Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Hugh of Clairvaux
A powerful warrior and captain, this Templar Commander represented his brethren on the 4th Crusade. After the Great Sack, he led an attempt to reinvigorate the failed pilgrimage, but he was assassinated before he could see it through.
Brother Hugh was a tall, muscular knight garbed in battle-scarred but carefully maintained mail and the surcoat of the Knights Templar, prominently displaying the crimson cross of his order. He had the classic aspect of the hero: flinty blue eyes, his black hair short and wavy, high cheek bones and a square jaw. The sword and dagger of a knight rest at his belt with practiced ease. Unusual for a Templar, Hugh eschewed a beard.
The uniform coat of arms of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, also known as the Knights Templar.
(expanded from the character as presented in Dark Ages Clan Novel Assamite).
This Ventrue was very powerful and influential for one so young. No doubt much of this was the result of the prestige and potency of his bloodline, for his sire was none other than Geoffrey du Temple, the progeny and heir to Alexander, the methuselah prince of Paris. Geoffrey bases himself in the valley of Clairvaux, where he engineers the raising of dedicated young men to believe in the mission of the Templar Order, the just conduct of the Crusades, and the special blessing that the Blood of Caine offers to those who are deemed to be worthy. And yet, beyond a doubt Brother Hugh was not without justly deserved renown of his own, especially through his actions against the Ashirra vampires that are slowly bringing about the dissolution of the Crusader States in the Levant. Hugh was young indeed, making no secret of the year of his Embrace as AD 1179, but he packed a great deal of experience and adventure into his relatively short existence.
On the rare occasion that he felt loquacious, Hugh mentioned that he hailed from an old line of knights with few court connections or prospects. As a youth, he was sent to the small Templar commandery in the valley of Clairvaux. Like the other boys and young men there, his knightly and religious education was secretly controlled by the powerful Geoffrey du Temple, who soon singled out the talented and charismatic Hugh for great things. Even as a novice, the other trainees vied for his attention and readily jumped to follow his orders. Strengthened by his martial training and spiritual asceticism, he grew into a natural leader and a paragon of Geoffrey’s work in the valley.
After many years enjoying the personal tutelage of his lord and commander, he accompanied Brother Geoffrey to the Holy Land in AD 1166. There, by virtue of courage, honour, and tactical flair in the wars against Egypt, he gradually rose to prominence both among his military order and, after his Embrace, the Crusader Ventrue faction.
The loss of many skilled brothers at the Battle of Hattin was a terrible blow to the order. Since their inception, the Templars have been notoriously difficult to infiltrate by the Children of Caine. This is not just owing to the fact that many of the knights possess True Faith, but also due to the counter-plots of different Cainite factions and the interference of certain magi who seek to control them as well. However, the disaster at Hattin was extremely damaging to the cause of these mortals as, unlike their Cainite “brethren”, they were available to fight (and die) on that fateful day. After Hattin, Geoffrey granted Hugh carte blanche to Embrace whomever he felt could strengthen the order. Cynics did not fail to notice that this also reinforced Ventrue influence over the Templars, perhaps granting them an edge against the Lasombra in the interminable battle for the the Order’s soul. In any case, Brother Hugh Embraced no fewer than 10 of his brothers between 1187 and 1204.
Through the machinations of his sire and his own talents, Hugh rose further still. During the 3rd Crusade, he and his men were responsible for a great number of surgical strikes against key Ayyubid targets and, while he did not seek fame, his reputation gradually disseminated throughout the East. For his great bravery and success in battle during the campaign, Hugh earned considerable fame in both mortal and Cainite circles. The approbation of the Crusader Ventrue elders afforded him considerable status for one so young, and also made him welcome in courts throughout the Second Kingdom. As such, he proved to be a natural compliment for Guy of Provence, who was at that time needy of contacts in those courts.
In the dying throes of the 3rd Crusade, he approached Brother Hugh and sounded him out regarding the possibility of a joint leadership of the 4th great Crusade. Eager to earn greater glory in service to his clan, order and faith, Hugh readily agreed. The two reached an accord, in principle, that they would jointly lead the next Cainite Crusade; Guy would take charge of organising the gathering and movement of loyal pilgrims from the West while Brother Hugh would take care to organise logistical and political support in the East.
In the wake of the crusade he was granted the commandery on the island of Ruad, situated several miles off the Syrian coast, opposite the Templar port stronghold of Tortosa. Geoffrey returned to Clairvaux after the war, seeking to raise the next generation of loyal Templars in anticipation of the next crusade. He left Hugh in charge of his assets in the East, with the instructions that he was to raise the stock of his sire’s faction, particularly with regards to the manifold supernatural influences coming to bear on the Templar Order. The young Cainite commander strove to be worthy of his sire’s trust.
Despite the truce, he continued to clandestinely agitate against the Ayyubid empire, although in the interests of maintaining his honour he kept his surgical, clandestine strikes limited to those enemy garrisons that also ignored the truce of 1198.
Unfortunately, while Hugh’s battle strategies and ability to plan and lead his covert sorties against the Saracens held him in good stead, his lack of experience with Cainite politics was telling. It would seem that the Templar, bound in strict monastic and chivalric oaths, failed to understand the essentially perfidious nature of the Children of Caine.
He did not appear to expect the degree to which the vampires of the 4th Cainite Crusade would fracture behind different leaders, nor did he anticipate the lack of honour and spiritual fortitude that many of his fellows so clearly displayed. Hugh’s fatal miscalculation in ignoring the diversions to Zara and Corfu then left him wrong-footed to mobilise his influence and military resources in time to have any effect on the decision to attack Constantinople, a development which he openly loathed. Indeed, by the time that he arrived at the Queen of Cities with his significant assets, Hugh found the leadership of Guy teetering on the brink of collapse due to the Provençal knight’s indecision at key junctures, paired with the intrigues of Sir Felix of Vaucluse.
