Transylvania Chronicles

A new Prince for Kronstadt
Building on destruction - session 31 juni 2014

The Spring of 1213

After the Coterie and their small army arrives at Kronstadt, Veçeslav Basarab is positioned as nightly ruler over the city. Together with three of Andronicus’ most trusted advisors, the Tzimische warleader is instructed to keep the Wooden Throne occupied and inform the three undead of any developments.

As the Coterie gathers information about the Christian building project some five miles west of Kronstadt, they learn that a brother of the cross by the name of Herman Koch visits Kronstadt and its surrounding villages frequently for various supply arrangements with the working class citizens.

Many of the agreements brother Koch has made with the carpenters, stonemasons and hunters of Kronstadt and its surroundings are very lucrative for these craftsmen. The demand for the tower project greatly exceeds the usual supply, not only providing a great increase in profit for the people of Kronstadt, but also drawing skilled labourers from other parts of the land to the city.

Through taxing and limiting the supplies to the tower project the Coterie wishes to slow the building process, what should eventually lead to its failure. After some haphazard arson by the Coterie the resourceful Christians soon create new supply lines through the smaller villages around Kronstadt. However, after several months it is clear that a considerable delay to their project has occurred.

To counter the loss of income for the working class of Kronstadt, the Coterie starts a building project of their own. A fortress-tower is to be erected a few miles north of Kronstadt. Many of the goods that went to the Christian building site are now supplied to this new project.

After some two months of setting up the mechanism that should hinder the erecting of the western tower and draw the Christian builders to the negotiation table, the Coterie leaves the city to Veçeslav, agreeing that he will inform them of any relevant developments. Andronicus, Zedenek and Hrothgar each go their separate ways.

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Tabula Rasa
Session 27-12-2013

Rendezvous

Hrothgar arrives at Tihuta Gate, startling the lone guard but quickly arranging a meeting with knez Zedenek. The yarl is one night early, and after a token tête-à-tête, tour of the site and feeding, he sets off to Rudne to survey the surroundings.

Zedenek’s progress in fortifying the pass is impressive. The three new villages all have a palisade and a coaching inn, and the roads have a strong warden presence proudly displaying the livery of the Tzimisce knez. The Gate is now a fully defensible affair, ringed with a stone wall with two gates. The tower itself is a massive six stories, four of stone and two of wood. All menial buildings, such as barracks, smithy and kitchens, have been improved upon. A further gate has been constructed to the northeast, on the other side of the former swamp, which is now a pasture for horses and herds.

Hrothgar returns to Tihuta Gate early the next night, in time to see the hasty arrival of Andronicus, with a four horse coach and a dozen liveried escorts. After a few short pleasantries, the Coterie gets right to schedule, Zedenek ordering a ‘royal beverage’ as all proceed with the council in the tower.

Clean Slate

The Coterie has gathered primarily to decide on a Prince of Kronstadt. It is the only of the Siebenbürgen with a vacant throne, and with the encroaching Saxons this is an ever increasing risk. Zedenek expresses his frustrations at having for years advised both Mircea and Radu to undertake swift action but thus far having been ignored.

The situation has recently become even more dire, Andronicus reports, as there now is a strong Saxon presence (30 Teutonic Knights and 140 able-bodied men) outside Kronstadt’s walls, de facto claiming the city, and building a stone fortress. The endeavour is under the guidance of a Saxon Ventrue by the name of Lucretia von Hartz, a high-ranking member of the Teutonic Order. This makes it likely that several of her vassals are present as well.

Each of the Coterie declines the position of Prince of Kronstadt for various reasons, but all because they prefer their current base to the City of the Crown. As a result, most of the night is spent on deciding on the prime candidate for taking the throne. Here it is revealed, among other things, that Warlord Rustovitch inexplicably decided against his Clanmate Mircea on taking Kronstadt.

Eventually, the Coterie reaches a consensus on the Tzimisce Veceslav Basarab, former Revenant. He is decidedly neutral, does not have his own base, and can rally in excess of 400 soldiers, most of whom travel with him, on short notice.

Andronicus is a bearer of bad tidings tonight and also speaks of a smaller Saxon presence (20 knights, 70 soldiers and 80 militia) three days west of Kronstadt, at a village called Tabla Buţii. It is swiftly decided this nuisance needs to end, and both Zedenek and Hrothgar pledge their allegiance to kill all Germans holding a weapon and scatter the immigrant settlers.

This, then, will also serve as a precursor to the much larger liberation of Kronstadt, for which Andronicus has allocated 200 troops and Zedenek 50. Zedenek also hires 150 Polian lancers from Hrothgar. Messages are sent to all involved to allow smooth progress of this campaign.

The Coterie travels to Basarab in the north and, after some coercion, finds him willing to accept the throne of Kronstadt. He is also willing to pledge his 400 men to the liberation of Tabla Buţii and Kronstadt. The more banners, the better, it is agreed.

The Coterie then travels to Bistriţa to get Radu’s blessings on the matters. He accepts Basarab on the Kronstadt throne but declines to provide any troops for either battle, wishing to await the accord of the Council of Ashes. Later, the Coterie privately expresses doubts about Radu’s heart in these matters and even expects his drastic turn in the coming months.

