Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
This pious and honourable knight of the Hospitaller Order served on the Third and Fourth Crusades. He was the protector and follower of Sister Farancina of Montferrat, but he has not been seen since the Great Sack.
A pale Frank wearing mail and the black tabbard and white cross of the Knights Hospitaller. With his square jaw, thick blonde hair, hazel eyes and noble aspect, he would be judged handsome but for the third eye on his forehead. He is armed with a dagger and a sword.
The uniform coat of arms of the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights Hospitaller.
Sir Guilabert originally hails from the valley of Vaucluse, the second son of landed knight in service to Bishop Laugerius of Avignon. Even as a mortal, however, Guilabert was drawn to the life of a penitent, and as a youth he greatly desired to take pilgrimage to the Holy Land. As a freshly dubbed knight of twenty-two winters, he arrived in Jerusalem shortly after the conclusion of the Second Crusade, and knew that he had finally found his home. The dusty, gentle valleys and quiet plains of the Levant spoke to his soul in a way that the steep mountains and icy Mistral of his birthplace never had. He quickly found a place among the Order of St. John, also known as the Knight’s Hospitaller, and settled into a life of pious devotion, protecting the pilgrim routes of the Holy Land and seeing to the sick, injured, and infirm in his order’s hospitals.
After more than ten years of faithful service, he would find himself stationed in a priory almost halfway between the Hospitaller stronghold of Krak des Chevaliers and the comital city of Tripoli. There he made the acquaintance of a an older brother-knight by the name of Robert Berenguer, who had an extraordinary facility for healing and an uncommon wisdom for a warrior. Even in an order that inspired devotion, the older knight had an aura of sanctity about him that entranced Guilabert. Brother Robert had taken a vow to watch over the rest of his brothers and stand vigil at the infirmary during the darkest hours of the night, and so was exempt from much of the daily ruck and run of the priory. Many times a pilgrim who was thought to be in his last hours made a remarkable recovery due to Robert’s midnight ministrations, and Guilabert came to find himself in awe of the infirmarian.
After some years it became clear to Guilabert that his brother-knight was not quite human. What little bread and water he took, Robert secretly passed on to the beggars outside the priory or gave to his patients. His vow to watch over the priory at night did not quite explain the fact he was never seen during the day at all, for any reason. Discreet interviews with other brothers at the priory revealed that they had never seen him during the daylight hours either. Further, even the older brother knights could not remember a time when Brother Robert had not been the infirmarian. While he appeared to be in late middle age, it was soon apparent that he was not getting any older!
The other Hospitallers dismissed Guilabert’s speculation, saying that it was a simple mystery of faith. God had need of Brother Robert, and that was all. His holy sanctity was clearly above reproach. Guilabert was inclined to agree, but his curious nature persisted. He kept a subtle watch on the infirmarian, and found himself shadowing the older brother whenever he left the priory.
So it was that Guilabert was present one night when three cloaked and cowled men attacked his brother-knight while Robert was gathering herbs. The Hospitaller fought like a man possessed, but his enemies had devilish tricks at their disposal. One summoned fire from thin air, another animated the very stones and plants to attack, while the third kept the beleaguered infirmarian busy with his own blade. Guilabert leapt to his brother’s defence, striking down one of the foul sorcerers and distracting the other long enough for his brother-knight to defeat the swordsman. Alas, as Brother Robert rushed to Guilabert’s own aid, the sorcerer plunged his dagger through the young knight’s throat. As he fell, Guilabert had the satisfaction of seeing his brother-knight’s sword remove the sorcerer’s head from his shoulders.
Brother Robert’s gentle voice was faint as the darkness encroached on Guilabert’s vision. “This is a mortal wound, brother. Even my arts cannot restore you. And yet, God willing, I can give you another life. Would you continue on, to your just reward? Or would you exist? To serve God, and better the lot of your fellow man for all eternity?”
The younger Hospitaller lacked the strength to speak, but the answer lay in his eyes. It was then that Brother Robert removed his ever-present hood, and a third eye opened in the middle of his forehead. He prayed silently for a moment, as a golden light began to shine from the eye, and then whispered, “His will be done.” Death took the young knight then. His last sight was the sad, golden eye and the fangs, as Brother Robert leaned over him.
