Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The reclusive Knez of Toth, this ancilla is a cold and vengeful Tzimisce, who bears a twisted love for his family and loyalty to his people. Despite his relative youth, he is a master of Auspex. Bodor is an ally of the Concord.
In his guise as Magib, Bodor is a tall, gaunt, dusky-skinned Moor in his middle age, with piercing brown eyes and long grey hair tucked into a turban. He is dressed in Persian robes of brown and grey, and is typically unarmed.
His true form is that of a short, pale Szekler man in early middle age. He has a full head of thick, long, greying hair, a bristly moustache and broad, rather brutish features. Only his brown eyes are the same as his disguise.
(expanded from Bitter Crusade, pp. 35-36 & 93-94)
The third of his line to rule the valley of Toth, Bodor was encountered by the Concord when they journeyed to his land at the behest of Gari, the (now late) prince of Zara, and Guy de Provence, commander of the 4th Cainite Crusade. Bodor’s son and childe, Farkas, had been put to death with the rest of the Obertus Monastery during the crusader conquest and sack of the city. In turn, the Tzimisce had sworn vengeance on the crusade, and sent Farkas’ twin sister Erzebet to exact it. She very nearly succeeded in crippling the army, but the Concord apprehended her, and were asked to deal with the matter when she made it clear that her father would not relent. They made the long and arduous winter journey to Toth, only to find that Bodor himself was about to come under threat from Voivode Koban. He agreed to call off his vendetta provided that they aid in the defence of his people. The Concord saved Toth in the subsequent Trial by War, and saw out the winter as Bodor’s guests.
The true face of Bodor Toth
Like his daughter, Bodor was a thoroughly unlikable and taciturn individual. Unlike her, he was remote, and did not seek the Concord’s company much during their stay. Even so, Myca Vykos, who travelled with them to the valley, succeeded in earning Bodor’s confidence, and he also appeared to warm in his own way to the ever cordial Veceslav Basarab. They related much of the following tale to their travelling companions, who pieced the rest together from the rather less guarded speech of his children.
Bodor’s father died of pneumonia in the especially cruel winter of 1143 CE, leaving the 16 year old boy to rule Toth. He took to his duties with passion, working to clear the Bostral of Cuman marauders and bandits, then promoting the pass as a trade corridor. Like his father, and his grandfather before him, Bodor understood that there were terrible things in the night: vérfarkasok, boszorkányok, démonok and worst of all, the vámpírok. He heeded the lessons of his forebears, and kept the village and castle locked down after dark. While not a talented fighter, nor a gifted leader, Bodor had the benefit of prodigious intellect and imagination.
That year, he single-handedly rescued a Hungarian nobleman and his bodyguard from a small group of brigands. One year later, the the man returned with his third daughter and a dowry, offering Bodor her hand. After their marriage, they even fell in love. Minhe bore him six children, but she passed away after the arduous labour that gave them the twins, Farkas and Erzebet. He mourned her death, and survived by throwing himself into the rule of the valley and the rearing of his children. His intelligence held him in good stead, and over many years, Toth became prosperous- one of the larger border towns in the Székelyföld. The people of Toth loved their lord, and his peers held him in high regard.
And then, one night, a monk asked for sanctuary in the castle. Against his better judgement, Bodor admitted the fearful, pale man. He also agreed to a private interview with the monk, so that he might discover what drove his panicked flight. After all, what harm would a man of God do?
Bodor was abandoned the very night of his Embrace by the fugitive Obertus missionary, Zubor. The vámpír fled into the night when the boyar’s guards knocked on the door and told him that armed riders were approaching the village. Bodor never saw his sire again, and was left to discover the mysteries and dangers of the vampiric condition on his own, with only his natural intelligence and resourcefulness to see him through.
He was horrified at the monk’s ‘curse’, for he learned the hard way that he could no longer abide the caress of the sun, nor could he even remain awake during the day. A gnawing hunger had taken route in his belly, yet he could take no food and drink. Instinctively he began to smell the blood that pulsed in the veins of his servants, his guards, and worst of all, his beloved children. His normally even keeled temper suddenly became hot and jealous. Bodor was no fool, and despite the ignorance in which Zubor had left him, he knew that he was cursed to be a vámpír. He picked up the basics of his condition swiftly, and feigned illness to protect the family. First though, he would protect them from himself by telling them his secret.
Although horror-struck by their father’s curse, nearly all of Bodor’s children rallied to help him. His eldest son, Dévald, sought what was best for Toth, offering to bear the burden of leadership until his father was no longer afflicted. Middle son, Kilián offered to scour the ends of the earth for knowledge of what had befallen his father, while daughter Angyalka wished to consult with the wise woman in the village to learn her healing arts in hopes of finding a cure. The young twins, Farkas and Erzebet swore to stay by their father’s side to ease the burden of his loneliness. Only Remenyke, his eldest daughter, was unable to contain her fear, and began locking and barring her door each night. She soon became a stranger to her father, although she agreed to keep her secret for the good of the family.
