Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The master of the Constantinopolitan Knights of St. Ladre, this puissant knight and lordly captain was a secret ally of the elder Malachite for many years. He was destroyed during the Great Sack of 1204.
In his true form this knight was a tall, gaunt, leprous Nosferatu clad in mail, the rags of a once-fine surcoat depicting a green cross on a white field, and a heavy black cloak. His ears, nose and lips were altogether missing, and his protuberant teeth were white and sharp. Much of his parchment-like grey skin was also gone, and his bones protruded painfully. He was typically armed with a sword and dagger.
The coat of arms of the Order of St. Lazarus. When he was Grandmaster of the Order of St. John, Fra’ Raymond quartered his family arms (that of a red lion on a golden field) with that of the Hospitallers, but upon taking the Order of St. Lazarus, he eschewed those arms and opted for the simpler symbol of his new order.
(modified from Constantinople by Night, p. 101 & the wikipedia article)
The late leader of a band of Nosferatu knights that haunted the sewers, cisterns and tunnel networks beneath the Queen of Cities, Fra’ Raymond was a creature of rare quality. To those very few Cainites of the city who knew of the presence of he and his brother-knights of the Order of St. Lazarus, he was recognised as being wise and capable beyond his years. Indeed, Fra’ Raymond was a Cainite of many talents — a masterful commander, able administrator, insightful theologian, and formidable politician. Altogether, one might remark that very few elders seem quite so capable as was this particular vampire, who would only barely be considered an ancilla in his own right. If only they knew…
A member of a noble and ancient family of the Dauphiné Viennois, Rochefort and Montbrun, Raymond was the son of Hughes du Puy, Seigneur de Peyrins, d’Apifer, et de Rochefort and a captain serving under Godfrey of Bouillon. In addition, he was also related to the noted crusader knight Guillaume Hughes du Puy and to Adhemar du Puy, the principal papal legate of Urban II during the First Crusade. The latter worthy is of particular note, famed in the songs of troubadours for carrying the Spear of Destiny into battle at the breaking of the Siege of Antioch.
Raymond himself was a mere squire at the outset of the crusade, but he eventually earned his spurs fighting the Saracens at Edessa and Antioch. He was grievously wounded in the closing stages of the Siege of Jerusalem, and did not partake in the bloody sack that followed. Indeed, he would have perished of his festering injuries if not for the ministrations of a Benedictine Hospitaller called Fra’ Gerard, who had long been rector of the Hospital of St. John in the Christian Quarter of the city. The monk used medical methods unfamiliar to the Frankish chirurgeons, and despite their reservations his treatments brought the young knight back to full health from an infection that could well have led to his death.
At the conclusion of the successful campaign, his father was appointed governor of Acre, and the family benefitted from his influential station. His health restored by Fra’ Gerard, Raymond flourished in the newly founded Kingdom of Jerusalem. His entire adult life would be spent in the Holy Land, and his perspective was deeply coloured by the cosmopolitanism common to those people of the Crusader Kingdoms with minds open enough to receive the full education of its cultural melting pot.
As a pious and honourable knight with an inquiring mind and a generous nature, young Raymond was favoured by many, not least among them Blessed Fra’ Gerard himself. Guided by his own devotion, the knight took holy orders in 1105, and soon became indispensable to his mentor. As the years wore on the rector of the Hospital of St. John, already aged at the time of the First Crusade, grew to rely on Raymond’s strength of arm and incisive mind. Fra’ Raymond helped the rector separate the hospital from the Ordo Benedicti, once it became clear that their goals had diverged significantly, and he was likewise instrumental in the creation of Gerard’s vision of a religious order solely devoted to the health and protection of pilgrims. After AD 1113, the new Order of St. John would be answerable only to the Pope.
