Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
One of several Michaelites who existed only to satisfy his base needs, this Toreador was a fixture at the Silk Road. More than a little mad and degenerate by the time of the Great Sack, it is thought that his Blood was reclaimed by his sire, Stephen.
John appeared as very good-looking, somewhat delicate young man with an ethereal quality to him. He had a large, square frame but his body appears somewhat malnourished, and his excessively pale skin and very dark hair only enhanced his inhuman air. His eyes are a light brown and have a way of darting about and focusing on the necks of those nearby. Cloth cut in an elaborate Byzantine style draped his form, and he wore a flashy jewelled chain and a number of somewhat gauche rings. A short sword and dagger, both more ornate than functional, were often belted at his side.
Encountered by the Concord on many occasions throughout their sojourns in the Queen of Cities in 1196-1197 and 1203-1204, John Cerularius was quickly and accurately dismissed as a waste of their time. They ignored his presence when they saw him, which seemed to suit the Michaelite just fine, as he had no interest in them either. Indeed, on every occasion his only interests lay in his next meal, preferably from a vessel that had thoroughly soused themselves with wine or indulged in hashish. He was obviously an accomplished, if somewhat negligent, hunter who had addicted scores of mortals to his dangerous Kiss, but he preferred to feed deeply from those who had sorely over-indulged in their vices. With a bare minimum of gossip, they learned that he had a reputation for his masterful work as a painter of frescoes, but he had produced very little in a score of years.
When they later met his sire, Stephen, they discovered that John was not always such a broken creature. The old Toreador was his grandfather, eight times removed, and he had watched over his descendants carefully in order to look after their interests and cultivate their talents. Born at the turn of the 12th century, John’s artistic temperament and gentle nature had entranced his ancestor, and Stephen had taken a special interest in him. He followed the young man’s work avidly, supporting him as a patron.
Eventually, however, it became clear that John was sick. The best physicians that Stephen could find examined him and told the vampire that the young man had a malignant swelling in his belly. The tumour would kill him sooner rather than later, and Stephen could not bear seeing it sap his energy and steal his spirit. The spectre of death had wormed its way into the young man’s soul. With the permission of his elder sire, he revealed his true nature to John and offered him his Blood. John became Stephen’s ghoul.
For years, the Blood of Caine seemed to hold the disease at bay, but eventually, the wasting sickness advanced to the point where death was certain. Once more, permission was asked and granted, so Stephen offered to bring John across into undeath. Terrified of dying, he agreed, and John became a Toreador. For many years he laboured at his craft, becoming a masterful painter and the pride of the Provincial Family of Drosinosian Michaelites of Raidestos. He seemed to remain squeamish about hunting, however, because the sound of the weakening pulse of his victims haunted the young vampire with the memory of his own slide into oblivion. Over many years, Stephen worked to rid his progeny of this fear, and believed that he had succeeded. Indeed, he had succeeded only too well.
Eventually, word reached the capital concerning John’s skill, and an invitation arrived for him to journey to the Queen of Cities and display his abilities for the Michaelites there. Proud of his progeny, Stephen bade him goodbye and released him at long last. In 1160, John arrived at Constantinople, and entered the ranks of Michael’s own Family. He fitted right in, and was a welcome addition under the patronage of Pakourianis the Dove, the Muse of Painting. Indeed, his frescoes decorate a number of palaces and public buildings, the most notable among them at Blachernae itself.
Gradually, however, John lost his passion for his work. Instead, he became enamoured of the thrill of hunting those whose faculties had been diminished by the deadening effect of hashish and alcohol, for the pull of oblivion enticed him forward. He would become lost in their drifting vitae, adrift in the dreaminess of their slowing pulse, and too often he drank too deeply for too long. People died, and his humanity began to erode along with them. The Children of Judas saw an opening, and cultivated his vice. He still wrote home to his beloved sire, lying to him about his progress and assuring him of his health, but by the 1180s, he had thoroughly lost his way; his will given freely to the Settites in return for the addled vitae and the promise of oblivion that they gave him.
And by 1196, when the formative Concord first met him, the man who was John Cerularius had very nearly vanished altogether.
The following year, Stephen arrived in the capital at the invitation of Petronius. He found his beloved childe and descendant to be little more than a mockery of his former greatness. Close to the Beast, and too addled by drug-laced blood and madness, he barely recognised his sire and when he did, he fled in shame.
Patiently, Stephen set to the task of recovering the soul of his progeny. In order to show John that hope was not lost, he helped the Arbiter establish the Reformed Michaelite faction and backed their works with his own extraordinary fortune. They laboured for years to reclaim their brothers and sisters and raise them back up from the depths to which they had fallen, and a number of them did indeed find their strength once again.
John was not among them.
Despite his sire’s best hopes and ardent efforts, he was unable to pull himself back from the jaws of the Beast, his decades-long addictions, and his obsession with death. There was simply no will left in him to resist, to find his way back to hope and even a semblance of life. Stephen’s entreaties fell on deaf ears, and his hopes gradually died.
In 1204 when the walls fell and the Great Sack began, John was noted as stalking the streets, hunting, feeding, and killing in an addled craze that some reported was just a hair’s breadth away from the Wassail. When told of this, Stephen Cerularius grabbed a stake and set off into the burning city alone.
John was never seen again.
His face a mask of grief, his sire departed the city soon after the fires were extinguished, returning to Raidestos without a word to anyone.
Embrace: AD 1132, although Stephen admitted that he had made John his ghoul eight years earlier, hoping to preserve his life from the wasting sickness that was stealing it.
Final Death: (rumoured) February 13th, AD 1204.
Lineage: John was of the 8th generation. He was the childe and also the mortal descendant of Stéphanos Cerularius, a prominent ancilla of the city of Raidestos who was instrumental in the failed faction known as the Reformed Michaelites. Stephen is the childe of Xenos Drosinos, an elder of Raidestos who served as prince of that city in the 10th and 11th centuries, but he now exists in a state of semi-retirement from Cainite society. Xenos in turn is the childe of Endymion, a master sculptor of unearthly skill who served as the Michaelite Muse of Sculpture for most of the 6th, 7th, and 8th centuries before he quit the city due to the interference of his sire in his art. His whereabouts are unknown. Endymion is the childe of Michael (d), the Archangel, late Patriarch of the Dream, who was the childe of Arikel, the Toreador Antediluvian.