Fiat Lux—A Patron (And An Antagonist) for the Cthulhu Invictus Setting

“I tell you the truth that you don’t want to hear. She tells you the truth that you shouldn’t want to hear. And when the Second Dawn comes, The Son of the Bull will tell you the truth that you can’t imagine, the truth that people only dream of during a Golden Age.”

Lucius Gaius, High Priest of Fiat Lux.

Overview: Fringe sects and splinter religious movements were constantly cropping up in Classical-era Rome, originating from all corners of the Empire. Within the state-recognized system of pietas, or religious loyalty, there was a fair amount of room for experimentation. These sects often portrayed themselves as a new aspect or newly enlightened understanding of an old, familiar god. As long as they did not directly challenge the established order or make powerful enemies, during much of the Roman era these “reinterpretations” of recognized religions were generally tolerated.

By way of example, the persecution of Christianity in Late Antiquity came about in large part because it was seen as challenging the system, as opposed to working within it. And even then, it was the more outspoken Christians—those seen as subversive loudmouths—that received most of the persecution. And even then, it was Emperor Nero who started things—and he was hardly a model of tolerance or sanity. And his motive, many historians agree, was purely political—seizing upon a poorly understood scapegoat group to blame for the burning of Rome in 64 A.D. Prior to that, even this messianic Jewish sect–while suspected of disloyalty and poorly understood—operated freely in Rome, expected only to pay a tax imposed on all Jewish sects.

The cult of Fiat Lux operates openly, in Rome itself, and can be set at any time in the first century A.D. forward. Fiat Lux presents itself as a splinter cult, a more enlightened understanding of one of the mainstream Roman religions; in this case, as a messianic sect of syncretic Mithraism. The sect is led by a breakaway “High Priest” who goes by the street name of Lucius Gaius, with a core inner circle of adherents who are expatriates from Chaldea. They emphasize pursuit of “the Truth” and “finding a path to the Light”; practice divination and soothsaying for profit; and constantly predict (with variously shifting dates when one comes and goes without anything happening) the return of The Son of the Bull, “The Truest Light.”

However, this is the nicest cult that you will ever meet. The day-to-day operations of their mithraeum are socially conscious: reaching out to the poor and homeless, helping those in need, and generally looking out for the best interests of humanity. The house father, Gaius Serullus, even serves as an honest patron to nosy occult “problem solvers”. Gaius (like 95% of the cult members) is oblivious to any potential threat posed by the inner circle of the cult. For that matter, the inner circle of the cult does not even consider itself dangerous.

Trappings and Variants: Many of the trappings of Fiat Lux resemble those of syncretic Mithraism/Sol Invictus practice (see the Cthulhu Invictus sourcebook for some details), but with noteworthy embellishments. One of the central features of syncretic Mithraism is the mithraeum, smallish temples, featuring a highly symbolic representation of the universe comprised of a mish-mash of mystical symbols from a variety of Near East traditions. It is a mystery religion, normally with seven degrees of initiation and banqueting amid the representation of the mysteries as the central activities. Basically, it is the church parish hall (complete with post-service lunch) and chapel all in one room.

A normal mithraeum is a chamber constructed to look like a cavern, painted blue to resemble the night sky. A bas-relief sculpture of Mithras, the godhead in the guise of a hunter, is slaughtering a bull. He wears a cloak and a pointed “Persian” hat. He kneels on the back of the bull with his left knee, pulls its head back with his left hand, and uses his right hand to stab the bull with his blade. The end of the bull’s tail is depicted as an ear of wheat. A scorpion is attacking the bull’s testicles, while a dog and a snake drink the blood about to drip from the bull’s neck wound. A raven flies above the scene. Above and to the right is the sun, with the moon on the left. Cautes (a male human statue) stands to the right with a raised torch; another (Cautopates) stands to the left with a lowered torch. In some depictions, a lion and a cup are also depicted beneath the bull. The seven planets known to the Romans (including the Sun and the Moon as planets) are also often included. All of these elements correspond to bodies in the night sky, including the tropical (traditional, 12 sign) zodiac, and major constellations between that zodiacal band and the horizon, as visible in the Mediterranean area in the first century A.D.

