Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The Council of Ashes
The Council of Ashes was established in A.D. 1150, shortly after the presentation of a formal charter granted to the ancilla Nova Arpad of Clan Ventrue by the Cainite Monarch of Hungary, Bulscu. The charter granted her the Overlordship of Transylvania, making her the second most prestigious Cainite in the entire Kingdom of Hungary, if she could actually pull off the coup of subduing the Tzimisce and advancing the rule of the mortal Arpads to the extremities of the Carpathian valleys and passes.
Although there were many areas that the Saxons were moving into, the greatest concentration of them were establishing the towns of Hermannstadt, Bistritz, Kronstadt, Mediasch, Schaasburg, Klausenburg and Weissenburg. Several of these towns had already long been the homes of the Romanians, and the locals were swiftly disenfranchised by the German newcomers. Others settlements were hacked out of the wilderness, or areas that had been depopulated by the Hungarian conquest.
Embraced one century earlier, Nova had a reputation for brilliance and arrogance, as well as a passion for advancing the tide of Christian civilisation and justice into the cruel east. Nova was ready to go from the moment her charter was in hand, having already placed agents among the nascent trade and merchant guilds of the earliest Saxon settlers. She had also claimed the loyalty of the most important Magyar border nobles and several of the Szekler chieftains that were moving into the area. The burgeoning town that took her fancy the most was Mediasch, which was quite central to the rest of the large towns.
Early supporters of Nova were Heinricus von Ballen, an unusally bellicose Toreador knight from the Moselle region of Franconia, and Karol Borbás, a fellow Ventrue and vassal of her sire, Prince Gregor of Pressburg. Heinricus followed his mortal family to Kronstadt and Karol, a talented captain, took control of Schaasburg to secure Nova’s flank from the vengeful voivodes of Clan Tzimisce. An unlikely ally came in the person of the Cappadocian elder Lady Rowena d’Alexandre, who was purportedly in the region researching a Romano-Dacian necropolis near Weissenburg.
A number of local Transylvanian Cainites, catching wind of the developments in the West, approached Nova and her new coterie. Foremost among these was Radu of Bistritz, a remarkably congenial and progressive Tzimisce whose bloodline seemed to be at odds with some of the more aggressive Fiends in the region. Marusca of Clan Nosferatu revealed herself to be the guardian and de facto prince of Hermannstadt, and it was clear that the Low Clan leper was too entrenched to displace easily. Both Cainites were accepted into the coterie, and swiftly proved themselves to be an asset.
The last of the seven was Charles ritter von Allstedt, a vassal of Hardestadt and a neonate of the growing Ventrue faction that has since been declared as the Eastern Lords. Sir Charles was a naked opportunist, looking for Domain and completely without scruples as to how he might get it. He accepted the poorest domain of Klausenburg.
Nova and Bulscu dubbed the coterie of princes the Council of Ashes, for it was already clear that their power and success would be won at the point of a sword, not grown in peace and harmony. Nova would be Overlord of the Council, and by extension of all Transylvania (without consulting the Tzimisce of course), meaning that the other Princes were technically her vassals. However, it was clear from the outset that any attempt to enforce her status would be out of the question, a reality that always rankled the architect of the plan.
The Council of Ashes immediately set to work. Radu put forward a Gangrel known as Tiberiu to be their messenger, and the Vlach swiftly proved his worth by virtue of his knowledge of the safe trails and bolt-holes of Transylvania. Nova galvanised the guilds, starting a building program to wall the towns of the seven domains, as well as using her contacts among the Magyar nobility and Szekler chieftains to viciously turn their armies against the Tzimisce. Karol Borbás aided her in this endeavour, becoming the military face of the Council and earning many enemies amongst the Tzimisce knezi. Marusca brought her sire, the famous architect Zelios, to the attention of the Council. Zelios was happy to design and oversee the building of a keep at each city in return for boons to be collected later and for the assurance of Marusca’s Domain into perpetuity. Sir Heinricus swiftly found that his plate was quite full trying to hold back the raids of the Cumans and Bulgars to the east and south, and spent much of his time in the field. Sir Charles had his work cut out trying to clear the hilly land near Klausenburg and build his wealth given that his was the only city where the Vlachs outnumbered the Saxons. Lady Rowena was the most retiring member of the Council, advising the others when asked but spending most of her time in study.
