Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
A hulking warrior, once of the Baron's Gangrel of Constantinople, this wanderer appears to have allied himself with The Lexor Brujah of the Despotate of Epirus.
A huge (6’10”), imposing, swarthy man in his mid-20’s with a bristling moustache and long, wavy hair. In spite of his size he moves quickly and gracefully. His weathered leather armour is well-made and of an ornate, Byzantine style and his clothes have seen better days too. He keeps a bastard sword in a scabbard at his side. Although he appears jovial enough, there is a dangerous, feral air about him.
(Expanded from Giovanni Chronicles III: the Sun has Set, p. 77, and the Unofficial White Wolf Wiki).
Embraced by a monstrous Seljuk Gangrel in the middle of the 11th century, Justinian hails from the vanquished Anatolian military aristocracy of the Byzantine Empire. Fair-minded to a fault, he was deeply loyal to the Dream, especially in its aspect as a place where Cainites could rise above their corrupt and bestial nature to embrace an ideal where humanity benefitted from their labours. He originally travelled to the capital when he heard about the creation of the Baron’s Gangrel Scion family and challenged Thomas Feroux for leadership, believing that a Frank could never understand Byzantium’s greatness.
He lost (albeit only barely) and he became grateful for it for over the years afterwards, he grew to love the baron as his friend, brother-in-arms, and captain, and he served Thomas loyally and well as his knight. Justinian was rarely in the capital however, and busied himself doing what he did best, travelling among the far-flung outposts of the empire and fighting to keep the borders secure or, failing that, striving to secure the loyalty of distant Gangrel provincial scion families in preparation for the return of Byzantine greatness. This may have seemed like a fool’s errand to some, but while Justinian’s trust in the mortal rulers of Byzantium sometimes wavered, his faith in the Dream did not.
In times past, he enjoyed swapping tales based on a love of wandering and the soldier’s life, and struck up a friendship with Lucien and Bernhard many years ago. Like them, he has little appreciation for the wild and undisciplined ways of his northern and western kin. Justinian sometimes exchanged correspondence or arranged a rendezvous to catch up with them, and it was his urging that convinced the Saxon knight to call together the Concord and join the 4th Cainite Crusade in order to secretly protect the Dream.
Unfortunately, Bernhard fell in the Bostral Pass early in 1203, one of the first casualties of the pilgrimage. His body was carried away by the forces of Voivode Koban, and Justinian swore to Lucien that he would make sure that he was around to answer the old Roman’s call for revenge when the time was right. There was little time for mourning, however, as the 4th Crusade was soon Byzantium’s problem.
Justinian had little trust of the Franks due to the devastation he had seen wrought by the Norman invasions of the Balkans and the congress of just about every crusade through the empire, so he had long made a practice of aiding his far-flung fellows, keeping lines of communication open, and preparing for the worst. This held the Baron’s Gangrel in good stead for the crisis of the Bitter Crusade, as a number of regional Scions or their descendants rallied to the city to aid in her defence.
Unfortunately, the best efforts of the defenders of the Queen of Cities proved unequal to the task. In February of 1204, the walls were breached and the city fell. In the chaos of the Great Sack and the fires that followed, countless mortals and a number of prominent Cainites were slain. The destruction of Michael and Gesu strained Thomas’ already tenuous hold on his sanity, and he began lashing out at anyone whom he felt had betrayed the Dream, including their allies in the Malachite and St. Ladre Nosferatu. At first, Justinian tried to coax his friend and master back to reason, but he spoke with more urgency after Malachite himself was attacked and imprisoned. Rather than listening to him, the baron wrathfully rebuffed Justinian and called his loyalty into question.
