Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
DISCLAIMER: The following is a revision and expansion of the very fine work of Brian Campbell and Nicky Rea as written in Transylvania By Night (pp. 109-112). Be warned that portions of this page may contain spoilers for players of other clans (such as the true nature of the families of ghouls that serve the Tzimisce), so either cease reading now or “Be a Good Lad” and use your judgement about what your character ought, and ought not, to know…
The Clan of the Dragon
Clan Tzimisce are not just the most numerous Cainites throughout Transylvania and the surrounding lands – they are arguably the most diverse as well. Between twenty and thirty powerful members of that profane clan stake out significant territory in Transylvania and the surrounding regions of Oltenia, Muntenia, southern Ruthenia, and the eastern reaches of the Great Hungarian Alföld. Perhaps five times that number function as lesser lords under the suzerainty of these stronger Dragons, with hundreds more in other supporting roles. Unlike the kingdoms of the West this is not a land where the Silence of the Blood reigns supreme. Indeed, the Tzimisce pay it little more than lip service throughout many of their demesnes, and it is not at all unusual for the local Tzimisce knez or voivode to openly rule the kine under their purview as readily as the undead. It could even be said that the land veritably groans under the weight and temerity of their thirst.
Transylvania is peopled by a profusion of mortal ethnicities, and these cultures also inform the character of the clan to some extent. In addition to the transhumant Romanians (also known as Vlachs) of mountain and valley, the varied territories of the forested hills and plains hold significant populations of Hungarians (of both Magyar and Székely persuasion), and much smaller numbers of Slavs, Pechenegs, and Cumans. Within the larger settlements of the Siebenburgen the populace is predominantly Germanic, most often either immigrants or descendants of such from Lotharingia, Franconia, or Thuringia. It is a curious custom that although few of these Germans hail from Saxony, they are typically named such by the other inhabitants of the land.
In centuries past, peoples of other cultures called the Transylvanian basin home. In antiquity, it was the centre of Dacian power, and later that of the Romano-Dacians. Indeed, this land is one of the main routes taken by northern and eastern invaders into southern Europe, and significant traces of some of these cultures remain as well. Starting in the 4th century AD, the Dacian peoples were displaced into the mountains and surrounding territories by invasions of Goths, Gepids, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Magyars, and more. The most recent waves were the Pechenegs of the late 11th century and the Cumans of the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Typically, most of these invaders continued on and those that remained were gradually assimilated by the Romanian descendants of the Dacians, but examples of all of these largely vanished cultures might be found among the ranks of elder Tzimisce. To this night a working knowledge of Dacian and Classical Latin is considered to be indispensible for those seeking to curry favour with hoary local magnates, and small circles of Gepid and Avar elders also exist in the Apuseni Mountains and the sub-Transylvanian Alps and hills west of the Olt River.
The vast majority of these Fiends are quite reluctant to Embrace new childer from among the typical mortals of their homeland, for they find breeding revenants to be far more efficacious. After ghoul families have been dominated and exploited for centuries, their children are practically born with an inherent loyalty to their masters, which removes the need for the whole messy enterprise of gradually raising and educating a vampiric childe.
An entire estate of revenants can slave away in the shadow of a voivode’s fortress for generations. This makes them promising candidates for the Embrace. However, a revenant servant typically does not receive his baptism of blood until it is evident that he desperately requires the Dead Water. Most often, the Becoming is given when a Trial by War looms. Defeating the most treacherous of their masters’ foes sometimes requires enhanced powers and vampiric ingenuity, and only when this added edge is required is the servant buried alive to await rebirth.
However, occasionally a mortal of significant talent is found and earns the Embrace from a voivode or knez, or certain omens and portents lead a koldun to choose a mortal that is beloved of the spirits. Otherwise a mortal might be taken because their potential sires have been granted the right by their own masters, who have no desire to see their own stable of revenants depleted. Or finally and most frequently, in expectation of imminent battle a skilled mortal warrior might be given the Dead Water by a lesser vassal of a voivode so as not to deplete the potency of the lord himself. In any case, these fledgelings are usually forced into a Blood Oath to their overlords rather than their actual sires.
For centuries now, Clan Tzimisce has been locked into a cycle of internecine feuding, and since the 11th century this state of affairs has been exacerbated by the conflict with the nascent bloodline of vampires known as the Tremere and the more recent troubles with the Ventrue. Always a disunited group to start with, the competition for depleted hunting grounds and mortal resources has served to create a cut-throat political environment throughout the Old Country, even by Cainite standards. Arrogant and power-hungry warlords make and break alliances as their passions seize them, and the Transylvanian knezi in particular are extremely territorial – each considers himself to be the rightful master of his lands and they will brook no rivals among their neighbours. Feudal Tzimisce typically enlist few allies, generally relying on Blood Oath-bound progeny, horrific creations and legions of flesh-crafted servants. War is brutal and primitive in Transylvania.
The Tzimisce stand ready at all times to defend their mortal populace with fang and claw against any who take their herds and their territory. They take a certain pride in the shared history of domination of their homeland, and the mortals deserve to be protected if for no other reason than that they are their mortals, to do with as the Dragons please. It is also worth noting that those mortal lords who do not fall under the dominance of the clan treat their servants in much the same way. For centuries this way of life has been a simple point of fact, especially among those who are descendants of the Dacians, the Goths, and the Gepids, and even though there is a certain amount of dissatisfaction towards their local lords among the peasantry, it pales in comparison to the resentment they feel towards the Magyars and Székelys that would deprive them of their religion, land, and freedom of movement. This powerful resentment carries over to the undead, and Fiends of Hungarian origins often face an uphill battle to gain acceptance from their clan-mates.
Even so, the Shapers’ treatment of their mortal peasants is overly brutal, contrary to what the Fiends may believe. Tzimisce have always considered their human subjects to be little more than cattle and chattel. While they harbour a conceit that the mortals would perish without them, in some places the kine have begun to revolt against their hidden masters, particularly in the border regions of Ruthenia, Serbia, Slavonia, Muntenia, and the eastern foothills of the Balkans. Indeed, for much of the latter half of the 12th century, the Brujah under the warlord Dominic managed to wrest control of the southern part of Pannonia surrounding Temesvár by using mortal peasant uprisings, and it was only the disappearance of the ancient Carthaginian that caused the nascent realm to collapse. The point was made, though, for many Transylvanian Cainites of other clans have come to believe that the prosperous Ventrue of the Árpád bloodline or the Eastern Lords of the Holy Roman Empire, arrogant and insufferable though they may be, would be preferable to the ruthless autocracy of the Tzimisce.
Frankly, the Fiends care little for such aspirations. They are more concerned with stronger enemies- in particular, the Usurper Tremere. Where the Tzimisce are numerous but divisive, the Tremere are few but unified. In places bordering the Carpathians, the Warlocks exploit their fanatic loyalty, innovative magics, and bestial Gargoyles to stage overwhelming assaults on isolated Dragon demesnes, chipping away at the strength of their enemies piece-meal. Additionally, the black-furred werewolves (or vârcolaci) variously referred to as the Umbra Domnii or Shadow Lords have plagued the clan for longer than all save the oldest of the Tzimisce can remember, and among the most isolated valleys and peaks of the Carpathians even the undead are said to quake when the howls of wolf packs sound too close to their demesnes.
In response to the challenges of the Omen War, the increasing tide of battle has necessitated a strengthening of the Tzimisce feudal system. Fiendish lords have become more assertive in their rights to exploit the mortal populace of their domains as decade follows bloody decade. Despite appearances, however, the feudal system they created was not fully in place until the eighth century, and it too was a direct adaption to the ambitions of Byzantine, Frankish, Avar, Bulgarian, and Magyar models of governance. Prior to those uncertain times, and certainly during the halcyon days of the Dacian kingdom, the most prosperous Fiends were more contemplative and introspective in nature.
Comprising the vast majority of the clan, these Fiends concern themselves with little more than the defence and growth of their demesnes. Not for them are the obscure philosophies of the via Mutationis or the esoteric mysteries of bloody sorcery; they are too busy contending with their peers and rivals in an incessant, seething soup of rivalry, intrigue, and prestation in games. In times past, particularly during the glory days of the Dacia, things were different. Cleaving to the direction and example set by Ionache and his prized progeny Demenaus, they performed as unliving benefactors, presiding over the mortals of the land as lords of the night who would protect and support the kine in return for offerings of blood, labour, and wealth. This arrangement was akin to that of the feudal contract that would take shape throughout most of Europe after the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, as the Long Night progressed, the hold of the religion of the Nailed God strengthened over Eastern Europe, and the clan strained under the trials of the regional hegemony of the Avars, the Bulgars, and the Magyars, things changed.
Demenaus fell to the fangs of Noriz, the Corruptor of Legions, and Ionache increasingly withdrew into the Sleep of Ages. Under the cover of migrations and the growth of their Holy Roman Empire, Germanic Ventrue began to pressure the Tzimisce from the west while Byzantine Ventrue sought to reclaim old glories in the south. Gradually, the attitudes of the Fiends evolved into something altogether more tyrannical. Few Tzimisce now care for their reciprocal duties in any shape beyond a twisted mirror of their own warped pursuit of power, status, and their insatiable hunger for blood, silver, and pawns to wage petty wars on their own kin and those other clans that have the temerity to seek dominion in their heartland.
It is these Tzimisce that have been most sorely pressed by the rise of the Tremere, for their single-minded devotion to self-aggrandizing power games left them ill-prepared to counter the blood sorcery of the Warlocks. They have fared marginally better against the Ventrue, especially in those parts of the East that are far from cities, ports, and other bastions of mortal rulership, but it has come at the cost of any illusion of beneficence over their mortal herds. With few exceptions, the Fiends cannot hope to match the Warlords for supernatural influence over the hearts and minds, and so they must rely on the gifts of Animalism and the use of “object lessons” to maintain their holds. And so as their methods evolved to become more tyrannical so too did the philosophical justifications behind those means; the legend of the haunted manse on the hill or the fell castle in the mountains took root in the 8th and 9th centuries, and few Tzimisce to this night realise that there was ever a time when this was not their way. The via Tyrannus might well have been developed by Tzimisce voivozes during the Long Night, for it is common enough now, but there are still some lonely demesnes in isolated valleys where the Fiend in the castle subscribes to an older code, subscribing with the duties as the keeper and protector of the land, not merely its ruler.
In any case, throughout the later centuries of the Long Night, it became the way of the Tzimisce that knez contended with knez, voivode swallowed both and contending with other voivozi, and so on. They exulted in their independent rulership of tiny domains, and scoffed at any attempts to establish any solidarity. It was rare to find lasting alliances between voivozi, and almost unheard of find a voivode as vassal to another voivode. However, as the Kingdom of Hungary strengthened its hold over the region throughout the 11th and 12th centuries, pressure on the Tzimisce of the Old Country also mounted. The role of Voivode among Voivodes, which had long since devolved to little more than a ceremonial title, became hotly contested. Vladimir Rustovich would rise to the position, choosing to make vassals of vanquished lesser voivozi rather than simply destroying them and absorbing their demesnes. His rivals quickly emulated him, and as the War of Princes has gradually escalated throughout the 13th century, this trend has only gathered speed. Now, several power blocs have emerged in Transylvania and the surrounding lands.
The earliest Tzimisce of Transylvania were spiritualists who practised secret rituals. They meditated on the true nature of abomination in darkness, having long abandoned the ways of humans (a lesser race that seemed quite alien to them). The Fiends enacted their rites in stone sanctums, and the most elaborate temples were entrances to twisted, labyrinthine shrines beneath the earth. These bastions of the via Mutationis have come to be known colloquially as “Black Churches,” and they are still extant in many portions of Transylvania.
By day, the dark priests’ servants would construct stone buildings above the soil. By night, massive multi-armed things would burrow tunnels beneath the ground. Vampire artisans completed what their servants began within darkened shrines. Safe from the rays of the sun, master craftsmen erected asymmetrical stone walls, profane works of art, and unspeakable experiments. Frequently, sacrificial victims were crafted into the very surfaces, making labyrinths of flesh and bone throughout the more elaborate of the Shaper temples. The Cathedral of Flesh near the Red Tower Pass of the Southern Carpathians is the primordial exemplar of this aesthetic. In the folklore of the kine, the Black Churches are a testament to the horrors of the past and the unthinkable things that howl outside their barred doors, but to the Tzimisce they are sacred.
The ceremonies suited the environments well in which they were staged. Long before the cult of the Nailed God, long before warrior tribes invoked the names of Dagon and Baal, the most accomplished Tzimisce attempted to transcend the limit of mortal clay. Reworking the structure of their bodies, they reshaped themselves to conform to their visions- or nightmares- of perfection. Those who were most impressive became objects of worship, and servile ghouls carved their likenesses into statues, which were later venerated as images of pagan gods. The visit of a Shaper Priest is always an occasion for celebration to the court of a knez or voivode even if they don’t actively share the philosophy of the via Mutationis, for they are a link to the glorious past and veneration of the Eldest.
Metamorphosists adopted more subtle methods of practising their idolatry and defending their territories as the clan advanced. Constructing shrines beneath the earth was too primitive, a habit too similar to the ways of the Nosferatu. In recent centuries elaborate stone churches served as cathedrals for Metamorphosist worship, and after monastic orders began to spread further into Transylvania, defiled Christian churches were seen to be especially useful to the fiendish priests. In civilised portions of the Voivodate, Black Churches have since been reclaimed by the Christians, who generally remain unaware of what lurks beneath their surface. Although Christian services are practised in these places, the land surrounding them is difficult to consecrate.
