Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Morrow the Sage
This Gangrel elder is an important teacher on the via bestialis, with many allies and contacts across the benighted East. Since the early years of the 13th century, she has sought to ally the various packs of the Gangrel against external threats.
A fine specimen of her clan, this woman is muscled and powerful. She wears the marks of her Beast with pride. Long, lustrous hair covers most of her body, her ears are pointed like a wolf’s, and her eyes shine like a great cat’s. She is clothed only in her fur.
(expanded from the character as presented in Under a Black Cross, pp. 84-85, Dark Ages Vampire Road of the Beast, pp. 95-96, and Dark Ages Clan Novel Ventrue).
The Gangrel elder known as Morrow the Sage is a potent threat to the calcified foundations of the High Clans of Eastern Europe, for she has come to be seen as a leader not just by her clan, but also the followers of the via bestiae. Moreover, she is canny enough to recognise the weakness that threatens to topple the ancient Tzimisce Voivodate and the opportunistic hubris that prompts the Ventrue of the Eastern Lords and the Árpáds to bite off far more than they can chew. Lastly, she has the vision to see that finally, the Gangrel might unite and throw off the fools that lay waste to their hunting grounds and ignore their ancestral obligations to the land.
Thus far, she has showed a willingness to work with elements of the Tzimisce clan that continue to prosecute the Omen War and fulfill their ancient responsibilities, provided that they recognise the hunting grounds of the Gangrel in her ever-widening array of loosely allied packs. Also bound up in this understanding is the odd bit of tribute by way of mortal herds, as well as the discontinuance of making arrogant demands on their loyalty based on flawed mortal notions of feudalism. In the past, Vladimir Rustovitch has been one such Dragon, so for now the Sage continues to respect old alliances with the Voivode of Voivodes. Judging by her humiliating interruption of Lord Jürgen von Verden’s Spring court in AD 1211, Morrow has no such interest in seeking a similar relationship with the Swordbearer.
Due to her actions at Magdeburg, Morrow has swiftly gone from being considered an obscure and irrelevant teacher on the Road of the Beast to a talking point in many Cainite courts across Central and Eastern Europe. Her legend continues to grow in the telling…
Unlike most of her Cainite cousins, the Sage has no knowledge of a life outside the world of night. When she was a small child, Morrow was abandoned after a brutal barbarian invasion devastated her family farmstead. Death found her in the form of Arnulf, the already ancient Gangrel who stalks the lands of Eastern Europe. At first, he considered feasting on her, but the prospect of a small child unspoiled by life among humans intrigued him. The Goth decided that he wanted to raise Morrow himself, granting her the Embrace if she proved worthy once she reached maturity.
At the rare gatherings of the Gangrel in those nights, the other Animals acknowledged only the inconvenience of raising a living girl. Arnulf, however, saw it as an opportunity to cultivate the ideal childe — a solitary, self-sufficient vampire with superior skills. In no time, Morrow proved to be a formidable, independent spirit. Even years before her Becoming, Morrow would hunt and track many a dangerous prey unaided by heightened senses and Cainite vigour.
After two decades of raising Morrow, the Goth decided to proceed to the next phase of his tutelage. He put the young mortal through a test. She would have to survive on her own for several weeks in a small territory, while Arnulf himself worked against her. Morrow had a difficult task trying to outwit the ancient barbarian, whose experience and skills were far superior to her own. Still, her survival instincts were finely honed. She moved through the forest like a fox, dug for roots, ate what grubs she could find, and hunted what prey he allowed to reach her. When necessary, she hid from Arnulf, now her merciless predator. On the fifth night, Morrow and the Goth faced each other. The old Gangrel had trapped a hare and was waiting for Morrow to come upon it. She understood what was waiting, so she fashioned weapons before she approached.
She was unable to land a single blow, but Arnulf showed little restraint, tearing cruelly at her flesh as he toyed with her. Morrow tried hard to find a shred of humanity in the eyes of her “father”, but she found only rage and hunger, for he knew no other path than struggle and death. He was about to deliver a deadly blow when Morrow reached for her makeshift dagger and plunged it into her beloved teacher’s neck. Immediately, she pulled back, horrified that she had been capable of such brutality. And then, with this sign, Arnulf grinned with his sharp teeth and charged at her once more. The next night, she awoke alone and undead.
Years after her Embrace, Morrow came to understand what Arnulf had tried to achieve. She respected the reasoning behind her sire’s actions, but she also believed that there was another way for the Gangrel. She gradually made her way south, slowly garnering a reputation in the Gathers as a fierce warrior. This reputation helped Morrow in her quest to establish a core of cooperative Animals, for she has come to realise that if the clan is to survive the inevitable encroachment of civilisation and the Cainites that hide within it, then the Gangrel must learn to work together. She encouraged her brothers and sisters to form packs throughout the Balkans and the lands of Hungary and Croatia, and she watched over great gatherings of the Animals. After many years, she came to be known as Morrow the Sage, a moniker she has earned for her capacity to use reason in tandem with the unreason of the Beast. Though their paths have diverged, Arnulf is proud of his progeny, and he has attended a number of her Gathers, even if he rarely stays for long.