The new order grew quickly in wealth and influence. Fra’ Gerard never really acquired any comfort with this newfound and unfamiliar power, and so he quickly delegated it to Raymond, who was a natural at making honourable and pious use of it. Not a few among the Knights of St. John wondered if perhaps this was not the wise old man’s plan all along…
After 1118, Fra’ Raymond took over leadership of the brethren formally when the ailing Blessed Gerard, now in his seventies, retired from active duty as rector. There was never any doubt that Raymond would succeed as rector of the hospital, but when Gerard passed away some 18 months later, Fra’ Raymond quickly translated his role as rector into an even grander vision. He soon codified the rule of the Order, and petitioned the pope to expand the Hospitaller’s role into a military one akin to that of the recently created Knights Templar. At the same time he also saw to the prosperity of the monks of St. Lazarus (also known as St. Ladre), an order dedicated to the care of those suffering from leprosy. Also established by Blessed Fra’ Gerard, upon his death it diverged into a separate order under the supervision of Boyant Roger, but Raymond bound the two orders together as allies with a shared vision and shared resources. Together, he and Roger never let their juniors forget that both orders were founded by Blessed Fra’ Gerard.
As their first Grand Master he developed the Knights Hospitaller into a strong military force, but he never lost sight of Fra’ Gerard’s vision — that of an order that fought to protect the sick, the injured, the weary and the helpless. Raymond also divided the membership of the Order into clerical, military, and serving brothers, and he tied the growing strength of the order to the stability of the kingdom by courting the favour of kings Baldwin II and Fulk. He would be present at, and instrumental to, the capture of Ascalon in 1153, and under his near forty years of stewardship, the Knights Hospitaller became one of the most potent forces in all Christendom.
And so it was with some sense of irony that, in his own twilight years, Fra’ Raymond resigned himself to the discovery that he had contracted leprosy. It was impossible for him to continue service in the Hospitaller Order, given his condition, and so he chose to spend whatever time he had left in the most useful way he could imagine. In 1157, at the age of 82, he resigned his station and accepted a new one as Grandmaster of the Order of St. Lazarus. In keeping with their rule, he gave up all of his remaining possessions and entitlements, retired to a leprosarium, and ceased all efforts to communicate with his family and friends. Indeed, as the order of St. Ladre were considered to be deceased already, Fra’ Raymond was even given a death mass.
Looking around him, Fra’ Raymond saw only an untapped resource, and he set about mobilising these fallen warriors into an auxiliary military order worthy of their names, honour and devotion. He would last only 13 months before the infections brought him down, but in that time the Order of St. Ladre was already transforming into his vision. Lying on his sick bed, wracked with pain and feeling that the end of his time was nigh, Blessed Fra’ Raymond was shocked to find himself visited by none other than his beloved late mentor. Stepping out of the shadows alongside his own sire, Guillaume, and rendered into a horror by leprosy and the Embrace of the Nosferatu clan, his quiet faith and luminosity of spirit shone through his condition. As the watches of the night sounded from the ramparts, he listened with growing horror as Fra’ Gerard told him of the truth in the darkness of the world.
Before his own Embrace, Blessed Gerard had learned of the existence of a number of immortals who moved among the lepers. Cursed with monstrous form, these Nosferatu laboured on in exile from the light of God, hoping to ease the burden of their fellow lazars and to do good works in the extra time to which they had been alotted. On his death bed, one of these Cainites had offered to make Fra’ Gerard like himself, and the goodly old monk had chosen to do their work until the will of God should claim him, and his exile be ended.
It was then that Fra’ Raymond understood that unknown to even himself, he had never acted alone in his ambitions, for in the years after his Embrace, Gerard had watched over Raymond, secretly protecting him from less beneficent Cainites and giving their assistance to both the Hospitallers and the Lazarenes where needed. At length, his tale concluded, and Blessed Gerard offered the Embrace to Raymond, earnestly urging him to delay his final reward for a while yet. Without hesitation, he followed Fra’ Gerard into undeath, and he sought to serve in the way that he knew best.
Plying the knowledge and skills of his mortal years, Fra’ Raymond looked at the crusader states with new eyes. Those Nosferatu of Christian extraction plied their trade as information merchants in the seams of the formative Western hierarchies of the crusader cities. As in the West, they were despised and generally ignored, counted among the Low Clans and traded with only when needed, but Fra’ Raymond subscribed to no artificial delineations of High Clan and Low. All that mattered to him was nobility of spirit, clarity of vision, and dutiful purpose. He quickly saw that many of the Nosferatu he met were the best and most noble of the Children of Caine, yet they lacked pride or unity.
