Pax Vampira

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  1. [​IMG]

    Far and wide, in cultures beyond number, there are legends of messengers. Ningishzida, the Siberian Sun Bird, Amnael, Hermes, Thoth and Gabriel; many more. In their deeds were great beginnings and momentous change, and in their hands the secrets of alchemy and magic. Their path was ever lonesome; their burdens harsh.

    Yet there is no denying... they were herald to the turn of history.

    It is fitting, therefore, that this story should begin with three messengers...


    Marius had been an unremarkable soldier in his 30 years of life. His one claim to glory was that his great grandfather was among the men who discovered the body of Brutus, in the last days of the Republic. But riding such coat-tails and brought Marius little renown, and his time in the Legion even less so. Yet between the days of marching and battling savages in the Eastern Campaigns, this young Legionnaire had studied with a passion the languages of the known world, and by his linguistic talents come to the attention of his Centurion. Five years later, he was the finest of the Nuntius... the Messengers of Rome.

    By aid of the Cursus Publicus, the imperial postal system, Marius's journey south had been a pleasant one. His horse had been refreshed at villages along the way, and with the official seal of the Emperor on his documents there had been no obstruction. He had crossed the sea with a Phoenician trader and come to port in Alexandria. There, with the arrogance only a soldier of the largest empire in history could sport, he had defied conventional wisdom and bought another horse from a bemused camel-trader. And from there, he had begun his journey into the desert.

    He carries a message... for the Queen of Egypt... for the one who was dead but now reborn.

    * * * *​

    Cynrig had nothing of arrogance about him, and while his Roman counterpart had won safe passage with the weight of authority, the old druid had crossed the Northern Wilderness with a manner most opposite. A shambling, wrinkled shell of a man, Cynrig had been ignored by every village and raiding party that encountered him. As one would neglect a fool or a wounded animal, the druid suffered no set backs. And as for what perils nature may have thrown, his journey was a story of rivers parting, roots untangling and mountains shedding snow. It was whispered that the earth was friend to old Cynrig.

    Or at least he had a friend in Maerlön. The High Druids had arrived together from the ruins of Roman Britain, agents of the esoteric circle which had liberated the Sceptered Isles. And now with wit and barter, with cunning and mystique, these old sages were uniting their Barbarian kin throughout the North. Cynrig, as predictor of the tides, had done his best to assist, but Europe had proven no great place for his talents. He already felt strange without the sounds of the oceans in his ears. So Maerlön had sent him deeper into the heartlands, perhaps as shamanic punishment, or perhaps so he might again feel useful.

    And so, with frail and ponderous steps, the old druid Cynrig crosses the border between the Roman outposts. He carries a message for Caesar - a proclamation locked in his memory. And though the sea is far behind, he feels the tides of something greater up ahead.

    * * * *​

    Nabirye had expected little from this life. From a family of handmaidens in Cairo, she had been raised with the idea that women have their place and joy is something only gods can render in the worlds beyond death. As much was implied in the state of Egypt - a bleak and desert realm extolling heavenly titans and funeral pyramids, as if nothing but a single nation preparing for death. And yet with Cleopatra's return all things had been inverted and not least the traditions of family.

    Cleopatra had proclaimed that women were as mighty as any creature of the world, and on this storm Nabirye had risen. By the beauty of her glyphs and her study of the Gallic tongue she had won a place in the envoys. And on her queen's behest she had learned the ways of the desert and brought the light of Egypt to all corners of Africa. She was, if anything, a symbol in these times, of how a woman could follow the footsteps of a man and do as he has done. And in this Nabirye revelled. Years apart from her mother and sisters only hardened her spirit. And when the court of Cleopatra bade her ride to Tunis and cross the sea to the port of Massalia, her hesitation was only fleeting.

    Now Nabirye ventures north through Gaul, her dark features veiled, with a scroll inscribed with a message for Maerlön.

    Today is the Ides of March. Before the sun is out, these three messengers will die.

    Yet such is the part they play.

    In the shedding of a herald's blood, all stories are unfolded.

    The Ides of March
  2. ROME


    "Fifteen years."

    The whisper carried through the palace, down empty halls, between blood-stained columns, to painted ceilings and statues. Like the building itself had taken a breath.

    He had counted every year. It was no difficult task for a creature of centuries. And yet these last fifteen had etched his undead heart. For they were ones of an irrevocable and all-consuming sadness.

    Sad that his empire had prospered and that Christ had fallen... and that there were no more battles to fight.

    In the sanctum of the Emperor's Palace, Caesar stood before the towering statue of Jupiter, and beheld the blade that had murdered Christ. The Spear of Longinus was clutched in the statue's hand and still glistened with the Messiah's blood, fifteen years since the day of Crucifixion. The shimmering spear tip was the symbol of the Vampire's reign. The blood would not dull till Rome itself was falling.

