Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
An ancilla noted for her vengeful, wild nature, the Sculptor of Wolves was finally vanquished in AD 1214 by the Nosferatu Brood of Hermannstadt and, secretly,the Concord.
Before her apparent destruction in AD 1214, Marelle was an exotic beauty with long, cascading auburn hair. She had slightly pointed ears, dark eyes and full, ruddy lips accentuating a mouth that could be both inviting and cruel. Her long nails were, upon closer inspection, long, sharp claws crafted of bone. The dress she wore had long since fallen to rags, and her breasts were naked to the night air. Although she cared little for clothing, Marelle retained a number of vanities that were incongruous with her feral nature. Firstly, her flawless visage was kept clean of grime and gore; she suffered no one to touch her beautiful face and punished with great fervour those who sought to do so. Secondly, she favoured golden jewellery studded with rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Numerous pieces adorned her arms, wrists, fingers and ankles and she considered her ornate head-dress to be a crown of sorts. The Sculptor of Wolves was seldom seen without it. The display of opulence served as counterpoint the gore that caked her breasts and hands, macabrely fascinating both friend and foe.
(the following is heavily modified from Transylvania by Night, pp. 117-118)
Rumour has it that during her mortal years, Marelle was a courtier in the service of her eventual sire, Radu of Bistritz, greatly assisting his rise to power by virtue of her guile, grace and wit. Once he became Prince of Bistritz, he rewarded his faithful and stylish servant with the Embrace, perhaps thinking that her instinct for treachery and intrigue would serve him well in the struggles to come. Alas for him, once she entered the ranks of the undead Marelle followed her instincts down the Road of the Beast, embracing the feral brutality and instinctive ferocity that came naturally to her. The suave and diplomatic Radu was horrified that he had created such a dull and brutal childe, and he eventually fell out with Marelle, abandoning her to the cruel mercies of the Transylvanian night.
Little more is known of her until, already displaying an extraordinary proficiency with the Animalism Discipline for her years, Marelle exploded onto the political scene of the Tzimisce Voivodate in the middle of the 1170’s. Pursuing one vendetta after another, in time she would claw her way into the position of knez of Bâlea, a remote alpine territory well to the south-east of the Margraviate of Hermannstadt. With the assistance of her childer, Ghenadie and Dumitru, as well as a growing band of misfits like herself and a large pack of flesh-crafted wolves, she gradually carved her way north through the mountains, taking and abandoning one knezate after another in her quest to take lands of plenty and status. Weakened by the conflict with the Tremere, and bedevilled by their own internecine conflicts, a number of competent Tzimisce lords fell to Marelle.
This campaign would eventually bring her into conflict with Marusca, the Nosferatu prince of Hermannstadt, who had long exercised an inordinate control over the many packs of wolves that roamed the forests and hills of her domain. Recognising neither the right of the Saxon city to exist, nor the right of the Nosferatu prince to hold praxis there, Marelle immediately began hunting the mortals of the outlying territories and co-opting the wolves of the area into her pack. The contention between the two Cainites and their supporters quickly escalated to the point of full scale war. After 1186, the conflict grew to eclipse all other considerations for both prince and knez, and the tide of war ebbed and flowed in both directions over the intervening years.
The battleground more often than not was the wolves and other wild animals of the region, and early on the greater experience and stronger blood of the Nosferatu granted them an edge. Throughout the 1190’s, Marusca had the upper hand with her older progeny and the element of surprise granted by their proficiency with Obfuscate. In 1199, Marelle’s oldest and most prized childe, Dumitru, fell to Nicu, the strongest of Marusca’s Nosferatu, and both Ghenadie and Corneliu lost their own childer as well. In return, the vengefulness, brutality and ruthlessness of the Sculptor and her supporters has grown ever more determined. If the Lepers would not cede Hermannstadt, the Fiends would make the city unworthy of their habitation.
