Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Radu of Bistritz
The Prince of Bistritz; perhaps something of a deviant of Clan Tzimisce, he is seemingly cosmopolitan, progressive and congenial.
This nobleman appears weak, almost foppish in his court fashions. Unusual for a Transylvanian lord, his hair is blonde, his blue eyes are friendly and welcoming, and his features elegant. He is customarily unarmed.
The coat of arms of Radu, Prince and Knez of Bistrița, as well as those of his mortal persona, Radu Bistri III, Burgrave of Nösen and Lord of the Nösnerland.
(Expanded from the character and information presented in Transylvania by Night, pp. 115-116, Transylvania Chronicles I: Dark Tides Rising, pp. 114-116, and Dark Ages Europe, p. 132).
Little of Radu’s origins are known to the Cainites of the West. What is known is that in AD 1148 Radu, at the time a rank neonate, approached Nova Árpád in the formative stages of the Council of Ashes and offered the services of he and his sire, Visya, in the work of establishing the Siebenburgen. They brought considerable might to the table, including Visya’s loyal brood of Hungarian, Polish and Germanic childer as well as a small army of ghouls. And yet, it was Radu’s tact and sophistication that swayed Nova and her cohorts as to the possibility that a Tzimisce might actually work in the mix of the Council. To their point of view, here was an urbane Cainite that believed in moving out of the barbaric past of the East and into the future of the West.
The only condition on Radu and Visya’s alliance with the Árpád’s was the domain of the small, fortified settlement of a minor Magyar border lord and his Pecheneg subjects. The village was then known as Beszterce, butafter the settlement of the German Saxon settlers it would also become known as Nösen and then finally as Bistritz. The area was peopled primarily by Pechenegs who had been forced into the region by warfare among the steppe tribes, a handful of Magyar families that had chosen to settle under the pretext of the territorial expansion of the Kingdom of Hungary, and some Vlachs that migrated between the mountains and the plains with the movement of the seasons. It stood on a potentially prosperous but depressed trade route, and was open to invasion from any number of forces beyond the Tihuta pass. The castle, village, and the pass beyond stood some ninety miles from Nova’s planned hub of operations in Mediasch; too far to project the power of her Magyar and Szekler puppets reliably, but close enough that they could benefit from the stability that Radu could provide. In other words, the Council of Ashes would gain the credibility of a Tzimisce ally, a base for Saxons in the north, and none of the political and logistical liability that came with it. Radu was in.
From the first he displayed a significant amount of courtly savvy and strong mortal connections in capital. Through carefully placed rumours and advisors, King Géza II was convinced of the suitability of a local landowner named Radu Bistri, who knew the area and could effect a stable growth of prosperity in the Nösnerland. The king awarded the fellow with the position of burgrave, and the vampire began his brilliant masquerade as a mortal, a ploy that he continues to maintain until this very night. Indeed, the Tzimisce has made an enterprise of his command of Vicissitude, carefully aging himself to match the appearance of a mortal retainer so that none would suspect that he directly controls his domain just as he did when he founded it. Indeed, he currently rules by night as Radu Bistri III, Burgrave von Bistritz, whom the mortals of the kingdom know as the grandson of the nobleman who established the settlement. His masquerade as the mortal burgrave has allowed him to directly place the mortal city council factions firmly under his thumb, and no other prince of the Siebenburgen has managed such a direct oversight of their domain for so long.
In the decades after the inception of the Council of Ashes, Prince Radu proved to be a tireless proponent of moderation and industriousness, constantly urging his cohorts to work together for the benefit of all. He also brought the Gangrel messenger Tiberiu to the notice of the Council, thus ensuring that a constant line of communication would be open among the princes of the Siebenburgen. The stability of the Nösnerland brought many more settlers to the area, which in turn strengthened Visya as the secret lord of the town of Regen, some 33 miles south of Bistritz. Long hunted by his enemy, Vladimir Rustovich, Radu’s sire had secretly sought to build a new realm of his own in northern Transylvania, and for decades he had waged a number of Trials by War against Gerlo, a formidable Voivode of the lands north of the Tihuta Pass. With the help of Radu and the increased numbers of warriors that Bistritz, Regen, and the Nösnerland could field, Visya sorely pressed Gerlo over the decades to come.
Radu also attempted to intercede many times on behalf of his fellow princes to try and establish peaceful relations with the Tzimisce, although this proved to be impossible in most situations given the nature of the Saxon settlements, the ill repute of his sire, and the acrimony between the Árpáds and the Voivodate. For a time, the cities prospered and the Council was the toast of Greater Hungary and the borderlands of the Holy Roman Empire. Alas, treachery, jealousy, and attrition took their toll, and by the 1190s it was clear that the Council of Ashes had collectively failed in their assigned tasks.
Bistritz, however, has prospered under the assiduous guidance of its Fiend prince. Other cities can boast more wealth or more military power, but none can claim the simple stability and growth of Bistritz. He maintained contact with his “fellow” remaining princes through Tiberiu, and expressed his hope that unity between the Siebenburgen could be reestablished if all could put their differences behind them. In truth, however, even he considered that to be an improbable task at best and in any case, the runaway success of Bistritz meant that it didn’t really need its southern neighbours by the turn of the 13th century.
In AD 1197, while passing through the city the formative Concord presented itself to Prince Radu and his court. The prince proved to be a very gracious host, using a fusion of Tzimsice and western hospitality in his dealings with them. His court was cosmopolitan, boasting a visiting French Toreador (Arianne), a German Malkavian (Perlina), and even a Greek Salubri Warrior (Rashiel) in addition to his own childer. He was a little suspicious of their intentions to build a tower on behalf of Vencel Rikard so close to his own demesne, but as an ally of the Árpáds he ultimately decided to offer some small support to the project. He even allowed them to tour his own magnificent castle, and like Myca Vykos he offered to “look into” contacting its designer and builder, the master architect Zelios. They were happy to look around his impressive castle, but in the case of the second proposition, the coterie politely demurred, as at that point they felt they had sufficient time and treasure to see the work done.