    Philosophers said that to drink the blood of Christ would bring the True Death... and others that it would grant the power of Daywalking. But whatever the truth, it would be Caesar's choice alone. The Spear was his... and he would keep it here till the ending of the world... his personal temptation... his bane and salvation.

    As a man keeps a suicide note beneath his pillow... so that death itself might stay within his power.

    "Thou art the ruins of the noblest man, that ever lived in the tide of times."

    A smile tugged the thin, pale lips of the Emperor. It had been a hundred years since his friend, Marc Antony, had spoken those lines above his murdered corpse. And now they echoed in eternity.

    Before Jupiter and the Spear of Longinus, Caesar knelt and clasped his slender hands together... and prayed for sweet distraction.
    #2 Asmodeus, Jul 14, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2013
  3. Alexandria, a port city founded and fought over by conquerors, sat as the hub of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian culture on the shore of the Mediterranean. Alexander the Great had taken the city of Rhakotis, recognizing the value of its strategic location, and claimed it for himself to become the new Hellenistic center of Egypt. After his death, the territory fell to Alexander's general, Ptolemy, and his successors. The Ptolemaic influence gave rise to great feats of architecture that included the Royal Palace, the Serapeum, and the Musaeum. It had taken less than a generation before the Egyptian city of Rhakotis was transformed into the jewel now known as Alexandria, growing larger than even Carthage in this time. Due to its location, the city became the center of trade between Europe, Arabia, and the Indian East. Alexandria was a paradise of culture and learning, drawing in Egyptians, Greeks, and Jews alike, a world power second only to Rome. It would only be natural for Cleopatra VII Philopater to claim this much-coveted and progressive Alexandria as her seat of power all these long years.

    Another structure lent its shape to the Alexandrian skyline; it was a place most beloved by the Egyptian queen and time spent here was infused with all the reverence found in any of the city's great temples. The Timonium, the palatial summer home built by Marc Antony, still echoed with hushed conversation, ecstasy's symphony, and the only laughter Cleopatra had ever allowed herself to share with another. It was here where they had conceived many a grandiose scheme. And it had been here that she'd succumbed to the asp's fang to bring on such longed-for death once news of her lover's murder had reached her ears. By the will of Ra, it was to be a death denied, for there is divine purpose in such a blazing soul. The shadow creeping over the earth with its inky, blasphemous core in Rome commanded the attention and interference of gods in order to be quelled. In Cleopatra, they found a lust for vengeance and an indomitable will that melded into the perfect instrument for this great accounting.

    How vivid her dreams had been! How exacting! Events were unfolding precisely as they'd been laid out, serving only to affirm Cleopatra's convictions that victory would be certain. Thoughts such as these turn in a deliberate, methodical spiral as the queen leaned against a column warmed by the sun, dark eyes closed to the view stretched out before her over the azure Mediterranean, light thrown off the waves. This monument was the closest she would ever be to her Marc Antony in this life with all these borrowed years. It is a cruel thing to be so favored.
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  4. In the center of a hexagon room lay a simple marble coffin. As the last dregs of water from the water clock dripped into the collection basin, its supply was simultaneously refreshed as six servants flowed in from each wall of the room. As one, they grasped the lid, three on each side, and hefted it upwards, sliding it towards the feet to reveal the occupant within. It was a pale, lithe creature; alabaster from the lack of sun, wiry because its strength was granted by cursed blood in its veins.

    The figure within climbed out of the coffin, and the servants poured olive oil on its body, using pumice stones and brushes to scrape the dirt off. The sixth servant whispered words into his ear. Her reward was a pair of canines in the neck, and she crumpled to the ground after. As one, the remaining servants finished their tasks and hoisted the body out, closing all but one door behind them.

    Gaius bent down, pulling a set of robes around himself, flowing, folding them into an elaborate weave before exiting out the last door, walking to the receiving chamber.

    A messenger had arrived, it seemed. The era of peace - stagnation, had only left him with a feeling that clutched his cold heart ever tighter with each passing year. Every year that the Empire's borders did not expand was a year wasted on nothing. His pace quickened as he floated past the Grecian columns to his destination.

    All his fleeting, finite life, he had the ambition to unite the world. Only Gaius - only Rome, had the clarity and power to advance civilization to its next chapter. The impotency, the anger he felt the day he was approached in the night by a cabal of specters, shrouded in black, their eyes piercing him in the night, and his plans ruined by something beyond his comprehension, never left his heart. But what else defines Man except his perseverance? His enemies were now ashes, diluted ad infinitum in the Tiber river. And what else stood in the way of his ambition? Stagnation. Stagnation, that opportunity might still break down. An opportunity not important enough for Caesar, but important enough for him, to stand in the middle and control its influence on the Emperor.

