Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Albert Rutan von Swartzinburg
The long-serving Burgrave of Kronstadt; well-past his prime, troubled by old wounds, and bedevilled by an addiction to wine, he flounders to find his place in the new order of the Burzenland.
An old German knight, still lordly in his bearing despite his painful limp, spreading gut, and the bright red, shiny nose of an alcoholic. He is fully six feet and five inches in height, and when angry his watery grey eyes place onlookers in mind of a dangerous winter storm in the mountains. His once black hair is now white, and has almost entirely receded from the crown of his head, but he still bears a lustrous, full moustache of which he is apparently quite proud. Although he rarely girds himself for war any more, when he does he wears mail and a dark blue surcoat bearing the device of a green lion on a white field. At such times he carries a grand battle-axe, of superb construction, that he still wields with enough strength to cleave a shield with ease.
Sir Albert hails from a comital family in the land of Thuringia. Their demesnes encompass a large swathe of land between the city of Arnstadt and the castle of Swartzinburg, where the burgrave was born in the year AD 1153. The fourth son of Count Sizzo II of Swartzinburg and Käfernburg, he had few options other than a military education and either a position as little more than a household knight or a life as a soldier of fortune. These unpleasant alternatives, coupled with a lust for adventure and a generous dose of ambition, caused him to jump at the chance to join the second wave of German emigration to Transylvania in the 1170s. By dint of his charisma, military experience, and audacity, he soon became an officer of the City Guard of Kronstadt, and eventually parleyed that position into the captaincy by earning the friendship of Joszef von Ballen, the first burgrave. When Sir Joszef passed away in 1182, the Thuringian managed to forge an alliance with then mayor Dolph Lugen, and they managed to bring him to the attention of the royal court in Esztergom. Working together, they ensured that the king would appoint him to the position of burgrave himself at the age of just 29.
In the many years since, his dialect and mannerisms have come to mirror those of the other Saxons, and few recall or care that he was born in a different part of the Holy Roman Empire. He did, however, create some ill waves in in 1184 with his marriage to Hermannstadt. This was not least because they were uncomfortable bending the knee to a Vlach, but also because in the years to come she would begin politicking in the capital to make the rank of burgrave hereditary, starting with Albert’s son, Gerhard. Nevertheless, despite their discomfort with her ancestry and intrigues, few burgers could find fault with the alliance between Albert and Iancu, for it strengthened the city immeasurably. His son, Gerhard, grew to be a talented soldier, possessed of the strength and bravery of his father and the intelligence and comeliness of his mother, while his three daughters would be well-wedded to Captain Sir Adolphus von Ballenstedt, of the prominent edler family of Lüneburg, and Julius Rátót, a prominent courtier whose father LeustachIR%C3%A1t%C3%B3t long served as the mortal voivode of Transylvania. Battened by these alliances, the last two decades of the 12th century were prosperous ones for Kronstadt., a Vlach noblewoman 14 years his junior. The bürgers of the city took many years to accept the daughter of , whose territories take in much of the lands between Kronstadt and
Unfortunately, the old knight and nobleman is now considered a spent force by both the Cainites and kine of the Burzenland. As the burgrave of Kronstadt, Albert Rutan is still the nominal ruler of the city. However, like most of the military governors of the Siebenburgen, in principle his authority is counterbalanced by the city council, which tends to consider the fiscal and legal management of the city as falling within the auspices of communal oversight. In particular, Rolf Rathinger, once mayor and current councillor, was quite adept at keeping the influence of Burgrave Albert solely restricted to matters military. The city tended to benefit as a result, as the landed knights and city guard worked to stabilise the security of the roads and waterways, then the guilds used them for the creation of wealth. In his time, first as Captain of the Guard then once he assumed the duties of burgrave, Sir Albert led the defenders of the city in victory against bands of Bulgarians and Vlachs from south of the mountains, against Pechenegs and Cumans, and even a few isolated raids from audacious Szekler bands from the eastern hills.
After the turn of the 13th century, the rise of Archdeacon Simon von Nijmegen created a third power bloc that tended to play upon the opportunities presented by the tension between the burgrave/ edler faction and the craft guild/ merchant guild faction. Already outmaneauvered by the mayor, the burgrave found himself increasingly isolated politically. Shortly thereafter, the raids of the Cumans intensified in both savagery and numbers, and the military machine of Kronstadt proved inadequate to the task of keeping them in check. Meanwhile, busy with threats to his own demesnes, Count Iancu was unable to assist his ally with any real efficacy. First Etteldorf, then Bettel, and finally Weidenbach would be raided and burned, their burgers slain or enslaved, as numerous guard towers were over-run. In a series of running battles with a large band of the enemy in the Spring and Summer of 1210, the Burgrave suffered a series of stinging defeats that culminated in the loss of some of the best veteran knights of the Burgraviate, the death of his son and heir, Gerhard, and his own brush with mortality on the point of a Cuman lance.
