Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The Council of Ashes
The seal of the Council of Ashes, used in official documents, proclamations and personal missives between the princes of the Siebenbürgen since the foundation of the Saxon settlements.
The Council of Ashes was established in AD 1150, shortly after the presentation of a formal charter granted to the ancilla Nova Arpad of Clan Ventrue by the Cainite Monarch of Hungary, Bulcsú. The charter granted her the Overlordship of Transylvania, making her the second most prestigious Cainite in the entire Kingdom of Hungary, provided she could actually pull off the coup of subduing the Tzimisce and advancing the rule of the mortal Árpáds to the extremities of the Carpathian valleys and passes.
The predication for her charter occurred in 1148, when King Conrad III of Germany led his contingent of the Second Crusade through the lands of Hungary. He and his army were received on good terms by King Geza, and an arrangement was made to sponsor initial immigration of hardy German settlers from Flanders as well as the Lower Rhine and Moselle valleys to the land of Transylvania, which was then coming under increasing control of the Hungarian crown. Further waves of immigration from Thuringia, Bavaria, Wallonia, and even a few families from Lorraine and Picardy would follow as foreign relations waxed and waned. Regardless of their actual origins, these Westerners were dubbed “Saxons” by the Hungarians, who conflated their rough similarities in language to earlier waves of north German colonists who had been secured for their expertise at mining the rich natural resources of the Carpathian and Apuseni mountains.
Although there were many areas that the “Saxons” were moving into, the greatest concentration of them were establishing the towns of Cipin (now Hermannstadt), Nösen (now Bistritz), Kronstadt, Mediasch, Schäßburg, Clus (now Klausenburg), and Mühlbach, although the last would ultimately be ignored by the council in favour of the more established settlement of Belegrada (now Weißenburg). Several of these towns had already long been the homes of Vlachs, Slavs, and Pechenegs who resented being placed under the supervision of the German newcomers, sometimes causing tensions in settlements where the Saxons remained as privileged minorities. Others towns were hacked out of the wilderness, or areas that had been depopulated by either the Hungarian conquest or else centuries of raiding from Pechenegs and Cumans.
Embraced one century earlier, Lady Nova had a reputation for her brilliant intellect and also her passion for advancing the tide of Christian civilisation and justice into the cruel East. Less lauded was her arrogance and inability to tolerate those who did not share her vision. A meticulous planner, she 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 of the newly established local Magyar landowner, a number of the Szekler chieftains who had led the border expansions, and eben a number of the more pragmatic Vlach lords who displayed a willingness to adopt the Latin rite in order to preserve their power and benefit from stronger centralisation. The burgeoning town that took her fancy the most was Mediasch which, being quite central, would serve as a hub around which the rest of the large towns could revolve.
Early supporters of Lady Nova were Heinricus von Ballen, an unusually bellicose Toreador knight from the Moselle valley of Franconia, and Karol Borbás, who was her consanguineous nephew and also a vassal of her sire, Prince Gregor of Pressburg. Heinricus followed his mortal family to Kronstadt and Karol, a talented captain, took control of Schäßburg to secure Nova’s flank from the vengeful voivodes of Clan Tzimisce who were initially caught off-guard by the establishment of the citadels. An unlikely ally came in the person of the Cappadocian elder Rowena d’Alexandre, a Lëtzebuerger of the Moselle valley who used her contacts in the West to stimulate emigration fervour in her people. Rowena had dwelt in the region for some time researching a Romano-Dacian necropolis near Belegrada, and she was an ardent supporter of the new coterie as it would ensure safety and improved access to herds, which in turn would facilitate her studies. Under her influence, Belegrada would be included among the Council of Ashes rather than nearby Mühlbach, which had fewer prospects despite the larger presence of Saxon immigrants there.
A number of local Transylvanian Cainites, catching wind of the developments in the West, approached Nova and her nascent cadre of motivated Cainites. Foremost among these was Radu, 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 Cipin, 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 assets for their local ties and intelligence.
The last of the seven was Charles von Stablo-Allstedt, a vassal of Hardestadt and a neonate of the growing Ventrue faction that has since been declared as the Eastern Lords. Sir Charles, a Wallonian knight who had clawed his way into the higher nobility through an advantageous marriage to a Saxon heiress, had been brought across for his skill in battle and incorrigible ambition. He was young to the Blood and a naked, unscrupulous opportunist with few prospects in Saxony, so he entered the alliance looking for a domain in order to prove himself to his sire. Charles accepted the poorest domain of Clus, but it was obvious from the outset that he was unhappy with its rustic, hard-scrabble state.
Nova and Bulcsú 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. Lady 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.
Rapid Ascent and Destabilisation
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. The Prince of Nösen had established a plum of a domain, for his settlement stood squarely in the way of prosperous caravans from the Rus’ and the Asiatic Steppe, and he displayed unusual skill at managing his assets without need for assistance. Adept at thinking outside the box, the young Tzimisce flesh-crafted a mortal retainer to be his exact duplicate and, using Nova’s influence at the royal court, had the fellow named mayor (and later burgrave) of not just his settlement but the entire region surrounding it, which was soon dubbed Nösnerland. The others were content to leave him to his untroubled dominions, for their own hands were full. Unbeknown to them, Radu and his sire Visya quietly established further dominion over a series of growing villages in the valleys of the Northern Inner Carpathians, greatly extending their reach. They also conducted a number of Trials by War through the Tihuta Pass into Ruthenia during this time, seeking to dislodge the noted voivode Gerlo of Suceava and setting up Visya in his place.
Lady Nova put herself to the task of strengthening the nascent guilds and raising the funds to start a building program to wall the towns of the seven domains. She also used her contacts among the Magyar nobility and Szekler chieftains to viciously turn their armies against those of the divided Tzimisce voivodes and knezi who seemed caught off-guard by the efforts of the Council. She was fantastically successful in this regard, as the Fiends seemed confused at first by her presence, and slow to react. Through the advice of Rowena and Radu, it would later become known that she had established her town almost squarely over the dominion of the Ancient Tzimsce known as Ionache, the First Voivode and it was likely that the other Dragons simply expected the old one to emerge from his seclusion and make an example of her. Clearly, they were wrong, but their hesitation had cost them dearly as her influence among the Magyars led to scores of daytime raids on their own demesnes throughout Transylvania.
Karol Borbás aided her in this endeavour, becoming the military face of the coterie and earning many enemies amongst the Clan of the Dragon. Of all the princes of the Council of Ashes, it was immediately obvious that his role would be the most combative, for he had to deal with the aggression of almost a score Tzimisce knezi to the north, east, and south-east of Schäßburg. These petty lordlings constantly warred with each other, fighting over the diminishing population of settled Slavs in the forest villages and those of the Vlachs in the valleys. Many of the latter group were semi-nomadic, moving their herds of sheep, goats, and sometimes cattle between the mountain and plain pastures depending upon the season, and the Dragons fought each other to keep the kine to themselves. A skilled captain indeed, Prince Karol played upon their fractiousness to vanquish and destroy a number of these Fiends, making use of Saxon colonists, ambitious Magyar border nobles, and Szekler and Pecheneg mercenaries. His three progeny were all Embraced for their skill at arms and in war, but the most notable of them was János Ozsol, who was cut very much from the same coarse cloth as his sire. They differed only in Karol’s adherence to a chivalrous code of honour as compared to János’ strong streak pf pragmatism. The only Tzimisce who convincingly stood against them was Vlad Ionescu, childe of Vladimir Rustovich, who matched them in ambition and skill and indeed, he would go on to launch attacks against Schäßburg itself.