Separately, and sometimes but not necessarily any part of a syncretic Mithraist practice, was the practice of astrology (divination through the position of the stars and heavenly bodies). Called “Chaldean wisdom” by the Romans for its origin in Chaldea (Babylonia), this was a form of divination that was pooh-poohed by the Roman establishment. Only certain constellations and stars (those visible to the naked eye) were known in the Roman era, however, so the number of bodies being “analyzed” was necessarily limited.

In regard to astrological practice in the Roman era, it is important to distinguish between the tropical zodiac which most people are familiar with, and the sidereal zodiac. The tropical zodiac tracks the movement of the sun along the elliptical, through major constellations, but is arbitrarily divided into 12 equal, 30 degree segments for divinatory purposes. In point of fact, the sun’s movement along the ellipsis is not even at all in this sense; it spends widely divergent amounts of time moving through each of the 12 major constellations, and 12 does not count all of the constellations that it moves through.

Hindu astrology, by contrast, is sidereal: it is based on actual sun transit times through each constellation, and includes a thirteenth significant constellation, Ophiuchus. Ophiuchus, lying between Scorpio and Sagittarius in the fall sky, is traditionally depicted as a serpent-legged man. In addition, sidereal zodiacal systems include numerous minor constellations and para-zodiacal signs, several of which appear in the typical mithraeum display. These include Orion, Perseus, Auriga, Andromeda, Aquila, Hydra, and Corvus.

The more visible Fiat Lux trappings follow the standard trappings of syncretic Mithraism, with a few important differences. First, whereas Mithraism is inclusive and popular (any reputable person can join and be initiated into at least the first, fellowship level of the mysteries), Fiat Lux does not accept all comers. Only those who are approved by Lucius Gaius are allowed, and his process for evaluating potential members is not at all transparent.

Second, there are only two known levels of initiation. Most rank and file followers are merely fellows; they are allowed into the cult’s (relatively public) mithraeum, located in a seedy neighborhood in Rome. There is nothing incriminating there, other than the fact that there are some deviations in the traditional tauroctony display. It is a sort of members-only community hall, where initiates (selected by Lucius Gaius for their atypical neurological makeup, malleability, and occasionally for their political usefulness) hang out. Lucius Gaius and the White Sibyl are rarely if ever there, nor are their blind Chaldean guards. Gaius Serullus runs the mithraeum, acting as a combination priest, community organizer, and soup kitchen proprietor. Most rank and file members who are not seemingly “touched by the gods” in some way tend to be down on their luck former legionaries, in need of an occasional roof and hot meal. Both provide fertile grounds for rumors of strange goings on, and Gaius will occasionally even hire people to address worrisome “prophecies” passed down from Fiat Lux’s inner circle.

Third, no one is ever admitted to the cult’s second level of initiation. The rank and file (which includes Gaius Serullus) know that one exists, but no one has any idea what one has to do to gain admittance. No one other than Lucius Gaius and the White Sibyl, and presumably the blind Chaldeans they are sometimes seen with, are even suspected to be initiates. And indeed, there are not any “second level initiates”; it is just something they tell the rank and file to further provide a sense of normalcy. The rank and file are told that their advancement must be prophesized, and no one’s ever has been.

Fourth, the tauroctony at the mithraeum displays a few differences from the standard one described above. It is possible that even non-initiates might bluff or sneak their way into the mithraeum and have a look at it, or get one of the initiates to spill some (not particularly secret) beans. The chief difference is that the sacred bull is a sacred cow, from which it is said the Son of the Bull shall be reborn. To all but the inner circle, that is all they know, and it is easily attributable to an added, syncretic belief. The backdrop depiction of the universe, in addition, is much more detailed than the typical one. There are stars and constellations unknown to Roman times depicted in their proper places, including Uranus, Neptune, Pluto (with a moon), various minor planetoids, and a few still not known to man today.

Whereas the standard mithraeum is a smallish, “men only” supper clubs, popular with the military, Fiat Lux’s mithraeum is more of a members-only soup kitchen. The addled people it attracts, both men and women, use it as a place to crash and hang out; the homeless and beggars among them set themselves up nearby. The loopy soothsayers and bipolar rich kids within its orbit pay for its upkeep without complaint. Everyone is calmer than they would otherwise be for belonging, however. They might explain this as having clarity and a sense of purpose.

