Elysium: The Elder War
I Suckled by the Wolf
NONE DARE DEFY THE ELDER TWIN; AND SEE, THE YOUNGER LIES, SKULL CRACKED OPEN, HIS FACE HALF-DESTROYED, HIS LIFEBLOOD SPILLED IN A SOAKING STAIN HALF-WITHIN AND HALF-WITHOUT THESE YET-TO-BE-BUILT WALLS.
NO BRUTE BEAST COMES TO FEED ON REMUS.
THE MOON RISES, AND HE STIRS A LITTLE, DYING UNKNOWN AND NOT YET WITHOUT BREATH, HE CANNOT CRY OUT; ALL FOR ILL-FATED REMUS IS TO OPEN ONE EYE AND SEE THE MOON, AND HE SIGHS, FOR AN INAUSPICIOUS SHADOW DESCENDS.
IT HAS THE SHAPE OF AN OWL, A MAN'S VOICE.
"SON OF MARS, I HAVE COME TO BARGAIN," IT SAYS, "FOR THE ISSUE OF ROMULUS ARE FATED TO RULE OVER ALL AND TO ENDURE FOR A THOUSAND YEARS, THIS I KNOW."
"I OFFER YOUR LINE EQUAL POSTERITY, AND MORE, IF ONLY YOU WILL AGREE TO PAY DUE RESPECT TO MY OWN FAMILY, WHEN THE RIGHT TIME COMES."
REMUS BLINKS ASSENT, AND THE OWL SEEMS TO GROW AND OBSCURE THE SKULL-PALE MOON.
HE RISES TO HIS FEET. COME SUNRISE, NONE REMARK ON THE ABSENT REMAINS, AND GREAT-HEARTED ROMULUS' SLEEP IS VEXED THAT NIGHT WITH VISIONS OF THE INAUSPICIOUS TWIN.
This is the tale of Romulus and Remus, whose destiny is declared before they are even born. A prophet tells how the sons of Rhea Silvia will overthrow a tyrant king and found a new nation.
Amulius usurps the throne from his brother Numitor, king of the Latins. He imprisons his virgin niece. Still, she becomes pregnant; the god Mars steals in at night and rapes her.
Rhea Silvia bears twin sons. The king takes them away, sends a man to drown them in the Tiber. Fate dictates that he cannot bring himself to do it. He leaves them in the forest to die, instead.
They do not die. A she-wolf, whose cubs have fallen to a hunter's arrows, finds the children and raises them as if they were wolf cubs.
A farmer, hunting in the forest, sees the she-wolf suckling the two children. The wolf stands back placidly as he takes the boys up in his arms, and carries them back to his farm. He raises them as his own, and calls them Romulus and Remus. They grow up strong. They are more than men, and they become famous. The farmer guesses their identity. When the twins come of age, he tells them their true heritage.
They lead a revolt; they kill the tyrant Amulius. And one seven Latin hills, they set about founding a city. But they disagree as to where it should be. The twins seek the will of the gods in auguries.
Remus watches the skies, and his sign is this: six vultures, sacred to Mars. But come Romulus' term, he sees 12. The people side with Romulus. Jealousy festers. Remus taunts Romulus. Remus obstructs the work in petty ways: a hidden spade, a re-filled trench. Finally, he stands by the foundation of Romulus' new city walls, a foundation that Romulus has dug himself, and leaps, laughing, across them. It is an inauspicious sign; he invites outsiders to breach the walls. Romulus, enraged, strikes his brother down with a single blow.
The stories of the living say that Romulus buries his brother. But another tradition speaks of the body left for Mars' vultures to consume, testament to Romulus' fury.
Fragments: From De Mortuo Remo
By the 21st century, only a few fragments will survive from Titus Venturus Camillus' epyllion De Mortuo Remo (The Death of Remus). Camillus wrote it in the reign of Diocletian. A mortal monk will stumble across the work and copy the parts he deems worth saving into a Byzantine epitome in 500 years time.
What follows is well-known to the Propinqui now, but will vanish from memory over the course of centuries.
Note that the Latin word for "owl" and "vampire" is the same: strix. As far as the fragments explain, the Strix made a deal with a dying Remus, and the result was that his "descendants" became the Propinqui, the Kindred. in this story, which is widely told in this age of Constantius and Julian but not necessarily widely believed. Remus was the first of the Kindred, the first of the vampires of Rome. The Egyptians and the Cappadocians and the Gauls may have their own vampires, but they are not Kindred, not born of the inauspicious arrangment between Remus and the Strix.
Rape and Corruption
This new-built Rome was won by men and built by men, and men flock from far away, exiles, criminals, freedmen adn men looking for a new life apart from their own tribes. but to survive, the city needs children. Without women, it is impossible. The local tribes respect Romulus, but they fear and mistrust him. They call him tyrannicide; they also call him fratricide.