Marusca brought her sire, the famous architect Zelios, to the attention of the Council. The supernally skilled builder was happy to design and oversee the construction of a keep at each city in return for boons to be collected later, and also for the assurance of their support for Marusca’s claim of Domain into perpetuity. In keeping with the work for which the Clan of the Hidden has long been synonymous, her role would be to provide intelligence on the movements of the Tzimisce and any other threats that cropped up. Initially, she was resoundingly successful in this regard despite the pressure she faced from her own clan, a number of whom pushed against her authority and sought to gain their own herds behind the walls of the rapidly growing Cipin. The settlement was initially the most successful of the Siebenbürgen, situated as it was on already cleared land around a stone castle (built by Zelios) decades earlier near the banks of the placid Zibin (or Szeben) River, which was itself a noted tributary of the Alt (or Olt). Hermann, a prominent Bavarian settler from Nuremberg, would be awarded the non-hereditary title of Markgraf (or Űrgróf) of Altland, the first Saxon noble of his kind in Tranyslvania.
Sir Heinricus swiftly found that his plate was quite full trying to hold back the raids of the Cumans, Brodniks, and certain rogue Bulgarian and Vlach elements to the east and south. The wilds of the forests, hills and valleys beyond the Olt to the east of Kronstadt (or Corona as it was being dubbed even then) were full of Vlachs and small groups of Slavs that had been dispossessed by the expansion of the Kingdom of Hungary. Together with raiders from the numerous passes to the south and the east, these “bandits” sought to trouble the farmsteads and villages of the newly established Saxon colony. For Sir Heinricus and his small court, there was no shortage of difficulties with vengeful black-furred werewolves and pagan Nosferatu who resisted his efforts to expand his demesnes. As a result of these troubles, Kronstadt would remain one of the smaller and less significant Siebenbürgen settlements for many years.
To the north, around the hilly land and rugged lands near Clus, Sir Charles had his work cut out for him. Like Belegrada but unlike the other Siebenbürgen, the region had been conquered in the previous century, and the Vlachs who had lived there since Roman times had long laboured in service to the Magyar counts of Kolosz and the Benedictine Abbot of the monastery near the earth and wood comital castle. He was kept busy trying to assart arable land from the woods and to subdue local Vlachs who were resentful of their land being gifted to foreigners by foreigners. Given that his was the only settlement where the Vlachs significantly outnumbered the Magyars and Saxons, the Wallonian Ventrue was ever paranoid as to the disposition of his herds as well as the comings and goings of Gangrel who cared little for his praxis. He concentrated his power in the citadel and sought also to make his influence known in the nearby monastery as well, but he had little success in either, for the count was appointed by royal decree and the concentration of True Faith among the monks made their subornation a risky proposition. From the very start, Sir Charles was uneasy in his domain, and looked with great envy upon those of his supposed allies.
Lady Rowena was the most retiring member of the Council, advising the others concerning history and custom when asked but spending most of her time in study. Her city, Belegrada, was at the heart of a territory which was conquered by the Magyars in the 10th century and it had long been peopled by Magyars, Vlach peasants descended from the people of Duke Gelou, and a minority of Saxon merchants and miners. Indeed, it would not have been chosen as one of the Siebenbürgen if not for her interest, for German colonisation was surely stronger in other regions of Transylvania. Due to its unusual history and cultural composition, the people would have no opportunity to lobby the king to have a burgrave appointed. Instead the chief landowner was an ispán who would be appointed by the crown every couple of years, and the people instead looked to their elected mayor and judges as well as the resident Bishop of Transylvania for more permanent guidance. This suited Lady Rowena well, for her chief reason for backing the Council of Ashes was to gain protection from the ruinous tribute demanded by the surrounding Tzimisce voivodes, and actually taking a hand in controlling the settlement was of no interest to her.
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 Törz Pass southwest of Kronstadt in the spring of 1170. In the years before his Final Death, the Toreador had become convinced that the Council was giving undue support to the fighting near Schäßburg and Mediasch, and that his own town was becoming indefensible as a result. Prince’s Karol and Heinricus had quarelled constantly, and Nova was forced to mediate between the two when her time could have been spent more productively. To destabilise matters further, with Kronstadt suddenly lacking a prince, Sir Charles immediately abandoned Clus and tried to establish himself in the more prestigious town.
In response, much to their chagrin Nova sent one of her own brood, Éliás Orseolo, to assume the Princedom of Clus without consulting her fellow princes. In the coming years, Karol and Charles would find themselves increasingly at odds, again over shared 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 1172 in the face of conflict with a particularly disagreeable Tzimisce voivode who took advantage of the sudden instability suffered by the Council. To this day the surviving princes are unsure of whether she perished, fled, or even now suffers torment in the dungeons of the Fiends. Consequently, Marusca strengthened her own city, and continued to offer intelligence to the Council, but found herself in Nova’s disfavour for her failure to adopt a more proactive and generous approach with her information. The acrimony between the two women started as a niggle of distaste, but only deepened into enmity with the years.
Éliás Orseolo, the missing (and likely deceased) Prince of Clus between AD 1170 and 1190.
In 1175, the city of Schäßburg was suddenly left without a prince as Vlad Ionescu, on his fourth attempt, finally succeeded in defeating Prince Karol and his brood. Both Karol and János were tortured for weeks in the wake of their capture. The prince fell into a deep torpor as a result of a harrowing ordeal that left him as little more than a box with his own head inside, wearing an expression of agony and horror. János too was flesh-crafted into a tortured monstrosity, but he was left with enough of his body and psyche intact to carry the box to Lady Nova with a warning that if she turned her attentions towards his territory again, her fate would be worse than that of her friend and ally. The two fallen Ventrue were sent back to Pressburg to recover, and while János would return many years later, it is said that Karol remains in a tortured, torpid state.
For her part, Lady Nova ignored Vlad Ionescu’s warning and determined that Schäßburg must be returned to the fold. With no reliable alternatives (in her mind, at least) she appointed another of her brood, Mátyás, as titular prince and commanded him to to take back the city. This unilateral decision incurred further reproach from the rest of the Council of Ashes and while she made it clear that the appointment was temporary, the fact that the body of Karol had already been sent back to Pressburg gave the lie to her claim. When both “Prince” Mátyás 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.
Mátyás Árpád, Pretender Prince of Schäßburg from AD 1175-77.
By 1182, Marusca and Nova were no longer on speaking terms and Radu was the only member of the Council still overseeing the strong growth of a domain and urging ongoing cooperation. Tiberiu continued to carry messages between the remaining Princes, for all the good that it did them. Whenever Council decisions were called for, Mediasch and Clus formed a bloc opposed by Cipin, with Nösen holding a deciding vote that was frequently used to bring about inaction in hopes of preserving the strained peace for the future. Schäßburg, Kronstadt, and Belegrada (now better known as either Gyulafehérvár or Weißenburg) had gone years without their purview, the dream of the Siebenbürgen working in concert for the benefit of its Cainite masters was dead. The Council of Ashes was a failure.
