Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
A diplomat for the Assamite clan, Shabah dwelt in Constantinople for some 10 years prior to the Great Sack. Shortly before the city fell, Helena the Armenian outed her as a murderer and she was forced into hiding. Shabah fled the city shortly after.
An exotic, dignified Saracen woman wearing a black niqāb and ʿabāyah, both embroidered with cloth of gold at the hems. Only her exotic, kohl-lined jet-black eyes, a little of her forehead are visible, and her delicate looking hands are visible. Her demeanour is humble, even meek, yet she moves with mesmerising grace, seemingly without sound altogether.
(Expanded from the character as presented in Constantinople by Night, p. 86).
This gentle diplomat was the envoy of several powerful factions of Turkish, Syrian, and Kurdish Assamites to the Families of Constantinople. These factions were politically influential among the various petty mortal atabegs of the Sultanate of Rum, the independent eastern Anatolian beyliks of the Mengüjeks, the Saltiqids, and the Artuqids, and also a number of magnates among the northern Ayyubid territories. Appointed by the elders of Alamut, her role was to liaise not just between these these factions and the Romaioi but also between those factions themselves. Constantinople made for an excellent neutral ground for their parleys, but she also spent several months each year travelling to these territories in the role of arbitrator.
Most members of the Byzantine Families feared and despised her due to the power of the people that she represented, for the loss of the Anatolian heartland after the Battle of Manzikert was a blow from which the Eastern Empire had never recovered. Indeed, she typically had to answer the litany of accusations and slanders that arose whenever a Cainite fell to murder, intrigue, or simply disappeared without leave. However, when such crimes occurred smarter Cainites tended to see her as a red herring of sorts, as the rumours frequently began to stir regarding her involvement even before the blood began to dry.
For her part, Shabah was mistaken to be one of the “viziers” of the Assamites rather than one of the dreaded “assassins”, and she answered whatever tawdry charges came her way with dignity, grace, and wit. Of course, few were willing to deliver such accusations to her face, for her constant companion was none other than the legendary Antonian Military Prefect, Belisarius, whose steady temper was known to rise to a towering rage at any rude behaviour towards his rumoured paramour. There was speculation that the two were coterie-mates or even lovers centuries ago during the great general’s aimless wanderings in the East.
Along with the eccentric old scholar Fajr, Shabah was also known to be a point of contact for her fellow Assamite scholars. These reclusive Assamite “viziers”, no more than four in number, existed in the city for centuries on the condition that they remained completely neutral and uninvolved in the city’s Cainite and kine intrigues. They were led by the legendary Tegyrius, who is said to be the greatest military historian who has ever existed.
In AD 1196, Shabah was present at the baths attached to the Christotriclinium for the Antonian Blood Feast in honour of the formative Concord. The diplomat demonstrated considerable familiarity with the Ventrue Military Prefect and indeed, the two seemed inseparable for the short length of time in which they attended. For several hours, the two of them spoke cordially but briefly to a number of those in attendance, paid their respects to Petronius, then they were the first to leave the feast.
Years later, in the months between the first siege of Constantinople in 1203_(1203) and the second in 1204, Sister Maude Khlesl offered Belisarius her services in attempting to cure his offspring Helena from the affliction that mired her in a torpid state. It took some time to formulate a ritual that might serve to attack the poison that bedevilled the fallen Praetorian Prefect, but she knew that its source was the supernatural taint of the Quietus Discipline. Given her close association with the Military Prefect and his fallen daughter-in-blood, Maude did not suspect Shabah of foul play at first, so she asked the Assamite diplomat for some insight into Helena’s condition. Speaking in confidence, Shabah seemed curiously reticent to help, claiming that the poisoned Ventrue was “not a person of fair and just temperament” and that her hatred of the Latins would contribute nothing save division to their attempts to aid the Queen of Cities.
Maude persevered nonetheless and found success in the early months of 1204. Her new ritual allowed her to atrophy the effect of the poison while another allowed her to awaken Helena from torpor. The brief touching of minds that occurred revealed that Eastern Praetorian Prefect had known that it was indeed an Assamite assassin who had looses the poisoned arrow that fatally wounded Emperor John II Comnenus (Belisarius’ treasured protege) all those years ago. Moreover, Maude discovered that the assassin was none other than Shabah herself and that Helena had blackmailed the Assamite for years with that knowledge, forcing her to assassinate the Ventrue ancilla’s enemies as well as random Latins that she felt were a threat. Lastly, Shabah was also the source of the injury that had forced Helena into torpor in 1199, a fact that was now obvious as the eyes of the younger Ventrue snapped open and stared maliciously at her.
Ashamed, the Assamite simply said, “I’m sorry, husband.” Distraught, she then fled the room and the palace at blinding speed, leaving the ancient soldier in shock and dawning anger. He then off after in furious pursuit, his stirring progeny forgotten for the moment. Presumably, the elder Military Prefect caught up with the Assamite soon after, and whatever explanation was given must have satisfied him for Shabah was forgiven and Helena cast out of her sire’s confidence. She would be left to her own devices, with few friends or recourse to her former place and station throughout the last months of the Dream.
Shabah was not seen again until the second night of the Great Sack, when she was seen to be part of a formidable coterie that the Military Prefect assembled to deal with the murderous Duke Guy and his followers. In addition to Belisarius and Shabah, among the many gathered were Anna Comnena, Theodorus Kolettis, Tegyrius, the Malkavian called the Nameless and his two equally enigmatic elder progeny, five other Cainites who had once served as Varangians, and a particularly furious ancient Greek Brujah who answered to the name Phaedrus. The fight was short, bloody, and very decisive. Growing legend has it that the Assamite moved so quickly that she was almost invisible, her sword flashing like lightning as both men and Cainites died without ever seeing the stroke that ended them. At the end of it, Belisarius unceremoniously stalked up to the defeated and subdued Guy of Provence and, despite the younger vampire’s insults and challenges, without a word he struck the head from the duke of the Cainite Crusade.
Solemnly, Belisarius looked beyond the walls of the palace to the pillaged and raped Queen of Cities, shaking his head sadly, before thanking all present for assisting him in exacting a small measure of justice for it all. Then, with Shabah’s hand in his, the vanquished Military Prefect took his leave of the city that had always defined his purpose.
Throughout the many years afterwards, rumour has placed the legendary lovers as wanderers. Word has it that they have been spotted in Anatolia, Cilicia, Syria, and Egypt, but most recently in the city of Beirut. They never stay in one city long, however, and look to keep themselves out of entanglements. Indeed, it would seem that Shabah and Belisarius appear to have forsaken all loyalties and loves owed to anyone save each other. The Ventrue is held in such extraordinary esteem by his clan-mates across the lands of the East that he can do so with impunity, but the same cannot likely be said for Shabah. The Assamites have a strict clan hierarchy, and the abandonment of her duties could lead to repercussions in the years to come.
Embrace: AD 762.
Lineage: Shabah is of the 6th generation. She is not in the habit of producing her lineage, but some have said that she is the childe of Pelagon, a nigh-legendary elder that haunts the breadth of the Maghreb. His lineage is equally mysterious.