Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Jals a Letzav
A young Pecheneg hunter from Tihuta Pass, Jals was Embraced by a pack of Cainite diablerists and compelled to do monstrous acts. His pack was destroyed by the Concord, but Jals was spared and taught to live with his condition. He is at large.
A pale, beardless young Pecheneg hunter, neither handsome nor homely, garbed in leathers and a drab grey cloak to blend in with the mountainside. His straight black hair is rough shorn, and his exotic, almond-shaped eyes are cold, and of such a dark brown as to appear black. He moves with a sure step, graceful and aware of his surroundings. A bow is strung and slung over his back, and a spear carried easily at his side. A quiver of arrows is strapped to his back, and a knife worn at his belt.
Jals was born in Letzav, a stockaded Pecheneg village in the western hills of the Tihuta Pass. The Pechenegs are a hard, pitiless people, more used to raiding and pillaging than tilling the soil, but recent decades have plunged them into hardship. For centuries they were powerful north and west of the Black Sea, dominating many peoples and causing much strife, but in the 12th century they were defeated by the Rus’ and the Eastern Roman Empire. In the wake of their destruction as a political entity, many Pechenegs were forced to flee into Cumania, Transylvania, or Pannonia, where they either threw themselves on the mercy of Magyar lords or eked out a rough existence on the fringe. Letzav and her neighbour in the eastern hills, Naizuy, followed the latter course.
Jals, like all young Pechenegs of Tihuta, learned to live off the land early, and quickly gained proficiency with the bow, the spear and with riding and fighting on the backs of the few remaining horses of his clan. By his late teens, he was accorded considerable respect in Letzav for his skill on the hunt, and for knowing the trails and caves of the area better than anyone else in the village. He even had some idea of how to reach the fabled the mountain top retreat of Moltuc, where a powerful witch was said to live.
It was this knowledge that saved Jals skin when the ‘night people’ came. These vampyri emerged from the winter snows, scaled the palisade, and descended upon the village in the darkest hour of the night. Few men were spared as the ‘night people’ feasted on their blood and made examples of those who resisted. They demanded to know the secret way to Moltuc, for they wished to ‘eat the soul’ of the witch who dwelt there, as well as the ancient one that slept under her protection. Jals was quickly singled out as the man to get them there. One of the vampyri, a tall, spiney, hairless monster called Steviru, tortured Jals to glean what he knew, then Embraced him and bound him with the Blood Oath.
For almost a year, Jals served Steviru and the Fiend’s equally monstrous master, Beltanz, as a guide in the Tihuta Pass. Beltanz’ pack, which combined a number of rogue Tzimisce, Nosferatu, Gangrel and a solitary Brujah, demanded obeisance and a constant tribute of fresh blood from Letzav and a number of other villages in the valley. Jals’ sire forced him to butcher and degrade his people constantly, eroding the boy’s morality and scarring his soul. Steviru claimed with a sneer that “it was for his own good, that monsters should cease thinking like food if they were to survive”. Jals did as he was told, compelled by bonds of blood and the voracious, cruel Beast in his own breast. Yet in his heart of hearts, the Pecheneg recoiled with every savage act. he yearned to redeem himself and protect his people. The sullen horror and fear in the eyes of his former family and friends, however, showed him that such was impossible. He was a ‘night person’ now; a vampyre, not a Pecheneg.
Everything suddenly changed when new interlopers arrived and challenged Beltanz’ pack. In spite of their smaller numbers, these strangers made short work of the savages, and Jals courage failed. He fled blindly, in the throes of a fox frenzy, and was soon hunted down by the Gangrel who called himself Sir Gunthar (aka Bernhard Billung) and staked.
Jals was interrogated by the newcomers who, motivated by pity and advantage, elected to spare him. A decision was made to place him on a probation of sorts, to see if he could be reformed. Sir Gunthar chose to teach him methods of fighting, how properly to use the Disciplines that he had, and how to keep the Beast at bay. Sister Maude sought to reconstruct his fragile sanity, and turn him back onto the via humanitatis. The two Lasombra, Iulia and Sir Alaric, educated him on Cainite society in general, the powers of the vampyri and the Traditions of Caine. Most importantly, the urbane Veceslav Basarab instructed Jals on the ways of his clan, the Tzimisce, and he also formally adopted the lad once Jals had shown his worth.