Just minutes later, Duke Guy and his Cainite Crusaders attacked the Citadel of Petrion in force. The struggle was fierce and bloody, and Justinian saw from the first that the Gangrel were over-matched by the sheer numbers of their enemy. He shouted at the Baron to give the signal to retreat before their mortal servants could be surrounded but Baron Thomas ignored him, taken by his wrath and desire to revenge the Dream. He was soon boxed in and, attacked by torch-wielding ghouls, Thomas’ frayed nerves snapped and he succumbed to Rötschreck. Taking the bat-form, he fled into the night in a mindless frenzy, and the sight of it caused a rout among his followers. Most of the Gangrel also ran, and those who did not were captured or destroyed. Almost all of their retainers and their herd failed to escape the crusader cordon. They were shown no mercy.
The few survivors among Thomas’ family regrouped the next night. The baron found their morale to be low; they were dispirited and angry, and not just at the Latins. He ordered them to gather what was left of their strength and prepare for a renewed attack on the enemy, who had surely dispersed from their own supporters to loot and murder on their own. To his surprise, he found defiance to his plan. Justinian, angry at his liege’s stubborn and wrathful conduct of the previous nights, flatly refused, speaking what was in the hearts of nearly everyone else.
Tensely, he claimed that it would do no good to waste their lives and energy on a stupid assault on a figurehead. The city was already lost to chaos, and their duty now lay towards protecting what was left of their mortals allies and friends, as well as the families of the men and women who had given their lives at Petrion. Growing angrier by the moment, the huge warrior then further accused Thomas of poor leadership, bad judgement, unjust conduct in the face of the crisis, of failing his followers, abandoning and attacking good allies and, most egregiously, of cowardice in the face of the enemy.
Shocked at such hard words from his old friend and second, and still very much on the edge, Thomas lost control and struck his knight. Justinian lost his own temper in return, coming at the baron with a vengeance. The challenge may have been unofficial, but all of the Gangrel present knew that it had been issued. Not one of them lifted a finger to stop the fight, and no one stepped in to prevent Justinian from beating their lord into torpor.
Standing over the broken, still body of Thomas Feroux, the giant soldier said he would no longer follow a madman who cast his bonds of friendship into the jaws of the Beast. He then left. In ones and twos, the others followed.
And just like that, the Baron’s Gangrel ceased to be.
Justinian spoke a few words to those who followed him into the night, asking of their intentions and explaining his own. Once more he stated that the city was lost, and their duty now lay to the mortals who had put their faith in the Gangrel. He was determined not to fail them, and stated that he would lead those that could be found into the sewers and cisterns, then outside the city to safety. Several of his fellows agreed to help him, and they managed to save a few good people.
In the wake of the Great Sack, Justinian was sick of fighting. Rejecting all offers, he left the ravaged Queen of Cities and made his way to the western provinces to find some solitude and some rest.
In 1217, he came once more to the attention of members of the Concord when the reformed Lexor family, now a power in the Despotate of Epirus, called in allies of convenience to assault a combined Venetian fleet and Latin Imperial army that was besieging the city of Durazzo. A Gangrel elder known as Fausta claimed that she could call upon as many as ten of her clan-mates who would assist the effort on her word alone.
Justinian was one of those who answered. He seemed to have regained something of his old fire, and indeed he appeared to be spoiling for a fight. As the Gangrel gathered for the assault on the Venetian fleet, Svenin the Tall overheard Justinian giving a rousing speech about vengeance for the Dream, for their lost capital, and the good men, women, and children who were slain like cattle when the city fell. The line had now been drawn, he bellowed, and this battle would be the first of many that would see the Queen of Cities returned to virtue.
In the fight to disperse the enemy fleet, Justinian would lead his new brothers and sisters in the fight for the Pegasus, one of the largest Venetian galleys. He fought as a Cainite possessed, almost as close to the Beast as the baron he once served…
Embrace: AD 1042.
Lineage: Justinian is of the 6th generation. He isn’t entirely sure of his lineage but Abaza, the Gangrel who Embraced him, was a Turk of great power, who claimed descent from the legendary Gilgamesh. It is thought that Gilgamesh is either the childe or grandchilde of Ennoia. If the latter is so, either Abaza or Gilgamesh has committed diablerie at some point.