Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Once the Michaelite Muse of Sculpture, this elder was once the lover of Michael the Patriarch. He later had Symeon of the Obertus fleshcraft him into a horror so that he would cease being a temptation of his sire. He now leads the Cult of the Archangel.
Although none of the formative coterie beheld Paul Bathalos at the Antonian Blood Feast of November, AD 1196, Iulia happened to witness the following exchange between the Michaelite and Obertus Quaesitori, Petronius and Symeon:
As she slowly made her way past the ancient and decrepit Fountain of Constantius, Iulia saw two shadowy figures standing in the bowers of the garden, near to the wall. She was close enough to make out the familiar features of Petronius, the de facto leader of the Michaelites and their erstwhile ally in their recent intrigues. His eyes were closed, his face fixed in rapture and his head atilt, almost as if he were inhaling memory. His normally marble-like face was slightly flushed, and it was clear to the young Lasombra that their host had sampled a few too many drunken mortals late in the night. Without the gifts of the Blood that came so easily to her new companion, Veceslav, it took a few seconds longer and a few steps farther to discern the noble features of Symeon, the secular ruler of the Draconian Tzimisce.
“I miss Paul. He was a vision of physical perfection to behold!” Petronius breathed the words, perhaps lost in a whimsical memory of the halcyon nights of yore.
Symeon paused as Iulia drew around the corner, and out of sight. She moved down the corridor a piece, gathered the shadows about her like a cloak, and strained her hearing as best she could.
“I suppose so, my friend. If you like to behold such things.”
Evidently the Obertus lord either expected that she was out of earshot, or did not care if she was not.
“Am I to take it, then, that you did not like the look of our sequestered friend?”
“He was beautiful, I suppose. In a very womanish, very fragile way.”
An amused chuckle. “And so?”
An answering snort, of amusement more than derision. “I see where you are leading me, old one.”
Laughter then. “And so?”
A gravid pause. “I suppose I would have to say that his lack of mental and spiritual fortitude made him rather boring to behold. He was…. like one of his unfinished sculptures. There was form there, a hint of what lay beyond, but there was no substance, no character. Dull. Insipid.”
It was the Michaelite’s turn to snort. “Nothing of the Divinity Within then? Peace, friend. Please, forgive my wit. It sometimes injures without my leave, and I would rather ask forgiveness than be disarmed.”
Symeon laughed. “I can think of several ways that I might… disarm your wit.”
“Ahh, see? And we are friends again.”
“Indeed. So you want to know why Paul Bathalos’s very pretty form has been twisted into monstrousness?”
“Will you not allow me my games, Symeon?”
“Call it revenge for slighting my family.”
“Very well. Consider yourself avenged. Why did he ask you?”
“He said that his flesh was a temptation to the Patriarch. Do you know ought of the eastern doctrine of reincarnation? Of course you do. Paul claims that he is, in fact, the reembodied lover of Mi-ka-il from Ebla of thousands of years ago. Some woman named Ma-ri? And that the devil had placed him once again in Michael’s way, to remind him of his earthly lusts and to frustrate his ascension to stand beside Gabriel at the left hand of God in Heaven. He asked me to make him a creature of such foulness, such ruined hideousness that his face would provoke only disgust and hate in those that contemplated his form. No longer would he tempt the Archangel. No longer would the ghost of Ma-ri haunt Mi-ka-il. Know you anything of this Ma-ri, Petronius?”
Silence, pregnant with speculation, ensued between the two elders.
“My sire has… mentioned her. Yes.”
“Now who is leading who, my lord?”
“Hah! Cleverly turned, my friend. I am drunk, Symeon. Not stupid. I would sooner spill my heart’s blood for you than betray the confidence of the Patriarch!”
“Hmm. Very well, then. Let us see what further sport the Children of Judas have placed before us in the dying gasps of the evening. I feel like being tempted.”