    A pair of legionnaires opened the doors into the chamber. He took his place on the marble seat, and rested his cheek on a fist, eyes half lidded from feigned indifference.

    "Welcome to the Rome," He began in sotto. "I am Senator Gaius. Speak your business." In the present world, one's cunning was not enough, and this audience was as much a test of character as it was of constitution. His other hand idly twirled a lead dart.
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  5. He could still remember their smell filtering across his homeland, sickly clean and filtered, unnatural and dead. He could remember, too, the day his people replaced this smell with that of smoke and flames, of blood and victory.

    Now Cynrig once again had that cloying, unnatural fragrance in his nostrils as he passed unnoticed into the lands of the living dead, of the Roman Empire. Once again under the thumb of Caesar the Undying; his younger self would find his blood boiling just at the thought, but he was not young anymore. The years had taught him patience and humility, the value of restraint and waiting for the right moment instead of rushing in blindly. Such lessons were what had allowed him to reach this far without once being stopped, and such lessons were what would allow him to deliver the message of a free people to a dictator.

    No eyes lingered upon him, no difficult questions were raised as to why he came this way when the authorities marched by. It was as if he was invisible, part of the scenery, something that others' eyes brushed over without ever registering. For this, like so many other things, he was grateful. A warrior and leader he was not, but the ability to move unnoticed into enemy lines was a skill his old friend was wise to take advantage of.

    Finally, after many weeks of making his way from the free lands of the peoples the Romans labelled barbarians, he stood within the streets of the vampire's seat of power. Rome. Even for once so old as he, this was a new experience. Never before had he seen a settlement so vast, never before had his eyes taken in such architecture, reaching up into the heavens to defy the gods, nor had his ears taken in the sounds of so many people existing in one place. It was disorientating and more than a little disturbing at first, but Cynrig steeled himself and continued forwards.

    He had a message to deliver, and he would see it done.

    The sun had set, and from their tombs the monsters dressed in the skin of men had emerged. Pale-faced beasts with empty eyes and hungry smiles. One such creature stood before him now, in the room he had been led to when he finally declared himself to the guards of the city. It had taken all of his not inconsiderable charm to even get this far; when the legionnaires had first laid eyes on him it was as if some vermin had crawled from the gutter and dared approach them. But here he stood, before some long-haired vampire who introduced himself as Senator Gaius.

    “I thank you for your welcome, Senator,” he spoke with the voice of a man who had lived through many a winter, ancient but strong and deep, “And forgive my forwardness, but my business is with your Emperor. The message I bare is for him.”
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    It was no land for horses; no land for horseman. The mount had been unruly from the moment of purchase, pulling this way and that, till only with thrashing and spiraling had the messenger made his way through the streets of Alexandria. Something more than those sand-swept buildings troubled the animal. Perhaps it knew this was a killing land, and for this was all the wiser than its owner.

    A detour through the Jewish quarter had told Marius enough. The merchants of the Emporium had love of coin and humility to the master races, a lesson taught in the killing of the Christ-child 15 years ago. It was common knowledge on the streets that Cleopatra dwelt in the Timonium summer house. Her story was told, by blushing girls and proud old men, of how she pined each day for the memory of her lover, Marc Antony.

    So for the summer house he had ridden, eastward on the bleached streets, past the mausoleum of Alexander the Great, between the twin obelisks of Cleopatra's Needle. And in time Marius had beheld the Timonium in all its altered glory. Once a temple to Poseidon, the marks of Graeco-Roman influence had been erased entirely from the architecture, as they had upon the Great Theater further down the coast (a theater Caesar ordered built during his mortal lifetime). The city of Alexandria had an alien quality. In Rome there were curves of marble and chunky blocks of pillar and vault... but in Egypt all things were sharp and sleek; jagged pyramids, needles and glyphs.

    It felt to Marius like a city of blades, flashing in the desert veil.

    And it prepared him, only slightly, for his first encounter with the Atumites.

    At the gates of the Royal Quarter, where high walls divided the city from the seat of government, his horse turned insolent. Turning tight circles and nagging at its reins, the beast's whimper was answered by deep and guttural intonations. Two figures were suddenly upon Marius and standing almost shoulder-height as he sat upon the horse. Seven, maybe eight feet tall - the guards had unfolded from the gatehouse to block his way. They wore the armour of Horus - ornate and fashioned with falcon helms. They even acted, somewhat, like birds as they twitched their beaks this way and that.

    "Pen sesnet tepish keded!" The words were spat through harsh vowels that scraped the throat and echoed inside the helms.

    "Red berey em kekhesep!" The second guard brought his spear to bear, and sunlight gleamed along the shaft. They were circling him.

