Dreams at the Crossroads
As clever as he is creative, this charismatic yet aloof aristocrat is single-handedly responsible for the Macedonian Renaissance that has swept through Byzantium and beyond.
Embraced in his mid-thirties, Andronicus Phocus is a Grecian with a slight but comely muscular physique and large, appraising brown eyes. This serious yet earnest artisan always appears in the heights of Byzantine fashion clad in the colorful robes of a courtier. His posture, station, and confidence make it seem that he owns wherever he deigns to visit. Possessing a cultured air and cunning disposition, Andronicus’ wit is as finely crafted as his greatest ivory sculptures, and his very presence has been known to make kine and kindred alike swoon with infatuation.
Son of Leo Phocas the Elder, Andronicus was brought up in an aristocratic military family from Cappadocia. Andronicus was raised with a classical education and was taught the arts of war as befitted his station, but like his father, his rise to power was due more to his aristocratic origin and his familial connections than his ability on the field of battle.
Regardless, the young Phocas proved he was quite adept at ivory carvings, and was inducted into the Court school of arts in the year AD 913. It became clear Andronicus had found what he’d lacked on the battlefield: inspiration. Andronicus became the best ivory sculptor in all the empire and produced countless diptychs and triptychs.
It was in the summer of AD 918, that he came to the attention of Enasius, a scion of the Michaelite Toreador. It is rumored Enasius, still grieving the fall of Gallasyn, saw in Andronicus the same artistic potential that drew him to his wayward childe. Enasius proved to be correct in more ways than he could have foreseen.
At the urging of his sire and not long after his embrace, the fledgling Phocas undertook a tremendous project to restore his bloodline’s artistic prestige. All the great sculptors of the empire assembled, including Paul Bathalos, a favored childe of Michael the Archangel, for the honor to be named the Michaelite Muse of Sculpture. And to the anxiety and ecstasy of all in attendance, Michael himself was to be judge.
Andronicus worked feverously for all six nights allotted to the artisans. Exhausted, wan, and nearly bloodless, Andronicus presented his masterwork, an exquisite ivory triptych with a Deesis and other saints. Anthemios of Tralles remarked of the young Phocas’ work, “it is by far the finest, for it shows an elegance and delicacy absent in all others.” All sides of the triptych were fully carved, with more saints on the outsides of the side leaves, and an elaborate decorative scheme on the back of the central leaf. Michael the Archangel, however, took no notice.
Instead, and much to the chagrin of young Andronicus, Michael named his favorite, Paul Bathalos, Muse of Sculpture. Andronicus was crushed, but accepted his defeat with tact, even though he believed Bathalos’ work far inferior to his own. Later that same night, when he went to Bathalos’ quarters in the great palace, his disappointment blossomed into anger as he stumbled upon the Bathalos’ quarters to find the newly appointed Muse of Sculpture in an intimate embrace with the great Toreador Archangel. Andronicus watched the encounter silently. Listening. Taking in every sigh. Every utterance. From what he heard, Andronicus realized it was not for Bathalos’ skill that he was Embraced nor why he was named Muse. Rather, it was a profound and melancholic longing in the Patriarch for a lover that he had lost in the distant recesses of the past. Based on some startling similarities in his general build, bearing, effeminate mannerisms and soft beauty, Paul was taken for the reincarnation of this mysterious lover.
Enraged, humiliated, and betrayed, Andronicus slipped away to plan his revenge. Rather than let the prejudices of the Methuselah cripple his drive to create, Andronicus poured himself into his art, determined to be recognized for his greatness. He reformed and led the Court School of Sculpture into what has been called by many, “The Macedonian Renaissance.” Not since the days of Justinian have the arts been as vigorous and prevalent in the City. It is said that over the decades, Andronicus’ desperate desire to be recognized by the Archangel has warped into a virulent hatred for the man who stole away his glory: Paul Bathalos.
The young Phocas began gathering allies among the Antonian Ventrue, but purpose of his maneuverings may never be known. Fate intervened in the summer of AD 1096 when an unknown party infiltrated Andronicus’ estate, robbing Genevieve and Azura of the Nod fragment palimpsest the two neonates had recently acquired. Using powerful obtenebration and wielding the same poison that took the unlives of Vaasco, Barnas, and Estienne, the thief sent Andronicus to final death in the process of the theft, leaving Azura to inherit his demesne, holdings, and responsibilities.