Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The formidable Voivode of Suceava and the patron of the Northern Blood; a brilliant, autocratic ancilla who has thus far managed to keep the hordes of Noriz from descending into Transylvania through the Tihuta Pass.
This man is tall and commanding, with cropped iron grey hair, a hawk-like nose and deep-brown eyes under heavy brows. Looking like he could have stepped straight from the old Dacian-Roman empire into the Long Night, he wears dark, jewel-toned colours offset by several rings and a golden chain necklace. A sword and a dagger rest comfortably in bejewelled scabbards at his side and he wears the finest armour that coin can buy. On the shoulder of his cloak he wears the symbol of a 2 golden-maned white stallions and a white tower on a field of red and black.
The coat of arms of Mircea Dzardescu, Voivode of Suceava and Lord Protector of Dzardrev Castle, adopted in AD 1200 on the advice of Arianne of the French Courts of Love.
(Expanded from the character as presented in Transylvania by Night, pp. 87-88).
The plains, forests, and rolling hills north of the Tihuta Pass are not for the faint of heart. By day, as they have since the last years of the 10th century, these lands fall under the suzereinty of various wandering tribes ruled by Cuman chieftains (called ceribası in their own tongue) who answer to khans that control larger tribal confederations. Villages and walled towns populated by Vlachs and Rus’ grow slowly with the rise of trade in the region, but they do so either as allies or subjects of Cuman leaders. By night, the region is a nightmarish realm dominated by the internecine conflicts of the Clan Tzimisce, but smaller factions of Rus’ Ventrue and Nosferatu and Cuman Gangrel also plague the land. Only a fool would travel abroad without a weapon and a mount; merchant caravans between the Russian principalities and Bistritz move in heavy, well-equipped numbers, but they still pay tribute to the Cumans. And only a madman would be caught outside at night away from his fire.
In many ways, Mircea Dzardescu, Voivode of Suceava and Lord Protector of Dzardrev Castle, is very much a paragon of the Tzimisce in this harsh feudal mould. He does not baulk at the cruelist of methods to see his will done in defence of his lands or in conducting a Trial by War, but he is also a Cainite of education and discerning judgement, equally at home managing his estates,or debating the finer pieces of art (flesh-crafted or otherwise) with the most erudite of Toreador critics. While the daytime rulers of his land are the Cumans, by night they know who their lord is, and many of their best warriors have fought and died in his wars. However, there the similarity between he and many of his rival voivodes ends. Mircea believes strongly in the security of the spiritual and temporal traditions of his homeland, but he is most unorthodox in his methods of achieving his goals. This is because Mircea Dzardescu has chosen to ally himself with a Gangrel knez and a Nosferatu bandit chef in addition to his more typical vassals. Such a disruption to the status quo has earned him few allies among the clan, but the Voivode of Suceava cares little for their criticisms.
For Noriz, the Corruptor of Legions, is his neighbour. He wants Dzardescu’s demesnes. And his soul.
Mircea is quite young, and weak in the blood, to hold the title of voivode. Embraced in the early years of the 12th century, and counted among the 8th generation, his claim would be shaky at best in the hotly contested lands in the heart of the Voivodate. And yet, Micea has three factors working to his advantage: Firstly, and most importantly, the town of Suceava and his other dominions lie in the foothills of the northern Carpathians, beyond the Tihuta Pass and squarely in the sights of Noriz’ ambitions. Secondly, Dzardescu has forged a highly unorthodox but undeniably effective alliance of Tzimisce, Nosferatu, and Gangrel opposed to the Corruptor. And lastly, the talents of the young voivode are immense. He is intelligent, creative, possessed of extraordinary leadership qualities, and more than a little lucky. Long ago, even as a mortal, it was these traits that drew the attention of his late sire, Gerlo.
In spite of his relatively few years as a vampyr, it is rumoured that Mircea Dzardescu existed as a ghoul for many decades- perhaps even several centuries- before Gerlo gifted him with the Dead Water. For much of that time, he was tasked with the protection of Dzardrev Castle, an impressive fortification that guards one of the gateways to the northern end of the Tihuta Pass. The castle stands on a low hill overlooking the confluence of the Moldova and Suha rivers, just eighty-eight miles from Bistritz and forty-three miles from Castle Tihuta. He was also responsible for the administration of Gerlo’s mortal pawns among the boyars of the region, which even then was commonly known as Sučava for his stronghold, a walled town and castle built atop the ruins of an ancient Dacian fortress overlooking the river of the same name. As castellan (lord protector) of Dzardrev, he served honoroubly and well for several generations of men, seeing his children and his children’s children prosper in his lord’s service. Some also earned the honour of becoming Gerlo’s ghoul servants, and a number of them still serve Mircea to this night. In AD 1113, Mircea was given the Dead Water as a reward for his extraordinary service.