    His heart raced; his mind whirled. But as a good messenger should, Marius remembered his teachings. The words came to him, resounding through the years from dusty text books and prattling mentors. And with a parched-dry tongue he formed the syllables. "Shefdew... sh... Shat Mes-En Sa-Pet!" His hand moved from his sword and drew from the opposite sheathe a scroll of parchment. He brandished it aloft, as if the only beacon that would ward off these killers. "Abi iew Ser Akh seshem ah... tepet!" He met the stare of the first Horus guard, seeing only darkness in the eye-holes of his bird mask. But he yelled the word again. "Tepet! Cleopatra! Pax Imperia!"

    The seal on the scroll glimmered blood red. The face of Caesar in profile. Whether these armoured giants were mortal or on the threshold of the divine, they would know the Pale Emperor sure enough.

    One bird looked to the other, as vultures before the carcass, and in painful time they brought down their spears.

    "Keded meshrew?"

    A peel of laughter, sickly and metallic, passed between the Atumites. Then the second stood aside and allowed the messenger to dismount. "Ak." The Horus Guard extended one armoured hand and gestured to the summer house beyond. "Shemes! Ak!"

    His sword was taken. And with spears upon his back the messenger Marius began his march towards the steps of the Timonium.
    #6 Asmodeus, Jul 14, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2013
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  7. A young, beautiful, ruthless Praetorian Guard, by the name of Ophealia kept watch over the Roman Emperor as he prayed; making sure no one disturbed him unless it was absolutely urgent. Pacing back and forth in front of the main entrance. Her sword at her side always ready to strike, her bows and arrow on her on her back along with a bronze shield with the roman empire symbol engraved on the front. As she paced, she remembered everything that was expected of her when she was first recruited to be apart of the elite guard, especially to be the Emperor's personal protection to the Emperor himself.

    Sighing deeply for a moment, she stopped pacing and smelt the air, it was safe.

    Her normal distance from him was always five feet behind or five feet in front depending on where he was going. Keeping a distance of about ten feet from him in this particular moment was a tad uncomfortable, regardless of giving him the necessary respect.

    In order for Ophealia to calm down she would admire any blade or weapon that she had in her possession at the time.

    Before, Ophealia became part of the elite guard, her mortal life involved fighting. She was born in a small village on the outskirts of the city born into a family of warriors and soldiers that had connections to the Roman military. It was in her blood to do the same. At the age of five, was when she first picked up a knife, small of course. Out of fear, a scorpion crawled by her and instantly killed it with one cut. Her parents were dumbfounded, a gifted child in their midst. They wanted her to be recognized by the Roman Guard, so they trained her inevitably. Until a tragic fire struck the village and she was the only survivor. Prior, to her family's tragic death her father and brothers started training her from dusk till dawn. Her mother died in child birth, with Ophealia's newborn sibling.

    Stories of Ophealia's talent spread across the land to the Emperor's general. During this time, she was in the city's market looking for new weapons to add to her collection. When a young male tried to steal one of her already own swords, she prevented him from doing so.

    "Don't you dare touch me nor my weapons!" she exclaimed as anger started to build up inside of her, getting to attack. Temper was the one thing she had difficulty controlling. When this happened, a military general spotted her. From then on she was trained to fight in calvary and to be apart of the elite guard. When she became officially of age, she was turned into one of Caesor's kin, a vampire.

    Just as she was calm and started to pace again, Caesar had stopped praying and turned to look at him with patience in case he had something to say.
    #7 Denali, Jul 15, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2013
  8. The most common emotion that lower officials in the government would have shown was anger, indignance. As of late, it was becoming a common occurrence for many a messenger to prostate themselves before Rome with messages of divine importance. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come .. and perhaps it was not. His face and manner though, remained unchanged.

    Gaius shifted his position, the fist serving as a resting point for his cheek now rubbing his chin thoughtfully. He leaned forward, eyes thoughtful. Of all the strange creatures in this world, he was the least to question extraordinary circumstances. The first thing Gaius had done, upon learning of his new .. condition long ago, was to thoroughly explore the archives learned men had left behind. Time, which meant nothing to him now, also allowed him to do things Time would have previously denied him. He was no stranger to the elaborate study of chance, the dance between man and chaos. Such a venerable old man stood before him now, and the fact of his presence meant he had defied an enormous amount of chance. It meant that such an audience was no fluke.

    But it did not mean he could skirt the mighty Roman bureaucracy. He steepled his fingers.

    "Wise druid," (For he was a forest creature, he suspected), "The Emperor is always busy with matters of state. It is impossible for him to receive everyone, and that is why we are here: to separate the wheat from the chaff." His tone was flat, neutral; backing creatures into a corner seldom did any good, and confessions under torture were dubious in their authenticity.
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  9. Nabirye stroked the finely arched neck of Amunet, the black Arabian that had braved land and sea with her, as the delicate-seeming mare sidestepped over thick tree roots with an anxious nicker. Steam billowed from flaring nostrils and the whites of frightened eyes showed, ears swiveling back and forth to catch any sound above the lyrical cadence of Nabirye's soothing assurances. But even she could detect that distinctive, musky tang of Predator and know compassion for her unsettled mount.