Over the balance of the 12th century, more than a dozen Cainites attempted to take the thrones of Kronstadt, Weißenburg, Schäßburg and Clus (increasingly called Klausenburg by the Saxons). Before long, most fled or fell to the Tzimisce, Lupines, or the other unnameable things that walked the night in Transylvania. Prince Éliás Orseolo of Clus vanished in 1190 and is presumed deceased. Prince Radu continued to oversee the growth and prosperity of Bistritz (as Nösen is more frequently called), still successfully masquerading as the mortal burgrave. Prince Marusca kept to herself for many years, jealously guarding her domain with her allied progeny and a wolf pack that was hundreds strong. She would incur the wrath of the vengeful Marelle in the 1180s, and find herself dragged into a disastrous war that would see her precious domain squeezed dry. 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 Siebenbürgen ruptured without the cooperation of their secret masters, and the growth of the cities suffered as they gained a reputation in the 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 Árpád court intriguers had guessed.
A Plot Most Foul
For some years, rumours had persisted of a secretive Gangrel that had established domain around Clus, and would suffer no undead to hunt the people of the town nor of the villages that lay around it. This odd prince did not welcome inclusion in any princely council, nor did he allow Cainite settlers of any kind other than his own brood and pack-mates to dwell there. Since 1197, the obscure prince has been revealed to be Mitru the Hunter, a young but potent childe of Arnulf the Goth. As he despises the commonly used Saxon and Hungarian names of Klausenburg and Kolozsvár, Mitru instead prefers to hearken back to Napoca, the ancient name for the region, but he has been brought around to allowing Cluș, the local Romanian word for the settlement.
It would appear that he was Embraced in 1190, just hours after successfully staking Nova with a remarkably true arrow shortly after she left the company of her progeny, Prince Éliás Orseolo, to hunt among the local peasantry. Arnulf witnessed the actions of the mortal hunter (immediately after dispatching Éliás himself) and was impressed enough to bring the young hunter across then and there. After word of it became common knowledge years later, speculation has run rife in the Árpád courts that it was the canny Gangrel elder who, at first intending to simply add Lady Nova to his victims, instead devised a more insidious scheme.
While few have the courage to actually ask the prince of Mediasch if such is true, the following version of events is generally accepted as the truth.
Lady Nova herself was spared for later use, though she slipped into torpor from the wounds that resulted from her immediate mistreatment at the hands of the elder and his new fledgeling. 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; taken apart piecemeal and with a certain patience that he lacked. Instead, he contacted the Ventrue overlord’s hated rival, Marusca of Hermannstadt, and asked for her cooperation in taking apart Nova’s powerful base of influence amongst the guilds and the new nobility. For her own reasons Prince Marusca agreed, and sent her childe Ruxandra, a brilliant actress with a particular hatred for the fallen Ventrue overlord, to be her jailor and impersonator.
Ruxandra successfully impersonated Nova as prince of Mediasch for over eight years, working hard to dismantle the Árpád power base 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, petty cruelties, and indignities that she had suffered at the Hungarian noblewoman’s hands prior to her own Becoming. In the meantime, she systematically alienated the Ventrue’s remaining progeny, and then murdered or discredited nearly all of her pawns in Mediasch as well as many among the surrounding Magyar lords. Finally, Ruxandra simply robbed the Ventrue of as much silver, gold, and jewels as could be managed, secreting it away for her own use once the ruse was up.
In 1198, Ruxandra’s tormented psyche and her excesses apparently led to increasingly erratic behaviour on her part. Upon paying their respects to the prince while travelling through Mediasch, the formative Concord found her behaviour highly suspicious, and communicated their uneasiness to several members of the Árpád coterie known as the Iron Covenant upon meeting them at Tihuta later that year. Upon investigating, the Iron Covenant managed to discover Ruxandra’s secret and, after devising a clever plan, they stormed Nova’s manse outside the city walls. The capable cadre of vampires failed to apprehend the Nosferatu villain, but owing to the rapidity and coordination of their assault they did manage to rescue Lady Nova from certain Final Death at Ruxandra’s vengeful fangs.
Restored to her position (if not yet her former power), Lady Nova repaid the Iron Covenant by using what strength and prestige remained to her in backing their claim on the domain of Schäßburg. János Ozsol, childe of Karol Borbás, would reign henceforth as prince, and Schäßburg and Mediasch have been fast allies ever since. Throughout the long war with the rapacious Voivode Ionescu and the resulting troubles with his sire, Vladimir Rustovich, these two settlements seemed to still grasp the essential truth of the Siebenbürgen: cities that band together can stand strong against the tide of Dragons.
Perhaps owing to the indignities of her imprisonment, Nova Árpád appeared to have regained her drive with a vengeance. Her first act after setting up the Covenant and reestablishing a measure of her authority was to declare a Blood Hunt on Mitru, Marusca, and Ruxandra throughout all of Greater Hungary (Transylvania, Croatia, Slavonia, the Banate, Galicia and, of course, Hungary itself). She insisted that all of her fellow princes among the Siebenbürgen also hunt the criminals should they desire her support. However, there can be little doubt that in this case her wrath led her to make a telling error in judgement, for it was a misstep on her part. The declaration of such a difficult hunt actually damaged her status, for other than a few coteries of callow and ineffective Árpád neonates, no one saw fit to take the risk of answering her call. Lady Nova did not appear to care, however, for she was overheard to say that failing to call the Blood Hunt would set her up for a greater fall down the track.
Her second act was to attempt to reconvene the Council of Ashes, as two members of the coterie now known as the Concord had declared their praxis over Weißenburg (as Belegrada was now more commonly known among the Saxons) and Kronstadt. Nova recalled a number of her progeny to assist her, and she worked closely with the Iron Covenant to restrengthen her own power base and promote theirs. Radu was quick to voice support for a resurgent council, and the two reigning members of the Concord, Iulia and Bernhard also gave their tacit support. All three of them also agreed on principle to declare the Blood Hunt on Nova’s enemies in their own demesnes, although the severity with which they chose to prosecute it was a matter for debate.
Despite being less than two decades undead, Prince Iulia was an immediate asset to the Council of Ashes. Her temperament made her well-suited for the praxis of her city, for her pragmatism and perspicacious understanding of the surrounding voivodes allowed her to reach a compromise with the local Tzimisce where Lady Rowena had failed. The quiet charm and incisive mind of the Lasombra was also a natural compliment for Radu, and not unlike the prince of Bistritz she intentionally placed herself in the role of peacemaker among the Council of Ashes. Her coterie became known as the Concord, although those who knew them well came to call them just as readily the Concord of Ashes, for they had made a pact among themselves that they would succeed by finding complimentarity in their divisions, thus making strengths of their weaknesses. In so doing, they hoped to avoid the fault lines of personality, clan, and ambition that had hobbled and humbled the Council of Ashes.
In the brash arrogance of her coterie-mate, Prince Bernhard of Kronstadt, the diplomacy of Iulia and their coterie-mate Veceslav Basarab would immediately find challenge. Many years older than most of the extant princes of the Council of Ashes, the talented Bernhard had more than enough experience and strength to finally take the place of the likes of Károl and Heinricus as a Warmaster of the Council, but he was nonetheless untested in the rulership of the undead. Additionally, he had failed to properly grasp the political tensions of the Siebenbürgen, and from the very first night of his formal declaration of praxis in 1199 he had earned the ill will of Mediasch and Schäßburg for inviting servants of their enemy Mitru to the coronation. It would take him the best part of eighteen months to find any favour at all with Lady Nova over this faux pas, and no overtures softened the Iron Covenant’s derision over the treatment of their seneschal, who received an aggressive dressing down by Prince Bernhard for correctly challenging the presence of the Gangrel envoys from Clus.
