Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The Michaelite Toreador
For a markedly less detailed treatment of the Michaelite family prior to the fall of Constantinople in 1204, look here.
(expanded from Constantinople By Night, pp.63-66)
Shattered by the loss of their angelic Patriarch and rudderless without the leadership provided by the Arbiter, the Michaelites are barely recognisable from their past nights of glory. In the wake of the destruction wrought by the Bitter Crusade and the establishment of the Latin Empire of Byzantium, those that remain in Constantinople have become less a family and more a loose collection of melancholic loners, united only by the grief over what they have lost.
A Glorious Past
Always the passionate creators, The Toreador, alongside their mortal counterparts, sponsored and oversaw the beauty for which Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire are renowned. When they first arrived from Rome, the Toreador made a deliberate attempt not to emulate the ailing old capital in everything. Michael the Patriarch encouraged his brood to forget Rome’s decadent culture, to bring with them only that which was inspirational, and to embrace the new world that surrounded them. Constantinople was to be Michael’s greatest creation, a synthesis of everything that he had seen and wanted to exist in the world.
As Constantinople grew, Michael’s vision for the city took on greater religious undertones. Many Roman Toreador, feeling uncomfortable with this new direction and the creative control that the Patriarch was beginning to exert, left the city. Undaunted, Michael began Embracing new muses of the arts, taking only those who would understand the sublime beauty of his vision, his Heaven on Earth.
The Michaelites were a vital and dynamic force in Constantinople, both in mortal and Cainite affairs, until the first Iconoclastic Controversy in the early decades of the 8th century. In the wake of the struggle, the touch of the Patriarch grew light and he began to grow erratic in his decisions. He also began to feel the pull of torpor; his hiatuses from court grew longer but he made no provision for leadership in his absence. Rather than use that opportunity to spread their creative wings, Petronius, Endymion (who held the position of Muse of Sculpture) and Anthemios squabbled over leadership of the family, wasting time, energy and resources on petty politicking rather than guidance of the artisans of the city.
After the murder of Antonius the Gaul at the end of the eighth century, Michael briefly regained his momentum. He entered the political fray to put an end to the differences between the Obertus and Antonian families, and he also took a hand in mortal matters. As Michael III, he ruled openly as a mortal emperor for a number of years, bringing stability and growth to the Byzantine empire. When he had seen his goal through, he feigned the assassination of Michael III and returned to the shadows.
The Patriarch fell into sharp decline in the years, decades and centuries afterwards. His melancholia regarding the loss of Antonius only deepened throughout the 9th century, and when the Dracon abandoned the city in AD 880, Michael’s grasp on reality became even more tenuous. His belief that his spirit was linked to that of the actual Archangel Michael transformed into a genuine goal to ascend into Heaven in union with the angelic host. Such was the power of his personality that none of his family doubted either the veracity if his belief, nor the power that he had to actually bring this union to pass.
Of Cults and Fallen Angels
In response, the Magnus Lasombra sponsored the growth of the Cult of the Archangel to provide the necessary spiritual nourishment to aid Michael in his apotheosis. Many of the city’s craft guilds (known as the collegia) developed rites that sponsored induction into the cult at the same time as they underwent initiation into the mysteries of their own organisations. Indeed, many of the cult’s ceremonies were actually performed in the presence of Michael’s torpid form, and the glory of his Presence infected his followers to the point where madness could, and often did, result. By the end of the 12th century AD, the influence of the Cult of the Archangel had become pervasive (and perverse) throughout the city; in addition to masters of the collegia, members included prominent officials of the bureaucracy, the Orthodox ecclesiarchy, and even imperial courtiers.
Petronius sought to harness this influence in service to the Dream, but frequently found the directives that he gave to the Orthodox Lasombra twisted towards Magnus’ own perfidious ends. Although that villain suffered the Final Death in AD 1204, and the Cult of the Archangel was decimated and scattered in the violence of the Great Sack. His treacherous progeny Sarah the Chaste had little interest in revivifying its remnants, and she quietly allowed it to dissolve.
Many of the Michaelites too, were inducted into the Cult of the Archangel, with predictable results. Some became just as erratic as Michael himself, working in their own short-sighted and misguided ways to further their Patriarch’s goal. Others, feeling themselves unworthy, withdrew into debauchery and hedonism, and thus fell easy prey to the ever waiting Children of Judas.
In 1208, Paul Bathalos appeared to return from the Final Death, a renewed gleam of fanaticism in his eyes. He claimed to have seen torpid visions of Michael standing with Gabriel at the left hand of God, and that he had shown the way to his poor servants. Slowly, the former Muse of Sculpture started to gather the surviving members of the cult, displaying a heretofore unknown proficiency with Chimerstry to show others what he had seen. It took the best part of a decade, but he has convinced many of the dispossessed of his sincerity, and the Cult of the Archangel is once more starting to come to life. He and his fellows call themselves the Nephilim after the apocryphal tales of the children of those angels who fell from Heaven for consorting with men. Sarah the Chaste, sensing that the Michaelites lack her expertise with such matters, has once more offered her assistance to see the cult grow and thrive. Paul and Pakourianis have been guardedly receptive, and already the Nephilim seem to be gaining converts and rediscovering former adherents that have long been forgotten.
The Reformed Michaelites
In the last years before the arrival of the disastrous arrival of the Bitter Crusade, Petronius sought to reverse this disastrous cycle, meeting with some success. Recognising that in recent decades, the well of talent in the city had been thoroughly poisoned, he brought fresh numbers to the family from abroad. For the most part, he invited regional scion families to send their best, promising that gains in status would reflect upon such generous leadership, and made intimations that talented new arrivals might be made muses in place of those Michaelites that were no longer performing their jobs. Indeed, he went so far as to orchestrate the removal of Paul Bathalos as Muse of Sculpture, placing the ancient Spartan Eletria in his vacated role.
He also began a similar process to see Lucien to relocate to Constantinople so that he could take charge of the neglected Scholai Guard and reform them into a more capable and professional company, so that the Reformed Michaelites might be more firmly protected against the trials to come.replaced with a more dynamic party as well, though the more canny Muse of Painting roused himself to push back at such a coup. Petronius was careful to warn new arrivals about the traps waiting for them, forearming them regarding the manipulations of the dubiously loyal Magnus Lasombra and the intrinsically disloyal Children of Judas. He even called upon his old friend
Alone of the Michaelites, the Quaesitor saw the storm gathering on the horizon, and he was determined to do everything in his power to reform the family before it was too late. He made significant progress, but the calamitous arrival of the crusaders brought matters to a head before the Reformed Michaelites could have any real impact on effecting a leadership role in the city. All Michaelites, reformed and unreformed alike, suffered as much as any of the Families of Constantinople in the Great Sack. In the wake of the disaster, unable to cope with the loss of both Michael and Petronius, they were humbled along with the rest of the old order. As the city slowly recovers, most of those of the family who remain eke out pathetic existences seeking patronage from the new Frankish order, but a number of them have chosen to quietly align themselves with other former powers of the Dream; they hope to use the example of the Patriarch in his prime to inspire devotion in a new generation of followers, and have proven to be quite welcoming of other clans that would share in their new vision.
