Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Sir Conrad de Monreal
A veteran of the Third Crusade and a senator of the Lexor Brujah, this valiant and pious knight was forced to remove himself from the Concord for their own protection. He resides in Constantinople, as a spy for the Lexor Brujah within the New Latin Order.
A tall, muscular knight in his middle-years, with salt and pepper in his cropped hair and chin beard. He typically wears rags and a heavy cloak over his mail these nights, all the better to blend in with his St. Ladre allies, and his distinctive hand-and-a-half sword has been traded for a shorter arming sword and a dagger. Even with the cowl of his cloak pulled low, his sombre, serious expression and steady gaze lends him a compelling, mysterious quality that tends to draw the eye.
The Coat-of-Arms of Chevalier Conrad de Monreal. It depicts his ancestral home, Mount Royal, a strategic location where his family once served as Castellans of a keep belonging to the Lordship of Oultrejordain, in the fallen Kingdom of Jerusalem. The five towers were added to represent his status as one of the five legendary “Towers of Arsuf”, men who were singled out for praise for their courage and leadership by Richard the Lionheart. Finally, the red cross of the Templars represents his ties to the Order, under which he undertook a penitential term of service between 1187 and 1196 due to his failure at the Horns of Hattin.
A product of Norman English Crusader nobility, Sir Conrad was born in the Year of Our Lord 1154 and raised in the arid wastelands of Oultrejordain, where he and his kin held the Castle of Montreal for a succession of lords. His grandfather, Fulk, served Maurice of Transjourdan and Phillip de Milly. His father Raymond served Phillip as well, and then Humphrey III de Toron, Miles de Plancy and Raynald de Châtillon. Sir Raymond was the first of the family to also enter the Templar Order, choosing to follow the example of his beloved mentor Lord Phillip, who became a warrior-monk in his later years.
In AD 1184, Sir Conrad himself became castellan to Lord Raynald de Châtillon, a venal and impious man whom he despised but rarely saw. Sir Conrad ruled Krak de Monreal for Lord Raynald, who much preferred the more august seat of Krak de Kerak. Sir Conrad was a virtuous, if not passionate, castellan, and he was well known for the respect that he extended towards the pilgrims and merchants, both Christian and Muslim, that passed through the region. He came to know the Bedouin better than most of his fellow knights, and his advice may have been of use to his lord if Raynald de Châtillon had the wisdom to accept it. Instead, de Châtillon despised his subjects, few of whom were Christian, and he over-taxed and sometimes brutalised them for petty reasons. Sir Conrad, torn between duty and justice, did his best to mitigate the worst excesses of his Lord. Advised by his clever wife, Matthilde, he managed to divert or misconstrue many of the orders given by his unjust Lord. Eventually however, Lord Raynald began ordering attacks on Musilin pilgrims, and threatened to sack Mecca itself, which prompted a war with none other than mighty Saladin. The Kingdom of Jerusalem was forced into war, and Sir Conrad was compelled to do his part.
Sir Conrad did his duty well, though he was torn by the nagging doubt that he was on the wrong side of the war, and he fought at the disastrous Battle of Hattin in AD 1187. He was one of the few to successfully flee the field after the Christians were defeated, and although he had the fleeting joy of knowing that Lord Raynald had been captured and executed for his crimes, he felt shame in knowing that he had played a part (no matter how small) in the loss of Jerusalem and so many good men. The Kingdom of Heaven had been sundered by venality and villainy, not by the Saracen, but by those men who should have protected and done honour to it. He and his family took shelter at Antioch, and when Matthilde died of a bad belly in AD 1189, Sir Conrad placed his young son, Baldwin, in the hands of his friend, Sir Hubert. He then entered the Templar Order, determined to make amends.