In any case, within a handful of years these two capable members of the Council both took the Fourth Cainite Crusade, and they were soon absent from their demesnes. Without their fresh energy and cohesion, the Council of Ashes was effectively reduced once more to Mediasch, Schäßburg, and Nösen, but at least the union of these cities was once more cohesive.
Prince Bernhard would not return to Kronstadt, instead meeting his end on the edge of a Tzimisce sword in the winterlorn valley of Toth in 1203. Without him, his border town would enter a state of flux for some years. Weißenburg seemed stable enough under the management of Iulia’s agents, although they were loathe to make long-term strategic decisions without the word of their prince, while Clus remained in the hands of the jealous Mitru, who could not be dislodged. At least Nova could take some comfort in the plight of Marusca, who was slowly losing ground to the vengeful, warmongering Marelle. Indeed, Hermannstadt was so sorely pressed that many of its burgers fled to Mediasch, Weißenburg, Kronstadt, or the smaller Saxon settlement of Mühlbach.
City of the Concord
Prince Iulia did not return to her own domain until 1209, having been caught up in the intrigues surrounding the new Latin capital of Constantinople. After some years, in 1207 she was betrayed by Manfred, one of her courtiers, for he and his sire Octavus Silberschmied staged a coup which was backed by more Nosferatu interlopers who had fled the troubles of Hermannstadt. They were in no mood to leave and to add insult to injury, her trusted seneschal was whipped from the city with the message that the town was now theirs and if the youthful, inattentive, and long absentee Lasombra returned to Weißenburg she would meet a bad end. They named Octavus as prince and over the following eighteen months they settled into making the town their own. Little did they know that they had sorely miscalculated, for while she had indeed been inattentive and absent through the demands of her sire, the strength of Iulia and her young companions was profound.
In response to their threats, she levied the full might of the Concord, including their sires, and they made their plans. When the Concord and several of their sires struck, even the Nosferatu’s animal spies were able to give them little warning, and in a stunningly apt and ruthless display, Octavus and his people lost the city in a matter of hours. Lady Katerina, Master Dietrich, Brother Adalbert and Iulia had prepared numerous travellers with the use of their Dominate to establish a motley, many-varied troupe of warriors that slipped into the city beneath the notice of the Nosferatu. All were triggered to come together behind their individual undead puppetmasters at certain locations at the appointed time, staking out with fire and blade the primary, secondary, and even tertiary havens of all of Octavus’ followers. They were joined by the raw might and cunning of Svenin the Tall and Veceslav Basarab, backed by the warriors of Tihuta. Behind them came Sister Maude with her death magics and Lucien the Roman, orchestrator of the plan, to coordinate the rapid strikes of the army of the Concord.
Octavus and the Nosferatu of Weißenburg didn’t stand a chance. Of the eight of them, only he and Manfred escaped, and then only by virtue of their prodigious gifts in the art of Obfuscate. They fled into the night with naught but the clothes on their backs, abject terror in their hearts, and tales on their lips regarding the uncanny skill of the Concord to ferret out not just their havens, but back-up boltholes, mortal allies and contacts, and subtle pawns. Years later, Octavus and Manfred would surface again, this time quietly declaring their praxis over the small but growing town of Mühlenbach. They offered the name of Géza Árpád as their patron and declared their willingness to serve Lady Nova in return for her favour as well. Pleased to spite Marusca by giving succor to her disloyal followers, the Prince of Mediasch was only too happy to do so and Octavus once again found himself prince of a Saxon town in 1215. Furthermore, he would soon find himself numbered among the seats of the Council of Ashes, but he and his court keep a wary eye on Weißenburg, which stands just ten miles away, and they rely heavily and gratefully on the favour of their overlord to keep the peace.
Cities of the Hunted
In response to Nova’s call for a Blood Hunt in 1198, Hermannstadt and Clus formalised their loose arrangement into firmer alliance against the princes of Mediasch and Schäßburg, although Marusca made it clear that she harboured no animosity towards Radu, Iulia, and the late Bernhard. Both Mitru and Marusca also made their scorn known for Nova’s futile hunt, damaging her status considerably by drawing attention to her inability to prosecute it. Other than negotiating to protect each other from her wrath, the two rogue princes made no further arrangements for mutual defence, for Mitru had little desire to waste his followers on Marusca’s war with the Sculptor of Wolves.
Although they are obviously still part of the Siebenbürgen, Hermannstadt and Clus are no longer considered to be part of the Council of Ashes. After all, both cities are ruled by those who perpetrated the abduction of Lady Nova, so forgiveness is out of the question for both Mitru and Marusca. The Blood Hunt declared by the vengeful Ventrue in 1198 remains in force, although no one other than a few young (and foolish) coteries of Árpád Ventrue have actually sought to take their chances and make a go of it. On both occasions, the would-be hunters moved on Clus only to find themselves hunted in turn. There were no survivors, and none have been fool enough to follow in their wake.
Of course, even if the olive branch were extended, Mitru was never a member of the Council in the first place, nor would he ever care to have truck with those who make themselves strong at the expense of the common folk of the Old Country. He broods in the forests and hills outside his town, hunting those who would hunt the mortals of his domain, and exacting blood price from his charges for his protection. He remained active as one of the most prominent and proud Gangrel of Transylvania, known for being stronger than many of his elders and absolutely unwilling for even one of his own clan-mates not of his pack to feed within the walls of Clus. More than one enemy was made among the Animals for what was seen as his pride and his greed, but the truth is that Mitru knows that most of his local clan have no respect for the lives of his mortal charges, and he will suffer none to slay even one of them without suffering destruction in turn.
In Hermannstadt, Marusca was long on the losing end of a war with Marelle, the self-styled Sculptor of Wolves. The early advantage granted by her massive wolf pack was eventually lost, with the majority either slain or else captured, flesh-crafted, and turned upon their own kin by the horrid ministrations of the Tzimisce. By 1212, Marusca and her remaining supporters were locked up in the city, unwilling to quit and leave the people to Marelle’s ungentle notions of rule. The praxis of the Hidden Prince had become a mockery of her former power, and to rub salt in the wound, Marelle began to snidely refer to herself as Voivode of Făgăraș, Hermannstadt and all the Altland, and Marusca knew that she lacked the potency or will to gainsay the claim, even if it was not yet strictly true.
By the summer of 1214 it would appear that the Nosferatu’s nights as prince of the city she founded were truly numbered. And then Svenin the Tall, childe of Bernhard Billung, came calling with a plan to do away with the Sculptor of Wolves and her terrible packs of feral Cainites and twisted wolves. In honour of his sire and out of self-interest, he was an ally of the Concord and their sevants, the Ashen Band, all of whom had reached the conclusion that Marelle’s unending hunger for vengeance, mayhem, and war was an unacceptable risk to their own power, the stability of Transylvania, and the outcome of the war with the Cumans to the south. They proposed a short-term alliance which, in return for significant prestation debt on the shoulders of the Hidden Prince, would result in the end of the threat of the Sculptor of Wolves.