For twenty years the Council prospered, but cracks began to show shortly after Sir Heinricus was ripped to pieces by a werewolf pack in the pass southwest of Kronstadt in the spring of A.D 1170. In the years before his Final Death, the Toreador had become convinced that the Council was giving undue support to the fighting near Schaasburg and Mediasch, and that his own city was becoming indefensible as a result. Prince’s Karol and Heinricus quarelled constantly, and Nova was forced to mediate between the two when her time could have been spent more productively. With Kronstadt suddenly lacking a leader, Sir Charles immediately abandoned Klausenburg and tried to establish himself in the more prestigious Domain.
In response, Nova sent one of her own brood, Orseolo, to assume the Princedom of Klausenburg without consulting her fellow Princes, much to their chagrin. In the coming years, Karol and Charles would find themselves increasingly at odds, again over troop dispositions and assigning blame for failure. Tiberiu carried dozens of messages from Radu and Nova to the other Princes, urging patience and cooperation, but the damage appeared to be done and the bickering continued unabated. Lady Rowena disappeared in A.D 1172 in the face of conflict with a particularly disagreeable Tzimisce voivode. To this day the surviving Princes are unsure of whether she perished, fled or even now suffers torment in the dungeons of the Fiends. Marusca strengthened her own Domain in response, and continued to offer intelligence to the Council, but found herself in Nova’s disfavour for her failure to adopt a more proactive approach. The acrimony between the two women only deepened into enmity with the years.
In A.D. 1175, Prince Karol suffered horrific injuries in battle with the Tzimisce and fell into a deep torpor. With no reliable alternatives (in her mind, at least) Nova sent another of her brood, Matthias, to assume control of Schaasburg, thus incurring further reproach from the rest of the Council. While she made it clear that the appointment was temporary, the fact that the body of Karol was sent back to Pressburg gave the lie to her claim. When both Prince Matthias and Prince Charles went to their Final Deaths at the fangs and claws of the Tzimisce two years later, it became clear that the power of the coterie was evaporating. By A.D. 1180, Prince Marusca and Prince Nova were no longer on speaking terms and Prince Radu was the only member of the Council overseeing the strong growth of a Domain and encouraging cooperation. Tiberiu continued to carry messages between the remaining Princes, for all the good that it did them. The Council of Ashes was a failure.
More than a dozen Cainites have attempted to take the Princedom’s of Kronstadt, Weissenburg, Schaasburg and Klausenburg in the intervening years. Most flee or fall to the Tzimisce, Lupines or the other unnameable things that walk the night in Transylvania. Prince Orseolo of Klausenburg has been missing since A.D. 1189 and is presumed deceased. Prince Radu continues to oversee the growth and prosperity of Bistritz, even masquerading as the mortal Burgrave. Prince Marusca keeps to herself, jealously guarding her domain with her allied progeny and a wolf pack that is hundreds strong. And Nova Arpad, Prince of Mediasch and would-be Overlord of Transylvania, appeared to slip into ennui, brooding over her failures and losing herself in sybaritic entertainments. The trade routes of the Siebenburgen ruptured without the cooperation of their secret masters, and the growth of the cities suffered as they gained a reputation back West as being too dangerous and unpredictable to take the gamble of emigration. Indeed, it was almost as if the inexorable march of civilisation itself was faltering in the East.
Indeed, perhaps it had. The truth was eventually outed at the end of the 12th century, and would be far more sinister than the Arpad court intriguers had guessed.
