Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
also known as Segesvár to the Hungarians and Sighisoara to the Vlachs
Unlike several of its sister cities among the Siebenburgen, Schassburg is not founded upon a former Vlach holding. Rather, the site was chosen for settlement by the Saxons because of its strategic value. On a hill above the river known as Târnava Mare (or Gross Kokel to the Saxons) sat the ruins of an ancient, six-sided Roman castrum, and the site was judged as an excellent means of protecting the river approaches to Mediasch from the belligerent eastern Carpathian Romanian conte’s that had been harassing the creation of the seven cities. Decades of small battles and skirmishes have seen little gain on both sides, and kept the city quite small in population, but it has made the people of Schassburg unusually hardy and self-reliant, even for Transylvanian Saxons.
For much of its existence, Schassburg has stood on a seasonal war-footing with these Vlach lords. Its industries have developed along these lines, making the leatherworkers and smiths of Schassburg the finest in the Siebenburgen. They have traditionally been closely linked with the people of Mediasch some 25 miles downriver, and unlike the rest of the Saxon cities, the two Burgraviate’s share a border. This allows significant military and economic overlap, and a great deal of comraderie between the settlements has resulted. However, unlike her neighbour, where the Burgrave is expected to see to the defence of the borders and stay out of guild and trade matters, the necessity for a strong military leader has kept the authority of the Burgrave in Schassburg quite strong. He shares power with a Judge appointed by the Hungarian Crown; Burgrave Liberac sees to the organisation of the town guard and the knights who guard the outer approaches while Judge Béres liaises directly with the Magyar and Szekler lords further out.
The hills, grasslands and woods to the east and north of the city have seen much destruction over the years, and they are neglected by the burghers as unsafe. The land to the south and west is alive and bountiful. Fields of wildflowers tend to attract prodigious swarms of bees, and the bountiful pastures are good for the rearing of cattle. The Târnava Mare is quite shallow, and in times of drought would struggle to sustain the river traffic that is the lifesblood of the city. Lucky for the people that live here then, that rainfall is plentiful throughout the summer and autumn months.
Titular Ruler: Albanus Liberac Burgrave von Schassburg
Cainite Ruler: Prince Janos Kádár
Governmental Mix: Strong Burgrave responsible for defence or the land, aided by a Judge appointed by the Hungarian Crown, who is responsible for liaising with the powerful Magyar and Szekler lords to the north and west. City Politics are dominated by merchant and craft guilds, who appreciate the security of the arrangement so they can concentrate on their livelihoods. The power-sharing arrangement between the Burgrave and the Judge is unique in the Siebenburgen thus far, but the Crown is known to approve of it. The Archdeacon is a relative of the Burgrave, and is known for being something of a sybarite with little interest in exercising his prerogatives.
The City Council is 21 strong, consisting of: Burgrave Albanus, Judge Jozsef Béres, Archdeacon Frederick Liberac, Father Sebastian, Kapitan Johannes ritter of the city guard, 4 landed knights, 9 guildsmasters, 3 edlers.
Military Disposition: Standing army of 136 city guards, responsible for maintaining the wall watch, keeping law and order in the city, and patrolling the outlying roads and villages. This force is commanded by Kapitan Johannes ritter von Morbach, who is ably assisted by Leutnants Clemens ritter and Berec ritter. The city guard is funded by tolls on the roads approaching the city, as well as a gate toll and land taxes.
The city and the Hungarian Crown employs 20 Magyar freelance knights, under the direct control of the Judge. Each freelance is well armed and armoured, has three horses, and is accompanied by a squire, bringing the total to 40 fighting men that patrol the troubled northern and eastern borders of the Burgraviate. These men have a reputation for being brutal and ill-disciplined, but their skill in a fight is undeniable. They are (nominally) led by Kapitan Emeric Kollár.