    The very air in these northern climes was foreign to her, crisp and cool, laced with a thick fog that hung over the ground like a burial shroud. Trees rose up like so many foreboding sentinels to stall her progress in the way they crowded around each other. Their limbs twisted about those of their neighbor in a show of unwelcoming camaraderie. A shiver coursed through Nabirye at these haunting thoughts but then she narrowed eyes the color of chocolate-flecked cinnamon, swinging one leg over Amunet to alight on silent feet. The bronze amulet bearing the ibis head of Thoth was a heavy, comforting warmth against her chest beneath the layers that cloaked the messenger. Nabirye was not alone even so far from home.

    Sweeping her arm, the fabric of her cloak whipped back to expose the hilt of the curved khopesh at her side, the gesture not so much a threat as it was an announcement of neutral purpose. Would she not have been more deceitful in her approach if she intended harm? Nabirye recited the litany of titles that had fallen on her shoulders in honor of this mission. Egyptians DO love their titles and, all due to her Queen, the anonymous handmaiden was the very representation of Cleopatra in this alien territory. Heated by the slowing, steady thrum of her beating heart, the amulet weighed in even more insistently against any lingering fears. The confidence of her rider seemed to transfer to the skittish, high strung Amunet by the time Nabirye collected the reins in a determined fist to lead them ever onward. Bearing words and gifts yet to be revealed, the duo came in the name of Cleopatra, the Bright and Blessed Day.
  10. Taking a deep breath, Alfher jumped from branch to branch. His bow and quiver slung over his back to make the travel easier. He always found this way faster and easier to move till a clearing came. There was a smell in the wind of a foreigner in his woods. He prayed silently to Ullr that it may be a misguided Roman soldier heading outside of the wall to make a stake at glory. At the very least, he might warn Maerlön of someone approaching.

    As he came closer and closer to the origins for the smell, Alfher cursed silently. The smell was not of Rome. The smell was of a human and a horse. As he approached the human, he slowed to a stop on a large branch and drew his bow. As his eyes spotted the foreigner, it was a young human female with a horse. The smell of fear came from the horse as she led the creature deeper and deeper into the forest. Jumping to another branch that would be near her route, Alfher took an arrow from his quiver. Taking aim at the female and pulled the string back, Alfher paused and slowly brought the arrow to a resting position. The female had swept her cloak back to reveal her weapon to whoever may have eyes on her.

    Alfher, once again, drew back on his bow as she walked her horse closer to him. Upon reaching a certain mark, Alfher let the arrow fly straight into the ground before her as a warning shot to stop her approach. He jumped down to the ground with relative easy and slotted another arrow in his bow. Drawing back on the bow slightly, he approached the exotic female and her black horse. In his native Gaulish tongue, Alfher asked, "Who are you and what are you doing here in these woods?"
  11. Harsh Egyptian erupted from the entrance to Timonium, spoken by an amored figure with the snarling head of a jackal. The Atumites replied in kind, saluting the figure that stood half a foot above them. He held a staff with a golden ankh on the end and radiated strength and dominance. He was bare chested, and looked like a true beastman, with black skin and a monster's head. Baring his teeth at the guard's words, Anubis turned to the tensed guard and spoke in a tongue the man would understand easily. "Follow me, Imperial," He growled, dismissing the guards, "But should you try anything, I will have your head." He turned and marched into the palace, leading the unfortunate messenger to his queen.
  12. "Alfher dear, you make it sound like no one is permitted into these woods," spoke a sultry voice.

    A silhouette appeared in the fog bank, feminine with trailing rags upon her body. Moss and leaves crunched softly under her feet as Aideen stepped beside her wolf kin. There was a harpy like quality to her face, and her nails extended an inch from her fingers. Wispy black hair trailed down her back, almost like a cloak. Her black eyes never left the stranger, piercing and cold. Her nostrils flared as she inhaled her scent: sweaty, almost spicy, with the pungent smell of horse - but the mixture was foreign. It would be easy to track her if need be.

    Her eyes glanced towards the arrow in the ground. Aideen smiled, but it was wolfish, with more tooth than grin. She would allow Alfher to do all of the talking, her presence here was merely for safety.
  13. The clack of shoe and marble broke the silence of the hallways, yes she could have snuck around but she was no rat that needed to slink around in the shadows. No that wouldn't do at all, half the fun was letting people know what your up to and them being powerless to stop you and only whisper and gossip about it when they thought you weren't looking. Of course the most amusing part about that was watching their eyes widen when you looked at them with an icy stare and a smile, taunting them as if saying 'I think I'll eat you up next'. Livia thought she well deserved to have her fun, that night in particular she had been walking back from a certain mans bedroom, lousy guy, unattractive but had a magnificent ruby ring which was just to die for of course he'd know that since his current resting place happened to be in a pool of his own blood.