Some of the lesser shrines have fallen into disrepair, and the most primitive ones have been abandoned by the Tzimisce entirely. Other horrid things have taken the Fiends’ place: Cults of mortals who worship the darker aspects of the fey, exiled varcolaci who have succumbed to the madness of their curse (or worse, the Black Spiral), and escaped szlachta war ghouls all spawn or abide in such desolate places.
Metamorphosist rituals take the form of demented sorceries for more modern Tzimisce. Dependence on a feudal estate is not so essential to them. They revile the primitivists who insist on using caves and churches. The most civilised seek out alchemical and mystical laboratories and libraries. Such sorcerers might control a small gathering ground resonant with tainted vis or other magical energies. Many are deeply obsessed with mystical pursuits, insisting that their studies are motivated by pure intellect.
In their modest domains, these Fiends avidly pursue insight, collecting vast libraries of cursed knowledge and amass ancient and profane occult lore. The morality of humans means nothing to them, except as a limitation to be overcome.
Other mystics quest in search of knowledge. As of late, more Tzimisce mystics have begun travelling from domain to domain in order to further their studies. Exchanging blood or favours for their services, they have become quite useful to the feudal lords of the clan. While their fanaticism garners them a certain degree of respect from any knezi they encounter, only a fool would fully trust them. Trust, after all, is a human weakness.
Finally, in the lands bordering the educated lands of the Byzantine remnants and in those that have benefitted from trade and cultural exchange with the Crusader States and the lands of Islam, a new breed of Metamorphosist has emerged. Of a decidedly secular bent, these scholastic fiends have adopted a much more scientific focus in pursuit of the philosophy of Vicissitude and the exquisite agonies of creative biology. Their havens resemble nothing so much as a nightmarish fusion of laboratory, charnel house, and torture chamber. Therefore, as times change and the Black Churches crumble, Shaper Priests evolve as well; one can expect no less from them.
THE KOLDUNIC MYSTERIES
The blood sorcery of the Tzimisce, known as the Koldunic mysteries among the clan, is little more than a myth to those who reside well beyond the borders of the Old Country. Indeed, before the rise of the Tremere and their practice of Thaumaturgy became widely known to the undead, those few vampires of a mystical bent who were aware of the Tzimisce blood sorcerers feared and craved the mysterious and potent powers at their disposal. The koldun (plural kolduni) are feared for their control over the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, and it said that their insights into the invisible world of spirits is profound. Together with rumours of their flesh-crafting abilities and the Metamorphosist philosophy that many of them also follow, the “civilised” vampires of the West could be forgiven for believing that the source of this strange blood sorcery is nothing short of diabolic. And indeed, some ancient Tzimisce might privately admit that the melodrama of that accusation may not be too far from the truth. Certainly the mighty Dracon, who clan historians will allow was once the greatest of the koldunic sorcerers next to Yorak and the Eldest, forsook the mysteries after converting to Christianity. He banned his followers from its practice as well, though his edict is not well understand outside the Obertus Order, and he only broke this stricture once afterwards — to ensure victory in his final battle with Triglav — and that he bitterly regretted having done so.
Kolduni have a strong sense of where the land is tainted, and they are charged with knowing the names of the spirits bound into the soil. They can help or hinder the lords ruling over a domain; crops wither and die at their bidding, and the cattle and sheep of the fields give tainted milk and meat. Under their curses, children and animals might be born with hideous deformities or infirmities of the mind and spirit. Less well known is their capacity to aid a bountiful harvest, ensure the health of the herd, both human and animal, and ward off baleful spirits. In particular, those practitioners of the mysteries with the might to preside over the ritual of Kupala’s Night are in very high demand. The price for these latter services is always steep in blood and will, but in times of privation and struggle many a knez and voivode is willing to pay it. Thus, they command respect from the lords that they encounter, and those kolduni who find themselves abroad can expect to be fêted by their clan-mates.
The practice of the koldunic mysteries is demanding, and as the calcification of the Long Night settled about the hoary shoulders of the Tzimisce, its practice fell into decline. Traditionally tutors would insist on harsh, esoteric oaths and bans to please the spirits and themselves In addition to hefty boons for instruction, typical tolls included taking a step along the Blood Oath, spurning the god of the Christians, or even promising to promote the worship of long vanished gods. However, as the Omen War has heated up throughout the 12th century and now the War of Princes adds further strife to the Old Country, it became increasingly common for young Tzimisce to willingly pay these prices, and the practice of the koldunic mysteries is once more on the rise. Indeed, not a few ancillae and neonates who have been displaced by the Omen War actively seek out kolduni adepts and masters in order to gain the power to be welcome in any domain. As the 13th century progresses, these blood sorcerer mercenaries have found generous employ in the armies of Vladimir Rustovich and Ioan Brancoveanu in particular, and now other voivozi have begun to emulate them.
The pagan ways are the old ways of the Earth, and sometimes Christians fear them with good reason. Just as there is light in the world, there is darkness, and during the festival of Kupala’s Night, the force of darkness is undeniably strong. Tzimisce mystics and feudal lords often travel to the demesnes of other respected rulers at this time, setting aside their feuds long enough to commune with the ancient spirits of corruption: the kupala. These spirits are thought to be the offspring of an ancient Slavic god of the same name. Others speculate that Kupala is a demon that has stolen the name of the god, and still others believe that the pagan Slavs merely discovered Kupala in the Old Country and added it to their pantheon. Certainly, in forgotten corners of the land pagans and even Christians who privately offer prayers to the old gods still worship Kupala as the goddess of herbs, sorcery, sex, trees, herbs, and flowers, and she is but one of many names uttered in the darkness. They practice Kupala’s Night to give prayers and thanks to a benevolent god on June 22nd.
The Tzimisce know Kupala to be something else altogether. An ancient spirit of the land that corrupts the Old Country while simultaneously fertilising it with its fell power, Kupala is the reason that Transylvania thrums with power. The true rituals of Kupala’s Night are performed on a different night each year. Only Tzimisce astrologers can discern the most efficacious day for performing the violent ceremony. The veil between the land of the flesh and the realm of spirit is easier to rend on this night, and those who revere the old ways can see the very taint of the earth. Horrible apparitions infect the land, and where the soil has been corrupted, the hideous forms of the kupala can be seen by moonlight. These servitors of the great demon thrash and gibber, contorting their bodies into impossible displays of physiological degeneration.
The land and the ruler are ever one, and the Transylvanian Tzimisce show their reverence for the land by sharing their blood with each other and the earth. With the assistance of the kolduni, participants enact an ancient rite involving the sharing of blood. A silver cup containing the vitae of all in the ceremony is passed around to be consumed and the last few drops are poured on the ground. This not only demonstrates their alliance, but it also fortifies them for the task at hand. The screams of the kupala stop as terror seizes the spirits.
Then the slaying begins. Vengeful Tzimisce distend their bodies and sharpen bloody claws. The spirits cry for mercy, yet none is given. Freely killing the maddening evil in the soil, the Fiends purify the land in obeisance to their ancient pact to protect it. Their fervour escalates into all-consuming frenzy much too often, and nothing in the vicinity is safe. By dawn, the madness fades and the evil of Kupala is weakened once again.
Hospitality is extended to guests who assisted in the reaving the following night. The truce between collaborators lasts long enough for travellers to return to their fiefdoms. In a week or two, the fierce fighting for control of the land renews, but by then, the greatest of the clan’s enemies has been grievously wounded.
TZIMISCE OF RENOWN
Despite the incursions of Western Ventrue, Brujah, and Tremere, as well as the vast numbers of Gangrel and Nosferatu that lair in the wilds, the Tzimisce still form the largest Cainite population in the Old Country. As they consider all of Eastern Europe to be their domain, they do not acknowledge the domains of other clans except as their own vassals or else those that have obtained respect through Trial by War. Princes formally recognised by the Western clans are often held as a trifle more than nuisances, and more than one would-be power has become the victim of sinister conspiracies from Tzimisce looking to sharpen their skills against their own kin. Away from the villages of the humans and the hunting grounds of other Cainites, the Fiends have traditionally held undisputed sway over their fiefdoms. Some of the more notable Tzimisce in Transylvania, both undead and finally dead, as well as several of the surrounding regions are listed below.
Notably, despite the roster of worthies provided below, it is quite unusual to find a voivode who is also a koldun or a Shaper Priest. The pursuit of both the latter vocations is consuming, and it is rare to find an individual either able or willing to master the esoteric arts in addition to the troublesome duties of managing an extensive domain. Certainly it is not uncommon to find a Tzimisce warlord who walks the via Mutationis, but they rarely rise to the level of understanding and respect necessary to be acclaimed a Shaper Priest by their fellows.
Few of the older Tzimisce have yet deigned to adopt any heraldry, no matter how fashionable it is becoming among their lesser kin. Sometimes, their servants, admirers, or descendants attribute a coat of arms to them as a means of flattery, but this is by no means universal. Where appropriate, extant heraldry is provided in the individual entries of these Tzimisce rather than within this chapter.
The title of voivode loosely corresponds to warlord, but for the purposes of the understanding of most Cainites of the West, it means something akin to baron or lord. In short, a Tzimisce that has vassals can claim the title of voivode. The proper plural of the title is voivozi, but voivodes is also acceptable. The title of knez corresponds to prince, and in various forms in the Slavic tongue it used in that fashion. To the Tzimisce, however, it more properly means first, or master, and there is little distinction between those who claim a large city and those who own a couple of lowly villages. The plural of knez is knezi. Lastly, it some parts of the Old Country it is not uncommon for a Tzimisce lordling to call themselves boyar, particularly if they openly rule in the sense of a mortal aristocracy in addition to that of the undead. In practice, a boyar is equal to a knez.
THE CHILDREN OF THE ELDEST
The land beyond the forest has always been notable for the number of truly ancient vampires who exist there together. dwelling in relative harmony in cooperation to their sire’s wishes. For thousands of years, no less than four progeny of the Tzimisce Antediluvian resided either within the Transylvanian basin or the lands immediately surrounding it, and indeed there is no doubt among the clan that the Eldest resides within the bounds of the Carpathians as well. After all, it is the curse that the Dark Father laid upon him that demands all his descendants sleep with a double handful of their grave earth. Somewhere within Transylvania is the grave of the Eldest, so here he must be. In times past, it is said that in addition to their separate pursuits of his directive that they pursue metamorphosis, the founder gave certain duties to his progeny: Triglav’s role was to divine the future, while Ruthven recorded the past; Ionache watched over the land, while Yorak communed with the spirits within it. They reigned for time beyond the reckoning of lesser creatures, together keeping the clan united against outside threats while moderating divisions within the clan through their aloof example. Invading mortals were either destroyed or subborned to the will of the ancients; always the clan of change remained unbent by the vicissitudes of the tides of history. However, by the time of the Dacian submission to Rome, the inattention of the Founder compounded with the ennui endemic to ancient vampires, causing the the Children of the Eldest to either stray into their own petty projects. And by the time the Pannonian Avars established their hegemony over the region, all but Yorak spent more time cleaving to the comfort of torpor rather than their duties to the Eldest. The Tzimisce slipped into rivalry and disarray, the Voivodate fractured into scores of knezates ruled by dozens of voivodes. Then, as the 8th century dawned, Triglav the Three-Headed fell into a feud with their consanguineous brother, the Dracon, which would culminate in his destruction. The following centuries have seen Ionache vanish and Ruthven enter obscurity. Only dreaded Yorak remains active, and tales of his might and his twisted wisdom entertain Fiendish courts the length and breadth of the land.
- Yorak, High Priest of the Cathedral of Flesh (4th generation methuselah, childe of the Eldest; Embraced many millennia ago, current disposition active); of the direct progeny of the Eldest, Yorak is the oldest that is still active in Transylvania. Indeed, while some claim that the Dracon is even older, the savant of the via Mutationis is generally accepted as being the oldest of the childer of the Eldest. Yorak leads the Metamorphosist cult from his nightmarish Cathedral of Flesh, which is said to lie beneath a blasted valley in the Southern Carpathians, “not so very far but not too close” to the Siebenburgen settlements of Mühlbach and Hermannstadt. As the oldest and wisest of the Shaper Priests the ancient one is also the spiritual head of the Voivodate, and at times he has also taken the secular role of Voivode among Voivodes for his own reasons. This has had the effect of permanently undermining the authority of younger claimants to the title, for elders of the clan forever compare their prestige to that of this inscrutable methuselah. Fearful legend and rumour has it that Yorak can feel, hear, and see anything that occurs within the bounds of the Old Country, that with a psychic assault he can strike down those who displease him within its bounds, and that not just multitudes of humans but also Cainites of the most potent vintages are interred within his Cathedral of Flesh. The shadow of Yorak falls not just upon Transylvania but also upon all of Carpathia, and on the occasion that his attention is diverted from his ineffable meditations, no Tzimisce would dare refuse him.