The town militia can be turned out in times of crisis, and consists of 520 able-bodied men that are required to practice one saturday out of each month, as well as a further 65 men of the retinues of the landed knights. Schassburg has a total of 12 landed knights in her service, with a further 12 knights attached to their retinues. The Schassburg militia is funded by the salt tax, trade and craft taxes, and tithing from the landowners of the Burgraviate.
Population: c. 3300 (59% Saxon, 28% Magyar and Szekler, 12% Romanian, 1% other). Most Romanians are employed within the city as house servants or as serf farmers throughout the rest of the Burgraviate. The Magyars and Szeklers are mercenaries employed as defenders as well as traders or factors for the surrounding border lords. A handful of Greeks and Jews work as scholars, scribes and tutors.
Economy: Poor but full of potential. While the land is bountiful and the people industrious, their promise has been stymied by a three decade history of strife with the northern and eastern Romanian border lords. The former roam the hills, and have a fell and monstrous reputation with the burghers, while the latter are entrenched in the mountain valleys. The only remaining strong lifeline to the city is a very important wine and salt trade route that begins in Schassburg, bringing wine and salt on flat-bottom river boats from the eastern Szekler stronghold of Székelyudvarhely. After stopping in the city, the shallow draft barges continue along the Târnava Mare river through to Mediasch. From there it disperses along the Mediasch trade hub to continue on towards points west, south and east. The merchants of Schassburg and Mediasch pay handsomely to protect this route.
Weapons, armour, leather goods, cheese and honey made in Schassburg is prized throughout the Siebenburgen, and they are gaining a reputation as far away as Buda-Pest, Belgrade and Tarnovo. However, these goods are difficult to remove from the area.
A note on Trade: Not quite as wealthy as Bistritz and Mediasch, Schassburg burghers tend to use coin for trade and luxury items and barter among themselves.
Known Cainites of Schassburg
An Arpad coterie calling itself the Iron Covenant established itself in the town in late AD 1198, after freeing Prince Nova Arpad of Mediasch from a demeaning incarceration at the hands of the vile Nosferatu conspirator, Ruxandra. Pledging their support to Nova’s hollow claim as Overlord of the Siebenburgen while simultaneously claiming massive prestation debt for her liberation, the entire coterie moved to Schassburg with her full support. They see the town as the first step in rebuilding the power of the failed Council of Ashes, and work well together with a cooperation forged from bonds of loyalty, battle and mutual respect. They are cognizant that they have over-burdened Schassburg with a Cainite population in excess of the ‘Law of 1001 nights’, and monitor their effect on the mortal population closely. The city regularly hosts visits from allied Ventrue from Mediasch, and the Toreador Arianne has taken a liking to the coterie as well. The only unaligned Cainite is the Greek Nosferatu, Paulos, who has successfully reassured the Iron Covenant that he has nothing to do with Marusca’s Brood.
- Prince Janos Kádár of Schaasburg* (9th gen Ventrue, childe of Karol Borbás, e. mid 12th century): A taciturn, rough-hewn Hungarian knight with little time for the diplomatic demands of his Domain, Janos considers himself little more than a caretaker for his fallen sire. It is known that he was a ghoul for some time before his Embrace, and fought in the ’War of Griffons and Dragons against the armies of Vladimir Rustovitch. He leads the Iron Covenant by strength of arms and experience, and spends much of his time with his companions Heinrich and Matthias, leading the bands of freelances along the border.
- Matthias Granz ritter von Bamberg, Sheriff of Schassburg (8th gen Ventrue, childe of Johann von Bamberg, e. mid 12th century): the velvet glove next to Janos’ iron gauntlet, Matthias ritter is a knight from a long line of knights. His sire is a vassal of Prince Gregor of Pressburg, and Matthias ritter has served the Arpads for the entirety of his existence. He fought alongside Janos in the ‘War of Griffons and Dragons’, and despite being older and far more polished than the Magyar, he owes Janos his existence several times over and supports his rule. He is responsible for organising the defence of Schassburg, and has used the powers of the Blood to make pawns among the city guard and landed knights of the Burgraviate.