All forces proceed to Tabla Buţii, to then move on to Kronstadt. Zedenek’s men are by now in Bistriţa, Hrothgar’s cavalry is quickly catching up. Veceslav is aready on his way to TB. It is eight days’ travel to get from Bistriţa to Tabla Buţii and, as stated, three to get from Tabla Buţii to Kronstadt.

Hrothgar decides to fly ahead of the main column to Tabla Buţii, to scout the surroundings for at least one night (and to prevent Veceslav from doing anything rash). He has instructed his second in command Haakon to meet him there. He should be able to make good timing, as the crow flies.

Loose Change

It is discovered that much of the correspondence from Andronicus to Hrothgar over the past fifteen years has not reached Dorohoi (correspondence from H to A was virtually non-existent). It is agreed that Andronicus will look into the matter. Among the suspects are Andronicus’ ghoul messenger and (lackeys of) Prince Radu Himself. Curiously, only the military messages were intercepted; all messages regarding trade arrived as planned.

Prince Radu prevents his dog from attacking Hrothgar in the palace for approaching too closely. He explains that this creature is one solely extant for the hunt, not petting. This places the fucking mutt highly on Hrothgar’s kill-list.

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A Simple Offer

After Andronicus was freed from the unnatural clutches of the plant, the three Vampyr travelled to the tower site together with Myca’s caravan.

The next evening, Andronicus prepared a service to the Lord. Myca would join him, and together they successfully convinced the crowd of the Might and Right of the Lord. Zedenek and Hrothgar, however, were not so impressed, and afterwards criticized Andronicus’ offering of blood, which they saw as further diminishing the already scarce supplies.

Later that night, Myca announced he had business to discuss concerning the new labour force and supplies. It was clear the coterie had little choice in the matter, as Myca stated he had already received full fiat from Prince Radu. Myca stated that he would speak with one of the Vampyr who would act as a representative for the rest.

The three Overseers agreed among themselves that any negotiation would take place with all three of them present. When they parlayed this to Myca, he seemed annoyed by this statement. He once more walked away from the conversation, stating that he would have them sort out their hierarchy, and that he would speak to one of them when they were done.

Already irritated by the lack of respect the Tzimisce guest had shown the coterie while technically their guest, the tension between the two parties grew stronger, eventually leading to accusations, demands, threats and even a physical augmentation by the Tzimisce, where he threatened Hrothgar that the their disagreement would perhaps not be settled just by words. Even Myca’s personal escort, Nazir, was extremely surprised by the unadulterated anger that radiated form his master.

After several moments of posturing, Myca returned to his wagon, and the coterie discussed among themselves the few options thay had. It was now clear to them that Myca had perhaps arrived to offer a trade, but in the end, not accepting his offer was not truly an option.

Andronicus was instructed about what he would and would not say in a one-on-one conversation with Myca. Meanwhile, subtle preparations were made in case push came to shove.

Finally, Andronicus entered the wagon of the Tzimisce alone and a deal was made: The Coterie would receive ten skilled workers, sufficient food supplies and a chest of gold and silver to help their project in exchange for a personal boon. Whenever Myca would call upon Andronicus, the Toreador would have to do everything in his power the aid the Tzimisce…

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The Clearing

After the men who had been sent to Rudne for men and supplies had returned to the camp, plans were made for the coming days. The three Vampyr decided to travel to the two villages east of Tihuta Pass to establish trade and enforce their authority.

They left the caravan as soon as the sun began to rise. Along they took three wagons, eight horses, trading goods, five of Radu’s men, all the Rus and Drago, who would lead this veritable caravan during the daytime.

Andronicus was the first to rise at sundown, and noticed that the caravan was moving slowly. He climbed out of his wagon and approached one of the horsemen in the front, who told the priest that they were looking for a campsite but had a hard time finding a suitable location in this dark and dense forest.

Soon, the other two undead awoke and it was decided that, since finding a suitable spot in these lights was near impossible and the first village would not be reached within half a day of travel, they would camp here, near on on the road. The only Rus who knew a few words of Romanian protested fiercely, stating this to be the domain of Baba Yaga, a highly feared forest witch, and that no one should stay a night in her woods. When the Tzimisce tried to sense the land and the presence of the Kupala spirits, he felt no disturbance. Although not in itself greatly alarming, he did notice an absence of wildlife in the area. Hrothgar, in his own way, noticed it too.

The Gangrel retreated a little ways into the forest and took on the aspect of a raven to scout the surroundings. From high up in the air he spotted an open area, some fifty paces off the road. While descending to get a closer look, the bird shape spotted that something was odd about what first appeared an ordinary campfire spot. Not a single tree grew within the perfect circle in the middle of this otherwise dense and dark forest. Also, the center spot, where one would expect the remains of fire, was decorated in such a way that is had the resemblance of a black sun with its beams pointing outwards, almost as if painted by a child.

Even closer examination revealed that what first had appeared to be rocks surrounding the fire spot, were in fact human skulls and the ‘sunbeams’ attached to these skull were decayed arms, every hand clutching one of the skulls.

After relocating to the other side of the clearing the Vampire noticed that the black spot in the center was in fact some kind of seemingly bottomless pit. Hrothgar, still in his bird shape, dropped a small pine cone down into the dark hole to establish its depth, but heard no sound. After a second try with the same result the raven returned to the caravan to inform the others of yet another focal point of the maleficarum of Transsylvania.