- Ruthven, Keeper of the Lore (4th generation methuselah, childe of the Eldest; Embraced perhaps 1700 years ago, current disposition unknown); of the childer of the Eldest, Lord Ruthven (as he is customarily known) is reputed to be the youngest. Clan legends state that he was the last scion of the Bogatyr revenant line, which some Fiendish genealogists claim was never quite human to begin with. Ruthven claims immense domains in the western reaches of the Southern Carpathians, the lonely southern foothills of the Apuseni Mountains, and the inner shadows of the south-eastern Carpathians, though in truth he holds them in name only. Ruthven has not been reliably seen in centuries, and his demesnes are administered by several of his eldest progeny and their revenant kin. The Ruthvenski are common enough in the valleys and foothills of the Transylvanian Alps, northern Serbia, and northern-western Bulgaria, and all know that they carry the words and authority of this potent elder and, perhaps, the Eldest himself. Although he was once a vital power among the clan, Ruthven withdrew from clan politics soon after the rise of the Avar Khaganate, and ever after he has enjoyed a reputation for eschewing the contention for the Voivodate. It is said that he sleeps in a labyrinth somewhere beneath his Carpathian domain and takes no part in the Trials by War of his lesser kin, nor the Omen War against the Tremere or the renewed struggles with the Ventrue. The threat of his wrath is enough to forestall invasion, for prior to his retirement, he brooked no dissent or defiance near his lands, let alone within them, and on several occasions he took to the field tellingly against foes who thought to take advantage of his frequent bouts of torpor.
- Ionache, Architect of the Voivodate (4th generation methuselah, childe of the Eldest; Embraced millennia ago, current disposition unknown); Like his brother-in-blood the Dracon, Ionache saw himself not just as a moulder of flesh but also of civilisation. It was he that set up the proto-feudal system of the Tzimisce thousands of years ago and it is he who has served as Voivode among Voivodes more than any other. He was at the zenith of his influence among the Dragons throughout the age preceding the rise of the Kingdom of Dacia, and then throughout the reigns of Robobastes, Oroles, and Burebista. At that time his domain stretched from the shores of what is now known as the Neusiedler See to the middle of the Transylvanian plateau, and none dared contend with his temporal authority. However, the First Warlord grew increasingly disenchanted with the infighting among the clan, particularly once the Romans conquered Dacia. Like his consanguineous brother Ruthven would later do, he began to withdraw from temporal matters, and he subsequently spent centuries at a time in torpor, retreating ever more east to his earliest haven near the banks of the river now known as the Târnava Mare (or Nagy-Küküllő to the Magyars). In his quietude, Yorak picked up the slack of leadership in Transylvania and has dominated affairs either directly or indirectly ever since. Ionache was last known to be sluggishly active during the early 12th century, but he slipped into torpor about a year before the Siebenburgen were chartered; it is feared that he has been destroyed by the Árpád Ventrue or perhaps even diablerised by Noriz or one of his legion of ravenous and depraved progeny. Demenaus, a legendary sage of the clan and favoured progeny of Ionache, was Noriz’ first victim and the corrupter bragged that the First Voivode would be next.
- Triglav, the Three-Headed God (4th generation methuselah, childe of the Eldest, Embraced millennia ago, destroyed AD 702); For thousands of years, this ancient ruled over the Fiends of the Dinaric Alps, the eastern shores of the Adriatic coast, and the southern reaches of the Pannonian Basin. Although he was a Shaper Priest and a koldun of frightful skill, the heady reach of his Auspex was said to have showed the future to his six eyes, and he was capable of not just seeing the lay of the land for scores of miles in every directing, but he was also granted visions of the furthest realms of the Astral Plane and the Underworld. Frequently, he supported his older consanguineous brother Yorak, for their interests and journey along the via Mutatationis parallelled in many ways. His gifts sent him into frequent torpors, and in his absence Triglav’s descendants lorded over the night amidst his lands, ruling the awed and fearful hearts of the kine as his priests. But then Triglav the Three-Headed awoke from a long torpor with a terrifying vision of a great doom arising from Byzantium. The ancient consulted with Yorak, then personally led a delegation to their consanguineous brother, the Dracon, who summarily dismissed their concerns as the ignorance and superstition of his uncultivated Carpathian kin. Less than a year later, disaster befell him in the form of a cursed childe, and the enraged Dracon raged through the Old Country to exact vengeance against the curse he believed Triglav had levied upon Gesu. For a year he hunted, destroying hundreds of Triglav’s descendants in his quest to diminish and destroy his brother. Finally, they encountered one another in the Southern Carpathians and battle was joined. The tale has it that the very mountains shook with the violence of their titanic struggle, but ultimately the Dracon was victorious. He tore the heads from Triglav’s shoulders, howled his grief and triumph across peak and valley, then returned to Constantinople. The Three-Headed God’s few remaining descendants and his admirers across the Carpathians mourned, and swore vendetta on the Draconians. This feud would continue for five centuries, until the destruction visited upon Byzantium by the Bitter Crusade.
THE DRAGONS WHO SHAKE THE LAND
Voivode. While the word itself certainly means something very much akin to “warlord” (and as such iterations of the term have leaked into the tongues of the Slavs, the Romanians, the Greeks, and the Magyars) the Tzimisce understanding of it is rather more amorphous. To them, it also carries other connotations: it has the weight of a Cainite who is preeminent among lesser vampires, and who serves as custodian of the land according to the old traditions. Any knez might declare themselves a voivode, but they can be sure that a neighbouring, established warlord will most certainly answer that claim. It is little surprise then, that among a clan whose members pride themselves on their intellectual faculties, few have the temerity or stupidity to do so prematurely. In practice, a Dragon will subdue at least a few rival knezi as his vassals before making such a proclamation, and the Trial by War arose as a means of weeding out the weak before they can do so. And furthermore, while it is true that several dozen voivodes make their homes in the Transylvanian basin and those lands surrounding it, and even more make the claim across the breadth of Northern Europe and the Pontic Steppe, it is also true that there are voivodes and then there are voivodes. Only a handful of Tzimisce in the region are sufficiently powerful as to have made vassals out of other warlords, and it is these worthies who vie for the coveted prize of Voivode among Voivodes. The clan may be bigger than Transylvania, but such is the importance of the cradle of their myths and lore that the one who holds preeminence there enjoys an unusual status in all lands controlled by the Fiends. Since the early decades of the 12th century, the title has belonged to Vladimir Rustovich, but his preeminence is maintained only by almost incessant intrigue and war. The struggles of the 13th century have seen his power and authority strained under the weight of the conflict with the Tremere, the Eastern Lord Ventrue, and the Council of Ashes. His rivals smell blood in the water, and they have begun to circle…
- Vladimir Rustovich, Voivode among Voivodes (6th generation elder [diab.], childe of Kosczceskyu [d?], Embraced AD 876); the most prominent and certainly the most infamous of the Tzimisce warlords, Rustovich has held his ausust title against all comers since the 1130s, folding domain after domain into his purview in the process. His reputation is that of brilliance, instructive brutality, pragmatic flair, and natural leadership. It is thought among the clan that his mortal kin are an unusually civilised Vistulan branch of the Bratovichi revenant line, and that he rose to prominence as a conquering chieftain among the warring Slavic tribes of that merciless land. Even in his mortal years he was known for his skill at leading men both in battle and at court, and he eventually found himself in the service of Kosczceskyu, a warlord and koldun of great skill and ambition. Vladimir won the Embrace for his tactical brilliance in Kosczeskyu’s many Trials by War and his conflicts against the terrifying werewolves that haunted his demesnes in the Apuseni Mountains. When his sire later faltered and vanished in the late 10th century, Rustovich arose and took up his mantle, destroying those of his consanguineous siblings who might have objected. His existence ever since has been a study in conflict, intrigue, and conquest. His two greatest accomplishments have been his assumption of the title of Voivode among Voivodes, unheard of for one so young, and his infiltration of the Hungarian nobility. His intrigues in the latter sphere led to the disruption and erosion of the pervasive influence of the Árpád Ventrue in the Old Country. Since the turn of the 13th century, Rustovich has lost much momentum contending with the dual threats of the Omen War and the incursions of the Germanic Eastern Lord Ventrue. The heart of his demesnes is a castle in the foothills of the Apuseni Mountains, extending west past the Hungarian city of Arad and north to the fortress town of Nagyvárad (called Oradea by the Vlachs). With the benefit of his many vassals, the reach of the Voivode among Voivodes extends much, much farther.
- Noriz, Corruptor of Legions (5th generation elder, exotic eastern lineage, Embraced AD 382); perhaps the most dangerous Fiend in the region, Noriz has Embraced dozens, if not hundreds of childer. All are instilled with the same unholy purpose, diablerise their way to stand next to Caine in the Final Nights. His philosophy is brutal, capricious, and also corrupting, for in order to hold their demesnes against his depredations, his rivals are often forced to adopt his methods. As such, Noriz believes that he will come to dominate the future of his clan, and he might just be right. Through his equally treacherous, voracious childer, Noriz’ loose influence practically encircles the eastern Carpathians and much more besides, extending by varying degrees from Halych in the north-west all the way to the eastern shores of the Sea of Azov. Arguably, if one is to include the lands of his most successful and rebellious progeny, Koban, his reach also extends south to the Muntenian heartlands of Cumania and the northern fringe of Imperial Bulgaria. Vladimir and Kiev are beyond his reach, if only because in those lands his progeny are stymied by the equally combative and feral descendants of Byelobog and Shaagra. The lands of the Corruptor are essentially a hellish, never-ending war zone of undead Trials by War, werewolf attacks, and mortal raids, and as a result the hard-pressed denizens of his demesnes are born survivors and killers. Noriz has as many as ten vassal voivozi, and scores of knezi spread across the 700 mile breadth of his dominions. However, none of them stand within the circle of the Carpathians, and in keeping with his philosophies they are disunited, warring with each other as readily as the manifold threats faced from the Pontic Steppe. The Corruptor of Legions craves Rustovich’s title as both a validation of his strength and an unashamed excuse to find and take the Heart’s Blood of Ionach, Ruthven, or perhaps even Yorak himself.
- Tabak Ruthven, Voivode of Oltenia (5th generation elder, childe of Ruthven, Embraced AD 632); One of the most organised and bellicose of the Tzimisce of the Old Country, Tabak is known to be a headstrong, vengeful warrior and politician. Rumour has it that in life he was the son of a Ruthvenski chieftain and an Avar princess, and he was so well politically connected that Tabak was very much his sire’s chief proxy during the centuries of the Avar hegemony over the region. Indeed, by the time the Avars had diminished before the might of the Bulgars and the Franks, Tabak spoke with the voice of his slumberous sire in nearly all matters. Some looked to Tabak when the elan of Ionache began to falter, but his ambitions to assume the mantle of Voivode among Voivodes were scuttled when Yorak stepped forward to take the title for himself. Off-balance, Tabak fared poorly when the Magyars arrived on the scene, and his territories diminished at the hands of the likes of Bulcsú and his Árpád Ventrue. Bloodied, he would retreat to the heartland of his power in Oltenia, only to find Vladimir Rustovich rising in his place a century later. Tabak hates the Voivode among Voivodes, and plots to throw him down and take the mantle for himself at last. From his castle near the Vlach settlement of Targu Jiu, the voivode of Oltenia hatches plots to raise a new state that will reclaim the glory of lost Dacia. He has three subordinate voivozi and more than thirty knezi sacttered throughout Oltenia and parts of Western Muntenia.
- Ioan Brancoveanu, Hammer of the Tremere (7th generation ancilla, childe of Lucasz Brancoveanu, Embraced AD 964); The most successful of the voivodes with regards to prosecuting the Omen War against the Tremere, this grandchilde of Noriz makes his base of power deep in the mountains south-east of Weißenburg and south-west of Hermanstadt. He is also called “the Butcher”, for the remarkably grisly examples (yes, even for a Fiend) that he has made of captured Usurpers. Among those contemporaries of his vintage and younger, he is a figure of legend, respect, and fear. Tales of his the Butcher’s brilliance, cruelty, subtlety, and raw power are spoken of in hushed and awed whispers in castle halls, around camp fires, and more civilised Elysia. Whether he is truly so frighteningly powerful as the tales say is up for debate, but in truth it is immaterial, for Ioan’s greatest strength lies in doing the almost unthinkable, for he excels in bringing his normally fractious clan-mates together. Ioan Brancoveanu appears to care rather little about accruing extensive dominions of his own, except in direct relation to his capacity to fight the Warlocks. Scores of Tzimisce have flocked to his banner, and it is said that the secrets of koldunism and the art of warcraft are taught freely among his followers. His success has made him a strong potential rival of both Rustovich and his own grandsire, Noriz, even if it is a contention he has no apparent interest in pursuing. His domain is deep in the Parâng mountains, amid a long valley honeycombed by caves. Only one voivode falls within his sphere of influence, and then only as an ally rather than a vassal, but Danika Ruthven is unusually powerful and wise for all that. Indeed, Ioan also doesn’t have many knezi to call upon. His true value and threat lies in his status as a successful prosecutor of the Omen War, and his admirers desire that he push for the title of Voivode among Voivodes purely because they believe only he can win that war for the clan.
- Koban, Voivode of Vrancea (6th generation elder, childe of Noriz, Embraced AD 812); An example of everything that makes the rest of the clan uneasy, Koban is rare in that he is both a master koldun and a voivode. He is one of the southern-most of Noriz’ successful childer, occupying a vast stretch of land between the Carpathians and the Black Sea, taking in the southern reaches of Moldavia all the way to the Muntenian lands bordering Bulgaria. Indeed, his demesnes make his rivals nervous because they encompass an area comparable to almost one third the entire size of Transylvania. This land is full of embattled, hardy Slavs of the Brodnik and Ruthenian peoples as well as exceptionally aggressive and capable Cumans, and Koban has dozens of fearful knezi at his beck and call. On several occasions he has attempted to push through the Toth Pass into Transylvania proper, and the recent troubles inflicted upon Cumania by the vile warlord Kordönül were at the instigation of Koban. While nominally loyal to his sire’s philosophies, the warlord of Vrancea has his own designs on power and throughout the 12th century he graduated from being a servant of the Corruptor to one of his chief rivals. Despite a number of setbacks in the early years of the new century, Koban appears to be determined to extend his reach into the Old Country, and has found new enemies among the Árpád Ventrue, the Cainites of the Siebenburgen, and potentates among his own clan. The heart of his domain is an extensive cavern system called the Vranka (variously translated as Vrancea or Vranca), which is said to lie deep in the Putna river valley of the Eastern face of the Carpathians. As of 1218, Koban commands three subordinate voivozi and twenty-two knezi, and he ceaselessly pushes for further conquest to improve his demesnes. It said that he covets the role of Voivode among Voivodes simply because the spirits of the land have deigned that it must be so.
