Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
One of the oldest active methuselahs, Japheth is thought to have seen more than 8000 years. He is deeply loyal to his sire, Cappadocius, and sometimes wanders the world on his sire's business.
A tall, slightly built man wearing the simple robes of a Benedictine monk. At first sight, he seems unremarkable except that he is very, very pale, and his skin seems waxy and unnatural. Perhaps in his mid twenties, his face is unlined and his tonsured hair is a mousy brown. It is not until you catch his dark, dark eyes that the weight of years, centuries even, beyond counting fall upon you. A simple wooden crucifix adorns his neck. An aura of peace seems to surround him, and it settles also about your own mood. Those with sharp eyes can make out patterns of stars, the moon, and other celestial phenomena twinkling faintly inside his cloak, as if the night sky itself was contained within.
(expanded from the Unofficial White Wolf wiki article).
Japheth is the legendary, faithful son of the Antediluvian known now as Cappadocius. Among Cainite historians and genealogists, it is said that he was Embraced by the founder of the Clan of Death early on after the rise of the Second City, and while he has periodically spent long periods of time wandering in search of spiritual enlightenment, he has never strayed from carrying out the will of his father. For thousands of years he has sought self-knowledge and wisdom, and certainly since the Great Revelations his research has been in service to the Great Riddle, but for more centuries than all but the oldest active Cainites can recall, he has acted as the simple servant of Cappadocius. Unlike the one who would come to be known as Caias Koine, who was more concerned with the temporal place of the Clan of Death among the other Children of Caine, and Lazarus, who sought the most esoteric avenues of knowledge, Japheth has long considered his place to be at the side of his sire, interpreting his visions and his will for the other luminaries among the Clan of Death. After the destruction of his older consanguineous brother Caias at the hands of Lazarus shortly after the Feast of Folly, he has also been considered the unofficial director of the clan’s destiny in service to their progenitor, who spends much of his own time in torpor.
Japheth and his childe Constancia, the Priestess of Bones, act as the primary managers of the clan. They have been credited with organising the cleaning up of problems such as the plague-kiss outbreaks of the Lamiae or providing what little order the clan possesses. To this end, each of them are thought to engage in constant correspondence with each other and numerous former students, attempting to keep some direction and cohesion in the ranks. While Constancia rarely leaves the great temple of Erciyes in Cappadocia, it is thought that Japheth bases himself there, but moves around a great deal, making use of secret ways and means to travel the lands of the Mediterranean.
As one might expect from one of his untold years, this methuselah is a mystery wrapped in a legend. As with all active ancients even remotely approaching his pedigree, the circulation of rumour and myth about Japheth is a common pastime among the Elysiums of the Mediterranean. Some religiously minded Cainites say that he is the same Japheth who was the son of Noah, and that all Europeans (as Japhetites) are descended from him. Others claim that he is in some way related to the legend of the Greek titan, Iapetus. Based on his apparent skill with sorcery, there is also a rumour that in life he was a great mystic and magus, brought into the clan because of his knowledge of mystical sites, angels, demons, and elemental spirits. While few have seen him (knowingly) in centuries, certain letters attributed to him appear to display an encyclopaedic knowledge of modern Cainite affairs. It is thought that he maintains a network of monasteries that give him shelter, while others believe that he remains at the side of his sire at Erciyes but can travel to a host of distant locations at great speed through powerful sorceries at his command. Others speculate that Japheth is not a real Cainite at all, but a myth; a set-piece in the Jyhad controlled by a conspiracy of allied elders who seek to manage the destiny of the clan in order to effect a myriad of personal outcomes. Indeed, the speed of his travels have certainly fuelled this latter speculation, for surely not even an Ancient could move so alacritously as to reportedly appear in the Levant and then in Italy within a mere handful of nights.
