Session Sixty-Nine

The Ambush

  • The illusory deck works well. The first 4 Cainites up the ladders are Sir Wendel of Burgundy, Thierry de Villiers, Sir Edgard of Esternay and Raymonde Marcel. All but the Tremere, who obviously sees the illusion for what it is, fall through the deck onto the waiting swords and spears below. Sir Edgard shouts a warning to the other boarders, but many either fail to hear him or fail to heed him.
  • mortal servants of Sir Felix of Vaucluse and his Cainite followers stream onto the ship. A little less than half fall into the hold, either out of ignorance or the weight of those pressing upon them from behind. The Baron’s Gangrel, their ghouls and the Scholai Guard fall upon them. Only seconds in, the fight is going against the crusaders.
  • Landing near the members of the Concord is Raymonde Marcel. He is immediately set upon by the Scholai Guard and Lotario Acuto, while Brother Adalbert attempts to debilitate the Gangrel with his Dread Gaze. Raymonde is very tough, however, and despite many blows he gets his feet under him and thrashes about. It is clear that through his fear and pain, he is already close to frenzy!
  • Meanwhile, Sister Maude Khlesl stand at the helm of the cog, quietly aiding her allies under cover of Obfuscate.
  • The ambuscade quickly devolves into close quarter fighting and bloody carnage. Both sides have battened their mortal followers on vitae, and the clash of more than 100 ghouls and Cainites in melee is thunderous. Blood and guts make the deck of the hold slippery, and debris and bodies that litter the fight make footing even more treacherous. Men who should die, or at least fall into senseless shock, from their wounds instead fight on enraged while the tang of fresh blood in their nostrils drives even the most even-tempered of Cainites to the brink of frenzy.
  • Driven by his rage and fear, Raymonde quickly frenzies, dropping his sword and growing Talons of the Beast as he lunges at his enemies. The Scholai bravely fend him off with spear and sword, but their best hope lies with their Cainite allies, who have briefly turned their attention to the weaker Sir Herpin of Belfort. Using his greater skill with brawling, Lotario forces the knight into a pin, allowing Adalbert to use his Dread Gaze. The Ventrue quickly drives the immoblised Toreador into near-catatonic submission, but Alfonse Borgio fails to stake Sir Herpin through his armour. Using still more precious time, Lotario tears the mail to pieces with his blood-borne strength and Potence. Alfonse then easily stakes the humbled Toreador fledgeling, and not a moment too soon…
  • Only one Scholai Guard remains to fend off the frenzying Raymonde. The mercenary is in terrible shape, crippled by his wounds but feeling nothing but hunger and fury as he scrabbles through the blood and entrails towards the mortal. The brave ghoul’s thigh has been torn by the Gangrel’s claws, and his friends lie dying and gutted about him, but the man fights for his balance and stares the deadly Cainite down with a steely nerve. As Raymonde prepares to lunge and the Concord rush to assist, a miscast javelin from somewhere else in the fray skewers the Gangrel through the neck and pins him to the deck. Overwhelmed by his wounds and his frenzy spent, Raymonde sinks into torpor…
  • Impressed by the courage and skill of the Scholai Guard, Brother Adalbert rushes to his aid and offers him his own vitae to heal his wounds. The wounded man gratefully accepts.
  • Elsewhere in the fracas, Maude has been forced to reveal herself in order to aid Loukia Kalekina, another of the Baron’s Gangrel from a devastating strike by Sir Felix, who has finally joined the fray. The Ventrue screams “Get him!” (seeing only her disguise as a wizened Turkish sorcerer), and the massive Tancred the Bear drives at her in a fury. The knight’s powerful strike nearly cuts Maude in two, despite her formidable blood-born enhancement and the ritual blood-magic that aids her. Crippled from the blow, she allows herself to slip down to the hold to recover, abandoning for now her plan to “summon” a second Turkish ship with her Chimestry.
  • As the Concord has enough time to look around and take stock, they see that the melee is nearly done. Dozens of men lie cleaved, wounded or dead in the hold. However, there are far more “Turks” than crusaders among the fallen. Perhaps 30 of the allied mortals still stand, but only 12 of the enemy keep their feet.
  • Sir Thomas and the Lasombra known as Geoffrey Longshanks back Sir Edgard on the starboard, using a group of 5 archers to try to winnow the ranks of the defenders. It is clear that they see the battle is lost, but they are unwilling to quit the boarding action until the signal is given. Lotario hurls one of his ritually enhanced knives at the Tremere, but it goes wide. Heraclanus, one of the The Baron’s Gangrel. commands twice as many archers from the port side, and they slowly winnow the ranks of the crusaders.
