Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Leader of the gypsy company with which Andras Taragoš travels, this headstrong, hot-tempered man treats the vampire in his midst as a friend, not his master.
A tall gypsy, husky and strong, possessed of an agile, athletic stride and sure hands. He is not handsome as such, with his high forehead, thick moustache, and hard, glittering dark eyes, but he carries himself with great confidence. His woolen trousers are dyed green, and he keeps a dagger tucked into a sash, banded with red and yellow. A hairy chest bursts out of his loose shirt, which he seldom bothers to button.
Among the first of the Roma to be born within the borders of the Kingdom of Hungary, Camlo (whose name means gentle) and his cousin Andras were always inseparable growing up. Raised for much of their formative years in the far-travelled kumpaniya of their uncle Vassily Taltos, they visited dozens of cities and towns in Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, and Transylvania before they came of age. While the Ravnos went about his work serving as an intermediary and messenger between the intermittently warring clans of the Ventrue and the Tzimisce, his company made themselves useful as tin-smiths, horse-traders, and entertainers, seeking an honest living wherever they could, and making a dishonest one when they could not. Always, the two lads were in the middle of some adventure, some mischief, or some grift.
Indeed, they were always more like brothers than cousins, with Andras’ smooth touch complimented by Camlo’s strong arm Neither of them desired the Embrace of their uncle’s clan, nor saw it in their futures. Instead, they were ear-marked as future leaders of the allied families of the Taltos, Charanos, and Taragoš families of the Romani people. The only rivalry between them lay in Camlo’s impatient desire to be picked as the leader, and the fact that Vassily and his childe, Marta, both seemed to favour the handsome, silver-tongued, and patient Andras. Still, the rivalry never degenerated into enmity so much as a healthy, good-natured competition. As they became adults, using his superior strength and knack for hand-fighting, Camlo became the protector of the kumpaniya, while Andras became the day-time negotiator, very much in Vassily’s own image. The bruiser married Florica, a girl of one of the minor families attached to Charani, and was soon a proud husband and father, if not a particularly attentive one.
In 1211, the three families came together for their bi-annual celebration outside the city of Thessalonica. Camlo had looked forward to the gathering, for he was sure that this time he would be named the champion in the contests of strength. The day after their arrival, they encountered the Black Lion Mercenary Company. Their spokesperson, Stiguld, was intrigued by the strange Easterners, whom he had never encountered, but he nonetheless demanded that the Roma famlies move from the Lions’ customary camping spot. Andras and Camlo refused, but sought to reach an accommodation, which was in turn refused with an off-hand threat. The larger gypsy was indignant that the warriors would so casually bully families of peaceable travellers, including many women and children, and said as much. When Stiguld returned that perhaps the women could entertain his soldiers, Camlo’s temper flared and he challenged the Anglo-Saxon mercenary to a fight.
“Is this how your warriors treat good men, women, and children here? Do they make victims of them simply because they can? Then I say I am a stronger man than you! You look strong. Are you their leader? Perhaps I should beat you into the ground and show your men that I am a better man than all of them! Threaten and mock our women again, and you shall see!”
Amused and intrigued, Stig then gave way, inviting the two gypsies to come to the Red Cock tavern inside the city and drink with him. That is, if they had a purse of moneys to match his own. Surprised, Andras and Camlo agreed, and the situation quickly defrayed. Following the lead of their spokesperson, the Black Lions headed back a short distance, to the beach front near the mouth of the Gomaropnichtis river, a less accessible site to the city, but no less worthy.
During the ensuing drinking bout, Andras and Stig did their best to drink the other under the table, making a game of giving as little away as possible about themselves while learning as much as possible about the other. Camlo and Torfi, Stig’s second, stood back quietly, drinking slowly and keeping their eyes warily on the other. Others in the tavern looked on with interest, including its proprietor Vyron, the Malkavian known as Ulfe, the Phaedymite Francisque, and Odda, the Gangrel captain of the Black Lions. After a couple of hours, Stiguld’s near-legendary drinking prowess appeared to desert him, and he gave away a little too much. Letting slip that he was much older than he looked, he could see that at his drinking companions had divined his true nature as a ghoul. Seeing the game was up, the drunken Lion balled his fist and threw a punch at Andras, who was happy to reciprocate. Torfi and Camlo also squared off and around them, a general bar fight broke out among the rough patrons of the Red Cock.
