Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The erstwhile Voivode of Mureș, Schäßburg, and Hargita, this potent Tzimisce was a skilled and ruthless soldier, but also a noted patron of the arts. His castle suddenly fell to unknown powers in 1214, and he is believed to have been destroyed.
This Transylvanian noble was a curious and distinctive mixture of austere majesty and sophisticated splendour. The tall, pale boyar had strong, square features marred by several battle scars that oddly seemed only to enhance his striking countenance. He had a powerful build and was clearly an experienced warrior, but he usually eschewed armour in favour of wearing the styles common to the Western courts. He preferred to wear silks in the hue of scarlet, azure, and sable, and he was rarely seen without a cloak of regal silver wolf fur. Typically, he armed himself with a dagger and a bastard sword, but in battle he was known to prefer the spear.
The coat of arms of Vlad Ionescu, the self-proclaimed Voivode of Mureș, Schäßburg, and Hargita. Intended to depict his formidable castle and his descent from Vladimir Rustovich, it was designed for him by the Toreador Arianne in AD 1182, and he used it proudly up until his apparent destruction late in the autumn of 1214.
Prior to his rise to power in Transylvania, little is known of the earlier years of Vlad Ionescu save that if he was the most noteworthy of Vladimir Rustovich’s progeny active as a power in his own right, that he had been a ghoul for some time before his Becoming, and that he was a notorious belligerent in the storied War of Griffons and Dragons that would end the immediate territorial ambitions of Bulcsú in the early decades of the 12th century. At that time, he was known to be a knez of a small domain in Ruthenia.
The onetime Voivode of Mureș was the bane of the Siebenburger cities of Schäßburg and Mediasch for more than fifty years. He first came to prominence in the late 1150s with the establishment of his stronghold in the Upper Mureș river valley, little more than twenty miles from the newly established settlement of Schäßburg. A tall tower keep atop a sheer hill, the stronghold would soon come to be known as Castelul Pumnalului, meaning the Castle of the Dagger in the tongue of the Vlachs. Within a decade, the talented knez had broken five other Tzimisce to declare himself voivode of a large area taking in much of the forested plateau of the north-eastern Transylvanian basin between the rivers Mureș and Someș. Even then, he was known as the proxy of Vladimir Rustovich, who had only recently ascended to the covetous station of Voivode among Voivodes. It was obvious that he was immediately resentful of the interloping Transylvanian Saxons and their Árpád puppeteers, and it would not be long before Ionescu marched on Prince Károl Borbas and his domain of Schäßburg.
The town would suffer through four Trials by War between AD 1166 and 1175, the first three of which were resisted with varying degrees of aid from Mediasch and Bistritz. On the occasion of the last attack, however, the princes of the Council of Ashes would prove unable to assist, and that Trial by War would end in the total defeat of the Árpád Ventrue of Schäßburg. The victorious Voivode Ionescu took pains to make an example of Prince Károl and his one surviving progeny, János Ozsol. Both Ventrue were warped by the arts of Vicissitude to send a grisly message to Nova Árpád and the other princes of the Council that he would see their work undone, and their new mortal pawns would merely add to the herds of the Clan of the Dragon. Károl was driven into a piteous torpor by the tortures and mutations inflicted upon him, and while his form was finally restored in the early years of the 13th century, he has not yet arisen. János was able to recover on his own, though it took an enormous volume of blood and many months. He swore vengeance on Vlad Ionescu over the defeat and the insult, and unbeknownst to the Tzimisce János would spend decades quietly working towards his downfall.
The young Shaper known as Sergiu Lazar was another early casualty of Vlad Ionescu’s rise, made even more of a target by his public acknowledgement of Visya, Rustovich’s old enemy, as his sire. Having spent the best part of two decades carefully growing the settlement of Aserculu, Lazar found himself the target of a Trial by War in AD 1176 and, owing to the attritious wars of Visya, there were too few men available to march from Bistritz and Régen to assist him. Knez Sergiu and his retainers were left to face Ionescu alone but the newly declared Voivode of Mureș and Schäßburg rolled over the pitiful defences of Aserculu easily. The young Tzimisce was captured and would be tortured for months, mutated into a bent, slithering, pig-faced, weasel-like creature, then released to crawl back to his sire.
Over the following years, Ionescu would prove to be a hands-off Cainite ruler of Schäßburg, as he next took his fight to the remote forested valleys of the the eastern and northern reaches of the Inner Carpathians. On those occasions when he did take an interest in the city, it was to fête visiting Toreador from abroad, for he had a profound interest in the advances of art and architecture of the Kingdom of France, the Holy Roman Empire, the Italian city-states, and Byzantium. His most frequent visitor was Arianne, the self-proclaimed cultural ambassador of the Courts of Love, and she did much to lure others of her ilk to his lands. The Castle of the Dagger was soon enriched by the fine works of his guests, which attracted even more Toreador to visit him. Indeed, it was not unusual to find two or even three Artisans at a time taking advantage of his largesse in return for their skills and crafts. These in turn caused his standing among his own clan to rise further, as other Tzimisce travelled to see such wonders with their own eyes.