In times past, Michaelite family structure centred around stewarship of various artisan guilds (known as collegia) and their respective mediums. A number of the guilds had a muse — one Cainite of exemplary talent in the guilds particular craft — who sponsored the efforts of promising individuals, and channelled their gifts toward glorifying the Dream. The most important guilds were those of the architects, painters, and sculptors. Each of these portfolios was deemed to be vital to the propagation and maintenance of the Dream as well as the enhancement of its image. Above the Muses reigned Petronius, Muse of the Minor Arts and Quaesitor. In addition to his important role in coordinating the supervision of the host of less influential collegia (such as glazing, metal-working, textiles and literature), he was responsible for representing the family among the tribunal of Trinity family judges as well as assuring the good order of his fellows’ efforts.
A final guild was of note to the organisation of the Michaelite family. Performers were excepted from Petronius’ purview, as they were considered to be intermediary to the rest of the guilds. As such, they also had their own muse, Gregorius Dimities, who performed his mandate with uncommon zeal. Performers were thus in a sort of a limbo, more important than a minor art but not so vital as architecture, painting and sculpting. For most of the length of the reign of the Trinity Families, Gregorius was the sole muse of the Michaelites who was not of the Toreador clan. Having replaced the more talented but less accommodating Cassio early in the 7th century, the Malkavian’s passion for the role and apparently calming effect on the Patriarch after the 9th century ensured his permanent welcome among his Artisan brothers and sisters.
With the dissolution of the Family system, the already loose hierarchy of the Michaelites has lapsed into simple spheres of influence and vestigially allied domains. Those among the leadership of the family that weren’t slain in 1204 either fled the city or retreated into despondence or torpor. Throughout the years after the Great Sack, of all the great muses only Anthemios of Tralles made any serious attempt to preserve the old ways. By virtue of his pedigree, generation and age he was indeed initially accorded great respect, and from many quarters. The ancient architect had the charisma, political experience and intelligence to lead, but like many of the Michaelite elders his psyche was scarred by the years that he was infected by Michael’s madness. Anthemios was tone-deaf to the Latin Cainite regime change, and his approach of obsessively badgering his lessers and browbeating them into doing his bidding lost him what little credit he initially enjoyed. His intrigues eventually grew tiresome to the new order and embarrassing to his more ennui-ridden clan-mates, most of whom desired only sustenance and diversion from their grief. By AD 1212, even the single-minded Anthemios could see that he had outworn his welcome, and he chose to accept the invitation of Anna Comnena to join her court in Nicaea.
His sister-in-blood, Vashtai, who was once an assistant to both Petronius and Cassio, the Muse of Performance, before the arrival of Gregorius Dimities, has been sighted in the Queen of Cities on a number of occasions in recent years. Vashtai has long been an elder of great status and considerable influence in the Byzantine west, and some believe that she intends to step in and fill the role of her vanished mentor, Petronius, at some point. Although she is believed to currently base herself in Thessalonica rather than Constantinople, rumours concerning her intentions fly thick and fast in the salons and Elysiums of Byzantium. In order to maintain her welcome Vashtai is careful to present herself as a neutral party, uninterested in the either the ambitions of her prince, Natalya, or the hopes of the remnants of Petronius’ followers that she might lead them. Instead she charms the court of Prince Alfonzo with her wit, charm, expensive gifts and stories of past emperors, artisans, and famous Cainites.
The handful of Reformed Michaelites, absent the guiding hand and wisdom of the vanished Petronius, have managed to maintain some cohesion. Although they have no true leader, Stéphanos Cerularius is first among them while the ancilla Athanasius tends to be the most organised. These Reformed Michaelites continue to meet at least once every few weeks, to make plans and direct their projects and recruit new members. For now, they appear to be expending a great deal of energy attempting to put the late Patriarch forward as a tragic figure similar to Saulot. It is thought that they do so in an effort preserve some memory of the*Dream, perhaps in order to lay the foundations of a new one. They have enjoyed some success so far — even the most jaded members of the broken Michaelite family feel the pangs of what they have lost, and the absence of Michael’s inspirational presence — and the Patriarch’s legend is beginning to echo ever more strongly in the Cainite courts of Europe.
Unfortunately, the Toreador have never been known for being either a rational or practical clan, and these are traits that the Reformed Michaelites prize. The efforts of the Reformed Michaelites to expand their numbers have come undone by the resurgence of the Cult of the Archangel under Paul Bathalos and Pakourianis the Dove. This newest faction is swiftly growing, not just by regathering former members of the cult but also by gaining converts from dispossessed Byzantine Cainites unsure of their place in the Latin order. The fact that many mortals who were once enthusiastic adherents are also finding their way back to the organisation helps their cause, for if the Toreador are nothing else, they are also languid hunters who enjoy easy prey.
A PARTIAL ROSTER OF THOSE WHO REMAIN
Pakourianis the Dove, former Muse of Painting (5th generation elder, childe of Michael [d], e. mid 6th century AD); despite his extraordinary ability, this elder was a laughingstock in the city due to his dramatic, delusional aspiration to learn the power of flight. His control over his portfolio was in rapid decline by the end of the 12th century, and over the years immediately before the Great Sack it was widely believed that it would be only a matter of time before Petronius engineered his replacement by Stephen Cerularios. Pakourianis survived the rape of the Queen of Cities through the foresight and planning of Anthemios but, his heart broken, he then fled to the refugee camp in Adrianople. There he languished for some months before returning to the shattered capital. He stated his intention to take the Sleep of Ages but some believed he met the dawn instead, for ashes were found outside his broken down dwelling in 1205. However, the Dove reappeared at the side of Paul Bathalos in 1217, the light of conviction newly kindled in his eyes. Like his fellow former muse, his depression has replaced with the fanatic conviction that Michael had indeed transcended the curse of Caine and rejoined the Heavenly host. Unlike Bathalos, however, Pakourianis’ devotion sometimes wanes as melancholy grips him, for he has never overcome his obsession with learning the secrets of flight.
