Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Gabriella of Genoa
The Bishop of the Genoese district of the Latin Quarter, this ancilla was sympathetic to the Dream. She faked her death in the spring of AD 1198, only to return during the 4th Crusade before making a play for the princedom in 1206.
A ruddy skinned noblewoman in early middle age, good-looking and of considerable presence. Her long, curly hair is dark brown, framing a delicate face, a prominent nose, and haughty dark eyes that gleam with intelligence. She is dressed in the finest Byzantine silks.
Gabriella hails from the d’Agostino family of Lasombra, which has ruled Genoa from the shadows for centuries. She arrived in Constantinople at the turn of the 12th century, when Italian and Byzantine traders were on a more even footing and the empire prospered. As matters turned sour for the city throughout the latter years of the reign of Manuel Comnenus, the venerable emperor sought to diminish the influence of Venice in favour of her rivals, Genoa and Pisa. His concessions to the merchants of those cities suddenly brought her into prominence, and she made firm overtures of alliance towards the Cainites of the Trinity families, yet while some (such as Symeon of the Obertus Tzimisce) welcomed her friendship, she was dismissively rebuffed by most of the followers of the Dream.
After Manuel passed away, the acrimony of the Romaioi towards the Italians continued to simmer through the brief reign of his son. Alexius II. Manuel’s wife, Maria of Antioch, assumed the regency for the young emperor, and her highly nepotistic rule towards Latin interests caused the tensions to intensify to a flashpoint. In 1182, Maria was deposed as regent by Manuel’s cousin, Andronicus, and the celebrations quickly blew out into the Latin Riots. Tens of thousands of her fellow Latins were brutalised, robbed, and murdered, and only her friendship with Symeon saved Gabriella and her mortal protege Lillian. They were given sanctuary within the Church of Christ Pantokrator, while he rest of the Latin Cainites were slain in the riots or else forced to flee the city. Among those who were given the Final Death were Bishop Elizio, the childe of Narses of Venice.
It took years for Gabriella to rebuild her power. During their time among the Obertus, Lillian and Symeon struck up a remarkable friendship. With some misgivings, but aware of the very great boon that she owed the Tzimisce, Gabriella released her beloved Lillian from her service and she became Symeon’s ward. When she came of age, Lillian then became the Quaesitor’s willing consort, and the bond between between the d’Angelo Lasombra and Obertus Tzimisce grew stronger still.
In AD 1194, Symeon presented Lillian to his brother-sire Gesu, with the intention of seeking formal permission to Embrace the young woman. Whatever took place at St. John Studius that night, neither Lillian nor Gesu left the confines of the monastery ever again. For his part, Lord Symeon was never the same: he raged in solitude for months, and then retreated into a moody reticence in his duties as Quaesitor and secular leader of the Obertus family. He still attended meetings, and was as skillful at intrigue as ever, but his heart did not appear to be in it. He and Bishop Gabriella drifted apart also, their mutual folly over Lillian driving a wedge into their trust and friendship.
Gabriella has always been unusual among the Latins. While as ambitious and driven as any Lasombra, she believed that Constantinople was a rich but fractured resource. She felt that her family and clan should be assisting in its reconstruction rather than robbing it of its wealth. A newly resurgent Byzantium- with Genoese allies, of course- could have proven to be a source of infinite riches. Her attempts at healing the rift were not terribly successful, but she never stopped trying, right up until her disappearance in the spring of AD 1198. A pile of ashes, clearly the remains of a Cainite, were found near her tower in the Genoese quarter. The late Elizio’s replacement, Bishop Alfonzo, snidely rejoiced in her supposed destruction, and no investigation was carried out.
In the month after her assassination, the bishops of the Amalfitan and Pisan districts were also assassinated, and an attempt on* Bishop Alfonzo’s* unlife very nearly succeeded as well. The Latin Quarter erupted into chaos as investigations were hastily carried out, but no one was brought to justice. The Antonian Ventrue were also driven into disarray, with the Eastern Praetorian Prefect Helena the Armenian also being struck down and driven into a strange torpor by the mysterious assassin, who then ceased their attacks and vanished without a trace.
After 1199, attempts by Bishop Alfonzo’s lackeys to extend his power into the Genoese district were met with stiff opposition from unknown parties. A number of Ravnos made their homes in Galata, and Gabriella had previously offered generous employment to other Cainites, including Brujah, Gangrel, Nosferatu and Caitiff, who sought a place in her territory and the vampires there succeeded in making the Genoese district the only part of the Latin Quarter where the Narsene Lasombra did not hold absolute sway. Some privately suspected that either Gabriella actually survived the assassination attempt and ad hgone into hiding, or else another of her bloodline had secretly assumed control of her assets in the Queen of Cities.
