Session Sixty

The months after the Great Fire quickly march on. The Concord busy themselves performing various tasks (downtime ) to capitalise on the good will caused by their successful initiative of the Imperial Processional of Alexius IV. Throughout November and much of December they find the momentum of their efforts finds pleasing ears in a number of quarters.

Pacts of cooperation and even friendship with the Baron’s Gangrel and the Lexor Brujah are strengthened in the case of Sister Maude and Iulia respectively. Iulia also focusses a great deal of her attention on certain of the Antonians, in hopes healing the rift between they and the Lexor Family. Veceslav seeks to restore bonds of alliance with the Obertus while also maintaining the extraordinary regard of the Cainite Crusade leadership. Brother Adalbert concentrates on doing penance for his frenzy during the fire, and then taking over Iulia’s role as Veceslav’s second in dealings with the Cainite Crusade. Lotario largely disappears into the Latin Quarter on his own business. However, all coterie members save Adalbert are united in seeking further dealings with the Dream Circle. In short, the ten weeks or so are good for the Concord of Ashes.

As the year draws to a close, however, the fortunes of Fourth Crusade and the Queen of Cities wax and wane, changing with unpredictable frequency.

  • Between October 27th and November 3rd, some twenty thousand Latins (mainly Pisans, but also significant numbers of Venetians and Genoese), finding themselves ruined by the Great Fire, brutalised by the riots and fearing for their lives, take to boats and cross to Galata. There they take refuge with the Crusade as refugees and, some wags whisper, potential belligerants. Simon, the secretive Cistercian Abbot of Loos, who was mortally injured trying to help in the fire, expires on the 2nd. He was a friend and fervent supporter of Count Baldwin of Flanders.
  • On November 10th (St. Martin’s Day). Alexius IV turns his Imperial Processional for home, proclaiming it a success. Except for the Tsar of Bulgaria (who ignores the emperor’s demand for submission as expected), Alexius and his allies are pleased with the taxes and tribute given and collected at Nicaea.
  • November 15th- A joint proclamation from Issac II and Alexius IV formally submits the Orthodox Patriarch to the authority of the pope. Patriarch John X Kamateros, cowed by the wrath of the emperors for his prior relationship and alliance to deposed emperor Alexius III, meekly submits. The romaioi citizenry are not so meek, and violence erupts throughout the city as they protest. Privately Magnus, the Custodian of Orthodoxy and Father of the Orthodox Lasombra is furious, but he is ordered to submit his pawn, the Patriarch, to the ruling by order of the Quaesitor Tribunal (by vote of 2 to 1, Petronius defeated). The Families do not want to risk war when a solution to the crisis looks to be at hand.
  • November 23rd- Alexius IV, Marquis Boniface and the rest return to the city. Further monies are paid to the crusade, to the tune of 90 000 marks. Alexius promises more as soon as the accounts are drawn up and settled, and the people of the city who are in desperate straits are fed and quartered.
  • Over the six weeks after his arrival, Alexius IV appears to delay in his repayments, and offer minimal contributions when monies are handed over. While he does channel much of the silver from his Processional into relief for those injured or made homeless by the Great Fire, he becomes quite arrogant in rebuffing envoys from the Crusade demanding payment. While his people starve, he proclaims loudly for the mob, the Crusade will have to wait. Even Boniface, who has been his friend and greatest ally, cannot move him from this change of heart. Alexius ceases socialising with the crusaders, spurning the comraderie of months earlier. The young emperor appears to be playing for the hearts and minds of his people, who hate him for the submission of their Church to the Papal Supremacy. Throughout the course of his machinations and investigations, Lotario observes that hundreds of hard men are quietly slipping into the city through the Marmara ports. Hard men with Greek accents and the scars and well-worn weapons of veterans. By Christmas, he surmises that there must be at least 3 or 4 thousand more Byzantine troops in the city than before…
  • December 27th- After constant delays and small payments from Alexius IV and Isaac II, a miserable and meagre Christmas, and the frictions natural to a bored, massed army, violence erupts once more. Venetians and Latins riot throughout Galata. The hand of the Barons is forced. Supplies were running low even before thousands of refugees from the Latin Quarter showed up; now they are perilously low. Looters are hanged, and morale drops precipitously…

