Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
The Michaelite Toreador
(modified from Constantinople By Night, pp.63-66)
Always the passionate creators, The Toreador, alongside their mortal counterparts, sponsor and oversee the beauty for which Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire are renowned. When they first arrived from the ailing Rome, the Toreador made a deliberate attempt not to emulate the 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 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, he 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 on guiding 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 Tzimisce and Antonian Ventrue, and 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.
Michael has not been himself ever since. 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 is the power of his personality that none of his family doubt either the veracity if his belief, nor the power that he has to actually bring this union to pass.
In response, the Magnus Lasombra have 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 have rites that sponsor induction into the Cult of the Archangel at the same time as they undergo initiation into the mysteries of their own organisations. Indeed, many of the Cult’s ceremonies are actually performed in the presence of Michael’s torporous form, and the glory of his Presence infects his followers to the point where madness can, and often does, result.
Most of the Michaelites too, have been inducted into the Cult of the Archangel, with predictable results. Some have become just as erratic as Michael himself, working in their own short-sighted and misguided ways to further their Father’s goal. Others, feeling themselves unworthy, have withdrawn into debauchery and hedonism, and thus falling prey to the ever waiting Children of Judas.
Petronius has sought to reverse this disastrous cycle, with some success in recent years. He seeks to bring fresh numbers to the family, and has made intimations that talented new arrivals might be made Muses in place of those Michaelites that are no longer performing their jobs. He warns 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. The Quaesitor is determined to do everything in his power to reform the Michaelites before it is too late.
Michaelite family structure centres on various artisan guilds and their respective mediums. Each guild has a Muse, one Cainite of exemplary talent in the guilds particular craft who sponsors the efforts of promising individuals. Above the Muses reigns Petronius the Arbiter, Muse of the Minor Arts and Quaesitor.
The most important guilds are those of 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. As such, a Muse was assigned to each of them: Anthemios of Tralles, Pakourianis the Dove and Paul Bathalos respectively. Other crafts were considered to be less vital, and so were assigned en masse to the oversight of Petronius. These include, but are not exclusive to, the guilds of glazing, metal-working, textiles and literature.
A final guild is of note to the organisation of the Michaelite family. Performers are excepted from Petronius’ purview, as they are considered to be intermediary to the rest of the guilds. As such, they also have their own Muse, Gregorius Dimities, who performs his mandate with uncommon zeal. Performers are thus in a sort of a limbo, more important than a minor art but not so vital as architecture, painting and sculpting.
A PARTIAL ROSTER OF THE MICHAELITES
- Michael the Archangel, Patriarch of Constantinople (4th gen. Childe of Arikel, e. more than 3000 years ago); incomprehensibly old, experienced and powerful, in recent centuries the Patriarch has retreated into bouts of torpor and delusion. He is little more than an inspirational figurehead at this point.
- Petronius the Arbiter, Quaesitor and Muse of the Minor Arts (5th gen. Childe of Michael, e. mid 1st centurt CE); de facto leader of the family due to the negligence and absence of Michael, the Arbiter has become increasingly autocratic in recent years in an effort to reform the failing Artisans of the city. His power is far from absolute, but he schemes incessantly.
- Anthemios of Tralles, Muse of Architecture (5th gen. Childe of Michael, e. mid 6th century CE); formerly Petronius’ chief rival for leadership of the family, this legendary mathematician and architect has, in recent years, retreated into obsessive stewardship of his portfolio and delusions of Michael’s grandeur.
- Pakourianis the Dove, Muse of Paintings (5th gen. Childe of Michael, e. mid 6th century CE); despite his extraordinary ability, this elder is a laughingstock in the city due to his dramatic, delusional aspiration to learn the power of flight. His control over his portfolio is in rapid decline.
- Eletria, Muse of Sculpture (5th gen. Childe of Helena, e. 1st century BCE); arrived in recent years from the Peloponnese, this beautiful and puissant elder easily displaced the negligent Paul Bathalos from his portfolio. She is an ally of Petronius, and a key element to his desires to reform the family.