Over the coming months, Jals worked hard to gain his new coterie’s regard, and also to earn the trust of his family and village once more. Some gentle Domination by Iulia convinced his sister, Mildak, that he was safe, and Maude managed to convince the village wise woman, Pilika, that he was a valuable asset to Letzav. Mildak’s own role as an intermediary between these new ‘night people’ and the villagers of Letzav and Naizuy boosted her own profile in the valley, and she soon became something of a celebrity herself. Unfortunately, this made her a target when the forces of Voivode Mircea Dzardescu invaded the valley. Mildak would be hunted by De Norde Sang (the Northern Blood) and skinned; her pressed flesh delivered to Letzav with the declaration of Dzardescu’s Trial by War.
The neonate frenzied when given the news, but later grew strangely calm. He made a rousing speech to the down-trodden people of Letzav that he would protect them, and then led them west to the precarious trails and deep caves that he knew so well. When they returned over a week later, they discovered that once more their new vampyri allies had been victorious. Veceslav Basarab was now Knez of Tihuta Tower, and the people were safe. Or, at the very least, safer than they had been for some time.
In the years afterwards, Jals proved himself time and again as his knez’ man. He patrolled the trails and wilderness of the valley with his two ghoul dogs (Horga and Gan) for company and protection during the day, and his facility for Animalism grew hand in hand with his knowledge of the valley. In this function he performed for a number of years as an unofficial warden (or sheriff) of the land around the increasingly formidable fortification of Tihuta Castle, which included the villages of Letzav and Naizuy. The sorceress of Naizuy, Magh, treated him as a friend, and Maria Belladodia, the koldun of Moltuc, readily gave him haven and cooperated with his patrols of the trails. Knez Veceslav confided in and relied on Jals, giving him a high place of honour in his new regime. And finally, he is also now given a grudging welcome by his people, for while they still feared him as a ‘night person’, they came to recognise him as their ‘night person’.
Jals maintained a tenuous grasp on his humanity, though, and many years after the destruction of Beltanz and Steviru he still suffered terrible ‘daymares’ that stretched his strained sanity. He still frenzied easily, and mercy for his victims was an intellectual exercise more than a natural one. Veceslav has offered to induct him onto the via regalis, but for now Jals chooses the harder and more perilous road back to redemption and restoration. Precious little remains of his humanitas though, and nly time will tell if he can continue to stave off the horrible fate of the Wassail.
After the arrival in the valley of the skilled warrior known as Gunnald Ivarsøn, Jals was compelled to recognise the greater station of Veceslav’s consanguineous nephew. However, true to form the smoothly spoken knez allayed any jealousy or insecurity that Jals might feel by making it clear that the pass was far too large for any one warden to keep it secure, and that he had retained Gunnald to see to the tower and its immediate environs so that Jals could concentrate on scouting the far-flung reaches, as was his inclination anyway. So it was that both Cainites simultaneously served as both Warden and Scourge of the valley. In any case, Gunnald was forced to depart the domain on several lengthy occasions in order to recover his grave earth from the environs of Thessalonica, so Jals’ usefulness was never in doubt.
After Veceslav Basarab was forced to flee his castle as his enemy, Vladimir Rustovitch, closed in on his domain in 1216, the knez reportedly offered to take Jals with him into exile. The neonate apparently declined, declaring that no scout of the Voivode of Voivodes could hope to equal his own knowledge of the valley. When Veceslav departed, his vassal melted into the light woods, heading in the direction of the furthest reaches of the pass. He has not been seen since.
Embrace: AD 1197.
Lineage: Childe of Steviru (d); his further lineage is largely unknown to him, other than the fact that Steviru was a distant descendant of the late Voivode Gerlo of Suceava. This makes Jals a distant relative of Mircea Dzardescu and Bogdan Basarab. Through trial and error, the Concord worked out that Jals is of the 12th generation.