A Plot Most Foul
For many years, rumours persisted of a secretive Gangrel that had established domain in Klausenburg. This Gangrel prince did not welcome inclusion in any princely council, nor did he allow Cainite settlers of any kind other than his own brood and clan-mates that had joined his pack. Since AD 1197, the obscure prince of Cluj and Napoca (for he despises the Saxon name of Klausenburg) has been revealed to be Mitru the Hunter, a young but potent childe of Arnulf the Goth.
It would appear that he was Embraced in AD 1190, just hours after successfully staking Nova with a remarkably true arrow shot from his bow. Arnulf witnessed the actions of the mortal hunter after dispatching Orseolo himself. Speculation is rife in the Arpad courts that it was the canny Gangrel elder who devised the following scheme, and while few have the courage to actually ask the prince of Mediasch if such is true, the following version of events is generally accepted.
Nova herself was spared for later use, though she slipped into torpor from the wounds that resulted from her mistreatment. Arnulf recognised that the Siebenburgen were too large and entrenched to destroy through simple brute force. Numbers and organisation favoured the Saxons, and the Gangrel lacked an army large enough to lay them to waste. Instead, they would have to be limited, and taken apart piecemeal and with a certain patience that he lacked. He contacted the Ventrue’s enemy, Marusca of Hermannstadt, and asked for her cooperation in taking apart Nova’s powerful base of influence amongst the guilds and the new nobility. Marusca sent her childe Ruxandra, a brilliant actress with a particular hatred of the Ventrue prince, to be her jailor and impersonator.
Ruxandra successfully impersonated Nova as prince of Mediasch for over 8 years, working hard to dismantle the Arpad power in Transylvania while simultaneously delighting in denigrating the Ventrue’s person and reputation. Whenever she could rouse Nova from torpor, she revisited on the fallen prince all the tortures and more that she had suffered at the Hungarian’s hands prior to her own Embrace. In the meantime, she systematically alienated the Ventrue’s remaining progeny, and then murdered or discredited nearly all of Nova’s pawns in Mediasch as well as many among the surrounding Magyar lords. Ruxandra also robbed the Ventrue of as much silver and gold as could be managed, secreting it away for her own use once the ruse was up.
In AD 1198, Ruxandra’s excesses apparently led to increasingly erratic behaviour on her part. Upon paying their respects to the prince while travelling through Mediasch, the Concord found her behaviour highly suspicious, and communicated their uneasiness to several members of the Iron Covenant upon meeting them at Tihuta later that year. Upon investigating, the Iron Covenant managed to discover Ruxandra’s secret. They stormed Nova’s manse and freed the Ventrue prisoner, but failed to apprehend the Nosferatu villain.
Restored to her position (if not yet her former power), Nova repaid the Iron Covenant by backing their claim on the domain of Schaasburg. Janos, childe of Karol Borbás, would reign henceforth as prince, and Schaasburg and Mediasch have been fast allies ever since.
Perhaps owing to the indignities of her imprisonment,Nova Arpad appears to have regained her drive with a vengeance. Her first act upon reestablishing her authority was to declare a Blood Hunt on Mitru, Marusca and Ruxandra throughout all of Greater Hungary (Transylvania, Croatia and Hungary itself). She has insisted that all of her fellow princes amongst the Siebenburgen also hunt the criminals should they desire her support. Some think this was a misstep on her part, as declaring such a difficult hunt has actually damaged her status. Nova does not care, for she feels that failing to do so would set her up for a greater fall down the track.
Her second act was to attempt to reconvene the Council of Ashes. Nova has recalled a number of her progeny to assist her, and she works closely with Iron Covenant to restrengthen her own power base and promote theirs. Radu was quick to voice support for a resurgent council, and two members of the Concord, Iulia and Bernhard also gave their tacit support. All three of them agreed on principle to declare the Blood Hunt on Nova’s enemies in their own demesnes, although the severity with which they have chosen to prosecute it is a matter for debate.
