Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Dietrich von Steyer
A relic of the former High Clan regime of Vienna, this miserly elder seeks to find a use for his recalcitrant progeny.
An old, extremely pallid man with a long white beard and hair, and a pair of spectacles perched on the bridge of his nose. He wears comfortable and well-cut robes of midnight blue and a prominent medallion set with a large carnelian. He appears to be unarmed.
Dietrich has existed in Vienna for centuries, but for all his love for the city he is not native to the region. A noble landowner of Frankish descent, he lived much of his mortal life in a small trading village in what is now Hesse. While certainly not lacking in courage, his frail frame was a very long way from the ideal Frankish man. Besides, he was far more interested in wealth, land and the pursuit of knowledge. These things he pursued with an insatiable vigour far stronger than women, wine or adventure could stir. Indeed, still unwed, unconquered, fabulously wealthy and at a ripe age when most people are making provision for the afterlife, he conceived of a desire to travel and trade.
After a number of years wandering the Frankish empire and the cities of Italy, seizing new experiences, more books, and much more silver, Dietrich realised that his mortality was finally catching up with him. In the city of Aquileia he was struck down by infirmity and a weak heart, and he realised with some bitterness that he had only scratched the surface of life. Unable to climb out of bed, he sent for a mystic holy man that he had heard was staying nearby. The monk who arrived to give him his last rites was a ghastly ill-looking old man, possessed of a wry, knowing smile and ancient eyes. After a long, laboured and testy conversation in which Dietrich first tried to buy immortality, then a few more years, and finally an inkling of what lay beyond the threshold of death, Brother Kyros offered the curse of Caine instead.
Dietrich and Kyros of Antioch travelled together for thirty years, conversing with the great minds of the Levant, the Byzantine empire and the lands of Egypt. Kyros enlivened in Dietrich a great interest in the occult and medicine, and the neonate added those pursuits to his voracious hoard of knowledge. Eventually, however, Kyros conceived of a need to move on in solitude, and he left Dietrich in the city of Florence in AD 808.
At a loss, Dietrich went home, but found that his lands had long ago lapsed to the Crown and been parcelled out to another. With nothing to his name and few prince’s willing to grant a Domain in the crowded stem duchy cities of the Holy Roman Empire, he lived a hardscrabble and rough existence for a score of years. Eventually he found himself in the Tyrolian town of Innsbruck, where he quietly made the acquaintance of a Roman Ventrue just a few centuries younger than Kyros. Valerianus told him that he too, had suffered an exile of a sort, and was looking to go home in force to his city, Vienna. Furthermore, he offered rich rewards to those who would play a part in that return. Dietrich impressed Valerianus with his intelligence, learning, and knowledge of commerce, and the ancilla was deeply taken with the dignified and driven Roman. Even so, he was a business-man at heart, and knew not to give his loyalty too readily.
On Valerianus’ suggestion, Dietrich moved to Vienna and came to an accommodation with the Nosferatu who had stolen the Domain from the Roman. Their prince, the Pawnbroker agreed to allow Dietrich to set up shop for an extortionate cut of his profits. It was soon clear that there would be no better deal. Within a year, Dietrich offered his loyalty to Valerianus, and agreed to be his spy. At great peril, he kept up a secret correspondence with the exiled Roman for nearly a century, carefully informing him of not just the movements of the Pawnbroker and his Nosferatu, but also the formidable mortal magi that gathered in the quiet corners of libraries and at a certain, secluded lodge outside the city. One such magus, a portly fellow who called himself Etrius, was of particular interest. Dietrich observed the mage take it upon himself to influence the course of battles, politics and the church in Vienna, and completely under the nose of the Lepers at that.
Valerianus never forgot Dietrich’s loyalty, and when he returned to the city to fight for his Domain, the Cappadocian fell under his protection. It was Dietrich who secretly made overtures to Etrius at Valerianus’ behest, and it was the Cappadocian that organised the most dangerous part of the coup. True to his word, after the ancient Roman reclaimed his Domain, he rewarded Dietrich with a position of high honour and esteem. Valerianus instructed his new seneschal to continue his stealthy overtures to these strange vampire wizards, and thus the first open dialogue between an established prince and the Usurper clan was begun. The Warlocks offered their extensive repertoire of magical tricks, and the Viennese court offered security to grow in their power and knowledge of Cainite society. For over a century, Dietrich met with the formidable Lotharius often, and even the powerful Etrius himself when the Warlock Councillor was in town. The presence of the Tremere became an accepted, if decidedly low-key, fact of unlife in Vienna.