The trade, livestock, sanity and indeed the very lives of the people of Hermannstadt mattered nothing to Marelle and her reavers. With the dawn’s light, farm animals would be found grotesquely transformed and maddened with pain, attacking their owners in suicidal fury. Plagues of locusts, grasshoppers, rats and, worst of all, packs of “hell hounds” (wolves mutated by Marelle’s arts) choked off trade around the city, and the people came to assign all their misfortunes to the devil wolves in the hills and forests. Fearful tales spread of the vampiri of the Black Cave, and the good burgers of the city eventually began deserting Hermannstadt by the score. Delighted with the fearful moniker, Marelle’s followers eagerly took on the name for themselves, and to this night they are remembered throughout Transylvania as the Hell Hounds of the Black Cave…
By 1205, the vast majority of the local wolf packs had been taken for their own, bound with blood and the tortuous arts of Vicissitude in addition to the Animalism that Marelle freely taught to her followers. Those lost in skirmish with the powerful Nosferatu of Hermannstadt and the unusually high numbers of werewolves common to the area were readily replaced by dispossessed Tzimisce, Gangrel, and Nosferatu looking for hunting grounds, glory and the status of being associated with the charismatic, notorious Sculptor of Wolves. Two subordinate packs, the Twisted Oak and the Cloven Peak, pledged their aid and their blood to Marelle, and she soon found that she was able to call upon nearly 20 potent Cainites when the need presented itself.
In contrast, Marusca could not easily replace her numbers. Unlike her enemy, she did not enjoy widespread respect among her clan-mates in Transylvania, many of whom hated her for denying them their “rights” to hunt among the multitudes of her city. It would seem that many Lepers felt that despite her adherence to the via bestiae, Marusca felt that “her” mortals were simply too good for her clan-mates. Moreover, arguments that the city of Hermannstadt, already struggling under the thirst of so many Nosferatu huddling within its walls, could ill afford the potential damage offered to the Silence of the Blood or the health of the people by allowing even more vampires in the city, were met with scorn by her fellows. The tide turned in Marelle’s favour when the packs of Nosferatu led by Nicu and Oana were destroyed by the allied Tzimisce packs in 1209. When four of Marusca’s own Brood, led by the wise and ambitious Octavus Silberschmied, deserted the city in an attempt to claim Weissenburg for their own, the prince of Hermannstadt quickly found herself unable to match the strength of the Tzimisce outside her walls.
Slowly, but surely, the Sculptor of Wolves’ net closed about the city. By 1210, none of Marusca’s Nosferatu dared hunt outside the walls of the city. Aglow after a particularly vicious victory over the Lupines to the east of her demesnes, Marelle began to style herself the Knez of Făgăraș and began making bold plans for the future as Voivode of the entire region encompassing the Cibin river basin and the County of Făgăraș. Encompassing a swathe of territory some 90 miles wide, this ambitious vision would have eventually made her a powerful player in the Omen War and a possible future candidate for the coveted (if fluid) position of Voivode of Voivodes_. Her ambitions were welcomed by at least one of her neighbours and rivals, Ioan Brancoveanu,Brancoveanu who sent his prized student Vasilica with overtures of alliance. The koldun and priestess of the Old Faith swiftly became indispensable to the Sculptor of Wolves both as a lover and as an ally, stoking the passions of her underlings while directing their fury in new and impressive ways.
In 1212, Marelle’s Hounds probed the strength of the Nosferatu inside their city and, despite being sent packing, they returned the next year. In the year 1214, Marelle intended to end their war once and for all. Marusca would finally pay for the insult of standing against her power. She began casting about for allies to ensure a speedy coup de grace over her rival, and in doing so she was finally undone.
In May of that year, the Gangrel known as Svenin the Tall approached the Black Cave in company with several associates that Marelle understood to be lackeys of the powerful Ventrue Jürgen von Verden and Iulia, the prince of Weißenburg. The giant warrior stated a desire to take Hermannstadt not just for his own carnal uses, but also that the Siebenburgen might not survive an even greater threat in the Cuman Cainite warlord known as Kordönül unless the city was made useful. In return he would take the Blood Oath to Marelle, provide ample vessels and wealth for her own incessant warring, and place his potent allies among the Concord at her disposal for the purposes of destroying Marusca and her Brood. The offer seemed too good to be true; the Sculptor did not trust the Viking Gangrel on instinct, but the offer was also too good to ignore. She tentatively agreed to his proposal.