And finally, the cult is openly, keenly interested in astrology, including using it for divinatory purposes. Members of the cult search far and wide to improve their ability to discern the truth, predict the future and improve their star charts. In recent years, they have become noted as the go to group for a thorny divination request, particularly their lead soothsayer, the White Sibyl. They have earned the jealousy of the mainstream Roman Apollo cult, but their soothsaying is so distressingly accurate (if ambiguous and cryptic) that they have gained the patronage of a number of powerful people, thwarting any moves to purge them from society. At least so far.

Gaius Serullus, Priest of Fiat Lux
Nationality: Roman
STR: 65
DEX: 65
INT: 65
CON: 65
APP: 60
POW: 60
SIZ: 65
EDU: 06
SAN: 60
Luck: 60
Hits: 13
Age: 44
Damage Bonus: +1d4.
Build: 1
Move: 8
Education: Minimal; retired legionary from a lower-class background.
Skills: Bargain 50%, Civics 50%, Cook Soup 50%, Fast Talk 55%, First Aid 50%, Insight 60%, Listen 50%, Natural World 50%; Navigate 25%; Occult 30%; Own Kingdom (Rome) 50%, Own Language (Latin) 50%, Persuade 50%, Pilot Boat 25%, Science (Augury) 30%, Science (Astrology) 30%, Science (Philosophy/Religion) 40%, Spot Hidden 50%, Status 40%, Swim 25%, Write Language (Latin) 25%.
Spells: None.
Weapons: Large Knife; 70%; 1d6 +DB; impales; short length; 20 HP.
Dogma: According to the cult’s dogma, known only to initiates, The Son of the Bull shall come again when people understand and embrace the truth, cast aside the clouds over their eyes, and embrace both science and magic to advance the world. They predict that The Son of the Bull shall be conceived again on a June 19 th (the end of the sun’s sidereal transit through the constellation Taurus), upon one of noble birth, as “science and magic converge”. The Son will then be born the following May 14 th (as the sun begins its transit through Taurus again), heralding a new age. What year this will occur is a central topic of debate, and several estimated dates have come and gone with no messianic arrival.

Unknown to anyone but the inner circle of Lucius Gaius, the White Sibyl, and their blind guards, Lucius is secretly, and slowly, building a great device, a hollow cow idol they call the Artifice, to permit the rebirth of their messiah.

Every June 19th , the entire cult reenacts the tauroctony in a highly ritualized celebration which has scarcely troubled the Roman authorities: just one more harmless public religious festival, conducted in the open. A woman dresses up in a cow suit, and amongst a great frenzy of singing and dancing and polished bronze shields focusing the sunlight, pretends to have sex with a man in a white hunter suit, and then is theatrically “killed” (not really). Divinations conducted within sight of this ritual have become renowned for their accuracy and insight. Syncretic Mithraists in Rome are well aware that this is not an orthodox representation of the tauroctony (usually, the “sacred cow” is a “sacred bull”, and it is simply killed, not copulated with and then killed), but as proponents of a syncretic religion themselves, they are not particularly offended by this variant.
This coming June 19 th , however, the Artifice will be ready, and (so the dogma goes) the Son of the Bull shall be conceived anew.

Only Lucius Gaius of a certainty knows anything close to the whole truth, and even he does not truly understand. The Artifice will rend the veils between dimensions. Everyone will know the Truth when the Son of the Bull is reborn, but they will not care for it. And The Son of the Bull, purest Knowledge shaped by the human understanding of its perceivers, will be focused by the Artifice into its fleshly host and be born upon the earth, spreading insight into the True Nature of the universe. Everyone else in the cult is in for a big surprise. Lucius himself would not recognize the name “Daoloth” if you said it to him; he simply has had a grand revelation about the true nature of Mithras and the workings of the gods, and thinks himself divinely inspired.

The White Sibyl may have an idea, as well, but whether she even exists is debatable, and if she does, she certainly does not care what Lucius Gaius is up to. The rest of the cult members are either innocents who just like the message, or Chaldean religious madmen who think that they are defending their culture and traditions, without really understanding the Mythos nature of The Son of the Bull at all.

