Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The Autokrator of the Lexor Brujah, this ancilla was ultimately responsible for administrating the mammoth Byzantine bueaucracy. Since the fall of the city to the Latins, she has set herself up as a power in the Despotate of Epirus.
This lady has a soft beauty, with delicate bones, supple skin and blonde hair. Her crystal clear blue eyes sparkle with intensity, knowledge and confidence. She wears a long, flowing dress of excellent quality, accentuating her figure and lending her the appearance of a noble lady or wealthy merchant. However, her ink-stained fingers belie her scholarly interests. The small knife belted at her waist seems fit only to sharpen her quill.
(Expanded from the character as presented in Constantinople by Night, pp. 88-89, and Dark Ages Europe, p. 171)
Natalya was born to a noble family just before the Russian Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev and Novgorod converted to Christianity. Benefitting from Vladimir’s appreciation for education and recognition of her prodigious intellect, Natalya was sent an an early age to the Pandidakterion of the palace hall at Magnaura in Constantinople. Once she arrived in the Queen of Cities, she fell in love with everything Byzantine. When her studies were complete, she was offered a magistrate post, which she accepted eagerly.
Natalya rose rapidly through the bureaucracy ranks, attracting the attention of the Lexor Autokrator Tribonius. He saw in Natalya the passion he once possessed, and he decided to Embrace her, a prospect which she accepted as eagerly as her magistracy. She became enthused with the Brujah ideal of building Carthage anew within the auspices of the great Dream of Constantinople.
For many years of Natalya’s unlife, Tribonius had her travel the known the world and learn from notable Brujah. Her companion and occasional lover on some of these journeys was the dynamic idealist, Procet, and the two of them pledged their eternal friendship and aid to one another. Together they explored the ruins of Carthage, debated the finer points of virtuous existence with the ancients of Classical Greece and the Bayt Mushakis of North Africa alike, and visited the farthest reaches of the clan from Persia to Portugal.
The marshalling of the First Crusade prompted Natalya, now homesick, to return to Constantinople. She found her beloved city had lost some of its luster. It was still home, though, and she rejoined her Lexor family as Tribonius’ second-in-command, assuming an active role as her sire spent his nights updating the Codex of Legacies.
Natalya was careful not to alienate her Family members, but a seed of jealousy had been planted in the hearts of Theophilus and Dorotheus the very moment that their sire placed her above them. Making use of the renewed prosperity of the empire under Comneni dynasty, Tribonius orchestrated a massive expansion of the Byzantine bureaucracy, at times eclipsing the comprehension of even the Brujah Senate. The body urged him to restrain himself or at least codify his changes, but he worked at a feverish pace over the best part of the 12th century, and he seldom found the time to convert his enigmatic shorthand into a more workable form.
Then disaster struck in AD 1182.
Had the Senate been kept abreast of Tribonius’ changes, it might have been able to prevent the Massacre of the Latins but as it was, Theophilus and Dorotheus were slow to act and refused to aid Natalya as she attempted to control the situation. When the dust settled, the Narsene Lasombra demanded justice for the Final Death of Bishop Elizio and the vast majority of the Cainites of the Latin Quarter. Tribonius and Epirus (the Antonian Domestic Prefect) were singled out as the scapegoats and executed for not preventing the disaster.
The following years were dark for the Lexor Brujah. It took Natalya over a decade to piece together the hundreds of hastily scrawled ledgers and treatises that formed the machinery of Byzantine bureaucracy. With time, the majority of civil institutions fell from Brujah control as*Dorotheus and Theophilus, unable to come to terms with the loss of Tribonius and unwilling to accept Natalya as their autokrator, proved to be pathetic leaders while she was preoccupied with their sire’s work. Their progeny, Ian Musurus and Bardas Skleros, proved to be capable administrators but they failed to keep up with their own duties as well as those of their neglectful sires. More promising was Bardas’ own progeny, the charismatic Theophanos, who busied himself setting up links with Brujah from other cities loyal to the Dream. This expanded Natalya’s perspective of her late sire’s unrealised vision for the streamlined bureaucracy of the empire.
Procet returned to Constantinople in AD 1188 and immediately offered his loyal service and support. The passionate idealist spent much of the next fifteen years as Natalya’s faithful agent both at home and abroad. In AD 1194, he Embraced the Latin knight Sir Conrad de Monreal, hoping to give his autokrator and friend a formidable weapon should she need it, and while it took the neonate some time to find his legs, he showed himself a most useful liaison with the mercenary Latinkon knights attached to the city guard. Finally, Natalya saw fit to Embrace a childe of her own, and brought Aristarchus Acominatus into the fold at the turn of the 13th century. She hoped that the talented bureaucrat and writer, who was a cousin to the famous historians Michael and Nicetas Choniates, would lighten her own load, and he rose to the challenge.
Natalya and her Lexor Brujah managed to restore a number of crucial departments leading up to the advent of the 4th Crusade, but their control was far from secure. If they had had perhaps ten more years, Natalya believes that that they could have succeeded in sharpening the bureaucracy and returning it to its former effectiveness. By influencing key mortals in the imperial court and the Church, she hoped to stave off Constantinople’s collapse. However she also realised that this endeavour might be futile on her own, so she made overtures to other Scion families that were also actively resolved to reinvigorate the Dream. In the equally devout Thomas Feroux and Malachite, Natalya found partners in her mission, and together they forged a new covenant to save their city.