In the late 1120s, when the fugitive former voivode known as Visya set up a domain south of the pass, Gerlo thought little of it. While individually powerful indeed, Visya had been humbled by Vladimir Rustovitch, and had few allies worth mentioning save a small following of his stalwart Vlaszy revenants. Noriz, the Corruptor of Legions, was pressing on the demesnes of Suceava’s eastern neighbours, and Gerlo was far more alarmed by the threat that the ravenous childer of the Corruptor posed. However, within a score of years, the Voivode of Suceava came to regret his single-minded concern for his eastern border. Visya, strengthened on the power and influence of his childe Prince Radu of the newly formed town of Bistritz, plunged through the Tihuta Pass and declared a Trial by War.
Taken unawares, Gerlo was forced to divide his attention between two threats and ultimately he failed on both fronts. The effort of countering Visya’s many-layered plots and probes sapped the forces and attention of Gerlo, and much of his manpower was diverted towards keeping his older rival at bay. Due to this unfortunate development, he was also unable to effectively assist (or take advantage of) his weaker eastern allies in their struggles against the Corruptor, and their demesnes were gradually eroded and destroyed by Noriz. Mircea, with his Bratovitch allies, was given command of the battle-scarred eastern front, while Gerlo concentrated on (inconclusively) settling the matter of Visya from the base of Dzardrev Castle. Meanwhile, during the battles with Noriz’ ravenous and degenerate progeny Mircea made many unusual alliances, both within the clan and without. His own ghoul servant and captain, Bogdan Basarab of Argeș aided him in holding the line for many years, and Mircea granted him the Dead Water as soon as Gerlo would allow.
While war was never constant, it was frequent enough to wear Suceava down. After a grueling number of Trials By War over a score of years, Gerlo’s domain had grown weak and hollow. The voivode went to the Final Death outside of Suceava in AD 1182. In the end, he was not killed by Visya or his servants at all. Gerlo was wounded and his bodyguard decimated by a chance encounter with a pack of silver furred varcolaci, and he was then finished off by several Tremere who sought a treasure in his possession.
Many expected the Voivodate of Suceaca to disintegrate at that point, but Mircea had been busy forming an unorthodox alliance to buttress Dzardrev Castle, was fortuitously able to maintain the integrity of the late Gerlo’s lands. This tentative alliance included Mircea’s nephew in-blood Victor Armanaş of Baia, the vengeful Alexandru Taladescu of Botosani, the powerful but eccentric Taratus of Rădăuți and the savage Parldo Lup of Pleth. The alliance of three Tzimisce knezi with a Gangrel pretender and a Nosferatu bandit was initially spurned by other Tzimisce in the region, many of whom have since privately admitted that it has so far proven successful. As a symbol of their new bonds of loyalty, these Cainite lords each contributed one of their own circle of allies to a new coterie. The allied coterie of ancillae and elders put forward a number of their favoured servants to create de Nord Sânge (the Northern Blood). As the favoured servant of the newly declared Voivode Mircea, Bogdan was named as the leader of the coterie. As their first act, de Norde Sânge declared vengeance on Visya and their lord gave them custodianship of Dzardrev Castle to provide a base for their operations.
Dzardescu and his allies threw back a subsequent Trial by War instigated by Visya in the spring and summer of AD 1191. De Norde Sânge were instrumental in the war against Voivode Visya, whose conquest of Rădăuți, Botosani, Baia, and Suceava had once been considered a foregone conclusion by observers. Mircea’s coterie managed to eject Visya and his allies from the late Gerlo’s lands, and afterwards expanded their borders a good way into the Tihuta Pass. De Norde Sânge remains instrumental in Voivode Dzardescu’s plans, for they have the power and ability to hold the southern pass against interlopers while Mircea and his allies concentrate on holding back Noriz to the east.