Throughout the decades after his Embrace, he worked to bring about organisation and cohesion in the ranks, but he enjoyed only mixed success. Excepting the Muslim Hajji, who were not particularly amiable to his overtures, the Mutasharidin of the East were set in their ways. Most existed as either solitary and monstrous predators or else followers of ancients with their own inscrutable designs (such as the ancients Kli Kodesh or Kothar). However, Blessed Raymond felt that the Order of St. Ladre could be a start — a way to draw the ranks in and provide a nucleus for unity in the future. Their perceived political weakness — the wilfull ignorance of the other clans — could be compounded with their skill at stealth to bring great numbers of good people into the clan.
For several more years, Raymond took the almost unprecedented step of remaining as Grandmaster of the Order of St. Lazarus, despite his undead state. He embraced liberally among the worthy and willing sergeants and knights among the Lazarene auxiliary, and invited more Nosferatu to take the vows and enter the military order if they felt it their calling. It was here, perhaps, that his storied audacity and ambition began to fail him. Refusing to heed the warnings of older Nosferatu, he and his followers began Embracing leper knights in unprecedented numbers. It is thought that just 15 years later, by the middle of the reign of Baldwin the Leper, more than 100 knights of St. Ladre walked the nights of the kingdom of Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, as the Crusader kingdoms failed, and the vampires of the Ashirra sect became aware of this suddenly large number of formidable neonates arrayed against them, their list of enemies quickly grew. After the Battle of Hattin and the fall of Jerusalem, a great pogrom was launched against Fra’ Gerard, Fra’ Raymond and their followers. Raymond escaped the worst of it, but it is rumoured that both Fra’ Gerard and Guillaume were destroyed in the purge. The survivors among the knights of St. Ladre were forced from much of the Levant, seeking a new base from to which to build themselves up once more.
And so it was that Fra’ Raymond and a small number of his fellows arrived in Constantinople. Despite initial tensions over religious differences, he soon made a friend and new mentor in Malachite, the elder of the Scion family of the same name. Unbeknownst to most of the Cainites of the Trinity regions or the Latin Quarter, the two Nosferatu leaders forged their coteries into a powerful new union to combat the dissolution of the Dream.
For more than 15 years, the Knights of St. Ladre laboured to do their part, and like many of his fellows Fra’ Raymond became a wholehearted believer in the Dream of the Queen of Cities. When the 4th Crusade diverted to their new home, it was largely the advice of the wise Lazarene Grandmaster that assisted the Covenant of Three in stepping up their activities in preparation for war. Likewise, when the conflict came to blows in both 1203 and 1204, Fra’ Raymond had already sent word to cabals of his fellows in Antioch, Cilician Armenia, Cyprus, Sicily, Italy, and the ports of Asia Minor, and more than 30 knights of St. Ladre secretly answered the call in defence of the city. Finally, it was Fra’ Raymond that orchestrated the deception of his subordinate, Fra’ Osmund, who masqueraded as Malachite for several weeks when the Byzantine elder was forced to flee the city under the compulsion of the Archangel. While the last gambit ultimately resulted in the enmity of Baron Thomas Feroux, it brought much needed stabiliity in a critical time.
When the hammer finally fell, and the city was breached, the knights of St. Ladre stood ready to defend the people and their new home with heart, faith, and steel.
Ultimately, they failed, although Fra’ Raymond was not there to see the worst of it. At dawn following the first night of the Great Sack, with fires raging throughout much of the heart of the city, he and a number of his followers took refuge in an abandoned cistern close to the third hill. Weakened by the fires, an adjoining building collapsed into the cistern and crushed he and most of those with him unto the Final Death.
The loss of Fra’ Raymond was keenly felt by his followers, and by their remaining allies among the Covenant of Three, the Reformed Michaelites, and the Concord of Ashes. In the wake of his passing, Fra’ Ignatius assumed control over the local chapter of the Military Order of St. Ladre.
Embrace: AD 1158.
Lineage: Nominal childe of Fra’ Gerard the Blessed, actual 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 Raymond was thought to be of the 8th generation.