Paul Bathalos, former Muse of Sculpture (5th generation elder, childe of Michael [d], e. mid 8th century AD); the third to hold his post, Paul was gifted the position by the amorous Michael but he never shined in his art, even if her was an able administrator of his portfolio. Rather, he was chosen because he reminded the Patriarch of some long-lost love, and the ancient Toreador was known to have thought that perhaps Paul was the reincarnation of that soul. In any case, he was an enthusiastic consort to the Archangel and a devoted Muse of Sculpture, right up until the closing decades of the 12th century. The growing madness of Michael after the destruction of Antonius and the withdrawal of the Dracon affected Bathalos deeply, and by the 1180s he had descended into a melancholic, solitary drama, even asking Simeon of the Obertus to fleshcraft him into a monster so that the Patriarch would not be distracted by him. He barely put up a fight when Petronius removed him from his position in 1202, and vanished in the midst of the Great Sack. Rumour had it that he was destroyed by the vengeful Baali ancient known as Mary the Black. Paul returned in 1208, however, espousing visions of the success of Michael’s quest to ascend to the Heavenly host. Over the many years since, he has fervently bent his will to reestablishing the Cult of the Archangel and he is beginning to meet with success. He and his fellow Nephilim are yet a novelty to the Cainites of the city, most of whom have failed to recognise the rapidity of their cult’s growth.
Vashtai, the Muse of Shadows (5th generation elder, childe of Michael [d], e. mid 6th century AD); spurned by her ancient sire long ago, this elder quietly gathered her power in Thessalonica, Arcadiopolis and Athens for centuries. Her networks of contacts across the Byzantine Remnants is truly formidable, and she has recently expressed a desire to return to her home and make a place for herself here. She has made herself known in the palaces and villas of the mighty, but is yet to commit herself to Byzantium full time. Additionally, Vashtai has not abandoned her stake in the future of Thessalonica, a city that has become the fulcrum upon which the Brujah Natalya Syvatoslav hopes to lever herself into power at the expense of Prince Alfonzo. The Cainites powers that be of the new order watch her carefully, and wonder what they are not seeing.
Basil Mangaphas, wasted talent (6th generation ancilla, childe of Pakourianis, e. late 11th century AD); the ungrateful spawn of the Muse of Painting, Basil was always complacent by nature and he began neglecting his extraordinary skill many decades ago. He was one of the first to be seduced by the sybaritic behaviour of Gallasyn, and lured into the influence of the Children of Judas. Despite the passionate remonstrations of his aggrieved and forgiving sire, he still continues as their thrall, for he considers himself damned if not by his Becoming, then certainly by the many vile acts he has committed in service to his own debauched inclinations. In the wake of the Great Sack, Basil embraced the Typhonist philosophies of the Decadent Settites, and he stands in the favour of Sir Jules Talbot himself. The Nephilim consider it their sacred mission to redeem him and bring him into the fold, just as the remaining Children find his strenuous disgust with their efforts tremendously amusing.
Manuel Stephanopolis, a broken sculptor (6th generation ancilla, childe of Paul Bathalos, e. early 11th century AD); a love-sick, callow ancilla, Manuel long harboured romantic designs on Galatea. For her part, the fickle beauty led him on a merry dance for a dozen years, stole his heart, and left him for Sarrasine. Manuel has never quite recovered, and the distraction made him a useless proxy for his sire when Paul also began neglecting his duties. His great talent is undeniable, however, and he might have stepped ably into his sire’s role if Petronius had offered it to him rather than courting the ancient Eletria. Manuel fled the city during the sack, and spent many months in the refugee camp outside Adrianople before gathering the courage to return as a soldier in the ad hoc host of Hugh of Clairvaux. The destruction of that charismatic Ventrue immediately thereafter left him despondent and at loose ends once more until, mesmerised by the power of his sire’s conviction, Manuel was the first to join Bathalos among the Nephilim in 1208.
Manuel Botaneiates, the suffering artist (6th generation ancilla, childe of Pakourianis the Dove, e. mid 12th century AD); the neglected son of a great family, Manuel’s talent and mad passion caught the eye of Pakourianis, and briefly enflamed the ardour of the mad Muse of Painting. He Embraced the lad on the cusp of adulthood, and Manuel has ever been distracted by the angst of his state of mind when he was brought across into undeath. Spoilt with meaningless diversions and starved of love as a mortal, self-control has never come easily to him as a Cainite, and his Beast has always been close to the surface. He proved easy prey for the Children of Judas, but they had long since discarded his boring self-absorption by the time of the Great Sack. Instead Manuel found the patronage of Alfonzo of Venice, who made him a symbol of his beneficence in the years before the fall of the old order. His art continues to reach new (and disturbing) heights as his Beast rages, and Manuel resists the overtures of both the Reformed Michaelites and the Nephilim, fatalistically feeling that his Wassail will lead to his greatest work yet.
Stéphanos Cerularius, the prince of painters (7th generation elder, childe of Xenos Drosinos, e. early 10th century AD); Once obscenely wealthy, this master painter was at one time a contender for the princedom of Raidestos. Under the urgings of Petronius and Vashtai he was seduced to the cause of the Reformed Michaelites instead, and he settled in Constantinople in 1201. With his dry wit, generosity, and style, Stephen quickly established himself at court and became the foremost example of Petronius’ attempts to portray his new Michaelites as organised, effective, and useful to the Dream. Before the Great Sack, he was Petronius’ likely candidate to replace Pakourianis as Muse of Painting. Even so, he had an ulterior motive. His mortal descendant and childe, John, had been sent to Constantinople years earlier only to disgrace himself by falling to the seduction of the Children of Judas. Stephen sought to find his progeny and redeem him, but he was ultimately unsuccessful, as John could not or would not listen. Further, his wealth was torn from him during the events of the Great Sack and, bereft of hope, sire sought a reckoning with childe as the city burned. John has not been seen since, and Stephen left the city in the wake of the disaster, only to suffer through a second sack as Raidestos was ravaged soon after. He soon found his former home populated by aggressive Venetian Lasombra and Cappadocians, and in 1205 Stephen returned to the Queen of Cities and reluctantly assumed a leadership role among the remnants of the Reformed Michaelites. However, having lost everything in his futile attempt to save the Michaelites, the Dream, and his childe, Stephen is a more bitter and less generous creature than old friends might remember.