- Gregorius Dimities, Muse of Performance (6th gen. Malkavian Childe of Demtius, e. early 4th century CE);
- Paul Bathalos, former Muse of Sculpture (5th gen. Childe of Michael, e. mid 8th century CE);
- Sariel, Xiphos tou Theo (7th gen. adoptive childe of Petronius, e. unknown)
- Basil, wasted talent (6th gen. childe of Pakourianis, e. late 11th century)
- Galatea, the outcast (6th Gen. Childe of Petronius, e. late 11th century CE)
- Manuel Stephanopolis, a broken sculptor (6th gen. Childe of Paul Bathalos, e. early 11th century CE)
- Lucien the Roman, pragmatic aide (8th gen. Gangrel, Childe of the Savage, e. mid 1st century BCE)
- Anthea of Krisis
- Foteine Claskos
- Eleutherios Bouches
- John Cerularius
- Vlasios of Selymbria
- Komanos of Stomion
- Euphrosina Tatikia
- Ermanes Axonites
- Thekla of Arcadiopolis
- Manuel Botaneiates
- Seven or eight more, not yet detailed.
The Michaelites have been spiralling into chaos for a long time. Petronius has often tried to reinvigorate the failing membership of the Family, and to organise management of the family’s interests in the city, but he is hampered by the resentment of his fellow Muse’s and the long absences of the Patriarch, who spends most of his time in torpor. The Magnus Lasombra help him with advice and suggestions that while useful in the short term, have tended to strengthen their position as leaders of the Cult of the Archangel. Petronius is, of course, aware of the Orthodox Lasombra manipulations, but desperately needs their assistance and is not prepared to confront them on their self-serving ways. With the open rebellion of the Malachite Nosferatu against his authority, and the Children of Judas cheerfully performing their mandate to undermine the Michaelites, the Quaesitor has rarely had the luxury of turning Magnus’ aid away.
Petronius has few resources to call upon. First and foremost, he has the loyalty of the Scholai Guard. While much reduced from their original 2000 strong tagmata numbers, these heavy cavalrymen are the best Byzantine soldiers available after the mercenary Varangian Guard (who ostensibly belong to the Antonians anyway). They were largely decommissioned as an official unit in the time of Alexius I Comnenus at the instigation of the Antonian Military Prefect,Belisarius. The Prefect disliked the influence that the Michaelites had over secular army matters, and (at that time, at least) had aligned the Antonians squarely with the Obertus and against the Michaelites. However, Petronius managed to find ways to secretly reform them as a private bodyguard for the [[:The Michaelite Toreador | Michaelites]] and their guilds. Petronius also subtly managed to have them recommissioned after Beslisarius’ influence waned. The Scholai Palatinae have not forgotten, and serve the Quaesitor ably and most loyally. In addition to providing protection, they keep tabs on the other Michaelites for him, and serve as his eyes and ears throughout the city and empire as well.
Secondly, Petronius has sought to add fresh blood to the Michaelite ranks. His old friend, Lucien, aids him in external relations with ostensibly friendly Toreador and other Cainites to the West. The Roman Gangrel also uses his extensive trade network to carry messages for the Michaelites, and sometimes rushes to the city when Petronius calls. The Arbiter has also recalled his former student Sariel from abroad. Sariel is an extraordinary swordsman, investigator of the occult, and hunter of Baali and other infernal agents. He is looking into infernal matters that have plagued Petronius’ dreams of late. The Arbiter uses Sariel with some hesitation, as the ancilla has never been entirely balanced, and could well fall prey to further delusions that infect the other Michaelites.
Finally, an old acquaintance by the name of Vashtai has pledged her support, and she travels the cities of old Greece looking for Toreador to recruit. So far, one influential Spartan elder by the name of Eletria has relocated to Byzantium. Eletria is a superior sculptor to Paul Bathalos, and Petronius has recently begun preparations to have her replace him as Muse of that medium. If the plot is successful, he will investigate doing likewise with Pakourianis and perhaps even Anthemios.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER FAMILIES
Among the Scion families under the official purview of the Michaelites, Petronius often liaises with the Magnus Lasombra with regards to their management of the Cult of the Archangel, as well as their control over ecclesiastical circles. He finds Magnus frustrating at best, as the Lasombra elder is expert at twisting Petronius’ requests to serve himself.
The Arbiter also tries to curb the worst excesses of the Children of Judas, in particular their mastery at enthralling his own Toreador ancillae and neonates with their webs of vice and graft. Khay’tall and his small brood, particularly the ever-youthful Sarrasine, simply smile and hide behind their mandate to oppose the Dream and tempt its disciples- a task given them by none other than Michael himself.