The three Vampyr debated about whether it was wise and necessary to return to the spot Hrothar had scouted, since the Rus had at first made it clear they did not want to stay the night in the forest, but were persuaded by the promised protection of the Vampyr. But the argument that a night near such a malevolent place and perhaps a Russian witch nearby, made them decide to investigate. Hrothgar informed Drago that he, Zedenek and Andronicus were to scout a sighting nearby and would be back soon. Drogo decided not to inform the Rus of the Vampyrs’ absence.

Although one might assume that on foot the Gangrel would have a hard time finding the exact location he had spotted from the air, the three Vampyr walked straight into the clearing at first attempt. At first glance, Hrothgar confirmed this was the place he had wanted to show to his two companions. However, approaching the center of the clearing revealed that there was no pit. The black spot looked like the simple seared remains of a campfire. Surrounding these ashes were ordinary rocks. Branches were lying about the place, but not in such an orderly way that a rational mind would see a resemblance to the beams of a sun. The shape of the clearing was also not as sharply cut as it was when Hrothgar first saw it. Frustrated, the Aefterganger walked to the center of the clearing. Standing on top of the ashy remains he jammed his spear into the ground, which proved all too solid.

Zedenek connected to the earth and tried to attune to the land, but felt nothing out of the ordinary. Frustrated and to the astonishment of the other two Hrothar took on the shape of the raven in plain sight and flew off. Examining the ground, the rocks aligning the old fire and the branches on the ground, Zedenek and Andronicus found themselves puzzled, and alone.

Hrothgar, now flying above the tree line, tried to see if perhaps the clearing he had first spotted was another than the one he had led his companions to. There was no other clearing. He flew across the camp, where nothing had changed and the men were mostly sleeping or eating. The Gangrel flew back to the open area, were he found the place as he had left it the first time. The clearing was perfectly round, the branches were again methodically aligned to the stones, or skulls, and the black spot of ashes in the center was once again a pit of unknown depth. There was, however, no sign of the other two Vampyr.

Zedenek and Andronicus decided to walk back to the road. After leaving the clearing, the Tzimisce and Toreador came upon a clearing some thirty paces before they should have reached the road. They soon noticed they had walked into the same clearing they had just left. The two walked in the direction of the road again, and moments later came upon the same clearing. They tried again, and again. They were walking in circles, even though their sense of direction seemed true.

Frustrated, Zedenek climbed a tree to get a view of their resoundings, while yelling down to Andronicus what he saw. At the moment he was too high up for Andronicus to see him, the sound of Zedenek’s voice stopped. The Tzimisce was now out of the clearing. Looking into the clearing from the tree, it was empty; Andronicus was not there. Zededenek had figured a way out of the infinite chain of empty clearings. He climbed back up into the tree to tell the Byzantine to do the same as he had done. It worked, and both Vampyr were outside the clearing and together again. However, there still was no trace of Hrothgar.

When the two Vampyr simply called out for the Norseman, Hrothgar could hear their voices and arrived to find his two companions intact. Andronicus suggested to return to the caravan, but the Fiend wanted to test his theory. Since Hrothgar was unaffected and able to leave as he pleased while he was high up in the air, he reasoned, they must have come across some kind of zone of illusion, much like a bubble of befuddling smoke and mist.

And so Zedenek gave one end of a rope to Andronicus, held the other end and entered the clearing again. Zedenek walked to the center to see if the disturbances he had made earlier were still visible. When he looked back at the rope, the Tzimisce noticed that it was no longer heading in the direction were he last saw Andronicus. Not only that, but there was no sign of the Byzantine.

Andronicus, noticing that the rope Zedenek was supposedly holding had suddenly changed direction, decided to tie the far end to a tree and enter the clearing. As he entered he saw that Zedenek was not there, and the rope he had tied to the tree now pointed in a sharp angle to the side, not the direction he had just come from.

A personal nightmare of frustration followed for both the vampires as they tried to find a way back to the road, once again. And this time, climbing a tree did not help them. Their drag to freedom included a giant spider living inside the pit, Latin words on the ground stating that there was only one way out with an arrow pointing to the bottomless blackness in the center and other unexplainable tricks of the mind or manifestations of evil. In the end, they got separated again as the drama continued.

The final manifestation by which it all ended for both Vampyr was an individual encounter with an old woman dressed in rags. Andronicus had just climbed the highest tree he could find when suddenly an old woman stood at the foot of the tree motioning for Andronicus to follow her as she walked towards the edge of the pit in the middle of the clearing. She stopped, turned around and beckoned the priest to follow her before she stepped into the darkness below. Andronicus did not follow.

Meanwhile, Hrothgar had returned to the caravan to gather men and tools to search for the missing Vampyr. To his dismay, the Rus refused to help, stating that they would rather die here than heading into the forest to face the evil witch. And so Hrothar headed out to the clearing once again, together with Drago and his frightened but brave men. The Rus were ordered to guard the caravan.

The Gangrel and his searching party had no trouble finding the clearing. Seeing no pit, nor skulls and bones, but just an old campsite, Hrothar decided to set up a chain of rope and torches from the road to the site, to make sure it could be traced back.

