Shadow of a Horned God

Shadow of a Horned God, Part III, Act II, Session XII

The Final Twitching Movement of Paganism

The dust settles around the ruins of Calleva. Octavius and Hector stands over the staked body of Eldric, watching as the defeated remnants of their foes surrender. From their midst approaches three Cainites. The first one to surrender is Sextius Flavius Trebia, the famous strategist working for Rowena. He offers the remaining soldiers to Octavius as his spoils, and himself as a prisoner, at least until the fate of Rowena has been confirmed. A confident believer in his Via, he refuses to swear any oath which would make him break his previous ones, unless presented with some kind of proof of Octavius accusations against Rowena (for example, her in fact being Lucilla). Castor arrives during the meeting, curious of the actions of their enemies.

The other two are the young Warlords Caratacos and Hildegard. They both submit to the will of victor. Caratacos explains when asked that he followed the will of his Prince, the now destroyed Hefaistios, but still regrets his actions as he never viewed Octavius or his followers as his enemies. Hildegard begs for mercy, and explains her reasons for siding with the enemy; She has had secret relations with Caratacos for several years, and wanted to be by his side, especially during these dark times when one has to guard her allies closely. Hector, quite unsurprisingly expresses his opinions of destroying their enemies, but doesn’t oppose the will of Octavius as he demands the Blood Oath from them in return for his “forgiveness”. Castor is also quite reluctant of trusting them, especially Hildegard whom he views as a cowardly traitor. After swearing their oaths, Octavius sends them back to Verulamium where they will oversee the city’s governance until the awakening of Servilius the Younger.

Gaius stands on the south side of the ruins and cautiously awaits the approaching strangers from the west. As the newcomers see that the fighting has ended they slow their pace, and the leader figure approaches alone. He is a tall, muscular man of Saxon stock, and introduces himself after a brief conversation as Aethelwulf, and came here to find Eldric. After being convinced that the man isn’t an enemy for the time being, Gaius takes him to Octavius, bringing with him the staked body of Godwin, the childe of Eldric. Octavius recognizes Aethelwulf as the childe of his old ally, Caius Tadius Lupus, and they talk for a little while. The young Animal informs them that he has been influencing the West Saxon King Ceolwulf, and that he was heading towards the capital Wintanceaster (Venta Belgarum) when he heard that Eldric was in the area. He hoped to find him here to avenge his sire, but apparently arrived a little late. As a staunch believer in the Cult of Mithras, he immediately recognizes his superior and offers to remain his ally in the area.

As the question of Rowena resurfaces, Castor offers to help them in locating her. They assemble in his wagon, where he performs the Pool of Secrets ritual, and the bowl of water changes to show the astonishingly beautiful Rowena, residing in a place which they eventually manage to locate as the Fort Anderida. When Hector scry her moments later, he manages to pierce her well-crafted illusion and see the true face of Lucilla, as she writes a letter. He tries to read her mind but only manages to catch a glimpse of the recipient of the letter, someone she views as a monster. As he tells this to the others, and Octavius agrees to swear on the truthfulness of his associate, Trebia declares his oath to “Rowena” illegal and accepts the offer of serving Octavius as an ally.

Before continuing their journey, the issues with Eldric and Godwin need to be resolved. Octavius, Gaius and Hector take them into the forest outside the ruins, where they first remove the stake of Eldric. After first healing his wounds, he rises to talk to his “captors”. Octavius immediately informs him of his choices; the first to immediately leave the island, never to return. The other is to journey north, into the Kingdom of Bernicia, where he may battle as he sees fit against the Savages of the area. The third option is immediate destruction, here and now. After a short conversation without much diplomacy from either side, Eldric agrees to journey north “for the time being”, as he puts it. He then leaves the area. The second issue is with Godwin, and he also manages to keep his Beast in check after the removal of the stake. He explains that he followed Eldric into battle in his position as a vassal to Rowena, rather than any real loyalty towards his sire. Also, he admits to underestimating his opponents, believing this was an easy chance to gain status and political leverage against other lords. When faced with the options, he reluctantly agrees to swear a Blood Oath to Octavius in return for his continued position as Prince of Anderida. As they will continue their journey south and probably arrive in Anderida eventually, Octavius orders him to travel with them.

The following weeks are rich with news. Their journey south is delayed by a night, as the Saxon and Jute armies clash south of Calleva. The victor is clearly the pagan elder brother Eadbald, who immediately declares Christianity as a false religion and propose a return to their original pagan ways. However, as his remaining armies are clearly diminished, the Jute overlordship ends and he return to the Kingdom of Kent. The ally of Aethelwald (the losing brother), King Ceolwulf of the West Saxons, is among the slain in the battle, sending the Kingdom into an insecure state since his eldest son and heir is the 13-year old Cynegil. Since Kingdoms of the South Saxons and East Saxons respectively are politically weak, the question arises as who will be declared Bretwalda after the great Aethelbert. Nervous whispers of King Aethelfrith of Bernicia are abound and seems plausible enough.

They visit the court of Prince Cletia of Venta Belgarum, who is very diplomatic in his correct and flamboyant ways. He theatrically mourns the death of Servilius and his own childe, Hefaistios, and also applauds the strength of Octavius’ coterie. He shows a great interest in Octavius plans to create some sort of council to unite the Cainites of Britannia, and offers to oversee the plans in the south, which Octavius welcomes. Vivia takes the opportunity to converse with the well-informed Cainite Elder, who shows great knowledge into the political affairs of mortals and vampires alike. She also completes the Blood Oath of the unsuspecting Caitiff Raul, engaging in “innocent” intimacies with him on a regular basis. Castor, growing ever weaker for each passing night, decides to investigate the whereabouts of his servant, Irena Szantovich. He finds out that she also suffers from the same weakness as he, which has greatly delayed her mission. After having sent Pernik to investigate the city of Dubris (after discovering that the real Rowena had awakened), he returns some nights later in the company of Kyrophastos, with an official truce from the real Prince of Dubris. After further meetings it’s sincerity is confirmed. The coterie also discover that Lucilla has left Anderida, probably due to the discovery of her lie. Her current whereabouts are unknown.

The coterie continues their travels through Anderida, where they successfully reclaim the fortress from Lucilla’s warriors, and discover that Godwin’s adviser, the Gangrel Anois, has been struck into Torpor. They don’t stay in the fort for long, instead continuing their travels after leaving Godwin to take care of his domain. They receive further news from across the country. Seeing the opportunity, the sons of King Saebert of the East Saxons, Seaxred and Saeward, murdered their father and seized control of the Kingdom for themselves. They support paganism and has so far banished the Bishop of Lundon, Mellitus, from the kingdom, forcing him to leave for Gaul. They have also burnt the church in Lundon (Londinium) and started persecutions of Christians across the country.

They eventually arrive in Durovernum, where Castor meets Irena and receives his necessary home soil. Enabling him to return to nightly affairs after a week of solitude. The coterie meets with Prince Arnulf, who shows great despair from the recent turn of events. Octavius and Hector also meet with Gilash, who also takes the present nights with some despair, but also shows a determination to repair what has broken. Gilash also talks with Octavius about clan affairs, but realize they should continue when things have settled. Before continuing towards Londinium (“where the answers lie”), the coterie visits Prince Rowena of Dubris, a meeting which doesn’t provide any real useful new information, as the Elder Artisan is reluctant to share any real insights into the Covenant of Death. Thus the coterie has no choice but to continue towards Londinium, where Act III will begin…

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Juniper

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