718 BCE / XXXV Ann. Ab Urbe Condita
The air, at last, is still. A pall of eerie tranquility blankets the world as it always does in the wake of great clamour. Something has shifted. As eager citizens filtered into Asteria that morning, whispers and treasonous scheming bubbled in silence.
The gods mingled with mortals, unassuming in revelry as the Bacchanalia unfolded without incident. As the sun drew near its peak in the pale blue sky, though, a shadow enveloped the festival grounds. Out of the crowd stepped the shimmering harvest goddess Demeter, expressionless and cold. Her voice rumbled across Asteria, and the partygoers fell numb, frozen in place with puzzled anxiety.
The goddess, revealing a scheme long since laid, announced her prideful fury. Having seen the mortals thrive in their bustling cities and survive by the strength of their legions, Demeter wished to demonstrate the true, raw strength she had amassed in long hours tilling her wheat fields. Once the greatest and oldest ally of Rome, Demeter turned on her friends and worshippers. Invoking the fearsome warrior-gods Kratos and Leonidas to join her rash cause, her divine fury fell hard on the world of mortals. Festival-goers scattered in panic, screaming as the godly terror rained upon mortal cities. Some fled, some stood against Demeter in suicidal acts of defiance. An honourless few at the feet of the godly trio, seeking to cower behind its unassailable might. The army of terror descended upon Antioch, capital of Rome and home to many of Demeter’s own kin. As they began their assault, though, the earth vibrated beneath their feet, rising to a crescendo of shaking that would break any mortal’s spirit. From the waves on the shore, at last, emerged Poseidon, holding his trident aloft in challenge to his sister.
The sea-god bellowed with rage, calling for any friends of Rome to aid his defence, but it seemed the Empire’s greatest allies were steadfast in betrayal. Poseidon, joined only by a brave maiden warrior of Lothric, stood against the armies of Demeter and Kratos, but he was no match for the well-trained enemy. The fall of Antioch came swiftly; as a hurricane might ravish a forest, so too did the forces of Demeter rip through the city. Axe and sword tore through stone and clay, and the dread vandals poured over the walls to overwhelm Poseidon’s defence and slay the hero of Lothric.
Having taken the Roman capital, Demeter’s many-fronted offensive continued in kind on the borders of other mortal towns. Constantinople, quiet home of great industry, crumpled under godly might. Taking a brief reprieve from bloody conquest, Demeter and her cadre swarmed the god Poseidon. Seizing his trident, they bound the furious god in celestial bronze shackles. No earthquake nor tidal wave could free him; Poseidon, overwhelmed with the sting of defeat, went limp.
Thus began the reign of terror.
The mortals of Aeterna, once raucous in great numbers, were splintered; philosophical debates raged on in whispered fear, as they tried to reconcile with the evident futility of trust and community. Meanwhile, Demeter’s horde reveled in the day’s slaughter, having toppled thrones and littered streets with corpses. Rivers that once ran clear were clouded with the red and gold of blood and ichor, and the sea god was helpless to clean them.
So sang Melpomene, who by now had grown weary of drafting new laments. As lethargic citizens shuffled into Asteria and Ogygia to take refuge, the world grew ever darker; little hope remained of the sun rising to disperse the long, cold night.
Ubi concordia, ibi victoria.