Lacking the numbers to be a viable 3rd column himself, the Templar was left with two unenviable choices. He could break his word and switch his loyalty to Sir Felix (a treacherous Cainite whom he detested), and thus retain a real political advantage and gain significant status. Or, he could keep his word to Guy, who had clearly lost interest in maintaining their agreement in its original form but still harboured hopes of steering the 4th Crusade to Egypt. The latter course would destroy his political cache, however, for Guy could not keep his own word and elevate the weaker faction of Brother Hugh above that of Sir Vitalis of Asti without insulting the Frenchman and, thus, ensuring the demise of cohesion altogether.
Brother Hugh ultimately chose the honourable path in hopes of preserving the 4th crusade’s mission, pledging his loyalty to his one-time partner and accepting an equal role to Vitalis in order to neutralise Felix. While Guy owed him a very great boon for his assistance, Hugh was now a subordinate to his Provençal clansman, his title of commander a hollow mockery of its original intent. Knowing himself to be out-played, the chagrined Templar withdrew from any further politicking and politely declined interviews with those who would seek to draw him in further. He and his men set camp outside the walls of Galata, where they drilled, patrolled, and prayed incessantly for the pilgrimage to find its way again.
Less than a month after this political debacle, Felix’ greed and impatience undid the power of the House of Fabricius on the 4th Cainite Crusade anyway. His support evaporated, with many of his followers deserting him for Guy or Vitalis for lack of any other viable leader to follow. It was whispered among his fellows that but for his own inexperience and blind faith in the honour of his fellows, Hugh could well have become the leader of the Cainite Crusade at that juncture. This further salt in the wound of his status only furthered the Ventrue Templar’s resentment of his failure to properly harness his options and influence, and he and his men all but withdrew from the pilgrimage so long as the fighting with their fellow Christian’s continued. For the most part, they kept to their camp and avoided as much of the fighting across the Golden Horn as they could manage.
When the sea walls fell, and the Great Sack began, Hugh made a point of ordering his men to remain behind while he ventured alone into the burning city. He did not return for some nights, and when he did, he was much changed. Always charismatic and full of elan, he now veritably glowed with strength of purpose. To his gathered brothers and followers, he spoke of undergoing a holy epiphany sent by Mary, the Mother of God.
He claimed that Mary was disappointed in the sinful destruction that the crusaders had visited upon the Greeks, and that the only way they could be redeemed was to regather and to sail for Egypt. The trouble was that the crusade was already breaking up; magnates were taking the armies and marching on other Byzantine cities, intent on forging a new Latin Empire. Undaunted, Hugh and his brother Templars set to the task, gathering not just soldiers who were at loose ends but Cainites of both Latin and Romaioi persuasion. He even journeyed to the refugee camp outside of Adrianople and spoke to the pathetic and desperate vampires there, succeeding in bringing a good number of them back to his cause.
Within the month, he had forged an alliance with Gabriella of Genoa, who promised him the ships he needed and a significant sum of silver to outfit his growing army provided he support her suit for the princedom of the ravished Queen of Cities. Brother Hugh agreed, and Gabriella expended much of her wealth and considerable prestation capital to see a fleet assembled in the Bosphorus close to her manse. The estate was given over to his use, and it became the rallying camp for Hugh’s new crusade. People began to answer his call. Dozens, then hundreds, and then thousands. Even those who could not fight, or had little experience, were put through their paces by Hugh’s men, led by the redoubtable Brother Gondemar, his progeny and chief aide-de-camp.
For several more months, the crusade continued to rejuvenate as Hugh of Clairvaux’s fame spread not just among his own kind, but also the kine. His magnetism continued to grow at a robust rate as well, prompting the rumour that he must truly benefit from the divine guidance of Saint Mary, since she had clearly granted him special blessings. While it is true that he began to treat with others more like a great lord and less like a humble monk, this was overlooked, for his power was obvious. Even the rumour that he had taken one Amala, a Syrian Brujah, as an advisor and perhaps even a consort, was ignored. Everything was coming together, and a significant army had gathered to break the back of Islam.
And then it all unravelled catastrophically.
On the 3rd of August, Hugh ascended to the top of the tower at the mansion, where he planned to give a speech that would galvanise the army to put Gabriella on the throne and them on their ships to Egypt. Then, a number of Assamites were spotted scaling the tower to slay him. Gondemar directed crossbowmen to loose their quarrels on the tower in a pattern that could not fail to bring the infidels down despite the cover of their Obfuscate discipline. Evidently, however, one of them had already gotten into the tower, for moments later Hugh’s head toppled from his shoulders and he collapsed, assassinated in his hour of triumph.
Whipped up into a tightly-strung war-footing, the shocked army erupted into violence seeking the one who had slain their captain. Suspicion turned into accusation. Accusations turned into jostling. And jostling degenerated into weapons drawn. Hundreds of men died, and dozens of Cainites fell into frenzy.
The rejuvenated crusade died right there along with Hugh of Clairvaux.
In the years to come, unsavoury rumours of murder, madness, betrayal of his vows, and making alliances with unholy powers would circulate about him. Fortunately, they are whispers compared to the trumpeting of his legend, and in many Cainite courts his praises are sung. To this night, Brother Hugh of Clairvaux is held as a paragon of the via equitum, and many look to follow his example, chief among them the Ventrue of the Temple. Command of his men fell to Gondemar after his Final Death, and word has it that the commandery at Ruad has become something of a pilgrimage site for walkers on the Road of Chivalry.
Embrace: AD 1179.
Final Death: August 3rd, AD 1204.