Lotario Acuto, agent provocateur (7th generation ancilla, childe of Galatea, adoptive childe of Petronius, e. mid 12th century AD); once the student of Petronius and briefly a member of the Concord, this tortured soul was instrumental in the plans of the Reformed Michaelites in their efforts first to divert the Bitter Crusade, and then to pay them off and send them on their way. A secretive fellow with a profound talent for ferretting out the secrets of others, he was also Petronius’ answer to the refusal of Malachite to cooperate with the Arbiter in any meaningful way. Lotario also served another master in Vashtai of Thessalonica, who used him as one of her most important agents in the city. She recognised a secondary quality in him, for she realised that he was adept at shaking up the plans of those with whom he trafficked, thus forcing them to rush their own plans to fruition. Alas, Lotario had a weakness of his own, for he put everything on the line to rescue his sire, only to find himself betrayed by her addiction to Sarrasine. Abandoned by her and broken-hearted, he now slums it in the Latin Quarter, losing himself in the vicious games of the Cainites there. He still affiliates with the Reformed Michaelites, but also mocks them (and perhaps himself) for the spent force that they are.
Athanasios (8th generation ancilla, childe of Slana of Smyrna, e. mid 12th century AD); the only Michaelite to ever find his way home from the clutches of the Children of Judas, Athanasios found strength in service to Petronius, the Reformed Michaelites, and the Dream. Indeed, the Arbiter was quick to put him forward as an example of the value of the reformation of the Michaelites, all of whom enjoyed the quiet chagrin of the Children whenever Athanasios was present in their company. Throughout the troubles besetting the city surrounding the events of the Bitter Crusade, he was a fast ally and proxy to Stephen Cerularius, and he spent much of his time propping up the flagging spirits of his allies. He was faithful to the cause right up until the city fell and Petronius deserted them, whereupon Athanasios grew despondent and purposeless. He remains among the Reformed Michaelites, mostly because of Stephen, but the message of the Nephilim has begun to appeal to him.
Vlasios of Selymbria, musical genius (7th generation ancilla, childe of Eustratius, e. early 12th century AD); an extraordinarily gifted and very moody flautist, aulete, and lutanist, Vlasios has dwelt in Constantinople since the 1170s, but his notoriety was until recently eclipsed by his elders among the family. Always happy to accept coin, feeding rights, and favours for his skill, the cherubic lunatic was a frequent fixture among at the salons, blood feasts, and ceremonial occasions of the well-heeled Latin masters, and this willingness to ignore the political and social climate of yore has translated into much favour since the Great Sack. His genius is still very much in demand, and while certain elders among the Nephilim have gathered other Toreador to their sides, it is to Vlasios that many less fatalstic or spiritual Artisans, both Greek and latin, look to for leadership. He is also far more visible and accessible, for the erratic flautist and his band play frequently in both the Latin and Greek quarters. Indeed, they are practically a fixture at the court of his patron, Prince Alfonzo.
Anthea of Krisis, the civilised debauch (7th generation elder, childe of Thomas Kourtikios, e. mid 8th century AD); a grandchilde of Petronius, Anthea’s talent for music and sharp wit made her a court favourite among the Trinity Families, and for centuries she found ready welcome in among all quarters of the Queen of Cities. Alas, she eventually fell victim to the ennui of centuries and the baseness of her own carnal nature. and Anthea finally undertook the Sleep of Ages in the early 11th century. Since she emerged from torpor in 1179 she has done little save avoid personal danger, engage in discrete self-gratification, and enjoy the company of Vlasios of Selymbria, who has quickened her interest in her art once more. A transcendant master of the lyra, she frequently plays a haunting counterpoint with Vlasios at the blood feasts of the Latin Quarter. Although she feels the loss of Michael as acutely as any other elder, Anthea is scornful of the piteously self-indulgent Nephilim and their pathetic displays.
Thekla of Arcadiopolis, the melancholy sculptress (7th generation elder, childe of Sophia, e. late 8th century AD); a great patron of the minor arts in addition to that of her own, Thekla is a descendant of Endymion, who preceded Paul Bathalos as Muse of Sculpture. Thekla was briefly a rival to Paul herself but in the late 12th century, she succumbed to a great sorrow, finding the decline of the empire and the family too much to endure. By the time of the Great Sack, she rarely left her haven, and it was only by the beneficence of Anthemios of Tralles that she survived those desperate nights. In the wake of the disaster, she continued her abject existence for many years, leaving her sacked and ruined haven only to feed and to attend the debauches of the Silk Road in a vain hope of feeling anything at all. The reinvigorated Pakourianis offered a different way in 1218, and Thekla soon underwent her rebirth and became an enthusiastic member of the Nephilim. She now serves as one of their most effective recruiters, drawing both Cainites and kine into the Cult of the Archangel.
Komanos of Stomion, the soul of charm (8th generation ancilla, childe of Euphrosyne, e. mid 12th century AD); Profoundly handsome, genuinely friendly and possessed of considerable vitality, Komanos still serves the Reformed Michaelites by involving himself, the affairs of the various collegia of dyers, clothiers, weavers, tailors, silk merchants, silk dressers and linen merchants. Before the advent of the Bitter Crusade, he was one of the first to rally to the leadership of Petronius, and he would go on to act as the Arbiter’s agent in many matters. At the turn of the 13th century, Komanos was rumoured to be the paramour of the late ancient known as Alexia Theusa for a time, but he disappeared late in 1203 before surfacing a year later, rather more subdued than in past years. These nights, he is the constant companion of Stephen Cerularios, but he also seeks the favour of Vashtai and has made overtures to a number of the new Latin Cainite powers in the city.
Ermanes Axonites, eccentric musician (9th generation ancilla, childe of Consolantia [d], e. early 12th century AD); a native of Thessalonica, this drummer and skilled player of the ancient instrument known as the dankiyo (bagpipes) fled with his sire to the Queen of Cities shortly before the Norman conquest of that city in 1185. Although possessed of a degree of prestige as a descendant of Cassio, the one-time Muse of Performance, as well as many connections through his prestigious mortal family, Ermanes soon nonetheles became something of a lackey and sidekick to the more charismatic Vlasios, He never quite broke with his sire, but he politely ignored her invitation to join the Reformed Michaelites in 1200 and chose instead to lose himself amid the tableaux of the gilt courts of the Latin Quarter and the decadent parlours of the Silk Road. Owing to his friendship with Vlasios, Ermanes also earned the patronage of Alfonzo of Venice, and he survived the Great Sack bunkering down in the Lasombra’s mansion. Consolantia was not so fortunate in her choice of friends, and Ermanes harbours much guilt for failing to protect her. Alone of Vlasios’ band Ermanes yearns for something more, and he attends the services of the Cult of the Archangel, though he is a long way from throwing in his lot with the Nephilim just yet.
