Heinrich Bardensleben von Wolfsburg

This young Gangrel of rough appearance but courtly manner is the grandchilde of Bernhard Billung. He served the Iron Covenant as the uneasy Scourge of Schäßburg, and he took the cross for the Fifth Crusade.

Description:

A short German knight with a barrel chest, strong arms and a grizzly, patchy beard bisected by a small scar low on his left cheek. His deep set green eyes are dull and calm, and he has an unassuming air quite unusual in a warrior. His helmet, mail, sword and dagger are of excellent quality, bearing the signs of a master’s workmanship. His coat of arms is proudly displayed on his shield, cloak, and his surcoat, all of which are a brilliant shade of red.

coat_of_arms_Heinrich_Bardensleben_von_Wolfsburg.png
The coat of arms of Heinrich Bardensleben von Wolfsburg, depicting a silver wolf leaping over 2 sheafs of golden wheat on a field of red, bordered in silver.

Bio:

The Scourge of Schäßburg is the youngest member of the Iron Covenant, though he holds his own in their company. Sir Heinrich, while he is of rough appearance and is clearly a skilled fighter, is noted for his polished manner and erudition, and his grasp of court etiquette and ability to discuss the finer points of history and philosophy is a true asset to his coterie. He charmed more than one Tzimisce knez during the Covenant’s harrowing journey to Tihuta through the fragmented lands of the Kingdom of Poland and the bloody wilds of northern Transylvania.

Heinrich’s claims to hail from a cadet branch of the Bartensleben grafs (counts) of Wolfsburg. As such, he is connected to a family of great importance in Saxony, as their lands abut and protect one of the approaches to the important trading city of Brunswick, which lies just 20 miles to the southwest of their castle. Furthermore, Wolfsburg is less than 60 miles from the strategic city of Magdeburg, and the unstable and wild lands that lie beyond the banks of the Elbe.

The knight is graciously evasive concerning his own mortal life, saying only that he was granted his spurs by none other than Frederick Barbarossa, but that he was never called upon to go to war, nor did he see fit to join the Holy Roman Emperor on his ill-fated crusade to the East. It is also clear that he has been granted an education that a university instructor would envy, and that he has spent considerable time learning the courtly graces that only a high noble would learn.

The knight is also evasive concerning the circumstances leading up to his Embrace, but it is known that he was sired by the Scourge of Pressburg, Jana von Dorsten, at some point in the first years of the 9th decade of the 12th century. Jana released him quickly, and by 1195 CE he was serving Friedrich der Kühne of Braunschweig as his scourge. Prince Friedrich placed considerable trust in the very young Cainite by giving him such an important duty, and many princes in Saxony and even further abroad took note of the Gangrel knight. Regrettably, Heinrich failed in his duties and the prince, along with his two childer, Brigitta and Gotthold, were slain just 18 months later by a roving pack of Furores. The Sheriff of Braunschweig, Klemens of Clan Toreador, was also destroyed in the attack and so the blame fell squarely on Heinrich. He was soon cast out by the opportunistic new prince, Norbert von Xanten of Clan Lasombra, and chose to wander to the Hungarian marches to take counsel with his sire and search for a new beginning.

He found it with the Ventrue Matthias Granz von Bamberg and his allies in the formative coterie now known as the Iron Covenant. Sir Matthias and János Ozsol, his clan-mate and sword-brother, cared little for the whimsies of fate or the tide of politics. On the advice of the Malkavian Mathilde Wallenstein, they took a chance on the outcast Gangrel and included him in their ranks. Heinrich did not disappoint them, proving his quality by navigating them through the difficult legal systems and Cainite courts of Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire as well seeing them safely through the treacherous demesnes of the Tzimisce of Poland and Transylvania.

Heinrich made a niche for himself within the Iron Covenant instructing his coterie-mates on the intricacies of court etiquette, and he has also markedly improved their own proficiency of the seven liberal arts. He was second only to János as a fighter, and his calm disposition and stringent code of honour helped Sir Matthias keep the coterie grounded with sound ethics. They accepted him fully as one of their own, and thereafter answered any reference to his past failure in Brunswick with stony silence, oaths of retribution, or violence. While the Holy Roman Ventrue have no love for the young Gangrel, he is known to enjoy the respect of Prince Gregor of Pressburg and Prince Vencel Rikard of Buda-Pest.