By the end of the 12th century, the lord of the Castle of the Dagger had lengthened his domain more than eighty miles through the forests and hills, from the growing town of Aserculu all the way to the headwaters of the Mureș River. Several dozen lesser Tzimisce knezi (a good number of them his own youthful progeny) answered to him, and he took a tithe in salt and blood for their protection. The Mureș is long indeed, and using the salt rafts messages could be carried all the way to his sire’s dominion of Arad.
In AD 1198 the coterie known as the Iron Covenant abruptly appeared in the now-prosperous city of Schäßburg and, in a remarkable display of speed and planning, slew or forced out all of Ionescu’s people in just a single night. Among the casualties were two of his most skilled and valued progeny, Stelian and Ada. At the time Ionescu was busy with a number of mysterious attacks on his Szekler assets in the east of his voivodate (later revealed to be the work of the subtle Brotherhood of the Black Stallion) and by the time he was able to martial his assets, he was forced to accept his loss of the coveted city as a fait accompli. The alliance between Mediasch and Schäßburg was too strong for an immediate attack and the fact the newly proclaimed Árpád prince was none other than Karol’s vengeful progeny, János, bruised his prestige sorely. His own restive dominion was too unstable to move, so instead the Voivode of Mureș was forced to swallow his pride and gather his power more slowly and carefully.
In 1207 he was ready to respond, and the conflct that followed would last seven years. The war was predicated in the mortal sphere by the pretext of formerly independent Vlach lords and communes from the deep forests and valleys rising up against the royally mandated expansion of the Saxons and the Szeklers into their lands. The campaign was a cruel one, dominated by excessive raiding and pillaging by each side on the small folk of the other. It would tax Ionescu’s demesnes sorely, not the least because other Tzimisce took the opportunity to attack him while he was busy with the Iron Covenant. Indeed, Visya actually made alliance with the Árpáds in order to do so, and at the behest of the vengeful Sergiu Lazar he formally entered the war on the side of Mediasch and Schäßburg in 1209. Even so, by the early spring of 1214, it was clear that Vlad Ionescu was wearing down his enemies faster than they could recover and, furthermore, it was only a matter of time before Rustovich reinforced him due to the need to answer Jürgen von Verden’s establishment of dominion over the Burzenland.
It was at that point that agents of Prince János approached the Sword-bearer with an offer. Knowing that after years of fighting the “insurgency” of Ionescu the expertise of his Schäßburgers with conducting irregular warfare would be of great use in the war against Khan Kordönül, Oszol put his men on the table. However, first János would require the assistance of the Order of the Black Cross and their resources to turn the tide against their own enemy. The Sword-bearer agreed, and he sent forty-two brother-knights and nearly one hundred and fifty sergeants to assist Schäßburg in its war against the Voivode of Mureș.
The fighting was hard, but in just three months the veteran brothers of the Teutonic Order had taken down four of Ionescu’s knezates, and succeeded in capturing Aserculu, his most populous settlement. The Castle of the Dagger was too strong for them to take, but the voivode’s army was broken, as was his means to easily raise another for some years. The war was won, and Schäßburg was free to help in the fight against the Cumans. A number of his troublesome vassals at the further reaches of his demesnes also broke with him, but Vlad Ionescu was forced to concede that he had too little manpower to keep them without the added strength of his sire. Bitterly, in full knowledge that if only he could have held on for another season his own victory would have been assured, he subsided in his war-making and retired to his keep to make his plans while he awaited the imminent arrival of the Voivode among Voivodes.
It was not to be. Sergiu Lazar, now once again the Knez of Aserculu, called upon the Iron Covenant of Schäßburg to assist him in finishing off Vlad Ionescu once and for all. In the middle of autumn of 1214, a force of men and vampires assembled to lay siege to the Castle of the Dagger and starve out the dread voivode of Mureș. When they arrived, however, they discovered that the castle was deserted of all save the dead, with evidence of a bloody struggle within. Ragged, ripped, and torn corpses of his men were to be found aplenty, and a number of ashen remains of Cainites too, but whomever had vanquished Vlad Ionescu had removed their own fallen. Of the voivode himself there appeared to be no sign. The castle was sacked of most of its valuables too, including the fantastic treasures he had acquired through patronising dozens of Toreador over the years.
Warily, the allies returned to their settlements, and began the long task of regathering their strength. In the unlikely event that Ionescu yet survives, perhaps he takes some small measure of satisfaction that only seven weeks later, their chances of recovery were dashed when Vladimir Rustovich finally marched his armies into Transylvania.
Embrace: AD 1001. Additionally, it is thought that Vlad Ionescu was Rustovich’s ghoul for at least forty years before his Becoming.
Lineage: Childe of Vladimir Rustovich, childe of Kosczecsyku (d); further lineage is unknown, but he is suspected of being the grandchilde of either Yorak of the Cathedral of Flesh or Shaagra, the Vukodlak of Prague. Vlad Ionescu counted himself among the 7th generation.