The Concord were true to their word, and with the added weight of their formidable abilities, the war was turned on Marelle over a matter of months. Her packs of mutant wolves laid low by a plague, and her packs betrayed from within, the Sculptor of Wolves and her followers were brought to battle with the Brood of the Hidden Prince and the Concord of Ashes in the dying days of summer. They met their final defeat in that fight, with Marusca herself putting her fangs to Marelle. In the wake of their victory, in thanks for the aid provided by elements from Kronstadt, the Nosferatu accepted overtures of alliance from Prince Karsten of Kronstadt, which would in turn strengthen his position with his own liege, Jürgen von Verden.
The Burzenland, the Cuman War, and the Coming of the Sword-bearer.
The settlement of Kronstadt, has also taken an interesting turn throughout the first years of the 13th century. that has affected the integrity of the Council of Ashes. Once among the smallest of the Siebenburgen, it has swelled in recent years with immigration from the troubled settlements of Hermannstadt and Schäßburg and a good deal more from Saxon, Thuringian, and Bavarian settlers who have followed the Teutonic Order. It is now the most populous of all the Saxon cities, and the Burgraviate of the Burzenland has become a vital player in the coming history of Transylvania.
With the failure of the Székelys and the Saxons of the Burzenland to contain the Cuman threat to the south and east, King András II took drastic action in AD 1211 and gifted large swathes of land to the Teutonic Order. The newly declared Bailiwick of the Burzenland would take in all of the old Burgraviate, a good deal of the southernmost valleys and plains of the Székelyföld, and whatever Muntenian territory the Teutons might wrest from the Cumans south of the Carpathians. In Cainite circles, the gift of the Burzenland played directly into the hands of the Eastern Lord faction of Patrician Ventrue. Jürgen von Verden claimed the city of Kronstadt as the centre of his new domain, compelling the ambitious would-be prince, Karsten von Hornburg, to journey to Magdeburg and bend the knee.
Thinking that it would be a validation of his praxis Karsten, who had reigned as de facto prince for a number of years already, had quietly hoped for some time to receive an invitation to the Council of Ashes. Unfortunately, he now found himself in the position of being a junior partner to Lord Jürgen and, as such, whatever fellowship might be extended to him would be useless as he lacked the capacity for independent action. His lord also already had a separate arrangement with the Árpáds which would certainly supercede any possible association that Karsten might develop with his prospective colleagues. Stymied in that direction he Instead sought to explore the possibility of making quiet overtures to the Council through his allies in the Concord, and to otherwise strengthen his position with the Sword-bearer.
In 1214, his brokerage of the alliance between Marusca and Jürgen did indeed improve his worth in the eyes of his liege, and Karsten entertained notions of petitioning the Sword-bearer to grant him leave to join the Council of Ashes. Sadly, much of that was almost immediately undone by the botched negotiations of the Ashen Band with Tabak, the Tzimisce voivode of Oltenia. Although he was himself directly uninvolved in their folly, he had put them forward to his lord as competent agents and, moreover, the Fourth Tradition made him responsible for the mistakes of his fledgeling Helena. Due to the machinations of the treacherous Ulrich von Wettin, the Ashen Band left the Sword-bearer endebted to Tabak to the tune of 100 000 denars, an unacceptable and humiliating sum. The young coterie were disgraced, and to ameliorate the wrath of Lord Jürgen and protect his interests and those of Helena, he put his own formidable diplomatic credentials forward to serve in their place.
Less than a month later, news of his disappearance in Oltenia reached the Burzenland, and a month after that, his torpid, mutilated body was found fleshcrafted into a box, reminiscent of the fate of Prince Karol of Schäßburg. So great was his agony that he was unable to be revived from torpor immediately, and even after Veceslav Basarab used his proficiency with Visissitude to restore his body, Prince Karsten’s mind took years to mend. Although his mind was clouded by the torments that he had suffered and he could not remember the identity of his assailants, the flouting of the baton of truce that he carried in the lands of Lord Tabak left Lord Jürgen with indemnity against the tribute that the Ashen Band had honour-bound him to pay. Free of his debt, the Sword-bearer was now able to fully prosecute his war against the Cuman Gangrel known as Kordönül Khan. Karsten’s suffering and loyalty had redeemed him in the eyes of his liege, and not only did he recognise the rights of Helena as the Brujah’s heir, he gave the prince of Kronstadt his permission to seek membership in the Council of Ashes when he was ready.
By the early winter of 1216, Prince Karsten had recovered himself enough to make overtures to Lady Nova. Although she must have resented the pre-existing alliance of the Sword-bearer and the Hidden Prince, the Council of Ashes was still stinging from the loss of Radu and Bistritz to Rustovich, and Karsten’s missives were happily received and gratefully returned. Kronstadt rejoined the Council of Ashes over the Yuletide of that year, and her prince has been active in seeking to coordinate his city with Mediasch, Schäßburg, and Weißenburg on the one hand and Hermannstadt on the other. His political position is enviable, and already his material influence grows in tandem with that of his liege, who influences more than half of the Cuman ceribasi of Muntenia as his vassals either through a combination of the subtle politicking of his people, judicious use of the Blood, and subtle applications of Dominate and Presence.
A Regrettable Loss, and a Needful Gain
At the end of 1214, the long-dreaded arrival of Vladimir Rustovich into Transylvania resulted in the seizure of Clus and the surrender of the dramatically out-numbered Prince Radu to the might of the Voivode among Voivodes. The Gangrel Tiberiu carried a message for him one last time, giving his sincere regrets to Lady Nova and his peers among the Siebenbürgen that he could “no longer fulfill his duties to the Council of Ashes, for he had been forced to capitulate and deliver himself and his city into the hands of the enemy.” His loss and that of his stable, prosperous domain was a devastating blow to the Council, which had only just begun to feel like stability was returning to the region with the final defeat of Kordönül, the Devil Khan of the Cumans, and Marelle, the Sculptor of Wolves.
Moreover, with the spring of 1214, the minions of Rustovich immediately began to probe the heartland domains in preparation for further attacks on the Siebenbürgen. Indeed, it was only the unrelated attacks of the Tremere on the new possessions of the Voivode among Voivodes that forestalled a further advance, and the continuance of that strife could not be relied upon. It was obvious to all that if the Usurpers were put to flight, the fractured council could not hold without more cohesion. And without Bistritz, the Council of Ashes was reduced to three once more: Mediasch, Schäßburg, and Weißenburg. The prince of Kronstadt had been willing before his indisposition, but the alliance of the Sword-bearer with the Hidden Prince of Hermannstadt made Nova and János nervous without proof of goodwill.
This left the small but growing town of Mühlenbach, ruled by Prince Octavus of Clan Nosferatu. Hated by his former sire, Marusca, and the prince whose rule he usurped, Iulia, he was eager to put the past behind him and turn over a new and productive leaf. Unknown to the other princes, he had already sought out Lady Nova’s goodwill, and with her encouragement he sent a letter to the other princes, quietly informing them of his patron, his allies, and his desire to let bygones be bygones. His missive was warmly endorsed by Nova and János, both of whom made it clear that they backed his praxis, but it was coldly ignored by Iulia.
