Transylvania Chronicles

Valley of Wolves
Andronicus' account

The seventeenth day of April, the year of our lord 1198

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
- Matthew 5:9
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Thankfully this day and night pass quietly. We take guard ourselves with as few men as possible to give them time to rest and recover. They need to be fit and healthy as they are all that stands between us and eternal death during the hours of daylight. Thankfully the others agree.

The eighteenth day of April, the year of our lord 1198

Blessed is he who prays with fervor, for the devil never approaches him.
-St. Ephrem of Syria (ca. 306-373)
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Day three of our journey. It feels like we have been on the road much longer. The men are rested and my travelling companions seem content to waste their nights waiting for day. Bah! I cannot sit watch and pray and the cart, humidity and light do not allow me to paint, write or do anything remotely significant. I refuse to waste another night and so retire to my coach for prayer and planning. I shall once again start sketching the chapel and assessing its costs. Thankfully, the others leave me alone this night.

The nineteenth day of April, the year of our lord 1198

theotókos

Rightly do we , who have been saved through you, pure Virgin, confess that you are the Mother of God, extolling you with the angelic choirs. For God, whom men cannot see, on whom the ranks of angels do not dare to look, has through you become visible to men as the Logos made flesh. Glorifying Him with the heavenly hosts we proclaim you blessed.
-St. Peter of Damaskos
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I wake frightfully early but luckily the sun has just set. The men are concerned, we are in a valley and at the far end there are lights visible, either a great fire or multiple torches. I wake the others to ask their opinion. It is probably a village but they cannot say for sure. We leave the men to guard camp and leave for this village. I take some trade goods in the hope that I can work on our relations with the villagers and see if we can persuade any to come with us as labourers or tenants on the village to be built near our fortification. As we near the fires we can safely conclude it is a village, we can hear them chanting some strange song. The Norseman goes on ahead to scout the village while Zedenek and I stay with the horses. After some time we can hear shouting, Hródgar has been discovered. We leave the horses and run toward the village. Zedenek is first to arrive at some sort of makeshift bridge, but I soon follow.

We halt as the Norseman comes hurtling towards us yelling at us to get back. Something about werewolves. We stand our ground for a few seconds but the Norseman almost drags us along, so I run to the horses. Zedenek walks slowly back across the bridge. As I reach the horses the Father of All Wolves looks me in the eye. He stands on a small hillock not far away and looks straight at me. To protect the horses I place myself in its path. I fear it will surely overpower me so I intend not to show fear and make it doubt its ability to harm me.

The Norseman yells at me. I should not provoke the Alfa male. I waver for a few heartbeats and then try to lead my horse out. Zedenek is also ahorse and we slowly move away from the village. Just then an awful howling starts up all around us. Suddenly wolves, thankfully much smaller than the one on the hill, beset our mounts and chase us away from the village. As we depart at speed we hear howling near our caravan. They are attacking the men! They stand no chance against these creatures, we must ride to their aid.

The going is bad and Zedenek’s horse loses its footing. Both horse and rider go down. I halt but the horse is fine, good, we can not waste a horse in this wilderness. The Norseman approaches. Horses are too slow and cumbersome. I leave my charge with Zedenek who will need to walk his, and start for the caravan. No time now to be squeamish and unwilling to show my powers. I set out for the camp much faster than the horse could ever take me at night and leave the others behind. As soon as I arrive I see that all has been for naught. The wolfthings have not touched the camp and although the men are startled, they are fine. Bah! I hate this ongodly place with all my heart and soul. How I wish to be back home, to pray and find solace at the Hegia Sophia with hos holyness or lay eyes on our saviour on earth, Alexios Angelos.

My mood has soured and as both my companions return to the camp I retire the last few hours of the night for some much needed contemplation. Blessed be the meek, phah… I would have that creature’s heart before the year is out, ungodly filth!

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Broken Bridge
(session 3)

Soon after it rushed from the scene where the horrid sounds of consumption could still be heard, the caravan came to a halt again. A wooden bridge over a crag was chopped apart, utterly destroyed. It’s demolishing was recent work for sure.

Zedenek approached the broken bridge and assessed it would take a while to restore it again. Meanwhile, Hrothgar searched the surroundings and found – what later turned out to be – Varos’ horse, felled by a locally crafted arrow to the belly. Hrothgar decided to delivered mercy upon the beast by draining its blood.