The Malachite Nosferatu do not follow the orders of Petronius at all, and respond with veiled contempt when he attempts to direct them in any way. They serve Michael, and Michael alone. Curiously, not unlike the Arbiter, Malachite has a reputation for being a devoted servant of the Dream and yet he has no interest in working with Petronius at all. In this case, old grudges and the incisive wit that serves the Arbiter so well have proven to be his undoing: Petronius often made Malachite the butt of his jokes in less desperate times, and the Nosferatu elder has neither forgiven, nor forgotten those slights.
RELATIONS WITH OUTSIDERS
The Michaelites have 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 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
Petronius is responsible for the Michalites when his sire is in torpor (effectively all the time). As Arbiter he is head of the family, with self-appointed oversight over the efforts of his fellow Muses. As Muse of the Minor Arts, Petronius attempts to direct many of the younger Michaelites in productive ways, usually unsuccessfully. Finally, as Quaesitor he works tirelessly to preserve and promote the family’s interests in the city and empire, both as formal spokesperson, mediator and judge on the Quaesitor Tribunal (with his colleagues Anna Comnena of the Antonians and Symeon of the Obertus) and more informally through correspondence with the many Cainites of his literary circles.
The Muse of Architecture is Anthemios of Tralles, who was at one point Petronius’ chief rival for political supremacy over the family in Michael’s absence. In recent decades, the wily old mathematician has slipped into bouts of delusion and delirium, and his sporadic and uninspired efforts have reflected poorly within his portfolio, resulting in banal and lack-lustre architectural achievements. Other than Petronius, Anthemios of Tralles has the most descendants dwelling both within the city and the wider empire, lending him certain influence if only he had the presence of mind to wield it.
The gentle Pakourianis is Muse of Painting and in former times he oversaw his task with relish. For nearly five centuries he has developed the many facets of painting in Constantinople, whether icons, mosaics or more exotic media. His own skill is many centuries ahead of his time, or indeed anyone’s, and his portraits are in demand in Cainite courts across the known world. Alas, he too has gone quite mad, and is reportedly obsessed with the notion that his beloved Michael will one night take wing and ascend to Heaven without him. He now neglects his portfolio and spends his nights observing the flight of the many birds that he keeps (and feeds from), as well as the winged creations that he has commissioned from Gregory Lakeritos, the Wondermaker. Pakourianis’ sobriquet, ‘the Dove’, is an unflattering reference to his desire to take flight.
Paul Bathalos serves, rather ineptly, as Muse of Sculpture. A man of extraordinary beauty, he was apparently Embraced because he reminded Michael of a lover that he had known in his youth. He replaced the elder Endymion upon his Embrace in AD 750, when that Toreador fled the capital complaining that Michael was stifling his creativity, a complaint which echoed that of his own predecessor, Gallasyn, in AD 604. Little is known of Paul’s movements or activities of late, save that he has become a recluse and that his portfolio is now poorly managed by his childe, the ancilla Manuel Stephanopolis, who seems more comfortable attending services with the Cult of the Archangel than actually doing his job. Petronius has nothing against Paul personally, but he is actively engineering his downfall. A Spartan elder by the name of Eletria moved to the city in AD 1201, and has voiced interest in taking over as Muse of Sculpture. Since Paul has been Muse in name only for more than three decades, Petronius sees no reason to offer objections when the powerful and talented Spartan would be his ally.
The last major Muse is Gregorius Dimities in the portfolio of Performance. Unlike his fellows, Gregorius is quite active and while he cares little for organising the performance guilds, he can be found constantly attending performances, or conducting them himself. Unfortunately, this fact aids Petronius little, for Gregorius is a Malkavian. Hailing from Rome, Gregorius has served as Muse of Performance for centuries and continues to do so with great enthusiasm in both the salons of the Byzantine families and in the Blood Feasts of the Latin Quarter. He is completely undiscerning, and spreads his particular brand of cheer and despair whenever, and wherever, he can.
As many as a dozen Toreador ostensibly serve under the Muses, but in practice they are useless to Petronius or anybody else. Most of them waste their time satisfying base urges among their extensive herds or in the dens of depravity operated by the Children of Judas. Others are devoted to the Cult of the Archangel, and spend much of their time attending Magnus Orthodox services in Michael’s honour.