Late in the summer of 1215, the Prince of Mediasch also took the rare step of actually travelling to Weißenburg in order to appeal to the Lasombra for peace and cooperation. The out-of-character move of diplomacy on her part was a dramatic role-reversal for the two, and it succeeded in winning the grudging agreement of Prince Iulia that Mühlenbach deserved a seat on the Council of Ashes. In return, the Prince of Weißenburg made the case that serious suits by prospective rulers from other growing Saxon settlements must be entertained, and that appointment to the Council of Ashes would be granted by only a unanimous agreement by all sitting princes. Futhermore, she insisted that despite its vassalage to the Sword-bearer, Kronstadt too would be given a place once more when Karsten had recovered sufficiently to request it. This was a clever move on her part, because it allowed Hermannstadt to indirectly act outside the auspices of the Council to benefit the Siebenbürgen through its alliance with Kronstadt.
Lady Nova accepted the bargain, and over the following twelve months, the Council of Ashes would return to five members. Octavus would take his seat in the dying days of 1215, and Karsten would join in the spring of 1216.
The Current State of the Siebenbürgen
Although their numbers are diminished, in some respects as the Council of Ashes pushes further into the 13th century they are stronger now than they have been in many decades. The five remaining princes are not all necessarily on good terms, but they are willing to cooperate and manage their own demesnes for the weal of everyone.
Prince Nova of Mediasch and János of Schäßburg are firm allies, and the two cities work hand-in-glove given their relative geographical proximity. The former prince is well-accomplished at managing trade guilds, but it is her links to the Magyar aristocracy that truly benefit the council. The latter is a skilled captain, and he serves as Warmaster for the Council. Iulia of Weißenburg is also in favour of greater cooperation, and her ties to numerous local powers helps keep her reasonably well-informed concerning the movements of Tzimisce belligerents (including Vladimir Rustovich). Despite their relative youth, her coterie and their extended stable of allies are powerful indeed, and they have shown themselves capable of influencing outcomes far and wide. Predictably, Octavus of Mühlenbach has found himself in the position of spymaster, a role in which he is accomplished but also disdainful. He desires to accommodate and placate his fellows, however, and so he performs as requested. For his part, Karsten of Kronstadt finds himself in a role similar to that once enjoyed by Radu of Bistritz, performing as both a mediator and an expert on the craft and trade guilds that dominate much of the life of the Saxon cities. With the addition of several more settlements, the Council of Ashes might once more grow strong. Perhaps even strong enough to alter the destiny of Transylvania once more.
The current members of the Council of Ashes are:
- Nova Arpad, Prince of Mediasch and Overlord of the Siebenbürgen(7th gen. Ventrue, childe of Gregor von Naumburg, e. AD 1050); Mediasch sits in the middle of the Siebenbürgen, on the Große Kokel River (called the Târnava Mare by the Vlachs and the Nagy-Küküllő to the Magyars). The land around the town is dominated by vineyards and cherry groves, and it is also known for producing fine cloth, but its true wealth lies from is traditional use as a hub for the exchange of goods between the rest of the cities. Schäßburg is a mere twenty-four miles upstream, and the two settlements have traditionally shared strong ties. The nominal Overlord of the Saxon Siebenbürgen, Nova Arpad, makes her haven here with a small but effective brood of loyal progeny and descendants. Since her rescue from Ruxandra, she has rediscovered the energy and verve that was once her chief strength, and the prince now works to invigorate the Council as well. She remains a fast ally of the Iron Covenant of Schäßburg, and she also courts closer ties with the Tremere in order to bring further destabilisation to the Tzimisce of the region. Of late, she has entertained an embassy from the Giovanni bloodline of Cappadocians, who have come to the region seeking precious metals, salt, and rare timber. The population of her city is roughly 3900.
- János Ozsol, The Warrior Prince of Schäßburg (9th gen. Ventrue, childe of Karol Borbás, e. AD 1135); situated further upstream on the Große Kokel from Mediasch, this eastern outpost has always had the character of a military camp as much as a merchant city. The Vlach and Slav lords of the eastern Carpathian valleys and foothills resisted the Magyar and Saxon settlement fiercely and, in some cases, successfully. Pagan and Eastern Orthodox religious attitudes prevail, and the people of Schäßburg have often been threatened by raids and banditry sponsored by strong local potentates backed by their Tzimisce overlords. Chief among the Fiendish aggressors was Voivode Vlad Ionescu, childe and vassal of the notorious Vladimir Rustovich who once defeated János and his sire and twisted each of them into mockery of life. János returned to rule in 1199, and after many trials succeeded in putting down the menace of Ionescu in 1214. With the completion of the Magyar annexation of the Transylvanian basin, he now seeks to make allies among the Székelys who hold lands to his east and south-east, and he and his coterie are beginning to take advantage of the more secure salt trade along the Große Kokel. He is known to hold out hope that his sire will recover and return to claim Schäßburg in glory, and he considers himself to be nothing more than a caretaker prince. The population of his city is about 3300.
- Iulia, The Concord Prince of Weißenburg (9th gen. Lasombra, Childe of Katerina, e. AD 1182); one of the oldest and most stable settlements in Transylvania, Weißenburg has comparitively few Saxons next to its larger population of Magyars, Vlachs, and Slavs, but it was a founding member of the Council due to the influence of its first prince, Lady Rowena d’Alexandre. It too benefits from the salt trade with the Hungarian plain, which lies just over the other side of the Apuseni mountains, and it is also the episcopal seat of the Bishop of Transylvania, which makes it unsuitable for any but the most subtle of Cainite residents. Weißenburg sits a little way back from the Marosch river (Mureş to the Vlachs and Maros to the Magyars), a number of miles from the ancient Dacian city of Apulon. Any Cainite who would claim praxis here must balance the demands of the bellicose surrounding Tzimisce with those of their allies among the Council of Ashes. So far, the diplomatic Prince Iulia has succeeded where her Cappadocian predecessor failed, and with one notably long hiatus finished by an extraordinary outburst of violence, she has ruled the city in wisdom and stability since 1199. Weißenburg has a population of roughly 4100.
- Karsten von Hornburg, Prince of Kronstadt (9th gen. Brujah, childe of Ladislav of Krainburg [d], e. AD 1149); situated near several of the strategic passes at the south-easternmost corner of Transylvania, Kronstadt has always been one of the most precipitously placed of the Siebenbürgen. It was established to provide border security against raids from the Cumans, Vlachs, and Bulgarians across the pass, and its people are a tough, mistrustful breed who have traditionally taken their role very seriously. As such, Kronstadt has seen a high turnover of princes with grand dreams of glory and conquest. It is perhaps fitting then, that a Cainite with no such illusions has provided the most stable rule that the city has seen in many years, especially when times for the troubled settlement took such an interesting turn. Prince Karsten’s actual power is quite limited given that his liege, Lord Jürgen von Verden, is also currently resident in the Burzenland. However, the Brujah is something of a visionary; he sees a time of stability, growth and justice ahead, if only the Ventrue warlord can carve a niche of civilisation out of the horrors that the Tzimisce have wrought. Hoping to find like minds among their number, he lobbied for a seat on the Council of Ashes for many years, and he is the most enthusiastic proponent for goodwill and cooperation among their number. Kronstadt is currently the most populous of the Saxon cities, numbering 6400 souls under its purview.