A few steps from the now dead horse the Norseman spotted a trail of blood leading into the forest. He chose not to follow it into the dark woods beyond the first ten yards.
Andronicus, troubled by the delay, approached Zedenek and Hrothgar and started working on construction-variants to restore the bridge, while the horses and wagons were arranged in a semi-circle close the bridge.

As Hrothgar oversaw the felling of pine tries to be used in the reconstruction, Zedenek climbed to the other side of the cliff to see if someone could be spotted, suspecting that however had caused the caravan’s delay must be close by to watch the results. Looking down the path ahead, a sense of dark foreboding crept up on Zedenek, as at the far end of his vision he spotted a horsehead in the distance, just a few yards from the road.
After warning Andronicus and Hrothgar and planning a surprise-maneuver on whoever rode those horses, Zedenek’s mental fortitude was tested by what he saw now: the two horseheads were seen upside-down !

Turning his vision back and forth to the road ahead while relaying what he just saw to the Byzantine and the Norseman, the scene did not get any more comfortable for Zedenek as he spotted a small child holding the rains of one of the horses. Barefooted, with long black hair, a pale face and wearing a plain white dress, this ‘girl’ emitted an darkness unfamiliar even to the Tzimisce.

Draco and Borislav’s men were ordered make ready for a fight as, at the turning of one’s head, the girl and her two horses had approached the three Vampyr, crossing over thirty yards in an instant. Calling out to her, the girl in her white dress beckoned Zedenek to approached her.
During this ominous scene Andronicus resolved to prayer, chanting out loud the rhymes from the Holy Book when his prayers seemed answered by the sound of horses and wagons approaching in the distance.

The girl had heard it too, for she now stood on a branch up in one of the pine trees beside the road, watching into the direction of the caravan approaching. Zedened called out to her again, this time even more angry then the first. The girl turned round to face Zedenek, her expression radiating anger and confusion at the same time, just before she descended the tree like the reversed movement of a wild cat climbing up. She stepped behind the tree, out of sight, not to reappear.

From the approaching caravan someone called out in a broken variant of the local tongue, even before the caravan became visible; ‘Who is in road?’.
Leading this elaborate caravan of 6 enclosed wagons and 16 horsemen was a Vampyr apparently acquainted to Andronicus. He introduced himself as Myca Vykos, ambassador of Transylvania and a friend of Andronicus, who he had met in Byzantium. Soon his caravan was order to complete the semi- circle of horses and wagons.

Myca Vycos’ appearance was remarkable. His features womanly, his clothes of the finest making. Never had you met a Vampyr looking so human and healthy as Myca, and yet, his beauty had something abnormal about it, which Zedenek recognized all too well.

Myca appeared inspiring company as you talked with him about the ambush and the forest that claimed the scene afterwards, and about the girl in the white dress.
You discussed the lands to the North where the Afterganger comes from, talked about New Rome, and the religion of the Christ-God. You conversed bout the Tzimisce, the Salubri and the Salubri-blood in Zedenek’s veins. About the Saxons from the West, the sign of the Three Eyes, the blood-mages and the sorcerer’s Order of Hermes. You talked about the betrayal of Tremere who consumed Saulut and about how Myca fled the Order when they turned all mages into undead. About Ceoris, the Tremere stronghold, and about what the Usurpers are looking for in Transylvania. You talked about the many dangers that may lie ahead and noted that Myca Vykos and his Caravan will travel in the opposite direction tomorrow night, so that you would will have to face those dangers without him.

The continuous sounds of hammering echo against the mountainside as mortal warriors labor to repair the bridge, and vampires continue their conversations on the matters of the dead…

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Night Without Lights – Hrothgar's account
Session 2 – Recap – 03/03/2012

When we set out it becomes clear there is more to the Byzantine than previously met the eye. He has dressed in full armour and even carries a rather magnificent blade. It surprises me, but I am glad he seems to have some notion of fighting, even if I must see him use the blade to believe him a warrior. His huskarls, seemingly from all corners of his empire, look like they have been blooded in many a combat. Lord Radu’s men seem born in the saddle. Good, they will not need me to hold their hand.

When I talk to them, the mortals seem loyal enough, even slavish. In fact, they seem scared of Afterganger, even of me. What has spooked these men, these hardened mercenaries, so? I have heard stories of the iron boot of the Saxon vampyrs, are these Eastern Tzimisce the same?

**
On our second day, already disaster hits. During the sun hours our men are ambushed, some of them maimed, others killed. We don’t find out until after dark. That, in itself, is testament to their skill and loyalty.

It quickly becomes clear that the ambushers were sent with some dark purpose, for even their old, young and women rushed in to fight. By the looks of the battle damage they took, many of the tribes folk simply refused to fall when they had been killed many times over. Are these the local Bear People?