For twenty-seven years Robert and Guilabert watched over the priory, seeking always to do God’s work and give the infrequent stream of Salubri refugees a brief haven in the journeys eastward. Brother Robert was of the opinion that no good could come from the Warriors throwing away their lives on pointless crusades of vengeance against the Tremere, so he and Guilabert instead became a force for security in the Holy Land. Only with a strong military presence could the pilgrim routes be protected, and justice served on the slavers, bandits, and other marauders that plagued Christian, Muslim, and Jew alike. Then came the Battle of Hattin. Within a year, the entire region was over-run with Sultan Saladin’s men and the small priory had to be abandoned. The two Hospitallers made their way to the fortress of Margat, where they made contact with the Order of the Sable Rose and the Crusader Ventrue and helped organise other Cainites’ involvement in the Third Crusade.
Brother Robert was destroyed by a Brujah Saracen during the Siege of Acre. Feeling rudderless, Guilabert served a variety of masters (including Guy of Provence) for the remainder of the war, but he never felt like any of them possessed the intrinsic goodness of his late sire. When the crusade ended in a qualified success, he then found himself at loose ends in the newly established Kingdom of Cyprus. In AD 1194, he met Sister Farancina of Montferrat in Limassol, and was immediately impressed by her composure and simple faith. In time, she replaced his late sire as a mentor and he decided to dedicate himself to her protection. It was in this role that he found himself on the Fourth Cainite Crusade.
Ultimately, Brother Guilabert took the cross for the Fourth Crusade because Sister Farancina did, and because Sir Guy had been a worthy master in the past. He resented the involvement of the Narsene Lasombra in the pilgrimage from the outset, and the increasingly base nature of the pilgrimage troubled the humble monk. He was aware that Iulia, Farancina, Father Ferox, and Roberto had been using their Dominate Discipline on hundreds of crusaders that passed through their clinic, and he chose to do nothing despite his conviction that this was contrary to their vows to Guy. He kept his peace because he knew that only good would result, demonstrating that Guilabert had the wisdom to see the greater picture rather than just cling to the letter of his honour.
Having spent almost half a century in the thick of the conflicts plaguing Outremer, the Salubri privately expressed his doubts to Iulia and Maude as to whether Christian military force could truly succeed in recovering the Holy Land. In short, he felt it was a numbers game, and the Christians would always be short of both manpower and time to truly secure Outremer. Regarding the first, he felt that the surrounding kingdoms of the Muslims would always possess the advantage in vast numbers, and regarding the second, the requirements of Jihad meant that at most, any truce with one Saracen kingdom could last only ten years, ten months, and ten days before the weight of the enemy numbers of just that kingdom would be brought to bear on the Kingdom of Jerusalem again. This meant that other Saracen states could still wear down the weakened Christian realms in the meanwhile, and that the first state was required to call their banners once more after the truce had expired. The result would be never-ending war, ending in the defeat of the Christians.
Late in the Fourth Cainite Crusade, the introduction of Tremere elements to the vassals of Felix of Vaucluse sent the Hospitaller into a crisis of faith. Brother Guilabert’s daytime rest was already uneasy, but now he found himself in an untenable position. As a Paladin, shirking his duty and breaking his word to his liege was unthinkable, yet staying on the crusade forced him to work with dishonourable curs and the Usurpers. With Sister Farancina’s tacit permission, he began to seeks a means for Guy to honourably release him from his vows. The Concord elected to do what they could as well.
Not long before the renewal of hostilities between the crusaders and the Romaioi in the winter of 1203, Sister Maude managed to arrange for the Salubri Hospitaller to find release from his vows to the crusade and to his Cappadocian charge. Gratefully, the warrior then also took shelter with the Obertus and he also chose to make the protection of the elders Achmet and Orpheus his avowed duty.
Together with Theresa Kymena, all three Salubri vanished during the Great Sack and the ensuing destruction of the Monastery of St. John Studius. In the long years since, no word has been discovered of their whereabouts, nor of their fates.
Embrace: AD 1161.
Lineage: Childe of Robert Berenguer (d), childe of Camael (d), childe of Dokiel, childe of Aariel (d?), childe of Samiel (d), childe of Saulot (d). Brother Guilabert d’Avignon is of the 9th generation.
(d?)= Probably Deceased.