  • Sir Wendel stands alone, under attack by Verpus Sauzezh, Veceslav, Francois and a handful of allied ghouls. The corpse of yet another of the Baron’s Gangrel, Paul Tenedos, lies rotting nearby, rent in two by the axe of the Burgundian. Wendel has been terribly wounded, but he holds his nerve and fights on. He is outnumbered and obviously low on blood, however, and cannot stand for long.
  • Meanwhile, the Tremere knight sees the writing on the wall as Sir Felix falls back from a renewed assault on the helm by Loukia, 12 of the Baron’s ghouls and Verpus, who drawn away from the fight with Sir Wendel of Burgundy to nail the victory home. Struck by an idea, Sir Edgard summons a ball of fire from thin air and hurls it at the sails. The flames immediately catch and begin to spread.
  • Seeing the danger to the mortal wounded, Maude abandons the fighting and, picking her way woodenly across the wounded as fast she can, casts her Ritual of the Pallid Flame.
  • Lotario engages Marcel, seeing him as the most immediate threat. Adalbert also uses his Dread Gaze on the Gangrel, trying to debilitate him to give his ally an advantage. Marcel is quickly thrown on the back foot by their assault. In the press, Alfonse is left facing the Nosferatu Thierry so that he may protect his master’s flank. The Norman makes short work of the ghoul, breaking through Alfonse’s guard with his great strength and hacking the mortal from collar to pelvis with his battleaxe. The wound is grievous, and the Scholai guardsman pulls the Italian from the fray and attempts to stanch the blood flow anyway.
  • Sir Edgard, again demonstrating the power of Thaumaturgy, takes flight from the ship. He smirks at his enemies as he leaves, believing himself safe as he ascends into the night sky. Little does he realise that he makes his way towards the deadly talons of Lucien, Justinian and Urbien.
  • Marcel falls before the dual onslaught of Lotario and Adalbert, falling into a defenseless catatonic slumber. He is dragged away from Thierry and staked. Adalbert then turns his Dread Gaze on the Nosferatu and immediately sends him to flight. Thierry de Villiers bounds out of the ship and into the water, abandoning his fallen ally in his panic.
  • Veceslav Basarab and Francois have managed to get the upper hand on Wendel. The Tzimisce, at first grievously wounded, has managed to channel his blood into healing his wounds. His opponent, lacking his potency of the Blood, struggles under the weight of their wounds and Francois has circled behind him. The Burgundian knight starts looking for a way to flee as he is surrounded but Lotario joins the fight and the Ventrue is quickly bludgeoned into unconsciousness and staked.
  • Above them, on the deck, Sir Bertrandus watches his sire run, and Sir Wendel giving up the fight. The look of anger and disgust on the neonate’s face is palpable. Indeed, the arrogant disdain at both his enemies and allies is very much out of place. As Brother Adalbert rushes to use his Dread Gaze on Sir Wendel, Bertrandus spits the monk with a potent Dread Gaze of his own. Adalbert panics and withdraws to the far end of the hold.
  • Sir Thomas of Winchester stands with two shields in his hands, attempting to cover the retreat of the mortal soldiers onto the boat below. Geoffrey Longshanks is nowhere to be seen. As the last man reaches safety, the Englishman slips over the side and disappears into the night.
  • maude leaps up to sail, using her ritual to begin extinguishing the flames. She endures burns in her struggle, but quickly succeeds in getting the blase under control.
  • Lotario ascends the ladder to the deck and rushes the young Ventrue of Apt. His shoulder charge is flawlessly executed and nearly impossible to avoid, yet Bertrandus does so easily with a neat pirouette that leaves the Toreador slamming face-first into the bulwark. Stunned, he is chagrined to feel the Ventrue use him as a springboard to make his escape into the Bosphorus.
  • The hold goes silent, except for the agonised groans of the wounded and dying. Exhausted men stand, leaning on weapons and each other to keep their feet. Suddenly a figure of white and red plummets out of the night sky and crunches into the hold with the ring of steel and the thud of meat. Edgard of Estarnay, the Tremere knight, has gone to the Final Death, his body rent by dozens of bites and claw marks.
  • The Baron’s Gangrel move about the deck and the hold, policing the dead and securing prisoners or feeding their blood to the wounded and trying to make the dying comfortable. Maude, joined by the other Concord members, attempts to save the lives of as many mortals as she can. 14 of the the grievously wounded are saved, including 5 of the crusaders. Alfonse Borgio is not among them, having expired from his mortal wounds.