He has also maintained his ties with a single mortal family, known as the Chrieglers, for centuries. He has emulated the Tzimisce in this respect, having heard of the reliability and loyalty of their ghoul families (although he has not guessed at their true nature). Dietrich is extremely comfortable in Vienna, and owns several houses and much land around it. The Chrieglers manage these estates, clean up his occasional messes from failed experiments, and also serve as his Herd. He has never Embraced from the family, and has no intention of doing so in spite of their increasingly maudlin mannerisms and fixations.
One fateful night in the Year of Our Lord 1155, disaster struck Valerianus, Dietrich, and the rest of Vienna’s court. It would appear that the Tzimisce had gained knowledge of the secret accord between Valerianus and the Tremere, and had decided to make an example of the ancient prince to warn others off of following his example. Dietrich survived only because of the kindness and canniness of an old lay nun, Sister Maude, who allowed the terribly wounded elder into her infirmary and succeeded in diverting his enemies with a quick and convincing lie. Dietrich lay low for weeks, feeding from the sick and injured in the infirmary as the Tremere and Tzimisce fought over the city. By the time he felt safe to emerge, Lotharius had declared himself prince, and the Usurpers had no further use for the seneschal. He was free to remain, provided he accept the new order, but his time as seneschal of Vienna was at an end. Somewhat at a loss after centuries, and both grateful and intrigued by Maude, Dietrich struck up a friendship with the sarcastic crone and the two spent many nights debating the finer points of trivium and medicine over the next few months.
Dietrich convinced Maude to accept the Embrace when it became clear that her time was near, and the two set off on an extended journey to the east shortly thereafter. They searched for news of Dietrich’s own sire, Kyros of Antioch, of whom he had had no word in decades. The journey was intended to expand Maude’s horizons beyond Vienna but also to expose themselves to the methods and learning of the Hebrew and Arab physicians. They spent time in Haifa, Jerusalem, Tyre and, of course, Antioch, but found little trace of Kyros (particularly in the last city, where they were made quite unwelcome by certain Lasombra and Assamites). Eventually a Bashirite Ravnos named Elijah contacted them and led them to Beirut, where they met and stayed with the ancient Cappadocian for several years, availing themselves of his wisdom as well as his extraordinary library. Kyros slipped into torpor in the Year of Our Lord 1166, and Dietrich finally took himself and Maude home.
Unusual for one of the Clan of Death, Dietrich loves coin and the comforts that it brings, and is quite skilled in its uses. It was in this regard, as well as his command of scholastics, the occult and above all a great facility for keeping secrets, that he earned the favour and sponsorship of the late ancient Valerianus. Ever since a trip to Cappadocia at the end of the tenth century, he appears to have lost whatever spirit of adventure or daring that he formerly had, and he has retreated into the typical crusty ossification of an elder. His stubborn, miserly and irascible nature is a constant source of frustration to Maude.
He maintains a keen interest in commerce, and it is a source of continual vexation to him in turn that his wastrel progeny has no interest in learning how to support herself. Her continual efforts to better the lot of the common people, particularly with regards to their health, do tug at the elder’s heart strings but he has grown quite intolerant of the drain that she causes on his coffers. Her facility for ritual magic, surprisingly rare among the Cappadocians, is a great source of pride (and prestige) for him, though her irreverent titles for those rituals add to his sense of vexation. In recent years his needlings for her “to make herself useful” have grown into demands, and when she ran awry of Prince Lotharius’ prize pupil, Hette, in Elysium one evening and humiliated the neonate, Dietrich was presented with an ultimatum by the prince:
“Vienna is big enough for one Cappadocian, herr Dietrich, but not two. I leave it up to your inestimable wisdom, perspicuity and judgement to decide which of you must leave.”
Obviously, it was time for Maude to move on.
Lineage: Childe of Kyros of Antioch, Childe of Japheth, Childe of Cappadocius