Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
This ancilla, as major-domo of Venice, was once Prince Narses' right hand man and overseer seneschal of all Venice's demesnes. Since 1212, when his sire was forced to quit the city, he has reigned in his own right as Prince of Venice.
A handsome, polished aristocrat, dressed in the finest crimson and indigo velvets and silks of Venice. A gold crucifix adorned with rubies rests prominently on a golden chain around his neck, and he wears numerous tasteful and expensive rings. He is armed only with a dagger. The worried, harried look of yesteryear has on his fine features has been replaced by one of command and purpose.
(modified from the character as presented in Bitter Crusade, pp. 82-83, and Dark Ages Europe, pp. 118-119).
Narses Embraced Guilelmo, the scion of a noble Venetian family, shortly after the assassination of his previous major-domo, Blasio Cancharello, in a dispute with the Genoese Lasombra. Guilelmo was chosen for his obvious skills as a diplomat and negotiator, and after a lengthy period of instruction under another, he rose to the important position of major-domo in AD 1070, little more than two decades after his Embrace.
Like his sire-prince, he developed a practice of maintaining a studied air of objectivity and detachment, and sometimes came across as a little officious. Unlike his master, Guilelmo has the ability to put anyone- even opponents- at ease. Consequently he was the ‘public face’ for the Prince of Venice, and he handled most matters of Cainite mediation, meeting and points of order. As major-domo, he was effectively a master seneschal, “advising” princes and their own seneschals folded into the tiny enclaves of Venetians scattered across the port cities of the Mediterranean as to the will of the prince of Venice. He performed his job with distant efficiency, growing flustered only under the scrutiny of Narses himself. The old Lasombra seemed to take perverse joy in contradicting Guilelmo, apparently in the interests of ‘keeping him on his toes’.
After coming under Narses’ wing, Guilelmo became well-versed in the teachings of the Cainite Heresy. He was fully ordained as a priest of the Crimson Curia in AD 1106, and in some quarters his piety was considered greater even than that of his master, who reigned as Archbishop of Nod in addition to his role as Prince of Venice. For all of his many years, Guilelmo has been a frequent visitor to the Monastery of St. Panteleimon, and several of his retainers are ghouls in the service of the Crimson Curia. He has long kept up a lively correspondence with other heretics, including Nikita of Sredetz, who reinforced his own beliefs that Narses piety was entirely an act to use the Heresy to further his own secular power.
Major-domo Guilelmo Aliprando throughout the course of the stressful events surrounding the Council of the 4th Cainite Crusade.
In AD 1202, Guilelmo Aliprando presided as the impartial moderator of the council of Cainites that accompanied the gathering of the 4th Cainite Crusade. Like his master, Guilelmo seemed to have little public interest in the pilgrimage itself other than seeing the massive financial debts to Venice repaid. Upon the murder of the Ventrue Crusader, Roland, Chevalier du Rocher, Guilelmo directed the investigation- though he did not actually take part. That dubious honour belonged to members of the Concord of Ashes: Bernhard Billung, Sister Maude Khlesl and Veceslav Basarab, who had been accused of the murder by Roland’s superior, Lanzo von Sachsen.
Upon the (apparently) successful conclusion of the Concord’s work, Guilelmo was suitably impressed, and he singled them out for Narses, who in turn publicly praised them. This act alone marked the young coterie as a group to watch, for neither the prince nor his major-domo were apt to readily praise anyone, let alone strangers from distant lands. Indeed, after the conclusion of the council, in a private meeting with just they, Guilelmo, and himself, the prince of Venice offered to pay members of the Concord, either wholly or singly, to act as his agents in the forthcoming crusade. Chiefly, Narses was interested in information on the levers that turned the pilgrimage, but he was also willing to pay extra for them to act as his physical agents. In the wake of later events, the coterie had to assume they were not the only Cainites to whom they made the offer, for the prince was very well informed of the course of the crusade, and the Serene Brotherhood obviously served his interests in addition to their own.
With the successful subversion of the crusade to Byzantium and the events that culminated in its fall and the Great Sack, Venice was finally victorious. With the destruction of the Archangel and the Dream of Constantinople, Narses finally had his revenge on Antonius the Gaul, Belisarius, and all those who had ever repudiated his talent and his will. The Archbishop of Nod veritably crowed with delight to see the empire quartered and its wealth flow into the coffers of his city, and he had not one nostalgic tear for the ravished Queen of Cities that he had once served. Suddenly, he was not just Prince of Venice and Archbishop of Nod, but Lord of territories including Zara, Corfu, Ragusa, Crete, Negroponte, and Modon. Even despoiled Constantinople herself was within his grasp as his brilliant childe, Alfonzo, manoeuvred himself closer and closer to declaring himself prince.
