I am on the edge of a knife. My destination remains clear, but the path is now obscured.
Due to the testimony of the Augers, our names are cleared, however, their prophecies suggest that the time is at hand, the Stryx come at last for their vengeance, and we all may pay the price for the crimes of the line of Remus. I have begun to prepare. No longer do my arms and armor of my days as Tribuni angusticlavia remain in a chest in my haven, but I wear them under my trabea, ready for the inevitable attack.
However, just as our greatest threat comes to bear, so do the strengths I thought I held crumble to dust. I have facilitated a relationship with Warcrow, the Magistrate of the Legion of the Dead. This was to be a relationship that could provide protection to all I hold dear, but perhaps not. Desema showed me a part of the Necropolis that I had never seen, a hidden area where the destitute huddle. There, kindred unfortunate enough to have been embraced by the wrong clan hide from the Legion of the Dead, as I now understand, they are destroyed without trial, without advocacy, and as Desema indicates, without wrongdoing or ill intent. The Legion of the Dead, once my greatest protection, may in fact be my enemy.
My position in the Senex is Paracletus Autem Infirma (advocate of the weak), and for the Legion of the Dead to practice executions without providing me my right to advocate for these kindred is unacceptable. I must find and change the laws that allow this, and if no such law exists, Warcrow will face my charges on the Senex floor. This however could weaken our greatest defense. To Hell with our defense. I will not lie with the Devil. To the Stryx I say, come on then! Here I am! I have no plan, no weapons, and one other thing…I don't have anything to lose, so come on then!
The one thing that dominates my thoughts, however, is not the Stryx, not Warcrow, or the ever-increasing thoughts I have that the Inconnu may be beyond redemption. Instead my thoughts cannot escape memories of my childhood.
"Lucretus Gavrus was the next he had executed. Again, there was no trial, not even charges laid.", I remember Lactantius well, he was a Berber, a native of North Africa, a scholar, a historian, and a Christian. He was also my tutor, as well as the tutor of my childhood friend, Flavius Julius Crispus.
"Why did he kill this one?", Crispus loved stories of previous Emperors, particularly the bad ones. He would then have Lactantius explain how his father, Constantine, our current Emperor, was superior.
"They say that Gavrus had corrected Carinus in front of Aspasius Paternus, and Carinus never forgot a slight.", Lactantius seemed to always learn the most minute details of anything he taught.
"That can't be correct," I would point out, "Paternus died when Carinus was still a child. He's not going to have Gavrus executed for something he did 20 years before."
"He never forgot a slight.", Lactantius repeated.
Later that day I remember Crispus and I playing swords with sticks we had found in the garden. Crispus insisted that he was the hero Diocletion, and I had to be the villian Carinus. "Give up Carinus! Your whole army has abandoned you!", "NEVER!", I would pronounce with a scowl, "I will kill you, and every good Roman! Gah!", I pretended to be wounded in the side, "Betrayed by my own bodyguard. Curse you!". Crispus would laugh as I hammed up the death scene.
Lactantius would then teach of Diocletion, the hero who defeated Carinus. He was Emperor for nearly 20 years of peace and prosperity. Born common, it was the love of Diocletion's own troops that made him Emperor. His military victories were numerous. The Samartians, the Carpi, the Alamanni, the Egyptian uprisers, and of course his great victories against the Sassanids, finally bringing peace with Persia. However, not all his accomplishments were martial. He expanded the administrative functions of government, reformed taxation, and brought the Empire, on the brink of collapse, back to stability.
"Civil war began after his peaceful abdication, Diocletion became very ill near the end of his reign, and abdicated to Maxentius. He retired peacefully to his homeland of Dalmatia. The people begged for him to resume his throne, to which he replied, "If you could show the cabbage that I planted with my own hands to your Emperor, he definitely wouldn't suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never-satisfied greed.", Lactantius would emulate Diocletion as a great Orator, content in his retirement, tending his garden in peace.