Time passed, and Bodor’s disquiet with his condition gradually lessened. At first he tried to sate his unholy hunger on the farm animals of the village and the castle, but they fled his unnatural presence more often than not. Without a sire to teach him the facts of his state, he fell into a terrible frenzy twice before recognising the limitations of his existence. The bodies were buried far from the land hold, and those who pondered their fate were led to believe that they had fled to greener lands. Soon he discovered quite by accident that he could shape flesh in minor ways, and then began applying his creativity to a rigourous exploration of the limits of his condition.
Auspex came ‘naturally’ to him, and it was not long before he could hear the servants scurrying about in the basement, and read the growing suspicion and fear in their auras as well. He soon realised that suspicion was not dead concerning the missing servants and that general knowledge of the ‘curse’ would destroy his family. Dévald agreed that they should be replaced with Moorish slaves purchased from contacts in Constantinople. Unable to speak the tongue of the locals, and strictly confined to castle grounds, these Moors solved the problem of blood supply and silence in one fell stroke.
At length, the peasantry grew concerned for their lord, for it seemed that Dévald had taken on much of the responsibility of rulership while Bodor remained confined to his sickbed. This suited Bodor fine, as it allowed him to concentrate on his experiments. After a couple of years he grew tired of the ruse, and faked his own death. Soon after, the young Moorish sage and sorcerer ‘Magib’ arrived at the castle bearing letters that established his credentials as Bodor’s old friend and correspondent from the south. Pagan leanings are far from dead in the valley, and his presence was accepted with rumour and speculation, but no suspicion. Magib established himself as the Boyar’s advisor, and soon began to amass an enviable library on matters esoteric.
Kilián returned late in AD 1165 with a Hungarian lady by the name of Lempi Mannisenmaki. She introduced herself privately to Dévald and Magib as a mystic of “House Tremere” and a fellow vámpír who could aid him in controlling his curse. Bodor was pleased to meet her and eager to compare notes. He asked Dévald to offer hospitality to the woman. Lempi repaid his overtures of trust and friendship by trying to murder him within the week, adding insult to injury by using Kilián to lure his father into a trap.
Unfortunately for the Usurper, Lempi underestimated the potency of Bodor’s blood and his intuitive grasp of the arts of flesh-crafting. The enraged Szekler over-powered the sorceress, and took her prisoner. Lempi would instruct him after all, Bodor thundered, but not in a way that she would find pleasant. He learned something of the society of Cainites (enough to decide that he wanted no part in it until he was ready), the limits of the Cainite state, and the nature of the powers that came with the blood. After numerous torture sessions over many years, Lempi found herself in her final iteration of form- as Bodor’s writing desk. Stung by Kilián’s betrayal, Bodor spared him and forgave him, though he was forced to shackle him and keep him in the dungeon to stop him trying to free Lempi. It would be years before Bodor gleaned from his prisoner the secrets of the Blood Oath, and even more years before he could truly feel any trust for his son.
One early secret that Bodor did divine from his interrogations of Lempi was the process of the Embrace. Now seeing his state not as a ‘curse’ (although he has never dropped the habit of calling it such) but as a great boon, he offered it to each of his children in a twisted display of fatherly devotion. Only the twins accepted his offer, and it was enough to drive Remenyke to flee Toth altogether. Although he mourned her departure, he consoled himself with the Embrace of Farkas and Erzebet. Angyalka asked for his blessing to marry a blacksmith in the village, and Bodor saw no harm in granting it. He already had his immortal legacy intact, and felt that Dévald would “come around to his way of thinking” as age encroached. He would offer the Embrace to his son each year, but Dévald always staunchly refused.
Farkas was very much his father’s son in terms of intellectual talent. They experimented together for many years, and Bodor’s youngest son soon became his favourite. After some time, Farkas and Bodor conceived of the notion of learning more about the other Cainites. In the 1180s, Farkas journeyed forth, and eventually fell in with the Obertus Order in the city of Zara. Erzebet, though she never left the valley and was always ready to serve her father, received the barest pittance of Bodor’s regard compared to her twin. Farkas funnelled a great deal of information to his father over the years, and copies of the many great works of literature that were stored at the monastery’s library. In turn, Bodor kept his son supplied with a yearly supply of grave earth and eventually learned to cast his mind across hundreds of miles to look in on his beloved son and childe.
So it was that Bodor felt the death of his beloved Farkas on the night that the 4th Crusade sacked Zara. Rushing to his sanctum, he cast his mind west to look upon his son one last time and saw the the knights standing over his body, and flames engulfing the monastery. Years living isolated in his tower with his experiments, his thoughts governed by the other-worldly powers of his mastery of Auspex, and the very nature of the curse of Caine had twisted Bodor’s love into a possessive, jealous thing. Stirred for the first time in decades into a murderous fury, he resolved at that moment to make all the people in the city pay for taking Farkas away from him. Hoping to finally earn her father’s love, Erzebet suggested that she take Toth’s best warriors and sabotage the armed pilgrimage, turning the city and the soldiers against each other to make a bloody epitaph for the loss of Farkas and a fitting revenge for the loss of a prince of the Szeklers. Impressed with her devotion, Bodor agreed, and for the first time in more than thirty years he usurped Dévald’s authority and took command of the castle. Erzebet took the 4 best men among the guards, all of them ghouls, and another forty set off after them two weeks later.