Even so, he has always been something of an outsider among his companions, most of whom have known each other and worked with each other since before he was born, let alone Embraced. None of them truly shared his proclivities regarding scholarship or the contemplation of the mysteries of existence, although several of them at least humoured him in his musings. Within the night to night congress of the Covenant, even though his courtly manner put his High Clan allies to shame, he made a point of instead establishing his niche as the scout, guide, and procurer of havens, for it allowed him the time to move ahead and to keep his own company. Once they established themselves as the coterie of Schäßburg, he continued in this role, securing the borders of the domain as their scourge.

Sir Heinrich’s lineage was unknown to the Concord prior to the ceremony ratifying Bernhard Billung’s claim on the princedom of Kronstadt in AD 1199. While the new prince reacted with surprise and pleasure to the news that Heinrich was his grandchilde, Prince Bernhard’s scornful castigation of Sir Matthias over the impolitic presence of Lorea and Nicoleta caused immediate family friction. Indeed, Sir Heinrich seemed to be deeply disappointed with his grandsire over the matter, and he was not shy about saying so. In a private audience ater that evening he rejected his grandsire’s attempts to make peace, since it did nothing to restore the honour of his friend who had been so poorly treated in public. He further bitterly rejected Bernhard as everything that Jana claimed; a prideful, self-deceptive and honourless blackguard preoccupied with his own self-aggrandising pursuit of power. Heinrich kept his hand on the hilt of his sword as he delivered the insult, obviously hoping that the prince of Kronstadt would draw his own blade and attack him for his impunity.

Instead, Bernhard stood before his grandchilde calmly, deeply athought.

Finally, the older Gangrel replied that he understood why Jana Embraced Heinrich, for he was everything that she thought that Bernhard himself was before he failed her. And fail her he did. For that he was sorry, but it was a shame then, that she had so obviously sent Heinrich to die at the hands of her sire. He was too young to have a hope of success, despite his skill and valour, because he lacked the experience to match his grandsire nor the heart to murder him. He asked then, did she know how hopeless her quest for revenge was? How unworthy of Heinrich? If Bernhard had failed Jana, than Jana had failed her childe in turn. And for that, he was sorry too.

“There will be no fight,” Bernhard said. “Go in peace, and know that on the shreds of honour I retain, I will find a way to be worthy of you, and of her.”

The young Gangrel left Kronstadt with much to ponder. Years later, he heard that Prince Bernhard had taken the cross for the pilgrimage that would come to be called the Bitter Crusade. His grandsire travelled to Venice in AD 1202, perhaps in a final attempt to expunge the blood from his soul, but he fell in battle ignominiously in the early winter of that year, felled by the spear of a Croatian mortal rebel in the Dinaric Alps near Zara. His mortally wounded horse carried him over a high mountain ledge; a fall that would have doubtlessly killed a mortal, and potentially damaged a Cainite so badly as to drive them into a torpor that would leave them a certain victim of the next dawn. In any case, when the other members of the Concord rejoined the pilgrimage at Corcyra, they were clearly in mourning for their friend and coterie-mate.

Heinrich did not exactly mourn his grandsire himself, but he did feel a loss, for he recognised that he had lost the opportunity either to avenge Jana’s honour or debate the matter further with Bernhard. He threw himself into his role of patrolling the borders of the burgraviate of Schäßburg for the Iron Covenant, and he excelled in this role for more than 10 years, scouting out the agents of Vlad Ionescu, the Tzimisce voivode who sought to tear down the walls of what they had built. Ionescu was a canny foe who had built his power base in the mortal world by playing upon the jealousies and resentments of minor Vlach lords in the villages of the forests, hills, and valleys east of Schäßburg. Under his leadership and the compulsions of the Blood, he forged them into a sizeable army and drove them in a war to take down the burgraviate piece-meal, raiding the outlying villages, burning crops, stealing cattle, and abducting the small folk.

