Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The nominal sire of the late Fra' Raymond, this nigh on legendary Cainite leads the Nosferatu Order of St. Ladre. He is known by reputation only to the Concord and the Ashen Band.
None among the Concord of Ashes or the Ashen Band have ever laid eyes on Blessed Gerard, at least to their knowledge. Neither his actual appearance or any of his chosen masques are known to them, although he is reputed to favour appearing much as he did in life — as a simple, aged lay monk of the Benedictine Order.
(modified from the wikipedia article)
Since the death of Christ, the Holy Land has attracted pilgrims from throughout Christendom. The journey to Jerusalem was often one of penance and piety, with many pilgrims going to the Holy Land to carry out a penance given by a confessor or as a personal act of devotion. Some would even go to the Holy Land to die and be buried there, and so be one of the first to witness the second coming of Christ. While the pilgrimage to the Holy Land was relatively short—only five months from western France—it was riddled with risks, including: inclement weather, shipwrecks, bandits, and unsafe roads. Pilgrims often arrived to the Holy Land sick and in need of assistance.
Even before the crusades, hostelries were indispensable to shelter the pilgrims who flocked to the holy places, and in the beginning the hospitia or xenodochia were nothing more than a roof and four walls. They belonged to different nations; a Frankish hospice is spoken of in the time of Charlemagne; the Hungarian hospice is said to date from the reign of King St. Stephen, and in the ports of the Holy Land, while hospices dedicated to those who speak the Italian tongues, or those of the French and the Germans, are now commonplace, this was not always so.
Recognizing the pilgrims’ plight, several merchants from the Amalfi region of Italy petitioned the Caliph of Egypt to open a hospital in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem near the Holy Sepulcher. One of these merchants, Mauro of Pantaleone, was close to the abbot of the powerful Benedictine abbey of Montecassino. Together they established the abbey of St. Mary of the Latins as well as the nunnery dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. The first Cassinese monks who chose to establish the monastery tended to the sick and poor pilgrims, and they also took it upon themselves to bury all of the Christians who died in Jerusalem. In due course, with the influx of pilgrims between 1060 and 1070, the Ordo Benedicti established the Hospital of St. John, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, to relieve pressure on the abbey of St. Mary of the Latins.
Gerard was a Benedictine lay brother or frates conversi, one of those who journeyed to the Holy Land to serve at the abbey of St. Mary of the Latins. His mind was open enough to see the customs of others with a fresh eye, and he had seen the skilled practice of medicine on his way through Constantinople. Upon arriving in the Levant he was further impressed by the superior benefits of Saracen and Jewish medicine, and the lay brother soon adopted these practices. His superiors initially protested, but after seeing the common sense and great efficacy of these methods, they were won over by the earnest physician’s charismatic and convincing entreaty that these techniques were descended from the legacy of Christian Rome as much as the heathen East.
Fra’ Gerard became central to the reformation of hospital practices in the Christian Quarter, and via correspondence he lobbied heavily to see these new methods transported elsewhere in the Outremer and even to Europe. Eventually, he was placed in charge of the Hospital of St. John, which was built over the much older foundations of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist. Gerard became well known for his generosity and warmth, and he readily applied his growing medical knowledge to any in need, no matter their faith or condition. Even lepers, who were notoriously shunned and reviled, were treated adroitly and compassionately, albeit in a separate hospital (or ladre) outside the walls of the city so that their fellow convalescents would feel secure. Unbeknownst to him, the Christian Nosferatu of the region grew to appreciate his generosity, for the Lazarene hospital had long allowed them to take haven safely despite their cursed appearance.
Indeed, so great did his reputation as a healer grow that when the First Crusade lay siege to Jerusalem in 1099, he and his subordinates were allowed to remain and care for the sick and injured at the hospital. Likewise, when the walls were breached, the victorious Franks spared them the brutality that much of the rest of the city suffered.
After the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the hospital of St. John grew in influence and prestige, coming to surpass its parent abbey, and it earned many gifts from crusading kings, dukes, and barons. By 1113, new hospitals had been opened along the pilgrim trails of Italy and southern France, and Pope Paschal II recognised the organisation as a separate order in its own right, subject only to the Holy See. Henceforth, Fra’ Gerard and his followers would be known as the Hospitallers of St. John, although his chosen title was merely that of Rector, not Grandmaster.
Over the last remaining years of his life, the aged Gerard began to groom his successors for the Hospital of St. John and the ancient leprosarium dedicated to St. Lazarus. He chose Raymond du Puy for the former and Boyant Roger for the latter. Raymond, a Burgundian nobleman and seasoned soldier, would go on to develop the Hospitallers into a strong a military tradition in a similar style to the emerging Templar Order, while Boyant Roger would use his reputation for skill in the healing arts to inspire the foundation of many leprosaria throughout the Holy Land.
In 1120, approaching a venerable 80 years of age and plagued by a multitude of infirmities, Fra’ Gerard prepared himself as he felt the end approaching. It was then he was approached by the elder Nosferatu who called himself Guillaume. Rather than be repulsed by the monstrous deformities of the Cainite, the dying brother reacted with compassion, attempting to raise himself from his death bed in hopes of treating the suppurating pustules and oozing boils of the immortal leper. Quite moved, as well as grateful for past kindnesses to his herd, the Nosferatu offered the Embrace to the dying man. Seeing the refusal in the old man’s eyes, the Nosferatu argued that the there was too little grace, gentility, and compassion left in the war-torn Levant for one such as he to go to God just yet. Why not accept a temporary exile, and continue to do the work of the Almighty instead?
Begrudgingly, Fra’ Gerard was convinced. He was brought across that very night, and the Order of St. Ladre was founded with him. Over the ensuing decades until the disaster of Hattin and the subsequent fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, scores of leper brothers among the mortal Order of St. Lazarus were offered the same choice. Most accepted, for they were fighting men whose use to their previous orders ended with their contraction of leprosy, and they had plenty of fire and zeal left to give the cause. All took Fra’ Gerard as their nominal sire, even if another Nosferatu gave them the Embrace. Certainly, he served as spiritual mentor to any who came to him, which often included his own elder sire.
The rampant rise in their numbers alienated the other Nosferatu of Jerusalem, however, who also considered the leper colony in the Valley of Hinnom their exclusive domain. The ancient Kothar, who is said to have made his haven in the city for more than 2000 years, also resented Guillaume and Gerard for refusing to bow before his own heretical, apocalyptic fusion of the Abarahamic creeds. The enmity of the Islamic faction of the Bay’t Mutasharidin known as the Hajj soon followed, as the knights of St. Ladre took an active hand in using the gifts of their Blood as scouts and warriors alongside the Cainites of other Military Orders.
When the kingdom fell in 1187, the vengeance of the Bay’t Mustasharid elders followed. A great hunt fell upon the Order of St. Ladre, and they were forced to flee the Levant with their eastern clan-mates baying for their blood. The Concord know that Fra’ Raymond took ship with a number of the brothers, seeking to make a new home in Constantinople as secret allies of the Malachite family. They would fight for the Dream in 1203 and 1204, and ultimately fail in that mission. As for Fra’ Gerard and Guillaume, they have not been seen since the fall of Jerusalem, although rumours persist that they are active in the Principality of Antioch and the Kingdom of Cyprus.
Embrace: AD 1120.
Lineage: Childe of Guillaume. Further lineage is unknown for certain, but some have heard Guillaume claim to be of the line of the legendary Fantomas of Lutetia. Blessed Gerard is thought to be of the 8th generation.