Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Before the Fourth Crusade, Feroux and his coterie of loyal Gangrel served the Obertus Tzimisce, They were responsible for enforcing the Codex of Legacies in the Queen of Cities. He vanished during the Sack, and is thought to lie in torpor somewhere.
A slender, well-proportioned Frank wearing the simple woolen trousers, jacket, and calf boots of the Byzantine commoners. Although he isn’t a particularly tall or imposing speciman of his people, there is something unsettling in his sad, cat-like eyes and a deep scar mars the left side of his face from brow to jaw. He wears a Norman bastard sword in a battered scabbard at his side.
(expanded from the profile presented in Constantinople By Night, pp. 94-95)
Baron Thomas rarely spoke much of his time before coming to Constantinople, save that he was a lost soul in a world without beauty or vision. The Frankish nobleman arrived in the Queen of Cities in the Year of Our Lord 1076 in the company of a Gesudian monk, and received sanctuary with the Obertus Order with the blessing of Gesu himself. For a number of years, he lived a monastic existence under the guidance of Symeon at the monastery attached to the Church of Christ Pantokrator, and his humble reverence quickly became well known among the Cainites of the city. Baron Thomas swore to protect the Order and the Queen of Cities forever, so rather than simply allow him to join the Obertus Symeon approached his fellow Quaesitori and arranged for the Gangrel to be granted a Scion Family charter in the Seventh Council of AD 1081.
In addition to providing a measure of martial security for Constantinople akin to the duties performed by sheriffs and scourges in the West, The Baron’s Gangrel enforced the Codex of Legacies throughout the city for 123 years. For those Cainites of the Family system, punishment for infractions were moderated by the Quaesitor Tribunal unless the Gangrel were attacked while in the exercise of their duties. Penalties for the faithful Romaioi of the system were moderated by mercy, but little was shown to the Latins who transgressed the Codex. The Eighth Council of 1185 was a blow to the Baron’s Gangrel, for it removed the Latin Quarter from their jurisdiction. This effectively nullified their ability to keep track of Cainite numbers in the city, as well as granting a safe haven for those who transgressed the Codex of Legacies and succeeded in fleeing back to the Latin Quarter.
However, while a little over half of those who counted themselves among the Baron’s Gangrel were his descendants, the rest were of the Greek bloodline. It is thought that their proficiency with the Obfuscate discipline allowed the Baron to keep track of much of what occured in the Latin Quarter, even though this meant that Thomas was expressly ignoring orders. Many more Gangrel loyal to him travelled the empire, ensuring safety for Gesudian travellers and keeping lines of communication open with clan elders on the borders. His strongest supporter was the powerful warrior Justinian, his canniest was said to be the youthful Urbien, the wisest the matronly Agnes, and the most loyal was said to be Verpus Sauzezh. All of them capable ancillae, though only Agnes was his own progeny. The baron’s reluctant representative in court politics was Anna Sgorina, who was known to travel far and wide on his business.
The baron was well-regarded among the Cainites of the Trinity families and feared by the Latins. He was renowned for his passionate and earnest belief in the Dream and his clever and inquisitive mind. Thomas’ instruction at the feet of Symeon made him a far more able politician than many among his western brethren, as well as a keen scholar. A pious and humble Cainite, he was known to be capable of great, thundering rages when confronted by disloyalty, betrayal or base and dissolute behaviour. However, others say that he was most fearsome when he appeared calm, and the Baron’s cat-like stare has reduced many stalwart offenders to quivering cowards in the past. Thomas is an expert swordsman, rivalled by few in the city even at the height of the Comnenan Restoration. At the time he was thought to be excelled only by the elder Belisarius, who was once Military Prefect of the Antonians..
The formative Concord earned a measure of gratitude from Baron Thomas in AD 1196, when they helped to deflect blame from his Family regarding the Chosen of Calomena, who had struck at the Latin Quarter from Greek territory. This appears to have been a political ploy concocted by Thomas and his ally, Autokrator [[:natalya- syvatoslav]] of the Lexor Brujah, to chip away at the authority of the Antonian Ventrue. Indeed, Domestic Prefect Irene Stellas was punished for her failure to keep track of the Chosen of Calomena instead. This in turn weakened her position and that of her sire, the Antonian Quaesitor Anna Comnena. Petronius was aware of the ploy and encouraged it, while Symeon chose not to interfere as it improved the position of Baron Thomas, his friend and servant. Sir Gunthar in particular made friends among the Byzantine Gangrel, finding their defence of knowledge a far more worthy goal than the denigration of it so commonly displayed by his clanmates in Transylvania. Their adoration for the Dream bewildered him, however, even as an appreciation of it gradually wormed its way into his own heart.
Several years later, Baron Thomas’ contacts in the West informed him of the gathering of the Fourth Crusade at Venice. He knew also that the empire was weakened by the rise of the Bulgarian empire in the west as well as the disloyalty of Romaioi potenates throughout the coastline of the east, and so the baron conceived of a plan. He would send his envoy, Anna, to entreat the crusade to skirt the fragile empire’s borders, and he would also ask Sir Gunthar of Saint Wolfgang and his coterie to infiltrate the pilgrimage and provide support for Anna from within.
