Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
A powerful but politically insignificant knight of the House of Fabricius, now in the service of Maude of Vienna. Near the Harbour of Julian in Constantinople, he watches over a hostel and sanctuary dedicated to Saint Paula, the patron of widows.
A great, hulking bear of a Frankish knight, well over six feet in height. His frame is very strong despite his middle age, and he handles an unusually large sword with ease. His hair is blonde, but his beard has taken on a dirty grey hue. The symbol of a bear features prominently on his heraldry.
The coat-of-arms of Tancred l’Ours, Chevalier de Frasne. While his unbroken lineage is politically useful, Tancred lacks the status or strength of the Blood to be worthy of the Fabricius wreath, and so he makes do with his own device. Obviously, the bear depicts himself, while his colours are those of his native Burgundy.
A the time of his involvement with the Fourth Crusade, Sir Tancred of Frasne was a well-known knight in the service of the Countess Palatine Joanna I of Burgundy, a youth who was herself a noted power in the House of Hohenstaufen and grand-daughter of the late Frederick Barbarossa. The child countess was known to be extremely fond of the towering and heroic Tancred, and her favour caused him to be singled out for the gift of protecting the small but strategic stronghold at the settlement of Frasne.
The castle-village lies some forty miles south of the Free Imperial City of Besançon and just twelve miles south-west of the emerging market town of Pontarlier, the growth of which was sponsored by Countess Joanna’s mother and regent to improve their own revenues. While the household of the countess palatine maintained considerable influence within Besançon itself, by AD 1200 they were still financially stung by Barbarossa’s decision to remove it (and its generous tax revenues) from the direct rule of Joanna’s late father. Pontarlier was an ambitious attempt by her mother to advance her own interests by promoting the profile of an alternative market, and so she jealously fortified the roads to the small town to encourage trade. Influenced by his clever sire, she chose the famed and ferocious Tancred to guard the market route so that interference from her own political and economic rivals could be dashed.
Ultimately, Tancred was a loyal vassal to the mortal countess, quite content to oversee her interests and avoid the dangerous intrigues of Cainite politics. His presence on the Fourth Crusade was less out of a pious desire to wage holy war and more a result of the vagaries of clan politics. Gerberga, his beloved sire, is an ancilla who serves her own great-sire, Prince Englebert of Pontarlier, with her considerable abilities in courtly machinations and estate management. She managed to worm her way into the countess’ court and Joanna’s personal favour (and that of her sister and successor, Beatrice II), and there connives for the greater fortunes of the bloodline by promoting the growth of Pontarlier. Englebert, in turn, seeks to return to the good graces of his own sire, Gaius Fabricius, who has long expressed disappointment at his progeny’s under-performance with regards to resisting the subversion of his bloodline’s spheres of influence by those of Lord Hardestadt. As Felix of Vaucluse was to be the representative of Gaius Fabricius on the Fourth Cainite Crusade, Englebert and his cronies naturally volunteered their most capable (and expendable) warrior to the effort. As a loyal Ventrue and knight, Tancred naturally obeyed his forbears, but he knew from the outset that his role on the pilgrimage would be to provide muscle and nothing more. Truly, while he can faithfully recite an unbroken lineage all the way to the Ventrue Antediluvian, it amounts to little when one’s blood is weak.
Before his Becoming, his impressive height, ponderous movements and demonstrated ferocity in battle earned him the moniker of Tancred l’Ours (Tancred the Bear). The name was apt, and it followed him into the ranks of the undead. After swearing his sword to a coterie of his Burgundian peers, he reluctantly took part in Felix’ less than sound military actions at Zara, Chalcedon, and Galata, during which he was noted for restraint and discipline when compared to his rapacious fellows. Tancred attempted to be the voice of honourable moderation for the coterie that was dubbed the House of Fabricius, but Felix, Wendel, and Colard rarely heeded his words. Although he often served as Felix’ bodyguard, he was uncomfortable with intrigue and courtly etiquette. As such, the Bear usually remained mute in his official role and sought the company of other Cainite soldiers when left to his own devices. Alone among the House of Fabricius, he had contacts in nearly every faction of the Fourth Cainite Crusade and he was generally considered to be both chivalrous and pleasant by his peers.
Sir Tancred also participated in Felix’ raid on the faux-treasure boat late in the dying nights of 1203. He stayed near his leader for much of the fighting that took place, since Sir Wendel was quick to throw himself into the fray. When Felix pointed out the figure of Sister Maude Khlesl (disguised as a wizened Turkish sorcerer), Sir Tancred charged her and landed a devastating blow that forced her to briefly retreat below decks. In the course of the battle, he successfully defended Felix from two of the Baron’s Gangrel, Loukia Kalekina and Basil Borteas. Both he and they were sorely wounded in the exchange, and when Felix finally panicked and ran, Tancred covered his flight in an orderly fashion. He made it to the boat along with his lord and enough faithful retainers to push the longboat away from the ship.
Months later, as the Fourth Crusade rampaged through the city during the Great Sack, Felix of Vaucluse took the opportunity to indulge in his growing lust for Cainite blood. Tancred was disgusted by the crimes that he reluctantly witnessed as Felix, Mabile, and Thierry de Villiers attacked and destroyed the Michaelite elder, Cyricus, his childe, Megethia and later the Byzantine Gangrel known as Leon Boumbalis. Torn between his duty and conscience, he chose the former, and many years later the decision continues to haunt him.
