The Eternal City

The Ritual - Part 4
What Price for Rome?

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The night for the ritual had come and the children were placed near each of the seven hills at a temple to one of the founding gods of Rome. The Christian vampires were brought in along to act as a focul point and Titus had his ritual knife to begin the process. They arrived at the first temple and commanded the children to stay in place despite their fears. Titus approached one of the children prepared to make the ritual sacrifice and proceeded to slit one of the child’s throats pouring her blood into the chalice.

A cry of anger went out and A. showed her true visage at Titus who dropped his knife and went fleeing in the night. She quickly freed the other children encouraging them to flight. G. and L. were stunned at the turn of events and were slow to react. Then regaining their wits G. went after A. along with D. L. went and attempted to restore Titus’s wits. D. caught up with A. and demanded she go home!

Having retreated into the night and G. cursing her sudden yet inevitable betrayal, the remaining members of the coterie began to pick up the pieces and see what could be salvaged. Having lost the sacrifices, backups were produced and then they had to confront the Christian vampires. Their spokesman confronted L. demanding to know just what else was involved in the ritual and what would be required of him and his brethren. L. realizing that he needed to be honest, confessed the true nature of the ritual and that the Christian vampires merely had to be the focal point, they would not be required to kill or harm the children in any way and after that remain good and virtues for as long as their unlived remained. Reluctantly they agreed but under condition that the coterie swear to defend and protect Christians and Christian sites. The coterie so swore. With the oaths made the rituals proceeded with a few minor mishaps at the other locations but in the end, success!

The wards were enacted and proof was made that the enemy could not enter the Necropolis. The coterie had saved us, had saved Rome. A Triumph was held in their honor, accolades of the highest order were heaped upon them. Yet, it was the last we saw of A.; she disappeared that night never to be seen again and her network of information handed over to another, who was no ally of the coteries.

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The Ritual - Part 3
Complications

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The coterie spoke to the new vampires and found that they were Christians who had been associates of those that L had spoken to. They had volunteered to be embraced to help Rome and their God but did not have any other specifics. One was chosen to speak for them and he inquired as to the particulars of how they were to save Rome, these requests were rebuffed and ignored.

L. and G. had been summoned by the Praeter and was informed that an uproar had occurred amongst the nobility of the city. Many of the children of the nobility had gone missing and for the safety of the necropolis and preservation of its future the Legio Mortumm would assist in locating the culprits of this foul deed.
Meanwhile D. was checking on the children they procured and found that his servants had been attacked and they children released. In anger he went to where they had been kept investigating the injury against him. He found that while the original slaves he had purchased were no longer there, there were still 40 children in the cages, albeit of noble clothing.

At the strange turn of events L. and G. persuaded over the reluctance and objections of the rest of the coterie to return the noble children and pursue the original children. As a precaution, they would see about procuring an additional 40 children slaves. It must have been a thin market for I recall the difficulties the rest of us had in obtaining any during those nights, forever known as the great shortage. They were unsuccessful in reacquiring the originals but were able to get what they needed to finally move forward with the ritual to save Rome.

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THe Ritual - Part 2
Gathering Ingredients

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Once it was decided that children would be needed for the sacrifice D. went into action to procure through his slave empire the necessary 40. It would take some time as the number was significant in terms of quality of those to be sacrificed.

As this was being done L. and A. traveled through the catacombs and hunted for a group of Christian vampires, a group that was holding a meeting and had begun to refer to themselves as followers of the Lance and Spear. Seeing his uniform, they were initially hostile but he persuaded them he meant them no harm. He informed them of the need to protect Rome and how the danger of the enemy threatened all. He requested that they contribute by offering up seven volunteers that they considered to be of the highest of virtue. In exchange, they would not reveal the locations of their meeting and if performed in his domains they would be free to practice their beliefs.

The deal was struck and it was agreed that the seven would be found in two nights time at a stable with directions provided. This coincided with the full procurement of the children so Titus began preparing and studying the translation of the tablets to perform the ritual. When the appointed night arrived, they went to the stable and found seven newly embraced vampires chained to posts.

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The Ritual- Part 1
The tablets are deciphered

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It took several weeks but Julia Tertia was able to work out the gist of the tablets. They were written in Old Latin and therefore some of the phrasing would be off. She informed the coterie that it was a record of the founding of the Necropolis and the particulars of a ritual that called for the sacrifice of innocents whose blood would focus on seven Propinqui of pure Roman virtue upon the seven hills of Rome and in so doing create a barrier against the enemy for as long as the Propinqui remained virtuous.