At the edge of the clearing where he had lost his companions the Northman started to cut down the highest tree he could find, planning to set it on fire and have in land on the center of the clearing, plain for anyone to see, illusions or no. As he set about a trunk with his axe, Andronicus’ tree began to shake.

Zedenek, in the meantime, was high up in a tree brashly calling out for Baga Yaga to come to him, when suddenly he spotted the old woman in the tree next to his, just out of reach. As the Tzimisce yelled to her “What is it you want?!”, the old woman only giggled and spoke:
“What is greater than the Gods, more evil than the Kupala. What do the poor have and the rich need? What makes you die if you eat it?”

She then walked towards the pit and stepped in, still giggling. Then Zedenek heard the sound of an axe hitting wood close by, and feared that it was his tree that was being cut down. But it was the tree Andronicus was in.

After some initial frustrations and utterd curses, all three Vampyr were back together again. They collected Drago’s men and returned to the caravan to find it as Hrothgar had left it.

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Night of the Serpent

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Mark 16:17-18

With sunrise fast approaching, the final preparations before the coming day were made by Andronicus and Zedenek. The guards were instructed, armor repaired and prayers whispered. Six Rus and two Romanians left for the village of Rudne.

Hrothar headed out to the tower site where he retrieved the decaying head of the giant serpent and carried it down to the campfire near the caravans. As the Vampyr established that the flesh and skin on the snake’s head burned like it should and all guards were well instructed, the Vampyr retired for the day.

Andronicus was the first to rise the next evening. When leaving his wagon he noticed a gathering of four men down the road, on the edge of the guard parameter. As soon as the Byzantine approached, Borislav informed him that one of his men had been attacked just before sundown.

The guard in question recalled that an arrow had first been loosed from the woods but had failed to wound him. As he had turned to face the archer, he had been jumped from behind by a short male wielding a crude knife. As the assailant had tried to stab the guard in his throat, he had loudly yelled “Morta! Morta!”, subsequently alerting the rest of the caravan guards. The guard had overpowered the frenzied attacker and plunged a knife in his forehead. As the other guards had arrived, they had seen the archer flee into the forest. A few arrows had been fired in his direction, but had missed.

Hrothar and Zedenek woke and joined the conversation and a connection between these attackers and the ambushers earlier was deliberated. The Norseman headed up to the site of the tower. Without the others knowing it, he took on the aspect of a raven and went airborne to search for the fleeing attacker.

Meanwhile, troubled by the absurdness of this underpowered attack on the caravan of seasoned soldiers, Zedenek touched the earth to attune to the land and its spirits and felt a veritable shockwave pass through his undead body. He announced to the others that the power of Kupula was rising at the site of the campfire. The Tzimisce called out to the malevolent spirit, challenging it to show itself, when the campfire was abruptly extinguished. Amidst the remains of the burned wood lay the inanimate skull of the serpent… and then it twitched.

The energy Zedenek had felt now rushed passed the head and up to the old tower. Andronicus and Zedenek moved towards the quickly cooling fire pit as they ordered the guards to stand back. Zedenek had taken up the serpent’s head and tossed it in the direction of the palisade. The sound of tumbling rock and grinding, leathery skin echoed down the tower path. The two Vampyr stood as they watched the 25 feet long, headless body of the serpent move down the road. It touched its skull and, as if it was reattaching itself to the body, dragged it along.

Zedenek called to the giant undead serpent as its head found its former place. As the beast moved down the cliff, heading towards the river that lay below, the Tzimisce slashed his sword into its body while Andronicus tested the power of the Lord by touching the snake’s skin with a holy cross.

Zedenek eventually succeeded in severing the serpent’s tail. The creature, still moving, had found its way into the river and was leaving the campsite. Zedenek issued yet another challenge in his native tongue. The serpent hissed and turned around.

Meanwhile, the Raven had spotted a small fire amidst the darkness of the Transylvanian woods and descended to have a closer look. A naked male, matching the description of the archer that had attacked one of Borislav’s men, was chanting and running through the fire repeatedly, while continuously stabbing himself in the chest with a knife.

As Hrothar watched, the man collapsed and lay motionless in the fire. Hrothar landed a few feet away and scouted the woods surrounding the fire. The Northman felt an ominous presence looming from the darkness but decided he must remain to investigate. Gingerly pulling the body away from the fire, he quickly asserted the man to be dying and beyond repair. Wasting no time and drinking the last drops of the man’s lifeblood, the Norseman decided to leave, taking the knife of the now dead man with him.

Back at the camp site, Zedenek followed the river alongside the road, paralleling the movements of the Serpent that was finding a way towards the Vampyr. They met halfway. Zedenek had taken on his monstrous shape once more as the serpent charged. A ferocious fight erupted and Andronicus soon joined in. The guards, nervously awaiting orders, were commanded to stay back.

The snake’s tactics where predictable but extremely harmful nonetheless and Zedenek’s unlife almost ended right ten and there, when he misjudged an incoming bite and the serpent’s fangs pierced his undead body. As the Tzimisce lay motionless on the ground, Andronicus was all that stood between the Serpent and the incapacitated Zulo shape.

Unable to truly harm this Satanic creature, all Andronicus could do was brace his shield and ready for impact. Surviving the first attack, the Toreador could only watch as the creature turned and came back for a second launch. This time the shield could not fully protect the priest from harm, and the creature plunged its fangs in the neck of the Byzantine.

