Rowena d'Alexandre

A noted elder of the Clan of Death, this powerful but eccentric sorceress was an early supporter of the Siebenburgen. She reigned as Prince of Weißenburg for decades before her mysterious disappearance, and she is widely thought to be deceased.

Description:

A noble, severe lady with fine bones, waxy skin and very watery, cagey brown eyes that never seem to sit still. At first glance, her unwholesome complexion makes her seem old and sickly, but she comports herself with vital, if somewhat nervous, energy. She wears her grey hair in a rather dated court fashion of Buda-Pest, and her dress and jewels testfy to a wealthy, if rather out of touch, station. There is an air of anxiety and watchfulness about the matron.

Bio:

Rowena d’Alexandre was one of the original members of the Council of Ashes, and she stood as the first prince of Weißenburg from AD 1150-1172. She was by far the oldest of the founders of the Council of Ashes as well as very much the oddest, for rather than wealth, influence, or status among her peers, she seemed to be interested in cultivating her settlement purely to facilitate her studies of the burial practices and death customs of the people of the Transylvanian basin. Indeed, Lady Rowena had visited the area at least a half-dozen times over the centuries, and she had dwelt there for short stays at the sufferance of the descendants of Durobastes and Lapa, two late Tzimisce whose bloodlines have fought over the settlement for many years. While visiting her friend Dietrich in Vienna in 1148, news of Nova Árpád’s initiative to establish Saxon colonies happened to reach Rowena. Realising that a unified coterie of strong vampire princes might allows her to circumvent the costly demands of the local Tzimisce, she immediately wrote to Nova with an overture of interest in her enterprise.

As a native of the County of Lëtzebuerg, she brought her German and French contacts to the coterie of prospective princes, and one of the earliest and largest waves of settlement was a direct result of her meddlings in the Moselle Valley. This cemented her place in the Council of Ashes, and for several decades the dynamic coterie built their cities in unison, tying them together with pacts of defence and trade. And yet, of all the coterie Prince Rowena was the least active. Her praxis was loose at best, and she gave over the administration of the growing settlement to her shrewd seneschal Octavus Silberschmied, a Nosferatu silver weaponsmith who had secretly dwelt there for years prior to her formal arrival as its prince. Several others came to the growing city, but its location as the seat of the Latin Bishopric of Transylvania meant that only the most crafty and eminently careful of Cainites could prosper in the city.

Studious and contemplative like most of her clan, the other princes also respected and feared Rowena for her sorcery, for in addition to the death magics ascribed to her clan, the Cappadocian also seemed to have access to strange eldritch powers from other avenues. She had been an early, much loved mentor of Dietrich, and he described her to Maude as a “Mistress of Heaven and Earth” possessed of much arcane knowledge from the lands of the East. Indeed, he even boasted that throughout the course of her extensive travels she was a student of none other than Japheth, his own inestimably ancient grandsire. Rowena was also a staunch member of the “Humanist Conspiracy” to which he and Kyros belonged

As Prince of Weißenburg, she used her position to continue her studies of the ancient ruins of Apulon, a Dacian-era city that had been destroyed during the Gothic migrations many centuries earlier. Something about the spiritual emanations of the ruins drew her obsessive interest, and by 1160 she had contrived to have a large house built just a stone’s throw from the base of the hill upon which the ruins sat. From that point on she divided her time unevenly in its favour and largely withdrew from the intrigues of the Council of Ashes, which even then was showing signs of the tensions that would one night sunder it. Octavus managed the city quite ably, and those few in the know considered him to be the de facto ruler, while Rowena continued to be considered de jure Prince of Weißenburg.

The descendants of Durobastes and Lapa had continued their feud while Weißenburg had grown and prospered, and the one thing that they could agree upon was their mutual resentment of Rowena usurping their rightful inheritance. Her lacklustre attempts to mollify them failed miserably and after 1170, once it was clear that there would be no assistance forthcoming from the other princes of the Council of Ashes, the voivodes began to sharpen the experience of their armies on the domain of the Cappadocian prince in addition to those of each other. So intolerably vicious and cruel were their attacks that by 1172, the existence of the court of Weißenburg had become untenable, and Rowena had grown frantic in her missives to gain assistance from her fellows.

