The Concord of Ashes
The Eastern Lords
A faction of Patrician Ventrue has emerged from those Cainites who would see the borders of the Holy Roman Empire expanded into Eastern Europe. While this alliance is only recently declared, having been formally established in the Year of Our Lord 1193 with the foundation of their headquarters in the city of Madgeburg, the seeds of the Eastern Lords were first sewn in the middle of the 11th century. An emerging ancilla known as Jürgen von Verden, childe and vassal of the prominent Holy Roman elder Hardestadt, began to offer his support to fellow ancillae that were starved of Domain and looking to either displace hoary, recalcitrant and entrenched elders or else forge their own territory in the growing towns and cities of the empire’s north-eastern frontiers. This was a highly unusual, even revolutionary strategy, for Jürgen von Verden did not rule a city himself. He chose instead to establish Domain over several key castles and fortresses in the border marches and then offered the protection and backing of his military might to others. The prestation debts garnered from these early supporters, most of whom went on to establish themselves as princes of towns and cities, allowed Jurgen to establish himself as a Cainite Lord by the turn of the 12th century even though he was without a Princedom himself. The newly establish Lord chose to mimic his sire in this regard, spending what time he possessed between campaigns moving through the territories of his supporters and ensuring their power.
Struggle for Lordship
The Domains of Jurgen and his vassal princes were originally centred in Saxony, and by the Year of Our Lord 1150, many of the other princes of the region had also joined the faction. This was established through the energy and drive of the ancillae among Jurgen’s supporters, who moved far quicker than their entrenched elder rivals could follow. However, not a few of these elders saw the writing on the wall and joined the faction of their own accord due to a lack of leadership in the wake of the the disappearance of the methuselah known as Erik Eigermann, whom had been the traditional Lord of the region, around the Year of Our Lord 1140.
Jürgen claimed that he had a certain legitimacy to his claim, as Eigermann is (or was) his grandsire, though the supporters of Ilse Reinegger, Erik’s most recent Embrace and favoured childe, vociferously disagreed. While Lord Jürgen had hoped to join the 2nd Crusade, he was obliged to spend most of the 5th, 6th and 7th decades of the 12th century ensuring that his claim over the Duchy of Saxony (in Hardestadt’s name, of course) was secure. Ilse, more interested in maneuvering for control of the emerging political entity of Brandenburg but unwilling to cede territory in the north, met him at every turn from her own Domain near the hamlet of Spandau, and the intrigue between the the two is still the talk of many courts in Western Europe.
In the decades since, Lord Jürgen has also extended his feelers into Bohemia, Prussia and Hungary, probing for weaknesses. Heinrich of Volstag, another ancient childe of Eigermann’s, possessed extensive influence over these lands and had been the recognised Lord of the borderlands (what is now called Brandenburg) for centuries. However, the early 12th century had seen his grasp on power falling increasingly lax and opportunistic rivals and followers of Volstag’s had already begun to flex their political muscles without his firm leadership. Indeed, Heinrich’s own progeny, Bulscu of the Arpads, had seized Lordship in Hungary without challenge in the late 11th century and had since gone on to style himself as King of Hungary’s Cainites. The Tzimisce of Bohemia and Prussia had resisted Heinrich’s total control for centuries, and it was whispered that the constant struggle had taken its toll and the ancient wished to retire to the Sleep of Ages. Jürgen chose his moment well, and Heinrich ceded his position as Lord of Brandenburg in the Year of Our Lord 1162, slipping into torpor soon after naming Jürgen as his successor. Ilse accepted his claim soon after, and Jürgen was catapulted into power as the most powerful Holy Roman Lord after his own sire. And all without taking a city for his exclusive Domain or even being considered a true elder in his own right. Some claim, however, that Heinrich has not taken the Sleep of Ages at all but rather that he looks to a longer, more subtle stratagem against Hardestadt and his other ancient rivals for dominance over the Holy Roman Empire rather than quibble with a young and ambitious ancilla over territory that is essentially small beer. The truth will doubtless be discerned in the decades to come…
A city of his own
Lord Jürgen and his followers identified Madgeburg as a strategic site for expansion into pagan lands quite early in their plans, but it wasn’t until the 1160’s that Jürgen felt ready to bring his power to bear there. To his surprise, he found the resident ruler, Prince Cedrick of Clan Brujah, more than capable of retaining control of the Domain through his skill at politics, mastery of the reins of influence, and by dint of his age and martial experience. Unusual for a Brujah, Cedrick was also quite willing to cooperate with the Patrician Ventrue insofar as pushing German influence into the pagan lands. The common lore concerning the unusual alliance concerned a power-play by the brilliant Lasombra neonate Norbert von Xanten, the former mortal bishop of Madgeburg. Both men despised the Lasombra, which in turn united them in their efforts to dispel his intrigues long enough that a mutual respect and comaraderie developed. Indeed Prince Cedrick and Lord Jürgen, who became a de facto advisor, even became allies of a sort. The expected speculation among the courts of the empire of whether Jürgen’s friendship was a ploy, and whether he would attempt to displace the elder prince, were quite premature. Rumours began to circulate in the mid-1180’s of the Third Crusade’s forthcoming announcement, which propelled Lord Jürgen and his chief aide-de-camp, Lucretia von Hartz, into preparations for a campaign in the Holy Land.