Eleutherios Bouches, broken inspiration (9th generation elder, childe of Eutychianus d(?), e. late 9th century AD); a Johannes Factotum who was brought into clan and family as a fellow who could cross the boundaries of the crafts, Eleutherios was a valued member of the Michaelites for centuries. As the 12th century lengthened, however, he fell prey to a strange malady of confusion. While the personable elder can seem perfectly stable, he sometimes forgets who, and even what, he is for extended periods, slips into torpor for months, or even even vanishes from the city for years at a time. A descendant of Anthemios of Tralles, he enjoys a strong relationship with his ancestor and has served as his proxy, assistant, and agent abroad at different times. He benefitted from the foresight of Anthemios during the Great Sack, but disappeared soon after and found himself in the Ardianopolitan refugee camp late in 1205. He would return to himself several years later and return to Constantinople and the good graces of his ancestor, whom he still serves as a proxy since Anthemios’ quit the Queen of Cities for Nicaea. These nights, Eleutherios spends much of his time painting disturbing icons depicting the Great Sack, the diablerie of Michael, and the death of the Dream.
- Foteine Claskosa, the wandering minstrel (8th generation Malkavian ancilla, childe of Archelaus (d), e. early 11th century AD); a supremely skilled musician who prefers to play the fiddle, the oud, and the hydraulis, this Ephesian is the childe of a late, long ago companion to Petronius, Foteine can easily pass for a Toreador with her musical genius, her polished manners, and her fey beauty. She was admitted to the city and the family as her sire’s last wish, and has been a fixture of the Michaelites for so long that many don’t even realise that she is actually of the Clan of the Moon. Foteine’s madness manifests as hysterical enthusiasm for new artists and expressions of art. She obessessively fixates on the talent of others and strives to emulate and protect them – sometimes by imprisoning or even slaying them if they hit a slump or head in an uninspiring direction. Of course, her innate genius means that she is something of a sponge, soaking up the techniques of others and melding them into her own unique style that either fascinates or horrifies those whom she imitates. She has always been content to go with the flow, and these nights seems to revel in the quixotic and innovate company of Vlasios, Ermanes and Anthea.
- As many as a dozen other Toreador are present in the despoiled Queen of Cities at any one time. These range from a number of the broken Michaelites, too obscure or unworthy to be of note, to Latin or Greek Artisans looking for patronage amidst the new order, to the odd melancholy pilgrim who has visited to remember the great city in its times of glory.
A PARTIAL ROSTER OF THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN, FLED, OR FADED AWAY
Michael the Archangel, Patriarch of Constantinople (4th generation methuselah, childe of Arikel, e. more than 3000 years ago, d. April 1204); incomprehensibly old, experienced and powerful, the Archangel dominated every aspect of the religious and cultural firmament of the Queen of Cities for some nine hundred years. Even in recent centuries, as the Patriarch retreated into bouts of torpor and delusion, his will and his force of his gifts of the Blood continued to heavily influence the conduct of Cainite and kine alike. Even though he was widely thought to be little more than an inspirational figurehead at the time of his diablerie at the hands of Mary the Black in 1204, it is now understood that even his torpid dreams were a heavy influence upon the city. For better or worse, the absence of Michael is keenly felt. Indeed, his nobility of purpose and vision has made him a figure of inspiration to the higher-minded Cainites of Europe, who relentlessly hounded Narses to his doom once the culpability of the erstwhile archbishop of Nod was established. Rightly or wrongly, the legend of Michael the Patriarch has continued to grow in the years since his demise.
Petronius the Arbiter, Quaesitor and Muse of the Minor Arts (5th generation methuselah, childe of Michael [d], e. mid 1st century AD); de facto leader of the family due to the negligence and absence of Michael, Petronius’ initial discomfort with his role was gradually replaced by an increasingly frantic desire to forestall the doom he saw upon the horizon. Taking the title of Arbiter, he became increasingly autocratic by the end of the 13th century, working tirelessly to reform the failing Artisans of the city. The result of his labours were the Reformed Michaelites, a faction driven by a pragmatic desire to reclaim the direction of the craft guilds, raise funds for the ailing imperial treasury, and expand the ranks of their Scholai Guard. Petronius even boldly replaced Paul Bathalos with a more worthy successor, and was in the process of divesting Pakourianis when the crusaders arrived outside the walls. Despite his obvious exhaustion Petronius desperately sought allies among the Families of the Covenant of Three and even among sympathetic factions among the crusaders. His machinations proved all for naught. He disappeared during the sack of the city in 1204, and is thought to have either fled his failure or met the dawn out of grief for Michael and the Dream. The last person to see him alive is reportedly his old friend, the Gangrel known as Lucien.
Anthemios of Tralles, the Lonely Muse (5th generation elder, childe of Michael [d], e. mid 6th century AD); formerly Petronius’ chief rival for de facto leadership of the family, this legendary mathematician and architect has, in recent years, given up on marshalling the remaining Michaelites under his leadership and instead chose to make his way to the city of Nicaea, where he has become an ornament to the court of Anna Comnena. Knowing his value not just as an architect but as a symbol of her authority, the Antonian prince has been careful to cultivate his friendship, directing his energies towards construction projects designed to beautify and inspire the people of the splinter empire. Anthemios still suffers from the obsessive compulsions that the Patriarch’s madness caused in him, but the worst of that madness appears to have gradually abated since 1204. As before, he is vulnerable to flattery and the games of status, and it is likely that Prince Anna has promised him some sort of leadership role should the Empire of Nicaea succeed in its ambitions to reconquer the Queen of Cities.
Eletria, Fleeting Muse of Sculpture (5th generation methuselah, childe of Helena, e. 1st century BC); Long a legend among the Toreador of Greece, this Spartan ancient moved from her home in the Peloponnesian port city of Kalamáta to the Queen of the Cities at the express invitation of the Arbiter. Arriving in 1199, the beautiful and puissant elder easily displaced the negligent Paul Bathalos from his portfolio as Muse of Sculpture, despite his protestations that she wasn’t even known to be a Christian. For the handful of years that elapsed between her arrival and the arrival of the Bitter Crusade, Eletria was a fast ally of Petronius, and a key element to his desires to reform the family. Her work proved to be of surpassing brilliance, easily the equal of her jealous, disempowered predecessor, and her calm strength, self-possession, and tales of antiquity soon made her the darling of the Antonian courts. However, the Spartan ancient never entirely bought into the tenets of the Dream, nor was willing to risk destruction at the swords or the fangs of the marauders of the Bitter Crusade. She fled the city in March of 1204, and made her way back to Kalamáta, where she has developed separate arrangements with the new regional Cainite powers.