Andras appeared to be getting the upper hand once again, smashing a chair over Stiguld when the Anglo-Saxon lost his balance and fell. Suddenly, a third gypsy, this one older, materialised out of thin air and viciously drove his dagger into Andras’ liver, twisting the blade viciously as he tore it free. Screaming the name “Irendo!” in rage and alarm, Camlo abandoned his brawl with Torfi and attacked the older gypsy with all his considerable skill. He did not land a single blow. Smiling with his fangs, the now-revealed vampire dodged Camlo’s dagger thrusts with playful ease for several exchanges, before slamming the heel of his hand into the young bruiser’s elbow. His arm shattered by the preternatural strength of his foe, Camlo slipped to the floor in agony. If not for the intervention of the other Cainites in the tavern then, he would have died. Unfortunately, Andras was not so lucky.
He was mortally wounded, beyond the scope of even the blood of the undead to heal. Instead, Francisque directed the other vampires to take the expiring young Rom to Sanser, who had transported the Toulousain Ravnos to Thessalonica that very evening. Ulfe scooped up the dying youth, and they ran for the Ravnos elder’s boat. There they found Vassily Taltos as well, in conference with Sanser, and the two Alexandrites were stunned and grieved to find Andras at the very threshold of death. Sanser gave Vassily his blessing to bring his dying nephew across, if he too gave his assent.
Though he had never desired the Embrace before, the young gypsy discovered that he was nwilling to die just yet, and Andras chose undeath. As Vassily carried out the deed, Camlo looked on in obvious, undisguised, mute horror. The other vampires watched, with some surprise, as Camlo almost rejected even the healing vitae of Sanser too, but the elder Ravnos assured him that it would be just once, and he would soon be cleansed of the “taint.” Afterwards, he was returned to shore, but Andras was spirited away, and would not return for four years.
In his absence, Camlo grew into his role as a chieftain of the Roma. He learned to lead in the absence of the silver tongue of Andras, and his fighting skills and sense of responsibility grew with the travails that he faced once a number of smaller families decided to follow him. In 1215, while camped near the Adriatic port of Fiume (also known as Rijeka), Andras called to him from out of the darkness. He had returned, and wished to travel with them on his sire’s business, and that of Vassily’s shilmulo allies. After some careful words, and significant reservations, Camlo allowed Andras into the camp, and the two of them gradually set about renewing their friendship. They have travelled together ever since.
Andras soon proved his worth to the kumpaniya, bringing in more than his fare share of meat for their pots, and drained of blood too, since he preferred to feed from the animals he hunted as much as possible. His contacts in Epirus also allowed Camlo and his kin to travel in the south and expect to find relatively warm receptions and even protection there. And finally, his skill with Chimerstry made their scams and thievery all the easier, when unpleasant encounters forced dishonest work upon them. In return, all he asked was that they assist him in doing Vassily’s work (which they were honour-bound to do anyway), that they shield him from the sun in their wagons as they travelled, and finally that they volunteer to feed him their own blood when absolutely necessary. The adults of the kumpaniya now serve as an emergency herd for the shilmulo in their midst, and they watch each other carefully to ensure that they do not become addicted to the Kiss.
Camlo pities his cousin, cursed as he is with undeath. However, they have returned more or less to their old arrangement, with a fresh spin. When other vampires are around, Andras takes the lead, and when his negotiating skills are absolutely called for, Camlo may call upon him. Other than that, however, he is a guest in their camp, and he follows Camlo’s lead. He is not their master. He is their kin, and their friend, and occasionally their protector in the grim, dark world beyond their camp fires.