- "It is neither racism nor prejudice that speaks when I say that the Ottomans are not to be trusted. They follow Islam, a philosophy too similar to that of the enemy, one that preaches not universal brotherhood, but domination. They've little respect between them for any religion or culture but their own. We can only negotiate with them with our swords, our spears, our arrows. To think otherwise is to deceive yourself, Basileus."
- ―Nikephoros to Constantine XI Palaiologos, shortly before the Fall of Constantinople in 1453
1496 (aged 79)
Nikephoros Elenikaetos (1417 - 1496), was the last Mentor of the Byzantine Assassins.
Born to a middle class family in Constantinople in 1417, his childhood was uneventful, although the first Ottoman Siege of Constantinople in 1422 would shape his later patriotism for the Byzantine Empire.
Throughout his teenage years and early adulthood he lamented the state of his native city, whose very streets were once adorned with silver and gold, now had been reduced to a few clusters of villages separated by farmland, orchards, vineyards and ruins.
Induction into the Assassin Order
In the latter half of 1436, Nikephoros grew suspicious of an enigmatic man who purchased the house next door to his. Upon eavesdropping and stalking the man several times, he realised the man was an Ottoman spy.
After thinking upon the matter heavily for some time, in January 1437, he broke into the spy's house at night, armed with a knife. He slit the throat of the sleeping spy and gathered evidence from his possessions.
The following morning, he presented the spy's decapitated head and the evidence he had gathered to the Megas Doux, Paraspondelos, who rewarded him as generously as the near-empty coffers of the Empire would allow, and also had the Emperor, John VIII Palaiologos, personally thank him.
This act also caught the attention of the local Assassin guild, who promptly extended an invitation to their ranks. Nikephoros, thrilled by the opportunity to play a greater part in the salvation of the Empire, readily accepted.
Early years in the Brotherhood
Nikephoros quickly became well-known both within the Brotherhood and throughout the remainder of the Empire as an investor who used most of the money gathered from his "ventures" to attempt to revive Constantinople. It was through his funding that John VIII was able to bolster the Theodosian walls in preparation for further sieges.
Other than this, his financial efforts were met with mixed results and ultimately made very little impact, given the scale of the problem, the debased state of Byzantine currency, and heavy Templar influence in the Byzantine government constricting the freedom to build in the city. However, he was nevertheless promoted to the rank of Master Assassin in 1443, in recognition of his sincere efforts to create a better life for the people of Constantinople.
After a sudden spurt of Assassin purges in 1447 instigated by the Emperor's Templar brother, Thomas Palaiologos, Nikephoros was left the last Assassin in Constantinople, for despite him being well-known to the public, his ties to the Assassin Order were not. Thanks partially to his own efforts, and partially to support from the Italian branch of the Order via their bastion in Galata, Nikephoros began recruiting fiercely and rebuilt the Constantinople Assassin's Guild to it's former strength, becoming it's Mentor.
Time as Mentor
Shortly after becoming Mentor, he dispersed a few Assassins throughout the Despotate of Morea with the aim of undermining Thomas, who was one of the Despots at the time, and assisting the other Despots in preserving the Despotate, as it was the most economically stable region left in the Empire.
In 1448, John VIII died, and after a brief struggle between two of his brothers - Constantine (John's chosen heir) and Demetrios - Constantine Palaiologos ascended to the Byzantine throne as Constantine XI. Nikephoros made sure to quickly establish positive relations with the new Emperor to provide some insurance from further purges, and once again began focusing on dealing with the problem of Templar influence in the Byzantine government.
He had planted one of his best men, the Master Assassin Loukas Notaras, into the Byzantine government to probe for the source of Templar interference several months before John VIII's death. Thanks to having as much skill with his tongue as with a sword, Loukas had quickly risen to the rank of Megas Doux, and in a position of such power and being so close to the Emperor, he had already provided the names several Templar members of the Byzantine government and even some of the imperial family for assassination.
Nikephoros insisted that all of these assassinations, particularly the ones involving members of the imperial family, be carried out with untraceable forms of poison, or be made to look like an accident.
By 1450, the Byzantine government in Constantinople was free of Templar influence, although the same could not be said for the Despotate of Morea, as the Assassins that had been planted there were being harassed at every turn by Thomas' men. Despite these setbacks, Nikephoros took the opportunity to attempt to establish a solid alliance with Constantine XI. Constantine accepted, as the threat of Ottoman invasion loomed and all available help would be needed.
Between 1450 and 1453, Nikephoros spent most of his time assisting the Assassins in the Despotate by sending reinforcements and sending Master Assassins to recruit and train novices, but primarily assisting Constantine XI and Loukas in preparing for the imminent invasion by reaffirming alliances with and acquiring reinforcements from foreign powers, stockpiling resources, acquiring weapons, renovating the fortifications, retraining the troops and mass recruiting soldiers for the Byzantine army. Nikephoros also managed to convince the Italian Assassin guild to send two of their young Master Assassins, Giovanni and Mario Auditore to assist in the fighting.