SUMMATION

Byzantine Numbers

6 of the Baron’s Gangrel, disguised as Turks, took part in the fight on the faux-treasure boat. They were Verpus Sauzezh, Loukia Kalekina, Haraclonis the Archer, Basil Burtzes, Stylio and Paul Tenedos. They were assisted by Lotario Acuto, Brother Adalbert, Sister Maude Khlesl and Veceslav Basarab, all likewise disguised. 3 more Gangrel (Lucien, Justinian and Urbien) circled the treasure ship in bat form, ready to assist if the battle took an unexpected direction.

In addition, they were joined by 7 of the Baron’s long-term ghouls and bolstered by 39 other warriors who had been persuaded to bolster themselves with vitae. 15 of them were Turkish mercenaries loyal to Verpus Sauzezh, and the rest were mostly of the Tzakonoi (the city guard), household guards of John Tarchionates, or otherwise individually loyal to one of the Baron’s Gangrel. For the most part, they were Anatolians who had darkened their skin a touch more with charcoal.

Finally, 11 of Petronius’ Scholai Guard had elected to assist. Each of them had the ancient blood of that formidable elder thrumming in his veins.

In all, 57 mortals stood by to give their lives in exchange for the success of the plan.

Byzantine Casualties

  • Paul Tenedos (9th gen. Greek Gangrel, Childe of Eustathios Glycas, e. 1166); Final Death, slain by Sir Wendel of Burgundy
  • Stylio (9th gen. Gangrel, Childe of John Tarchaneiotes, e. 1173); Final Death, slain by Marcel de Villiers.
  • Alfonse Borgio, ghoul retainer of Lotario Acuto; Dead, slain by Thierry de Villiers
  • 13 of the Baron’s men and 3 of the Scholai Guard were slain in battle.
  • 27 of the Baron’s men and 5 of the Scholai Guard were wounded in battle, but all but 6 and 3 respectively, with Cainite vitae, will fully recover to fight another day. These worthies were too badly damaged, having lost limbs or suffered other injuries beyond the scope of even Cainite disciplines to easily heal.
  • Only 6 of the Baron’s Ghouls and 3 of the Scholai Guard escaped battle unharmed.

Crusader Numbers

11 Cainites boarded the faux-treasure ship. They were led by the House of Fabricius, directed (somewhat from the rear) by Sir Felix of Vaucluse, although Sir Wendel of Burgundy and Sir Bertrandus of Apt were much more visible and effective in the battle. Sir Tancred the Bear dutifully fulfilled his bodyguard duties, leaving Felix’ side only to attack the “Turkish Sorcerer” (Maude). Other Cainites who participated in the attack included Sir Herpin of Belfort, Sir Edgard of Esternay, Thierry de Villiers, Marcel de Villiers, Geoffrey Longshanks, Raymonde Marcel and Sir Thomas of Winchester. The last was an unexpected addition to the attack, as he had not formerly been associated with the House of Fabricius.

In addition, some 67 mortals clambered up the ladders in the boarding action. Most wore the livery of either Sir Felix, Sir Wendel or Sir Edgard, though a few men were clearly knights with their own heraldic devices, and they were followed by retainers of their own. Like the mortals allied with the Concord and the Baron’s Gangrel, it was soon apparent that all of these mortals had supped on Cainite vitae as well.

Crusader Casualties

Aftermath

As the Concord, the Baron’s Gangrel and the Reformed Michaelites had hoped, the decisive loss as done incredible damage to the reputation of Sir Felix of Vaucluse and the dignitas of the House of Fabricius. The gullibility of Sir Felix in falling for the trap, as well as his readiness to abandon his followers, has been noted by the other powers of the 4th Cainite Crusade. A number of them (especially Duke Guy and Sir Vitalis) have quickly seized upon the shame of their rival, and offered their own patronage to those of [[:sir-felix | Felix’ camp who wish to desert.

A number of them choose to do so, while others simply offer their services to [[:sir-russel]] in his role as Captain of Mercenaries (thius effectively giving to Guy by proxy anyway) reducing the power base of the villain to a less threatening level.

The House of Fabricius, at its height, commanded the questionable loyalty of 28 Cainites in all. The foundations of that house, however, have been shown to be shaky. Now only 13 other Cainites offer their swords to Sir Felix of Vaucluse, and 5 of them belong to the Tremere, who continue to serve at their own pleasure rather than his. He is far from finished, but he no longer poses a threat to Duke Guy of Provence, who now commands the loyalty of 17 Cainites directly, not including the proxy rulers that he has appointed in conquered cities. Sir Russel has sworn loyalty to Guy, and his strengthened command of the mercenaries attached to the 4th Cainite Crusade increases that number to 24. Furthermore, the faction of Sir Vitalis of Asti, which has benefitted from the exodus from Felix’ camp, is now 10 strong and firmly allied to the duke. And lastly, the Templar Ventrue under the command of the scrupulously honourable Hugh of Clairvaux have sworn their loyalty to Duke Guy of Provence. However hesitantly they might acknowledge his supremacy, these 9 Templars will serve so long as their is no greater dishonour in not serving.

In short, 44 Cainites serve the Duke of the 4th Cainite Crusade, no matter how reluctantly. The Venetian Lasombra, the Holy Roman Ventrue under Lanzo von Sachsen and the Knights of the Sable Rose might continue to intrigue, but the might of Duke Guy of Provence is now unassailable bar a terrible misfortune.

Session Sixty-Nine

The Concord of Ashes Haligaunt