As the 13th century dawned, the conspicuous efforts of the Lexor Brujah saw opposition from enemies among the Antonian Ventrue. Both Anna Comnena and her childe, Irene Stellas did not taken Natalya’s interference in their demesnes lightly, and they reciprocated by pushing their own pawns into the bureaucracy to circumvent Brujah influence. Natalya lamented the waste of energy that could better be spent elsewhere, but even as the danger of the Fourth Crusade became apparent, their once-patrons and now-rivals were not receptive to overtures of truce.
Once the first siege of Constantinople in July of 1203 was concluded in the favour of the foreigners, the Lexor Family suddenly had a fresh challenge. Together with the Antonians they were left with the unhappy task of scouring the city and the empire for means to pay the crusaders off. This proved to be an almost impossible task so far as the public purse was concerned, for the imperial treasury had been eroded by years of financial mismanagement by the Angeli and then plundered by Alexius III as he fled the city. Many other cities throughout the empire were ruled by potentates who had no intention of emptying their own treasuries, and the funds of the Church were considered inviolate. Against the advice of the wise, Alexius IV would soon begin stripping them anyway, thus seeding his own downfall.
Frustrated with the inaction and obstruction of the Antonians, Natalya and her people changed tack and instead threw themselves into assisting the Malachite and St. Ladre Nosferatu and the Baron’s Gangrel in their other task of saving the Library of the Forgotten if the unthinkable happened. At a frenzied pace, crates full of books were sent to monasteries, castles, and villas all over the safer western provinces, and yet more were moved into dry cisterns and tunnels beneath the city. Even so, only a fraction of the library was moved by the new year. Avenues of alliances were pursued with more sympathetic pilgrims among the crusaders, the most notable coterie of which was the Concord of Ashes, and overtures from the Reformed Michaelites of Petronius were accepted.
Unfortunately, it was not enough. Hostilities resumed and the crusaders breached the walls on the 12th of April, 1204. What followed was a terrifying orgy of plunder, violence, death, and fire that raged for three days and nights. The flames would take a further five nights to be extinguished altogether. The Dream was broken, and the Queen of Cities was ravished. On the first night, word came to the Covenant of Three that the Library of the Forgotten had been torched, that Michael and Gesu were destroyed, and that Malachite had not only fled but appointed one of the Lazarene knights (Fra’ Ignatius) to impersonate him to his allies. Baron Thomas’ strained mind finally snapped. Despite the placating words of Natalya, who urged him to realise that the Nosferatu elder was powerless to resist the command of the Patriarch, he declared enmity on Malachite and the Nosferatu. She could do nothing to dissuade him. The Covenant of Three was broken.
Bitterly disappointed with their failure, she left the city with Procet, Aristarchus, and Theophanos. Dorotheus and Theophilus had been seen lighting fires in company with the reviled Chosen of Calomena, and so Bardas and Ian were judged to be untrustworthy as their progeny. Conrad elected to stay in order to find and deal with any traitors to the Lexor Family, and do what he could with his considerable fighting talents to protect the commoners of the city.
After departing Constantinople, Natalya and her inner circle journeyed first to Thessalonica, where they briefly entertained the notion of allying themselves with the Tzimisce prince of that city. They soon moved on, however, when it became clear that the armies of Latin Emperor Baldwin and Boniface of Montferrat would arrive before the resistance to the new regime could be ignited there. Instead, they moved further west, and Natalya briefly set herself up as Prince of Arta, a city on the Arachthos River where many aristocrats and bureaucrats had fled in the wake of the Great Sack. When the Byzantine nobleman Michael Comnenus Ducas broke with King Boniface of Thessalonica in 1205, it would be Arta that he made the capital of his newly forged Despotate of Epirus. By 1207, however, she had essentially abandoned the capital for the much more strategic city of Ioannina, some forty miles to the north.
Over the following years, Natalya bent her will towards making the Despotate strong enough to break the Latin Empire and reclaim her beloved Constantinople. The Lexor would no longer be a small family of Tribonius’ descendants but rather a sect of Byzantine Brujah, more than 20 strong in number and always growing, who would work in concert to guide the destiny of the Despotate. They moved behind the scenes to guide the nobles, the clergy, the bureaucracy, and even the despot himself, for it is thought that the late Michael and his successor Theodore have both taken advice (or quite possibly, instruction) from the Autokrator personally. By 1217, the realm stretched from Durazzo and Ohrid in the north to Larissa in the east and Naufpaktos in the south, plus the strategic island of Corfu. That same year, they also succeeded in capturing Latin Emperor Peter de Courtenay and destroying his army.
Natalya now eyes the important port of Demetrias as her next step in moving on the coveted city of Thessalonica, which would cement her position as the most likely Byzantine pretender to the princedom of Constantinople. Her righteous ambition inspires her clan, and it is likely that more Brujah ancillae will make their way to her side in the years to come.
Embrace: AD 1002.
Lineage: Childe of Tribonius (d), Childe of Critias (d?), Childe of Menele (d?), Childe of Troile
(d?)= presumed destroyed