    Rounding the corner, the large ruby gemstone adorning her own slim finger she heard something truly interesting. People did like to gossip and that was the way news traveled fast, true or not it didn't really matter as long as it involved a scandal of some sort. That was a thing about roman's they all loved a good scandal, some tricky public poisonings and especially the roar of a gladiatorial battle, the roman people seemed to love the sight of blood and livia was no different. After her first husbands death it became rather addictive, like a lovely high, a rush that she had to say was even better than spending a night in the arms of a man. So when this gossip had spread to her ears, a gaul messenger making it to rome alive she couldn't help but want to see it, how exactly he'd meet his grizzly end.

    Even if most women in rome were suppressed by men Livia would never let herself be one of those, so as long as it wasn't in public eye she didn't mind seducing the senators guards so that they'd allow her in. "Good evening Senator, Isn't the weather wonderful?" she spoke ignoring the fact she had intruded, in her mind she belonged wherever she pleased, including a roman official's chambers.

    Her eye wandered over to the Gaul, glancing over him. He really hadn't been what she expected, a gaul breaking through roman old man. She had to say that the Roman defense had to be lacking and they should fix it soon if they didn't want hordes trying to invade though she doubted such mutts would really make it that far and if they did she'd take great enjoyment in personally ending their lives, watching the last bit of light fade from their eyes. Just the thought of it made her all excited.
  14. ROME

    At the cease of her pacing, Ophealia turned to see the Emperor looking at her. He was still knelt before the statue, his head twisted, one eye trembling slightly as it squinted. There was the sense of great weight upon him. As always.


    The word was a strangled hiss. She sensed the tone and approached, pristine in her Praetorian armour. But the Emperor's wide-eyed stare did not relent.

    "Cassio... my words echo in emptiness. She has killed him."

    Ophealia knew the name as one of Caesar's many, many spies. The senate halls and ministries were seldom without the footsteps of an informer, a slave fed upon by the Emperor and cursed to hear his whispers in their mind. But what errand this Cassio was on was known only to Caesar, and thus Ophealia was powerless to abate the Emperor's paranoia.

    Not that she, or any son or daughter of Rome, stood a chance of doing so. For a hundred years the Father of Vampires had second-guessed and watched his inner circle with a psychotic obsession.

    Being stabbed in the back does strange things to the mind.

    "We must watch her..." His clawed hand extended to clutch at Ophealia's ankle. It was an odd gesture. Then the Emperor seemed to remember himself and began to rise. The Praetorian offered her arm to help him up. And as he straightened he whispered in her ear while scanning the walls and windows. "Livia Drusilla... we must watch. Yes. WATCH, WATCH, WATCH."

    Saliva struck Ophealia's cheek. She smelt the blood-breath of slaughtered generations. But she was like ice. Her first and greatest lesson in the Praetorian Guard was knowing how to endure the Emperor's suspicions.

    Minutes passed, the Emperor and bodyguard standing close together and saying nothing. The Emperor swayed against her as if lost in trance. But slowly, as his mind resettled, she felt his clawed hand squeeze her shoulder.

    "Fetch a slave," he ordered with a lick of pale, dry lips. And then he was gone, shuffling slowly towards his personal chambers.
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  15. Human though she may be, Nabirye had ample warning before the arrow struck the ground in the form of interrupted birdsong. A distinctive hiss and thud mere moments later confirmed suspicions that had led her to gather Amunet's reins in a more commanding grip. As it was, the mare danced her hindquarters sideways with a snorting whinny that reverberated through the trees, echoing off the mist.

    Amunet would seem a sorry excuse of a horse to these northerners with their thick-boned warmounts that stood well over eighteen hands, chests wide and deep as barrels. The black mare is a seemingly delicate creature that just broke over fourteen hands with a prancing gait, high arching neck, and elegant confirmation. The wise man would not be fooled by such appearances. The Egyptian Arabian is renowned for its purity of bloodline, intelligence, and unparalleled endurance.

    Her saddle is a lightweight work of art in silver-plated leather lined with camel wool, secured in place by a girth and fringed chest collar. Across the back of the saddle lay a pair of bulging saddlebags embroidered in glyphs telling the story of Osiris' death by artisan hands. The aroma wafting from these bags was a combination of cedar, myrrh, lemongrass, and other spices, comingling with campfire smoke and travel sweat.