Months later, they became aware that Radu and Arianne were playing games of the heart with Sophia of Rothügel, the intended bride of their friend, the mortal adventurer Manfred von Manstein. The Toreador was instructing the urbane Tzimisce in the darker arts of Cainite courtly love and the young lady was their mortal instrument, a plaything on which to bend their jealous attentions. Upon investigation, it became clear to them that Sophia would not survive their games, and indeed she might even find herself among the Tzimisce. Several among the newly forged coterie elected to act on behalf of Manfred and Sophia, and they discretely smuggled the two lovers through the pass and away from the malignant influence of the obsessed prince. Radu was no fool, of course, and although he could prove nothing he suspected their involvement in his affairs. For some years to come that suspicion would poison his relationship with Veceslav Basarab, who went on to declare himself Knez of Tihuta after the successful culmination of the formative Concord’s construction project.
Bistritz continued to prosper through the first decade of the 13th century. The added security provided by Knez Veceslav and the fortification at Tihuta Pass stablised the trade corridor with the Principality of Halych and the lands beyond, although the woes of the Grand Duchy and city of Kiev damned the flow of silver somewhat. Radu was well-placed to take advantage of the windfall, and his fortunes increased alongside his respect for Veceslav. Much of this wealth was spent in assisting his sire in Regen and the allied princes of Mediasch and Schäßburg in their war against Vlad Ionescu of Aserculu, the progeny and vassal of Visya’s old enemy, Vladimir Rustovich. The Voivode among Voivodes soon became aware of his quarry, though wars with his kin to the south kept him too preoccupied to send help to his childe.
This all changed in Rustovich’s favour in AD 1211, when Jürgen von Verden’s agents succeeded in gaining the Burzenland for the Teutonic Order, and the Sword-bearer declared his intention to beard the Tzimisce in their own heartland. Nothing less than clan war would follow, and previous obstacles to Lord Vladimir’s entry into Transylvania began to clear as over the following years, one voivode after another came to his side in a display of unity not experienced in centuries. He chose his moment well, and in the autumn of 1214 he struck at the northern settlements of the Siebenburgen just as Lord Jürgen and the army of Prince János of Schäßburg were occupied in the Cuman War against Kordönül in the lands of Muntenia. Klausenburg proved no obstacle to his march, as the Gangrel melted into the forests and chose to harry rather than stand and fight. Radu must have known that only Lady Nova, his sire, his brother-in-blood Sergiu of Aserculu, and Veceslav of Tihuta had any thoughts of standing with him, and that only with the addition of Schäßburg would they stand a chance against the Voivode among Voivodes.
Then Visya fled into the night, without a word, abandoning his childe to the tides of war. Rustovich was quick to occupy and fortify Regen, thus cutting off any chance of reinforcements from Mediasch and Aserculu, let alone Schäßburg. Bistritz would have to face the enemy army alone.
Prince Radu weighed up his options, and then sent envoys to Rustovich with the only sane offer available to him. Less than a week later, the two Tzimisce potentates met to parley on honourable terms and there, in front of a score of other Tzimisce knezi Radu Bistri repudiated his coward of a sire, bent the knee to Lord Vladimir, took a draught of his vitae, and formally made the city of Bistritz a vassal of the Voivodate. The Gangrel Tiberiu carried a message for him one last time, giving his sincere regrets to Lady Nova and his peers among the Siebenburgen that he could “no longer fulfill his duties to the Council of Ashes, for he had been forced to capitulate and deliver himself and his city into the hands of the enemy.” Veceslav Basarab chose exile rather than gambling on the mercy of the resentful Cainite that should have been his sire, and he and his men managed to flee Tihuta via secret ways once it became clear that all hope of resistance was over before it started. He would make his way to the friendly court of Iulia in Weißenburg, there to languish for years to come.
As the first snows of winter fell, the north belonged to the Voivodate.
The Voivode among Voivodes wintered his army in Bistritz, Klausenburg, Regen, and at the castle of Tihuta, preparing to marshal and strike at his earliest convenience. With the spring thaw of 1215, Rustovich began his first probes of the middle cities of the Siebenburgen, confident that they would fall within a few months and leave the way open to Kronstadt. Then the Warlocks struck. Clan Tremere had always been jealous of the city of Bistritz and her trade routes to the Kievan Rus’ and the Pontic Steppe. Now they pressed that interest, striking at the Tzimisce with mathematical precision and great skill. Flocks of Gargoyles, swarms of summoned creatures, small armies of elite mercenaries, and potent coteries of experienced war wizards struck at the Tzimisce forts, raiding and destroying then melting away to take shelter in hidden strongholds in the mountains. The Tremere lost many, but Rustovich could ill afford the casualties that they inflicted. As the enemy Warlocks ate away at his timetable over the following years, his fickle alliances began to crack and his voivodes began to desert him to resecure their own demesnes from their rivals.
The Omen War continues to rage in northern Transylvania as the Prince and Knez of Bistritz closely watches matters unfold. Regen and Aserculu have been lost and won a half-dozen times while Clus is a death trap to any vampires that Lord Vladimir sends to rule it. Bistritz and Castle Tihuta remain strong, but Radu surely knows that both would have been lost to the Warlocks but for the assistance of his new master. His former peers in the Council of Ashes believed him when he sent his regretful withdrawal from their table, but they worry how long it will be before Prince Radu truly transfers his loyalty to Vladimir Rustovich.
Embrace: AD 1125.