- Shaagra, the Vukodlak of Praha (5th? generation elder, sire unknown but speculated to be Triglav or Yorak, Embraced AD 152). A true master of misdirection, misinformation, and mystery, Shaagra has dwelt in a labyrinth below what is now the Bohemian city of Prague for a millennium. She has not been reliably seen in centuries, and is thought to spend much time in torpor, but no one can truly be sure of her disposition other than her closest servants. Skilled at creating false narratives or bending existing ones, Shaagra’s rumoured power is such that even other elder Fiends give her a wide berth and speculate paranoically as to what her next scheme might be. The rumours surrounding Shaagra include that she is more ancient than she purports, that she is allied with or serves an ancient childe of the Eldest named the Vukodlak, or that she in fact diablerised said methuselah and seized the mantle of one of the 4th generation. When more active, it is said that she could assume the form of the dread werewolves that plague the lands of Eastern Europe, and that when her ire was raised her zulo shape was especially gigantic and demonic in scope. Certainly Shaagra claims the title of vukodlak as a means of differentiating herself from lesser Tzimisce who claim the title of voivode. More reliable tales hold that from her lair she used her ancient ghoul Libussa to mastermind the creation of the Přemyslid revenant family, in turn using those royal pawns to form the duchy and later the kingdom of Bohemia. The Přemyslids have now wormed their way into the lands of Poland and parts of Austria and Hungary, and Shaagra’s Cainite descendants have successfully put flight to the Germanic Ventrue that sought to subborn Bohemia and Silesia. The voivozi and knezi of those lands take after her, and they smugly refuse to confirm nor deny that they receive direct instruction from Shaagra. In such ways does her legend grow, and she has seen to it that it will likely continue to do so over the centuries to come.
ILLUSTRIOUS FIENDS FAR AND WIDE
Although there are magnates such as Vladimir Rustovich, Tabak Ruthven, and Noriz, who can reliably claim to be equal in strength and status to the great vampire lords and monarchs of the West, the vast majority of Tzimisce voivodes can boast only a handful of vassal knezi and a much smaller territory. These far more typical vampire lords vary from those independents who hold well-defended mountain valleys or populous cities to those who serve one of the aforementioned great magnates of the Old Country. Most of these Dragons are powerful in their own right, capable of holding down demesnes with experienced broods, ghoul and revenant servants, and control over mortal nobility and soldiery. Some of them may have aspired to the position of Voivode among Voivodes in the past, but they have since found their interest in politics on the wane or else have suffered setbacks that have crippled their chances. Others simply lack the ambition, and instead turn their interests to more esoteric pursuits. By contrast, there are hundreds of knezi scattered across Eastern Europe. Any Fiend who can lay domain over a village or two might claim the title of knez, and many do, but their power in real terms varies between those who might be equal in power to a typical voivode (though unready to actually vie for that title) to the truly modest pretenders whose demesnes are a source of amusement to their betters. A number of the former variety of knezi are also included in the profiles below.
VOIVOZI AND KNEZI OF THE HEARTLAND
For millennia, the Tzimisce ruled the undead of the Land Beyond the Forest with impunity. Certainly, they faced challenges from Gangrel, Nosferatu, and some few other clans that travelled in the wake of the Romans, Huns, Goths, Gepids, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars, Magyars, and Pechenegs, but always they held this land against any who would dislodge them. Those of other clans that desired to make a home in Transylvania learned one way or the other that the Tzimisce belong to the land, and it to them, and that this has been the way of things for time out of mind. Their self-appointed task is to keep it safe from invaders and to observe ancient rituals intended to maintain it; they leech their vitality directly from the soil as much as from the life’s blood of their victims. It is said that Transylvania holds the very grave earth of the Eldest. As the source of his and thus their power, this land is the bones of their pride and history. This is why the Fiends call Transylvania the Old Country. It is not merely some nostalgic turn of phrase to them. To the Tzimisce, Transylvania is the clan. As a result, many of the oldest and strongest voivozi and knezi have traditionally made their home here, observing Dacian custom and inculcating that legacy into the Vlachs that they prize as descendants of their proudest time. However, their feuds are also as ancient as the blood that runs through their veins, and not since the strength of Ionache have they been united. Indeed, the carefully planned attacks of the nascent Council of Ashes in the middle of the 12th century took these staid elders very much by surprise. Their complacency cost them dearly, for the Siebenburgen were established before the Tzimisce were able to fully understand the fangs at their throats, and their disunity has kept them from rallying to meet the foreign threat. Many of the knezi of Transylvania now quietly look to Vladimir Rustovich for leadership, for surely it is lacking among their own elders.
- Damek Ruthven, Custodian of the Lore and Voivode of Sarmizegetusa (5th generation methuselah, childe of Lord Ruthven; Embraced 219 BC); The eldest known (surviving) and long most-favoured progeny of Lord Ruthven, Damek enjoys the singular honour of holding domain over the ruins of once-great capital of the Dacian kingdom. He is known to have a taste for virgin blood and brides, and in hopes of currying Damek’s favour with tribute, many of the surrounding Fiends scour their lands of beautiful young girls approaching their first bud of womanhood. Indeed, the majority of Damek’s progeny are his one-time wives, for he soon loses ardour for his conquests once he grants them the Dead Water. While he is known to favour provoking the image of a Dacian warrior-king, legend has it that like his sire he is actually more of a scholar, and also a master koldun. Before his sire disappeared, Damek served as a sort of unofficial historian of the clan, and he knows a great deal of the ancient secrets and lost wisdom of the Tzimisce. While he displays little interest in expanding his domain, his knowledge is such, and the threat of his power so respected, that none have sought to press his borders in recent times. Damek is known to discourage visits, and other than clan scholars, Shaper Priests, and the odd koldun, few seek audience with the Custodian of the Lore. Even fewer are issued invitations to do so. Generally speaking, it is understood that those who wish to gain entry to the dominion of Lord Damek are best served by first gaining the favour and support of his grandchilde Vintilla, who reigns as the voivode of the nearby demesnes of Cindrel and Săliştea.
- Danika Ruthven, Tremere slayer and Voivode of Hungnod (6th generation elder, childe of Damek Ruthven, Embraced AD 13); Famed amongst the clan for her magical innovations, this koldun has since the late 12th century become known more widely as the advisor and chief ally of Ioan Brancoveanu, the Hammer of the Tremere. Of all the Tzimisce blood sorcerers, she has faced the most Tremere in magical combat, and her continued survival attests to her skill in her vocation and her tactical brilliance in the heat of battle. She has been the voivode of the lands now known as Hungnod (and known in centuries to come as Hunedoara) for almost 1000 years, and her experience, as well as a large brood of childer, have proven more than capable of holding that domain against the machinations of first the Árpád Ventrue and now the Tremere. Her castle, easily one of the most impressive fortifications in south-western Transylvania, sits on a hill immediately next to the large village of Hungnod, a noted locality for the production of iron, wool, and leather. She uses it to fuel the war-making efforts of Ioan and her other ally, Vintilla Basarab, and the three of them have created an impressive bulwark against the growing power of the Tremere. Her castle also guards the approach to the near-mythical Sarmizegetusa, where her sire Damek holds court and supposedly protects her grandsire, Ruthven. It is known that Danika and Damek are not on the most congenial of terms, but they are both committed to the protection of their ancestor.
- Vintilla Basarab, Voivode of Cindrel, Săliştea, and Broos (7th generation elder, childe of Rocaza Basarab, Embraced AD 765); the master of the peaks and valleys south of Weißenburg and Mühlbach and also west of Hermannstadt, Vintilla is the grandchilde of Damek Ruthven. Until recently, his demesnes were sparsely populated by transhumantic Vlachs who hunt, herd sheep, and raise hardy crops, and no matter which mortal claims the land they have always known to offer tribute to the old castle at the headwaters of the Cibin. In times past Vintilla enjoyed significant prestige as being a gatekeeper to the approach of the sacred domain of Sarmizegetusa as well as one of the passes south into Oltenia, but over the last century he has been hard-pressed by the arrival of Saxon German civilisation (and the concomitant rise of Hungarian Ventrue power) and now the emerging power of the Tremere. Towards the close of the 12th century, this necessitated an alliance with his fellows Ioan Brancoveanu and Danika Ruthven, and together they have pushed back the power of the Warlocks. A profound master of the Animalism discipline, Vintilla trains the progeny of the others in the use of beasts as scouts and harriers of the enemy, while they in turn reinforce his own strength with koldunic adepts and manpower. Once more his domain is strong; so much so that in the early years of the 13th century he annexed the settlement of Tschorren (also known as Săliştea) from the troubled domain of Marusca of Hermannstadt, and he also declared domain over the growing town of Broos, linking his lands with that of Lady Danika at Hungnod. He now has access to the ingenuous Transylvanian Saxons of those settlements, an asset that he has used to gain insight into the politics and trade of the Siebenburgen. Additionally, dominion over Tschorren gives Vintilla oversight of a piece of the prosperous trade route between Kronstadt and Weißenburg, meaning that Vintilla can make his displeasure known as far west as the Great Alföld of Hungary and as far east as the Burzenland. Exhausted by her long war against the late Sculptor of Wolves, the Nosferatu prince has been forced to accept his control over the road as a fait accompli.
- Kupriak Bratovich Auvianei, Voivode of Brad (6th generation [diab.] elder, childe of Durobastes [d], Embraced AD 821); A brutal, cunning warlord who presides over a large territory in the Apuseni Mountains to the west of Weißenburg and Mühlbach and north of Hungnod, Kupriak was formerly known for harrying Rowena, a prince of the Council of Ashes, in his efforts to claim her city for his own. To some degree, this is because Brad’s chief export is gold and Weißenburg is known for its excellent goldsmiths, but it is also because the voivode has an ancestral claim on the city of Apulon. Indeed, his sire (who was challenged, beaten, and diablerised at his own hands in 1119) was born and Embraced there, and in times past Durobastes and his consanguineous sister Lapa fought over the remnants of it. In life, he was the product of a union between an Avar warlord and a princess of the Bratovichi, and Kupriak’s court, like a number of others remaining in the Old Country, is a celebration of the vanished Avar customs. Those who cannot speak Avaric would do well to avoid his gilded halls. Voivode Kupriak was an early supporter of Vladimir Rustovich, and he stands very high in the eyes of his ally and liege. Kupriak’s Bratovichi kennel-masters are among the finest in the land, and they and his veteran scouts have been at the van of Rustovich’s push into the lands of the Council of Ashes.
- Rodica Lapacea, Voivode of Obrud (6th generation [diab.] elder, childe of Lapa [d], Embraced AD 863); As warlord of a wealthy gold mining region in the midst of the Apuseni mountains, this quiet and rather insular Fiend enjoys considerable respect among her peers for her ability to withstand assaults from the dreaded Umbra Domnii who haunt the peaks and valleys of her dominion. Although she is possessed of a serene, cultivated veneer, and readily displays an incisive, contemplative mind, her capacity to unleash her bottled up rage in controlled, intense displays of cruel barbarity endears her to her fellows too, and her voluntary submission to Rustovich in the 1150s was a noted endorsement of his position. Like her sire before her, Rodica has a claim on the city of Weißenburg, and like her consanguineous cousin Kupriak she tested the rule of Rowena d’Alexandre most sorely. Indeed, rumour has it that the Cappadocian elder met her end in Rodica’s dungeon or, worse yet, abides their still. Unlike Kupriak, she did not rebel against her legendary sire, but instead took her sire’s soul when the elder had grown unbearably weary with her existence and the pointless feud that had characterised it. Soon after Kupriak destroyed Durobastes, Lapa of Obrud realised that her centuries-long existence had amounted to little of true value, while Rodica’s potential promised so much more. With that in mind, the old voivode ordered Rodica to take her heart’s blood. The ceremony of ritual suicide took place in 1127; it was a celebration of Rodica’s promise and Lapa’s prestige. Widely attended by many knezi and several neighbouring voivozi, it is to this night held as an example of how a Tzimisce should leave the world on their own terms, at the top of their honour and strength. Rodica took her sire’s lessons to heart, and she has developed a reputation as an alliance builder in the tradition of her ancestors Ionache and Demenaus. She readily bent the knee to Rustovich, for she believes that the unity he promises is the future of the clan. For his part, the Voivode among Voivodes relies upon her exceptional judgement, as well as her extraordinary wealth.