It was a simple murder-make, for they came to kill our guards, and probably us. None of the goods were stolen, only burned or hacked apart. Also, the cart with labourers was burned, killing those inside with smoke and fire. I hadn’t even learned their names, and they deserved infinitely better than to be the victims on our behalf of some holmgang with an unknown tribe.

We make a quick round of the camp, to establish who of our own is wounded, dead or missing. We seem to have done well. The Tzimisce goes all quiet, and seems to melt with his land without disappearing into the ground. I leave him to it. After some time he says he can feel the spirits and they are angry. If he speaks of the same spirits I have felt, seen, tasted, I am hardly surprised for I have only ever known them furious and ferocious.

Luckily, two ambushers were captured alive, a boy and a man. I decide to be rough with the boy as that might soften the man. After some simple questioning, the boy’s tongue is loose. He reveals his tribe was sent by evil knights on hellish steeds with shields with three eyes. That, by my count, is at least one too many. I have seen those on some of the Saxons, and Zedenek believes them to be of the Blood Mages. We will see, probably sooner rather than later.

The man shouts at the boy to shut up, but it is pointless. Zedenek steps in to make the man cooperate. Whatever may be said of these Tzimisce who turn men into slaves, the fear they carry with them is certainly a tool. The man sings like a bird.

It is quickly decided we must slay both boy and man. The Byzantine objects, invoking the mercy of his Christ-god. I explain they won’t make loyal labourers and if we let them go they will simply come again for murder-make tomorrow. He still disagrees. So be it.

To his credit, the boy doesn’t show fear when I feed from his neck, or even when I brandish my axe to cut his thread. His head rolling through the bloody, trampled mud snaps the man, however. He sets off, as if seeing into the wyrd, and quotes several passages from what must be the Bible-book. Apparently its rot has spread to even the far corners of these eastern lands. They speak of destiny and revenge and are full of portent, but many of those passages are. Yet another sign that the Christ-god is not as merciful as some claim. The man’s words seem to have some hidden meaning for the Byzantine priest, however, for he looks like he just saw a Wight.

Clearly Zedenek has heard enough. I am not sure it is because of the disobedience of the man for talking out of turn or giving lip to his ‘master’, or because the Tzimisce has some aversion to the Bible-book. He speaks several oaths of his own and unsheathes his bastard blade. The Byzantine objects to yet another killing, this time more forceful than the last, but the Tzimisce is proud and beheads the man with a single, practiced stroke. That, at least, is merciful.

I decide to destroy the corpse of the boy, the one I questioned. He was touched by maleficarum and should be made an example of to the knights of the three eyes. Let them see what happens when they inhabit someone with their evil souls. I do the same with a woman with a score of arrows sticking out of her. The Byzantine does not object, but I can smell his disgust. I am curious about how his people deal with the corrupted.

Most of our wounded men are tended to, and the Tzimisce can shape their flesh like thick mud, healing but not quite. In the end, we lose two. The Byzantine gives one of his huskarls the kiss of death. I can see it pains him, and I most certainly understand this mercy.

**
Not long after the slaughter, the green lights appear, in some shape or other. Of course they do. Fresh blood makes them hungry and mean, and Zedenek had practically warned of as much. Except, this time there are no lights.

At some point it seems one of the Tzimisce’s huskarls calls out from the forest for help. I must admit I hadn’t missed him. He claims he got shot in the foot and can’t walk. I don’t believe him, and neither does his liege, if only because none of our company were that soft-bellied or soft in the head, that likely to get dragged away from the fight to be taken down alone. It is a lure, and the Byzantine almost goes for it. I don’t blame him, for he doesn’t know the lights. He acts from the heart but this land is no place for that. He will learn tonight.

The Tzimisce seems genuinely afraid of whatever hides and begs in those bushes, but he is no fool and stands his ground. Better to engage and die than run and die. I stand beside him and bring up my shield, the Eye facing out. I call to the All-father for strength and guidance, but don’t want this expensive and pointless fight.

I only understand half of what Zedenek says, with many words between him and his gods in his own speech, but the gist is clear and he seems enraged. He believes the lights are trespassing onto his lands! He draws his sword and his arms turn into the blades of a sawfish. Impressive, but I do not see them in use. Not this time, for through whatever skill, oath or luck, the green lights are kept at bay.