Obviously, the plan was a failure. The crusade would ultimately be diverted to the Queen of Cities, and war came to the Dream. For the first time the baron and his allies, Malachite and Natalya, revealed that they had pooled the resources of their families to form an alliance variously known as the Covenant of Three or the New Trinity. They worked to stave off a second assault on the city through the last half of 1203, and having failed that, prepared to defend the city in the early months of 1204. Loyal Gangrel from associated provincial scion families winged their way to Constantinople, extra provisions and arms were brought in to the Citadel of Petrion, and most of the baron’s vassals brought their herds within the citadel. Together, they participated in several forays against the besieging army, and they were active on the walls during the fighting on the evening of the 9th of April. Unfortunately, the breach on the 12th occurred during the daylit hours, making the Gangrel useless in repulsing the enemy. When they awoke after nightfall, the city was already overrun, and they were greeted by the stench of smoke, fear, and death, the sound of houses burning, and the screams of the dying.
Immediately, Thomas split his followers into three groups. Most of the mortals and ghouls would defend their citadel, while Cainites under the baron himself and others under Justinian would rush to secure the monasteries of St. John Studius and Christ Pantokrator respectively. They discovered the former seemingly abandoned of its secular Obertus residents, while the latter was already engulfed in flames. The Gangrel did what they could, but he learned from those they were able to help that most of the Gesudians, including the Saint of the Divinity Within himself, had already perished.
The Gangrel regrouped with their allies among the Covenant and the Concord in the cisterns, only to discover the rumour that the Patriarch had also been destroyed. Furthermore, they learned that Malachite had already left the city a week before. The venerable Nosferatu had deceived his allies, leaving a follower to assume his visage for the purposes of coordinating activities. With that news, Baron Thomas’ sanity seemed to snap. His fury was terrible. Malachite’s agent, Fra’ Osmund, would have paid for his duplicity with his final death but for the intercession of Natalya Syvatoslav and the Concord. The autokrator impored the Gangrel to leave the city with the Lexor Brujah, regather their strength to the west, and then return to bring the Dream back to Constantinople.
Bluntly, his madness and grief ruling him, Thomas told her that without Michael and Gesu, the Dream was already dead, and if she and her family weren’t willing to avenge it and them, then good riddance to them. Further, he declared Malachite and his followers to be traitors of the city and the Dream, henceforth to be attacked on sight. With that, he turned his back on the remnants of the Covenant of Three, and returned to his citadel to make preparations for the fight to come.
Unknown to him, several of his knights gathered later that night to discuss what had occurred and debate how to proceed. Anna pleaded that they must approach him in private, to bring him around through appealing to his honourable and reasonable nature. Justinian was scornful, returning that reason and honour had fled Thomas, and that he had lost the right to rule them. Verpus stalwartly argued against overthrowing him, but that they must assist Malachite and his ilk in secret until the baron saw the error of his ways on his own.
While they spoke, the Cainite Crusade discovered the secret fortress of Petrion. Duke Guy himself led the enemy, backed by his own coterie, nearly thirty other Cainites, and hundreds of ghouls and mortal soldiers. All of the Baron’s Gangrel and their own retainers, their differences and misgivings forgotten, rallied to the defence of the citadel. The fight was bloody and hard-fought. Many of the attackers died, and more fell broken and cleaved by sword, axe, fang and claw.
Ultimately Guy and his people carried the night, and the citadel was taken. Surrounded by torch-bearing knights and already fighting against the onslaught of his own Beast, Thomas succumbed to Rötschreck and fled midway through the battle. By the time he recovered his wits and returned, nothing could be done for his fellows. His flight had caused a route, and those of the Baron’s Gangrel who did not flee were captured or destroyed, and nearly all of their retainers and their herd were slain on the spot.
The few among his family regrouped the next night. Thomas found their morale to be low; they were dispirited and angry, and not just at the Latins. He ordered them to gather what was left of their strength and prepare for a attack on Guy and his coterie, who had surely dispersed from their own supporters to loot and murder on their own. To his surprise, he found defiance of his plan. His friend, Justinian, flatly refused, saying that it would do no good to waste their lives and energy on a stupid assault on a figurehead. The city was already lost to chaos, and their duty now lay towards protecting their mortals allies and friends, as well as the families of the men and women who had given their lives at Petrion. Growing angrier by the moment, the huge warrior then further claimed that the baron had displayed poor leadership, bad judgement, and unjust conduct in the face of the crisis, accusing the baron of failing his followers, abandoning and attacking good allies and, most egregiously, of cowardice in the face of the enemy.
Shocked at such cruel words from his old friend and second, and still very much on the edge, Thomas lost control and struck Justinian. The Anatolian lost his own temper in return, coming at the baron with a vengeance. The challenge may have been unofficial, but all of the Gangrel present knew that it had been issued. Not one of them lifted a finger to stop the fight, and no one stepped int to prevent Justinian from beating Feroux into torpor.
Looking down upon the baron’s broken, still body, the giant soldier said he would no longer follow a madman who cast his bonds of friendship into the jaws of the Beast. He then left. In ones and twos, the others followed.
And just like that, the Baron’s Gangrel ceased to be. With the exception of Anna, they all just left him there.
In later nights, when tempers had cooled, more than one of those who remained sought her out to learn the baron’s fate, but she merely said that he was resting and recovering his strength. Presumably, this means that despite the length of years, he is still in torpor. Some wonder at what his disposition might be should he return. Would he seek revenge for their disloyalty? Or forgiveness for his own failures? Would he try to bring his followers back together to try and reclaim their strength? Would he cling to the last vestiges of his honour and his spirituality? Or would he be little more than an bitter avenger for the loss of the Dream.
Time will tell.
In the meanwhile, legends of his skill at arms, the sharpness of his mind, and his earnest, spiritual, and honourable nature continue to grow. Indeed, they grow almost as quickly as the tales of the wrath that proved his undoing.
Embrace: AD 1076.
Lineage: Marie Feroux (d), his mortal mother, has been declared his sire. It is apparent that any further information regarding Marie’s own sire is lost to the Baron. He stands among the 7th generation.