Shadow of a Horned God
This is a short history of Britannia, which serves both as a prelude to the chronicle, setting the basic mood and “feel” of the story, as well as an external “view” of the chronicle, updated as the story moves forward. Note that this is a generalized, broad-perspective history. If you want details on certain events or persons, chech the Storyline or the Characters page.
To skip the Background history, jump directly to the next page
Until the 1st century AD, the island was more or less uncivilized. There has been records of human tribes settled on the island for thousands of years, but this is largely unimportant. The first supernatural forces on the island were the Lupines (although the Fair Folk might disagree), culling the population for bloody millenniums. Some records insist that vampires of Clan Gangrel arrived to the island a very long time ago, ancients warred with the Lupines during these ancient times, but proof of this is all but impossible to acquire. Indeed, if anyone was to find such an ancient cainite, there’s really no telling if the meeting would be pleasant, let alone informative.
The various Celtic tribes that settled on the island during the 5th and 4th century BC quickly became the predominant culture on the island, intermarrying and mixing with the local tribes to form a unique society based on pagan beliefs and druidism. To say “one people” is a wide exaggeration, because the peoples were divided into several tribes, such as the Cantiacci, Iceni, Trinovantes, for example (commonly referred to as “Britons”). Some of these tribes were friendly towards each other, uniting against common foes, but the majority were a fractious lot, constantly warring with each other.
In the years of 55/54 BC, the Roman general Julius Caesar made a minor invasion to the island, which in fact accomplished very little, but marked the island for the Empire as a possible future investment, because of various natural resources found on the island (mainly tin). This period is also agreed to as the first contact with the island for the southern (Roman) vampires whom traveled with the legions. These vampires, mainly young individuals of Clan Ventrue, Toreador and Malkavian, did in fact meet “native” vampires of the Gangrel, but since the Animals are not interested in legal issues or recording history, the Roman vampires declared “Britannia” as home to Roman cainites.
In fact, these early “invaders” had a harsh time surviving in the British wilds, constantly harassed by the local Lupine inhabitants and having a hard time adapting themselves to the life. Many vampires later left the island, admitting failure without their Roman population to back them up but a few stayed, opposing the natives with iron resolve and sheer persistence. Many of them died at the claws and fangs of Lupines, others succumbed to the feral ways of the local Animals but a few managed to create their own domains among the “barbaric” tribes. Their persistence would soon be rewarded.
The Roman Invasion
In AD 46, the Roman Emperor Claudius finally declared that Britannia would become a Roman province. Four legions crossed the English Channel into the lands of the Britons. The disorganized native defenders, who seldom united with each other, proved no match for the experienced, heavily armed Roman legionnaires. They quickly crushed resistance in the south, and even when faced with setbacks such as Boudica’s Revolt (an Iceni queen whose rebellion destroyed the Roman cities of Camulodunum, Londinium and Verulamium in AD 60), formed a Roman Government with the remaining Briton tribes submitting to Roman rule.
After establishing their presence in the southern parts of the country, the legions moved on to the North. Once again, vampires accompanied the legions. These young cainites (once again mainly Warlords, Artisans and Madmen) settled in the newly founded cities and sometimes found them already inhabited by older clanmates whom had settled there a century earlier. These vampires were once again faced with fierce resistance from Lupines, especially in the north, and their nights were filled with strife and infighting amongst themselves. All this changed in AD 71, when the most dominant individual in the history of cainite Britain arrived in the country. His name is Mithras.
An ancient already in these ancient times, Mithras left the boring intrigues and politicking of Rome and decided to carve out his own domain on the edge of the known world, this fledgling society known as Britannia. He was a true Warlord, reveled in battle and destroyed any opposition with determination, cunning and brute force. To the soldiers of the Roman Legions, he was the Persian Sun-God Mithras, who guided the sun across the firmament during the days and led his followers to victory during the nights. He had many followers in the legions, who met in secret temples to sacrifice bulls and partake in bloody rites to honor their war-god.
Mithras joined the legions in their conquest of the north, facing his Lupine adversaries without fear. As the Legions crushed the “kingdom” of Brigantes and continued to the savage lands of the Picts during daytime, Mithras and his cainite followers slew their Lupine protectors during nighttime. Legends claim he single-handedly slaughtered entire packs of werewolves and drank their blood. Truth or legend, the result was still the same; The werewolves retreated to the wilderness in the north, not troubling the vampires for at least three centuries. Mithras was now free to claim his domain in the Roman Capital city of Londinium, and exert his influence over mortal and cainite alike. No one dared to oppose him.
