Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
This traditionalist elder was the Caesar Magister of the Antonian Ventrue before the Great Sack. As such, he was responsible for coordinating the spheres of influence within the family. Now, as first among his kin, he simply calls himself Caesar.
A brooding, richly dressed Byzantine noble who wears his power like a cloak. He is tall and angular, and has a certain majesty about him, as if he were fit to sit on the throne of Constantinople himself. His hair is dark brown and shorter than the fashion. Haughty eyes so dark as to appear black gleam beneath bristled brows and he tends to stare down his nose at people.
(Expanded from the character as presented in Constantinople by Night, pp. 114-115).
Nicepherus, eldest known surviving childe of the late Septima Dominica, who was in turn the eldest known surviving childe of Antonius the Gaul believes that a position of rulership is his right. Septima Dominica supported Caius’ usurpation of Antonius’ power, but was destroyed in 1001 CE by a cadre of mortal witch-hunters. The potent elder spent much of the Macedonian era fruitlessly searching for the identities of the hunters in question. However, during the course of his enquiries Nicepeherus long ago reached the conclusion that these mortals were manipulated by some malign Cainite influence, as they all met convenient and untimely ends shortly thereafter. His partner throughout many of these trials was the Malkavian elder Gregorius Dimities the Michaelite Muse of Performance, who cited an artistic need to understand the dynastic intrigues of the Antonians as his reason for involvement.
In life, Nicepherus was a scion of a minor Cappadocian noble family of Tyana, and he maintained a watchful (if not necessarily benevolent or even very constructive) eye on his descendants. In time, he proudly watched from afar as they evolved into the militarily successful Phocas family and in the person of Nicephoros II Phocas they would rise to the purple in the 10th century. After stumbling due to poorly conceived intrigues he grew disappointed with them, and he allowed them to slip into obscurity throughout the 11th century as he transferred his own interest entirely to the politics of the Families. As caesar magister, he had the power to direct the plans and activities of the various prefects of the empire (Domestic, Military, Western Praetorian and Eastern Praetorian), but this authority was curtailed by the power of the the camerārius. After the middle of the 12th century, that coveted position was held by his rival, the ancilla Anna Comnena, who used her capacity as overseer to counter some of his more blatantly authoritarian directives. This caused considerable friction in the family, though the animosity never extended beyond veiled threats and clever insults. Some say that the impasse was the fault and genius of Basileus Caius who appeared to delight in playing the two off against each other.
Nicepherus’ faction was arguably stronger than that of Anna’s but certainly not enough to break the paralyzing dead-lock that beset the hierarchy of the Antonians. In addition to his pawns within Constantinople, a good number of the princes spread throughout the coastal cities of Asia Minor were either allied or descended from Nicepherus, but Anna’s alliance with the formidable Belisarius and her own extraordinary political acumen prevented him from casting her out and elevating himself to an even more exalted position than he already enjoyed.
As part of their involvement with the Queen of Cities in the final years before the Dream came crashing down in AD 1204, the Concord observed that Nicepherus was very much part of the problem that beset the Families in general and the Antonians in particular. Despite his sharp mind and shrewd experience, like his fellows the caesar magister appeared to exist within the delusion that the walls of the city were impregnable, the power of the Families was invincible, and no matter how they abused that strength in petty intrigues and games of one-upmanship, there was no need to worry, for their power was eternal.
Obviously, they were incorrect. The Antonians did weather the storm of the Fourth Crusade, but they emerged as a pathetic remnant of their former strength and prestige. Caius was destroyed in the Great Sack, Belisarius deserted them, Ducas and Helena fled, and Basil disappeared. As the smoke cleared and the city struggled to find its feet in the new order, only Nicepherus and Anna remained as senior members of the family. Their rivalry was undiminished, and each of them immediately declared themselves the leader of the winnowed Antonians. However, like almost everyone else most of Anna’s wealth had been looted by the crusaders, while Nicepherus fared rather better.
For the next 9 months, the rivals raced to pick up as much of the pieces still available to them in an order dominated by Venetian, Genoese, and French Cainites. Then Anna’s primary haven, a dilapidated mansion in the District of Arcadius, was attacked by vampire hunters in January of 1205. The aggressors were mortal or perhaps ghouls, but they were well-coordinated and well-prepared. If they had chosen their moment at noon rather than an hour before dawn, they could well have succeeded. As it was, Anna survived but her bodyguard Theodorus was driven into torpor protecting her. In the wake of the attack she finally quit the city, telling Nicepherus that if he wished to be chief beggar of Latin table scraps that was his prerogative, but she would seek her fortunes elsewhere. Of all her followers, only Irene Stellas would remain. Anna soon surfaced once more in Nicaea, where she would become a thorn in the side of Nicepherus’ progeny, Prince Romanos, who sought to continue his sire’s feud but discovered that she was far too popular with his own subjects to do so.
After Alfonzo of Venice gathered enough support to declare himself prince in the dying days of 1206, it was with the tacit agreement of Nicepherus and his followers. In return, the Antonians would keep their exclusive dominion over the Bukoleon and Great Palaces, and conditional access to Blachernae would also be granted. He also negotiated the qualified domain over Chrysopolis on the Asian shore. Their base of power secured for the future, he took the title of caesar, for that of basileus would have been naught but a display of impotence. Nevertheless, Irene was forced to attend the ceremony where she was forced to endure his arrogant insults of her sire. In answer, Anna ousted Romanos in January of 1208, and his rival now rules the Cainites of the capital of the potent Empire of Nicaea.
Over the years that followed the rise of Prince Alfonzo, the Antonians have slowly and surely put the pieces back together, but they still have a very long way to go. However, for the first time in centuries they work together without feuds, one-upmanship, or infra-family intrigues for all of the Antonians are thoroughly under the thumb of their caesar. Relations with the prince are tense, but the two elders maintain whatever understanding they reached behind closed doors and Nicepherus remains an open supporter of the prince despite Alfonzo’s increasingly tyrannical methods. Although others continue to have far more wealth and influence in the new order, Nicepherus is patient. The Latin Empire falters ever more, and he knows that the Constantinopolitans both alive and undead resent their Franks that rule them and the Latin Rite that has been imposed upon them. The strength of Alfonzo already strains, and every misstep and abuse the prince makes trying to stablise his power brings the caesar closer to the preeminence he sees as his right.
Embrace: AD 604.