Struggling with a fractured leg and an agonising belly wound, Burgrave Albert’s rehabilitation took the best part of year. In the meanwhile he was forced to sit and watch, going to seed and slowly pickling himself with wine, while his son-in-law, Captain Sir Adolphus, became de facto military leader of the city. Deciding on a defensive posture while the true depth of the threat could be ascertained, the captain made the deeply unpopular but eminently sensible move of pulling many burgers away from the outer western villages and inside the walls. This essentially ceded the already poorly travelled Hermannstadt road as well as the mountain pass of the Törz to the Cumans, but ensured that the City Guard retained the manpower to defend what was left. It was an imperfect plan, but it appeared to buy the people of Kronstadt some time. While the integrity of the territory was threatened, Adolphus reasoned that trade was already cut off to the south and the west, while the strong trade route north remained open and now had the manpower to be aptly defended. It also made the other citadels of the Siebenburgen and the mortal voivode of Transylvania realise the urgency of the situation, and allowed new guard recruits the opportunity to gain some experience and training. Through the haze of milk of the poppy and wine, Burgrave Albert was forced to concede that the plan had proven effective.
Unfortunately, it also drew the attention of King Andrew, who rather than risk further insecurity, decided to take matters into his own hands. He would cede the burgraviate to the Teutonic Order in AD 1211, on the condition that they use their privileged status (subordinate only to the Crown) to subdue the Cuman threat. With their arrival, the death knell of the Burgrave’s authority sounded. What need had Kronstadt of a governor when the military order had its own bailiwick commander who performed the same function? Soon after he assumed command of the newly minted political entity of the Burzenland, Theoderich von Lippe made it quite clear to both burgrave and captain that autonomy of any sort was out of the question. Henceforth, their role would be subordinate to, and supportive of, the military architecture of the Teutonic Order.
By 1214, the burgrave’s defeat was set in stone. Plagued by grief for his son, struggling with his addictions, and marginalised by the new order, Albert was frequently drunk by sundown, and almost always by supper time. He left all de facto city guard decisions to Captain Sir Adolphus, or his lieutenants when the captain was detained on other business. Indeed, the burgrave rarely left his castle on the Kappellenberg any more. He received many visitors there, but only visits by grandchildren or his friends, Karl Dressler von Lüneburg and Johann of Danzig, brought him any real heart. His wife had long since grown tired of his despondency, but she continued to look after him as best as she could.
In his drunken stupors, he often cried for Gerhard, but very occasionally fire returned to his watery grey eyes when others spoke of battle, revenge against the Cumans, and the glory of dying in the saddle with a bloody sword in his hand. His health may be ruined, but Sir Albert has almost fifty years of military experience, and a will to use it. He lost many men against the Cumans, but he still has a core household guard of more than fifty men, most of whom are battle-hardened veterans.
With the assistance of the Ashen Band, and Ulrich von Wettin[[ in particular, the burgrave would have his chance. In the summer of 1215, with the majority of the local Teutonic knights south of the mountains campaigning against [[:kordonul | Kordönül Khan, the Ashen Band conceived of organising the city guard and Teutonic reserves to launch a chevauchee against the warlord’s forces besieging the castle of Buzau. Seeing a means of recapturing his glory and perhaps finding an honourable death, Lord Albert embraced the idea enthusiastically. Attempts to keep him (and his wine barrels) at home were initially successful, but the burgrave eventually decided to join the campaign personally anyway.
It was necessary for Ulrich to Dominate Albert to abstain from drinking on the trail, which he managed with considerable subtlety. The burgrave gave a grand speech, extolling the virtues of holy combat to defend their homed, and ended by pouring his goblet of wine on the ground.
“I’ll not take another drop until the heathen Cuman is thrown from our lands. Who is with me?”
Mightily impressed, his men followed his example, and found some respect for their lord once more.
Ultimately, the chevauchee was a resounding success, and the siege of Buzau was lifted. The burgrave was badly wounded again, though his armour saved his life when a slavering monster, wearing the face and armour of a Cuman chieftain but bearing fangs, claws, and unholy, glowing red eyes bore he and his horse to the ground. Several of his household knights perished fighting the beast, and ultimately it fled as the tide turned against the Cumans.
In the wake of the victory, Burgrave Albert returned to Kronstadt, his reputation largely restored. He survived his wounds, and enjoys telling the taĺe of his battle with the monstrous Cuman chieftain, though his memory has grown rather hazy on the details. Sometimes, it is a monster, and others merely a man using armour and weapons fashioned in such a way as to appear as one.
In the years since, the elderly burgrave has busied himself with ensuring the succession of his son-in-law, Captain Sir Adolphus, to his own position upon his death. Lord Albert is still far too fond of wine, and his political power has been reduced to being that of a mere figurehead, but nowadays he does not seem to mind so much. Indeed, he seems to have found a measure of peace, even if he stills expresses his desire to die in battle.