Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Albin the Ghost
A pathetic, pitiable but very useful Caitiff that formerly served his lord, Jürgen, as little better than a slave. He now resides in secret sanctuary in the city of Frankfurt.
A short, skinny wretch of a boy, dressed in the threadbare tunic and hose of a poor commoner. With his small stature and fine bones he could be mistaken for a boy, but the lines on his face bespeak of a hard life filled with much sorrow and toil. His complexion is sickly and pallid, almost cadaverous; the blue veins beneath his pallid flesh easily visible, while his posture is hunched, a result of malnutrition and hard work. A small belt knife rests at his side.
(expanded from the character as presented in Under a Black Cross, pp. 81-82)
The Caitiff known as the Ghost of Magdeburg was a pathetic figure, little more than a slave, who haunted the court of Lord Jürgen von Verden. For a score of years the boy, for such he was when Embraced, served the lord as his personal spy, keeping tabs on the other Cainites of the city especially when Jürgen was away conducting one of his many tours or small wars. He was reviled by his fellows, and treated poorly both for his clanlessness and his timid nature. Years of mistreatment would boil over in the first months of AD 1211, culminating in Albin’s betrayal of his lord and his apparent demise.
Over the course of the Magdeburg Affair, the Cainites of the Concord would have cause to learn much of his story…
Albin was born in a small village a day’s travel from Magdeburg. Sadly, he was the victim of a severe case of the mumps that left him unusually small and weak for several years. During this time, Albin bore the harsh and degrading abuse of a father who taunted him for his shortcomings.
When Albin was just 13 years old, a plague ravaged through his village, taking the lives of his siblings and mother. Albin’s father survived the ordeal, but it left him crippled and weak — and at Albin’s mercy. The teenager revelled at this role reversal. He began torturing his father, who rewarded his efforts with taunts. After years of abuse, the boy’s final revenge came when he repeatedly plunged a dagger into his father’s heart, then set the family home aflame.
Leaving his native village for Magdeburg, Albin traded one hell for another. The city was no kinder than his family had been. He spent months trying to find honest work, but he ultimately had to survive on only the pity of strangers and what he could scavenge. Eventually, he turned to stealing from the city’s wealthiest merchants and nobles, learning to picking their pockets, cut their purses or slip into poorly tended dwellings. Albin lived in dank cellars and cesspits, but other urchins discovered his secret hideaway. Once more, he became the victim of abuse when stronger boys beat him and usurped his shelter. He couldn’t stand it any longer, and he attacked his tormentors with a blunted knife. The weak lad only managed to harm one boy before the others beat him into submission. Battered and broken, Albin waited for his rivals to deliver the final blow.
Instead, he saw a vast shadow move over them. One by one, the boys who had taunted and victimised Albin died screaming. The dying boy closed his eyes and begged for a quick death. The stranger he believed to be the Devil himself refused to render it, and Albin awoke a creature of the night. For years, he had little understanding of what he had become, hunting rats and stray dogs more often than people, and keeping to the shadows as was his wont. Perhaps it was his naturally pitiable state, and attitude that only by being not noticed could he survive, but Albin managed to scrape by for several years in this way before the other Cainites of Magdeburg noticed him.
Dragged before Jürgen von Verden by the sheriff, Friedrich, Albin was to face summary judgement. Lord Jürgen’s advisors urged him to dispose of the pitiable Caitiff, but, following his instinct for talent, the new prince of the city chose instead to question the young vampire. The Ventrue discovered that Albin’s knowledge of Magdeburg was unsurpassed, even by Akuji, and that the lad had an uncanny ability to sneak about without being seen. With that in mind Jürgen chose to offer mercy, and offered Albin a position as his personal spy. The price would be the Blood Oath, for an unfettered, largely clueless and clanless vampire would be a dangerous precedent to set. Albin agreed immediately (although his understanding of the blood bond was imperfect, to say the least), hoping that he would finally be given some respect.
Such was not to be. Unfortunately, the other Cainites of Magdeburg still saw him as a wretch, who was all the more distasteful because he was a slave, probably reporting all their secret doings to the prince. They ridiculed him for fearing what he had become and behaving like a scavenger, rather than embracing and revelling in his new state. He was nicknamed the Ghost, because he carried on more as a shade than a vampire. For his part, Jürgen von Verden treated Albin with condescension couched in kind terms; certainly not an equal, and not even a valued vassal. To those who visited his court, the Ventrue lord held Albin’s example up as a symbol of his mercy and Christian kindness towards the meek and the humble, but all of the vampires of Magdeburg knew the truth…
Albin seethed with resentment and, after many of years, his Blood Oath to Lord Jürgen wore thin and then broke altogether under the derision of his fellows and the continued reminders that his existence depended solely on the prince’s magnanimity. He spent years simmering in silence, but then the Tremere discovered his dissatisfaction. Alexia of Nicosia approached Albin with an offer: Betray Jürgen in exchange for the secrets of blood magic. Well after the fact, Albin realised that he was a fool for accepting her offer; that her words of simple kindness played to the void in his heart. But then, before his treachery in AD 1211, Albin wished only for revenge against Jürgen von Verden, and the strength to smite his enemies at long last.