Laughter erupted from the Arbiter’s belly. “But you are vicious, my dear Symeon. I wish my brothers and sisters had your will…”
“If they did, Petronius, they wouldn’t be Toreador. Come.”
Iulia watched the two great elders of the Dream amble back towards the Antonian feast. Laughter from one of Gregorius’ pantomimes drifted out to the garden, and faint music tickled her concentration, disturbing her poor attempt at using the Blood to amplify her hearing.
“Wait, my friend.”
Petronius, his back to Iulia, suddenly stopped, placing his hand on Symeon’s arm. She feared that they would round on her in her hiding place after all, and that she would suffer rebuke for her eavesdropping.
Straining her ears, she bit her lip in redoubled concentration. She could see Symeon’s face in the half-light. His pale, regal countenance bore a bland expression, and yet his eyes twinkled with mischief.
“You didn’t truly answer my question. You only told me why he wanted you to do it. I want to know why you did it? Why make Paul Bathalos such a monster?”
More silence ensued as Symeon considered his words. Finally, the corner of his mouth tugged heavenward in the ghost of a sardonic grin.
“I wanted to see if he could prove to be more… interesting this way.”
The Tzimisce gently disengaged himself from the Toreador, and stepped back into the palace. As he disappeared from sight, Petronius’ shoulders straightened and he ceased his drunken sway. The Arbiter shook his head slightly. Iulia found herself wishing she could see his face- to have some insight into what he was thinking. Was it sadness that moved the elder? Or disbelief?
After a long moment, Petronius resumed his nonchalant air. Remembering his intoxicated sway, the Quaesitor followed his companion back into the Antonian blood feast, leaving Iulia to wonder at the foolishness of artists, and the cruelty of fiends…
Years later, several of the Concord were present when Paul returned to the company of the broken Trinity Families in November of 1208. Gone was his melancholic paralysis, to be replaced by the mania of the zealot. His skin was observed to be scabrous and knobbly, with bony spurs protruding at irregular intervals. A massive hump sathigh on his left shoulder while his right hip was painfully twisted. His face bore a short, subbed nose and hollow, deep sockets holding bloodshot eyes, and finally a maw of needle-like, misshapen teeth. Only his lustrous black hair and his beautiful hands remain free of taint; it was as if the counterpoint of such was to lend further horror to the rest of his form. As in the past, he wore the tattered robes of a penitent pilgrim.
(Expanded from the character as presented in Constantinople by Night, p. 106, and the information presented in V20 Dark Ages Companion, p. 69).
A native of the small Christian community of Aleppo, Paul came to Constantinople in 739 AD, during the reign of Leo the Isaurian. He arrived with his master, Eusebius, who had picked up stakes to take part in a revolution of secular sculptural techniques brought on by the Iconoclasm. Paul was instantly struck by the magnificence of the city. He was inspired by its beautiful palaces and churches, the sunsets and sunrises, the extraordinary sculptures and mosaics, and even the few icons that he saw in shadowy marketplaces. He eventually completed his apprenticeship and became a great advocate for the joys of city life. When his master eventually departed, Paul stayed on.
A chance encounter with Michael changed Paul’s existence forever. It was love at first sight for the Archangel, and such was the beauty of the ancient Toreador that he inspired the slavish ardour of the young mortal immediately. Paul was not accounted a great sculptor when compared to the mortal masters of his day, and certainly not in the league of his predecessor muses, Gallasyn and Endymion, but he was still sufficiently proficient and talented to warrant attention. It was not for his skill, however, that he was Embraced. Rather, it was a profound and melancholic longing in the Patriarch for a lover that he had lost in the distant recesses of the past. Based on some startling similarities in his general build, bearing, effeminate mannerisms and soft beauty, Paul was taken for the reincarnation of this mysterious lover.