Then she vanished without a trace.

Octavus and the few others who dwelt in the city took the hint, and fled within the month. Her fellow princes long held the belief that one or the other of the surrounding voivodes had taken Lady Rowena, and that she languishes still in the dungeons of her captor enduring unspeakable tortures. Others believe that she fell to the depredations of the infrequent varcolaci attacks in the area, or else a marauding pack of Tzimisce furores left without land or prospects as a result of the attritious Omen War.

The Concord and a few members of the Ashen Band know better.

In AD 1200, Iulia asked several of her allies to attend her in her newly established demesne of Weißenburg. Upon their arrival, she informed them that her husband, George had spent the last couple of years investigating strange local activity on the other side of the Shroud. He then appeared before them to speak at greater length. In the past little more than a hazy and indistinct shrouded figure, he appeared now much as he would have in life save for a sickly, skeletal appearance. George explained that something near or within the ancient ruins of the settlement of Apulon appeared to be drawing ghosts of ill-aspect known as spectres, and these horrid shades had gathered in such numbers that they had now besieged the small community of wraiths inside the walls. At considerable personal peril he had found that the source of the disturbance was a slightly decrepit stone house close to the hill, though for some reason he was unable to enter it. George and Iulia then asked the assistance of her fellows in dealing with the matter.

They journeyed to the site, finding the area unseasonably chilly as storm clouds seemed to gather with unusual speed above the hill. It took considerable effort to gain ingress to the house, for they found it to be strongly warded against vampires too. The basement entrance was almost gained, only to have an elemental spirit of stone coalesce out of the flagstones in front of them. Beyond it could be seen a laboratory and an extensive library, but the Concord felt that looking for another way in might be more efficacious. Eventually, they managed to partially burst the wards on the double doors of the main entrance, and they began searching the house. It looked to have been deserted for at least a mortal generation, for the roof was sagging in places, the stairs were weak from rot, and dust was everywhere. Bernhard noted that it was curious that there was no sign of vermin, just as a loud groaning and creaking sound emanated from the floor beneath his feet. A second elemental, this one composed of the rotten floorboards of the main parlour, emerged and grasped his legs in its crushing grasp.

He fought it, but found his limbs freezing up as a shrill voice sounded from the balcony beyond the stairs, screaming at them all to leave. A wild-haired, dust-caked old vampire with ghastly, waxen skin stood there, holding an irregularly shaped stone of jet in one hand and a knife carved with runes in the other. When Maude moved closer, she flicked the knife at the younger Cappadocian and it seemed to take on a life of its own, levitating in the thin air and diving at her to bite into her flesh. Maude identified the dishevelled stranger as Rowena from the stories she had heard from her sire Dietrich von Steyer, but the old sorceress seemed utterly confused and lost to paranoia and delusion. Moreover, George and several of the other local wraiths appeared to be fleeing the area as the hill of Apulon became suffused with a ghostly light, and several score of the agitated, horrifying spectres were now moving towards the decrepit house.

Iulia ran to the doors and used her Potence to hold them shut while the monstrous enemy ghosts pounded on the doors, heedless of the injuries they were inflicting upon themselves from Rowena’s wards. Meanwhile Maude and the older Cappadocian fell into an almost comical wrestling contest as the two old ladies sought to disable each other using their powers of Mortis. Rowena was subdued and fell to quietly fretting with her rotting dress and muttering to herself in a bewildering melange of languages. Indeed, so pathetic a sight was she that despite her attack, the Concord could not bring themselves to finish her off. Her rune inscribed knife and the slick jet stone lay forgotten on the landing, and her quietude seemed to cause the spectres to lose interest and drift away.

Through careful ministrations over many weeks, they were able to convince Rowena that they were sympathetic to her plight. The knowledge that Maude was the progeny of her dear friend Dietrich did much to convince her of their sincerity, and the younger Cappadocian and Iulia were eventually able to penetrate her intense paranoia enough to gain some trust. After Dietrich himself joined them, bringing fully half of the Chrieglers, they were able to glean the truth of her fallen state.