As the creature tried to drag Andronicus away, Zedenek, who had healed himself during the time his body was unresponsive, rose up and took the opportunity to cut the creature in half.

Hrothar the raven – who had returned to the campsite – spotted the turmoil among the trees and quickly decended, adopting his human form before he hit the ground. Zedenek transformed his body back to the shape of human proportions and blood was fed to the Byzantine. The Vampyr informed each other of the troubles they had witnessed and returned to the caravan. Zedenek established that the power of the entity he called Kupala had subsided.

As the Vampyr returned to the caravans, Drago called out to them: “Varos has returned, my lords!”. The three went to talk to this lost soldier, who explained that he could remember only to have been lured into the forest at the site of the ambush several days ago and waking up here and now. All the time in between was filled with nothing but nightmares and darkness.

Hrothar, unconvinced of Varos’ innocence, ordered him to place his hand in the flames of the campfire. Zedenek argued it was pointless and that it would prove nothing, but the Norseman insisted and the human burned his hand severely.

Varos was allowed to head for the nearby river to cool his burned hand. Andronicus later approached him for a private conversation.

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Sheep among Wolves

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.
Matthew 9:36

After sundown the three Vampyr did their round to assess the work that had been done during the day, and to plan the coming night when they heard the sound of an approaching caravan.

Hrothar, Lucita of Aragon and Anatole oversaw the approach from the ruined tower, as Andronicus headed for the old palisade the meet the travelers there. The caravan – consisting of six wagons escorted by sixteen armed horsemen dressed in tribal war cloth – came to a halt as soon as Andronicus called out to it.

Two horsemen however continued to approach the Andronicus. Increasing the speed of their horse, the two warriors raised their axes as they galloped towards the Byzantine.
Andronicus called out to them, frightening their horses, causing one of the horses to come to a halt as the other one ran of the steep cliff in fright, taking its rider down with it.

Hrothar descended the mountain to head down the cliff where the rider lay motionless as Lucia disappeared into the shadows. Zedenek now stood beside Andronicus as a huge tribesman rode forward from the caravan.

In an odd dialect of the Slavic tongue which even Andronicus could not understand, this apparent commander of the caravan introduces himself as Ramkov the Rus.

Using hands and feet and with the help the occasionally common words, the Vampyr told this Rusman that they have claimed this pass and wish to trade with the Rus. While Hrothar first concerned for the fallen warrior and his horse to soon join in on the tradestalk, Andronicus and Zedenek persuaded the Rus to trade furs, a wagon full of hoary weapons and ten Rus warriors for bands of silk (or slik as Ramkov consistently called it).

The Rusman promised to return soon with more trade goods. He would bring workers, food and amber in return for more silk (although to Ramkov the desire for amber seemed irrational).

The caravan departed and ten of the Rus warriors stayed behind. Borislav could not suppress a look of concern as these newly founds joined the group.

The night was half but over as the sound of a howling wolf emerged from the surrounding forest. The guards were ordered to stand ready as the Vampyr stood watchful looking for any sings of approaching wolves.

A single dark furred wolf moved through the guard parameter untouched and then ran up the slope leading to the tower site. The three Vampyr soon followed.

Atop the plateau they found a human, averagely build with local features, wearing nothing but fur cloth around his waist. The man announced himself as a messenger from the great father:

“My name is Siderius. I was sent here by my father who you have met some nights ago. He praises your efforts in this area and wishes to contribute to the safety of your expedition. He offers to protect all man and creatures from the horrors of the wild and demands nothing but a small favor in return: one adult mortal every moon.”

Apparently impressed with the presence of the three Vampyr and pressed for more information, the man explains that he failed his father and was sent here in a chance to renew his standing and regain his honor.

The Vampyr express that this land is now theirs and that the Garou have no claim here. They state they do not wish to war with the wolves, but no human sacrifices or dues shall be paid.

The man expresses that the great father will not accept this. The now agitated Vampyr restate their message and the young man leaves, apparently relieved to end the conversation.

Lucita of Aragon and Anatole express their desire to leave for Bistria. The three immortals instruct Lucita and Anatole there is no need inform Radu of the found tablets and ask the two to inform Zelios of the makeshift bridge that may need to be reinforced. After goodbyes and good lucks, the two wanderers depart.

With the lager part of the night past, the three Vampyr start to plan the dayshift and conger up a way the divide the group of Rus in two parts to minimize the chance of a uprising during their most vulnerable hours.

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The Clay Tablets

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come”
Melachi 3

As Drago and his men readied the caravan to move on, the Vampyr prepared for their daytime slumber. Soon after the caravan’s first few turn, Borislav reported spotting the ruins of an old tower and the flickering torchlight atop a nearby mountain peak.

It was decided that the caravan would camp here, close to the old tower and without any lights, until the Vampyr would rise again after sunset.

At dusk, Andronicus was the first to rise, and Drago informed him that the firelights at the site of the ruined tower faded just before sunrise, to be lit up again after sundown. He had heard no unfamiliar sounds or seen anything alarming during the day.

