Yet, after this so damn’d, and black a deed
Two houses on their fate have now agreed,
That by their future wiles, still void of shame,
They’ll put their enemies hence to the flame.
—Ovid, The Metamorphoses
Gaius requests an audience with both Sabina and Comitor, to present Lucius and request that he be given ranking in the Senex. Sabina receives him graciously, as befits a patron. Comitor joins the gathering late, seeming a bit flustered but quickly regaining her regal equanimity. She gives no explanation for her distraction, and everyone is too polite (or too afraid of the consequences) to enquire.
The two agree that Lucius will make a good addition to the Senex, particularly as the body’s ranks are diminishing rather alarmingly. Sabina notes that this is not uncommon—when times are troubled, some Propinquii step up and face the challenges head-on, but far too many choose to slip into torpor and wait out the difficult times, or perhaps decide on a long visit to properties in Byzantium or Alexandria. Even Persia is not off-limits now that the emperor has apparently taken one of the Daeva as his favored consort. She is said to be capricious and cruel, as is the way of the Daeva, but welcoming to all who bring gossip of Rome, the more scandalous the better.
Sabina notes sadly that in particular the Julii seem to be slipping away, but assures Gaius that neither she nor Comitor have any plans to exit the scene along with their clan. Comitor, airily agrees, and then precipitously declares the meeting over, saying she has pressing matters to attend to in her chambers. Sabina almost seems to roll her eyes at this, but is too politic to comment further.
• • •
Later, as the group passes through the Necropolis, they see something unexpected—a group of the Sanctified, apparently led by Rhetrix, approaching Bassianus’s receiving rooms. They decide to trail them, in case trouble is afoot. They approach cautiously, and Gaius pauses in the entranceway. Bassianus meets his gaze and gestures him in, saying, “Ah, I may as well have my legate here, I have nothing to hide.” It is clear that something momentous is about to take place, and Lucius, trained by Nasso in the subtleties of politics, turns to Gaius and asks, “Is this a parley of some sort?”. Before the elder of the Marii can answer, the meeting is disturbed by shouted curses from the hallway. The group turns and finds themselves assaulted by angry members of the Collegia, barbarian Gangrel shouting about treason and treachery.
As the Legio and the War Crow himself rise to do battle, the Sanctified faction vanishes beneath a supernatural cloak of invisibility. The coterie beat the invaders back, driving several into torpor. In the aftermath of this disturbance, Gaius confronts the War Crow, and demands to know what is happening. The old warrior simply gazes levelly at him, and says, “I have seen a thousand battlefields. I have seen gods rise and fall, and be forgotten. I care not for any god or any master, I care for order. And if I must throw in with the latest shiny idol to stave back the forces of chaos, I consider it a small price to pay. The darkness is coming, boy, and we need all the help we can to hold it back.”
All is silent save the far-off cry of an angry owl.