However, Zedenek says we have no time to burn or bury the bodies for the lights will not be denied indefinitely. So be it. When the green lights are done with the battlefield, there will be nothing left for any pursuers to find. Not a drop of blood. And whether through forest daemon or beast, the bodies are brought back into the earth, back into the lifecycle.

The knights of the three eyes will at some other time learn what happens to those whom they send against us.

We turn around and hook up with the rolling caravan. Behind us come the sounds of rustling bushes and hissing and screeching. I look back but still no light breaks the darkness of this night.

All in all, the losses were acceptable, considering the number of attackers and their ferocity. Our men fought well and hard, and let none of the witch-fouled tribesmen escape. Most importantly, they kept us safe during the sun hours. I must remember to thank Drago and his men when I have time.

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Radu's offer (session 1)

The fifteenth day of April, the Year of Our Lord 1198, the night that marks the beginning of the end.

Bistria at night is quiet, devoid even. All doors are locked and every shutter is bolted. Within these parts of the world, 5000 men living together within an enclosing wall sounds like a city proper. But perhaps your expectations were too high, for Bistria emits no aura of brilliance. It does not display the finest forms of architecture like the cities of antique Byzantium, nor does it radiate the practical sturdiness and attunement to its surroundings like the cities of the far North. Here peasants dwell in filthy alleys of mud and stone. Yet Bistria has stood here for many years, and is destined to be here for many more.

The tower where Prince Radu is known to reside stands over the city like an overseer watches over his slaves. The only person of true material power spends his nights in the dark bricked bastion looming over the the streets of Bistria. Inside the tower, the corridors are cramped and draughty. Small winding stairs lead to an undecorated waiting room leading into the count’s audience chaimber.

Radu welcomes you cheerfully and almost humbly, stating that you shall be treated as kings. The dog-beast by his side is ten times more impressive to look upon than the count, yet in some way, somehow hidden under a cloak of politeness you feel the presence of Count Radu, as he stands to move the chairs away form the table like a gentleman showing courtesy to a lady.

As two of you take a seat close to Radu, the Norseman proves unaware of the European customs, or refuses to acknowledge them, and takes the position at the opposite head of the table and gestures for his weary companion to sit next to him.

The Count then introduces himself as Radu Szantovitich, Childe of Visya, ruler of Bistria and member of the Council of Ashes. He remarks being called the ‘diplomat prince’ by some due to his negotiations with the Ventrue from the West.

He then goes on to introduce Zedenek Tervezget, seneschal of Saschiz and a Tzimisce of renown. Radu expresses that when he heard that his close friend and sire of Zedenek, Mircia Dzardescu, sent his childe to hear the count’s proposition, Radu was far from disappointed. Radu states that he expects Zedenek to find the proposition he has for him most suiting. It is clear this is Zedenek’s homeland and his regard for count Radu makes it clear he knows him and is honored by the invitation.

The count continues the round of introductions looking at the Norseman. “When I asked the most respected and feared member of Clan Gangrel, Arnulf, ‘Lord of the Wild’, ‘Master of Beasts’, to appoint to me a member of Clan Gangrel to represent it in this area and mentioned the reward that would come from succeeding, Arnulf stated after some thought that he would call upon the ‘one from the north’. Radu expresses that Arnulf’s reasoning to summon a Kindred from so far away appears a mystery to him, but he knows that the Gangrel elder must have good reason.

The Vampyr from the North introduces himself properly as Hródgar Godsmote, stating all the other names he goes by, mentioning his journey to Bistria and the victories he has claimed on his way here. Zsedenek has heard one of those names before, The Baersark, recollecting tales of a mythical vampyr from the lands of snow who is well-known for his deeds in battle.

Lastly, Radu looks at the ‘man of the cloth’ while explaining that his good friend Myca Vykos from Byzantium has personally recommended this vampire for this specific undertaking. Andronicus Hagiochristophorites claims to be an emissary from the Emperor of Byzantium and a man of God.

Questions form Hródgar lead to a short conversation on religion, politics of Transylvania, the presence of Blood Mages and the meaning of the names of everyone present. During this time, the human who entered together with Hródgar seems feverish and starts to roll his one good eye in various directions. Being quiet for the most part of this meeting, suddenly the man – whom Hródgar calls Egil – cries out, the finger of his right hand pointing towards the ceiling, his one good eye searching to meet yours:

“He rises, and all must be ready!
Soon you shall meet the one whose plans will lead you into the heart of terror and exultation.
Ah, the sweet blood of the Soil, let is wash away the sins.
Eight signs of the coming nights shine within my visions. I see you within each.
Though nothing is ever prevented, it may be transformed by the actions of a few.
Zolot lies, flee his visions!
Go now my children, and remember my words when the patterning is asked of you.”

