Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Simon von Nijmegen
The archdeacon of Kronstadt; a wealthy and charming cleric, he has garnered much influence on the city council. Unknown to the citizenry at large, however, he also leads a cadre of vampire hunters within Kronstadt.
A handsome, middle-aged, aristocratic cleric wearing lavish black robes that seem reminiscent of the Benedictine Order but for the silver thread woven through the hems. A sizeable silver cross, studded with rubies, hangs from a fine silver chain about his neck. He is an angular man, tall and erect, who carries himself with the arrogance of one who has always been obeyed. His chestnut hair is running to silver at temples and crown, and his brown eyes are so dark as to appear almost black.
A Klevelander by birth, the archdeacon of Kronstadt arrived in the city in AD 1201, and in the years since he has become a vital cog in the political machine of the city. His rise to power has been gradual, predicated on his ability to alacritously place the clergy of the Burgraviate under his thumb, followed by his proficiency at playing the mayoral and edler factions off against each other in the city council. His skill at such matters made him a power-broker in the burgraviate within the course of his first decade of residence, and his enthusiastic approval of the king’s bequeathal of the Burzenland to the Teutonic Order ensured his power throughout the intervening years of his second. He now stands as a viable power bloc in his own right, under the auspices of the favour of the Military Order.
The archdeacon presents as an odd site for a clergyman, being an obvious lover of the finer things in life. His robes are always of impeccable quality, the bejewelled crucifix he wears could likely purchase a sizeable house, and on the rare occasion he is seen girded for war, his armour and arms are of nonpareil excellence, well beyond anything even a master craftsman of Kronstadt could produce. He chooses only the finest food and wine for his table, though it has been observed that he eats and drinks but little. On the odd occasion he might frequent one of the city’s finer inns or taverns in order to meet with guildsmen or nobles, but his known preference is to dine with others either at their houses or his own. The archdeacon’s manse is a grand, walled affair not far from the church, rectory, and orphanage of St. Emeric. In addition to a large, two storey house, his home has enough room for a private chapel, a sizeable barracks for his guard, a stables, grazing room for a good number of horses and sheep, as well as no few cows.
His personal guard consists of some 30 men in all, recruited from among the devout youth of the city. Identified by the simple dark grey tabbard bearing a white cross over the breast, each man is clad in mail, and armed with a sword, dagger, and club. Their leader, Brandt, a battle-hardened officer who appears to be an old friend of Simon’s, has gradually whipped the men into shape over the course of a decade of diligent training, and they have acquitted themselves well in a number of engagements with the Cumans. In addition to these worthies, Simon has taken the unusual step of retaining another 50 mercenaries from the land of Frisia, necessitating a further expansion to the barracks. Commanded by an affable, battle-scarred veteran known as Rikus van Drachten, they are veterans of a number of wars, and are medium and heavy cavalry for the most part. They wear no insignia, but are noted for wearing an intertwined blue and red cord around their upper left arms.
It is widely known in the Burzenland that in addition to his local connections, Archdeacon Simon has a number of potent political connections in the Low Countries and the Holy Roman Imperial Court. His older brother, Adaem III, is the Slotvoogd (castellan) of Nijmegen, and a valued friend of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II. The family is wealthy indeed, owning a number of lucrative estates around Nijmegen, Kleve, Rees, and Noordwijk. They are also numerous, with no fewer than 9 surviving sinlings in the immediate family, but of them all, but Adaem and Simon are the most notable. Their parents are Dametta van Leuven (daughter of Godfrey II, Count of Leuven, Landgrave of Brabant) and Adaem II Slotvoogd von Nijmegen. Their grandparents are Ludmilla von Vellberg (an illegitimate daughter of Conrad III, “King of the Romans”, and Gerberga, his mistress) and Adaem Slotvoogd van Nijmegen. As such, Archdeacon Simon is the third cousin of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and Duke Henry II of Brabant, and related more loosely to the dukes of Limberg, the dukes of Lower Lotharingia, the dukes of Swabia, the margraves of Antwerp, the counts of Loon, the counts of Sulzbach, and other branches of the House of Hohenstafen, the House of Salian, the House of Rurik, and the House of Comnenus. His immense, if informal, rank has always made him more than equal to the prestige of the Burgrave, Albert Rutan, in the small pond that is Kronstadt, and the two men have never been friendly as a result.
