Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
A prodigy in the arts of Obfuscate, this Leper Knight had the privilege of impersonating the elder Malachite among his former allies of the Covenant of Three. The task nearly cost him his head. He is a fast ally and coterie mate of Conrad de Monreal.
Swathed in bulky black robes, this old man is clearly a leper. He is hideous to behold, with sagging, rotting and festering skin, jagged teeth altogether too long to be natural and only 2 fingers and a thumb on his left hand. A nauseating stench hangs about him. Under his thick robes, the clink of mail can be heard, and he carries a heavy arming sword at his side.
The coat of arms of the Order of St. Lazarus, which Osmund took as his own upon contracting leprosy in 1192. For much of his life, Sir Osmund of Farulveston was a household knight in the service of the earls of Derby. As such, he wore gold and crimson in vair, the heraldry of the House of Ferrers. After the Battle of Arsuf, King Richard granted him an estate, and for a number of years he wore heraldry of his own — a red saltire on a white field, decorated with seven grey towers.
Having been brought across in AD 1195, Fra’ Osmund is younger in the blood than many of his peers among the Order of St. Ladre, but he is accorded considerable respect. Indeed, among the Lazarene knights of Constantinople, he is seen as equal chief aide-de-camp to Fra’ Ignatius, and a likely successor to command if that worthy Nosferatu should fall for any reason. In large part, this is because of all the Lazarene knights, Fra’ Osmund is skilled at making allies and contacts outside of the organisation, perhaps abetted by his facility in the use of the Mask of 1000 Faces. However, the English Leper is also deeply revered for his common sense and wisdom, for he was in his twilight years when he was Embraced.
According to Sir Conrad, Osmund was born in a village on the banks of a brook a few miles north-west of the castle of Tutbury, a stronghold of the Norman House of de Ferrers. A Saxon by birth, men from his family had often served as constables of the local tithing over the centuries, and they had adapted well enough to Norman rule for him to gain employ as a warrior in the service of Robert, the 2nd Earl of Derby. At the age of 20, he earned his spurs defending the ramparts of Tutbury Castle in the closing stages of the Anarchy, and he would continue to serve as a household knight to Robert II and his son, William, throughout the coming decades.
In addition to his capacity to smooth over cultural differences between the Anglo-Saxon smallfolk and their Norman masters, Sir Osmund was known for his knowledge of the shire, his skill on the hunt, and his talent for falconry, a pursuit that became quite fashionable as the 12th century progressed. He was also a renowned joker, whose proficiency at impersonation was frequently called upon for the amusement of the earl’s court. This last ability would eventually make him quite useful to his sire, Fra’ Raymond, and to the Byzantine elder known as Malachite. Finally, as a soldier of long experience, he was useful as a captain in his lord’s army.
As a loyal household knight, Sir Osmund followed his lord on the Third Crusade in the army of King Richard the Lionheart. He was among the knights who led Earl William’s men in the advance guard at the Siege of Acre, and he was at his lord’s side when the earl lost his life there. However, it was his actions at the Battle of Arsuf that would truly earn him renown. On the day of that battle, he was noted among 12 worthy knights who were instrumental in holding the morale of the Crusader army long enough to effect a devastating defeat on the forces of Saladin. Sir Osmund had been granted the honour of bearing his late master’s standard, and his bellowing speeches in honour of Earl William and King Richard did much to keep up the courage of his fellow Englishmen until the time was ripe for a charge.
It was as the dust of the battle settled, and King Richard lauded and rewarded the efforts of the 12 heroes as the “Towers of Arsuf,” that Sir Osmund would meet his future friend and coterie-mate, Sir Conrad of Monreal, a heroic and pious warrior of the Kingdom of Jerusalem who had joined the Templars after the great failure at the Horns of Hattin.
Sir Osmund was rewarded with a small fief of his own for his actions, although he would never gain the opportunity to see it. In the closing stages of the war, not long after the Battle of Jaffa, he discovered that he had been inflicted with the scourge of leprosy. Immediately after the treaty between Saladin and the Lionheart had been settled, Osmund entered the ranks of Order of St. Ladre. Sir Conrad was among those friends who attended his symbolic death mass on the 8th September, 1192.