The legions eventually encountered even fiercer opposition in the north. Picts and Caledonians (savage celtic-era tribes) were used to fighting in the heavy forests and highlands of northern britain, and exerted a heavy toll on the legions. The Roman Emperor Hadrian finally decided the North to be “too savage to possess”, and ordered the construction of a great wall to protect the Roman lands from the savages. Of course this wasn’t the end, as further incursions in the north were made in fact (even to the point of building another wall further north), but in reality this area didn’t become “civilized”, in the Roman meaning of the word.
In the southern parts of the country things were different. The Roman era was a time of relative peace, and the foundation of several cities marked the height of civilization. Theaters were built, economy flourished and culture was peaked. This was a perfect time for vampires. Sitting safe in their cities, preying on the weak mortals and engaging in petty intrigues, the cainite population grew in numbers. At times when the decadence and crowded numbers were at it’s peak, the Prince of Londinium acted, culling the cainite population and removing the rotten parts, as a gardener weeding and pruning his creation.
Mithras established the Blood Laws, and formed a nightly power structure, with courts in each larger city who bowed to the Throne of Londinium. He appointed Satraps, agents who enforced his laws all over Britannia. Of course there was opposition, but the ancient vampire fiercely punished any attempts to damage his authority. Those who resisted were forced to leave, either across the channel to the continent or over the wall to the savage north. Those who refused were slain. Mithras held his influence over the mortal world through his cult, still heavily represented by soldiers and officers of the legions, although civilian representation grew steadily.
During this time, immigrants from other parts of the Empire arrived in Britannia. Immigrants from Greece, Hispania and Gaul settled as various issues (religion, for instance) made their homelands inhospitable. Slaves were imported from across the world and contributed to the genuine “Britannic” culture. Of course vampires accompanied these immigrants, and so members of Clan Lasombra, Brujah, Nosferatu, Clan Cappadocian and even Clan Salubri came to inhabit the island. Nights were really in the vampires favor.
Rise of the Barbarians
As the various barbaric nations grew in numbers on the borders of the Roman Empire, they became aware of their strengths and began encroaching on their civilized neighbors. Britannia was not an exemption. In the north were Picts and Caledonians, for centuries raiding the northern lands, only kept in check by the Roman Legions manning the walls. In the west was the untamed island of Hibernia, whose celtic inhabitants were fierce warriors such as the Gaels and the Scots. On the continent to the east there were several tribes who were aggressive, most notably the Angles and the Saxons. These peoples were not “pacified” by centuries of Roman rule and had their savage ways intact and thus became a serious threat to the Empire.
As the raiders became bolder the Empire created some countermeasures. In Britannia, several “Saxon Shore Forts” were constructed in the south and the east, protecting the lands from the barbarian pirates. Similiar fortifications were raised in other parts of the country, and proved useful to a certain degree. The Cainites of Britannia were largely unaware of this threat. Whether they were truly ignorant or underestimated their future foes is not important. The fact remains that the threat of a barbarian uprising was looming over their shoulders as they continued their politics, intrigues and infighting. Mithras was growing tired from the decadence and found even less energy to deal with the “defense” of his kingdom.
The Roman Empire had other problems as well. Religious issues following the rise of Christianity had divided the Empire into the Western (situated in Rome) and Eastern (situated in Constantinople) hemispheres in AD 395. The Western Empire faced major uprisings close to home, and the usurper general Constantine III led his legions from Britannia to Gaul in AD 407. This left the province of Britannia in a precarious position. Aside from a few “loyal” regiments of soldiers situated across the country, the entire civilization was exposed to the barbarian raiders waiting at the borders.
For the cainites of Britannia, this was somewhat of a shock. Even if a few had anticipated this turn of events, their warnings were largely ignored. The fact that it was the Warlord Lucius Varro, Mithras First Childe, that had orchestrated Constantine’s decision to leave Britannia, struck a serious blow to the authority Mithras wielded. Some of his previously loyal vassals began thinking twice about their lords abilities as a leader, but the wise ones kept their thoughts to themselves. Others grew desperate or mad, protecting their domains by unorthodox means. The real chock was yet to come.