When the Third Crusade took place, Sir Conrad was on the front lines of the Templar ranks. He was a large and powerful man, even for a knight, and he became well-known as a gathering point in any battle in which he took part. He distinguished himself at Acre, at Jaffa and most especially at Arsuf. In that battle, along with five other heroic knights, he was a bulwark against the pressure of Saladin’s hordes, when the courage of others had begun to fail. These stalwart men gave heart to their fellows, and when the battle was won, they were lauded as the ‘Towers of Arsuf’ by none other than Richard the Lionheart. Alas, for all their heroics and all their heroics, the Third Crusade was ultimately a failure. Jerusalem remained in infidel hands, and Sir Conrad began to realise that the Kingdom of Heaven was truly gone.
It was then that Procet came to him, and told him of another place. A place where the Kingdom of Heaven could exist for eternity under the immortal guidance of the Archangel Michael himself. A place where a cream of Heaven on Earth had truly taken shape. A place called Constantinople. Procet offered Sir Conrad a place in the Dream, a chance to defend something real and lasting. After considerable prayer and thought, the knight accepted the Embrace of the Lexor Brujah. He and his family retired from the Holy Land, and made their way to the Queen of Cities.
In the years since he became a senator of the Lexor Brujah, Sir Conrad has struggled to find a place for himself among his brothers and sisters. While certainly not a dolt, he is a warrior first and always, and struggles with establishing himself as a scholar as well. The concept of entelechy long eluded him, and so he instead threw himself into whatever task that his sire saw fit.
He became a founding member of the coterie now becoming known as the Concord of Ashes, and together they brought the murderers of Bishop Alfonzo’s childer to justice. He later joined them on a quest set before them by the Prince of Buda-Pest, Vencel Rikard, to build a tower in in the Tihuta Pass of Transylvania. Although assured of the usefulness of the mission to the Lexor Brujah, doubt wormed its way into Sir Conrad’s heart. How could a lonely pass hundreds of miles away from the borders of the empire be of use to the Dream?
Perhaps it was this doubt that provided the doorway for the demon to enter his soul. Outside the village of Vrsac, Sir Conrad was possessed by an unclean entity, and began to hunger for not just the blood of others, but also their very flesh. His temper was nigh uncontrollable, and his frenzies came often, lasted far longer, and became truly monstrous in scope. He began to despair. Salvation found him, however, in the form of a coterie of demon-hunting Cainites that subdued him outside the town of Timișoara.
Argus the Sorcerer, Sir Simon di Ragusa of the Order of Chaunticleer, and the Salubri warrior Maluziel, convinced Conrad and his coterie that they might find a way to exorcise the demon. They said it would take a long journey, that there was no guarantee of success, but even then any merciful Final Death that they could deliver would be better than allowing him into a town full of helpless mortals.
Sir Conrad agreed, and accompanied the trio on a long and arduous journey to the Kingdom of Portugal. There, an ancient and secretive Brujah mystic (who subsequently excised the memories of his identity from the knight’s mind) cast the demon from his soul and restored him to hope and Godliness. Sir Conrad repaid his debt to Argus, Maluziel and Sir Simon by aiding them on a mission against a Baali Pit in North Africa, and then he made the long journey back to Constantinople.
There he was welcomed once more by his sire, who informed Sir Conrad that his companions had succeeded in the mission to Tihuta Pass. Procet deflected his childe’s questions about the mission by saying that “he was merely setting pieces on a larger board than the neonate could discern”, and that explaining the minutiae of his intrigues would “endanger all of us”, with a knowing glance towards Exokoinion.
Mollified for the most part, Sir Conrad rededicated himself to his sire’s schemes and the growing power of the Lexor Brujah. After his return to Constantinople in AD 1199, he busied himself making overtures into the Latinkon mercenaries, some of whom were knights that he knew from the wars in the Holy Land. He continued his academic progress, but focussed strongly on the martial pursuits and the honing of his physical disciplines. Sir Conrad was also committed to seeing that his son, Baldwin, now a young man, completed his education, was gainfully employed in a manner that suited his prodigious mental talents, and was well-married.