Having long expected and prepared for another Crusade, Lord Jürgen found it surprisingly easy to ensure that his power base remained secure at home. A number of his progeny, as well as many of his supporters, had sworn the Blood Oath, and his ability to detect the breaking of an oath no matter the distance was well known. Unfortunately, in the spring of the Year of Our Lord 1188, a terrible conflagration devastated Madgeburg, claiming the unlives of Prince Cedrick and nearly all of the other Cainites of the city, including Jürgen’s beloved childe and representative Erik ritter von Baruth. In the wake of the fire, an enormous rebuilding programme was begun and Jürgen moved quickly to assume control of the city, claiming the coup of organising the granting of full city rights for Madgeburg as justification for claiming Domain. Norbert von Xanten was quickly driven out and Lord Jürgen finally claimed the title of Prince. He called upon the support of several vassals that owed him enormous prestation rights to help him hold and secure the city while Lucretia well and truly proved her worth in taking over the intense preparations for the Crusade. Through a massive expenditure of effort, and much of his political prestation capital, Jürgen accompanied Frederick Barbarossa on the Crusade. He was accompanied by nearly thirty of his Cainite vassals and nearly one hundred and fifty mortals, many of them also knights or capable sergeants-at-arms. A small drop in the pond of one hundred thousand men, one fifth of whom were knights, but Lord Jürgen was determined to conquer all of Outremer given the chance.
The Third Crusade
The Third Crusade turned out to be a material disappointment for him, however, and he failed to gain any substantial Domain in the Holy Land. While he made valuable contacts among the Arpads of Hungary, the early part of the campaign was fraught with folly and disaster: first with the bickering among the Cainites (many of whom were his rivals for Hardestadt’s favour) for control over the Emperor, then by mistakes leading to the sacking of Iconium and resulting war with the Sultunate of Rum, and finally the accidental death of Barbarossa himself. Jürgen and his retinue continued with the five thousand men under Frederick of Swabia to the Holy Land, where he missed an opportunity to take the precocious lad under his wing when he too, perished at the Siege of Acre. Much glory was had working with the forces of Conrad of Montferrat and Richard the Lionheart, and Jürgen and his people acquitted themselves with much valour and distinction during night attacks leading up to the battles of Arsuf and Jaffa. Unfortunately the truce between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin left Jürgen with no Domain in the Holy Land, and he was forced to withdraw in the summer of the Year of Our Lord 1192. He did, however, gain the respect of several prominent Crusader Cainite factions and the Lords that command them, including Andrew of Normandy, Geoffroi du Temple, Lucius Trebius Rufus and Guy of Provence. Lord Jürgen also set an example for valour, daring and tactical skill that earned him the respect of dozens of Crusading Cainites, which has only increased his legend as a paragon of what it means to be a Ventrue, a warlord, and a knight.
Upon returning to Madgeburg in the winter of the Year of Our Lord 1193, Lord Jürgen called upon his advisors and vassals to set his house in order. Other Holy Roman Ventrue, as well as not a few Lasombra and several Toreador, had been steadily chipping away at his support in his absence and the Tzimisce and their supporters amongst the Gangrel and Nosferatu were growing bold as well. Upon surveying his Domain, he swiftly set matters to rights. He declared that he and his fellow Princes and Lords would not just look for Crusades to Outremer but that they would push ever further into the barbaric Slavic east, for Christ and the Holy Roman Empire. Knights had already begun to follow him from the Holy Land, looking for a worthy master to follow, and he would grant them Domain over the lands that they would civilise and Christianise with fire and faith. The Eastern Lords were born…
In the years since, the influence of this new faction has pushed strongly into the borderlands of Bohemia but more often Hungary, where the Arpad Ventrue appear to be failing at repulsing attacks from the Tzimisce Voivodate. His agents curry favour in the Cainite courts of Vencel Rikard in Buda-Pest, Geza Arpad in Esztergom and Gregor in Pressburg, as well as the mortal courts of King Emeric and Prince Andras, offering military support in return for land concessions. Already the influence of Lord Jürgen and his vassals begins to bear fruit, and his agents whisper in the ears of the once-mighty that there is already at least seven fortress cities that could use his help…
The Black Cross
During their adventures on the Third Crusade, Lord Jürgen and his military aide-de-camp Christof ritter von Plau noted the decisive impact that the skill and elan of the Templar and Hospitaller Orders had on several decisive engagements. They conceived of developing their own secret order within a mortal knightly order, but noted that the Andrew of Normandy’s Order of the Sable Rose had already thoroughly infiltrated the latter order and that the agents of Alexander of Paris, Montrovant of Rome and Dominus of Burgundy had significant influence in the former. Moreover, they observed, these knights had to be carefully misled rather than controlled for they were a magnet for those that possessed the True Faith. Thus, they considered, it was necessary to formulate their own order and sew the seeds of control and obedience from the very start. Both Christof ritter von Plau and Lucretia von Hartz have bent their wills and most of their time on the formulation of this new order, which was recently declared in Acre in the Year of Our Lord 1198. The Order of the Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, or the Teutonic Knights, as some are already calling them, are already drawing significant numbers. So far Lucretia and Christof have moved carefully, having placed only ghouls among the knighthood, but it is only a matter of time before some of the right breed of knights are Embraced, or Jürgen’s Cainite followers take holy vows. The military arm of the Eastern Lords of the Holy Roman Empire is almost ready, and the east will never be the same again.
