|Isabelle de Caraintaine|
1 June 1274 (aged 72)
Isabelle de Caraintaine (1202 - 1 June 1274), born Eirene, was a Franco-Byzantine Greek woman and member of the Assassin Order.
Born in Karytaina in the Peloponnese in 1202, Eirene was the only child of an Imperial pronoiar soldier named Kaisarios, and her formative years were relatively privileged due to her father's relative wealth and respectability.
This ended when Kaisarios died defending Constantinople from wayward crusaders in 1204. Her mother was initially able to support herself and her daughter by growing fruit on the late Kaisarios' lands and selling it in town, but this ended with the establishment of the Principality of Achaea in 1205.
During the looting that occurred when the principality garrisoned Karytaina (which the French crusaders named Caraintaine, and the Italians called Caritena), the Principality's troops destroyed their house and burned their produce.
Reduced to begging and depending on the charity of the local church, Eirene's mother died of starvation sometime in 1206, leaving the 4-year-old orphaned and having to fend for herself.
Fortunately for Eirene, she soon met Alain, a notable courtier of the Principality and an Assassin. Taking pity on the child, Alain eventually adopted her, naming her Isabelle de Caraintaine.
As she grew, Isabelle began to demonstrate great mental prowess, becoming a fluent speaker of Greek, Italian, Turkish and French, and an avid reader of all kinds of philosophical works.
As many Assassin parents did, Alain gradually exposed Isabelle to the philosophy of the Assassin Order, and eventually training her in it's ways. She was formally inducted into the Order in Andreville (modern Andravida) in 1221.
Life in the Order
In the wake of the Fourth Crusade, the periphery of the former Byzantine Empire was in a shambles, due to the influence of Templar rulers who were attempting to divide and conquer the Empire in an attempt to begin to unite the world under a single, global Empire.
In 1215, with Alain's help, Isabelle assassinated the Templar Despot of Epirus, Michael I Komnenos Doukas, by disguising herself as a servant girl, infiltrating his private quarters in Arta and stabbing him to death as he slept. This was her first assassination, and the beginning of a long career in the Brotherhood.
By 1219, the neutral Empire of Nicaea, which at the time thrived independent of either Assassin or Templar influence, was growing in strength and threatening to reunite the Byzantine Empire independent of Templar influence and unwittingly undermine the Templars' plans.
In response, the Templars had an ascendant member of the Order, Marie de Courtenay, marry the Nicene Emperor, Theodoros Laskaris, who was without male heirs, with the intention of gaining his trust and eventually killing him. In September 1222, Isabelle tried but failed to prevent Emperor Theodoros' poisoning by Marie, who managed to escape.
In 1220, whilst in Thessaloniki, Isabelle met Manouel Polites, a disillusioned former monk from Philippopolis. Sharing a passion for philosophy, the two became friends quickly, eventually marrying two years later in Nikomedeia. The two had one son, Konstantinos Polites, who was born in Andravida on 22 February 1228. Manouel also joined the Assassins in 1226.
Later in 1228, Isabelle finally received word of the location of Marie de Courtenay, by then a very well-respected and high-ranking Templar, and regent of the Latin Empire. In September, Isabelle infiltrated the kitchen of the Great Palace of Constantinople, poisoned the Empress's meal, again, disguised as a servant, and stayed long enough to watch her die.
Isabelle was soon forced to turn her attention eastward - the Templar Seljuk Sultan Keykubad I was waging expansionist wars across Anatolia and Syria, purportedly uniting the region in preparation for Mongol invasion, but in actuality intending to create a vast army to defeat the Mongol Khan and claim the Sword of Eden rumoured to be in his possession for the Templars. Isabelle ended this by assassinating him as he inspected his army in Malatya in 1237.
However, this important victory was marred when she received news of Alain's death the previous year on her way back to Nicaea - he had been sent by the Prince of Achaea with reinforcements to Constantinople, which the Nicene Emperor had besieged, and had died defending it.
Following this, Isabelle went into mourning, and for many years did not partake in the struggle of the Assassins and Templars, and never carried out another assassination for the rest of her life. Instead, after 1244, her son Konstantinos carried on the struggle, with assistance, advice and support from Isabelle and Manouel.
Later years and death
In 1258, the family relocated to Athens, in an attempt to intervene in the War of the Euboeote Succession by killing the Templar Prince of Achaea, Guillaume de Villehardouin who aspired to conquer Greece in the name of the Templars.
Their assassination attempt failed, however, and Guillaume won the war. While Isabelle and Konstantinos stayed behind to plan a second attempt on Guillaume's life and to undermine his influence in the meantime, Manouel set off to return to Nicaea in August 1259, in order to investigate rumours of increasing Templar influence under the regency of the young Nicene Emperor, Ioannes IV Laskaris.
By January 1260, news reached them that on his journey back to Nicaea, Manouel was caught in the middle of a large battle between the Nicene and Latin Empires in September, and was killed in the crossfire.
With no time to grieve, Isabelle was forced to return to Nicaea herself to assess the situation as Manouel had intended to do, arriving in March. Once there, she discovered that the Assassin-sympathising regent of the Empire, Georgios Mouzalon, had been murdered 18 months previously during the funeral of the previous Emperor, Theodoros II, by troops of the new Templar regent, Michael Palaiologos.
Palaiologos had since declared himself co-emperor, and it was commonly suspected that his ward, Ioannes IV, would be his next victim.
After Michael retook Constantinople in July 1261, he declared himself Byzantine Emperor, under the name Michael VIII. Isabelle tried to help Ioannes IV escape, but was unable to do so before Michael had him blinded on his 11th birthday. She was, however, able to rescue the boy from his prison in Bithynia, and help him escape to safety at a monastery, where he spent the remainder of his days.
Ageing and unable to assassinate Michael herself, and with Konstantinos still preoccupied in Achaea, Isabelle relocated to Constantinople, where she spent the remainder of her life undermining Michael's influence, writing scathing accounts of the Emperor's cruelty, inciting revolts, even encouraging the Ecumenical Patriarch to excommunicate him in response to his blinding of Ioannes IV.
She continued to fight Michael and Templar influence in Constantinople until she was murdered on the Emperor's orders in 1274.