- Heinrich Bardsensleben ritter von Wolfsburg, Scourge of Schassburg (11th gen Gangrel, childe of Jana von Dorsten, e. late 12th century): An extremely honourable, clever Saxon who tends to keep the bloodthirsty temper of Janos in check, Heinrich holds himself as a lord, despite his Low Clan origins. Despite his relatively recent Embrace, he holds his own with Janos and Matthias, being a talented warrior and extremely tough. He is the childe of the Scourge of Pressburg, and he once briefly served the late Frederick the Bold of Brunswick in the same role. He failed Frederick in AD 1196; the prince was slain by a group of Brujah infiltrators allied to the Warlord, Dominic. Heinrich left his home in disgrace, and has since formed a friendship with Matthias and Janos, based on soldiery, honour and duty.
- Aloysius Benedictus Gallo, Seneschal of Schassburg (9th gen Toreador, childe of Brother Emeric, e. mid 12th century): A devoted follower of the Road of Heaven, the handsome Gallo has elected to infiltrate the corrupt church of Schassburg, with a stated goal of reforming it as a ‘righteous pillar of the Children of Caine’. He is a calming influence on the Iron Covenant, reminding the warriors that their powers can be used for the betterment of the people, not just the security of their demesnes. He is otherwise an unknown quantity, preferring to allow his knightly comrades to steal the attention while he oversees the beautification of both the city’s centres of worship.
- Matthilde Wallenstein, Lorekeeper of Schassburg (7th gen Malkavian, childe of Father Iago, e. early 12th century): the most mysterious member of the Iron Covenant, little is known of ‘fey Matthilde’, other than that she has been the ally of Matthias ritter and Janos for decades. The rest of the Covenant rely upon her advice and knowledge, and while she can be found in the weekly court that Prince Janos holds, she otherwise moves about Schassburg unseen.
- Brother Paulos of Corinth, Protector of St. Lazarus (9th gen Nosferatu, childe of Vassileus, e. early 10th century): A reclusive monk who watches over the leper hermitage south and east of Schassburg, Brother Paulos knows Janos from his time as Prince Karol’s Sheriff, and has reached a similar arrangement with him. He keeps the prince apprised of what he he hears from the animals in the area, and in return he and his charges are left alone to pray in peace. Paulos is Greek, and is of no relation to Marusca’s Brood, whom he appears to dislike.
Frequent Cainite Visitors
- Sergiu Lazar, envoy of Visya (7th gen Tzimisce, childe of Visya, e. mid 12th century): a loyal childe of the Voivode nominally allied with the Arpads, Sergiu has approached the Iron Covenant in recent years, apparently looking for an accommodation against their mutual enemy, Voivode Vlad Ionescu. He can be found in the city every month or two, and is careful to pay his respects with typical Tzimisce propriety.
- Pedrag Hasek, the envoy of Mediasch (9th gen Ventrue, childe of Nova Arpad, e. late 12th century): Smooth and polished in his manner, with some knowledge of Italian and French customs and a good command of foreign languages, Pedrag makes for a fair negotiator. He often stops in to speak with members of the Iron Covenant on his sire’s behalf.
- Arianne, the graceful wanderer (7th gen Toreador, Childe of Olivier, e. early 12th century): Beautiful, gracious and possessed of an enviable understanding of the chivalrous culture that has become fashionable among the Hungarian elite, this Toreador has been on an extended tour of Transylvania for some years now. Her stated goal is “cultural exchange”, and while she claims to have little interest in politics, her talent for intrigue would indicate otherwise. She has visited the city for weeks at a time, has befriended Aloysius Benedictus Gallo and Sir Matthias and is absolutely amazed by the gentle Sir Heinrich.