Radu, clearly shocked by this outcry, turns to Hródgar, asking if this has happened before.
A conversation follows, concerning ‘prophets’ or ‘those who can see beyond the Wyrd’ and Saulot, the founder of the Salubri clan who was destroyed long ago by the Usurper Clan, Tremere.

Finally, Radu’s offer is discussed. He wishes you, as representatives of Clan Tzimisce, the Orthodox Church and the Gangrel of Transylvania, to erect a fortress in the Tihusa pass, in the north-east corner of Radu’s domain. He fears an invasion of Mongols from the east against which a fortress may one day prove a valuable defense. He also sees an opportunity to tax the tradesmen that travel through the pass, generating additional income. If you succeed in having the first floor of the castle finished by winter, so the count promises, you will each be donated a domain centered around one of the remaining Siebenbuerger currently without a Cainite ruler. Radu will provide you with a few laborers and means to hire villagers, and will send tools and a master Mason known as Zelios in your wake.

Zedenek accepts convincingly, while Andronicus asks permission to erect a place of worship to God near the tower. Hródgar refuses, and claims to have no interest in the ruling over one of the cities, but is willing to consider an alternative: to aid the cause of fighting to defend (or conquer) any threat from the east, if allowed to raise and equip an army of men. The Gangrel departs, stating that he will give his decision the next evening.

Zedenek and Hródgar meet at the stables the next evening, and here Hródgar states that he is willing to come and raise a fighting force and defend the area while Zedenek and Andronicus see to the erection of the castle. And so it is agreed: Zedenek Tervezget, seneschal of Saschiz, Andronicus Hagiochristophorites, emmisary of Byzantium, and Hróđgar Godsmote, Scourge of the Wendish Marches, shall lead an expedition to Tihusa pass and embark on this bold undertaking.

Individual conversations with Egil and others mark the final hours of the night. At next sundown the caravan, including retainers of Zedenek and Andronicus, ten laborers and eight armed horsemen from Radu, makes ready and soon departs on an eight day journey into the untamed lands at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains.

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A Way In
"Why me?" A word on character motives

Either by messenger or written letter, you were contacted by Count Radu, Prince of Bistritz and one of the most powerful Tzimisce in Transylvania (and thereby in the world). Receiving the attention of The Count would by some be judged as an accomplishment in itself.

The gist of the message was simple and concise. The Prince of Bistritz proposes both a task and an opportunity because of your proven knowledge of the land and the people, skills at leadership or taxation, or loyalty to his court (whatever fits your background best).

No information was provided concerning the details of this task (presumably with good reason), but it states that, should you accept, you must be prepared to stay within the northern parts of Transylvania for several months. Should you succeed, you shall be rewarded with a well established position within the Carpathians.

As you understand it, Count Radu is a very wealthy and influential Cainite, well known for his generosity towards his loyal servants but also mercilessly dedicated to rooting out those who oppose him.

Should you accept the Count’s invitation, you are expected to appear at an audience with his lordship at his castle in Bistritz at the tenth hour on the fifteenth day of april in the Year of Our Lord 1198.

Player note: Whatever your character’s take on Transylvania, its Politics or Tzimisce in general, Count Radu is an intelligent and established personality in the (Cainite) society of the entire region. Obviously, Count Radu is sure to surround himself with many other movers and shakers, so opportunities for personal advancement abound if you are in good stead with his court. Whether your goal is to establish a means of survival within Transylvania for yourself, or you are looking to climb the social ladder or perhaps to claim a prominent role in the next war, a person like the count can be your springboard to an illustrious political, religious or military career.

It is up to you to think of a reason for an established Cainite like the Prince of Bistritz to contact you. I mentioned some skills that could be your ‘way in’. Perhaps not you, but your sire was invited to visit the Count and now you are sent in his or her stead. Don’t forget: Count Radu is also a prince of Siebenbürgen, so he might have contacted you on behalf of all Princes in Transylvania.

Be creative but plausible. The next 800 years may well be shaped by this first encounter and your following relationship with this esteemed Tzimisce. Good luck!

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Dark Tides Rising
The saga begins...

Saulot has fallen, and to what end? The demon Kupala rages in his ancestral home at whose behest? Beneath the dead soil of Transylvania pulses an undying heart, but for how long? The prophecies of Gehenna are coming to fruition in the Dark Medieval world. Only those who would defy destiny itself can stem the dark tide of the final nights…

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