Lucius Gaius: Lucius toiled away as a solid but unspectacular middling priest of the state-sanctioned cult of Apollo in Rome until five years ago. His career had topped out, and he was having a mid-life crisis, edging into a nervous breakdown. Needing a break from Rome, and determined to find something to set himself apart, Lucius took a trip to his childhood home in Chaldea (Babylonia). What happened there is unknown; Lucius has occasionally made cryptic mentions of “the Lakonian shrine” and “turning to the left when such a turn should not have been possible.” Regardless, Lucius came back from Chaldea after a few months, obviously quite mad. His hair is long and unkempt; his eyes wild and staring; and he is only semi-organized. But there is a strange charisma to his madness, and he does not violently breach the peace. In this way, he is little different from any other psychotic but non-violent street preacher or roadside prophet littering some neighborhoods in Rome.

He was cast out of the mainstream Apollonian temple by the other priests upon his return, but magnetically draws followers from among the lost, the confused or those touched by madness, without having to try. They calm down, on the surface, when around him, and do as he asks.

Soon after his return to Rome, several dozen hardened men and women from Chaldea arrived, sworn to keep him safe and on his tasks. He had never met them, and yet seemed to expect them as well.

What separates Lucius Gaius from the rest of the delusional Roman street preachers is how disturbingly insightful he is. He does not conduct standard auguries—he leaves that for the White Sibyl—but he shows up at inopportune times and places, pronounces a doom on someone that always turns out to be true, or spills some embarrassing secret that he should have no way of knowing, and then leaves.

The patricians quickly figured out that those who treated Lucius and his adherents well did not need to worry about him popping up at a dinner party uninvited and ruining their lives, and so he quickly built a substantial, if involuntary, patronage. A few tried to assassinate him early on, of course, but his bodyguards proved surprisingly effective—almost prescient.

Lucius Gaius, High Priest of Fiat Lux
Nationality: Chaldean
STR: 50
DEX: 65
INT: 90
CON: 65
APP: 40
POW: 90
SIZ: 65
EDU: 70
SAN: 00
Luck: 90
Hits: 13
Age: 54
Damage Bonus: 0.
Build: 0
Move: 8
Education: Brought up in the mainstream priesthood of Apollo; eyes opened by Daoloth.
Skills: Art (Artifice/Tauroctony only) 100%, otherwise, 10%; Bargain 50%, Civics 50%, Cthulhu Mythos 05%, Fast Talk 35%, First Aid 50%, Insight 90%, Library Use 20%, Listen 90%, Medicine 20%, Natural World 50%; Navigate 25%; Occult 50%; Other Kingdom (Rome) 50%, Own Kingdom (Chaldea) 60%, Own Language (Chaldean) 70%, Other Language (Latin) 50%, Persuade 50%, Pilot Boat 25%, Repair/Devise (Artifice only) 100%, otherwise, 30%, Science (Augury) 90%, Science (Astrology) 90%, Science (Philosophy/Religion) 50%, Spot Hidden 90%, Status (Infamy) 40%, Swim 25%, Write Language (Chaldean) 50%, Write Language (Latin) 50%.
Spells: Ariadne’s Twine, Augur, Bless Blade, Enthrall Victim, Flesh Ward, Heal, Mindblast.
Weapons: Large (enchanted) Knife; normally 20%, but 100% against anyone attempting to destroy the Artifice; 1d6; impales; short length; 20 HP.
Notes: Lucius has unnatural insights into the workings of the universe thanks to being illuminated by Daoloth. His work on the Artifice is inspired. He is producing a stunning masterpiece of techno-sorcerous craftsmanship to rend the veils, but ask him to fix the plumbing and he struggles. His Mindblast spell is a variant: blinding light strikes the victim from above. He only uses this in private, as a means of last resort. He always keeps himself Flesh Warded, unless expecting to need the magic points for something else.

No fewer than six holy bodyguards from Chaldea shadow him at all times, doing their best not to be obvious. These folks, including members of both genders, are known to the sect as The Sons (or Daughters) of the Second Dawn. They are fanatics who have devoted their lives to the Son of the Bull and his Second Dawn. They have put out one of their own eyes and replaced it with a cunningly wrought glass replica to minimize attention to this sacrifice. Nonetheless, their god tells them where they need to be, when they need to be there, and precisely where to swing their poisoned blades.