The coterie pondered the meanings of the rituals and Julia Tertia advised them that she could not offer clarification on the key points as the dialect was no longer used and lacking context she would be merely offering conjecture. She wished them luck and added if they were successful they would be remembered as the saviors of Rome and the Necropolis.
Left to their own conference, Titius concluded that they would need 40 children and find 7 of the most human vampires they could find, and L. knew just how to go about it.

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In search of...
Ritual Tablets are discovered

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With the Necropolis having settled into normalcy the coterie began to utilize their resources to look into the wards of the city and its ancient protections. A. tapped her web, D utilized his wealth, and L went to the libraries. They were able to uncover ancient myths that suggested that there was a ritual that was conducted at the founding that would protect the Necropolis from the enemy for 1,000 years. They searched and searched until they found a possible location. It was believed that it was being hidden and protected outside of the city proper in the unlikeliest place.

They travelled outside of Rome and crossed the Tiber River to the Vaticanus hill where a small temple devoted to the follower of Christ, Petras was located. There they found an old man who welcomed them after they assured they were not there to plunder and cause grief. It was an uncomfortable entry for most of them but the source of this unknown. They inquired of the man if he was aware of anything that might connect the object they were looking for. He did admit that there was a legend that a visitor arrived at the founding of the temple and requested they keep a tablet safe for all of eternity that the safety of Rome required it.

After searching the coterie determined to check under the alter and proceed to dig into the floor and foundation uncovering a tomb. There they found a crucified body wrapped up in burial shrouds, but underneath were two stone tablets with worn writing in a language unfamiliar to the coterie. They restored the body and tomb to its previous condition and thanked the man leaving the temple in peace.

With the tablets in tow they returned to Rome and solicited the aid of their elders in the hopes of deciphering the tablets and the rituals. It turned out their ally Julia Tertia Commitor was familiar enough with the language to work on a translation.

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The Death of Marcus Corbollo
Vengenace achieved

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D. and A. spread word amongst their allies and contacts that a Julii is vulnerable and to pass word out in the hopes the Stryx would catch wind and seek Marcus Corbollo out. After several nights the coterie placed themselves in position to watch over him and have guards to drive him to a nearby exit and out into the open. One night he was coming home nervous and fearful as if he was being stalked. A. hid in a nearby tunnel that gave her full view of him and the exit. Then she felt a cold breeze past her as she watched a mercenary emerge his fangs bared and eyes wide as he hissed “Julliiiiiii, Marcus of the Juliiiii”

With this Marcus moved to flee down the tunnels but G and L emerged to block his escape. With no other choice he turned and raced out of the Necropolis, with the Stryx in pursuit. The coterie and their file pursued and attacked the Stryx. Many of the guards fell before the Stryx seemed to go down with Marcus screaming for a nearby alcove.

A black smoke emerged from the mercenaries mouth and flew and poured itself into Marcus. He then turned on the coterie with his yellow eyes. L. and G. led the fight only to have the Stryx summon assistance raising the dead guards to engage the others of the coterie. The fight turned in the coteries favor once again but they were unsure how to prevent the Stryx from escaping again. Then the Stryx summoned G’s wife, L family, Brockus who all approached and sought to attack the coterie. They were clearly under control as their eyes lacked the yellow color of Stryx possession. Finally in an act of desperation L. or G. plunged a lit torch down Marcus’s mouth. It howled in pain as they proceeded to turn him to ash with their torches. Once that occurred whatever foul power possessing the ghouls of the other coterie mates was released.

They returned to the Necropolis as heroes with increased prestige for having defeated the enemy. They spread the word that the Stryx were vulnerable to fire. Yet they did not sit on their laurels and instead began to wonder how they could restore the wards and protections to the Necropolis and Rome itself. For surely there would be more that would return and threaten Rome.

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The Hunt - Stryx

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After the initial encounter with the Stryx the coterie rounded up support and reports to analyze the potential pattern. It became clear that the entrances of the Necropolis that had been targeted also coincided with a series of linked Aqueducts. Troops were gathered to these aqueducts to block entry and gate them up to prevent entry. As they solidified the gates, L. discovered one of the previous gates had been tampered with and would have allowed entry. He determined that Victrix had done the deed and confronted her. She claimed it was on orders from another centurion, she had assumed he wished to direct the Stryx to a certain path so they could ambush and kill it. After examining her eyes and those of the others in the file she was released. The Stryx had attempted to foil their plot but had been caught. They double checked the other grates and discovered two others had been tampered with.