He also formed a new coterie with the Toreador Komanos of Stomion, the Gangrel Loukia Kalekina, and (secretly) the Lazarene knight, Fra’ Osmund. The first, friendly and handsome, served as the public face and political mind of the coterie. He moved about the moneyed elite of the city, finding trouble for the coterie to solve. The second, a descendant of Anatolian nobility, enjoyed considerable connections to the remnants of the Byzantine military aristocracy. Her connections among the Baron’s Gangrel served a similar function along the waterfront and throughout the fringes of the Latin Quarter. Osmund’s skill at Obfuscate allowed him to traverse the Latin Quarter itself, find morsels of intrigue upon which the coterie might act. Conrad’s own usefulness to the coterie was through his growing influence among the Latinkons and his sire’s connections to the bureaucracy and aristocracy. By 1203, the three were quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with as the 4th Crusade arrived at Byzantium’s gates.
They continued their work throughout 1203 and into 1204, striving always to protect and nurture the Dream. Komanos of Stomion introduced Sister Maude Khlesl to his friend (and rumoured paramour) Alexia Theusa, opening a door to knowledge previously denied the cantankerous nun. Loukia assisted the Concord with their plan to bring down the mounting threat of Sir Felix of Vaucluse and the House of Fabricius. During the ambush that ultimately discredited Felix as a viable replacement to [[:sir guy]], Loukia was struck down, and driven into torpor, but the death sorcery of Sister Maude soon returned her to the task of saving the city.
Conrad was tireless in his sire’s service, finding himself working alongside his former comrades in the Concord on a number of occasions. As the sun set on the first day of March, 1204, Komanos failed to contact his friends. Sir Conrad and Loukia found that Komanos had disappeared. His haven was empty, and upon making enquiries they soon discovered that he had not been seen the previous night either. Even Alexia Theusa, whom Komanos frequently sought for company, had not seen him. Persistent investigations over the entire month failed to yield any trace of him. The Toreador had vanished into thin air in a besieged city.
They were still looking into the matter when Procet asked Conrad to assist him with delicate negotiations with the Cainite Crusade. Unfortunately, Sir Conrad appears to have run afoul of greater powers at some point leading up to the ill-fated Council of Chalki. He remembers the Antonian whom he knows as Maris Argyros approaching him, and then feeling drawn into the elder’s eyes. From that moment on, until he was roused from torpor nearly a week later, Sir Conrad effectively ceased to be…
During the Council of Chalki, when ghouls under the command of Niceaen mercenary Cainites attacked the gathering, most of the more martial of the diplomats left the villa to defend each other. Conrad (or whom everyone, including Procet, assumed to be Conrad) elected to remain behind and protect those who were not versed in combat. With their attention focussed elsewhere, the gathering of non-combatants were completely surprised when the Brujah suddenly turned his blade upon them. In his first strike, he destroyed the Lasombra envoy Father Pietro Ancini. He then started laying about him, injuring his former comrade Iulia of Weissenburg in his next strike. If not for the intervention of her ghoul, Agmundir the Cunning, the Prince of Weissenburg would certainly have perished. Agmundir barely survived the exchange himself but, driven by rage, he struck Sir Conrad down with a mighty blow from his dane-axe. Those in the room then witnessed a black cloud of shadow vomit forth from the mouth of the fallen knight. It then snaked towards the exit and out into the night.
Conrad was awoken from his torpor the next night by Maude. Enraged and dispirited to once more find that his will had been taken from him, Conrad was heartened somewhat by the knowledge that neither his friends among the Concord nor his colleagues in the secret alliance of the Covenant of Three held him responsible. Still, a greater power had taken his strength away once again. Conrad immediately redoubled his attention to the defence of the Dream, and newly dedicated himself to holy retribution upon the “demonic Cainite” that had possessed him.