Prominent Mortal Residents
- Albanus Liberac Burgrave von Schassburg: A native son of the city, Albanus rose through the ranks due to his bravery in the endless skirmishing with the Vlach conte’s. His father was a commoner who married a girl of edler stock, and he claims no great pedigree from the West. Of simple and direct manner, he has many friends among the guilds and works willingly with the Judge on matters of defence, but it is thought that he chafes at times with the knowledge that his own knights respect the Magyar noble more than he.
- Judge Jozsef Béres: The son-in-law of the Count of Poszony, Jozsef is a Hungarian aristocrat cursed by primogeniture but blessed by talent. He has risen to his position of trust to Arpad kings by knowing exactly when to offer his loyalty to the most successful of that treacherous line. Lately, this means that he has hitched his wagon to Andras’ star, ensuring that the Judge will retain his position for years to come. Jozsef is much admired and courted by the rich and powerful of Schassburg for his royal connections.
- Archdeacon Frederick Liberac: The former parish priest of Schassburg, Frederick has managed to parley his wealth, family connections and charisma into making him one of the most influential clergymen in Transylvania. Unlike his older brother, he has a reputation for intrigue and excess, and he is a constant at most social functions for the nobility. Despite his reputation, Frederick is a skilled orator and politician, and some wonder if he might not become the next Bishop of the Siebenburgen. In addition to his lacklustre pursuit of his administrative duties (he despises traveling to the outlying villages), he rarely loses an opportunity to preach (and show off) at the Church of St. Nicholas. Deacon Gallo has convinced him that beautifying St. Nicholas’ with frescos will enhance his own prestige, and Frederick has embraced the notion with gusto.
- Father Sebastion: Every bit the Archdeacon’s protege in excess, Sebastion has long dined on his master’s success, but his recent elevation to the Parish head has made him ambitious since he has been relegated to preaching at St. Mary’s on the north bank. He courts the favour of the Bishop and the Judge, all the while faithfully supporting the designs of his archdeacon and working to make himself one of the most popular men in the region. Like Frederick, Sebastion has notable (if more notorious) family connections, being the brother-in-law of Kapitan Emeric.
- Kapitan Johannes ritter von Morbach: The third son of a prominent family of the Moselle valley, Johannes has the pedigree that his Burgrave lacks. He chafes openly under the pragmatic rule of his lord, and is a lightning rod for dissent. The captain speaks often and hotly of the need to ally more strongly with the Magyar and Szekler lords and sweep through the north-eastern forests and valleys, so that their enemies might be eradicated and Schassburg can rise to greatness.
- Kapitan Emeric Kollár: A brutal, greedy and amoral warrior, Emeric glories in battle and blood. He has led his band of freelances to a number of recent victories against the enemies that harry Schassburg’s prosperity and despite their fear of him, he is nonetheless welcome by its people. It is an open secret among the Cainite community that Emeric is the ghoul of Prince Janos.
Inns of Schassburg
- The Red Shield: A tavern near the south gate, the Shield is a rough place that caters to the city guard, the freelances, caravan guards at loose ends, gamblers, prostitutes and other ne’erdowells. The former owner, Karl Morbach, is a drunk with little business sense but much popularity. In 1202 he sold the tavern to his rival (and brother), Klaus, who permits Karl to stay on as barkeep.
- The White Griffon: An inn and tavern on the southern end of the market square, the Griffon is owned by Klaus Morbach, the over-achieving Guildmaster of Innkeepers, Brewers and Vintners. Meister Morbach prides himself as a middle-of-the-road fellow with a middle-of-the-road establishment- simple, clean, welcoming and wholesome. The Griffon is the busiest inn in town, attracting travellers, merchants, craftsmen and nobles alike.
- The Golden Cup: Crouched at the western end of the square, the Cup is a fine inn and tavern fallen on hard times. Expensive and tastefully appointed, it boasts large apartments and graceful service. The owner, Rolf Hermannburg, has had a run of bad luck in his investments however, and cannot afford to compete with his rival at the Griffon.
