The Obertus Tzimisce
(modified from Constantinople by Night, pp. 76-77)
Nestled within the folds of the southern slopes of Lycus Valley, between the walls of Constantine and those of Theodosius, likes the secluded monastery of the Akoimetai, or “sleepless” monks. It is from this enclosed sanctuary that the Tzimisce of Constantinople have, for centuries, practiced and followed their own form of Cainite monasticism.
In the early centuries after the birth of Christianity, the Dracon, childe of the Tzimisce antediluvian, came to admire and respect the monastic lifestyle. Monks’ rigourous and strict regimen, their veneration of prayer and meditation, and above all their interest in knowledge endeared these holy men to him. The Dracon set out to create his own order in the clan’s image. It’s ultimate goal was to gather knowledge in pursuit of wisdom, to meld the philosophies of Metamorphosis and Christianity into a search for the divine spark within all creatures.
For centuries the Akoimetai monks, then also known as the Draconians, supplied the Antonians with educated advice (which was not always welcome) and the Michaelites with the spiritual vision to guide their inspiration. The feud that the Dracon had with his pagan clan-mates of the Carpathians occasionally flared into war, and the Bulgarian Tzimisce were soon hired to provide a buffer. The Voivodes of Bulgaria, including Gabor, were not well-disposed towards the Draconians, however, and instead chose to put their swords at the disposal of the Antonians in return for provincial Scion status. The home-grown feud between the Dracon and Antonius sapped the spiritual energy of the order in time, and the founder eventually turned control of the order over to Gesu and Symeon, despite remaining in the city for decades afterwards.
In the years since he abandoned the city and the Dream, the brothers Gesu and Symeon have been responsible for reshaping the order. The mortal followers and families loyal to the Tzimisce no longer call themselves the Akoimetai, at least among themselves, but rather consider themselves to be Gesudians, in veneration of the Cainite Saint of the Divinity Within.
Indeed, Obertus Tzimisce influence has been substantial throughout the ages of Europe. Responsible for the widespread worship of icons – many of which are representations of Tzimisce vampires – and for the influence of the monastic orders, they have shaped the course of history in many ways.
Their greatest accomplishment as a family has been the creation and founding of the Library of the Forgotten. During the seventh and eighth centuries, the Dracon and his ghoul monks began collecting knowledge and information and assembled one of the finest libraries in the world. In the years before the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the Dracon sent his monks to transcribe some of the most precious scrolls, saving a number of tomes and books thought to be lost forever.
The Obertus are organised around the spiritual leader Gesu. Although many of their precepts were established by the Dracon, it was Gesu who melded the worship of vampirism with that of Christianity, using a number of Christian rituals and beliefs to unlock the divinity within. The Obertus believe that only through the strict veneration of the Nailed God can transcendence be achieved. Under his enlightened rule, the Obertus follow a regimented existence aimed at understanding their vampiric nature and, more importantly, the divine essence that rests within, which only God can unlock.
However, the Obertus also possess a poorly understood secular arm, which is administrated by Symeon and his childer. They are small in number, and busy themselves overseeing the numerous lands that are owned by the monastic order, as well as the founding of new monasteries in distant lands where the power of the eastern church persists. Scattered Obertus monasteries can be found all over the empire, and within the former boundaries of the empire (although only a few can be found in lands dominated by Islam). Generations of mortal families have lived and died tilling the soil of farms owned by the Obertus, and attending religious devotions where they are subtly inculcated with the heresy of the Divinity Within. Unusual even in the more educated East, all of these servants are given an outstanding education by the monks that watch over them, for knowledge is seen as the first (and most important) step towards embracing spiritual and mental development. More than one secular Obertus has been overheard commenting that knowledge is their god. Most of Symeon’s agents are mortals of noble backgrounds, and indeed he has a preference for Embracing and making ghouls from among the Byzantine aristocracy.
Gesu protects his mortal followers out of love and necessity. Given the somewhat inhuman appearance of the Tzimisce, mortal followers are needed to maintain contact with the outside world. Since the founding of the order, these mortal families have partaken in Communion with the Tzimisce by drinking their blood, becoming ghouls and often living for hundreds of years. Children are taught devotion to the order as soon as possible, and the vast majority of postulants to the Akoimetai are taken from these families.
Cainite monks subject themselves to grueling periods of privation and fasting. They hang suspended in iron cages for nights, imbibing only enough blood to prevent torpor. The effects are devastating; while still strong, the Tzimisce thrash and scream in agony as the deprivation of blood sends them into frenzy. As time passes they become emaciated and motionless, haunted by enlightening visions that lead to an understanding of the Within. Other practices include ceaseless prayer, chanting and ritualised torture.