The reputation of the archdeacon is almost puritanical, but he is known to be both charitable and kind. Indeed, many in the city hold him up as a an example of virtue. He funded the orphanage at St. Emeric’s out of his own pocket, and he has been known to make numerous donations to the village parishes to ensure that the churches are securely built of stone, and that there is adequate stores when winters have been particularly harsh. Although he rarely takes the pulpit at St. Emeric’s, when he does he tends to sermonise about the need for the Siebenburgers to hold themselves to a higher standard than their fellows in the West, for the responsibility for bringing the light of Christianity to the Pagan East rests entirely upon their shoulders. He also preaches brotherhood and tolerance for the Vlachs, the Magyars, the Szeklers, the Bulgars, and the Greeks, for all have come to the Cross of the Lord and the Song of the Heavenly Hosts, even if some have lost their way and fallen from the true, Latin rite. He has even preached about the need to be forgiving of the ways of Saracens and Jews, for they too accept the truth of the One God, even if their “understanding is poor.” Only the Cumans appear to be outside his forgiveness, for surely the blasphemous perfidy and needless brutality of their raids are proof that they are servants of the Devil. The Teutons appear to be uncomfortable with his uncommon tolerance of foreign peoples and religions, but they also recognise that the Archdeacon is a powerful advocate for their own role in the city, so for now he is seen as an ally.
Simon is tight-lipped regarding the reasons for his appointment to the city of Kronstadt, but he has been loquacious enough concerning his youth and his duties in Rome. It is common knowledge that his he was born and spent most of his early years in the city of Nijmegen, although he preferred his family estate in the smaller town of Noordwijk, a well-known pilgrimage site dedicated to the famed Saint Jeroen. In later years, his family connections allowed him access to the best education available, for he is a graduate of the University of Bologna, and his studies took him even further still. Simon was ordained under the supervision of the late, venerable Cardinal Melior, who at the time served the pontiff as Camerlango of the Holy Roman Church. Melior was also cardinal-priest of the ancient Basilica of Saints John and Paul on the Caelian Hill, and as his deacon, the faithful young priest was responsible for its upkeep. He has been known to speak glowingly, wistfully, of the cardinal’s choir, and he has sought to emulate their grace by forming a choral at St. Emerich’s, the core of which is made of the orphans in his care.
As an assistant to the cardinal, and stationed in one of the oldest churches of Christendom, it would appear that Simon, at least at one time, was on the fast track to a great career in the church. It is all the more curious, then, that he was given an unlikely assignment to the edge of civilisation, and no few burgers have gossipped about it over the years.
Whatever the case for his arrival in Kronstadt, the archdeacon quickly set to putting the affairs of the local parishes in order. He is thought to have clashed a great deal with the older Father Samuel in the early years, but the creation of the orphanage that they jointly run appears to have settled whatever bad blood once stood between them. They have taken pains to see that all of the young orphans, boys and girls alike, have been given a trade as well as an education in the seven liberal arts. Simon also sought to organise the local parishes more effectively, ensuring that the woeful literacy of many of the village priests was rectified, and that they communicated with his office at regular intervals. This organisation has suffered since the Cuman attacks began, but it is still enviable by Transylvanian standards, particularly in the western and northern villages of the Burzenland.
In AD 1214, another purpose for the aforementioned orphanage became known to the vampires of Kronstadt. While hunting among the camp followers of Commander Theoderich’s expeditionary army, the Ventrue Ulrich von Wettin was hunted and staked by a young tailor named Valentinus. The clever fellow appeared to excel at feigning drunkeness in company with the other camp followers, and his act took in the hungry Ventrue. If not for the attentiveness of his retainers, the quick action of his coterie-mates, and the mortal hunter’s general ignorance of true Cainite nature, Sir Ulrich would likely have wound up suffering the Final Death. Worse yet, he may have fallen into the righteous clutches of Valentinus’ master — none other than Archdeacon Simon von Nijmegen.
Even though he was rescued before such a fate could come to pass, the breach of the Sixth Tradition would have cost a vampire of lesser pedigree his existence. However, the childe of Hardestadt the Younger was instead shown mercy by his consanguineous uncle, Jürgen von Verden, and charged with “dealing with the archdeacon problem” by means of making amends.
In the months after the unfortunate encounter, the investigations of the Ashen Band have yielded the knowledge that Simon’s orphanage would appear to be a training ground for creating devout hunters. Moreover, the hooks of his private congregation, such as it is, are sunk very deeply indeed into numerous guilds, among a number of edlers and, most alarmingly of all, into the City Guard. The task of the coterie has been made no easier by the return of the archdeacon, his guard, and his hired Frisian mercenaries to Kronstadt. Apparently Commander Theoderich had managed to convince the archdeacon that his men would be of more use defending the city itself, and the man of God had humbly acquiesced to the wishes of the famed Teutonic officer. Luckily, ignorance has also worked in their favour, for the hunters do not yet realise that more than one vampire lairs in the city.
The Ashen Band continue to seek ways to neutralise Simon and his followers. Retainers and herd members have begun to infiltrate the wide social circles in which the archdeacon moves, with an eye towards gaining access to the masses he holds in his private chapel. Rumours have been seeded within the city that should lead the archdeacon into surmising that the “vampire of Kronstadt” yet survives, and he has been spotted in the land of Buzău, which is also plagued by many godless horrors in addition to the Cuman threat. With the promise of striking a blow against the monsters that haunt the Transylvanian night, mayhap the archdeacon and his warriors can be lured far from the city, into lands where dangers abound. And perhaps there, just perhaps, an arrow of Cuman manufacture might find its way into the back of this troublesome cleric…