Later that night he was wounded capturing the Lexor Brujah senator, Conrad, when that noble knight attempted to slip past the House of Fabricius and enter the Church of Eirene. Hoping to spare Sir Conrad the fate of Felix’ earlier victims, he sought to offer the Brujah a clean Final Death but he was over-ruled by his superiors. Instead, his fellows tortured the senator for his knowledge of the secret door to the haven of the Patriarch. Tancred separated himself from his own coterie at that point, reluctant to disobey orders but equally unwilling to take part in the unsavoury act.
It was then that the Concord attacked in hopes of rescuing their captured ally. The ambush was quick, brutal, and devastating. Simultaneously, an enormous squabble of seagulls, a cloud of bats, and a swarm of rats descended onto the square, confusing and panicking both Cainite and kine alike. Then, Mabile was destroyed with ridiculous ease by the Tzimisce Veceslav Basarab and his minion, Francois. Just moments later, Thierry and Bertrandus were fatally engulfed by Greek Fire hurled by the ancient Gangrel Lucien and the Lasombra known as Iulia of Weissenburg. As his coterie died around him, Felix of Vaucluse was rapidly surrounded by his enemies.
Despite his disgust with his cowardly master, Tancred was loyal to his word and struggled to reach Sir Felix. Instead, he was intercepted and quickly out-classed by the Viking Gangrel, Svenin the Tall, who proved himself to be a superior hand combatant. Despite his own great strength, the Bear was pinned, manipulated like a child, and hurled into a patch of Greek Fire. Now aflame himself, he struggled with the urge to enter Rötschreck and the agony of the searing flames. He knew his situation was hopeless but he was unwilling to give up, and Tancred of Frasne prepared himself for the Final Death.
It was then that the Cappadocian known as Maude of Vienna did the unthinkable. Taking pity on her good hearted enemy, she used her command of Mortis to extinguish the flames. She then reasoned with him, saying that he was a good man, and it was not too late to choose to do goodly things. As she said this, Tancred knew that the villainous Felix was meeting the Final Death at the hands of Veceslav, thus ending his service to his kinsman. Being a schooled Ventrue, he also instinctively understood that Maude had also given him an “out” — in saving him, she had given him the opportunity to levy a life boon upon himself. This alleviated the requirement that he die stupidly in the act of revenging a Cainite that he despised.
Sir Tancred immediately fell to his knees, offering the Cappadocian ancilla his sword and his service. In the coming months, he would write (with the aid of the more eloquent Iulia and Maude) to his sire, compellingly reporting of the destruction of the House of Fabricius in honourable combat with Greek Cainites of the Baron’s Gangrel, the Lexor Brujah, and the Antonian Ventrue families. He was an initial casualty of an ambush, struck by Greek Fire and dispatched before he could fight back. Indeed, his survival was owed solely to the intervention of the holy crusader, Sister Maude of Vienna, who had used her powers to return him from the brink of Final Death. The letter went on to say that while it pained him, the honour of the House of Fabricius required him to fulfill his life boon, and so he could not immediately return to his duties in Burgundy.
Of course, Tancred understands that his ruse may not last forever, and that if the truth eventually comes out his existence will be forfeit. Colard of Parcey had taken charge of the treasure of the coterie and temporarily departed before the attack, and had thus survived it through sheer fortune. He has expressed his doubts concerning what really occurred that night, and Tancred routinely avoids speaking with his canny and astute former coterie-mate. There is little evidence, but the suspicion of an ancilla of Colard’s quality might be enough, if his star should continue to rise. The resurfaced Sir Wendel is less circumspect in his mistrust of the Bear, but he is also considerably less adept at plumbing secrets than the frequently absent Colard.
With his share of the spoils from the Great Sack, Tancred soon backed Sister Maude in establishing one of her clinics in the poor neighbourhood close to the Harbour of Julian. Further, he sank all of his treasure into expanding the operation to also include lodgings for widows and orphans of the war as well as those pilgrims who would see what is left of the Queen of Cities. He sent word to his beloved countess palatine that he would take the vows of the penitent to atone for his sins on the pilgrimage, and she regretfully promised to assign a seneschal to see to his meagre possessions while he remained in the East. When news reached him the following year that she had passed on at the tender age of fourteen, the hulking knight was grief-stricken.
Tancred is still free of his obligations to house and clan. Without the weight of duty, he finally feels like he can be his own man, and serve a cause that is truly worthy. Indeed, unusually for a Cainite he can even claim to have found a measure of happiness and contentment. Throughout the course of the many years since the fall of Constantinople’s old order, he has protected Maude during her residence of the city and in her current absence he also sees to her interests however he might. While certainly no great physician his long involvement with the Hostel of Saint Paula has made him a dab hand at dealing with the small hurts of his charges, and he has made a few careful connections to the Hospitaller Order in order to ensure supply of medicines and cooperation if needed. He keeps his combat skills sharp by sparring with Barentis, an ancient Antonian ghoul who also now serves the Concord, and he has even learned a few things due to his frequent drubbings at the hands of the last Excubitor. The two odd men out touch base every night or two, and a taciturn friendship has developed between them.
Embrace: AD 1175
Lineage: Childe of Gerberga de Doubs, childe of Seneschal Anselm of Pontarlier, childe of Odo de Sainte-Croix (d), childe of Prince Engelbert of Pontarlier, childe of Gaius Fabricius, childe of Tinia (d?), childe of Ventrue. Sir Tancred the Bear is of the 10th generation.
(d?)= Probably Deceased.