- Florescu, Voivode of Maramureş (5th? generation elder, rumoured to be the childe of Ionache, Embraced AD 566); A crafty, conniving politician who is noted for the air of mystery and inveiglement surrounding his early history and his assumption of power. It is known that he learned his skills at the feet of Ionache, the first voivode, and that while he claims to have been favoured by that ancient he dispenses with the typical Dragon affectation for reciting lineage and expecting respect. Instead, he lets his inestimable deeds speak for him. Florescu has the unique honour of having subverted a family of “werewolf kin,” thereby creating the Danislav revenant family. To this night, his revenants are known for their dignified social graces and their extraordinary skill at hunting their former masters, the Umbra Domnii (also known as the Shadow Lords). A gift of one of his famed Danislavi is a mighty boon indeed, and a sign that a voivode has made himself or herself worthy of the respect of their peers. He has ruled his territory openly for many decades, with little care for the Sixth Tradition and unusually, Florescu prefers the Western designation of “count” (or conte) to the local title of boyar. Within Transylvania his audacity has bred imitation, and a number of other mortal lords of Vlach extraction have followed him. Count Florescu’s lands lie in the north and west of Transylvania, in the isolated valleys of the Carpathians near Bistritz. Very much a voivode in the traditional model, he excels at prosecuting Trials by War to such an extent that none have sought to press his secluded borders since the middle of the 11th century.
- Radu, Knez of Bistrița (7th generation ancilla, childe of Visya, Embraced AD 1125); Variously known as the Prince of Bistritz, Knez of Bistrița, Burgrave of Nösen, and Lord of Nösnerland, Radu explodes most of the stereotypes of the clan. Thought to be a product of a rare Szantovich and Vlaszy union, and raised with connections among the highborn families of the Kingdom of Hungary, from his earliest mortal years he gained a fine appreciation for the politics of alliance. Polished, pleasant, moderate, and forgiving in his dealings, he seems more interested in sponsoring wealth and prosperity in his dominion rather than wasting precious resources in meaningless strife and pointless intrigues. As such, he was a founding member of the Árpád-led initiative known as the Council of Ashes; Radu has ever after been a driving force for development of settled German civilisation and trade in Transylvania and, despite being the progeny of the despised Visya, the diplomatically inclined outsider has managed to win over much of the clan. After all, the Tzimisce might despise the arrival of interlopers into their ancient land, but they are far from collectively stupid. They see the wealth that Radu’s vision has brought. Wealth in silver, in salt, in learning, and trade. But most importantly, in blood. The waves of German settlement have allowed the Dragons access to new vessels and new ideas, and Radu is lauded for bringing this about. The only stains on his honour were his membership in a Ventrue-led (though admittedly dysfunctional) coterie and his loyalty to a base cur of a sire. Both of these matters were redressed in 1214 when Rustovich came for Visya, and the old monster fled before the wrath of the Voivode among Voivodes. Given the choice to bend the knee, Radu readily did so and also subsequently withdrew from the Council of Ashes. His usefulness to his new master cannot be underestimated, for it is said that only Rustovich himself has a finer grasp of intrigue than the Knez of Bistrița, and the schemes they must be hatching together might well rock the country.
- Sergiu Lazar, Knez of Aserculu (7th generation ancilla, childe of Visya, Embraced AD 1137); A canny and commanding knight with many contacts among the Vlaszy revenant family, the Transylvanian Gangrel, and even representatives of the Malkavian mystery cults, this one-time loyal childe of Visya is now a valued servant of Vladimir Rustovich, the Voivode among Voivodes. At least some of the respect that has come his way in recent decades has been gleaned from his known tutelage at the feet of none other than Yorak, who appears to have developed an interest in Sergiu’s philosophies on the practice of Vicissitude. Now recognised as an Ashen Priest of the via Mutationis his insights have led to other young walkers on his road seeking Sergiu out for instruction. Additionally his domain, Aserculu, was fairly won from Rustovich’s beloved and formidable progeny, the late Vlad Ionescu, and this too has granted him much status for his years. He has been entrusted with an army to hold the borders of the northern Siebenburgen against the Council of Ashes. This too is a reversal for the Árpáds, for in years past Sergiu made allies of János Oszol and the Cainites of Schäßburg against the depredations of Ionescu. His knowledge of their strategies has proven invaluable to his new master, and bolstered by soldiers and a subordinate coterie of Tzimisce, Gangrel, and Nosferatu, he holds the line against Schäßburg and Mediasch quite readily.
- Bodor, Knez of Toth (7th generation ancilla, childe of Zubor [d], Embraced AD 1162); The valley of Toth is an obscure mountain pass between the land of the Székely and that of the Brodniks and the Cumans; cut by the Trotuș river it is oft snowbound in the colder months. Until quite recently an unknown element in the sphere of clan politics in the Old Country, Bodor has since made a name for himself by surviving several Trials by War against the much stronger forces of Voivode Koban of Vranca. It is said that in the first of these conflicts he was assisted by the formidable coterie known as the Concord, but in later wars Knez Bodor has had the benefit of the protection of his new liege, Tabak Ruthven, who has designs on expanding his domain into Muntenia and then the Székelyföld and the Siebenburgen. A remote ruler, keeping his hands off the day-to-day running of the domain of his mortal subjects in the valley, Bodor is much more concerned by cerebral matters such as honing the power inherent in the Blood. The safety of the valley and his people is necessary for his studies, and so he has made what alliances are necessary to facilitate his work. Aside from Tabak, the Krevcheski now have an estate in the valley, and they have outfitted Toth Castle with wondrous and terrifying contraptions to assist in the inevitable sieges to come.
VOIVOZI AND KNEZI OF THE NORTH AND EAST
Furthest from the population density and influence of strong mortal states and the Church, the Fiends of the fractured Russian principalities and the near Pontic Steppe are an altogether more savage and warlike breed. There is an almost palpable change in the air east of the confluence of the Vistula and the San, as if one is stepping into danger. In parts of Sandomierz, as well as the lands of Halych and Volhynia, a mild pretense is made to adhere to something like the Silence of the Blood, and the Cainites of these lands tend to observe the other Traditions of Caine. However, the further north and east one travels, the more one is likely to encounter mortal lands scoured of peaceable existence. This is the land of warring princes of the Rus’, of bellicose and rapacious Cuman and Kipchak raiders, and of desperate peasants forced into murderous banditry. Undead demesnes are in a near-constant state of warfare with each other and with the silver furred werewolves that would take their territory and their heads. In fact, the Fiends of these perilous lands seem amused by news of the War of Princes, for naked conflict has ever been the norm for them. The Sixth Tradition is honoured more in the breach here than the observance, for in these lands the reach of the Church is feeble and the desperate kine, deprived for centuries of the safety of any centralised authority, cling to any devil that promises to protect them from the horrors they do not know.
- Hedeon Yaroslavich, Voivode of Sandomierz and Volhynia (5th? generation elder, sire unconfirmed but speculated to be Byelobog, Noriz, Shaagra, or Jedrik [d], Embraced AD 412); Quite active along the northern fringe of the Old Country, Hedeon’s demesnes include a vast swathe of territory encompassing much of the west of the fractured Ruthenian Principality of Volhynia and a good deal of the east of the Polish Duchy of Sandomierz. His ancestral haven is a formidable castle and estate just north of the rapids of the Styri river, among the north-facing foothills of the Carpathians, but the capitals of his demesnes are the fortified trading towns of Sandomierz and Lublin. Quite insular by nature, he preserves territory by dint of clever delegation to underlings, his knowledge of the koldunic mysteries, and his singular expertise for crafting particularly dangerous vozhd and legions of slachta. Both of these are given to his Blood Oath-bound and Dominated progeny and servitors to secure the borders against all comers. Perhaps owing to his extreme secrecy, little is known of his early history save that he speaks of the Slavic migrations as one who experienced them firsthand. Likewise, he is quiet concerning his lineage, and some believe this is because Hedeon Yaroslavich is a rampant diablerist who seeks reformed respectability as a guardian of the old ways. In recent decades the Corruptor of Legions has pressed his borders frequently, and Hedeon’s enemies to the north and west have taken the opportunity to raid while his attention is drawn to the east. Of late, he has entered an alliance of convenience with Vladimir Rustovich so that they might enjoy trade and a stable border while they deal with more noisome threats. Hedeon does not tolerate vassal voivozi in his lands, but more than a score of knezi serve his every whim.
- Mircea Dzardescu, Voivode of Suceava (8th generation ancilla, childe of Gerlo [d], Embraced AD 1113); A rising star among the northern voivodes, Mircea swore vengeance on Visya and Radu for precipitating the destruction of Gerlo, his sire and predecessor, but he has since been forced to put that vendetta aside while he concentrates on repelling the ambitions of Noriz, the Corruptor of Legions. He is known to be of a weak generation (at least, for a voivode), but he is clever and unconventional, for Lord Mircea excels at forming disparate alliances across clan lines. His willingness to assign knezates to Gangrel and Nosferatu subordinates and treat them as equals with his own clanmates has earned him the grudging respect of other clans in addition to a truly enviable chain of scouting and fighting assets. In the past, charges by his contemporaries that his methods bring about the dissolution of clan hegemony and status have been met with the bland rejoinder that the Tzimisce are the clan of change, of metamorphosis, and a strong Tzimisce embraces such, and on every avenue — he does not spurn it. His wit has silenced the insults, for none can argue with his results. The “weak-blooded” warlord of Suceava and his followers have held their ground against the Corruptor and his. Like Voivode Hedeon to his west, Mircea appears to have seen the advantage of allying with Vladimir Rustovich, but it is not yet confirmed as to whether overtures on both their parts have yielded fruit.
- Darvag Grozny, the Butcher of Rus, de facto Knez of Kiev (7th generation ancilla, childe of Vidor, Embraced AD 1037). Once held to be a jewel of the scattered and warring principalities of the Rus’, Golden Kiev has lain in ruins since 1167, always struggling to find its feet once more. It has been sacked many times, and burned at least once, but the Saint Sophia Cathedral still stands proud and inviolate. Legends circulate about the holy place among the mortals, but the undead enjoy sharing the tale too; all the more so because its immortal protector is none other than a staunch pagan. Darvag the Terrible has dwelt in Kiev since his Becoming in the early decades of the 11th century. He hates the cathedral— a symbol of the victory of Christianity over his own gods — and has sworn to destroy it stone by stone. Indeed, he will suffer none other may harm it. Unfortunately, Saint Sophia radiates overwhelming True Faith and so Darvag is left to despise it impotently. He has also stood as its guardian through sack and through fire, and sent his ghouls — both men and wolves — to do so when he is unable. Much depopulated by the despoliation of its enemies, Kiev has few Cainite residents, and all exist there at the sufference of Darvag Grozny and at times (when he can be bothered) he has acted as the knez of the ruined capital to see his will done. It is said that he is insanely vengeful by nature, and that he has a capricious, cruel sense of humour even for a Tzimisce.
VOIVODES AND KNEZI OF THE WEST
The Tzimisce of Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Małopolska, and parts of Sandomierz are strong in their power, although they face great challenges from Germanic Ventrue using the Ostsiedlung as a pretext for expansion into new territories. Within the Kingdom of Hungary and its closest neighbours, these Fiends keep the western border against the Árpád Ventrue and the Eastern Lords, and by necessity they are known for being unusually adroit in the use of the amorphous mortal Hungarian, Bohemian, and Polish political structures to wage their battles and ply their intrigues. Certainly the Silence of the Blood is observed rather more closely in their demesnes, as both the apparatus of the Church is significantly stronger in the lands west of the San River and the Apuseni Mountains. They very much exist in the feudal model, and at least in the regions close to Transylvania they are for the most part vassals (some willingly, others less so) of Vladimir Rustovich. Over the course of three centuries they have overseen the admixture of Magyar, Slavic, and Vlach culture among their kine, and as a result they are a touch more innovative and modern in their thinking than some of their clan-mates further to the east. This being the case they are a sly lot, well-adapted to settling their conflicts in a circumspect and secretive manner. They also know their Ventrue enemies far better than the other Tzimisce, and so they have enjoyed considerably more success rolling back the early gains of the Árpáds. However, the Eastern Lords are rather more lean, hungry, and numerous than their complacent Magyar cousins, and it remains to be seen whether the Tzimisce of the West can retain their holdings throughout the bloody nights to come.
- Razkoljna, Voivode of Kraków (6th generation ancilla, childe of Jedrik [d], Embraced AD 930). Once known as a relatively quiescent prince with few ambitions other than stamping her authority as the oldest extant Tzimisce in the province of Małopolska, since the turn of the 13th century Razkoljna has shrugged off the calcification of her years and has become quite active. Perhaps inspired by the example of Vladimir Rustovich, she has developed her ambitions towards establishing a real preeminence as the most important voivode in all of Lesser Poland. To that end, she has Embraced no fewer than ten progeny and drawn more than a dozen other Tzimisce to her growing faction. Since 1215, she has vassalised the Cainite rulers of Tarnówa, Jędrzejów, and Chrzanów, as well as a host of smaller domains, and she openly has designs on Radom to the north and Katowice to the west. Still a new power, she is busy consolidating her demesnes and looking to establish cordial relations with Rustovich and his vassals as well as Hedeon Yaroslavich in Sandomierz. It is likely that before long she will have to contend with the allied Fiendish knezi that have recently displaced the Ventrue of Silesia, so Razkoljna is expending much capital to make an ally of her neighbours elsewhere. Of late, several of her agents have been spotted treating with the Voivode among Voivodes.