    Even before Alfher had shown himself, Nabirye's hands were lifted slowly out and away from her body, empty save for her reins and palms outward to imply a certain vulnerability. Exotic features disguised by a thick veil save for large, tilted eyes lined with thick kohl, the messenger favored them both with an even look before dropping from the waist into a slight bow. The introduction came in a polished version of their native tongue once she straightened, the words colored by the cadence of Egypt.

    "I am Nabirye, Lady of the Reed Pen, Emissary of Cleopatra, Queen of the South, the Divine Isis, She Who Lives Forever, the Bright and Blessed Day, Fist of Ra and Acolyte of Mighty Thoth, Reckoner of Times and Seasons, He Who Balances, Author of All Knowledge, and Creator of All Language. In the name of Ra, I am come to deliver a message to your Chieftain."
  16. When he clasped her ankle she didn't move an inch, but, was slightly started by it. Ophealia looked him dead in the eye when he was to his upright position.

    She sensed that something was amidst when he mentioned the name Livia Drusilla. "I'll be on my guard more than ever." she said in a low, protective tone.

    After being on the Praetorian Guard for many a year, enduring the Emperor's suspicions were normal to her.

    The feel of saliva on her cheek was warm and tempting. Mindlessly, she closed her eyes and could see the slaughtered generations as if she was there, many before her time.

    "With pleasure." giving him a nod. As she walked through the halls, she stopped a slave. "Come with me. The Emperor requires your services." she said demandingly as she guided the slave to the Emperor's chamber.

    Within in minutes the chamber doors bursted open. "A slave. Just as you requested." she remarked shoving the slave inside before closing the doors once again and taking her place by the balcony to take in the Roman night air mixed with the smell of the slave's blood.

    Ophealia sighed in content a smile lightly growing on her face with fangs baring with a very soft growl emanating from the back of her throat. She needed to feed as well since the blood was intoxicating her. However, that time would come when the Emperor was asleep.
  17. Ploth was out patrolling when he heard chatter. His ears never fooled him, and he knew who it was speaking. It was Alfher the huntsman no doubt he was probably speaking to himself. His time in the woods for so long had to be lonely. He walked through the brush in hopes to frighten the young hunter. He peered through the bushes to see a woman mounter on a foreign horse. The woman seemed to be spoiled or royal in the sense that her saddle was adorned by silver and some sort of foreign animal hide.

    Ploth grunted as he stood revealing himself. He looked the horse in the eye almost admiring it. The beast seemed a little tensed being surrounded and all. The horse was fit not muscular nor did it seem to bear any scars.
    He stepped closer as the woman spoke. His eyes never left the horse. She introduced herself as Nabirye. She spoke in an odd way hinting she was not from around. He didn't need to hear her voice to gather that much. Even her cloths alarmed him where the woman hailed from. Not Gual nor roman..Obvious Sander or Egyptian. Considering the names she gave he assumed she was Egyptian based on the fact no sander speaks the way she does. Ploth looked at her when she spoke of a chieftain.

    He took another step and he got the reaction he wanted. The horse Whined and shook his head. Ploth backed up and nodded at the horse as if to say sorry.

    "She speaks the truth..She's only a messenger or a prophet. I don't think she's dangerous. Her horse hasn't seen battle. It seems to me if she wanted to kill she would've brought a war horse.I'll take you to
    Maerlön. Nabirye." He had difficulty pronouncing her name.
  18. Old bones that are not as they once were, like the ancient and gnarled roots of a centuries-old tree.

    Such a description fits a druid like myself better than I once would have liked to admit. We all wish we could be young forever, to keep ahold of that youthful spark that many of our young warriors still possess. But such is the will of the gods; the advance of winter after winter changes us, and though we gain wisdom from it we do not grow stronger.

    And I have seen many, many winters.

    Rising from my seat and moving out of the tent, an old man with and alabaster-white beard and simple brown robes, I step out into the Gaulish camp. It is one of many such settlements scattered throughout the forests of this region; we keep ourselves divided and spread out so as to prevent suspicion from our Roman foes and to keep down any tensions between factions. My druids and I help to keep any troubles from boiling over, but old habits die hard.

    These people are warriors at hard, and they have been making war upon each other for centuries. Old rivalries are not easily put aside, and old grudges still boil, even in the face of the war we all know is coming. It is my role and the role of my druids to ensure that such tensions are never allowed to threaten all that we have worked for here, everything that we strive towards. For now, things are quiet; the tribes are separated out through the forest and so there’s little chance for them to be at each other’s throats.

    But this calm will not last forever. A storm brews on the horizon, and we shall be charging straight for it. My people must be ready to stand alongside one another, no matter their past.

    Or else we may not have a future to look beyond to.