In some respects the Council of Ashes is stronger now than it has been since the 1170’s, with the princes of 4 out of the 7 cities on good terms. Prince Nova of Mediasch and Prince Janos of Schaasburg are firm allies, and the two cities work well together given their relative geographical proximity. Radu of Bistritz and Iulia of Weissenburg are also in favour of greater cooperation, and their ties to numerous Tzimisce voivodes help keep the peace and may well eventually reverse the destablisation of the 1190’s. Unfortunately, Bernhard of Kronstadt fell in early AD 1203, and his city has subsequently emptied of nearly all Cainite inhabitants. Cainite society abhors a vaccuum, though, and all parties amongst the four cities would like to place a friend in power in Kronstadt to bring the city firmly back into the Council of Ashes.
Hermannstadt and Klausenburg have also joined in a loose alliance against the princes of Mediasch and Schaasburg, although Marusca has made it clear that she harbours no animosity towards Radu, Iulia and the late Bernhard von Billung. Both Mitru and Marusca have also made their derision known for Nova’s futile Blood Hunt.
The Siebenburgen are still rich with opportunity for those Cainites willing to risk eternity for the potential rewards. Whether the Council of Ashes can regain its former promise or will lapse once more into failure is very much the fashionable topic for debate in the Cainite courts for many hundreds of miles around. The question remains: who has the talent, luck and foolhardiness to risk it all to be a part of it?
The Siebenburgen of Transylvania still endure in the minds of mortal and Cainite alike as a land of great opportunity for those willing (or mad enough) to take the risk and stake their claims. Few neonates or even ancillae can hope to be called Prince. All that remains is for a group that is ambitious, capable and bold enough to take a run at it. All of the remaining Prince’s of the Siebenburgen have sired, and would make good prospective patrons of a coterie interested in resurrecting the power of the Council of Ashes. Perhaps the older Princes can forgive their trespasses of their former allies and the coterie could consist of their childer, an attempt to recapture the brief glories of the past. A coterie with one or all of the Council’s patronage would ideally be descended from them and/or have one of the members as a mentor to each of the party.
The surviving members of the original Council of Ashes are:
Nova Arpad, Prince of Mediasch (7th gen. Ventrue, Childe of Gregor von Naumburg, e. 1050 CE)
Radu, Prince of Bistritz (7th gen. Tzimisce, Childe of Visya, e. 1125 CE)
Marusca, Prince of Hermannstadt (8th gen. Nosferatu, Childe of Zelios, e. 1102 CE)
The mysterious Prince of Klausenburg is:
The current Prince of Weissenburg is:
The current Prince of Schaasburg is:
Janos Kádár, Prince of Schaasburg (9th ge. Ventrue, Childe of Karol Borbás, e. 1135 CE)
And finally, the various Princes that have fallen since 1172 CE:
Karol Borbás, failed Prince of Schaasburg (8th gen. Ventrue, Childe of Rachele Eisenberg, e. 1094 CE)
Rowena, failed Prince of Weissenburg (8th gen. Cappadocian, childe of Lambrecht, e. 831CE, dis. 1172 CE)
Heinricus, failed Prince of Kronstadt (7th gen. Toreador, childe of Adelheid, e. 1113 CE, d. 1170 CE)
Charles, failed Prince of Klausenburg and Kronstadt (9th gen. Ventrue, Childe of Kuritz, e. 1129 CE, d. 1177 CE)
Orseolo, failed prince of Klausenburg (8th gen. Ventrue, Childe of Nova, e. 1122 CE, d. 1189 CE)
Matthias, failed prince of Schaasburg, (8th gen. Ventrue, Childe of Nova, e. 1151 CE, d. 1177 CE)
Bernhard von Billung, failed prince of Kronstadt (9th gen. Gangrel, Childe of Lucien, e. 1066 CE, d.[?] 1203 CE)
Storyteller Note: I haven’t detailed the various other contenders that have come and gone, but one of these might make a decent sire if anyone cares to go there, as long as the coterie has a tie to one of the existing Princes.