- Yaropolk Davydovich, Voivode of Mukačevo and Veretsky (8th? generation ancilla, childe of Davyd Raska [d], Embraced AD 1087); A skilled captain and adept administrator, Yaropolk has ruled a sixty odd-mile swathe of territory between the castle known to the Magyars as Munkács and the famous Veretsky Pass, which leads into Ruthenian lands. A native of Halych, Yaropolk was brought across by an ambitious and mercenary childe of Razkoljna, the voivode of Kraków. Davyd desired to carve his own dominion out of his native Halych, and when released by his sire he set out to do so. Quickly Embracing a handful of doughty fighters, he set to the task of dislodging the formidable and vicious Prince Lampert of Munkács and Lampertszász. His efforts failed to dislodge the powerful Ventrue, but it did serve to stem the advance of the Árpáds into Ruthenia at the cost of his own existence. In 1122, he and most of his brood were felled on the field of battle during a night raid while Yaropolk watched over his sire’s mountain stronghold. Those revenants and ghouls that managed to flee the rout told him that his sire’s soul was taken by Lampert then and there. The neonate saw the writing on the wall, and wrote to the rising star that was Vladimir Rustovich, promising his loyal service if the voivode would bolster his defences against the inevitable assault of the wrathful Ventrue. His request was granted, the castle saved, and Yaropolk became the knez of Veretsky. By 1139, Lampert Árpád was gone (some say at the fangs of Yaropolk) and the castle town of Munkács belonged to the forces of Vladimir Rustovich. Over the intervening years Yaropolk has extended his reach west and north along the foothills of the Vihorlat Mountains, destroying Árpád assets and forcing other Tzimisce to bend the knee. In 1172, he declared himself a voivode and he has become the strongest of Rustovich’s vassals in the north of the Kingdom of Hungary. At present, he keeps a watchful eye on his master’s ally, Hedeon Yaroslavich, while simultaneously supporting Voivode Mok of Borsod against the resurgent allied Ventrue princes of Gömör and Eger.
- Mok Ják, Voivode of Borsod (7th generation ancilla, childe of Vladimir Rustovich, Embraced AD 1051); From his haven in the bowels of the royal castle at Diósgyőr, this formidable warrior holds the western border of his sire and liege against the belligerent allied Árpád princes of Gömör and Eger as well as the subtle new threat of the rise of the secretive prince of Miskolc. In truth, Mok has always been stronger among the Slavic villages in the hills rather than the Magyar trading settlements, but in recent years he has moved into the latter with strength, hoping to dislodge his Ventrue enemies. His success has been mixed, for while he easily holds the castle of Diósgyőr and the town of Miskolc, he no longer possesses the ability to project his power across the Bükk mountains into the comital capital of Borsod. His enemies are clever and fierce, and while his soldiers, his ghouls, his revenants, and his subordinates once pressed neighbouring counties with ease, he has been forced to adopt a defensive posture as Rustovich has been drawn into the intrigues of Transylvania. Mok is a typical Fiend in many ways; interested foremostly in the power, status, wealth, and vessels that his lands grant him, but he is by no means an unsubtle brute. Indeed, the warlord of Borsod is an adept politician who very much understands the long-term intrigues and intent of his sire, and he adroitly plays the game of managing royal servants, old dynastic magnates, and the subtle tension between Slav, Magyar, and German. Though his influence and reach is diminished, so long as he continues to move carefully and mindfully, he promises to maintain the heartland of his power and thus secure the western flank of the Voivodate under his purview. He stands allied with Yaropolk Davydovich, Rustovich’s other primary vassal in the region.
- Czernisko, Voivode of Szepes (7th generation elder, childe of Mojmir (d), Embraced AD 916). Sometimes referred to as the “Mad Voivode” (in an admiring sense rather than a derogatory one) by his own clan-mates, Czernisko makes his domain among the foothills and valleys of the Tatras mountains of the northern Inner Carpathians. His territory is rugged and bucolic, full of thick mountain forests and rugged, closed valleys, but it also takes in the towns of Koša, Prešä, Poprad, and Spiš, the last of which holds a royal castle beneath which he maintains his lavish court amid an extensive labyrinth. He is yet another of a rare breed, for he enjoys the termporal authority of a voivode in addition to walkiing the Road of Metamorphosis. Unlike many of his fellow Shaper-priests he expresses his philosophy through “instructive art;” his plays featuring flesh-crafted orchestras and “collectives” of ghoul actors that draw many admirers among the clan, as well as a few particularly innovative or perverse Toreador. Although his demesnes lie relatively far from Transylvania, he is noted here because he is the most far-flung of Rustovich’s vassals and allies, and his progeny and revenant retainers frequently find their way to Land Beyond the Forest on his business, or that of his master. Many of them, like himself, are of the debased Přemyslid offshoot of the Szantovich bloodline. Czernisko is also responsible for maintaining amicable relations with certain among the fractious Polish Tzimisce, most notably Voivode Razkoljna of Kraków, who has fêted him in the past due to his extraordinary operas. In addition to this much-lauded aesthetic sensibilities, Czernisko is well-known for his skill at using at manipulating Hungarian feudal politics. Since taking the royal province of Szepes for his own in AD 1174, his dynastic manoeuvrings proved more than equal to the best the Árpád Ventrue attempted to throw at him. Indeed, it was only out of an insightful and pragmatic recognition that he was being out-played by Lord Rustovich and Lady Lupescu that caused him to reluctantly accept vassalage to the Voivode among Voivodes in AD 1210. He remains a restless vassal, and his liege watches him closely.
- Kara Vlaszy Lupescu, Knez of Zolonta and Pădureni (7th generation ancilla, childe of Vladimir Rustovich, Embraced AD 975); considered to be the chief aide-de-camp and diplomat of the Voivode among Voivodes, as well as a prominent knez in her own right, until recent years Lady Kara was frequently on the move throughout the Old Country, shoring up the loyalties of the fractious clan to her lord in addition to settling internal disputes among his vassals. However, after the ascension of András II she relocated to the king’s court, where she has reluctantly served her sire and lord as the linchpin to his diplomatic front against the Árpád Ventrue. Salacious rumour has it among the mortal court that in addition to serving as a hunting companion to the king she is also his mistress, but this is hotly denied by András’ partisans. In any case, fear of Lady Kara’s sway over András directly precipitated the shaky alliance between the nervous Árpáds and the ambitious Eastern Lords. Among her fellows Dragons she is known to be an impressive warrior of the Vlaszy revenant family, although her skill as a courtier is not inconsiderable, having been honed at the feet of Szantovich and Basarab lords. Her Vlaszy kin largely follow her lead, and since they have well and truly found their way into the emergent great houses of the kingdom, this lends Rustovich considerable indirect influence amongst the mortal nobility of Hungary. Her own demesnes include the royal castle and estate at Zolonta, north of Arad, and more recently the village of Temesliget (Pădureni to the local Vlachs), south of the troubled settlement of Temesvár (Timișoara), which she contests with elements of the Árpád Order of the Griffon.
VOIVOZI AND KNEZI OF THE SOUTH
The Tzimisce of Muntenia, Oltenia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, and Greece have absorbed considerably more of Mediterranean and Byzantine culture than their clan-mates elsewhere, and they are renowned among those who know the Tzimisce well for being both the most civilised and decadent of the clan. Most of them cling to certain mortal affectations, customs, and attitudes as a way to differentiate themselves from their less couth northern kin, and of all the Tzimisce they are the most likely to establish “prestige broods” of pretty childer to show off their wealth and prestige. As a result of their complacency and cosmopolitanism they tend to be less observant regarding their place in the social order of High Clans and Low, and they more easily accept other clans as their (near) equals. They are known for inviting cooperation and alliances that would be unthinkable to other Tzimisce, such as the well known past associations of various Bulgarian and Serbian voivodes with the Antonian Ventrue of Byzantium. With the exception of Oltenia, which is almost entirely subdued by Lord Tabak Ruthven, the demesnes of these Fiends are a patchwork of independent fiefs that readily ally and war upon each other. Also, throughout the first decades of the 13th century, most of the voivodes of Muntenia were destroyed by the Cuman Gangrel warlord known as Kordönül, and those that remain are both humbled by their losses and ambitious to expand into the void.
- Ioan Basarab, Voivode of Rusidava (6th generation elder, childe of Basazus [d], Embraced AD 541). The most important and competent of the vassals of Tabak Ruthven, Ioan is the earliest known surviving Basarab to find his way into the ranks of the Tzimisce. Indeed, from his stronghold at Drăgășani on the western bank of the Olt river, for centuries he has masterminded the growth of his family’s prestige in Oltenia and Muntenia. From his castle, Ioan’s demesnes stretch south to encompass the important slice of the region where the Olt joins the Danube all the way west to the banks opposite the fortified Bulgarian river port of Vidin. The land is peopled by many Bulgarians, Cumans, and small numbers of Pechenegs in addition to the local Vlachs, and Ioan and his revenant kin have melded them into an impressive force that keeps the flanks of Oltenia secure for his lord. His sire was a Romano-Dacian era voivode who lost his lands and his head to Lord Tabak in the 9th century, and the price of Ioan’s own survival and ascension was a Blood Oath to his conquerer. It is thought that despite the passing of centuries he remains bound still, a perfect insrument of Tabak’s will and his ambition. Most of his desires are subordinate to those of his master, who desires the more diplomatic Ioan to establish a mortal state in the lands of Oltenia and Muntenia. To that end, the formidable Warlord of Rusidava spends most of his time intriguing and alliance building throughout the land. The one pastime that Ioan Basarab seems to retain is his hatred of the werewolves and his joy at hunting them. The Umbra Domnii and their white and black furred Grecian kin have been eradicated in his lands, and he openly courts experienced Gangrel hunters to join his followers. Some of his descendants, Raluca of Câmpulung in particular, share his hunting proclivities.
- Cezar Satnoianu, Voivode of Orșova (6th generation elder, childe of Floriana Ruthven [d]; Embraced AD 661); A sybaratic warlord with links to the Bulgarian and Serbian Tzimisce, this master of flesh-crafting purports to be a Metamorphosist, though he makes no pretensions about being a true Shaper Priest. Certainly, his lavish Blood Feasts and other grandiose festivities draw more walkers on the via Peccati than the via Mutationis, and he takes little seriously other than his duty to guard one of the roads to Sarmizegetusa. He is renowned for his large brood of prestige childer, which he has dubbed ‘the Chalice of Osseus Delights’ after an obscure piece of Koldunic folklore, and nothing brings him more pleasure than weaving them together to form sculptures of bone, flesh, and blood that are pleasing to his eye. Indeed, his progeny serve no true purpose other than to wait upon his fetishistic fascination with the arts of Vicissitude. More than one Shaper Priest has been known to remark that the Warlord of Orșova is “rather missing the point.” His domain is rich with river trade and travellers, centred as it is at the confluence of the Cerna and Danube rivers, very near the westernmost point of Oltenia, but the way to it overland is rugged. As such, his voivodate is considered to be one of the more stable and least contested in the region. Nominally, he bends the knee to Voivode Tabak Ruthven, but he is largely left alone.
- Raiszko cel Neîmblânzit, Voivode of Buzău (6th generation elder, childe of Velya the Flayer, Embraced AD 789); A monstrously powerful warlord (standing over seven feet tall before he takes the zulo shape) with a quick, innovative mind, a legendary sense of hospitality, and a penchant for speedily adopting new and unorthodox ideas that disadvantage his enemies. As the master of a rugged mountain pass between the Muntenian hills of the south-eastern Carpathians and the Székelyföld, this voivode has held his territory against all belligerents, both mundane and supernatural, since the mid 9th century. His legendary will and intractibility has earned him the epithet of Raiszko the Indomitable, and though his hospitality is grand even by the standards of his kin, he is every ready to go to war to protect his demesnes. While the voivode of Buzău was initially dismissive of the Omen War, his lands lie quite close to Ceoris and due to their raids he has adopted the cause with vigour since the 1150s. Raiszko himself has little interest in sorcery, but he is reputed to be a master of Animalism in addition to the flesh-crafting arts. Many of those whom his sire inducts into the Koldunic mysteries journey to Buzău to test their mettle against the Usurpers, and not a few Gangrel who have been orphaned or displaced by the Tremere have thrown themselves upon his mercy as well. Together with his large brood of childer, the addition of these Gangrel means that his domain represents perhaps the single largest concentration of the undead in all of Muntenia, and certainly his castle and the extensive labyrinth beneath it is unmatched in the area save for Ceoris itself. Voivode Koban of Vrancea is an old enemy, and there have been many Trials by War fought between them over the centuries. However, the rise of Koban’s Gangrel warlord, Kordönül, led to Raiszko’s first true defeat, and for some years his power shrank to the walls of his castle. Now he rebuilds his strength, and resists the growth of Hungarian and German influence in the region.
- Vladislav Călărețul, Voivode of București (8th generation ancilla, childe of Bucur [d?], Embraced AD 1024); The strongest remaining Tzimisce warlord on the Muntenian plain, and a descendant of Gabor the Bulgar, this dignified potentate is an alliance-builder. In the past he has alternatively vied with and allied with a host of both Vlach and Bulgarian voivodes and knezi, including Tabak of Oltenia, Miroslava of Târgovişte, Umor of Ploieşti, Raiszko of Buzău, Ivaylo of Vratsata, Kamen of Pliska, and Lyudmil of Constanța. Each time his goal has been either to defend his small, marshy, forested domain or to build a web of alliances centred aroung building a new mortal kingdom north of the Danube. Thus far he has enjoyed little success, and indeed he suffered heavy losses in battle with the Gangrel warlord known as Kordönül. However, Vladislav the Horseman is nothing if not an opportunist, and the destruction of several of his rivals in the Cuman War has made him optimistic that he can insert potential allies, vassals, and kin into the sudden void. Recognising the advantage of their mobility, he also seeks to make alliance with several of the potent Gangrel who survived the loss of their Devil Khan. Vladislav places much value on the skills of his Nosferatu warden and coterie-mate, Rada, and the Lepers find a ready and relatively egalatarian welcome in his demesnes. București is a fast-growing port (population 3850, five vampires) between the Dâmbovița and Colentina rivers, both of which connect the town to the Danube. Potentially a rich location for trade, it is quickly becoming the Muntenian centre for the lumber and cattle markets, plus marquetry, textiles, salt, and ceramics. The town has almost doubled in size throughout the 13th century, in no small part due to skilled refugees who fled the horrors of Kordönül, the Devil Khan.
