The Concord of Ashes
EXCERPT FROM A LETTER TO DURGA SYN FROM SISTER MAUDE KHLESL
[CONTINUED FROM LAST SESSION SUMMARY]
Late February 1203
Finding ourselves inexplicably near Weissenburg after our weeks-long slumber, we made our way to Iulia’s house outside the town walls. Visiting our friend was Myca Vykos and his childe, Irene Dalasena. Vykos was in the region to call in the boons owed to him by our coterie to establish Obertus monasteries in and around the Siebenburgen.
We recounted our experiences at the Obertus monastery, and Vykos responded with anger and disgust. He felt that the depravity we witnessed was a heretical perversion of the Obertus ethos, and he placed the blame for it firmly on the shoulders of his grandsire Gesu and his insane search for the “divinity within”. However, Vykos’s views seemed to be personal rather than an indication of some schism within the Obertus order itself. Personally, I found the matter of minor concern. The involvement of the children at the monastery disturbs me profoundly, but despite that I find little reason to share Vykos’s outrage at the conduct of a group of seemingly-happy cultists, however depraved some of their practices may be.
On recounting our vision, Vykos suggested that we consult with a Salubri called Achmet who resides in Constantinople who has made especial study of the meanings in dreams. I don’t think anything useful can come of it, but if we find ourselves in Constantinople I will seek this Achmet out (purely in deference to your inestimable wisdom, of course, Durga – again, never let it be said that I don’t do what I’m told).
Once we had told those assembled of the purpose of our mission, both Vykos and Iulia requested that they join us. Iulia wished to know more of this unknown Tzimisce ruler, Bodor Toth, as she felt it could be useful in her dealings with other nearby Shaper Princes. Whatever her reasons, I was delighted that Iulia would join us. Despite our differences, she brings a much-needed level-headedness to the coterie now that I have skilfully manoeuvred myself into a position of complete irrelevance with Bernhard and Veceslav.
For his part, Vykos wished to accompany us so that he could learn more about Erzebet’s brother, Farkas. It seemed the Zaran monastery in which he’d been killed was of the Obertus order, too, and Vykos wanted to know how a vampire with an unknown lineage had insinuated himself into their ranks, and what – if anything – he had learned.
I find his reasons for travelling with us a bit strange. He would be sending his childe, Irene, to investigate the Obertus monastery in which we’d had our vision – an entire monastery which he previously didn’t even know existed and whose residents engage in practices he finds abhorrent – while he personally travelled with us through terrible conditions and undoubted danger to learn more of just one monk (now dead) that resided in the more conventional monastery in Zara (since destroyed). It seemed a disproportionate investment of time to unearth facts of little importance that we could simply pass onto him on our return.
In any case, there is a coldness to Vykos I find discomforting. He is perfectly polite and should be an asset during our mission, but I get the feeling that under his veneer of civility he is completely lacking in warmth or compassion.
We left the next night. We would travel through Mediasch, while Vykos would travel through Marelle’s domain (being unwelcome in Nova Arpad’s court), meeting up in Kronstadt later.
The journey to Mediasch was uneventful. When we arrived, we presented ourselves to Prince Nova – the real one this time. She was predictably haughty and superior, but not entirely unreasonable about most matters not related to her feuds with Mitru and Marusca. In fact, she was eager for one of my clinics to be established in Mediasch, and even seemed willing to do it on my terms.
After discussion of the clinic, the four Siebenburgen rulers – Nova, Prince of Mediasch; Iulia, Prince of Weissenburg; Bernhard, Prince of Kronstadt; and Veceslav, Knez of Tihuta – prepared to discuss politics. In a rather transparent attempt to get rid of me, presumably to prevent me stifling the talks with my moralising, Bernhard suggested I take Erzebet hunting. In fact, I was more than happy to comply, since I knew the conversation would inevitably turn to Nova’s demands for cooperation in the blood hunts against Mitru and Marusca, which would be followed by obfuscations or outright lies by the others regarding their willingness to help her in this. So, I spent a lovely evening in the company of the charming and convivial Erzebet, procuring the services of whores, and trying to make sure she didn’t tear out their throats while feeding.
We arrived in Kronstadt two nights later. We convened at Lukas’s leper colony along with Kronstadt’s Cainite residents so that Bernhard could attend to any Princely business. However, I noticed that in his case Princely business doesn’t seem to involve actually ruling anyone, but perhaps this is for the best given his lack of wisdom, judgement, charisma, intellect, common sense, vision, tact, likeability, maturity, logic, reason, humility, perceptiveness, competence, self-awareness, insight, patience and grace.
Two nights later, we set out shortly after dusk for the last leg of our trip to Toth.
Early March 1203
After a journey through appalling winter conditions, we finally entered the narrow Borstral Pass and saw Toth up ahead. The village of Toth is home to about 650 people, while a mile away sits Toth castle, a two-storey affair built into the mountainside itself. At the castle we were welcomed by the major domo, Petre Carp, who after consulting with his master invited us to dine with them that evening. An emotional reunion between Erzebet and her father and siblings was conspicuously absent. In fact, I might have almost felt sorry for her if she wasn’t such a callous and mean-spirited little bitch.
At dinner we were introduced to the Boyar, Erzebet’s brother, Devalt, who seemed an ordinary mortal in his fifties, and their younger brother, Killian, also mortal, but seemingly a ghoul given that he appeared to be in his mid-twenties. Also present was their Moorish-appearing “advisor”, Magib, who was clearly a vampire. Over the course of the conversation it became clear that Magib was, in fact, Bodor Toth himself, having presumably flesh-crafted himself a new appearance long ago, perhaps to coincide with his “death”. We also learned of another sister, Angyalka, living with the common folk down in the village. If given a chance I will seek her out – she may be the sole voice of reason and compassion in the whole benighted family.
After some rather contrived and awkward small talk, the conversation eventually turned to the matter of Farkas’s death and the Toth family’s plans for revenge. I told them in no uncertain terms that their attempts at revenge were both morally repugnant and entirely ineffective given that it was the blameless people of Zara who suffered from Erzebet’s depredations, while the zealots who murdered Farkas remained unaffected. Devalt responded callously, claiming to be unconcerned about the welfare of foreigners in a foreign city, as long as his brother’s murderers were made to suffer. How refreshingly vampire-like.
After a further series of verbal volleys, the debate seemed to end in a stalemate. Devalt said that he would consider our words and inform us of his decision later.
Attendance: Maude (Dave, 3 xp), Veceslav (Ben, 2 xp), Bernhard (Greg, 2 xp)