As Andronicus organized another praying session – where he was joined by one of Radu’s men who seemed genuinely interested in this Christian custom – Hrothar and Zedenek awakened and instructed the guards to protect Petru’s body when they would head out for the mountaintop. A pile of firewood was prepared near the caravan so it could be lit in case of trouble. Andronicus gathered Frederik and Gulielmo to accompany the Vampyr on their way to the top.

After first scouting around the corner that followed the road around the tower mountain, the party of five traveled the small winding path towards the top. Before they could spot anything, the whistling of a cheerful hymn could be heard from among the ruins. The Vampyr advanced and spotted an armored figure kneeling at the edge of the ruins, his whistling suddenly interrupted by their approach.

The one light source – a torch on a pole amidst the ruins – was suddenly extinguished as a shadowy humanoid shape rushed past it, to disappear in the darkness behind the ruins.

Andronicus approached the kneeling stranger, as Zedenek and Hrothar tried to spot the shadowy figure hiding somewhere in the darkness…

“Ah, blessed art those who come in glory to the place of revelations.
Welcome, fellows!”

The male wears tangled and filthy blond hair, has fine features and is of average build. He looks somewhat like a vagrant mercenary; he wears piecemeal armor and a squalid tabard and carries a rusty, blood-encrusted sword. He then stands up, turn around and walks toward Andronicus as he begins to speak in Latin with the accent of a descendant from the Kingdom of France:

“Your coming is the sign that I have long awaited. The field is fallow, awaiting those who will search for the seed of wisdom buried deep within its hidden places. Please help me with this.” – as he points towards a huge stone slab blocking the entrance to what must be the underground area of the former tower.

Andronicus paused the strangers momentum by formerly introducing himself and asking his name. The stranger spoke: “In life I was the son of a soldier, now,
“I am the seeker after that which was lost and which will come again. I am a messenger of God. I am Vampyr. I am Anatole. I am your ally.
Now please help me, I cannot move these stones by myself.”

Hrothar asked Anatole who hides in the shadows of these ruins and Anatole explained he traveled here with a companion. Anatole told Hrothyar that this companion is more confortable unseen and that she would soon make herself know.

Indeed, a lady by the apparent age of 17, tall and graceful with a dark classical tone to her skin, appears from the shadows. She has black hair and wears the garb of a noblewoman, although these clothes are uncommonly dark and somber and seem to favor ease of movement rather than presentability. She speaks in Latin without accent:

“I am Lucita, mortal daughter of Alfonso I of Aragon, childe of Bishop Ambrosio Monçada and here as emissary on behalf of King Pedro II of Aragon.”

The three Vampyr explain the nature of their visit: how Radu has asked them to claim these ruins. Anatole seemed only focused on finding a way into the basement, while Lucita apeared more interested in their business here. She explained that she is on the road constantly to stay out of the clutches of het angered sire and how she has decided to follow Anatole and his visions for the time being. When prodded, Anatole speaks of how he has had visions for decades and that, although the precise meaning of these foresight visions is usually not apparent to him at first, in the end, they always come to pass.

By concerted effort, all the stones are eventually cleared away and the door to the basement of the tower fully appears. At first glance, the door seems to open towards in inside, but closer examination reveals that the door is heavily barricade to prevent the door from opening outwards. Dents in the firm plate work of the door and the smell of decaying flesh warns the Vampyr that something was locked inside.

With the necessary precaution – Hrothar decapitated the head of a dead giant snake before fully opening the door – the inside of the basement in revealed. Besides the rotting body of this hellish serpent, the floor is scattered with remains of crates that once contained grains and edible roots. The walls of the basement are adorned with remaining of wooden planks that held scrolls and books that now lie crumbled to dust on the floor along the walls. Anatole, and Andronicus search for academic treasures as Hrothar takes a closer look at the monster-snake. Zedenek examines the floor above the basement and finds a chimney construction with a hatch which could serve to lower goods down into the basement. The Vampyr would later find bloodstain on the floor beneath this hatch. Hrothar discovers that the snake has, unusual to a any constrictor snake, this one has a pair of hollow fangs. With Zedenek’s knowledge of manipulating the flesh, they later establish that this beast was partially created of reformed by a skilled flesh crafter. Meanwhile, Anatole and Andronicus find several clay tablets at the far end side of the basement containing unfamiliar sings. Amidst these tablets Anatole stumbles upon a golden disc which turns out to be a means of translation the clay etched symbols.

Andronicus settles down and starts to translate and copy the tablets. Some symbols are not too easily translated and the order of in which the tablets were written cannot be determined with certainty. And so hours have passed when Andronicus presents the other Vampyr with his results. He reads to them (in the order established by Andronicus):

Let the lesser ones war one upon the other
Each hearkening to the omens that i have foreseen
But merely shadows of those things that shall be
Fools, all! By my guile they know not the actual signs
Only I of us all shall know the truth and this shall be my shield and my spear
Thus, I set down my true visions that I may remember and keep to the path I have chosen
Most exalted shall I be in the time of the final days
Let the world tremble when I come in my might and majesty
For I shall rule above the father, above the mother who gave succor to our father
Even the father shall quail before my might
Above the children of Seth Yea, even above God himself
Let the reign of blood commence.

Anatole expresses that it is clear that these words are the seed of wisdom which the Lord had sent him to find. Lucita asks if she may make a copy of the tablets for Anatole.
Hrothar wishes to know from Anatole what he believes these words mean, but Anatole states that the meaning of his visions and these words will reveal itself when the time is right.
Zedenek seemed not too interested about the text, and stared planning the coming day.