Four years later Diocletion died, and my teacher told me it was a peaceful death from old age, well deserved from a long life of service.
Last night I learned that Carinus's death scene was nothing like the childhood games Crispus and I played all those years ago. Instead he was embraced, and became the Nosferatu Nox. When I first learned of this I was horrified, but then I couldn't help but wonder, is it true? Is everything I've claimed about reformation now confirmed? Could a villain like Carinus really have seen the error of his ways and finally embraced the virtues of Clementia, Humanitas, and Pietus?
Nox has had great interest in the influence of our kind on past Emperors. I asked him if he thought that he had been manipulated, and he said that he thought he had, though the horrible things he had done were his own. He told me that he was particularly interested in the manipulations of Diocletion, who he said had killed his family. He added that those who manipulated him would suffer and die as Diocletion did. I corrected Nox, "…but Diocletion died peacefully of old age." Nox smiled with great satisfaction. A smile that showed no regret, no mercy, only a look of one who has caused suffering and took pleasure in that suffering, "No, he died screaming, in pain." My hopes were dashed.
Nox claims that Diocletion killed his family. I can only assume he blamed Diocletion for the death of his father Carus and his brother Numerian, though this does not match what I had learned.
His father Carus, who murdered Emperor Probus to become Emperor, ruled for only one year before his death while fighting the Persians. The exact cause of death is unknown, though he may have been struck by lightning, or died of wounds of battle. The peaceful succession of power to Carinus suggests that the death was not suspicious.
His brother Numerian, was murdered by Lucius Favius Aper, his own father-in-law. Numerian was leading his army back to Rome, when he reportedly fell ill and quickly died (though we now know Aper had poisoned him). Aper then concealed Numerian's death while he positioned for his own ascent to the purple. The army discovered the death of the Co-Emperor and Aper was tried and convicted of his murder. Diocletion himself put Numerian's murderer to death by beheading.
Perhaps the historians are wrong. Perhaps Diocletion was controlled by vampires. Perhaps he, under their control, killed Carus and then killed Numerian while framing Aper. I know firsthand the power of dominate, such a feat is possible by the most powerful of our kind.
Even if that is the case, then Diocletion was not a hero as I was taught, but instead a victim, a common soldier who lost all control of his own life. Does such a victim deserve a death where he "screamed in pain"? What kind of monster would delight at that? It seems the answer may be Nox.
One who I counted on as my closest friend may in fact be a villain. Obsessed with revenge and sadism over all other concerns, just like the Stryx. The parallel is alarming to me. Just as our greatest threat comes to bear, so do the strengths I thought I had crumble to dust.
Nox told me that he was hesitant to tell me of his past lest I judge him for his past deeds. I am a Christian, I do not judge the repentant on the deeds of the past, however, Nox does not only lack repentance, he smiled when reminiscing of torture and murder, and at the plan to repeat these crimes. What will his reaction be if I challenge him on this?
The words of Lacantius repeat over and over in my head. "Carinus never forgot a slight." Lacantius didn't know how correct he was. I thought to lust for revenge for 20 years was unbelievable, but now I witness a lust spanning much longer. I can forgive Carinus for the evils he practiced in life, but can I forgive him the evils he still lusts to commit? Is there any hope that I might yet reform him? I must try, but my faith is shaken.
I choose to believe that Nox is still manipulated. Still a victim of the machinations of those who choose to have him tear down those who might oppose the will of his controllers. To them I say, you are parasites! Living on jealously, and envy, and longing for the lives of others. You FEED on them! On the memory of love and loss and birth and death and joy and sorrow and so, so, come on then, try me then! Try me, but I hope you have a big appetite. I've not lived a long life, but I've lived one that is filled with longing and loss and pain and sorrow and heartache and anguish. One that may spoil your palate you bastards! Bring it on, I'm waiting!
I am at the edge of a knife. My destination remains clear, but the path is now obscured.