January 1st

  • The Concord are summoned by Petronius the Michaelite Quaesitor. They are brought to his palace by a number of men, the Scholai Guard who appear to be military in training, but skilled in blending in with the common folk of Constantinople. When they arrive, they are received by Petrios, his congenial seneschal. The ghoul explains that his master is already in a meeting, but he will join them shortly.
  • Petrios makes small talk with the coterie while they wait, and provides whatever refreshment they require. A harpist and a singer serenade them with beautiful music, while the seneschal gives them explanations of the numerous pieces of art on display. In due course, the heavy double doors at the far end of the ball room open and the observe the Arbiter exchanging farewell pleasantries with Lucien, Eletria (the new Muse of Sculpture), Komanos of Stomion (who had lately introduced Maude to Alexia Theusa), Stephen Cerularius (an elder with business interests among the guilds) and Athanasios (a wan neonate noted for having come back from the influence of the Children of Judas). It would appear that the Arbiter has made considerable headway towards organising a reformed Michaelite Family.
  • Once the others have left, Petronius and Lucien receive the Concord and set them a task: the Malkavian Gregorius Dimities, the Muse of Performance, appears to have been kidnapped and he asks the Concord to try to find and rescue him. He mentions that his Scholai Guard have made inquiries, but that whomever has taken the Muse is clearly gifted with means to stymie simple mortal investigation. He also says that he has asked his bodyguard, Sariel, to investigate but that he has yet to turn up any leads. The Concord has a reputation for getting to the bottom of mysteries such as this, and Lotario alone enjoys his complete confidence. Together, they should bring this mystery to light quickly, and Petronius is happy to owe them a boon for their trouble. Ultimately, he says the Michaelites are only just starting to regain their organisation; this is no time to lose one of their most valuable assets in the Muse of Performace.
  • The Concord begin their investigation at Gregorius’ haven. An overview of the crime scene suggests that he was staked in his bed, then rolled up in a nearby carpet and carried away. There are no signs of a struggle, suggesting either that the Muse did not resist or that he was taken completely unaware (which Maude says seems unlikely since, as a Malkavian, he is presumably a master of Auspex). In attendance are gregorius’ three ghouls: Leo, Ignatius and Titus. Lotario quietly explains that they have been performing with the Muse for at least 3 centuries, but they seem more like addled buffoons and sycophants more than capable bodyguards.
  • The Concord question Gregorius’ ghouls, including one (Ignatius) who was present in the house during the kidnapping. Strangely, the ghoul heard nothing, despite the house’s creaky stairs which the kidnappers would have used to get to the Muse’s bedroom. This suggests two possibilities: firstly, the ghoul has been Dominated to forget; or secondly, the Assamite Discipline of Quietus was used during the kidnapping.
  • Maude questions a nearby ghost who saw the kidnappers carrying Gregorius wrapped in carpet from the house. The ghost was exceedingly difficult to get any answers from. At first she was frightened that Maude could even perceive her, and then she was worried that they would be seen by “the others”. Eventually the Cappadocian managed to cajole the ghost into admitting that she had seen something: a female vampire, two male vampires and 3 male mortals carrying a long carpet with bloodstains on it..
  • The Concord try to convince Gregorius’ ghoul to return with them to Petronius (reasoning that he should be able to tell if the ghoul has been Dominated to forget). This proves surprisingly difficult, but after a rather farcical scene, with much bewailing and dramatic protestation from his fellows, they manage to bring the ghoul to Petronius. The Quaesitor reads the man’s mind and finds no sign of very recent memory-erasing Domination. This suggests that Quietus was used in the kidnapping, which in turn suggests that at least one of the kidnappers is an Assamite.

Attendance: Ben (Veceslav, 2 xp), Daniel (Adalbert, 3 xp), Dave (Maude, 3 xp)
Absent: Greg (Lotario, 0 xp)

Session Sixty

The Concord of Ashes Haligaunt