Then a curious thing happened. Despite all their professed scorn for the schismatics of the East, and their derision for the insanity of Michael and his flawed Dream of Constantinople, the princes of the West discovered regret. They realised that something had gone from the world that would never return; a place where Cainites parlayed their talents, their eternal perspective, and the advantages of the Blood to create the nearest thing to Heaven on earth. An imperfect dream perhaps, but a worthy one nonetheless. Certainly Michael’s city was greater than anything the Children of Caine had accomplished since the First City. Greater even than Rome. Now it had all been brought into a nightmarish ruin.
And they all blamed Narses.
Within a couple of years, vicious rumours began to circulate that the Archbishop of Nod had been in league with a Baali witch, the infamous Mary the Black, and they had conspired to destroy the blessed martyr that was Michael the Archangel. A series of prominent princes and lords called for an unprecedented Mediterranean-wide Blood Hunt on Mary, and despite the lack of evidence of his own collusion, many of them ventured that perhaps Narses should be under the same sentence. To compound these vexing tidings, Alfonzo did indeed became prince of Byzantium in 1206, but he chose the moment to break with the See of Nod and instead declare himself a vassal of Ambrosio Luis Moncada of the Sea of Shadows.
In 1212, Nikita of Sredetz for the first time called a special convocation of the Crimson Curia without the Archbishop of Nod. The assembled bishops, archdeacons, and curial legates met to discuss the impiety of their leader and the base way in which he had used their resources to destroy the Dream of Constantinople. Guilelmo was a primary witness, and his testimony was damning. The convocation passed a resolution to divest Narses as undeserving of his sacred rank, and furthermore they declared a heresy-wide Blood Hunt on the defrocked priest.
Realising that his position as prince was also untenable, Narses shortly thereafter fled Venice and went into hiding with only the most loyal of his brood: Pietro Augustino and Lorenzo Tron. More princes saw the blood in the water, and extended the hunt to their own demesnes in thanks to past unkindnesses on his part. Within weeks the master manipulator was a hunted vampire, with few allies and little hope of safe harbour. In his absence, his former major-domo smoothly stepped into the role of prince with the tacit support of most of his consanguineous relatives, who were wise enough to see that without him, they could all lose their place in the city to the opportunistic Giovanni Cappadocians. Those with a mind to move against Guilelmo were instead forcibly moved on by the united front, who thereafter eschewed the moniker of the Narsene Lasombra in favour of a new name: the Serene Cohort.
The following year, as the reorganisation of his family and their assets continued, Guilelmo also began using his accumulated knowledge of the exiled prince’s networks, as well as the seized funds and properties of his sire, to begin an exhaustive manhunt for Narses. He cited publicly the prerogative to reclaim his unworthy blood for his crimes, much as a sire might do to a perfidious childe. In truth, while his sire lived, Guilelmo knew that his own claim on the princedom would never truly be accepted by any of the powers of the Cainite world. He would be seen as a pretender, a childe playing with the dominions of his elders; sooner rather than later they would come for the Serene Cohort, and they would all lose their lives.
It took years to find the bolthole, but eventually Narses was found hiding in a small Croatian town on the Adriatic coast. In strength, Guilelmo and his coterie attacked the pitiful remnants of the old eunuch’s retinue. Their former master fought like a demon possessed, but eventually they brought him down and Guilelmo committed the Amaranth upon Narses. He then returned to Venice, a prince in truth.
The following years have seen many obstacles to his rule, particularly with regards to Venice’s new possessions. The Despotate of Epirus and the Empire of Nicaea pressure the colonies, and Alfonzo also uses what power he has attained in the Latin Empire to challenge his influence too. Rivals among the d’Agostino Lasombra of Genoa also agitate to disrupt Venetian colonial power, most recently backing a revolt on Crete in 1217. At home, the difficulties of managing the unsettling presence of a Cappadocian of the 4th generation in Augustus Giovanni, not to mention his small brood of unbelievably potent progeny, continues to vex Prince Guilelmo and the Serene Cohort.
The number of mortal Giovanni who leave the city and return as vampires is troubling, and he has been forced to tighten the Traditions to an almost tyrannical degree to ensure that their loggia is not bursting at the seams with fresh Cainites. Augustus and his most combative childe, Ignazio, have volunteered their help on the matter of Crete and in truth, they have been of much use. Ignazio has long been a useful member of the brute squad of the prince, and he has sometimes served as warmaster when the city suffered incursions from the local Lupine population. Yet Guilelmo would be a fool not to worry about what roots they are setting down outside of his view, and while he can hardly presume to order Augustus about, he has secured the concession that either he or his childe must remain in Venice when the other leaves.
Embrace: AD 1049.
Lineage: Childe of Narses (diab.,d), Childe of Galerius (d), Childe of Constantius, Childe of Deinomemes (d), Childe of Lasombra. Guilelmo Aliprando was Embraced among the 7th generation, but after taking the soul of his sire, he is now of the 6th.