- The Cornucopia of Blissful Delights: An earthy, noisy alehouse and brothel on the north river bank that is popular with the common burghers and fisherfolk. The Blissful Delights is run by Gunther Baum, a colourful rogue fond of telling tales of his many travels. His skill as a brewer is second to none in the city.
- The Red Wheel: An inn crouched in the shadow of the citadel, the Wheel prides itself on providing accommodation to pilgrims and visitors to the citadel. Its rather puritannical owners, Bonifaz and Heidi Weiss, are reaching old age and the infirmity that goes with it, and they hope to find a husband for their homely daughter, Frieda, so that they can pass on their responsibilities to a new generation.
Other Notable Locations
The City Walls: Well-armed guards patrol the walls and guard the gates at all times, especially after sundown. Schassburg has 30-foot high walls, boasting no less than 16 towers. It is among the strongest bastions within the region. The city has 6 gates, including 2 river gates that can be lowered to secure the Târnava Mare.
Târnava Mare: also known as Gross Kokel to the locals, this river bisects the settlement and offers a reliable source of drinking water and sanitation to many of its citizens. Relatively shallow, it rarely floods and provides a fair catch all year round. An arching bridge provides safe egress between the two banks.
South Bank: Occupied by the wealthier and nobler citizens of Schassburg, the settlement on the southern bank of the Târnava Mare is dominated by the imposing edifice of the Citadel.
North Bank: Dominated by the market square and the headquarters of many of the guilds, the northern bank of the Târnava Mare is populated by many of the more hard-working middle and lower middle-class traders, craftsmen and fisherfolk.
The City Square: the centre of business and social life within Schassburg, the square sits on the northern side of the river. It hosts market days and fetes on a regular basis. A number of guild headquarters are based on the square, as well as a secure guardhouse, the Red Griffon and the Golden Cup. The square has a reputation for raucousness, and is frequently noisy all day and much of the night. The square has also has two public stocks (often occupied by drunks), a gallows, a crowcage (reserved for captured rebels) and a large and ostentatious well.
The Church of St. Mary: A wooden chapel at the north western edge of the city, St. Mary’s is attended by the more parochial folk from the north bank. The priest, Father Sebastion, does not dwell here but he does give Mass here each day. At night, the pious deacon Aloysius Benedictus Gallo takes care of the chapel and tends to the needs of parishioners after hours.
Schaasburg Citadel: designed by the extraordinary Nosferatu master architect Zelios, this fortification is the second strongest in the region after that of Hermannstadt. it sits on the north-eastern end of the hill that also occupies the Church of St. Nicholas, and work has begun to extend its walls to further fortify the hill.
The Church on the Hill: this place of worship was also the first fortification built in the settlement, and was intended to be a refuge for the people in the event of invasion. It was built atop the ruins of an ancient Romano-Dacian fort once known as castrum sex, or “six-sided camp” for its unusual, irregular hexagonal shape. While it was dedicated to St. Nicholas, most residents of the city still simply refer to it as the “Church on the Hill”. The Archdeacon considers it his seat and maintains his residence at the adjoining rectory; Father Liberac makes it a point to be be found here whenever possible, overseeing the painting of its frescos and trying to avoid travel to the outlying villages. A sizeable cemetery can be found behind the church, and a steep staircase connects the whole area to the town. Rumours abound that the foundations under the crypt are riddled with secret rooms and passages, and that they contain a lost Roman treasure hoard.
The Leprosarium of St. Lazarus: situated more than a mile south from the city along a winding track, this leper colony is the largest in Transylvania. It houses some 300 souls, under the protection of the Nosferatu Paulos of Corinth and his ally, the Benedictine Abbot Barnabus. The place, despite its fell reputation, is largely self-sufficient and the lepers only rarely beg on the roads or near the city. Indeed, their wares are of enviable craftsmanship, they make excellent honey and regularly produce a surplus of grain- not that anyone in the city would buy it.
To be Continued