The Concord foiled Erzebet’s plans, and returned with her to find a peaceful resolution before permanent harm could be done to the crusade and the embattled citizens of Zara. Their hopes seemed to be in doubt, and extreme solutions were beginning to find purchase in their thoughts before an envoy arrived from Voivode Koban. Dominik’s task was to ritually slay Dévald in order to instigate the_ voivode’s_ formal challenge of a Trial by War. Once more, the Concord intervened and saved his son’s life. Stirred by unsettling passions for the second time in months, Bodor was overcome with gratitude and agreed to cease his vendetta in return for their aid against Koban.
Apparently, the voivode’s vendetta against Bodor was mired in some obscure blood curse uttered by none other than Zubor in his dying moment. Koban then, was obviously the horror that Zubor was fleeing that night, and the riders had captured the monk and taken him to their master for execution. Vykos has explained that the curse has something to do with the Obertus Order, but has proven evasive regarding the details.
With the decisive aid of the Concord, the valley survived the Trial by War. The village was sacked and burned, the castle gatehouse was destroyed, most of her defenders slain, and the family secret forever broken. But Toth endured. Dévald reasserted his leadership during the siege, and Bodor’s heart swelled with pride at his defence of the people. He also rediscovered his affection for Erzebet, who had long ago lost his respect as a wild and foolish animal ruled by the ‘demon in her breast’. Unfortunately, Erzebet’s wounds from one of Koban’s Vozhd drove her into torpor before he could actually display his fatherly regard. Angyalka, whom Bodor had honestly not thought about in years, proved herself to be an invaluable voice for calm in the crisis. Even Remenyke returned home, albeit in a sad fashion. She was grafted to one of the great war-ghouls, and slain along with the beast. At least the mystery of how Koban had discovered the family secret was solved.
Kilián, on the other hand, betrayed his father once more. Sneaking into the tower during Koban’s final assault, he destroyed Lempi, slipped over the walls and fled into the blizzard. Bodor was furious at Kilián, and disowned him for his treachery.
The threat abated, Bodor was content to retire once more to the tower, and leave the destiny of the village in the capable hands of Dévald. The events of winter of 1202 and 1203, however, showed him that the family secret could no longer be contained, either at home or abroad. Koban could return at any time, and Toth may not survive another Trial by War with her allies among the Concord so far afield. He needed allies, and a patron whose name would dissuade the enemy from coming back. To that end, Bodor eventually contacted and pledged his loyalty to the nearest powerful Tzimisce potentate to the west, one Lord Ruthven. Although he did not warm terribly to elements of the Concord (mainly the moralistic and uncompromising Sister Maude) he also recognised their power, and was open to further alliances in that direction.
In return for the promise of their aid in future, he agreed to serve as something of a messenger for the Concord. Each month, he uses his mastery of Auspex to look in upon each of their demesnes, manifests at each location if needs be, and bears whatever messages and the state of their domain to each other. Naturally, he is sworn to silence as a condition of this alliance. Despite the interval of years, the honourable Bodor has never failed to discharge this duty, proving that he still cares for his family and his people, or at the very least that he is still as good as his word.
His efforts to display any kind of newfound twisted affection and respect for Erzebet have been rebuffed. While he knows that she returns to the valley often enough, she avoids meeting him whenever she can. He uses his powers to look in on her though, and he knows that her own regard is now visited upon the ancient Roman known as Lucien rather than her sire-father. Bodor is obviously jealous of the old one’s easy bond with his daughter, but he is also wise enough to fear the Gangrel, and to recognise that he too might well defend the valley when Koban returns.
Early in the harsh winter of 1207, as he lay on his deathbed Dévald refused Bodor’s offer of the Embrace for the last time. Bodor watched him expire, reportedly with little expression other than a mild scientific curiosity. It is likely that he grieved, but his rigid notion of self-mastery would not allow him to show it. The Toth name would endure, however, which must have given the proud Tzimisce some comfort. With the assistance of the Concord, his son had managed a good marriage in his last years, finding a wife from a Serbian noble family. Mirjana Krevcheski Zemunić gave Dévald a son and a daughter, whom he named Farkas and Mihne in honour of his late brother and mother.
The heir to his name secured, Bodor has lost interest in Loránd, the son of Angyalka, and he now watches over Farkas with ghoulish devotion to ensure that the boy reaches adulthood in one piece. As a student of the natural sciences, Mirjana has also earned his approval, and the innovative relatives that she brought with her have made the defences of Toth more formidable. Indeed, Bodor spends far more time in the company with the Krevcheski than with his own people, a fact for which Angyalka and his people seem quite grateful
Embrace: AD 1162.