The Sons (or Daughters) of the Second Dawn
Nationality: Chaldean
STR: 75
DEX: 75
INT: 60
CON: 75
APP: 40
POW: 60
SIZ: 65
EDU: 40
SAN: 00
Luck: 60
Hits: 14
Age: 25 on average
Damage Bonus: +1d4.
Build: 1
Move: 9
Education: Religious fanatics with minimal formal education.
Skills: Cthulhu Mythos 05%, Insight 90%, Listen 90%, Natural World 50%, Occult 30%, Other Kingdom (Rome) 30%, Own Kingdom (Chaldea) 50%, Own Language (Chaldean) 40%, Other Language (Latin) 30%, Science (Augury) 30%, Science (Astrology) 30%, Science (Philosophy/Religion) 30%, Spot Hidden 30% (unless on a mission for their god, then 100%), Throw Poisoned Blade at Heretic 100%.
Spells: Ariadne’s Twine, Augur, Bless Blade.
Weapons: Large (enchanted) Knife; normally 35% (blind), but 100% when on a mission for their god or against anyone attempting to harm Lucius Gaius; 1d6 +DB; impales; short length; 20 HP. Blades are poisoned (first strike inflicts POT 50 poison with a one-minute onset and doing 1 damage per minute after onset. The venom causes incredible pain and temporary blindness until all damage is taken, if resistance roll is failed, starting at onset). They are equally adept at throwing their knives, often without even turning their heads in the direction of their target.

The White Sibyl: The White Sibyl is the yin to Lucius’ yang. He screams on street corners about the Second Dawn and shows up at fancy parties uninvited. She smiles silently and shows up at fancy parties with an invitation. He tells you the Truth whether you want to hear it or not. She performs oracles only for those who ask and pay her steep prices. He is in your face but direct; she is cryptic and her prophecies couched in riddles and innuendo. He is very real. Whether she is human, or even something more than a contagious meme, a hallucination, a harbinger of things to come, is debatable. She forecasts using astrology based on very advanced (and Mythos informed) star charts, as distasteful as that is to the typical Roman. He just knows things. He often gives reason to take offense; she is scrupulously polite. People follow him around; she just shows up at his side when things get interesting, or a big enough crowd gathers to listen to him.

She seems to be young, maybe 25, but strikes people as a very old soul. She dresses all in white and sits, alone with a mammoth, incredibly complex and detailed scroll/star chart, on streets where fortunes are told. (Although a number of the Sons of the Second Dawn are always hidden nearby, watching). Few dare to approach her; those who do take pains to hide their faces. She is not particularly beautiful, but she often somehow turns up in the bedchambers of people she has just met, mysterious and impossible to resist, only to vanish before morning. She seems strangely familiar to many, but she only appeared after Lucius returned to Rome in his enlightened state. Her Latin is flawless, yet she looks to be Greek, or perhaps from Scythia. No statistics are provided; those are for foes that can be fought, not those who can vanish unless your eyes are upon her. The truth is fleeting.

Reputation and Rumors: By the time of the Cthulhu Invictus setting, the cult of Apollo is a very mainstream, very politically-connected aspect of the official state religion. Its leaders are in charge of, for want of a better word, regulating the practice of divination. Normally they would not care one fig about a group of syncretic Mithraists, or even a messianic splinter cult of the religion.

Everyone loves Gaius Serullus. The authorities love him because he helps maintain order in a bad part of town. Investigators love him because he will hire them to look into threats and Mythos shenanigans, acting on “prophecies”, or help out some rich kid in need that he has cleaned up off of the streets. He does favors for people in exchange for donations to his mithraeum (or acts as a middleman, takes a small cut, and hires investigators to do those favors).

Lucius Gaius, however, is disrupting the status quo and challenging the cult of Apollo’s authority as the most important oracles. One might think that they would be mobilizing to squelch this renegade lunatic, politically or perhaps even violently. To be sure, the senior-most priests are not fans of Lucius Gaius or of the woman in white who uses magic and Eastern occultism to spew her riddles. And they would be happy to tell the investigators so—in private. If there are ears around, though, they prefer to change the subject.

If it were only Lucius Gaius, they would chalk him up to a midlife nervous breakdown, although he does have quite a following among the mentally unstable of Rome. His bodyguards are skilled, to be sure, but they could be dealt with in a determined strike. But the White Sibyl scares the hell out of them. Someone got a quick, sidelong look at her scroll/star chart, once, and they swore that it looked like a Sibylline Book. And they know that she has secret friends who owe her favors all throughout Rome.