Albin played his part faithfully during the theft and switch of the Sword of Sceptres and Roses. First, he accepted the bogus copy of the sword from Alexia. Then, believing that he would be overlooked by the court officers of Magdeburg (as was their custom), he met with the Toreador delegation from the Courts of Love before the appointed time. He then accepted the sword from Lucien de Troyes, gave the Toreador knight the copy, and then, when opportunity presented itself, he made his way to the camp of the Ravnos entertainer, Silas. He hid the Sword of Sceptres and Roses among the troupe’s belongings, and then returned to wait upon his lord. The Ghost was confident that the Charlatans would be blamed, then the Tremere would be elevated to an exalted status in Lord Jürgen’s court, and his safety and power would grow from there.
Then, things started to unravel. The Ravnos were apprehended and blamed, as planned, but the foreign coterie known as the Concord and Sister Lucretia kept investigating the matter. One of them, Brother Adalbert used his powers of the blood to Summon Albin for an “interview.” The monk and his Viking friend, Svenin the Tall, openly intimidated the lad but Sister Maude, the Cappadocian crone, took the Caitiff aside and asked some questions in a more kindly tone. He did his best to lie; pleading innocence and declaring his undying and humble loyalty to Lord Jürgen. The sister seemed to believe him, and took pity on the boy. But Albin grew nervous, and complained to Alexia of his concerns. She told him not to worry, and that he should return to his haven and await further instructions while they tied up some “loose ends.”
Later that night, a monster dredged up from the depths of a nightmare attacked him in his bolthole at the guard citadel. The horror was seemingly a pastiche of hundreds of misshapen rats with maws full of razor-sharp teeth dripping with poison. The thing was armed with two vicious, scythe-like arms, which the monster used to wounded him sorely, but Albin slipped past it and fled into the night. The thing hunted him relentlessly throughout the city, unerringly tracking him despite his proficiency with the arts of Obfuscate and his knack for being overlooked. Once more the Concord intervened, and battled the monster while Albin escaped. After its destruction, Brother Adalbet Summoned him again, and the Caitiff lacked the strength to resist.
He surrendered himself to Svenin the Tall and Sister Maude Khlesl, who asked Adalbert to distract Sister Lucretia while they questioned the fugitive. This time, Albin held nothing back; hurriedly retelling the Concord of his hopeless hate for Lord Jürgen and the High Clan vampires of the city, all of whom made his existence miserable. Her heart torn by his plight, Sister Maude offered to find a way for him to escape his cruel existence, and perhaps find a better one elsewhere. Albin was suspicious at first, knowing that he would be a beggar at the table of whatever Cainite lord took him in; fit only as a servant or a useful tool. Svenin was unmoved by his pathetic tale, and inclined to turn him over to his masters, but Maude pleaded with the pitiless Northman to leave off, just this once, and give her the opportunity to save Albin. The viking reluctantly acquiesced, and agreed to support her for now.
For his part, the Caitiff had known that it would be only a matter of minutes before his lord heard of his treachery and Summoned him to answer for his actions. Feeling the first threads drawing tight in his blood, he begged Sister Maude to save him. She did so by staking the boy, and secreted him out of the city using her own formidable arts of Obfuscate, Chimerstry, and Mortis. They found refuge with Svenin the Tall in an abandoned wolf’s den in the western wood beyond the city walls, and proceeded to question the lad.
Unfortunately, the angry Summons of Brother Adalbert was coming into play, for the Ventrue monk and Veceslav Basarab were under terrible pressure from Lord Jürgen himself to return the fugitive boy. Moreover, Cainites and their retainers had left the city and started searching the nearby countryside, including the woods. A harrowing encounter soon followed, while Svenin attempted to draw off the searchers (which included their own companions) while Maude sought to hide herself and Albin. They were saved by the late hour, for with the false dawn threatening overhead, Sister Lucretia, Brother Adalbert, Knez Veceslav and their mortal entourage were forced to retire to the keep of Finsterbach.
The next night, Albin was unstaked and faithfully told his rescuers of his full involvement in the schemes of the Tremere. The Concord faced a dilemma, for his testimony could potentially doom Alexia of Nicosia, and destroy any chances of the alliance that the Warlocks desired. However, the testimony could not take place, for if the Ghost were to return to Magdeburg, his own existence would likely by forfeit. Maude then hatched a mad scheme of her own. Re-staking and burying the Caitiff once more, she and Svenin returned quickly to the city. Enlisting the aid of of Frankfurt, they had their memories of the encounter altered. Maude and *Svenin*would retain Albin’s confession, but with the addition of a new memory of Maude slaying Albin at his own request, choosing a kind of suicide over arrest.
The hare-brained plan succeeded, albeit almost at the cost of Sister Maude’s existence.
The Caitiff’s next memory is of being awoken, unstaked, several months later. Prince Julia Antasia welcomed the boy to the city of Frankfurt, and offered him a conditional sanctuary in the city. Thanks to Maude, the Ghost of Magdeburg would finally have a chance at an existence free from the dominance of his elders.
Embrace: AD 1191.
Lineage: Unknown. Albin was Embraced and then abandoned by his sire. Trial and error have led him to place himself among the ninth generation.