Whatever the truth, both Kyros of Antioch and Rowena d’Alexandre both claim to have been students of this legendary ancient, and Dietrich von Steyer was well known for dropping the name of his methuselah grandsire in order to elicit awe when travelling through foreign courts. And certainly Japheth’s name carries weight, for his writings, observations, and teachings on theology, metaphysics, the occult, and the philosophies of the viae Caeli, Humanitatis, and Ossium (or at least those works attributed to him) are treasures copied and disseminated by elders among the Cappadocians (and several interested parties of other clans). Many ancillae would give their fangs to possess them.
Unwittingly at first, the Concord briefly crossed paths with Japheth in the early winter of 1217, although he used a different name during their encounter. The coterie of worthy ancillae had agreed to assist Dietrich in his mission to find and help his sire, Kyros, whom he believed to be in some danger. Little did they realise, however, that it was the Viennese Cappadocian who had actually imperilled his sire by flirting with, then spurning, overtures from the secretive sect of Graverobbers known as the Harbingers. In doing so, he had inadvertently given away two secrets of his own. The first was his involvement in Kyros’ organisation of rebel Cappadocians who had come to reject the Great Riddle in hopes of reclaiming the essence of their humanity through the pursuit of Golconda. The second was the old Antiochian’s knowledge of a portal to the Underworld, which intrigued them as both a potential source of power and a possible refuge from the attention of Cappadocius and his loyal progeny. Vengeful over Dietrich’s deception, and unwilling to tolerate a potential rivalry with the Kyros and his sect, the Harbingers hatched a scheme to destroy both of the elders and claim the portal for their own. Over the course of the following quest to discover the whereabouts of Kyros, Dietrich behaved erratically at times, and the Concord received the impression that his mind was not entirely his own.
On the cusp of their success at having Dietrich lead them to the portal found beneath the Circle of Giants, Japheth revealed his own hand in the unfolding events. His ancient ghoul servants, the Four Horsemen, first winnowed the Harbingers that hunted the Concord. Then, after the remaining conspirators were vanquished by the crusading coterie of ancillae, the Horsemen herded the wounded Transylvanian and Greek coterie towards the ancient structure. They then vanished, though the menace of their attention was clearly felt by Dietrich and his protectors. Within the processional of the Circle of Giants they would find time and space behaving erratically, and after entering the tunnel below the central caern they would, at length, descend far beneath it.
There they found a monk in a strange, starry cloak, quietly praying and chanting as he kneeled above the ragged and drawn body of Kyros. His back was turned to them, but it seemed as if a golden light emanated from the monk’s hood to rest upon the face of the ancient Antiochian. The savage privation of his recent trials upon his features seemed much eased for it, and he appeared to slumber as if in a happy dream long denied. The light then faded, the kneeling figure turned, and the Concord saw that the exceptionally pale vampire had a third eye. He gazed upon them beneficently, a gentle smile playing upon his lips. They assumed him to be a Salubri, and thus benevolent, but when Dietrich rushed to see to his sire the vampire appeared to flicker for a brief moment before he appeared in front of the elder, grasping him by the throat in a crushing grip. His benign expression had been replaced by a cruel fury, and Dietrich struggled pathetically as his wind-pipe was squeezed, then crushed, by the Ancient. The Concord knew themselves to be instinctively outmatched, and they reasoned with the creature rather than seek to help their ally through violence. As they did so, their Harbinger prisoners (who had been laid down, staked, but moments before) filed into the room under the watchful eye of the terrifying Four Horsemen. They seemed partially healed, but cowed before the ancient ghouls, the Concord, and the “Salubri.”