Gregorius Dimities, Muse of Performance (6th generation Malkavian elder, childe of Demtius, e. early 4th century AD, d. April 1204); a noted and valued wit in both the Greek districts and the Latin Quarter, Gregorius wove a chaotic and entertaining panoply wherever he went. Despite his frail, sickly, and awkward appearance, he projected such uncommon elan and passion through the mediums of music and plays that he fascinated any Toreador that beheld his work. He served as Muse of Performance since his arrival in the early 6th century, replacing the older Cassio, who fell out of Michael’s favour due to his penchant for sponsoring decidedly pagan slants on the performances of his mortal charges. For centuries Gregorius was a valued and trusted member of the Michaelites, even being granted unprecedented access to the torpid form of the Patriarch himself so that the strumming of his lyre would sooth the ancient in his sleep. However, after his demise (apparently by suicide), rumour began to circulate that it was Gregorius who was responsible for the Patriarch’s madness, and that this abuse of absolute trust took place at the behest of a shadowy coterie of Roman ancients seeking revenge for past slights.
Sariel, Xiphos tou Theo (7th generation elder, adoptive childe of Petronius, e. unknown, d. April 1204?); feared not just for his gifted swordsmanship and mastery of Presence but also for his obvious delusions that he was in fact one of the fallen Grigori accursed with vampirism for his crimes against God, Sariel was ever an aberration among the Michaelites. He cared nothing for the craft guilds, nor for beautifying the Dream, and instead focused his attentions on directly seeking out and battling threats to his family. The “Sword of God” worried the Cainites of Constantinople profoundly, for he was rare and uncomfortable proof that not only could a Toreador could be just as formidable as any Antonian or knight of the Baron’s Gangrel, but that he could be so with the tacit approval of the Patriarch himself. Sariel first appeared in the mid 9th century, during Michael’s tenure masquerading as the mortal emperor Michael III, but even at that time he was already skilled in combat and the gifts of the Blood. Declared by the Patriarch himself as the xiphos tou Theo, he kept to the shadows much of the time, for centuries he served Michael and Petronius as bodyguard, roving agent and, some whispered, assassin. He has not been seen since the Great Sack, and it is said that he was destroyed by Mary the Black when he sought to avenge the destruction of the Patriarch.
Cyricus Justinus, elder of quality (6th generation elder, childe of Anthemios of Tralles, e. mid 8th century AD, d. April 1204); one of the most talented architects in the history of the city, Cyricus “the Capuan” excelled at the production of roads, bridges, cisterns, and aqueducts. During the halcyon days of the Macedonian era, his fame among the provincial scions was such that he travelled the empire widely and was responsible for designing and organising many extraordinary public works through his extensive network of client architects and builders. Many Toreador across the Byzantine remnants can claim descent from Cyricus, for frequently he would take payment as the right to sire in the Cainite courts of those cities that called for his expertise. Additionally, he served his sire as an able second and partner in intrigue against Petronius, who for many years was the chief rival of Anthemios for de facto ruler of the Michaelites. By the early years of the 12th century, however, he had subsided into the impenetrable malaise common to the family and he was caught unawares by sudden destruction of the Great Sack. Cyricus was captured by the coterie known as the House of Fabricius; after suffering a number of indignities he was then diablerised by the Ventrue Felix of Vaucluse, who in turn lost his heart’s blood later that same night to Veceslav Basarab.
Galatea, the outcast (6th generation ancilla, adopted childe of Petronius (actual childe of Pakourianis), e. late 11th century AD); one of the most beautiful Cainites in the city, Galatea was once considered a prospective leader among the family. Unfortunately, after suffering some sort of break from the Arbiter in the mid 12th century, she soon fell victim to the delights offered at the Silk Road and became a willing slave to the Child of Judas known as Sarrasine. Indeed, by the turn of the 13th century Galatea seemed to take perverse pride in her fallen state, accompanying her paramour to soirees in the halls of the mighty and engaging in all manner of scandal to shame Petronius. The old one’s yearning to redeem her and continual failure to do so was matched in tragedy only by the like attempts of her own progeny, Lotario, who came to serve the Arbiter in her place. The melodramatic spectacle amused the petty members of the families, and delighted the Children of Judas in particular. Even so, during the rapine and plunder of the sack Galatea was abandoned by Sarrasine and she was forced to seek the protection of the Ventrue crusader Ewald of Fairfax. Eventually, the outcast Artisan left the city in his company, as part of a caravan led by the noted Settite merchant and courier Andreas Ægyptus. She has not returned to Constantinople over the many years since her departure, and indeed nothing has been heard of her in some time.
Megethia, the quiet achiever (7th generation ancilla, childe of Cyricus Justinus [d], e. mid 11th century, d. April, 1204); an urban planner with a flair for organisation, Megethia was responsible for many renovations and several architectural innovations in the Comnenid era. She was a modest Cainite, embarassed by the praise of her peers and unambitious in her own inclinations; never seeking to make her way out of the shadow of her esteemed sire, Megethia remained under his supervision and in his house for all her years. A frequent attendee of the night festivities sponsored by the Antonians and the more senior Michaelites, at most she was considered to be a most apt rumour-gatherer and monger, as well as a decent weather vane for the way that status was blowing in the Trinity families. However, like many of her fellow Michaelites, melancholy wormed its way into her heart and Megethia contributed little after the rise of the Angeloi. She was tormented and destroyed along with her sire during the sack, her heart’s blood taken by Mabile of Montceau.
Euphrosina Tatikia, neglectful weaver (8th generation ancilla, childe of David, e. mid 11th century, d. 1205?); a weaver of extraordinary skill who specialised in working with silk and favoured the creation of damask garments of great beauty, Euphrosina was brought across by a descendant of Cassio, the one-time Muse of Performance. She was soon noted among the Trinity families for her enjoyment of dressing lavishly and adorning herself with as much jewellery as tastefully appropriate, and for many years she was a welcome addition to Trinity family celebrations in the Queen of Cities. For his part, David would eventually tire of her and return to his home in Thessalonica, there to meet his end at the hands of Norman Cainites in 1185. Euphrosina’s grief and yearning for him was consuming, and eventually caused her to slip into the debauched malaise common to the family in its final years. This resulted in the neglect of her influence among the silk guilds, which was then tentatively subsumed by Komanos, who lacked her experience and expertise but slowly drew the reins together as the 13th century dawned. Lacking the conviction to protect her position or assets, she did not resist the younger Toreador, and the once-gifted weaver fled the city during the sack. She made her way to the Adrianopolitan refugee camp, but nothing has been heard from her in many years. It is quite likely that Euphrosina met the dawn rather than exist in penury and despair.