He would spend several years at a Leprosarium near Acre before he was approached by one Fra’ Walter, a fellow member of his order who claimed that a home had been made for the auxiliaries in the fabled city of Constantinople. After several guarded conversations, Walter revealed himself as one of the “elite and blessed exiles” who served Raymond du Puy, a legendary grandmaster of both the Hospitallers and the Lazarenes who was thought to have died some 40 years earlier. He then offered the same blessing to Osmund, should he wish to continue God’s work for a while yet. Entranced by the notion of visiting the Queen of Cities, and returning to some kind of use, the old knight agreed and entered the ranks of the undead.
In due course, he would indeed find himself in Constantinople, where his good cheer and wisdom soon earned the warm regard of his brother-knights. His old knack for imitation would prove to be valuable to his brothers, for Fra’ Osmund would prove to be something of a prodigy in the arts of Obfuscate in general, and the Mask of 1000 Faces in particular. He would learn that Fra’ Raymond had asked Walter personally to bring him into the Nosferatu of St. Ladre because Sir Conrad had been Embraced into the Lexor family, and the Brujah neonate’s tales of Osmund’s quality had fired the grandmaster’s imagination. Indeed, after Conrad’s permanent return to the city just before the turn of the 13th century, the two friends were reunited and they soon formed a team with one of the Baron’s Gangrel, Loukia Kalekina, to form something of a troubleshooting coterie for the Covenant of Three. They would act in defence of the Dream for several years, right up until its final nights.
Shortly before the city fell, the Patriarch compelled Malachite to flee through the powers of the Blood. The elder was powerless to resist, but as he left he promised to return as soon as he could. In order to prevent a panic among the Cainites of the city or a sense of broken faith among the Covenant of Three, Fra’ Raymond ordered Osmund to use his gifts to impersonate Malachite until his return. This he did with great skill, fooling all for several weeks before the night the city fell.
Unfortunately, Baron Thomas Feroux discovered the deception on that very evening. His sanity driven over the edge by the loss of Michael, Gesu, and the Library of the Forgotten, the baron attacked Fra’ Osmund in a rage. Only the interjection of Justinian and Sir Conrad prevented the Final Death of the Nosferatu, but he still lost an arm and much of his jaw before slipping into torpor from his wounds. From that moment forward, the Baron forsook his alliance with the Malachite and St. Ladre Nosferatu, declaring them enemies that would be hunted for their treachery and cowardice.
Osmund awoke several weeks later to find the city much changed: Blessed Fra’ Raymond had gone to the Final Death, his existence stolen by a collapsed cistern; Malachite had left the city in search of the Dracon, aided by Fra’ Ignatius and several of the senior brother-knights; the Baron’s Gangrel had disintegrated with Feroux’s failures while all the Lexor Brujah save Conrad had departed the city; and the city had descended into competing camps of Crusader coteries and flailing elders of the broken Trinity and Scion families. Bewildered, Osmund took stock of the desolate situation.
Then he got to work.
Ignatius had left instruction that if Osmund were to awake, he would lead until Malachite and he returned. The old knight did so, striving to hearten his brothers, then directing them to find food and supplies for their mortal brothers and their herds of the dispossessed. Over the course of the following months he took his lead from the example of Malachite, who had departed the city in company with Verpus Sauzezh, he took the step of offering assistance to those Gangrel of Feroux’s broken family who remained in the city. This won back some trust from several of their former allies, despite some residual resentment over his earlier deception.
Upon the return of Fra’ Ignatius some time later, a new hierarchy was codified for the Order of St. Ladre in Constantinople. Osmund was confirmed as his co-second alongside Fra’ Zoticus, with elements of the other Nosferatu brother-knights answering directly to all three. Beneath them would serve the ghoul brother-knights, under them the lay brothers. and then finally the other lepers who had taken shelter among them.
Over the coming years, the knights of St. Ladre were forced to conform to an unwholesome political climate as the Venetian Lasombra Alfonzo rose to the princedom of the city. The Nosferatu became information brokers and bodyguards-for-hire, pretending at a mercenary instinct that few of them actually possess. For his part, while Zoticus specialises in the martial aspects of the order and Ignatius to the organisational maintenance, Fra’ Osmund heads up their spy network. In this, he is assisted by his old friend Sir Conrad, who continues to take shelter among his Nosferatu friends under the hostile regime of the Court of Porphyry Shadows.
Embrace: AD 1195.
Lineage: Childe of Fra’ Walter, childe of Fra’ Raymond, childe of Blessed Gerard, childe of Guillaume. Fra’ Osmund places himself among the 10th generation, and claims the ancient Fantomas of Lutetia as his distant ancestor.