When the city fell, he was at the side of both his new coterie and his old, fighting to keep the Dream alive. After the Monastery of St. John Studius was burned to the ground, and Gesu slain, the Covenant of Three broke under the strain. in particular suffered the maddened wrath of Baron Thomas, who discovered him to be impersonating the vanished Malachite in order to maintain relations with the Gangrel and the Brujah. Osbert lost an army for his “treachery” and that of Malachite, and very nearly his life, and the attack on the Leper knight served to sever the bonds of friendship between the Baron’s Gangrel and the Malachite and St. Ladre Nosferatu. From that point on, the Nosferatu would be hunted as any other enemy of the city. Loukia reluctantly followed her orders, at least until her sire, Justinian, broke faith with the Baron soon after.
For their part, the grieving Lexor family withdrew from the disaster, choosing discretion and reconstruction elsewhere rather than a useless fight. Sir Conrad was unable to join them, honour-bound as he was to defend the city, but he did make sure that Baldwin and his fiance’s family gained safe egress from the city with his sire.
Later that night, he would have cause to vent a righteous anger also, for two Lexor elders, Theophilus and Dorotheus, revealed their own perfidy as members of the Chosen of Calomena, a doomsday cult that had used the chaos of the Great Sack to hunt other Cainites and add to the fires that raged throughout the city. Sir Conrad was incensed, and he directed his attacks at both of them to the exclusion of all other targets. And although they were more than 900 years his senior, neither of the elders were experienced combatants. They quickly fell, cleaved and at the doors of Final Death, before the knight’s sword, and the axe of Svenin the Tall. Conrad would display his quality then, for although the Gangrel would have supped on the heart’s blood of Dorotheus then and there, the Brujah bade him stop. Revenge was not the Lexor way. For their crimes, the elders must face trial before their peers, and suffer their justice. Reluctantly, Svenin assented, and Sir Conrad absented himself in order to bury both of the torporous elders in the rubble of the District of Arcadius.
After the Great Sack concluded, Sir Conrad remained in the city to serve as a touchstone for the remnants of the Lexor family. Months later, he and Osbert were present to give some assistance to several of the Concord in unearthing and raising the Cappadocian Ancient known as Byzar. As such, they shared in the methuselah’s gratitude, albeit to a lesser extent. Neither of them ventured into the tomb under the Byzantine Acropolis, but they were informed of the events that unfolded there, provided they kept the confidence of Byzar’s existence.
Soon after Alfonzo of Venice succeeded in declaring himself Prince of Constantinople, word reached the city that Natalya Syvatoslav and the Lexor family refused to recognise his claim, and that they fully intended to remove him when the opportunity presented. That very night, agents of the new prince descended upon the haven of Sir Conrad, only to find him long gone. Obviously his mistress and sire had forewarned him of her proclamation.
Sir Conrad has dwelt in the city ever since, with the exception of a short sojourn to Achaia in 1211. He dwells in the sewers and cisterns under the city, enjoying the secret protection of the St. Ladre Nosferatu, who remember and honour his faithfulness and courage. After many years of surviving in this manner, the knight has learned some of the tricks of his hosts, and he can traverse the length of the city without once walking above-ground. Although it is not in his nature to embrace subtlety and stealth, Conrad has become a quite adequate spy. These traits, and the friendship of the Nosferatu have allowed the knight to stay several steps ahead of Alfonzo’s agents, an issue of some vexation to the prince’s reputation.
He and Osbert remain fast friends and coterie-mates, though Loukia has since moved on. Together they labour to raise the star of the Lazarene knights, and keep the Lexor family informed of the intrigues of the Latin Empire. The Brujah also strives to maintain friendly contact with those members of the Concord who are receptive to his overtures for, despite their relative youth, these ancillae have proven themselves to be stalwart, resourceful, and extraordinarily powerful. He knows that sooner or later, their paths will cross again, and he would have them remember their sword-brother with warmth.
Lineage: Childe of Procet, Adoptive childe of Tribonius (d).