- Octavus Silberschmied, prince of Mühlenbach (9th gen. Nosferatu, childe of Marusca, e. 1139); just ten miles from Weißenburg, between the river of the same name and a smaller watercourse to the east. The Mühlenbach joins the more formidable Marosch almost directly south of the aforementioned city. This small town is dominated by the watermill on the river to the west, the church in the middle, and a small keep on a low hill in the south. Unlike the other Siebenbürgen, the settlement does not yet have stone walls, although they are now going up quickly from foundations that were laid in the middle of the 12th century. Octavus has sponsored various metalworking industries in the town due to the mines that lay immediately to the south, and already the town is becoming known for its skilled silver, gold, and blacksmiths. The land around is well-cleared due to previous inhabitation by Vlachs and Székelys, and it is thus suitable for the raising of cattle and horses in addition to grain. The Nosferatu of Mühlenbach are eager to please the Council, for they fear the vengeance of Iulia of Weißenburg and their own spurned mistress, Marusca, both of whom watch developments in the town with cold eyes. The population of the small town grew rapidly at the turn of the 13th century because of the troubles in the Altland, and they now number around 1800 souls.
The Conquered Prince is:
- Radu, Prince of Bistritz (7th gen. Tzimisce, childe of Visya, e. AD 1125); a jewel among the scattered settlements of Transylvania, Bistritz is the most northerly bastion of civilisation in the region. It is situated at the southern end of the Tihuta Pass (called Birkau by the Saxons), on the banks of the Bystrica River (Bistritz to the Saxons and Beszterce), as the capital of the region called the Nösnerland. Indeed, Bistritz is very much an exonym, for the local Saxons still call the town Nösen. Using his Vicissitude and a mortal double, Radu has ruled the city openly as both its Cainite prince and its mortal Burgrave for generations, and his meticulous and visionary management long made it the most peaceable and prosperous of the Siebenbürgen. Of all the settlements in Transylvania, only Bistritz has paved streets and even the rudiments of plumbling, and law-breaking and even civil disagreement among its people is rare. No matter his typically tyrannical management of the Cainites and kine in his own city, the genial Tzimisce prince was a steadfast voice for stability and unity for the entire length of his membership in the Council right up until his abrupt, forced exit in 1214. His fellow princes continue to hold Radu in the highest esteem, even though he is no longer one of them. Bistritz is the second most populous of the Saxon cities, numbering some 6100 people under its purview.
The Spurned Princes are:
- Marusca, the Hidden Prince of Hermannstadt (8th gen. Nosferatu, childe of Zelios, e. AD 1110); A picturesque settlement sitting in a depression between the three spurs of the Transylvanian Alps (the Zibin, the Făgăraș and the Lotru mountains), Hermannstadt is on the banks of the Zibin river (Cibin to the Vlachs and Szeben to the Magyars). In theory, the Margrave of the Altland is supposed to be the feudal foremost of the burgraves who administer the Siebenburgen on behalf of the crown, but the title is meaningless as the body has not actually met in the 13th century thus far. Hermannstadt was long plagued by Vlach bandits to the south and enormous packs of foul-tempered, monstrous wolves all throughout. Secretly, for many years a shadow war of attrition took place between Prince Marusca and her enemy, the Tzimisce known as Marelle, the Sculptor of Wolves, and the bandits and wolves were the instuments of their war. Trade was all but dead, and the people of Hermannstadt were slipping away to resettle in safer settlements such as Mühlbach, Kronstadt, and Mediasch. By 1214, the Nosferatu had all but lost the fight, but after accepting an alliance with Lord Jürgen and the Concord, they were able to prevail. Marusca’s city gradually recovers, and though she is no longer part of the Council of Ashes she does maintain her favourable alliance with the Sword-bearer. Although it was once much higher, the population of her city is about 3100.
- Mitru, The Hunter Prince of Clus/ Napoca (7th gen. Gangrel, childe of Arnulf the Goth, e. AD 1190); the rugged foothills above the banks of the Kleiner Somesch river (Someşul Mic to the Vlachs and Kis-Szamos to the Magyars) upon which Klausenburg would be built was granted to the Saxons without consulting the plentiful Vlachs of the area, who had dwelt there for generations beyond counting. Needless to say, the locals have never been exactly appreciative of the efforts that the Germans made to make it their own. And since 1190, the reigning Cainite power in the area just so happens to agree with them. Mitru the Hunter couldn’t care less for the Blood Hunt called by Lady Nova or the enmity declared for him by the Council of Ashes. He is not, nor has he ever been, at all interested in taking part in a Hungarian and Saxon initiative to tame the wilderness of his land, impose the law of foreigners and bringing the religion of the Nailed God to its free peoples. His aims are unchanged from when he was the mortal hunter that drew his bow on Nova Árpád all those years ago: protect the people from the monsters of the night and the tyrants of the day. In return for the protection of he and his pack, the people of the city and the surrounding villages leave offerings of blood at the forests edge several times each week. Since the turn of the 13th century, many of the German residents have given up on the unsettling place, and have emigrated to Bistritz, Regen, and Mediasch. Now, the city is only loosely considered one of the Siebenbürgen, a development that pleases its prince to no end. The population of the shrinking settlement is about 940.
The notables among the various Princes that have fallen since AD 1170:
The following is by no means an exhaustive list of all those Cainites who have tried and failed to make their mark over the Siebenburgen. In truth, the draw of wealth, vessels, and freedom from the designs of their elders has drawn more than a score of ambitious vampires to the Saxon settlements of Tranyslvania over the years, but most either lose their nerve or their lives after a season or two. Jealous Tzimisce and bestial packs of Gangrel and Nosferatu do not take kindly to outsiders gainsaying extant domains and freedom of movement, nor do the Tremere who have little time or sympathy to those who would hinder their efforts at securing their future among the undead. Wiser Cainites look for residence, not praxis, among the Siebenburgen, giving up any potential prestige for longevity and success among the enterprising Saxons.
- Heinricus von Ballen, failed Prince of Kronstadt (7th gen. Toreador, childe of Adelheid, e. AD 1113, d. 1170 CE). Tenure: AD 1150-1170. The most able and belligerent fighter among the Council of Ashes, Sir Heinricus selected the small settlement of Kronstadt for its position on the extemity of the Hungarian frontier, close to the lands of the troublesome Cumans, war-mongering Tzimisce, and pagan Nosferatu. For many years he fought and beat the horse-warriors of Muntenia who sought to raid through the Törz (Bran) Pass, and he also battled Vlachs, Brodniks, Bulgarians, and Slavs as he fought to carve his demesnes out of the woods, hills, and valleys of the wild south-east. In doing so, he also managed to raise the ire of local tribes of black furred werewolves who seemed to dwell in the southern valleys of the Inner Carpathians, and he destroyed no fewer than five of them over the course of his rule. Heinricus bitterly resented the station of Karol as Warmaster of the Council, for not only did he feel himself the better warrior and captain, it allowed the Ventrue to divert resources in defence of Schäßburg as the warriors of his own town slowly but surely dwindled. Ultimately, he met the Final Death at the claws of a werewolf pack while returning from a counter-raid through the Törz Pass.