The patrols were increased and guards placed at the Entrances. The game of cat and mouse increased as a few vampires had turned up dust or without memory at the edges of the necropolis in the domains of the peregrine collegia. Reviewing their actions they determined that they would need to lure the Stryx out and ambush it. If only there was a member of the Julli so disgraced that he was relegated to the Perigrine Collegia, without protection or guards. It is said at that meeting that with that suggestion all five members of the coterie smiled with viciousness as a single name escaped their collective lips, Marcus Corbollo.
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Signs of the Times

Things had become unsteady in Rome and it was affecting the Necropolis as well. Disease was rampant affecting many parts of the city. A flood of Theban vampires had arrived seeking to make their homes in the city, many of them professing a faith in the Christian god. Dinius adjudicated fairly and ensured that the situation remained calm and orderly. Linius convinced the others of the need to guide and direct the Emperor. If they could direct him towards cementing a stable empire then they could end the current crisis.

A fire erupted along the river banks and affected the poor and diseased. Some declared it a cleansing fire what is known is that it was fought and controlled, the city did not descend into chaos and riots. In the Necropolis, there were more sinister rumors. That the ancient enemy had returned. Was it possible? Could the Necropolis be breached? Reports of sightings of plagued individuals pocking and prodding at the entrance to the Necropolis.

The coterie rallied together and with a file in tow under formal command of G. they patrolled the entrances till they found a target. The body was leprous with black boils but as it turned to face the coterie it’s eyes were bright golden yellow. They skirmished form the creature but it managed to escape jumping from body to body eluding their pursuit.

Victirx
Helividous
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Summoned to the Senate
The expert skills of Dinius

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Magnus Julius Sevilitium brought the charges to bear against the coterie. They had engaged in an illegal trade war that threatened the welfare of the Emperor and the Empire and therefore they should be sentenced to death for this heinous crime. D. countered that they were merely protecting their interests and it was Marcus Corbollo who had engaged and started the whole affair. Linius and Giaus arrived with accolades from Alexandria and surely such decorated soldiers could not possibly do anything to hurt Rome. The Julli in attendance were swayed by these convincing arguments, and then Dinius feeling the momentum shift in his favor did suggest and accuse that Corbolo had acted with Magnus’s direction and if anything he was a threat to Rome. Magnus’s face twisted in fury and he lunged at his opponents. Guards intervened and subdued him, and placed him under custody. The guilt was plain for all to see, it was his own machination and not that of the coterie that was responsible for the instability. For this only the maximum penalty could be exacted, Magnus was to be placed on the “alter of black” and left to be consumed by the enemy or the sun. The coterie was given the honor to stay guard and ensure the punishment was met.

Much of Magnu’s assets were forfeited and the coterie were quick to make claim to much of them. Corbollo for his own matters was cast out of the Senux and sentenced to the Perigrine Collegia. The coterie were undisputed masters of the Necropolis at this time. Gaius and Linious were now leading and training Legionares under their care. Aylith was cementing her web of contacts and information networks. She even found a pupil, Julia Sabina to nurture and develop. Dinius improved his mercantile and slave interests while also ascending to Questar and the prestigious power of assigning feeding rights. Titus devoted himself to the gods and a reputation of unfailing auguries. It was a time of great prosperity for the coterie.

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215-230 The Return to Rome
Third Century Crisis

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The coterie had increased status in Alexandria and those of us in Rome were content to leave things alone. Yet we should of realized that leaving such potent coterie members in the bread basket of the Empire would only lead to trouble. A. commandeered the Jewish pirates and directed them at Corbolo’s and his patrons interests. G. utilized mercenaries to attack convoys and threaten the trade routes into and out of Alexandria. T. engaged in trade purchasing goods and then hording them in Alexandria depriving them from Rome itself. Linius offered protection to various trading convoys at ever increasing prices and when they didn’t pay he would attack them. D. would often offer seemingly competing mercenary action or goods that had been horded by T at outrageously high prices that merchants were desperate enough to pay.

It was economic warfare never before seen and in time it drew the ire and attention of Rome. The coterie was summoned for its crimes against the Empire, for threatening its instability through there petty antics. They had one month to arrive in Rome and stand trial before the Senux!

The coterie decided and took a more circuitous route to arrive back in Rome. They made many stops to feed and avoid the calamity of their exile in Alexandria. Finally with but a few days to prepare for their trial they arrived in Rome. The plan was simple they would shift the blame to Corbollo and drive a wedge between him and his patron. With luck he would be found guilty of their crime. Patronless and powerless they could strike at him with impunity.

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