Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Count Razvan Basarab
This old and cunning ghoul is the influential Count of Arges- a large, autonomous holding in the stateless borderlands between Bulgaria and Transylvania.
An old Romanian nobleman with receding, wispy white hair, a neatly cropped beard and glittering brown eyes. He has a hard, bitter set to his features, and his frame is unbent in spite of his age. His garb is that of a very wealthy man, with fine embroidery and cloth of gold sewn into his velvet robes. He leans on a walking staff capped with a silver dragon motif, and is armed with an antique sword and dagger.
One of the more powerful Vlach nobles in the southern foothills of the Transylvanian Alps, Razvan Basarab is an important player on the stage of mortal politics, and and an invaluable servant to his mistress, Knez Raluca of Câmpulung. Conte Razvan has been the ruler of the Castle at a strategic crossing of the river Arges for more than 150 years, and has served Raluca and her own master, Tabak Ruthven, for all of that time. His location on the Kronstadt – Sofia trade route has made him extremely wealthy and influential, and he is arguably the most important border lord in the buffer zone between Greater Hungary and eastern Bulgaria. It is said that one way or the other, merchants passing along his route will pay silver for the right- it is simply a measure of doing it the easy way or the hard way. When he calls his banners, he commands hundreds of men, many of whom are light cavalry of Cuman and Bulgarian extraction. Most of them are happy to be the problem on the route as well as the solution, if the master allows.
In his youth he considered becoming a ghoul to be little more than a stepping stone to earning the “Dead Water”, and he worked hard at becoming indispensable to his mistress. Unfortunately, he played the game only too well, and Raluca decided that he was too valuable as her mortal cats-paw.
He saw his dreams of being granted the Embrace dry up long ago, and instead seeks the elevation of all of his family to Clan Tzimisce. When his two eldest sons, Costin and Veceslav, neared manhood, Raluca arrived at the castle and insisted that they fight to the death for her favour. The winner would earn a Byzantine education and eventually a position as her agent and candidate for the Embrace. Long steeled against the unreasonable demands of the Tzimisce, and eager to please his Domitor, Razvan put a sword in each of their hands while his youngest, Bogdan, looked on.
Razvan expected Costin, already a skilled warrior and his favourite, to make short work of his little brother Veceslav, whom the count had, in truth, never truly warmed to because of his preference for books over war-craft. He talked up the older son’s prowess to Raluca, and promptly wound up embarrassed for his efforts. Veceslav proceeded to outwit Costin and in an inspired (or desperate) display of ability, ran him through. Raluca was not at all pleased that her groomed candidate was not worthy. She broke the count’s jaw with a vicious slap, and bade Veceslav pack his few meagre possessions. The boy left for Constantinople immediately, and never looked back. Costin, as it turns out, actually survived the terrible wound, and after many years of humble service to his father he was even allowed to leave the pig sty and move back into the castle. Forever after, Bogdan looked up to Veceslav, and was anxious to prove his mettle against him.
Years late, Raluca fell afoul of the displeasure of her own master, when it was discovered that she was being not just disloyal, but obviously so. For her transgressions, she was removed from her position, Blood Bound to Tabak, and forced to spend the better part of three decades as a fleshy tapestry in his court so that she might learn the proper panache with regards to politics, intrigue, and betrayal. Eventually she gained a second chance to prove her loyalty and capability and was allowed to return to her position as Knez. Raluca now serves her master meekly, and has no designs on forging her own Voivodate.
In the meanwhile, however, Veceslav had slipped through her fingers, taking service first with the Voivode Vladimir Rustovitch and then with the Obertus of Constantinople. He was eventually Embraced by Gabor the Bulgar, a servant of Symeon, which irked Rustovitch to no end as he had designs of his own on the mortal. Razvan would have been pleased with connections to the self-proclaimed Voivode of Voivodes, but saw geopolitical advantage to having a closer Bulgarian connection (even a poor one) instead. He has worked hard to prove his friendship to Veceslav ever since, and his Cainite son was pleased to reciprocate. The two still trade favours, and look to each others interests constantly.
Bogdan too, took service with the Tzimisce when he came of age. He earned the Embrace as well, and now serves Voivode Mircea Dzardescu as his Warmaster. Having learned his lesson, the count has been careful to maintain cordial relations with Bogdan too. He now seeks to find a master for Costin’s son and daughters, and hopes that his both of his Tzimisce children will consider “keeping it in the family”.
Raluca still has Razvan’s loyalty, although with more qualifications than in years past. His time as a free agent during her incarceration allowed him to exercise the levers of power far more than she formerly granted, and it would be inconvenient for her to rein him in now. The influence that he can put at her disposal has truly made her a power in the south, and she has been forced to recognise it. She is pleased with him, but now watches him much more closely than she once did.
Razvan, for his part, is less than happy with this development for he knows that when Tzimisce grow to rely too heavily on mortals, they are wont to dispose of them altogether. His inspired (or perhaps mad) solution to the quandary is to tie himself so tightly to her that she cannot envisage existence without him- in essence to tip the pendulum so far his way that his survival is assured. In order to do this, he has begun luring his fellow border counts into a more cohesive union, one that might be able eventually to forge a nation of its own and catapult he and his mistress into true power. A dangerous game indeed, but one in which he has more than a century of experience.