Ioannis Cerularius, the unworthy son (8th generation ancilla, childe of Stéphanos Cerularius, e. early 12th century, d. April, 1204?); a talented painter of frescoes nominally under the patronage of Pakourianis the Dove, this ancilla preceded the arrival of his sire by some decades. A mortal descendant of Stephen Cerilarius in addition to his progeny, John was brought across in order to prevent his young life being snuffed out by a wasting disease. He never truly recovered from his brush with death, being drawn to oblivion in all things. After moving to Constantinople in the middle of the 12th century he was soon marked as easy prey for the Children of Judas. and by the rise of the Angeloi most of his nights in drug-fuelled debaucheries at the Silk Road. It is thought that much of the reason his sire later relocated to Constantinople himself was to reclaim and redeem John, and Stephen’s failure in this regard haunts the elder to this night. It is rumoured that John wassailed when the city burned over Easter of 1204, entered a frenzy of murder and blood that was stopped only by his destruction at the hands of hs sire.
- Lucien the Roman, the civilised Animal (8th generation Gangrel elder, childe of the Savage, e. mid 1st century BC); an old friend to Petronius, Lucien had been a frequent visitor to the Queen of Cities ever since the Triumvirs first arrived and established the Dream. A great believer in the progress of civilisation, the Gangrel had sought to protect Rome for centuries before its eventual degradation and fall, and he later transferred that regard to the Queen of Cities. Lucian has ever been a study in contrasts, for while he sees himself as a champion of civilisation, he cannot long find his place within it, for he is a loner at heart. Thus, while he believed in the Dream (with qualifications, for he never abandoned the Roman gods) Lucien’s absences from the Queen of Cities sometimes lasted centuries. At length, however, he formally offered his services in AD 1197, once it became clear that the Michaelites were utterly losing their way and Petronius lacked the allies to stop it. The old Gangrel soldier reformed the Scholai Guard, returning them to the level of an elite company of urban soldiers, investigators and spies, and then led them in defence of the Michaelites during the Great Sack. After the city fell, Lucien took custody of the despondent Petronius, and it is thought that only he knows ultimate fate of the Arbiter.
- It was considered a mark of honour for a Toreador artisan of the provincial cities to be invited to the capital in order to showcase their talents for the Michaelites and the other Trinity families. At any one time, as many as five other Toreador existed in the city under the purview of the muses, taking in the grandeur of the Dream and learning the graces and perils of Byzantine Cainite and mortal society so that they might take something of it back to their own demesnes. The legacy of this system, for better or worse, can be found in the culture of Clan Toreador all over the Byzantine remnants, parts of the Levant, and select regions of Italy, France, and Iberia.
The Michaelites are a broken family. Those who remain recognise their shared history and the glory of their bloodline, but there appears to be no hope among them that they can reclaim their former prominence or unity. They crave the inspiration that they first squandered, then had stolen away and, in the absence of something new, they can only ruminate on what has gone before and do some small honour to it. The past holds much pain for the Byzantine Toreador, and they choose to deal with it in different ways.
Some among the more pragmatic of the Michaelites believe that if they are to rise again, it must be in a new form and with fresh inspiration. However, neither Anthemios nor Stephen or Vashtai have been able to provide a vision to truly find that way, and so the legacy of Michael and his Dream are but dust and shadow. Indeed, it is for precisely this reason that Anthemios later abandoned the city for the Empire of Nicaea, seeking a fresh city in hopes of coming into fresh ideas.
The Nephilim gather strength in numbers through the rebirth of the Cult of the Archangel, but thus far they have not really built anything new or provided any means of cohesive direction. They are united in their grief, and their belief that their late forebear has opened a pathway for them to join him in divinity. The Nephilim look to each other for protection and solace, and to their growing herd for sustenance and a measure of influence, but in truth the mortals they rely on have suffered at least as much disempowerment in recent years as their immortal shepherds.
They have lost their preeminent position in the Cainite society of Constantinople, although some would argue that in truth, they lost it long ago but simply failed to realise it. Now, they have been forced to recognise the brutal reality of their precarious position. The time of prosperity and glory is past, and in the new and unpredictable political climate, the Michaeites have been forced to adopt a number of approaches with an eye towards simple survival.
Anthemios initially attempted to make an effort to adapt to the new system. but after years of recalcitrance on the part of both Romaioi and Latin family members he abandoned the Queen of Cities in favour of Nicaea. His exampe stands, however, and some few Toreador attempt to go it alone, forging their own destiny in the new order. They attend a few social gatherings in the remnants of the city’s salons, quietly mind the vestiges of their spheres of influence, avoid the Latin Quarter like the plague, and attempt to stay out of the way of the more violent among the city’s new powers that be. Of them all, Vashtai appears to have the power and fortitude to make a claim at some sort of leadership position, for the Thessalonican puppet-mistress has shown that her reach is long, and her agents many. However, she is cautious, and whether she will demonstrate a new vision to galvanise the Byzantine Toreader once more, or rather instead follow Anthemios’ example and extricate herself, only time can tell.
What remains of the Reformed Michaelites are more organised and pragmatic than the others, making allies and contacts where they can, including within the Latin Quarter. Loosely led by Stéphanos Cerularius, they lay the foundations for the future, albeit in guarded and inconsiderable ways, as they struggle without the strong hand and brilliant mind of Petronius to guide them. They have lost most of their resources, and they have grown tentative and uninspired where in past years they were decisive and directed. At present, the resumption and growth of the Cult of the Archangel is their chief concern, and they are struggling to keep their numbers as the influence of Pakourianis and Paul grows.
Despite their recent gains, the Nephilim are not yet a force. Their message appeals to the most morose of the fallen Michaelites, for after 1204 few were left in so pathetic a state as Pakourianis and Paul, and some hope that if these two can regain their passion and faith, then so too might they. However, the Nephilim meet informally, and while their recruitment efforts are passionate, they are sporadic and directed without strategy. Recently, overtures by Sarah the Chaste have been met with optimism by the leadership of the Nephilim, and the other fractured factions of the Michaelites worry what they might accomplish with her assistance.