It was in this conflict that Heinrich’s martial abilities, honed in peace, were finally put to the test. The Iron Covenant and their allies fought Vlad Ionescu and his servants for 6 years. The war was dirty, however, and it ground into a stalemate. The Gangrel Scourge discovered that he had few qualms hunting and slaying other vampires and putting down the war ghouls that the Tzimisce used to sew fear and lead their assaults, but his heart was torn every time he was forced to fight and kill a mortal. Prince János had no such compunctions, leading his freelances on scores of punitive sorties into the hills and forests, all of which were quite intentionally bloody and cruel. Sir Heinrich was aghast at the actions of his friend, even though he had always known that Ozsol was a ruthless warrior when he needed to be. The increasingly bitter arguments between the two of them threatened to break the cohesion of the Covenant, and could well have done so without the involvement of Jürgen von Verden. In 1214, the Sword-bearer offered his Teutonic knights to tip the balance in the favour of Schäßburg, provided the burgraviate would then join with Mediasch to offer men for his more difficult campaign against the Cuman army of Kordönül.

Prince Janos agreed, and over the next few months the discipline and skill of the Teutons did everything that the Sword-bearer had promised. The brother-knights were not eager to stoop to the level of the Iron Covenant, but to counter the methods of the voivode they were forced to sully their hands to an extent. However, together with worthy knights such as Christof von Plauen and Berengar von Dohna, the Iron Covenant was able to isolate and destroy the army of Ionescu before too much more suffering was inflicted upon the peasantry of either the burgaraviate or the surrounding petty lords. Sir Heinrich was grateful to the Order of the Black Cross for that, and in the interests of ensuring the peace for the small folk, he worked willingly with the agents of the Jürgen von Verden in the years following the defeat of Kordönül.

In 1217, with the armies of Hungary marching to take the 5th Crusade, Heinrich volunteered to take the cross and watch over the men of Schäßburg who answered the call. Publicly, he wished simply protect his friends among the city guard with whatever gifts he had at his disposal, but privately also wished to expunge not just the taint of the difficult war for his city from his own soul, but also to gain a measure of atonement for his late grandsire, who could not earn it for himself. Finally, he needed also to get away from Prince Janos for a time, as their friendship had not recovered.

He would find some redemption in the person Descia Londa, a neonate of the city of Spalato. The Lasombra had fled her abusive elder sire and stowed away on a merchant nava contracted as a supply ship for the crusade. She arrived at the port of Haifa in October of 1217, and there she threw herself upon the mercy of Prince Alfred, asking for sanctuary and protection. Citing political expediency, the prince rejected her plea. Standing in the crowd witnessing the spectacle, however, Sir Heinrich was moved to assist Descia. He stepped forward and offered her his sword, vowing that he would not allow harm to come to her while he was in a position to defend her. Amused, Prince Alfred said that while he would not shelter Descia, he certainly had no cause to hinder her flight, and he gave them leave to remove themselves from his city forthwith. Heinrich and the Lasombra neonate fled Haifa that very hour.

The next night her older consanguineous brother, Gervasius Cataro, arrived on yet another supply ship. His stated goal was to recover Descia, who had not been released from fledgeling status, and return her to their sire, Prince Ignatius Jacobi. He set off immediately on their trail with the assistance of Rossana,a Malkavian ally from Tripoli. Unknown to either of them, the Ashen Band had secretly sworn to help Descia and Heinrich, and they too secretly rode out on the trail of the hunters. They intercepted Gervasius and Rossana just minutes after the they in turn found their quarry. Heinrich is a gifted duellist, but the sum of his skill had proven unequal to protecting Descia from her potent older brother, who had lived for centuries longer and had fought hundreds of duels.

When the Ashen Band ambushed the hunters, Heinrich was on his knees, his hand gone and his legs hamstrung, waiting for his Final Death as Descia begged Gervasius to spare him. Luckily for the Gangrel knight, the Ashen Band were up to the task of meeting the warriors of the Warden of Spalato and the Tripolitan merchant-princess. With difficulty, they defeated and destroyed the formidable ancillae.

In thanks for their timely assistance, Sir Heinrich swore his friendship and gratitude. They assisted him in healing, provided fresh mounts, and helped he and Descia on their way to whatever sanctuary the Gangrel had in mind. Before they left, he promised he would return to the crusade just as soon as he was sure that her safe haven had been secured, and wished them well on their road in the meanwhile. He and his charge then rode off to the south, in the direction of Jerusalem.

Embrace: AD 1183.

Lineage: Childe of Jana von Dorsten, childe of Bernhard Billung aka Gunther von Sankt Wolfgang, childe of Lucien the Roman, Childe of the Savage aka Velatorix the Averni (d); Unknown lineage beyond this. Heinrich von Wolfsburg counts himself among the 11th generation.

Heinrich Bardensleben von Wolfsburg

The Concord of Ashes Haligaunt