Over the course of her researches conducted at Apulon, Rowena became convinced that owing to its ancient history and the circumstances behind its ruination the site had become a nexus of energies related to death and entropy. The curtain, or “shroud” as she referred to it, had become very thin there and nearby souls of the departed as well as their “shadow-eaten” analogues were drawn to the place like moths to a flame. She had learned much concerning their state and their society as a result, but her interest had drawn the malignant attentions of an obsessively superstitious Malkavian even older than she. She had encountered this Avigail a number of times over the centuries, and made an enemy of her for reasons known only to the Madwoman.

With the help of some of her more vicious local clanmates Avigail had hunted Rowena down, incapacitated her, and then struck at her several times with a potent power of the Dementation discipline known as Kiss of the Moon. She then left, saying that in the few weeks or months left to her, the Cappadocian would finally realise the depths of her awful sins against the dead and against God. Such was the paralysing depth of derangement in which Rowena found herself that Avigail’s prophecy of her impending doom was almost borne out, but instead the sorceress used her rituals and what was left of her resolve to place herself into torpor, hoping that it would allow her the time to recover her wits.

Sadly, this has never truly occurred. Prior to the ministrations of the Concord, her beloved Dietrich, and an allied master of the Valeran Discipline, Rowena rarely spent more than a few weeks active each year. Afterwards, she tends to drift into torpor several times each month, and when she does awaken fully, she can be a danger to the mortals that happen to be near. Her heart is still in the right place, but her self-control has eroded to perilously low levels, and her fear for the Chrieglers causes her to prefer necromantically preserved dead blood to a live vessel. This in turn tends to sharpen her hunger, which she hopes to use to regain her self-control, but so far this method has failed to yield any beneficial results. On several occasions, she has come close to slaying one of the Chrieglers due to her over-feeding, and the family has come to fear her thirst. The family of servants and ghouls has long since become inured to the presence of Cainites in their midst, but even they feel how close she has fallen to the Beast.

She also still suffers from acute agoraphobia as well as intense paranoia that Avigail has agents everywhere who are preparing the way for their mistress to attack once again. The first affliction has crippled her studies, while the latter makes her intensely irrational and mistrustful at times, even towards Iulia and Maude, both of whom have proved their friendship many times over. Both younger vampires take significantly different approaches to “managing” Rowena. Iulia’s respectful student persona wins through the elder’s paranoia often enough that Rowena has even given her (with supervision, of course) the opportunity to peruse her coveted library from time to time. Under her well-meaning but unstable mentorship, the Lasombra prince’s knowledge of the esoteric arts continues to expand at an enviable rate. For her part, Maude treats Rowena with the patience of a physician gives to their patient, and she watches the elder carefully so that the Chrieglers remain safe in her company. This strategy is effective, but does little to relieve Rowena’s paranoia. Ultimately, it is the Concord’s status as friends of Dietrich that ensures her passivity, and on the rare occasion that he visits the estate she recovers much of her old vim and sense of humour, which includes a sarcastic bent that reminds Maude very much of her own harping and shrewish tendencies.

So far as the rest of the Cainite world is aware, Rowena is still missing. Her secret is kept by the Concord, their sires, and a very small circle of allies who wish to preserve her safety and what little remains of her mental stability. For now, she continues her studies in safety and relative quietude, now with the added benefit of a neophyte’s understanding of the secrets of nigrimancy. Besides Maude and Iulia, only two mortals attend her on a constant basis. The first is the old ghoul, Michael Gruen, who returned to her service in 1204 after hearing that the estate was once more active. The second is Brigitta, an empathetic daughter of the Chrieglers who has established herself as the Cappadocian elder’s research assistant and bodyservant. A number of wraiths from Apulon have also taken a liking to her, based mostly on their enjoyment of her eccentric mannerisms.

Embrace: AD 831.

Disappearance: August, AD 1172.

Lineage: Childe of Lambrecht von Dassel, childe of Bunderic of Vienne, childe of Antonina (d), childe of Iamblichus (d), childe of Japheth, childe of Cappadocius. Lady Rowena was of the 8th generation.

(d)= Destroyed.

Rowena d'Alexandre

The Concord of Ashes Haligaunt