Romulus asks for wives from his neighbors. They politely refuse. Romulus conceives a plan: the Romans will hold sacred games, and they will invite men and women from the nearby Sabine tribes.
During the height of the games, Romulus gives the signal. The Roman men descend upon the Sabine women, each taking his own, each doing with her as he wishes.
The games end. The tribes go to war, but the violence ends when the Romans agree to pay reparations to the Sabines for their daughters and sisters. The Romans and the Sabines intermarry. The Sabine men have little choice. The Sabine women have even less.
This is the way the Romans deal with outsiders. The Romans take what they want, and only then do they observe the customs of civilized society. It has always been this way. It always will be, until the day Rome falls to the barbarian.
Fragments: Remus and Julius
As recorded in the Res Gestae Juli Senis by Horatius Calvus, Propinquus, I. 3:
Dead Remus watched the fruits of Romulus' theft. By night, Remus walked the streets, passing window after window, seeing in each as if a tableau of outrage. He saw the beginnings of Rome that night, in theft and vice.
It was on this night that the Inauspicious Twin found Aulus Julius, a distant kinsman of Romulus. Julius was young, only having gained his toga of manhood three summers before. Although by no means unskilled or slow of action, Julius had failed to steal himself a wife that night. Remus saw that Julius was noble and bitter, and told him that he would persevere forever. At first Julius believed himself to have been visited by a god.
Remus took Julius to a certain cave. A hidden entrance to this, in these days long since blocked with stone, lay the base of the Tarpeian Rock; it led to the cave in which the Propinqui meet to this day.
Aulus only discovered how Remus had deceived him after he had died, and like the Twin, had failed to meet with Orcus. Julius having complained to the Twin that he had been made a food, Remus played another dark trick on him; he set Julius to dig is way to the realm of Dis, telling him that he could yet find his way if that was his wish. Julius did not believe Remus, but he had become scared of him, for Remus had hinted that he himself had masters.
As told in the Annales Celati Propinquorum by Cornelianus Alba, Propinquus, II. 1:
Others followed, and Kindred families sprang from Remus' bloodline, and Julius'. Rome grew, and the first of the Kindred dug themselves a home, burrowing like Hecate's mouse. We made a city of our own. We used the burial vaults of the Etruscans, a place for the dead, a home for future ancestors to lie. The Propinqui took part in the building. A second city, parallel to the one above, grew around the Catacombs. This became the place to where the Kindred retreated, and where they would meet the atheist Galileans, who would retreat when the Emperors of Rome righteously pursued them.
This City of the Dead, this Necropolis as the Greeks call it, survives into this dominate of Constantine's sons, and will no doubt endure long past the fall of the City Above. Now the cramped, winding passages reflect the narrow streets of the living city; its intrigues are cramped and labyrinthine, a dark reflection of the court above. In the time of Romulus, Necropolis consisted of the burial vaults of the Etruscans who buried their dead, small vaults in which they interred jars of ashes from cremated ancestors.
Rome Under the Founder
Romulus is a great founder. But he is too cruel, too impulsive to be a good leader. The people of Rome fear him; they do not love him.
This, then, is Rome at its birth: by day, our city is open and vibrant, full of purpose. The walls have taken years to build already, and will take years more. Three tribes become the Romans, three clans: the Latins, the Sabines, the Etruscans. Most of the Romans have built their homes from wood and plaster. There aren't enough Romans for orders and classes to have developed beyond those few noble-born families who have always walked among the poor. Romulus himself walks on foot among the people, adn takes his part in the building of his land, even while casting edicts and contriving the deaths of those who offend him.
This natal Rome is a hard place. Every open space is cultivated for food or used by the young men to train for the wars that will come. The neighboring tribes are already jealous of Rome's ascendant wealth, and have begun to gather forces and allies for four centuries of war.
There is no time here for affection or leisure; the Romans disdain such things. Captive wives bring up children for whom they can feel no love; fathers teach their sons self-reliance and martial skill.
At night, the few, still few, who would think of themselves as Propinqui stalk through silent dirt-tracks, gaining entry to their ancestral homes that ehy might feed on their mortal families, and committing terrible sins.
This is a city where hands are dirty and hearts are hard. This is no place for opulence, no place for the vice that will one day be synonymous with Rome. Romulus encourages this. He makes examples of those who would rest or show weakness. Families leave sickly children out in the wilderness to die, and cowards, weaklings and the idle fare little better.
Romulus will have no tomb. One story will tell that he is with the people on the Campus Martius when a fog comes down from the heavens and snatches him from mortal sight. The other version is that a group of Roman nobles took advantage of the sudden fog to be rid of the brutal king. They rush him and cut him to pieces, each taking a piece away, hidden under their cloaks.