    I stand in the centre of the camp, leaning against my staff and taking in the sights. This is no Roman city, no Egyptian hub of civilisation, but it still bustles with activity. Our hunters return from their excursions into the forest, bringing back boars and other sources of meat to keep these people fed. The gatherers collect the food and supplies we need, both for sustenance and for our war preparations; fruit and berries, timber, stone and all manner of valuable resources. Not far from me I can hear the ringing of hammers as blacksmiths work to construct the tools of warfare we need for the coming battles. Children play amidst the tents and huts, punctuating the sounds of the camp with shouts and laughter.

    As I watch all this with a wry smile upon my face, my eyes fall upon a small figure coming out of the forest and rushing towards me. One of the runners from the scouting party.
    “Forn ulfr!” he calls as he slides to a stop before me, breathing heavily. Obviously the child has been running for some time. I kneel down before him, so that my head is level with his, and smile warmly.
    “What is it, boy?” He sucks in several breaths before speaking again.
    “Message from the scouts, forn ulfr. They’ve located a messenger moving through our section of the woods.”
    “Roman?” He boy shakes his head.
    “An Egyptian woman. She claims she’s an emissary of Cleopatra, and is asking for an audience.”

    I pause at this, letting out a sigh like an old tree moving in the wind. This was a move by the Queen of Cunning that I was not expecting.
    “Very well,” I tell the boy, “Please rouse Chieftain Lugurix from his tent and inform him that I have need of him. I shall meet this emissary.”

    Even a master of remaining unnoticed and unseen such as Cynrig could not escape the all-encompassing nature of Roman bureaucracy.

    He had to be extremely careful here, choose every word with care and attention. One slip-up, one poorly-conceived sentence, and he would not be going any further. He hd been given a task to do, for the good of a free people, and so he could not falter at this hurdle.
    “A worthy task. The ruler of so vast and renowned an Empire is undoubtedly a figure in great demand,” Cynrig began, his voice calm and reasoned, betraying none of the nerves the old man felt, “I would not expect to just be allowed an audience with him without some confirmation of my identity.”

    He reached into his tattered robes, slowly as to not arouse suspicion from either the senator or those guarding him. From within an old pouch he had kept hidden away throughout his journey to Rome, he withdrew an object that fitted into his palm. It was forged from gold by a master-craftsman, an ornate triangle of curling circles pointing in different directions. Slowly, Cynrig reached down and placed in on the table before the senator, bowing slightly as he did.

    “The symbol of Maerlön, High Druid of Gaul. On his behalf do I seek an audience with your Emperor.”
  19. Every guard Anubis passed on the way to Cleopatra's presence were like unmovable statues, never talking or glancing about. Their golden helmets flashed in the evening sun, making it seem as if their heads were made of the same flesh and feathers as their god. The roman messenger had to jog to keep up with the long legs of the monster known as Anubis, his armor clanking unseemingly. Anubis ignored this lower life form, knowing that should the man do anything other than follow, he would be skewered by one of many guards he had posted throughout Timonium.

    The black giant halted just outside two marble, double doors, watched by two of his finest warriors. The roman soldier tried to hide his rapid breathing as he caught his breathe, watching as Anubis exchanged a series of words with the guards. He barely understood what they said, as they were talking to fast for his limited knowledge to make sense of any of it. "Tell my Queen that a messenger has arrived from the Roman Empire, demanding to see her," Anubis growled, his canine teeth showing, "Ask her what we shall do with him." The guards, in perfect sync, replied in kind before disappearing through the doors to report to the queen beyond.
  20. Alfher felt a shiver go up his spine as Aideen spoke. Her sudden appearance made Alfher lower his bow slightly. As far as he knew, she was the only one who could ever sneak up on him and Alfher wasn't fond of that at all. He pulled down the mask that covered the lower half of his face and gave her a look that read, "You just had to show up, didn't you?" Alfher returned his attention to the foreign intruder and smirked as she spoke. He was impressed that she spoke their language, but it was overly formal.

    Alfher's ears seemed to twitch as he heard someone else approach. He raised his bow until he recognized Ploth striding towards them. Ploth had probably thought Alfher was alone and was about to attempt to scare him. He watched him act strangely as he looked at the horse. Sighing as Ploth said he would take her to Maerlön, Alfher lowered his weapon and returned the arrow to his quiver. Striding over to the arrow stuck in the ground, Alfher removed it and looked at Nabirye. "If this is some sort of trick, this arrow will pierce your heart." He then moved behind Nabirye as the rear guard.

    That is when a strange smell filled Alfher's nostrils and he doubted anyone else could pick it up. It was a slightly familiar smell with a twist that made it seem foreign. He stayed behind for a moment to figure out this smell as Aideen and Ploth showed Nabirye and her horse to the encampment. "Death," Alfher muttered to himself. It was the smell of death but not the same smell of those vile Romans. This was the smell of oncoming death that only a hunter or one who has seen battle would possibly know. Lifting up his mask, Alfher climbed into the closest tree and made his way to catch up with the others.
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