- Lyudmil Uzhasnata, Voivode of Constantia (7th? generation ancilla, childe of Gostun [d], Embraced AD 936); A particularly nasty piece of work descended from Noriz, Lyudmil the Terrible has held his port town on the Black Sea since the halcyon days of the First Bulgarian Empire. After Gabor’s rise to power, Lyudmil would take the lands between the shores of the Black Sea and the bank of the last northern bend of the Danube for his own. Over the following centuries, he has cleverly picked his alliances and his battles to expand his control to the villages and Genoese trading colonies at the mouth of the great river in the north to the ancient port town of Callatis (Pangalia) in the south. Over the years he has sharpened his skills by waging many Trials by War against would-be Gangrel khans of the Uzes, the Pechenegs, and the Cumans as well as his occasiional ally and frequent rival Voivode Kamen of Pliska and Varna. He thinks nothing of diablerie, and has been known to offer prisoners to allies for consumption in return for favours. In particular, he is known to court Italian traders, and for many years the unsavoury Cappadocian diablerist Carmine Giovanni maintained a haven in Constantia. Lyudmil’s port and those along the river have become a haven for Bulgarian pirates, and more recently the increasing cooperation of Kamen with Venice has driven the warlord of Constantia to court Genoese adventurers, traders, and neerdowells.The port city (population 1450 and four vampires) is very much an armed camp and cesspit where the grandeur of Byzantine glory is filmed with soot and blood.
- Raluca, Knezna of Câmpulung and Argeș (7th generation ancilla, childe of Ioan Basarab, Embraced AD 969); The guardian the hilly border between Muntenia and Oltenia, Lady Raluca oversees her demesnes from the ramparts of a formidable fortification built upon the foundations of an old Roman castrum. Raluca is no Metamorphosist, and aside from a fixation on astrology she has little interest in esoteric arts. She is a servant of Tabak Ruthven, the voivode of much of Oltenia, and she and her large brood held the castle against the worst that the Kordönül could throw at them for several years before the forces of the Siebenburgen pushed back the Gangrel warlord’s Cuman servants. Raluca’s long-held reputation is that of a tyrannical ruler, a fierce seductress, and a clever hunter of the black furred werewolves that bedevil the Fiends of the Old Country. A little less well known is that she once sought to break from Tabak and establish her own voivodate, that her cruel master discovered her deception before she was ready, that he captured her, and not willing to lose such a useful servant he decided to reeducate her on the proper conduct of a cassal. Blood bound and fleshcrafted into a fleshy tapestry, Tabak forced her to witness his methods of rulership for decades before releasing her back to his service. Now, Raluca is a pliant servant who allows her master’s revenants and her own progeny a free hand to administer her unusually large domain. Oddly, Lady Raluca insists upon the feminine form of her title rather than the commonly accepted masculine.
A GALLERY OF FIENDISH ROGUES
Not all noteworthy Fiends active throughout Transylvania and the surrounding lands are in possession of large demesnes and spend the long years of their existence in contention with their fellows. Some have become notable for their diplomatic credentials, others for their advances along the difficult Road of Metamorphosis, and still others have gained fame and respect among the clan for their devotion to the Koldunic mysteries. Some few are noted simply for having struck fear into the unliving hearts of the voivodes. One or two were once numbered among the mighty, but they are now held in very low regard indeed, for rather than meeting the Final Death in glorious defeat or honourably submitting to ritual diablerie when vanquished through Trial by War, they instead opted to flee and exist in ignominy and obscurity. Such failure marks them as notorious, and they are scorned and sometimes hunted by the clan.
- Velya the Flayer, Koldun and Shaper Priest of Renown (reputed to be an elder of the 5th generation, most reliably speculated to be the progeny of Yorak, and to have been Embraced perhaps as long as 1000 years ago); Although he is no voivode and seeks little in the way of temporal power, such is the respect given to this elder that he may as well be among the first in honour among the Dragons. One of the more congenial and progressive kolduns, Velya is reputed to make his lair somewhere near Argeș. There he pursues his interest in the via Mutationis, practices the koldunic mysteries, and studies many esoteric sciences, all the while paradoxically propagating the worship of the ancient gods of the Dacians and the Thracians. Not a few of the Tzimisce blood sorcerers and Shaper Priests who wander the Voivodate have received instruction from him at some point, and while he enjoys his tranquil isolation, Velya the Flayer is owed an extraordinary number of favours and enjoys an enviable network of contacts. Sooner or later he hears much of importance that happens in the Old Country, and he hordes his secrets and boons against the night when he might turn his mind back to material power. For while he now enjoys the reputation of the gracious host, mentor, and philosopher, this was not always the case; Velya earned his savage epithet centuries ago for his propensity to lose his mercurial temper and then flay all the skin from those who have angered him — often with a single, brutal yank of his powerful hands.
- Lugoj, Scion of the Corruptor (6th? generation ancilla, childe of Noriz, Embraced a couple of centuries ago); One of the strongest exemplars of Noriz’ philosophies, this ancilla is known to be something of a contradiction in terms. Some claim that he is little more than a furore agitator and a brute, while others who have dealt with him say that he is also a skilled courtier and strategist. Rumour has it that in his mortal years he was an adventurer and mercenary who wandered far and wide in search of novelty and vision; at length, he instead found the fangs of the Corruptor of Legions. The course of his early existence among the undead is murky, save that in the 10th and 11th centuries he cut his fangs in the chaotic contestations of the land between the Kievan Rus’, the Pechenegs, the Cumans, and the Byzantine Empire. Afterward, little else is known of him before AD 1181, when he appeared in Temesvar and allied himself with the emergent Brujah under the Carthaginian Ancient known as Dominic. Lugoj would claim the village and fortification that shared his name for his dominion, and indeed he was overheard to say that it was the place of his mortal birth. He defended the place fiercely and well, drawing capable lieutenants from among other dispossessed Tzimisce, Gangrel, Nosferatu, and Brujah furores, but after the nascent Brujah state fell he and his followers melted back into the shadows. In recent years he has recreated himself as a seeker after ancient knowledge and wisdom, but he and his people have been known to strike weaker demesnes from time to time, taking the blood and the riches of the unworthy for their own. The elders have come to fear the name of Lugoj.
- Lambach Ruthven, errant diplomat and Knez of Hațeg (5th generation ancilla, childe of Ruthven, Embraced AD 992); This ancilla enjoys the questionable distinction of being the last of the progeny of Ruthven, himself the youngest of the childer of the Eldest. Unlike his older consanguineous brethren Damek and Tabak, Lambach is no voivode. Indeed, despite the awesome potential of his Blood, his domain is little more than a manor and a tiny village in the midst of the demesnes of more ambitious Ruthvenski. It would seem that Lambach is valued by his more powerful kin, though, for his true talents appears to lie in his obsequious verve for ingratiating himself and a profound expertise for avoiding positions of true responsibility. Certainly not without guile, his sybaritic nature and flair for sharing entertaining tales has endeared him to many Tzimisce, and his brother Tabak in particular has been known to bully Lambach into serving as his private diplomat. Most recently, in 1214 he secured the coup of leveraging a nearly ruinous debt out of envoys of Jürgen von Verden when the Swordbearer needed to make use of Tabak’s land in his war against the Gangrel warlord known as Kordönül.
- Gabor the Bulgar, Erstwhile Voivode of Sredets (6th generation elder, childe of Demenaus [d], Embraced AD 894); Once the most powerful of the Bulgarian Fiends, this fearsome warrior is nonetheless held up as an exemplar of failure. As childe and student of Demenaus, a clan philosopher who sought to bring about Ionache’s dream of uniting the clan, Gabor was a great believer in clear lines of feudal responsibility and structure united behind the perfect potentate. And obviously, to his mind that perfect potentate was obviously him. The Transylvanian Tzimisce scoffed but in fact, by the middle of the 11th century he had succeeded in forging the Fiends of the First Bulgarian Empire into the strongest voivodate in Europe. He was marked as a potential luminary of the clan, only to see it all crumble around him. Gabor’s failure lay in that he failed to see that his vassals resented his domineering interference in their own demesnes and in the end, even a number of his own progeny grew to plot against him. Time, distance, and his own conceit atrophied the Blood Oaths he had forced upon them, and when the axe fell he only barely escaped their wrath. When next he came to light a century later, it was as a lowly servant and enforcer of the Draconian Tzimisce of Byzantium, and after that an ally of the hated Árpád Ventrue. This was an unforgiveable slight in the minds of his Transylvanian brethren, but to the pragmatic Gabor a Hungarian Ventrue was no better or worse than a Byzantine one, and the Bulgarian Fiends had often worked with the Antonians in his time. Any ally was worth it to regain Sredets once more, and for more than fifty years he built his base to do just that. In this too, he would fail, for when he made his play in 1204 he was but one of several contenders for the throne, and Bela Rusenko had more allies than he. Gabor fled once again, abandoning his progeny and disappearing into the night. His name is now truly a source of mirth and disgust to his fellow Tzimisce.
- Veceslav Basarab, Erstwhile Knez of Tihuța (7th? generation ancilla, childe of Gabor the Bulgar, Embraced AD 1158); Unusually well-travelled for a Dragon, this ancilla has been active in Carpathia, the Byzantine Successor States, and the Levant. He wears many cloaks, having interests in matters mercantile as well as scholastic, dabbling also in both Cainite and kine politics, and he has even made a study of Noddsit lore and the mysteries of koldunism. It is thought that his many interests stem from his stint as an aspirant among the Draconian monks of the Obertus, but indeed Veceslav is a difficult Cainite to pin down for he appears to love his secrets like few others. It is known among the clan that along with his allies he infiltrated the Bitter Crusade in an attempt to protect his allies among the Byzantine Tzimisce, and while his labours were in vain, he let it be known among his clanmates that he secretly took the Heart’s Blood of a particularly egregious scion of the Ventrue crusaders. His fellows seem to enjoy keeping this particular secret, for not only does the loquacious Veceslav make friends with uncommon ease, but he often treats with the Ventrue to this night. In fact, they widely accept him as unusually “urbane, honourable, and civilised for a Tzimisce.” In all his existence, the one enemy he appears to have made is an unfortunate one, for none other than Vladimir Rustovich holds Veceslav in uncommon contempt, apparently on account of a snub delivered over the circumstances of his Becoming. This enmity cost him his domain in the early winter of 1214, when the armies of Rustovich took northern Transylvania. Throughout the following years, the erstwhile knez of Tihuța has not been idle. From his refuge in the city of Weißenburg Veceslav plots to recover his domain, and he has also gained new properties in the Holy Land.
- Visya, fugitive Voivode of Regun (6th generation elder, childe of Flaviu (d?), Embraced AD 414); Said to have been of the Szantovichi before his Embrace (though they no longer claim him), Visya is a study in the wages of talent, ambition, arrogance, and failure. Once deeply respected among the clan for his incisive and rational mind, his pursuit of the via Mutationis, his incredible talents in the arts of koldunism, and his advances in the understanding of the physiology of revenants, he is now widely spurned as a failure and a coward. Indeed, like Gabor the Bulgar he has become a cautionary tale, delivered by sires to their more audacious progeny that have a penchant for acting rashly and arrogantly. Those who remember him in a more nostalgic light credit Visya with engineering the creation of the Vlaszy and Grimaldi revenant families, and they remember him as one of the earliest examples of a Dragon who managed to balance the acquisition of both domain and the more esoteric pursuits. Unfortunately, Visya’s brilliance also led to conceit, for in an age when the Feudalists were emerging as the guardians of Dacian legacy and bloodlines, he had the temerity to experiment with, and grant the Dead Water to, peoples that were considered invaders. At his stronghold in the north of the Apuseni Mountains worthy candidates among the Gepids, Goths, Avars, Magyars, and Székelys also entered the ranks of the Tzimisce beneath his fangs, incensing his rivals and alienating potential allies. In due course, when Vladimir Rustovich began his rise to power, his overtures to the arrogant koldun were rebuffed, and Visya became the first of his many enemies. A Trial by War was waged soon enough, and Visya’ domain fell, but he ignominiously fled rather than face an honourable death. In truth, he has been running ever since, slinking through the shadows through the centuries and seeking to avoid the wrath of Rustovich in order to rebuild his power and take his own vengeance. Most recently, he did so most shockinly by allying with the Árpád Ventrue against his own kin, and using his childe Radu of Bistritz to set up his own new domain in the northern town of Regun. At first secretly and then later more overtly, he sought to expand that domain until 1214, when Rustovich invaded the northern cities of the Siebenburgen in his campaign to outflank Jürgen von Verden and his allies among the Council of Ashes. Visya was not ready for him, and he abandoned his new domain for the shadows once more. He is at large, though few Tzimisce indeed would give him succor.