Before the sun started to rise the Vampyr had all retired within the caravan, leaving their safety into the hands of Borislav, Drago and their loyal guards. Anatole and Lucita would find shelter from the sun in the basement of the ruined tower.

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The Right to Rule

As soon as the anger of Zedenek had subsided – and with it his monstrous shape – Nicolai of Glad was instructed to supply the passing caravan with whatever it would need. The village elder was also informed that every so often someone would be sent to collect food and other forms of due.

Just before the three Vampyrs decided to leave, Nicolai told them of the next settlement on the road to Tihuta pass, Rudne village. This would be twice the size of Glad and was ruled by a warrior named Petru, who would not readily accept the ruling of others, or so the mad elder claimed. He later proved to be right.

Returning to the caravan, where nothing out of the ordinary had occurred in the Vampyrs’ absence, Zedenek and Hrothgar granted the mortal guards a few hours of rest and stood watch until the sun was almost up. Zedenek used the time to sew the leather of his armor back together that was destroyed by the beastly shape he had become earlier. Andronicus saw, much to his liking, that not only his trusted mortal companions again joined him in his prayers, but the ceremony also drew the attention of two of Radu’s men.

Next dawn Andronicus was the first to rise and joined Drago to hear a scout report his findings. The scout had indeed encountered a village just a little further down the road and estimated it should house around 30 horse-riding warriors and forty other inhabitants. He also reported to have seen a tower and palisade blocking the entire mountain road.

A brief discussion led to the decision that the three Vampyrs would ride ahead of the caravan and see if they could speak with this Petru to announce their presence. And so they did.

Upon arriving at the village and noticing the gate blocking the road ahead and the tower that stood by it, a guard hailed to them in Romanian: ‘Who travels the dark of night?!’ As Zedenek introduced them as being sent by count Radu of Bistria, one of the guards climbed down the palisade wall and Zedenek overheard him say: ‘I shall summon master Petru, ready the fire-arrows.’

Moments later the gates to the village opened and a figure of average size stood behind it, backed up by some ten men holding bows with flaming arrows aiming at the ground before them.
Zedenek again stated that Radu had sent the three Vampyr, and stated that they now ruled the region and this village in his name. Petru proved impervious to these claims and named Radu a traitor to the land and its people, who sides with the Saxons and even the Tremere!

Zedenek, translating for his fellow Kindred and attempting to reason with Petru by stating that their objective to rebuild the old tower in Tihuta pass would benefit Petru and his men also, too was called a liar to his face by Petru. Adronicus used his commanding presence to make the humans with bows rethink their options, but only partially succeeded, due to the language barrier. Hrothgar, befuddled by the imprudent braveness of this villager, took a good look at Petru’s eyes and noticed the same glittering within that grants some Vampyr their night vision. Petru appeared a Clanmate of Hrothgar, a Hunter among the Vampyr, a member of Clan Gangrel.

A few words were exchanged about Petru coming from the linage of Mitru, the Vampyr that ruled much of the wild places in Transylvania. Hrothgar seemed genuinely interested in this Mitru, but Petru was not in the mood to talk much and his brusqueness reached its peak as he challenged one of the Vampyr for the rulership over Rudne, as was the honourable way according to him.

Hrothgar was willing to accept this challenge, but Zedenek’s fury caused by the insults built up and the shape of the monster once again erupted as his limbs popped and his armor tore again where it was just repaired. Andronicus too was unwilling to grant this ‘ruffian’ the honor of a dual, and claimed the steel of their blades would persuade this one to obedience.

Hrothgar made a final attempt to influence the outcome of this encounter by hitting Petru in the face, to knock some sense into him. Petru again demanded a one-on-one fight, but Andronicus had decided it was too late for that now.

This childe of Mitru proved a skilled warrior, dodging and parrying the crushing impacts of the blade of the monster called Zedenek, postponing his destruction for some time. Andronicus commanded some of the archers to extinguish the fire on their arrows, and succeeded, but could not prevent one of them firing a flaming shot at the shape of Zedenek. But the stone tip was no match for the monsters hide, and the arrow glances off as Petru eventually proved unable to defend the countless blows.

Hrothgar, unwilling to join the skirmish, bellowed the fighting to cease, but the blood was up and no quarter given. Petru stood bewildered as he made one last claim for a fair fight, but to no avail; a brutal swing of Zedenek’s blade opened Petru’s bloodless body and cut him almost in half. Hrothgar caught the falling Vampyr before he hit the ground.

Before the battle was well over, a man from the village named Dimitru stepped forward, stating that he was the ‘bloodservant’ of Petru and second in command after the Vampyr. Arrangements were made with this Dimitru, who proved supportive of their task and was willing to supply them with workers, stone, blood and food, but warned them that Petru would still hold power over this village, should he ever return.

It was decided that Petru would never be allowed to return to the village of Rudne, but Hrothgar was unwilling to destroy this Kindred, for now: he may be the Norseman’s gateway to a meeting with Mitru.

The caravan was ordered to move towards the village and soon arrived to make camp for the remainder of the night. If Dimitru was right, the site of the old tower, the destination of this journey, was just a few turns of the road away.