Others, such as Vlasios and his players, have embraced the new uncertain atmosphere. With abandon, they make use of their talents in service to Prince Alfonzo and others like him, reaping the blood and material rewards of doing so. His band is pointedly apolitical, and indeed seem to take a perverse pleasure in providing a chaotic, nihilistic musical revelrie to the continually evolving and degrading political disaster of the city. A good number of the other Toreador, having already grown used to the pursuit of self-gratification and entertainment over any meaningful activity, are lost among the poor and desperate that now teem among the ruins of the city. There, they find themselves as allies and thralls of the remnants of the Children of Judas and other street coteries, or else eke out a pathetic, solipsistic existence as loners on the fringe of Cainite society.
For now, the broken Michaelites wend their way through a less grand existence, mired in the intrigues and dramas of those more energetic and driven. Outsiders look to the more visible of them — Vlasios and his players, entertaining the new powers that have arisen in the city; Stephen and his small coterie of Reformed Michaelites struggle to hold onto Petronius’ crumbling network, and Vashtai as a breath of fresh air. The rest, including the Nephilim, simply exist on the fringe, hoping for a return to better nights or wallowing in the increasingly carnal nature of the city. Perhaps a new Toreador leader may yet rise from this obscurity.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER FAMILIES
Despite their fractured state, the Michaelites still enjoy a degree of respect among the families of the broken Trinity system, both in the Queen of Cities herself and also among the regional elites of the Byzantine remnant. Certainly they find more of a welcome in the courts of the mighty than the Antonians, who are justly blamed for their poor response to the Bitter Crusade, but arguably less so than the Obertus, whose wealth and influence is still intact amidst many of the regional capitals. While they are a spent force politically, the Toreador still have a degree of cultural capital. So far as the Cainites who attend the salons of the city are concerned, having a Michaelite of substance in attendance is still a mark of authenticity to the proceedings.
Unspoken at all times, however, is the resentment held that they and their partners among the Trinity families failed the city. With regards to the remnants of the Obertus and Antonian families themselves, there is no official stance other than politic indifference. Before his departure Anthemios was known to be cordial with Nicepherus and his allies. Vashtai individually and Vlasios’ band collectively have followed this trend, and they are frequent visitors to the Antonians’ salons in order to observe formalities. After their return to the city in 1206, the Draconians of the Obertus Order have displayed a readiness to deal with any of their old colleagues who approach with respect, They step carefully around the new order, and tend to stay for short visits on the business of their nominal leader, Myca Vykos, or their liege, Symeon. Those who seek out the Draconians find the family much changed and difficult to anticipate. So far, they have been cordial but neutral in their dealings with the Michaelites.
The Michaelite relationship with their former Scion families is as troubled as it was before the sack. The Magnus Lasombra and the The Malachite Nosferatu have each dealt with the new order in disparate ways since 1204. For its part the Magnus Lasombra is reduced to but one known member, Sarah the Chaste, who maintains an alliance with Prince Alfonzo but otherwise vies against the foreign Cainites who back the ascendant Latin Patriarchate while simultaneously working to disempower the Orthodox faith. She seems ready to work with the Toreador once more. The Nosferatu too struggle without the guiding light of their leader, Malachite, who has been about his quest abroad for many years now. Effectively, the family has now merged with the Knights of St. Ladre, and neither body has much use for the Michaelites or the new Latin order. And as always, the Children of Judas go their own way; quite ready to deal with anyone, including their former “masters”, so long as the right price is right and the advantage there for the taking.
The treacherous Sarah, who staked her reviled sire and delivered him into the hands of Alfonzo and the Narsene Lasombra, seems ready enough to continue her association with the Michaelites. At present, this tentative relationship revolves around the enthusiastically revivified but dismally disorganised Cult of the Archangel, but she has made it clear that her hand is outstretched to any others who would take it. However, her new allies among the Latins make Stéphanos Cerularius and the remnants of the Reformed Michaelites nervous, as does her insistence that any involvement the Toreador have with the remnants of the old cult be on her terms.
The Nosferatu elder malachite appeared to adopt a forgiving attitude to Petronius and his Reformed Michaelites in the months before the sack. He has since left the city on a quest to find the The Dracon, but his servants and allies remain. One of his childer, Zenobios, returned to the city in 1206, but he has made no effort to contact any of the Toreador. The Knights of St. Ladre, who once dwelt in the city in secret, have made themselves known in the wake of the sack. At present, they remain aloof from Michaelite affairs, embroiled as they are in staking out their own territory in the sewers and cisterns.
The Children of Judas suffered in the sack, but they appear to have bounced back with alacrity. Khay’tall has been destroyed, and his favoured progeny, Sarrasine, despite public (albeit rather insincere) demands for investigation and threats of vengeance, departed the city soon after. His own childe, Jules Talbot, has risen to a position of leadership in the years since, and the Frenchman has continued to supply the Blood Feasts of the mighty with ample slaves. He treats his former patrons just like any other customer, save for the fact that he tends to smirk ever so slightly more when the Toreador seek him out.
Relationships with other remnants of the families have, as one might expect, devolved into individual relationships. The Lexor family have all but deserted the city, while the Baron’s Gangrel have dissolved for all intents and purposes.
RELATIONS WITH OUTSIDERS
The Michaelites have always had a reputation for arrogance and selfishness, particularly with regards to fellow Toreador of the provinces and the West. Their prideful behaviour of previous centuries earned them no friends and few favours, and now that they are brought low, their rivals are enjoying their misfortune immensely. Even so, such is the value of their work that a painting or sculpture produced by one of the Michaelites can fetch a good price, improve one’s status, or merely provide a talking piece in courts as far away as Venice, Genoa, Rome, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Toulouse, Madrid, and Vienna
At present, they have the unenviable position of being beggars at their own table. Prince Alfonzo has displayed a willingness to let bygones be bygones, but the inference that those who would enjoy his favour prosper at his pleasure is not lost on the remnants of this once most eminent of families. Gabriella of Genoa has proven more generous and amiable, perhaps owing to her appreciation of Byzantine culture, but she is still a hard-nosed business woman. Other rising factions within the city tend to see the merit of having a work of Michaelite art on display, but since the Toreador have little remaining influence as a political faction, they are not courted as such.
As the family system broke down, the Michaelites went their separate ways, devolving into smaller coteries and looking to their own sorrows. Even before the destruction of Michael, they had ceased to act in any cohesive manner outside of Petronius and his small coterie of followers. After the sack, and the subsequent dissolution of the family system, they have tended to band around a number of charismatic or prestigious leaders, but they show no signs of coming together in anything close to their former glory. There appears to be no overt animosity between factions, and indeed there is now a certain melancholic famiial affection where in the past there was harping and games of one-upmanship to earn favour with the Patriarch or his muses. Alas, there is little indication that this regard is unikely to grow into anything more cohesive.