A ROSTER OF OBERTUS TZIMISCE COMMONLY FOUND IN CONSTANTINOPLE
- Gesu, Saint of the Divinity Within (5th gen. Childe of the Dracon, e. 701 CE)
- Symeon, Quaesitor (6th gen. Childe of Gesu, e. 703 CE)
- Myca Vykos, Obertus diplomat(7th gen. Childe of Symeon, e. 1002 CE)
- The Keeper of the Faith, Chief librarian (5th gen. Childe of the Dracon, e. unknown)
- The Watcher, Guardian of the library (6th gen. Childe of the Keeper of the Faith, e. mid 11th century CE)
- The Other Watcher, Guardian of the library (6th gen. Childe of the Keeper of the Faith, e. late 11th century CE)
- Harabilus, Prior of St. John Studius (6th gen. Childe of Gesu, e. late 8th century CE)
- Kyprios, Sacrist of St. John Studius (6th gen. Childe of Gesu, e. mid 8th century CE)
- Anastos, Chamberlain of St. John Studius (7th gen. Childe of Kyprios, e. late 9th century CE)
- Solomōn, Doorkeeper of St. John Studius (8th gen Greek Gangrel, Childe on Ennios (d), e. early 9th century CE)
- David, Prior of the Christ Pantokrator (7th gen. Childe of Symeon, e. mid 11th century CE)
- Timaios, Doorkeeper of Christ Pantokrator (8th gen. Childe of David, e. early 12th century CE)
- Gerasimos, Gesudian devotee (7th gen. Childe of Harabilus, e. 1124)
- Methodius, Gesudian devotee (8th gen. Childe of Anastos, e. late 11th century)
- Nestor, Gesudian devotee (8th gen. Childe of David, e. early 12th century)
- Eirene Dalassena, Obertus investigator (8th gen. Childe of Myca Vykos, e. mid 12th century)
- It is thought that as many as a score of the Obertus Order take shelter within the Monasteries of St. John Studius and the Church of Christ Pantokrator
With Bishop Alfonzo’s open invitation for any and all comers to join him in the Latin Quarter, the Obertus have elected to draw even further inward than ever before. The recent influx of Cainites to the city – including a small band of bothersome Malkavian flagellants who have repeatedly petitioned to join the order – prompted Gesu to close the gates of the Monastery of St. John Studius once and for all. Only certain notables among the Trinity and Scion families (such as Lady Alexia and Gregory the Wondermaker) can expect to approach the gates and be admitted without express invitation. It is known that Symeon has tried to reason with Gesu on this matter, but the Cainite saint will not heed him. As a result, the Tzimisce have become isolated from the rest of the city and the intrigues that concern it. Only Lord Symeon, and the small group of Obertus who aid the Quaesitor in overseeing secular matters, have any ready contacts among the families.
Indeed, in opposition to the isolationism engendered by Gesu, Symeon and the secular Obertus have entered into a phase of flurried activity. With an eye towards expanding the order and insulating it from the uncertain times ahead,Myca Vykos has been engaged far afield, seeking to make new connections in Bulgaria and Transylvania so that new lands might be granted for the purposes of establishing monasteries. Gabor the Bulgar has established closer links with the Obertus, and has acted on their behalf in a number of brutal martial displays on behalf of the princes of Thessalonica and Adrianople. The cantankerous former voivode has not relaxed his campaign to regain Sophia and punish his treacherous former allies, and he is quite happy to use Obertus funds and mercenaries to do so.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER FAMILIES
The Obertus Tzimisce, with the exception of Symeon and his small coterie, rarely venture outside of the monastery. The resulting distance from the other families has led to a degree of distrust of the Obertus. Constantinople age-old animosity between the Ventrue and Tzimisce, though not nearly as so strong as it was during the Iconoclast years, still colours relations between the two families. While the secular Obertus find welcome at the Blood Feasts of the Antonians, their more spiritually inclined brethren would not. The Michaelite Toreador, who have historically been allies of the Tzimisce, also cooled towards them during the late 11th century and the alliance of Belisarius and Symeon. Overtures of forgiveness and friendship have been made in recent decades, but the alliance remains shaky at best.
RELATIONS WITH OUTSIDERS
Any contact that outsiders have with the Obertus is an enigmatic and unnerving experience. Their power and influence throughout the city is subtle and mysterious, but unmistakeable. Gesu has grown weary of the world outside of his monastery walls, but he is still in need of contacts. Those Cainites who display a passion for knowledge and insight might be invited to join the Obertus Order and gain further understanding of themselves. But only after recognising Gesu as the Saint of the Divinity Within, and their guide through matters esoteric and spiritual.
The secular Obertus are far more open to making more prosaic associations. Gabor the Bulgar has worked for the Obertus for the better part of a century, paying off the life boon that he owes Gesu and Symeon. The former voivode has a talent for brutality that the Obertus have leveraged into placing allies in positions of power in various trouble-spots throughout the empire. Most recently this was Thessalonica, where Gabor and his allies aided the Varangian Lars Sveengard in taking the princedom. Gabor’s talented childe, Veceslav Basarab, has also worked for the Obertus at various times, and has become quite the asset to both the Order and his sire.
Symeon has taken full time residence in the Monastery of Christ Pantokrator for some decades now. Home to hundreds of monks and postulant students attending the University of Constantinople, the place is a beacon for the furtherance of science and medicine. Those wishing to deal with the Tzimisce would be well advised to seek an audience with he or his childe, Myca Vykos, there.
Gossip among the Cainites of Constantinople holds that the two brothers are not as close as they once were. Rumour has it that the missing Mistress of the Genoese Quarter, Bishop Gabriella had something to do with it. She and her mortal protege, Lillian, took shelter with Symeon during the Latin Riots of AD 1185, and for more than a decade they were steadfast allies afterwards. Before her disappearance, the Bishop’s disposition towards the Tzimisce had cooled noticeably, and many have speculated as to the cause. Symeon rules the Monastery of Christ Pantokrator, and rarely steps foot in St. John Studius these nights. He can often be found brooding in Elysium, socialising and plotting with the Antonians over his own family.
While still technically considered to be monks, the secular Obertus appear to have taken pains of late to emphasise the differences between they and their Gesudian brothers and sisters. In the past they were merely regarded as anomalous, or at the very least, simply poor devoted in comparison to their enigmatic and unsettling counterparts. They have been known to make the wealth of the order available for those who would deal with them on favourable terms, and none of them prefer the sack-cloth of the penitent over damask. Indeed, the secular Obertus appear to revel in tasteful but expensive displays, and they are rapidly eclipsing the ‘Gesudian sun’ with regards to the respect of their rivals amongst the families. The consequences of this in terms of harmony between the spiritual and secular Obertus are yet to be seen…
TO BE CONTINUED