Either way, the people of Rome will venerate the vanished Romulus: he will be a god, and they will call him Quirinus. Six other kings will follow him, and some will be great and good and others will be bad. After a while, the bad kings will obscure the memory of the good.
Tyranny and Liberation
So Rome grows. Kings come and go, and our city comes under the sway of three Etruscan kings, the Tarquins. The last King is Tarquin the Proud, and this is how he falls.
It happens that one night, a group of rich young men sit drinking. They take to talking about their wives. Each man claims his wife is perfect, a model a virtue. Half-drunk, they decide to settle the argument by seeing for themselves. They visit each man's home in turn.
One man's wife is hosting a drinking party, without her husband's knowledge. One is with a lover. One is missing. Only Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, is sitting at home, spinning wool, managing the household; behaving as the Romans expect their wives to behave.
Sextus Tarquin is the son of the king. He sees the beauty and purity of Lucretia this night and desires her for his own.
He comes to her later, alone, and confesses that he is in love with her. She refuses him. He beats her and rapes her.
Lucretia's husband comes home,a nd see, he has brought Lucretia's kinsman, Brutus. Collatinus calls out for his wife, and she comes to him and her relative, clothes torn, bruised face streaked with blood and tears. She tells them what Sextus has done, an she cries for revenge. She screams: avenge me. She tears at her hair and rips her clothes and entreats them in rage and anguish to destroy Sextus Tarquin and his family. in front of husband and kinsman, she stabs herself in the heart. She bleeds to death. The two men stand over her adn allow no slave to bring a doctor until the marble floor is flooded with the woman's lifeblood.
They think Brutus is a dimwit, a slow-thinking, lazy young man, but there is iron in Brutus' back, and fire in his voice. He starts a revolution that day. He calls the Romans to overthrow their oppressors, and the violated corpse of another man's wife is his reason, his standard.
Brutus sets Rome alight.
Fragments: The Fall of the Unnamed Clan
As written in the Res Gestae Juli Senis by Horatius Calvus, Propinquus, I. 26:
In the 100th year since the vanishing of Remus, Aulus Julius took it upon himself to rid himself of twin scourges: the cruel Striges and the Blood Clan whom I must not name, whom Julius proved to have adopted the mantle of the Striges' servants and voices. The Striges visited themselves upon their Roman descendants, making horrifying demands and claiming payment in heart's blood.
Julius came before the Kindred and said that they wanted more. Now, he said, they asked not only for the ancient tithe of blood adn for the constant excavation of new tunnels under the Capitoline, but for a tithe of mortal relatives from the noble families, whose corpses the Striges were desecrating, dwelling therein and using them to perform acts of unholy vice that I must not name.
For the Propinqui, the indignities heaped upon them had proven too much to bear. It was enough to have shamed their mortal families by failing to die; to be made to betray them and leave their bodies to be desecrated and lift unburned was an outage beyond measure.
From the Annales Celati Propinquorum by Cornelianus Alba Propinquus, II. 1:
The Kindred held private debates, in those tunnels. Aulus Julius stood and claimed that there was no need for the Kindred to observe any compact, even one made by his own sire, when the cost was so dar. The Propinqui of the gens Ventrue stood by him. The eldest representative of the Kindred clan whom I must not name said that Remus had made a compact and that it must be observed, no matter the consequence.
Aulus Julius spoke most firmly in response. "To accept this indignity is slavish and weak. Are we not Roman? Are we not Kindred? And what are they? What are they to make these demands? What are you to bow your head before them?"
Recorded in the Acta Dite Patro Obiecti:
Aulus Julius threw reproaches and accusations at the errant family. He claimed that they were spared the demands of the Striges, and that they served them in return. He accused them of witchcraft, abominable to living and daed alike, learned from foul outsiders.
The words were spoken with eloquence and power. the assembled Propinqui raised a cry of seething rage and fell upon those he claimed had betrayed them.
From The History of the Inconnu by Eutherius Secundus, Propinquus, I. 62:
On the night that the revolution began in the city above, Aulus Julius led five Kindred and destroyed the havens of the traitor clan with fire. They impaled the oldest of the Striges' servants on a stake cut that night from one bough of teh sacred oak. The rest of the traitor clan followed.
By the end of the night, Julius had reduced every one of the traitors to dust, but not one of the Propinqui drank even the tiniest drop of blood from any. They collected that dust and scattered it from the peak of the Tarpeian Rock just before sunrise, intoning dire curses over any who would seek to treat with the Striges ever again.
As for the clan that served the Striges, its name was stricken from every record the Propinqui ever kept, and to speak the name was made a crime punishable by Final Death. Eventually, the Kindred who knew their name sank into torpor, or met their Final Deaths, or forgot, for the Fog of Ages obscured it. As far as we in the Inconnu know, no one walking today, alive or dead, knows what they were called. If they are mentioned at all, they are the Traditores, but they betrayed living and dead alike.