With the arrival the 4th Crusade outside the walls of the city and the subsequent first assault, all speculation abruptly ended, for Gabriella reemerged from hiding. Seen in company with Guy of Provence and other leaders among the pilgrims, she quickly manoeuvred herself into the position of intermediary between they and the Trinity families. it was discovered that for years she had masterfully conducted her operations within the city from afar, using trusted proxies while she kept herself secret., safe, and secure at a manse on the Bosphorus some miles north of the walls of Galata.
Throughout the many tense months that followed, the Genoese merchant princess worked with great tenacity to keep dialogue open between all parties. Most often, she worked in this capacity with Katerina of Adrianople and her influential progeny, Prince Iulia of Weissenburg, but her connections with Guy, Vitalis, and Symeon were also highly useful.
Ultimately, however, Gabriella’s exertions came to naught, and war broke out once more between the Latins and the Romaioi. Ultimately, the city fell. Using what influence she had gained over the Cainite Crusade and her countrymen, she strove to save what could be saved, but it was not, could not, be enough and Gabriella looked on in horror as too many of Constantinople’s grand buildings, priceless artworks, glorious treasures, and antique culture were brought to ruin.
In the weeks and months after the disaster, she tried one last time to move the crusade on to Egypt. Making alliiance with Hugh de Clairvaux, she offered generous assistance to help the Ventrue Templar regroup the floundering and dispersing forces of the 4th Crusade. In return, she demanded that as the leader of the regathered crusade, he in turn use his own strength to see her placed upon the throne as prince of Constantinople. Brother Hugh agreed, and Gabriella expended much of her wealth and considerable prestation capital to see a fleet assembled in the Bosphorus for his use. Unfortunately, an Assamite assassin slew the valourous Templar, and the renewed effort collapsed catastrophically, wasting her coin and influence.
In the wake of that failure, Gabriella struggled to regroup, losing political ground to the machinations of Bishop Alfonzo and other players. By 1206, the contest for the princedom was lost when the canny, streetwise Venetian betrayed his sire, Narses, and threw in his lot with the Sea of Shadows as a vassal of Archbishop Moncada of Madrid and his sire, Silvester de Ruiz. At the appointed time their agent, Lucia d’Aragon, was just one of many carefully orchestrated players who stamped Alfonzo’s authority over the city entire, and Gabriella was forced to accept his suzerainty as a fait accompli.
Shocked and bitterly disappointed, she and her agents withdrew across the Golden Horn to the new Genoese district. There they offered the tribute that was Prince Alfonzo’s due, and otherwise shored up their borders and worked to make the district a true city within a city, not unlike the Venetians had done throughout the entire Latin Quarter a score of years earlier.
As the years wore on, Gabriella slowly gathered her power in step with her customary iron-clad self-control, watching with satisfaction the continuing erosion of Alfonzo’s power as his missteps into the mortal political spectrum were compounded by his tyrannical over-compensations in the Cainite world. In due course, the Genoese district became quite secure, as the borders of the greatly expanded Venetian district became ever more porous.
In an ironic twist of fate, Alfonzo’s failed ambition and his subsequent withdrawal to the well-trodden path of the Latin Quarter have revealed that he has fallen victim to the self-same gambit that he perpetrated on the Dream. In short, in his desire to claim the imperial palace, he had begun ignoring the streets, and his minions have long since lost the count of vampire hoi polloi that have entered the city through his ports. However, this time the new arrivals have not been restricted to the small area of the Latin Quarter, and scores of the unaccounted have melted into the throngs of the entire city.
Naturally, Gabriella has gone out of her way to welcome those that her capable agents find, and in a slightly more enlightened mimicry of her hated rival’s one-time methods, the most talented of the newcomers find her willing to float them some silver, temporary havens or herd, and certain other favours in order to set them up in the city. Those who accept her help are never mistaken — the Genoese merchant-princess is every bit the hard-nosed dealer, and she expects full restitution for her assistance.
Gabriella has not given up on her designs to be prince of the Queen of Cities, and her hatred of Alfonzo has only grown since he “stole” the title in 1206. Her supporters grow year by year, and she still hopes to see Alfonzo humiliated and removed from power or, better yet, destroyed. Her coterie suffered several casualties during the Great Sack and the debacle surrounding Hugh of Clairvaux’s assassination, but it still boasts a number of worthy and potent Cainites among its number.
Her eyes and muscle on the streets are the roguish Toreador Raphael and his brutish Gangrel partner, Gradin. The former Lexor senator Ian advises her on the remnants of the Byzantine bureaucracy and the remaining Cainites of the Families, while the mysterious Ravnos known as Pasqual is thought to offer his wealth of experience as a long-time traveller throughout the empire and the ports of the Black Sea. Finally, the Bulgarian Tzimisce Iziaslav emerged from a long torpor in 1215, and has taken a new role as Gabriella’s bodyguard.
Embrace: AD 936.
Lineage: Childe of Isabelle d’Agostino, childe of Marcus d’Agostino, childe of Constantius, childe of Montano, childe of Lasombra. Gabriella is of the 8th generation, and her bloodline is considered to be quite prestigious and recognised for their power wherever the influence of Genoa reaches.