Paul soon found himself among the Michaelites. While still a rank fledgeling, Michael declared him Muse of Sculpture to replace Endymion, the ‘ingrate’ elder who had recently departed the post under a cloud of recrimination. Cainites among the other families made snide remarks in secure company about cronyism and lust ruling the Toreador, but none had the courage to gainsay the appointment. Paul settled into his art, and his role as muse, with great pride and industriousness. Under his serious and mindful guidance, the Guild of Sculptors increased in prestige and influence, and he performed well. He was the Patriarch’s lover and companion for over a century, through the execution of Antonius and Michael’s rule as Emperor Michael III. It was not until the Dracon finally deserted the city in 880 CE that not even Paul could prevent Michael from slipping into long periods of torpor and increasing bouts of despression and delusion. Even after his ardour cooled, when the Patriarch did rise, he sometimes sought Paul’s company above all others, even that of Petronius.
Inspired by the Dream, and with his lover’s encouragement, Paul did eventually become a credit to his craft, and after centuries of diligent work he has attained supernal skill. His sculptures are now very much in demand among the Cainites of the eastern Mediterranean, and for nearly 400 years he was an ornament to the Michaelites, and a welcome fixture at the interminable social events of the Byzantine Cainites. For much of that time, Paul happily ensconced himself in the intrigues of the city, enjoying the adulation and status that his special place at Michael’s side granted him.
Of all the Muses, he was the last to desert the Arbiter and abandon his duties. His delusions finally overtook him in the 1170s and it was then that Paul became a recluse. Like many of the city’s Cainites, he become convinced that Michael was indeed an angel, and he feared that their relationship may ruin his chance at ascendance. To prevent the Patriarch from becoming a “fallen angel”, Paul had Symeon flesh-craft him into a hideous monstrosity.
Afterwards, he sequestered himself inside his villa in the District of Maurus, working on his art, contemplating his misery, occasionally visiting the torpid form of his ancient lover, and enthusiastically worshipping him as a member of the Cult of the Archangel. His only frequent visitor in his solitude was his childe, Manuel Stephanopolis, who vainly and ineptly tried for many years to perform his beloved sire’s duties as Muse of Sculpture. Petronius tried to lure Paul back to work many times, but in due course he resigned himself to replacing the failed muse with another- the Spartan elder, Eletria. Manuel, in turn, reported the Arbiter’s courtship of Eletria to his sire, and Paul first begged for his position to be preserved before sending a note of half-hearted indignation to his one-time friend as Petronius officially stripped him of his station in 1202. No further action was taken, however, other than Pakourianis also making an official protest in his support.
Petronius then proceeded with his plans to reform the Michaelites with more stable leadership, but his initiatives came to naught when the Queen of Cities fell to the Fourth Crusade in April of 1204. Paul vanished during the Great Sack, and his villa was gutted by a fire. When rumours of Mary the Black’s diablerie of Michael became commonplace, it was assumed by many that she had hunted down Paul and destroyed him. This was proven incorrect in the early winter of 1208, when the former muse reappeared among his one-time fellows. He appeared confused, without understanding of what had occurred since the city fell, and it was clear that he had spent the intervening years in torpor. Paul claimed to have had visions of Michael standing with Gabriel at the left hand of God, and he claimed that the ascended Patriarch wished to raise his benighted followers to join him in Heaven. At the time his visions were received as a poor jest at best, or the rantings of a hopelessly diseased mind at worst.
Nevertheless, Paul set himself to the task of regathering the dispersed followers of the Cult of the Archangel, which had lain fallow since the fall of the Magnus Orthodox family during the Great Sack. It was painstaking work, but over a period of ten years he managed to rebuild a loyal following of sorts. When Pakourianis the Dove also awoke from a lengthy torpor in 1217, the two former muses compared notes and found that their torpid visions were quite similar. They have come to fervently believe that the Archangel wishes to save them, and will send them a prophet to show them the way. A number of other Michaelites and plenty of newer Toreador arrivals have been approached to join the Nephilim, their coterie of vampire cultists.
Embrace: AD 750