The Eastern Lords exist for the glory of the Ventrue, Lord Jürgen, the Holy Roman Empire and themselves. Of course, the order and conviction of their actual support regarding these virtues varies from Lord to Lord. Some, such as Prince Balthazar and Baron Eckehard, are elders in their own right and only support their liege so long as his position remains strong. However, others such as the neonate and ancillae rulers of Barby, Salzewedel, Stassfurt, Wernigerode, Haldensleben, Oschersleben, Garderlegen and Wanzleben are loyal unto the Final Death. Most of the rest fall somewhere in between. All aggressively court mortal settlers in hopes of growing larger Domains, and nearly all of them have childer hungry to strike out and carve a piece of territory for the glory of Lord Jürgen, their sires, and themselves. Most of the Eastern Lords belong to Clan Ventrue, but they also number members hailing from Clans Toreador, Cappadocian and Lasombra. The Brujah are a minority in the Holy Roman Empire, and in any case they tend to find Lord Jürgen and his minions to be odious at best. The Tzimisce are, of course, the great enemy standing in the way of expansion. Cainites of the Low Clans are not to fit to rule, though they can make able and valued servants. It is rumoured that Lord Jürgen himself is advised by a Nosferatu. Lastly, nearly all of the Eastern Lords follow the Road of Kings, with the remainder cleaving to the Road of Heaven or even the Road of Humanity in one or two cases. As far as Lord Jürgen and his supporters are concerned, however, only a Scion is truly fit to rule, and the weakness of the rest is to be tolerated at best and weeded out at worst.
A List of Prominent Eastern Lords
Lord Jürgen von Verden of Madgeburg (6th generation, Childe of Hardestadt)
Prince Balthazar of Aschersleben (7th gen Lasombra) (Ascanian stronghold/ Castle)
Abbess Hedwig of St. Mary the Magdalene in Quedlinburg (7th gen. Cappadocian) (secular convent town)
Prince Johanna of of Bernburg (Castle/town)
Prince August von Everstein of Halle (salt town, stong castle)
Prince Casper of Dessau (Castle, village)
Abbess Waltraud of Merseberg (Bishopric)
Prince of Walter ritter von Lippe of Salzwedel (Castle/village)
Prince Sophie of Halberstadt (Bishopric/ trade town)
Prince Conrad von Wölpe of Wernigerode (County/Castle)
Prince Adela of Eisleben (market town)
Prince Gero ritter of Gardelegen (County/Castle/town)
Prince Otto von Blumenthal of Tangermünde (city)
Prince Reinhard ritter of Haldensleben (Castle/village)
Prince Ludolf ritter of Oschersleben (Castle/village)
Prince Berthold ritter of Wanzleben (Castle/village)
Prince Roland ritter von Arnstein of Barby (small town)
Abbot Simon of Nienburg (Abbey/town)
Prince Eirik ritter of Stassfurt (castle/village)
Baron Eckehard of Brandenburg (7th gen Ventrue) (Castle/town/stronghold of margraves of Brandenburg)
Prince Eilika of Belzig (Castle, village), child of eckhard
Prince Albrecht von Luckenwalde of Luckenwalde (Castle/village)
In Lower Saxony
Prince Kuritz of Luneburg (8th gen Ventrue) (prominent trading town)
Prince Volrad of Uelzen (village, small fortress)
Prince Gottfried of Gifhorn (village, trade crossroads, small fortress)
Abbot Heinrich of Helmstedt (abbey, walled town)
Prince Bernard of Lutter (limestone quarry, village)
Roving Agents of Lord Jurgen
Lady Lucretia von Hartz (9th gen. Ventrue, Childe of Kuritz)
Christof ritter von Plau (9th gen Ventrue, Childe of Albrect der Löwe von Scwalenburg)
Baron Heinrich von Achern (7th gen. Ventrue, Childe of Lord Jurgen von Verden)
More details to come…