael’s followers. “After all”, he says with good cheer, “without Evil, Goodness can’t exist!”
  • He goes on to say that he has many slaves and many informants in the Latin Quarter.
    Sir Jules and his sire, Sarrasine, are pleased to sell these services to Sir Conrad and his new friends. “Slaves, information, ah… entertainment. Whatever you need!”
  • He frequents the Saut Aswad for a few hours every night, and Sarrasine can readily be found at the Silk Road, a more… exotic establishment. With a twinkle in his eye and a knowing smile, Sir Jules says, “Ask your friend Veceslav, he knows the way!”
  • Sir Conrad finds that he likes the disarmingly charming Sir Jules in spite of himself, and left the conversation feeling distinctly uncomfortable.
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Player & Experience gained
Veceslav (Ben) 3
Sir Conrad (Jackson) 2
Sir Gunther (Greg) 3
Iulia (ST NPC) 3

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CONVERGING ROADS AT THE SAUT ASWAD (a prologue)

It is a cool, clear night in Constantinople with a strong easterly blowing in across the Golden Horn. The inn and tavern known as the Saut Aswad does a brisk early evening trade. It is a sprawling three story affair, with a dark and smoky taproom overlooked by the shadowed bannisters of the second floor. The gloom is dispelled with a lively, exotic tune played by an ungainly-looking, balding minstrel (Vaclav) with large, knobbly knuckles and a nervous air, the skill with which he plays his lute giving the lie to his awkward appearance. Lanterns with thick glass panes and firmly anchored to stone nooks cast a weird, furtive light across the dozens of patrons in the taproom. An experienced eye reveals enough Cainites to swamp a lesser city in this one room.

Standing at the bar is a handsome Saxon knight (Sir Gunther), wearing modest but finely cut attire and openly sporting a well-used broadsword. His short wavy hair is brown and he maintains a finely trimmed goatee beard. Although his face is fair and his eyes are kindly there is a wolfish aspect to his features that leads many to offer him surreptitious, wary glances.

Two men watch the minstrel play. One sits at the edge of the lantern light, a dark-haired and eyed man with a rakish smile (Sanser ), dressed in subdued finery except for his gold earring and a gaily coloured red and green sash around his waist. The other sits next to the bar and is dandling a cheap courtesan. He is a rougher, more common sort judging by his full beard and wavy brown hair, both verging on the need for a trim (Ioannes). His clothing is typical of a poor tradesman and he wears a dagger at his belt. The rake appears to be enjoying the tune immensely while the tough seems to be enjoying bouncing the giggling woman on his lap in tune to the music more.

A large man, a wealthy Venetian by his attire (Markus Musa Giovanni ), sits slightly further away from the minstrel. He taps his sausage-like fingers on the table in time with the minstrel and wears a broad smile, though his eyes appear more interested in the other Cainites in the room. A pair of formidable-looking mortal bodyguards watch his back (Beltramose & Falsinar).

Two men sit as far from the bar as possible, close enough to whisper and with their backs to the wall. Both exude gravitas, and the rest of the room gives them a wide berth. The larger of the two is extremely pale, and dressed like a German noble or trader. He has short brown hair peppered with grey (Lucien ). The second is a muscular Greek with a pale olive complexion, a prominent nose and a strong jaw. He is dressed in simple robes of Byzantine cut (Procet ). They seem engrossed in their whispered conversation and appear to take little notice of the rest of the room.

Another duo sits in a booth across the room from them. The shorter one has the look of barbarian royalty from the steppes with his wolf furs, elaborate jewellery and curved sword (Gabor ). He has an edgy, wrathful look to him and appears to be speaking authoritatively and imperiously in the tongue of the Bulgar’s to his companion. For his part, the subordinate appears to be absorbing the diatribe with equanimity while keeping his eyes on the room. He has the look of a Romanian, with long, jet-black hair, broad cheeks and a strong jaw, a look of practiced interest on his face and his full lips split in a benign smile (Veceslav ). Judging by the fine damask robes he wears he is courtier of some sort. A pair of mortals sits at the nearest table, ready to attend them. The first is a Bulgar warrior (Blagun ) while the second is perhaps a scholar, and clearly a Greek (Andrew).

A final pair of Cainites, easily over-looked, appear to be engaged in some sort of transaction as far from the light and bustle as possible. Indeed if it weren’t for the loud, drunken complaining of one of them they might escape notice at all. The offending party is clearly drunk, and perhaps has avoided sobriety for some time judging by his shabby appearance. He might be considered handsome if his sneer wasn’t stuck firmly in place, and his hair is lank and as dirty as his formerly fine clothes (Gallasyn ). His acquaintance placates him with friendly words and another goblet of the “house special”- blood infused with wine and exotic spices. He is Frankish or a perhaps English judging by his features and accent, though he is dressed in the manner of a Constantinopolitan. He is slender, with long black hair shot through with grey and a scar running down his left cheek (Sir Jules Talbot ). In short order a small purse and a paper envelope trade hands and the men part ways to opposite ends of the establishment- the first signalling a whore to follow him to a private room and the second to watch the minstrel, his blue eyes alight with good humour.

A breeze draws attention to the door as a pair of women let themselves into the room. Both are dark of hair and eye, and clearly out of place. The first is tall, regal and refined, with an imperious gleam in her eye. Her hair is long and unbound, and whips about in the wind. She wears the finest damask robes, and veritably drips with emeralds and rubies (Lady Katerina ). Her companion is shorter, with a rounded, womanly figure and a subdued air. She dresses well but modestly and her hair is bound into an elaborate braid. Ink stains her fingers, only one of which is adorned with a elaborate, gold Byzantine wedding band (Iulia).

The crowd settle in to the music again and the evening gathers pace. Old friends, sires and childer meet and renew bonds of friendship and family. To Gunther, Veceslav and Iulia it eventually becomes clear that while the Saut Aswad is a Cainite meeting place in the Queen of Cities, tonight is special. The overlord of the Latin Quarter, Bishop Alfonso of the Narsene Lasombra, has lost his favoured childer to treachery and murder, and he has called interested parties to the Saut Aswad to seek allies in hunting down those whom have injured his house. If Bishop Alfonso wants bloody vengeance, could it simply be coincidence that has brought you all together?

The door slams open, and the Bishop Alfonso enters the room followed by a pair of Cainite cronies and half-a-dozen guards wearing his colours. The Lasombra is noted far and wide for his composure, but tonight he seems close to frenzy. His cronies visit each table and demand that the Cainites sitting there attend the overlord upstairs. They wait until each of those present file into the room, and then take up a supportive stance behind their furious sire.

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