(exp’s: 2)

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The first step

Zedenek’s account

Transylvanian spring, day six of our travels to the Tihuta pass.

We are at the end of the foothills, at the start of the actual mountain pass. We can’t be more than three days’ travel from the tower foundation, but still we have encountered no villages.

The Byzantine seems restless and wishes to travel ahead to see if the first village is close by. I am hesitant to leave the caravan for our men are ill-equipped to handle the threats that lurk in the Transylvanian night. We agree to travel on no more then two hours before we head back.

And so the three of us set out on horseback to scout our path.

During our trip the Byzantine asks me if I would welcome newcomers to our lands, to bring more civilisation and prosperity to the region. His Christgod indoctrinated mind doesn’t seem to wish to accept that the God of corruption rules these lands and that the Tzimisce are the ones keeping him in check. I try to explain to him that newcomers are welcomed here as long as Transylvanians rule, preferably the Tzimisce, and that they follow our customs. This is the land of the Tzimisce, the Transylvanians, and the plague of Ventrue at the head of their hordes is not welcome here. The Saxons do not belong here and have no right to take our lands. The Gangrel at least seems to share my views on this.

After an hour or so we come upon the first village, a small settlement of hunters with a makeshift palisade around their houses. We are let in, as they know me and my sire, and we have an audience with the village elder Nicolai. He is an old and weak man who seems to want nothing more than to give his blood and that of his villagers to us. After some questioning we find out that the village is more or less held hostage by a local Vampyr whom they worship fervently. Radu’s Lady and The Lady of the Night, they call her, but we have never heard of her. It seems that Lupines came here every winter to take three or four of the villagers as payment, but that the Lady of the Night has kept them away the last two winters. They call her with a signal fire, whenever they require her protection. There is also another Vampyr in this area which they refer to as ‘the catlike Vampyr’, but the Lady doesn’t want them to talk to him.

At this point we notice that some, or all, of the villagers have gone up to the road, and that they are making a signal fire as we speak. Nicolai explains that this is what they have been instructed to do by the Lady if Vampyrs come to their village.

The three of us would like to have a chat with this lady to explain that this area will as of now have new rulers, so we let the villagers go about their business.

The wind stirs the leather hide flap door when Nicolai announces she has arrived. The whole village is chanting that there is blood to be given to the Lady of the Night, whether they mean ours or theirs is uncertain to me at this point. The locals do seem ‘thick in the head’ as the Gangrel states it.

Dagmar kirsch I walk up to the signal fire with the Gangrel and the Byzantine close behind me, and indeed see a female figure standing awfully close to it. Some gargoyle figure is hiding on the cliff face behind her, but as far as I can tell we have all seen it. The seemingly young lady has a half rotten jaw and is not a Tzimisce or a Gangrel, she speaks in a Saxon accent. She doesn’t seem afraid of us and I start to suspect that she is one of the Usurpers.

The Gangrel seems to catch something on the wind and starts raving to her in a German dialect, I capture the words ‘Troll’ and ‘blood magus’.

As I unlimber my blade she ushers a word of blood magic and pulls me two or three yards toward the bonfire; she is most certainly one of the Usurpers. It is now time for her to feel the wrath of the awakened Tzimisce Zulo, Kupala feast on her ashes!

As my joints pop and my spine explodes the Gangrel and Byzantine also rush forward ready to do battle, but I have no eyes for them or the Troll that lurches into the night sky, I will rend this Usurper limb from limb.

As I and the Gangrel rush in she tries to usher more words of blood magic, but they seem to have no effect as a spear thrown by Gangrel and some shadow magic of the Byzantine seem to hold her full attention.

I charge in and chop freely at her again and again with all my might, but it seems her blood magic protects her, it is as if chopping an oak log with a rusty axe. The Gangrel also charges in with his mighty axe and hacks away at her. Blood magic or no, she cannot stand up to this onslaught for long. Luckily for the Gangrel and me the Troll swoops down on the Byzantine, probably to stop him from using his shadow magic to aid us.

The Usurper desperately tries to use her blood magic, as something pops inside my head and blood streams out off my ears, the fires flare up in an attempt to consume us, but all is in vain for her. Bit by bit the Gangrel and I chop her to the eternal death she so deserves, and finally, with a mighty double handed swing, I carve her in two.

We quickly rush to the other side of the fire to find that the Byzantine didn’t fare so well against the flying Troll. It has ripped apart the chest of the Byzantine with its mighty claws, leaving him for dead. When we try to charge, it immediately lurches into the air to escape our wrath.

As the Gangrel makes sure the Usupers death is indeed eternal by kicking its remains in the fire, I go back down to the village.

The incapacitated Byzantine needs blood and this village clearly needs a lesson, giving their devotion to one of the Usurpers. I push the village elder ahead of me to the fire and order him to bring the rest of the village. There the villagers give their blood to us, so we can regain our strength and resurrect our companion. I transform back to my normal form in front of their eyes so they are totally aware of the power we posses.

The Byzantine, who seems fine after taking the required blood, orders the woman to take the children back to the village, as they have clearly seen enough. The villagers are chanting their blood oaths to us at this point, calling us the lords of the night.

We go back down to the village to inform the elder of how things shall be from now on, and that we shall indeed be the lords of the night of this region.

The first step has been taken.

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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
-

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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