Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
This ancient Ventrue was a favoured childe of Antonius the Gaul. A kingmaker of sorts, she served as Chamberlain, Quaestor and later Caesar Magister before her destruction in AD 1001.
It is said that the Lady of Blood was a shapely, sensuous patrician in the prime of her beauty. Her eyes were of a curious amber hue, full of secret knowledge and power. She had a preference for wearing her hair loose in private but elaborately bound when appearing before court. Her allure was predatory, fey and inhuman. Indeed, the tales have it that she never really adopted Christianity, and enjoyed being worshipped as a blood-goddess by her herd. Her taste in dress was alternatively royal and immodest. Septima Dominica had a great fondness for her own image, and her vanity saw it reproduced in countless mosaics and icons, including this one, which is mistakenly believed to be a likeness of Empress Theodora.
(The following is an expansion of the material provided in Constantinople by Night, p. 29)
Antonius’ first Roman childe was an ambitious senator’s wife named Septima Dominica. In the patriarchal Roman world, she learned to use her husband as a front, became a powerful force in the capital, and was admired by Antonius for her style and ambition cleverly excercised. He elected to bring her across in 34 BC, just as his inexperience regarding the subtleties of Roman politics became a clear liability that was quickly being exploited by his rivals. As a vampire, Septima found the strictures on her power less confining than before and became a skilled politician among the Ventrue of Rome. Her activities in the Eternal Senate, particularly during the middle years of the Principate, are well documented by the Cainite histories. Her debates with Julia Antasia in the Nerva-Antonine period during the 2nd century were recorded for posterity and are still studied by Ventrue rhetoricians.
Even as she became an elder in her own right, with considerable status and holdings, Septima chose to remain close to Antonius. She loyally advised him as she had her mortal husband, gaining great power for herself and ultimately accompanying he and his lovers to Constantinople. In the early years, as the family system was being developed, she served her sire as camerārius (chamberlain) and later also as quaesitor (judge) for a considerable interval. Her skill in courtly matters was such that while Antonius was responsible for overseeing the growth of the Eastern Empire, Septima was responsible for developing the nuances of imperial politics. Indeed, some have argued (albeit well after the fact) that it was her own willful, sensuous, and conniving nature that caused Byzantine politics to become so treacherous.
In later centuries, her relationship with her sire would sour. Septima was a proud vampire of the old school, holding lavish blood feasts and relishing in the dread and awe she inspired among the kine. She maintained extensive mortal herds and made little attempt to hide her predatory nature. As Antonius the Gaul developed his reactionary iconoclast philosophies, he drove his eldest childe away, insisting instead that she reduce her supernatural profile, limit her orgiastic blood cults, destroy the icons and mosaics depicting her as various empresses and saints, and exercise her power strictly from the shadows. Septima felt betrayed and isolated by his dogged refusal to listen to counter-argument or exception, and while she took pains to maintain public good faith, it was clear to her that his time had come. With Caius, she plotted his destruction and during the Fourth Council, it was her arguments that convinced Michael and the The Dracon to acknowledge the need for his Final Death.
In AD 796, Septima was an active participant in Antonius’ murder, leading her sire into the ambush that allowed Caius to stake him. Legend (probably apocryphal) among the Antonians has it that as her sire awaited the dawn, paralyzed by the stake that transfixed his heart and others fled before his impotent rage, Septima merely leaned in and apologetically uttered the phrase: “Dulce et decorum est mori pro Somnio.” Her twisted quote from Horace, misheard by some as a decorous epitaph, informed Antonius that his lovers had signed off on his execution, thus ensuring his complete and abject despair as the sun rose. Her vengeance for his ingratitude complete, Septima Dominica then swept from the courtyard without a backward glance. The Ventrue courts of the West were awash with the crowing jest that Antonius the Gaul, the great traitor to the dream that was Rome, left the world with a stake through his heart and the daggers of his most beloved in his back…
Centuries older, wiser and undeniably more experienced, the Lady of Blood gracefully took the role of beta to Caius as he assumed the role of basileus. In truth, however, she was merely fulfilling the same role that she had played so well for centuries — that of the kingmaker. In the years to come, Septima took on the role of caesar magister, serving as Caius’ advisor and, later, the de facto ruler of the Antonians as the basileus subsided into melancholy. It is lost on few that these were among the greatest years of the temporal power of the Dream of Constantinople. The Macedonian dynasty, overseen by her loyal childe Ducas, saw the empire expand to its greatest and most prosperous extent, and the Trinity families and their Scions experienced a period of keen cooperation, even as Michael gradually succumbed to delusion and the The Dracon to seclusion.
Alas, the halcyon nights of Septimina Dominica’s secret rule could not last, for she did not understand that the nights of the lords and ladies of blood were over. She never did do much to curtail her public behaviour, revelling in her vampirism and her poorly veiled self-worship as a blood goddess, and ultimately her ego would be her undoing. In AD 1001 a company of witch-hunters, strong in the True Faith, penetrated the defences of her palatial haven in Arcadius. They slew her attendants, staked the Lady of Blood, and burned the palace to the ground around her.
It is ironic that her great pawn, Caius, would meet a similarly ignominious fate at the hands of mortal crusaders two centuries later.
Embrace: 34 BC.
Final Death: AD 100.