- Maria Belladodia, Servant of the Old Gods (7th generation elder, childe of Valamar, Embraced AD 814); The elder known in some circles as the “Witch of Tihuta” dwells high up in the northern Carpathians above the eponymous mountain pass, keeping a lonely vigil over the torpid form of her ancient sire. Maria Belladodia cares little for overt displays of power or transient claims on demesnes that cannot be held. She is a koldun, a keeper of the ancient ways, not some petty knez or prideful voivode with delusions of grandeur. Indeed, she cares only for her gods, her sire and her followers, and she subscribes to an ancient, obscure pagan offshoot of the Road of Heaven. To those mortals of the village outside her cave, she is a goddess made flesh, a spirit incarnate; they gladly attend to her needs in return for her mediation with their gods and the spirit of the land. In return, she dutifully serves them in the role of priestess, mother, healer and, when occasion demands, protector or avenger. She has dwelt in her labyrinth, carved into the higher reaches of the mountains near her village, for centuries, ignoring the devolution of the Tzimisce into a dysfunctional morass of petty conflicts and declining purpose. As far as she is concerned, outside of simple prestation relationships, clan politics and status can truly be damned — the Tzimisce have lost their way, but it is not for her to help them find it again. Only rarely will she suffer a Cainite visitor to her isolated domain, and then only to trade some esoteric piece of koldunic knowledge.
- Bogescu, Mercenary Koldun (7th generation elder, childe of Bikili [d], Embraced AD 396); A true rarity among the Tzimisce, this pragmatic and masterful blood sorcerer is known to freely and blandly offer his services to any among the voivodes who would offer him the most blood, boons, and treasure. Bogescu cares little for conquest or the aquisition of domain himself, but he is no stranger to war. Indeed, his services in this regard are very much in demand. His puissance in the Ways of Fire and Earth make him a terrifying presence on the field of battle, and he also possesses the secrets of crafting the dread vozhd that can turn the tide of any war. In times past he was a valued servant of both Lord Ruthven and the legendary Ionache, but more recently he has more often than not found himself on retainer to Vladimir Rustovich. The Voivode among Voivodes has been generous in his patronage, having granted Bogescu a laboratory in a secluded locale within his vast dominions. There, the merry old koldun busies himself cooking up and crafting new surprises for Rustovich’s enemies.
- Aragatai, the Witch of Cumania (11th generation ancilla, childe of Otilia [d], Embraced AD 1068); A Blood Sorceress who has long haunted the southern foothills and valleys of the Transylvanian Alps near Ploieşti and Târgovişte. Aragatai claims to have lived for centuries before the Dead Water was forced upon her, and the accuracy of her campfire stories appear to bear out her claims. Bound by the earth of her grave, she was forced to watch her fellow Cumans leave to continue their migrations, but she became a legend to her people as she sought instruction in the koldunic mysteries and used her gifts in return for offerings of blood. Her clan periodically returned to her cave to treat with her, to ask her advice and to use her sorcery for their benefit, and she was also courted by Umor, the hoary voivode who ruled closest to her. For centuries she existed in this way, serving as a touchstone for the mortal Cumans and free to come and go from both Ploieşti and Târgoviște. Then the Devil Khan came. The ceribaşi savaged the region, burning villages and towns and annihilating all who dared to resist him. Aragatai stood with Umor and his other followers, and despite their formidable skill they were defeated. Out of respect for her reputation, Kordönül spared Aragatai on the condition that her advice and magics would now flow to he and his followers. The Witch of Cumania agreed, then returned to her small domain. She gave the Gangrel khan and his aides the benefit of her knowledge for several years before he too was thrown down. In her cave Aragatai abides still, revered and protected by the Cuman Gangrel who survived the fall of the Devil Khan’s short-lived empire. She casts a baleful eye upon the German missionaries who seek to Christianise her peoplem but otherwise the witch keeps her peace.
NOTEWORTHY FIENDS WHO HAVE FALLEN OF LATE
- Marelle, Sculptor of Wolves, and Late Voivode of Făgăraș and Hermannstadt (8th generation ancilla, childe of Radu; Embraced AD 1150, Final Death AD 1214); Although now thought to have been destroyed in battle with her hated foe Marusca, the legend of the Sculptor of Wolves continues to grow in the telling. As a Danislav revenant, this beautiful woman served the Knez of Bistrita as an envoy for some years, making great use of her florid grasp of intrigue and betrayal. However, after her Becoming something primal emerged in her psyche, and she instead adopted the savagery of her werewolf ancestors and become renowned for her viciousness, her vengefulness, and her bestial impulses. Many knezi and even a few voivodes thought twice before arousing her anger, for while she conquered much territory over her relatively short existence, she rarely cared to keep what she had won. Finding cause for quarrel, destroying her enemies, and indulging her carnal nature were what drove Marelle, and she was ever ready for a new fight. She also possessed an unusual facility for the Animalism discipline, and in due course her flesh-crafted packs of wolves were the terror of the forests of Tara Făgăraşului, the Margraviate of Hermannstadt, and the northern foothills of the Transylvanian Alps. Her feud with Marusca lasted some two decades, and though it was her last, it has become a study in how to interdict and squeeze the domain of a rival using mastery of that oft-overlooked discipline. On the verge of her victory in 1214, she was undone by treachery and the intercession of the formidable coterie known as the Concord in her feud with the Nosferatu. Defeated, the alarmed Sculptor of Wolves erupted into an explosion of blood as fleshy, fanged pseudopods emerged from the very land to sup on her unliving soul. Held to be a magnificent and glorious terror, Marelle is much mourned by her fellow Dragons.
- Vlad Ionescu, Late Voivode of Mureș (7th generation ancilla, childe of Vladimir Rustovich, Embraced AD 1001, Reputed Final Death AD 1214); A prominent warlord who took the Árpád incursion into Transylvania quite personally, he spent much of the latter part of the 12th century matching wits and swords with Overlord Nova and her supporters. He was directly responsible for sending no fewer than five princes and would-be princes of Schäßburg, Clus, and Kronstadt to their Final Deaths over the years, but he reserved his greatest hatred for the Árpáds. His stronghold was a castle called Castelul din Pumnalil (the Castle of the Dagger) about thirty miles north of Schäßburg, and while he claimed all of the region of the Maros (Mureș) basin, in truth those lands surrounding Regen and points east to the Carpathians were loyal either to themselves or his enemy, Visya. Vlad warred with the self-proclaimed Voivode of the Szeklers to the north as readily as Nova to the west, and while his loyal knezi significantly outnumbered those of Visya, he was surrounded on three sides by enemies. Ulitmately his bellicose standing was his undoing, for he was brought down in 1214 by an alliance between Council of Ashes, the Eastern Lords, and Visya. He is remembered kindly in some circles, however, for not a few Toreador have enjoyed his hospitality over the years and he readily and warmly welcomed visitors and merchants from far and wide to his court.
- Alexandru Tarbusescu, Late Voivode of Potaissa (7th generation ancilla, childe of Tarbus [d?], Embraced AD 927, Final Death AD 1154). The heir and successor of Tarbus, a Romano-Dacian era descendant of Ionache and Demenaus, Alexandru was briefly a power in the Transylvanian heartland. The wealth and power of Alexandru’s bloodline was predicated on the salt mine of Turda, or Potaissa as the Romano-Dacians called the mine and settlement. Wisely saved and invested, the silver at the disposal of he and his sire ensured that they always had a steady supply of both living and undead mercenaries willing to take pay in order to bolster their forces for the internecine wars and feuds that plague Clan Tzimisce. Tarbus vanished at the turn of the 12th century, apparently the victim of an assault by the dreaded Umbra Domnii. After destroying those of his consanguineous brothers and sisters with a will to argue, Alexandru then stepped forward to rule in his stead. Possessed of a creative and agile mind as well as no shortage of charisma, he came to rule an area encompassing nearly the entire eastern foothills of the Apuseni Mountains, from the current Siebenburgen settlement of Clus (Klausenburg) to within a score of miles of Gyulafehérvár (Weißenburg). When the Council of Ashes arrived in the middle of the 12th century, Alexandru was the first of the local warlords to shake off his disappointment that his ancestor Ionache did not rise to smite them. The insult of Clus being included among their chartered demesnes enraged him, and soon enough he marshalled his vassals and set himself against the upstart Hungarian coterie. Unexpectedly outmanned and outmanoeuvred by his enemies, he was slain in battle by Karol Borbás. The shock of his abject defeat and demise reverberated throughout Transylvania, and set the scene for the ascendance (however briefly) of the Council of Ashes. Those few of his bloodline who escaped the fall of Potaissa have gravitated to the camp of Rustovich, hoping to retake their inheritance.
- Umor Stariyat, Late Voivode of Ploieşti (8th generation elder, childe of Sevar [d], Embraced AD 739, Final Death AD 1209). Despite appearing as a kindly old merchant with spindly arms, a pot belly, and a shaggy beard, the Warlord of the Three Rivers could assume the zulo shape of a black carapaced, lamprey mawed terror when pushed into battle. Even so, despite surviving ten Trials by War he was more a scholar and trader in his proclivities than a warlord. The old Bulgar spent much of his time either in his observatory or interred in the earth, using his Auspex to astrally travel and experience distant lands and strange planes. He and his three progeny ruled and preyed upon the area for more than four centuries, and Ploieşti would not have even existed but for his patronage. However, hoary and proud, when enemies came for him he did not hesitate to fight, and in 1209 the arrival of the Devil Kordönül did not give him pause. However, after initial successes resisting the Cumans he did not content with the wrath of the Gangrel warlord, who wanted only to annihilate the town. His town burning around him, Umor the Old met the Gangrel in battle, cursing his enemies as they unravelled all his works. Like Târgovişte, Ploieşti is a charred ruin devoid of life.
- Miroslava Argentul, Late Voivode of Târgovişte (8th generation ancilla, childe of Traian Brasoveanu [d] , Embraced AD 1004, Final Death AD 1209). Known as the Silver Warlord both for her love of the precious metal and her interest in building trade through Muntenia, this ancilla ruled her market settlement from 1105 until her Final Death in battle with Cuman Gangrel under Kordönül. Combative and ambitious, she was of unusual experience and potency for her years, but she was considered to be something of an aberration by her more inhuman kin across the mountains for she preferred to rule from the shadows. Likewise, unlike some of her more inhuman peers within Transylvania, Oltenia, and Moldavia, she did not tyrannise the town, for such would have inhibited the flow of silver into her coffers. Before the arrival of the Devil Kordönül, more than one of the vassals of Tabak and Koban alike had tried to wrest Târgovişte from her in the belief that her preference for subtlety indicated weakness, and she enjoyed great respect among the Transylvanian and Bulgarian Tzimisce for having survived six Trials by War. So secure and confident in her power was Miroslav that she proclaimed herself a voivode but a handful of years before the rise of the Cuman Gangrel. She resisted Kordönül, and met her Final Death in a personal combat with the Devil Khan after it became clear that war was unavoidable. Afterwards, Târgovişte burned and her kine were butchered and fashioned into a ghastly spectacle of the Gangrel warlord’s power. The town remains a haunted ruin.
- Traian Brasoveanu, Knez of Brasovia (7th generation elder, childe of Madina [d], Embraced AD 662, Final Death AD 1122); Held to be a capable lord who held his own against the local Umbra Domnii and his own more tyrannical kin, Traian was unusual in that he was an avowed Christian who sponsored an Orthodox monastery on the slopes of the Tâmpa near his stronghold. He held to a bizarre offshoot of the Road of Heaven; a fusion of the religio-Metamorphosist beliefs of the Draconian monks of Byzantium melded with gnostic tenets favoured by the Cainite Heresy, with not a little pagan hearth wisdom derived from Avar and Vlach reinterpretations of Christian tenets. He was a quiet and contemplative Fiend who might have forged an impressive voivodate if he had cared to do so. Instead, Traian sought little more than to indulge his spiritual pursuits and live in relative peace. His herd among the now vanished village of Brasovia held him in a mixture of fear, awe, and admiration, for while he took sustenance from them, Traian also saw to their prosperity and protected them from the horrors of the Transylvanian night. A number of his progeny went on to establish domains in Muntenia, Oltenia, and the lands now known as the Székelyföld, and while few of them shared his beliefs, they tended to mirror his methods of rulership. He and his defended their lands against their fellows and the Umbra Domnii for centuries, but those on the Transylvanian side of the mountains fared poorly after the annexation of the Old Country to the Kingdom of Hungary. Traian himself failed to seek alliance when the Ventrue used their mortal pawns to harry the havens of the Tzimisce, and much weakened he soon fell defending his lands from an Árpád coterie led by Imre and Běla, a pair of Vencel Rikard’s descendants. In AD 1214 the last of his noteworthy progeny, Miroslava Argentul, fell to the Cuman Gangrel warlord known as Kordönül.
Shaagra/ the Vukodlak by Bagrada.
Triglav the Three-Headed modified from art by Santhosh Kumar Racha.
Koban by Rik Martin.
Art used for Ionache by Gabriel Tora.
Art used for Tabak Ruthven by Caio Monteiro.
Art used for Ioan the Butcher by Alex M.
Art used for Vintilla Basarab by Antonio José Manzanedo.
Art used for Kupriak Bratovich by Zero Position.
Art used for Rodica Lapacea by Gal Or.
Art used for Czernisko by Aleksander Karcz.
Art used for Cezar Satnoianu by Kaprriss.
Art used for Lyudmil Uzhasnata by Paolo Puggioni.
Art used for Lugoj by Eunyoung Jeon.
Art used for Bogescu by Davian Martikov.
Art used for Aragatai by Andrey Shishkin.
Art used for Alexandru Tarbusescu by Antonio J. Manzanedo.
Art used for Umor Stariyat by Nathan Park.
Art used for Miroslava Argentul by Clyde Caldwell.
Art used for Traian Brasoveanu by Ivan ShumElkin.
DISCLAIMER: I have wandered the Web for some time gathering pieces of art to use for portraits and scenery in my games. If I have used something that belongs to you and have caused offence, please accept my apologies in advance and don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll be more than happy to take it down or give credit where it is due!