Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
A congenial ancilla of the Seljuk Turks, known for his willingness to promote mutually beneficial trade alliances throughout the East. He has not been seen since the Sack of Constantinople in 1204.
A pale Seljuk, perhaps sixty years of age yet still tall, square and healthy despite his advanced age. His most distinctive feature is a great moustache, worn with a large bushy beard that spreads across his chest. Both have far more grey than black in them. He favours expensive, if rather dated, robes of damask and a turban of fine crimson cotton. The Turk’s eyes are so dark as to appear slate black in poor light. He is armed with a curved knife, which hangs from a wide sash around his waist.
In the early nights of the Great Seljuk Empire, the tribal leader Yusefoğlu İskender, (Iskender, son of Yusuf) was Embraced by the legendary elder Safiye the Graceful, who had been a prime mover in orchestrating the rise of Seljuk Bey and his tribe. Safiye had been active among the Oghuz Yagbu State since the 8th century, and before that there are vague tales of her activities among the failing empire of the Sassanids. In those days she made her home in the city of Nishapur. Notably, Safiye had brought about the Islamisation of the Seljuks after they entered Persi*, and some Cainites call her the “Mother of Turks” because of this. Safiye succumbed to torpor in 1121, having grown weary with the implosion of her works and the feuding of her childer.
Less is known of İskender’s grandsire, Bahram the Persian, other than the fact that he once reigned as Mirza (Prince) of Estakhr more than 1000 years before the birth of Muhammad (peace be upon him). After having been quite active in Achamaenid Persia, Parthia, and the Sassanian Empire, Bahram disappeared in the 7th century, but resurfaced in Kayseri (called Caeseria by the Romans) around 1180. The ancient is active in Cainite society, but has yet to acknowledge any of his fractious descendants. If Bahram remembers, or even knows, his own sire, the old one is not talking…
İskender, his older brother in blood, Kasem, and his younger sister in blood, Zehra, followed their sire’s directives with great energy in the early years, despite their deep personal frictions. Kasem was most interested in overseeing the more warlike aspects of the Seljuks, İskender took to building their mercantile networks while Zehra and Safiye herself concentrated most heavily on the court. The great vizier, Nizam al-Mulk, was Safiye’s ghoul and primary tool to control the empire, and few could contend with the skill of the wily old courtier, let alone the one who advised him from the shadows. Naturally, there were plenty of other Cainites present in the Seljuk political arena after Manzikert, but Safiye and her brood were among the most prominent in the court of Malik Shah.
The three progeny of Safiye were always a divisive and opinionated group, their energies barely contained by the subtle leadership of their sire. Kasem, being the oldest and most forceful of personality, was the most belligerent of the three. A firm believer in both the Tariq al-Harb and in the manifest destiny of the Seljuks – the empire would conquer all in the name of Islam and the Qabilat al-Khayal would rule from the shadows behind the throne. His philosophies were directly opposed by the moderate views of İskender, who walked the Tariq al-Umma. Having spent much of his existence as a merchant, he felt that wealth and the community good would accomplish their aims far better, for tyranny always begat rebellion whereas wealth spawned codependency and prosperity into perpetuity. Instead of brutal ironclad soldiers, the Seljuks needed gilded merchants as their armies. The youngest, Zehra, derided both as fools for their short-sightedness, for the other clans would always interfere and drag down their works. The brood of Safiye needed to subjugate the other Cainites of the empire as much as mobilise the mortals. None of them blind to the perspectives of the others, the three Lasombra remained deeply divided regarding which mix of methods, and in what measure, would ensure success. Bitter acrimony gradually worked its way into the brood, and Safiye was forced to spend an undue amount of time mediating and directing them.
Nonetheless, they remained a strong coterie until 1092, when the assassination of Nizam (who was enroute to receive the Embrace from his mistress) occurred, followed soon after by the death of Malik Shah, who may also have been poisoned. Kasem blamed Zehra, who envied Nizam for his subtlety and the favour of Safiye. Zehra blamed the pawns of other clans and in particular, the Assamites, whose agents had apparently done the deed. İskender blamed Kasem, whose ghouls were charged with protecting both Nizam and Malik. Decades and centuries of pent up resentment and jealousy spilled into argument, then feud. Safiye was suddenly left without her loyal and capable team of progeny to manage her webs of intrigue, and she proved inadequate to the task of reining them in once more. Other elder’s pounced, trying to wrest control, and the brood failed to cohesively match them. In the space of a single generation, the Great Seljuk Empire frayed, decayed, and then fractured into a shadow of its former might…
Bitterly disappointed in her childer and weary from the struggle of maintaining her ever shrinking power, Safiye retired from Cainite society and slipped into torpor. Zehra foreswore her consanguinous siblings and left for points further east, seeking to expiate her shame by building something lasting of her own. In Konya, İskender and Kasem continued their feud by proxy and dupe for many years, and their own progeny were quickly co-opted into their schemes. İskender, as was his wont, chose to do so through pursuing silver and the influence it might buy. Kesem, for his part, continued to cultivate power among the military officers of the Sultanate. Eventually, he gained the upper hand and by 1160, he had amassed sufficient status and influence to declare himself şehzade (prince). Seeing the writing on the wall, and fearing for his existence, İskender abruptly chose to leave the city in 1162. Hastily packing up his most valuable belongings and his neonate progeny, he took to wandering.