Toma, childe of Todor. A Gangrel pack-leader who roams the Hungarian Alföld and also the Transylvanian pass south of the Apuseni mountains, he journeyed to Magdeburg with Morrow as a token of his support. It was Toma who slew the Teutonic knight who leaped to attack them after they broke in through the window.
Lord Jürgen’s bid for domain in Transylvania spelled troubles for the Animals of the region. For many years, Morrow and the Fiend Vladimir Rustovitch had had a tacit understanding: each keeps out of the affairs of the other, and they respect each other’s territory. This truce stood unchallenged for much of the 12th century and into the 13th. They have even shared information regarding the Tremere, and engaged in the odd cooperative raid against Warlock holdings since the truth of the origins of the Gargoyles came to light. Lord Jürgen threatens this relationship, and after his declaration at Magdeburg, Morrow came to realise that the time to test her new web of alliances may be approaching.
After her fatal interruption at the Spring court of AD 1211, where she humiliated Lord Jürgen and slew one of his Teutonic Knights, she and her fellows were sought out by Svenin the Tall. He would later share his experiences with several of the Concord.
He found the Gangrel in a dell, about 8 miles east of the Elbe. When he arrived, Morrow and her allies were waiting for him. In addition to the two huge Ferals that accompanied her to the archbishop’s palace, three other Gangrel, perhaps even more feral than Agvus and Toma were present.
The Viking greeted them guardedly. He addressed Morrow, Toma and Agvus by name, only to be greeted in turn by scornful mirth. “Agvus” was not actually Agvus, the companion to Matasuntha the Tigress that Svenin had assumed, but rather he was Radim, a Gangrel pack-master who runs the furthest forests and hills of what the Germans call the Eastern Marches (eastern Brandenburg) and northern Bohemia.
Radim stalked up to Svenin, feigning insult and seeking a pack order acknowledgement. The two large Cainites fought and, while the Viking put up a good showing, the bestial Radim managed to wound him and drive him into submission. With clan formalities, such as they are, out of the way, Svenin was accepted as a clansman in good standing. His fellow Gangrel welcomed him, complementing him on his prowess and courage. In particular, Morrow said that she was glad that he did the right thing and seek them out without his “soft allies” of the High Clans, as the welcome would not have been so warm if they were present. She went on to state that Toma has heard of him from his friends among the Bulgarian and Vlach Gangrel “south of the mountains”, and that his reputation from the Gathers there was good.
Radim, childe of Zlata. A Gangrel pack-leader who haunts the wooded hills of northern Bohemia and eastern Brandenburg, Like Toma, he followed Morrow to Magdeburg as a show of strength. Svenin misjudged his boar-like appearance for the vanished elder Agvus, who was a companion to Matasuntha the Tigress. Radim later challenged, and bested, the Viking over the mistake.
Morrow and her Gangrel were curious about him, his road and his bloodline, but Svenin was surprised to find that the Sage does not share her sire’s hatred for the line of Lucien. She spoke no ill of her sire, merely saying that Arnulf has chosen his path, and his and hers do not always intersect. Rather than destroying civilisation outright (leaving the implication that that is precisely what Arnulf desires), she is more interested in clan unity, and she sees Svenin as a smart Cainite who can lead, if he so chooses. The Gangrel are the finest warriors among the Children of Caine, yet they can never have their own place anywhere because they do not stand together.
Her passion and pure animal magnetism would leave quite an impression on the Viking. Although she was no deep thinker, she knew and trusted her instincts in a way that Svenin instinctively realised he could never do. Her Beast was Morrow’s ally and companion in all things. Frankly, it was deeply unsettling, even terrifying, but also incredibly curious to him. Particularly as he, a walker on the Road of the Slain, had devoted so much energy to drive down and master his own Beast, while here was a Cainite who had so utterly and effortlessly allied themselves to theirs. When she talked, it was with conviction, gravity and passion. There were no lies in her, and he found himself admiring her power and her wisdom. Truly, she was a sage, in her own way.
Also, It was quite clear to Svenin that Morrow had a natural, “leader of the pack” style of magnetism. She exuded charisma, power and pride. Her blood called to his blood — Gangrel to Gangrel and Beast to Beast. This was no trick or Discipline technique, but simple animal magnetism. She may have been stuck in an atavistic pack mentality, but her words made his blood sing…
As he readied himself to depart, Morrow warned him that she, Toma and Radim were serious about their threats of war. If “Lord” (she sneered when she said the word) Jürgen chose to ignore the threat, he would regret it. She furthered commented that she did not understand why a worthy clansman such as Svenin the Tall would deign to lower himself to being the hunting dog of the so-called “High Clans” and subject himself to their “civilised” games.
As a parting word, she finally warned him, “remember well that I am friend to none save my kin….”
With that, she and her Gangrel allies melted into the night sky of the forest, leaving the northman to consider her words. Was the Sage inferring that if Svenin continued to play along with his “High Clan” masters, their next meeting may not be so amicable? Or was she merely saying that if Svenin wished to speak with Morrow again, he should once more come alone, as a clansman in good standing?
Embrace: The late 9th century. When she met Svenin the Tall, she boasted of having seen some 350 winters.
Lineage: Morrow is the childe of Arnulf the Goth, who is the childe of Pard the Wanderer, who is the childe of Burrukam the Stranger, who was the childe of Ennoia. As such, she is of the 7th generation.