The Book of Nod, sometimes thought of as the “vampiric bible”, tells the story of Caine and his childer. It contains prophecies of an apocalyptic future known as Gehenna in which the Antediluvians awake from their long slumber to consume the blood of lesser Cainites and rule over a dread and horrid world. The prophecies are commonly thought to be the visions of Saulot, most beloved of Cainites, reputed first recipient of Golconda and apparently willing sacrifice to the diablerie of Tremere. Yet the Book of Nod is not the only ancient Cainite text, nor do all of its versions agree on the signs foretelling the coming of Gehenna.
Some Cainites claim that the signs of Gehenna change with the unfolding of time, that human and supernatural interference may prevent or accelerate the occurrence of some of the signs. A few even whisper that the actions taken by those few who are destined to stand at the crux may twist what is to come, not preventing it, but perhaps… changing it.
None can question Saulot, for he fell to Tremere’s bloodlust, surrendering his essence to the magically created Cainite. Tremere thereby became the equivalent of an Antediluvian, giving his new clan legitimacy even as his diablerie horrified many Cainites and made them the sworn enemies of the Usurpers. Among those enemies are the Tzimisce, overlords of Eastern Europe and one of the most powerful clans. The Tremere encroached upon the Tzimisce even while mortal, for they were mages, attracted to Transylvania by the powerful magical emanations of the land. Capturing and torturing a Tzimisce voivode, members of House Tremere learned how to transform themselves into Cainites, damning themselves and becoming immortal. To battle the ghouled servitors of the Tzimisce (as well as the Fiends themselves), the Tremere then created Gargoyles, bastard vampire monstrosities made from captured Tzimisce, Nosferatu and Gangrel.
The region of Transylvania is beset by other problems as well. It serves not only as the Tremere-Tzimisce battleground, but as a contested land where locals try to maintain their holdings while the “civilizing” forces of the West attempt to wrest control from the native populace and bring the land under their dominion. Further, this small land lies in the path of invaders from both the East and the South intent on reaching Western Europe. While strong defenders are needed to hold invaders at bay, ancient feuds and jealousies tear the region apart, preventing many strong alliances among its inhabitants.
The characters are thrown into this volatile background. They are promised great rewards if they succeed in building a fortress — and grave punishment should they fail. While they may believe they are merely striving to build fiefdoms for themselves, they have become embroiled (indeed, they are now key players) in the events that lie at the center of Cainite history and that lead to Gehenna.
Rana the Salubri, Ramirez the Assamite, Lothos the Gangrel, Ambrus the Tzimisce, and Nicodemus the Kiasyd are summoned to Buda-Pest to meet with a patron and their sires. Their sires owe a boon to the Tzimisce Radu of Bistria. Radu is the Prince of Bistria, and is a skilled diplomat between the factions of the Western Ventrue and the Eastern Tzimisce. To that end, he has cooperated with the Ventrue by joining the Council of Ashes, a coterie of Princes of Transylvania.
They then meet Tiberiu, an agent of Count Radu, who offers them a chance to rebuild a ruined keep in the strategically important Tihuţa Pass in Transylvania, just outside of Radu’s domain. Their patron assures them that if they can build the keep and establish their presence in the territory, they will be rewarded with fiefs in Transylvania, and a place on the Council of Ashes.
During the journey from Buda-Pest to the Tihuţa Pass, the group is ambushed by the Gangrel Mitru, who claims dominion of Klausenburg (Cluj-Napoca). It becomes evident that the ambush was intended for the Byzantine Tzimisce Myca Vykos, who appears after the battle is over. The attackers have destroyed the wagons they use to avoid the sun during the day, and the group has no means of transportation. Vykos offers assistance, as he is traveling to visit Radu in Bistritz and has a wagon they can use.
The group has a meeting with Radu, who was surprised that they managed to survive an attack by Mitru. He tasks them with finding some tablets that are reported to have been in the old keep. He renews their accord, and allows them to stay a few nights.
Once they get to the pass, they discover someone digging through the ruins. They find the Malkavian Anatole searching for something, and his traveling companion, the Lasombra Lucita, is hidden nearby. The group assists in his search, and find the tablets for which Radu was asking. Anatole asks for a copy to be made for himself, and suggests the characters keep the originals for their patron. They leave, and the group has made a couple of allies.
A few weeks after construction begins, the Nosferatu Zelios, widely known as a master mason, appears in the pass. He was invited by Radu to assist in the building. He explains that underlying much of the chaos and warfare that haunts the area is the presence of the Slavic demon Kupala. Its influence has corrupted the land and those who reside there. Some who know of the demon seek to remove or lessen his influence on the land. To that end, he wants to perform a great binding spell. He asks the group to assist in his quest, to which they agree. Satisfied, he contributes his architectural assistance and the project gains momentum.
The construction is plagued with all sorts of problems. The characters finances are rapidly depleted and they are constantly trying to find new ways to pay for the construction. The area was home to a pack of werewolves that was killing off the commoners until the group destroyed them. Labor problems are ever present. Even with the resources of three small towns at their disposal, the group had difficulty accomplishing their task. It takes two years to complete, but the keep is finished, and the characters are once again summoned to meet with their sires.
The sires are pleased with their work, and give them their rewards: Ambrus is made Prince of Kronstadt (Brasov), located just north of the Bran Pass. Chief trade route to the south, Kronstadt is a thriving trade center guarded by Dietrichstein, stronghold of the Teutonic Knights. Rana is made Prince of Schaasburg (Sighisoara), a town located on the Mures River in eastern Transylvania. Ramirez is made Prince of Balgrad (Alba Iulia). Balgrad has a fortress designed by Zelios. A medium-sized city, it is centrally located and fairly near to Mediasch and Kronstadt. The former occupant of Balgrad has left behind an impressive library, including many old writings on Dacia and Transylvania. The prospect of a library draws Nicodemus to take up residence with Ramirez. Lothos is named Commander of the Tihuţa Keep, and is charged with its defenses. He is made a vassal of Radu, as the Keep is within his domain.
After being rewarded by their sire’s, they are made to drink of their sire’s blood to renew the ties that bind them together as sire and childe. The sire’s are very pleased and promise to provide them with generous funds so that they may build their fiefdom and make it strong.