The Gangrel left to call upon his allies and put the notion to them, promising that he would return in short order. Scarcely a month later, Marelle’s wolf packs began to grow sickly, victims of a strange wasting disease. As they began to perish, her cherished hell hound ghouls grew ill as well. Suddenly, her prized scout, Adrian, failed to return to the Black Cave and, just nights later, a pack of the hated “Shadow Wolves” struck the Twisted Oak and sent all but two of them to the Final Death. The survivors fled to Marelle’s haven, hysterically warning of impending attack. The Sculptor of Wolves sent out her animal messengers, calling upon the Cloven Peak to attend her as she prepared for battle. It was then that Vasilica, scrying for sign of attackers, informed the assembled Cainites that a small but potent force of mortal soldiers and Cainites, including several of Marusca’s Brood, were also approaching the Black Cave.
Reasoning that if some of the Brood were present, then all of them would be, and that their allies matched her reports of the Concord, Marelle cursed their name and whipped her own followers into a battle fury. Overconfident that she could handle any challenge, and eager to destroy Marusca and her duplicitous allies, the remnants of the three packs charged down the wooded, rocky hill and into the fray. On that fateful Spring night, the mortals of the Margraviate of Hermannstadt huddled within their walls, covering their ears and praying in terror as the hills, valleys and forests echoed with howls of fury, shouts of challenge and the screams of the wounded and the dying. The very air was thick with sanguine potency, and the land itself seemed to fall into an ominous quiet as an ancient, foreboding intelligence appeared to look on.
The clash was terrible, desperate and bloody. The Brood of Hermannstadt and the Hell Hounds tore into each other with savage abandon, the pent fury of many years of attritional conflict finally finding full release. Marelle and Marusca met one-on-one, fang and claw, Beast to Beast, their enmity stoked by the hatred of decades and the expectation of confrontation. Advantaged by the high ground at first, the Tzimisce and her packs took the upper hand as their fury, confidence, and force of numbers swamped the Nosferatu at the van of the enemy force. Her great, two-headed hell hound Cerberous dominated the centre, allowing flanking packs of ghouled wolves, hell hounds and Cainites to begin encircling the enemy. Then, the stamina of her diseased ghouls began to fail precisely as the Concord, until now hesitant to offer their full strength, unleashed the full fury of the obscure powers that had carried their nights so many times before.
Despite their great individual skill in battle, the Hell Hounds of the Black Cave, the Twisted Oak, and the Cloven Peak were not equal to the power of their enemies that night. They might have been a superior match for the Brood, and an even match for the Concord, but they could not stand against both. One by one, they were felled or forced to quit the field by their enemies until only Marelle, Ghenadie, Klaus, Vasilica and her summoned Earth Demon remained to stand against their foes. The koldun and her demon worked to keep the Concord and the Brood away from the Sculptor and Marusca, allowing them to spend their strength against each other at long last.
For the first time in her existence, Marelle was not equal to the task. As Marusca’s jaws tore into her throat and clamped down, the Tzimisce’s eyes widened as fury gave way to surprise, then dawning panic, and finally horror. Her skin took on a crimson tone, and those watching in fascinated awe saw her desperately mouth the words “help me!” as she exploded in a shower of dark blood. Some of those standing close, spattered now by the vitae of the Sculptor of Wolves, looked on in dread and awe as fleshy, tulip-like pseudopods arose from the land and, with long, fang studded tongues, greedily supped on the blood pooling on the dry, rocky ground.
It would appear that Marelle was no more.
As if on cue, the neonate armsman Klaus, apparently freed from some impediment, charged at his consanguineous uncle, Ghenadie, with a shout. He struck the older Cainite down with a treacherous backstab, then finished him off by striking his head from his shoulders. Unable to flee, he would shortly surrender and throw himself upon the mercies (such as they are) of his captors among the Concord.
Vasilica, recognising that the contest was lost, uttered the words, “A shame. I truly thought she was the one…”
She sought to withdraw in peace, and then fled the scene with the aid of her Earth Demon when Svenin sought to press the issue. Whatever her failed agenda was in Marelle’s camp, it is unlikely she will think kindly of the Viking or the Concord in future.
The survivors among the Brood of Hermannstadt howled their victory to the crescent moon. For the first time in many years, their land was once more theirs. Their elation was short-lived, as answering howls in the distance signalled the impending arrival of the “Shadow Wolves” that had destroyed the Twisted Oak several nights earlier. Together, the Concord and their new allies fled into the night, leaving the remains of Marelle and her shattered power behind.
Embrace: AD 1150.
Final Death: June, AD 1214.