- Rowena d’Alexandre, failed Prince of Weißenburg (8th gen. Cappadocian, childe of Lambrecht, e. AD 831, d. 1172?). Tenure: AD 1150-1172. An elder in her own right, Prince Rowena was directly responsible for one of the largest early migrations of Germans, French, Walloons, and Flemings to Transylvania, but otherwise kept her distance from the intrigues of her fellows. Little different from most of her clan in her thanatological leanings, she was obsessed with the study of the Dacian ruins at Apulon, a few miles outside the walls of her city. Although of noble mien and not without courtly graces, Lady Rowena profoundly miscalculated the envy, acquisitiveness, and centuries-old feuds of the surrounding Tzimisce, and by the late 1160s her praxis was in trouble. The Tzimisce began to raid her demesnes to strip them of wealth and blood, and the city itself was plagued by rapacious infiltrators who over-hunted to cause friction between the local Cainites and the clergy loyal to the Bishop of Transylvania. Lady Rowena vanished in 1172, and word has it she went to the Final Death or worse, still suffers unimaginable torments at the hands of her captors.
- Karol Borbás, failed Prince of Schäßburg (8th gen. Ventrue, childe of Rachele Eisenberg, e. AD 1094). Tenure: AD 1150-1175. A formidable and highly honourable warrior who had earned the acclaim of his fellow Árpáds during the War of Griffons and Dragons, Prince Karol was Nova’s earliest supporter. In thanks for his loyalty, she named him Warmaster of the Siebenburgen and he enjoyed much early success subduing the fractious Tzimisce of the Carpathian basin. Unfortunately, his success earned the envy of his brother-in-arms Heinricus of Kronstadt and the enmity of Vlad Ionescu, a particularly clever and belligerent voivode. After several Trials by War, he was defeated by the Warlord of Mureș in 1175 and taken prisoner. It is known that Karol was tortured for weeks before he was finally fleshcrafted into an unliving box by his victorious captor so that he might deliver a warning and rebuke to Lady Nova. His progeny, János, recovered Schäßburg in 1199, and rules there still in hopes of returning the city to his sire at some point. The fallen Prince Karol survives, but it is said that he remains in a mutated, torpid state to this night, tormented by the agonies that he suffered all those years ago.
- Charles von Stablo-Allstedt, failed Prince of Clus and Kronstadt (9th gen. Ventrue, childe of Gottfried von Gifhorn, e. AD 1129, d. 1177). Tenure: AD 1150-1170 (Clus) and 1170-77 (Kronstadt). Ambitious and eager to impress his sire and other elders among the then-emergent faction of the Eastern Lords, Sir Charles identified the emigration of settlers from his native land of Wallonia to Transylvania as an opportunity to finally “win his spurs” as a Ventrue. Although he hid it well, the neonate was by far the least experienced of his fellows, and indeed he was closer in potency and talent to some of the underlings of the others rather than a power in his own right. It seems that his greatest talent was his capacity to pretend to be more able than he actually was, and together with the backing of his sire it was this capacity to falsely represent himself as a driver of settlement that earned him a place on the Council of Ashes. The reality of Clus was not up to his expectations, so when he eventually had the opportunity to abandon it in favour of one of the more promising settlements, Sir Charles did so without hesistation. This in turn set off a series of destabilising turns that ultimately unravelled the already strained council. When he was destroyed by a rabid pack of desperate, orphaned Tzimisce furores, none of his peers cared to mourn him. He was survived by his two neonate progeny, Clementia and Floriant, both of whom were left to drift back to safer climes in the West.
- Éliás Orseolo, failed prince of Clus (8th gen. Ventrue, childe of Nova, e. AD 1122, d. 1190?). Tenure: AD 1170-1190. Despite his Italian name, the pedigree of this Árpád Ventrue was undoubted for as a mortal, for he was the great-great nephew of King Peter the Venetian, the second king of Hungary. Unlike his predecessor, Sir Charles, Éliás was quite skilled in the management of estates and townships, having served his sire and mistress as seneschal first as her ghoul and later as her progeny. Unfortunately, his unilateral appointment as prince of Clus by Lady Nova marked a turning point in her relationship with the rest of the Council, as it signalled her willingness (and perhaps even eagerness) to replace each of them with a servant of her own making. Out of resentment for her actions, the hapless Éliás was mostly ignored by his peers save for his sire (who treated him as a yes-man) and Prince Karol of Schäßburg. This was unfortunate, for while he lacked imagination, his practical organisational and financial suggestions made good sense for the future of the council, and might even have borne good fortune in the decades to come. He was a decent prince, save for doing a progeny’s duty by unreservedly backing his sire and catering to her often unsavoury needs. Prince Éliás vanished in 1190, and it is now thought that he was hunted and destroyed on the same night as his sire was captured by Mitru the Hunter.
- Mátyás Árpád, failed pretender prince of Schäßburg, (8th gen. Ventrue, childe of Nova, e. AD 1151, d. 1177). Tenure: None, although his claim lasted from 1175-1177. One of many Árpáds brought across in the honoured family tradition of granting the Becoming to obscure sons and daughters of the ruling house of Hungary, Mátyás was the bastard son of King István II and Ursula, one of his many mistress’. Indeed, István’s sexual appetites supplied the Ventrue of the Árpád line with a rich source of potential recruits, for no fewer than six of Mátyás’ half-siblings would find immortality at the fangs of the Árpád Ventrue. Lady Nova took him as her own in hopes of taking advantage of his budding sibling network, and also because his skill at arms and quick mind would make him a very fine warden for Mediasch. Mátyás proved to be an apt student and an able officer of the court, exceeding even his sire’s expectations. When Schäßburg fell to Vlad Ionescu she named him as Karol’s replacement provided that he could retake the city. The knight was given ample resources and the freedom to Embrace suitable candidates in his campaign against Ionescu, and Mátyás strove against the Tzimisce for two years before he was outfoxed, ambushed, and destroyed.
- Bernhard Billung, failed prince of Kronstadt (9th gen. Gangrel, childe of Lucien, e. AD 1066, d. 1203?). Tenure: 1199-1203. An early member of the noted Transylvanian coterie known as the Concord, Bernhard was also the childe of an ancient Roman warrior, Lucien, who is mighty in knowledge in wisdom but quite weak in the blood for his years. Bernhard initially veiled his true identity by using the pseudonym Gunthar of Saint Wolfgang, a name by which he also established himself among the mortals of his city, but once comfortable in his power he grew more relaxed about using his actual name. Undeniably charismatic and much experienced in the ways of war, he was initially thought to be a good fit for the embattled domain of Kronstadt, but the Gangrel’s pride and arrogance made him few allies among the Council of Ashes. After some initial political missteps he began the long process of restoring good will, but allies farther afield called him away in 1202 to participate in the Fourth Cainite Crusade. He perished before he could return to continue his work.
Character Concepts and Directions
The Siebenbürgen 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 in the dark forests and mountains of the East. Few neonates or even ancillae can hope to be called prince in the West, but in Transylvania ambition, courage, and talent might yet find a rich reward in status and wealth for those who are capable and bold enough to make a tilt at it. Furthermore, outside of the Council seats already established, a number of other, smaller settlements in Transylvania hold significant numbers of Saxon colonists. An enterprising coterie might succeed in taking praxis in one or several of them and making suit to join the Council of Ashes. These settlements include Broos (south west of Weißenburg), Regen (between Bistritz and Schäßburg), Schenck (roughly halfway between Kronstadt and Mediasch), Bulla (between Hermannstadt and Mediasch), and Reps, Draas, and Katzendorf (all between Kronstadt and Schäßburg).
All of the remaining princes 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 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?