For some twenty years İskender and his talented childe, Ibrahim Yilmaz, travelled the eastern reaches of the scattered Atabegs of the broken Seljuk Empire and the shores of the eastern Black and southern Caspian Seas. Wandering as far afield as Baku, Mosul, and Aleppo, they strove to create new trade contacts to replace those that had been all but abandoned in Konya. In Aleppo they settled for almost ten years, finding the political, cultural and commercial climate pleasant in the wake of the Ayubbid annexation. There they made the acquaintance of the prominent Qabilat al-Khayal ancilla known as Mahmud ibn Suleiman.
In addition to his involvement with the intrigues of the the sultanate, Mahmud was also a trader, and he welcomed his two clansmen and their contacts from the West. Ibrahim, whose devotion to his faith was far more fervent than that of İskender, also found in Mahmud a spiritual teacher who would help him step onto the Tariq el-Sama’ over the coming years. Other valuable contacts made in the east were the Rahmi ve Oğulları , or the Sons of Rahmi, a bloodline of Seljuk Assamite Viziers who yet hoped to restore the Great Seljuk Empire to its former glory. They also made contact with a handful of Assamite Warriors attached to the fanatical faction known as the Web of Knives. By 1190, with the aid of their new friends, the fortunes of the bloodline had been restored. Revenue from silk, spices and sugar filled their coffers and existence returning to a stable, bearable state. And then the Third Crusade arrived in the Levant.
İskender, upon seeing the brutality with which the Third Crusade treated the captives of the city of Acre in 1191, hit upon a most radical plan. He became convinced that the only way to keep other crusades from destroying the peace of the Levant was to ensure that they could not penetrate Asia first. This required Byzantium to once more grow strong, but not strong enough to retake Anatolia, which was now the home of his own people. If the two weak states could regain a measure of vitality, as allies for the nonce, then the crusades would no longer have the strength to trouble the East. And so, those Latins who would strip Constantinople of their riches would have to be removed.
The venerable İskender, his neonate Ibrahim, and the best portion of their assets relocated to the Queen of Cities in 1193. Happily, they discovered that few among the Byzantine vampires appeared to have a strong grasp of the Cainite politics of the Great Seljuk Empire, so İskender’s former position of prominence was overlooked. They were regarded with a measure of distrust for their heritage, but their studied humility, willingness to spread silver around and engage in mutually profitable alliances soon won them a few qualified friends. They settled into the Genoese Quarter, having correctly surmised that Bishop Gabriella shared similar aims to their own. Indeed, the two Lasombra were steadfast allies of the bishop right up until her apparent assassination at the blade of an Assamite assassin in 1198. Suspicion immediately fell upon the two Turks, but they were never held to account for the slaying. Indeed the diplomat, Shabah, a representative of the Turkish Assamites, interceded with the Antonians on their behalf and they were quickly granted asylum within the city proper. In return for considerable monies and the promise of future boons, the elder Belisarius agreed to extend his protection. Curiously, despite loud threats from the late Gabriella’s most loyal supporters among the Genoese, none of them ever pressed a suit against İskender and Ibrahim with the Quaesitor Tribunal. Once more, they quietly settled into their business with a determination to make as little turbulence as possible.
In March of 1203, the news of the Fourth Crusade’s diversion to Constantinople forced İskender into a fateful decision. He owed boons for the safety of he and his progeny, and therefore had reason to remain. Ibrahim was bound by no such obligation. Before the fleet could arrive, he sent his childe packing to the East, with orders to shore up their assets and await his word to return. Weeks turned into months as Ibrahim toured their various contacts in the Sultanate of Rum and further afield. He discovered that Kasem’s hold on power had grown weaker than they suspected, and chose to strengthen his sire’s vestigial connections in Konya most of all. More news arrived that Constantinople had surrendered to the crusade, after a fashion, but that the situation was too unstable to return as yet. Then, in April of 1204, a hurried missive from his sire informed Ibrahim that İskender had “gone to ground for fear of the Final Death, that Ibrahim’s future lay for now with Mahmud, and that he should seek him out”. Hard on the heels of the message was the news that the Queen of Cities had fallen – burnt and sacked; untold thousands put to the sword in an orgy of violence, greed, and lust that had not been seen since the fall of Jerusalem one hundred years earlier.
His heart broken and his spirit heavy, Ibrahim left Konya that night and began the arduous journey to Al Quds. Of his beloved sire, he has so far heard nothing…
Embrace: Mid 10th century AD.
Lineage: Childe of Safiye Zarif (a legendary elder who slipped into torpor in the early 12th century), Childe of Bahram of Estakhr (now a powerful elder in Kayseri); further lineage has been lost to time, but Iskender is of the 8th generation.