The voivode was deeply displeased with his childe for his failure against the Concord during the abortive Trial By War in the dying days of winter in AD 1199. He considered punishing Bogdan harshly (when he recovered from torpor) but he was approached with an intriguing offer by the wily Veceslav, his progeny’s brother in their breathing years. Veceslav had bested Bogdan in honourable combat, and so was entitled to claim the title of Knez of Tihuta. However, while ostensibly allied with the Ventrue Árpáds, and ergo also with Radu and Visya, the Tzimisce diplomat was open to the vicissitudes of fate and not necessarily invested in either camp. Furthermore, he understood that as Mircea was troubled by Noriz (a hated enemy of Veceslav and his own sire, Gabor the Bulgar), so was Visya plagued to the south by Voivode Vlad Ionescu, a vassal of Rustovitch. The newly proclaimed knez was prepared to act as a buffer zone between Mircea and Visya. He would be subject to neither but could offer each of them a respite from the feud that neither could afford so that they might concentrate on their more pressing enemies.
Mircea was duly impressed with the new knez’ logic, and agreed to the proposal provided he could get Visya’s solemn oath to do likewise. He acquiesced to their request that a number of hostages from the pass be released, and in return Veceslav’s ally, the Cappadocian Sister Maude used her death magics to restore Bogdan to consciousness. He chastised his childe, but did not punish him, seeing a valuable new asset in his newly rekindled relationship with his brother.
Some months later, word arrived of Veceslav’s success in obtaining Visya’s agreement to the truce. Mircea fully expected betrayal at some point, but in the meanwhile he continued to treat with the elder Basarab through his correspondence with Bogdan. The voivode was finally free to direct his energy where it belonged and indeed to where Gerlo’s energy truly should have been directed from the start. Dzardescu’s priority has become to find a way to defeat Noriz, a task that none of his older or stronger kin would envy.
In the years since the truce was declared, the Knez of Tihuta was good for his word, keeping the pass clear of hostilities and treachery from the south. Lord Mircea and his allies were in turn able to hold his land against the legions of the Corruptor. Of course, Noriz is also fighting wars on multiple fronts against Ventrue and Tzimisce lords of the Rus’ while Cuman Gangrel and Tzimisce raid, insinuate, or serve any and every faction. Finally, Berchta the Iron-Nosed and her foul coteries of subordinate Nosferatu spread chaos and death in the belief that it will wake from her torpor their mistress, the Iron Hag. This is not to mention the trials, travails, and treacheries of the mortal political sphere, with rampant Cuman raids and demands for tribute by wandering tribes pressing even the walled towns of the boyars of Suceava, Rădăuți, Botosani, and Baia at times.
In recent years, with the flight of Visya and Veceslav and the surrender of Radu before the advancing armies of Rustovich, Mircea Dzardescu and his coterie look to make a new alliance with the Voivode among Voivodes. The Northern Blood were dispatched to offer tribute and make overtures in 1217, but whatever outcome the negotiations yielded has been kept carefully under wraps by all parties. The towns of Bistritz and Suceava are only 115 miles apart, giving the favourable possibility of reinforcements should either settlement come under siege. The uncertainty of this new arrangement suits Lord Mircea just as it suits Lord Vladimir, for it has given the legions of the Corruptor pause on their nightly raids, and it also ensures that Radu would be a fool to turn cloak against his new master.
Embrace: AD 1113, although it is known that Mircea was Gerlo’s ghoul for well over a century before he was gifted with the Dead Water.
Lineage: Lord Mircea is of the 8th generation. He is the childe of Gerlo (d), once voivode of Sučava (later Suceava) until his destruction at the hands of Lupines and Tremere in AD 1182. He was the childe of Florin Dodrescu (d), the voivode of Dacivadrum, an ancient, ruined Dacio-Roman castrum that lies close to the Muntenian settlement of Pitești. Florin ruled his domain for three centuries after the disappearance and rumoured destruction of his own sire. He and his settlement were both destroyed in a Trial by War with Bulgarian Tzimisce in AD 946. He was in turn the childe of Mihai Ruthven (d?), called Mucatra in Dacian times, who was the founder and ruler of Dacivadrum in AD 186. He disappeared in AD 602, and is rumoured to have lost his Heart’s Blood to an Avar Gangrel. Mucatra was the childe of Ruthven, whose capacity to shape the successive, chaotic migrations of barbarian hordes to place them under the yolk of the Fiends was without peer. He is thought to be active somewhere in Oltenia, where he busies himself as custodian and protector of the traditions of the Clan of the Dragon, Ruthven is the childe of the Eldest.
(d?)= Probably Deceased.
Honorific: Mircea Dzardescu Gerlovin sin Ruthven