Seemingly mollified, his altruistic expression returned, and the three-eyed vampire introduced himself as “Damu Who Is Ashur,” which immediately raised the panic levels of those members of the Concord who had read the tablets of the mad Antediluvian at Tihuta Pass. As he gave the name, his aspect changed once more and he gave the Harbinger prisoners and Dietrich alike a black look, indicating that the name given indicated some awful punishment lay in store for them. He stepped forward, placed his hands upon each in turn, and his third eye glowed as their wounds healed. Damu Who Is Ashur wrathfully demanded from their leader, Eusebius, that he and his fellows give up the leader of their conspiracy. They refused. In response, the Ancient looked upon them coldly and the Greek elder collapsed in psychic agony, sobbing and mewling as the seconds passed and his torment echoed throughout the chamber. “Your loyalty is misplaced, childe of Belshapash. And you are a fool to think you can hide your conspirators from me,” the old one whispered, his face now sorrowful, “I will have them, just as I have you…”
Turning, Damu Who Is Ashur then plucked the jet keystone from Dietrich’s hand and addressed the Concord, apologising to them all for making them pawns in the dangerous game that he had engineered to bring these events to fruition. Unbidden and untold, he nonetheless seemed to know details of all their unlives that were dearly held secrets. He then asked their forgiveness and indicated that by means of amends, he would do them each a service in turn. One by one he asked what they would have of him, and in response to their requests his voice seemed to appear in each of their minds, delivering with bewildering speed a profusion of comprehensive knowledge, long tales, and ancient wisdom.
Once they were satisfied, he placed the keystone on its ledge and activated the portal that led to the nether realm. A burst of howling air entered the room before retreating back through the black doorway, but to the supernally enhanced eyes of the Concord, a terrifying storm of epic proportions seemed to be taking place in the Stygian beyond. Cries, shouts, admonitions, and even whispers seemed to sigh underneath the buffeting winds as they broke upon the portal and, muted, moaned about the chamber as a gentle breeze. Damu Who Is Ashur placed a hand on either side of the jamb and looked into the Underworld with interest, two of the Harbingers took their chance and charged the Ancient, hoping to shoulder him through, only to have him vanish into mist for a split second. Instead of their oppressor, it was the two death knights who plunged into the beyond, their screams cut off as the Tempest swallowed their careening bodies.
The Ancient turned once more, the attack already forgotten, and looked down upon Kyros. Once more the third eye opened as he looked upon the old Antiochian tenderly and dolefully, he bent, caressed his hair and kissed him gently on the forehead. “Rise, childe. Your chance is here. Your time is at hand,” he murmured forlornly. Kyros’ eyes opened, the strain gone from his features to be replaced by a shadow of hope as he found his feet, looked upon Damu Who Is Ashur with love and wonder, and they embraced with joy, yet also misery. Dietrich wept at the sight of what his mislaid designs had wrought upon his sire, drawing the attention of the two old vampires. The old scholar came to his progeny, kissed him, gave his forgiveness, and wished him well.
He then walked over to the portal, peered into the darkness for a moment, and turned back with a nervous smile. He nodded to the Concord, lingering upon the face of his childe for a moment longer, and then favoured Damu Who Is Ashur with a steady, strong gaze. “One night, I hope to see you again, sire.” With that, he turned, squared his shoulders, and confidently walked through the black door without a backward glance.
The Antiochian was gone in but a moment, swallowed too by the Tempest of the Underworld.
His words, however, would remain long in the minds of the Concord, for he had addressed Damu Who Is Ashur as sire, and all among them knew that the creator of Kyros of Antioch was none other Japheth, childe of Cappadocius.
A few moments later, the Ancient ushered the Concord and the heart-broken Dietrich from the chamber, and bade them leave the Wheel of Giants, claiming that “time was closing.” He told them to leave the remaining Harbingers to face his justice, whispering a final admonition to the Viennese elder as they hastened up the stairs, through the upper chambers of the caern temple, and out into the night.
The Concord left the Wheel of Giants, and the sense of dislocated time seemed to loosen. When they turned back to look upon the the ancient walls and buildings of the strange temple, they were gone, to be replaced by little more than weathered, tumble-down rocks. Yet still, the final words of Japheth Cappadocius to Dietrich followed them, as if carried on the hush of the night breeze.
“You have much to answer for, grand-childe. And I will see you answer…”
Embrace: Millennia ago, reputedly in the early nights of the Second City. According to the chronologies painstakingly kept by Cainite historians, this would make his Becoming several centuries before the turn of the seventh millenium before the birth of Christ.
Lineage: Childe of Cappadocius