When the Siege finally came in 1453, Nikephoros and most of the Constantinople Assassin Guild were on the front-lines. Despite managing to kill a few viziers, sabotage some of the Ottoman siege weapons and almost succeeding in killing Sultan Mehmet II by guarding a group of Byzantine soldiers under a captain called Rangabes as they fought their way to him, the Assassins were unable to secure victory, Constantinople fell on May 29th, and Constantine XI was slain in battle.
Life in the remnants of the Empire
In order to save them from being sold into slavery like so many of the populace by the Ottoman invaders, Nikephoros led what was left of the Constantinople Assassin Guild to Mystras, the capital of the Despotate of Morea, one of the last Byzantine successor states in existence.
With the death of Constantine XI, only Demetrios and Thomas Palaiologos remained to rule the Despotate, the former being conniving and incompetent, and the latter being a Templar. Therefore, Nikephoros devoted the guild's resources to overturning the two, first by supporting the revolt of Manuel Kantakouzenos in 1453 and 1454. However, the corrupt Palaiologoi enlisted the aid of the Ottoman governor of Thessaly, Turakhan Beg, and regained control of Morea.
Next, he attempted to have them assassinated so that Graitzas Palaiologos - who was a distant relative of the main Palaiologos family, an ally of the Assassins, commander of the garrison at Salmeniko Castle, and an all-round more capable, competent and chivalrous man than Demetrios or Thomas - could become Despot instead.
Eventually, Nikephoros succeeded in overthrowing Thomas and Demetrios by coercing the Ottomans into forcing them out, which they did in 1460. Unfortunately, the Ottomans did not honor their agreement with the Assassins that they would allow Graitzas to take over as Despot, and instead took direct control of the Despotate.
Nikephoros relocated the guild again, this time from Mystras to Salmeniko Castle, which the Ottomans had besieged, and where Graitzas was trapped with his men. Though the Assassins managed to break the initial siege thanks to their timely arrival, the siege was resumed within a year.
In July 1461, Graitzas realised that all was lost, the Empire he served was no more and taking back the Despotate was no longer possible, and surrendered the castle to the Ottomans, and in return, the Assassins and Graitzas and his men would be allowed to leave unhindered. Despite Sultan Mehmet personally agreeing, his subordinates disobeyed and arrested the first to leave the castle, forcing the rest to flee back inside. Eventually, Graitzas and Nikephoros lead a sortie and managed to escape to Venetian territory, where Nikephoros tried one last time to convince Graitzas to take back the Despotate, and maybe even eventually the Empire, but Graitzas again refused.
Later life and death
While Graitzas and his men stayed and accepted a commission from the Venetians, Nikephoros' guild dispersed, some went to Italy, some returned to Constantinople to try to establish a guild there once more. Nikephoros himself went to Venice, which he knew to have a sizable Byzantine expatriate community, the city having been Byzantine in origin. He settled in the Cannaregio District.
He spent the first few years of his residence in Italy settling old scores - Thomas Palaiologos and his family had settled in Rome; Nikephoros assassinated him as he watched a play at the Colosseum in 1465, and also unintentionally pushed Thomas' sons Andreas and Manuel Palaiologos further towards the Templar ideology as a way of seeking revenge, shaping their future attempts to recreate a Templar oriented Byzantine Empire.
He later tracked down and assassinated Demetrios Palaiologos, who had resigned to life as a monk, in 1470.
He also attempted to assassinate the exiled Templar Ottoman prince, Cem when he first arrived in Italy in 1482, but failed due to becoming increasingly incapable of stealth due to his age. He did help plan a successful attempt to assassinate Cem in 1495, however.
For the most part, Nikephoros, a Mentor of an Assassin guild that no longer existed, resigned to writing, about his life, documenting good fighting techniques, even writing philosophy on occasion.
However, he still helped the Venetian Assassins where he could; he helped Giovanni Auditore's son Ezio by giving him guidance while he was hunting down Emilio Barbarigo between 1481 and 1485, and again trying to help him track down Girolamo Savonarola from 1488 to 1494.
Like Loukas, he also went to Durazzo a few times to visit Graitzas - who was now not only a Venetian general, but also governor of that city. He continued to do so until Graitzas died in 1492.
Nikephoros died naturally in 1496 at his home in Cannaregio, Venice, aged 79.
Nikephoros was fiercely patriotic to the Byzantine Empire, with his patriotism shaping his every move and decision, even to the point of refusing to support the Ottomans when they besieged Constantinople, even though he realised that the prosperity they brought would breathe new life to the city, he also realised it would destroy the Byzantine culture in the process. After the final fall of Byzantine and by extension Roman civilization with the fall of Salmeniko Castle to the Ottomans and Graitzas' refusal to attempt to revive it, such was the extent of his patriotism that Nikephoros became somewhat withdrawn, suggesting that he thought of the Byzantine Empire and it's culture as part of himself.
- Nikephoros is a Greek name roughly meaning "bearer of victory", and his surname, Elenikaetos, is a fusion the words "Elenika/Elenikos", which mean Hellenic, and "Aetos", or eagle. "Hellenic eagle" is a reference to both his patriotism and ties to the Assassin Order.