In a neighborhood heavily composed of Chaldean expatriates, there is a cellar where Lucius Gaius sleeps (on the rare occasions that he does) and the Artifice is being secretly built. You don’t find Lucius if you want to join the cult; he finds you. However, someone operating under the guidance of an augury, or with an insane insight into the workings of the universe, might find Lucius Gaius’ basement if they just start walking, and just keep turning left, reversing at a dead end—even if there was no left turn there the previous day. Following such a person tends to be very difficult. The White Sibyl has no known (or findable) address, no matter what.

No one knows where the bulk of the cult’s donations and augury fees go, except for the inner circle. (Those that don’t go to the mithraeum, go to materials for the Artifice).

When the cult has a full-scale meeting, it happens like a flash mob: Lucius Gaius finds a street corner, starts shouting to the heavens, and people just seem to show up. When a big enough crowd gathers, the White Sibyl appears from around a corner, or out of the crowd, without anyone seeing her approach, and stands silently by Lucius Gaius as he raves.

Rumors that the White Sibyl somehow uses her mysterious nocturnal visits to patrons seeking a particularly difficult divination to prepare a special, sympathetic ritual are unsubstantiated.

The Artifice: The Artifice, when finished, is a beautiful sight to behold. It is a portable tauroctony scene, with a golden platform on silver wheels and a tent for the star-field backdrop, only with further differences from orthodoxy.

First, there is no figure for Mithras himself. This tauroctony is interactive, and someone will step in to the scene and play the role when it is time.

With respect to the sacred cow, there is likewise something a bit different than an ordinary cow suit. Instead, there is a generally egg-shaped chest, with a hinge along one side. It is sized to snugly close over and secure a human being on his or her hands and knees, head bowed. It is made mostly of white and pink marble, inlaid with silver wire in intricate, printed circuit-like patterns. The overall pattern of the wires picks out a vague cow shape. Precious stones and silver filigree pick out images and spell out what seem to be words in Babylonian cuneiform, but they are no known Babylonian words. Carved into its outside surface are also mathematical formulae, charts of the heavens, and images of things that defy human comprehension. A run of silver, braided cable attaches to the side, wrapped around a large, steel lightning rod. At the base of the Artifice, near where the base of a kneeling person’s genitalia would be, is an orifice.

Although all of the usual symbolic supporters are represented in their places on the platform, there are many, many others, each scaled in precise relationship to its apparent size from Earth. Each para-zodiacal sign, minor constellation that the sun transits through, and numerous symbols for numerous other stellar bodies not visible with the naked eye are included. Some of these are tiny to microscopic, but they are nonetheless there. Each supporter is made of precious materials, be it silver, gold, or gemstone carvings. The tent is made of silk dyed Tyrian purple, with gems and embroidery depicting every star and planet that would be visible from Rome at dusk on June 19 th . Again, this includes numerous stellar bodies not visible with either simple lens or the naked eye.

Lucius Gaius is building the Artifice without more than a smattering of understanding what it is or how it works. He just knows what needs to be done so that The Son of the Bull can be reborn.

The Second Dawn: When the Artifice is complete, the next June 19 th celebration for the cult will be a special one. It will be a cloudy, rainy day, which they will somehow know and warn their members about long in advance. Attendance is mandatory. One member of the congregation—someone of noble birth—will be honored by playing the role of the cow in the annual tauroctony/sacred marriage. Rather than a cow suit this year, the cult has been so successful that they have a beautiful silver and marble replica. How lucky they are! The gender of the participant is entirely irrelevant; it works either way.

The ceremony proceeds in the rain and gloom, as in other years. Once the lid to the Artifice is closed, however, a massive thunderbolt parts the clouds and strikes the lightning rod attached to the Artifice. The device hums and glows and pulses with eldritch energies. The clouds open, and a blinding beam of white light shoots down and strikes the White Sibyl, who is playing the role of the gender-swapped hunter this year. She grows and swells into a glowing, semi-humanoid colossus, complete with male parts, and the sacred marriage is then rather literally reenacted upon the person in the Artifice. SAN loss for all bystanders is significant: 1d3/1d10. There is a panic, and the residual energies from the lightning strike set Rome ablaze. Gaius Serullus is not down with any of this monstrous nonsense: he tries to stop the proceedings at this point, likely resulting in his death.

The White Sibyl disappears in the ensuing panic; the person inside the Artifice seems none the worse for wear and does not even clearly remember what happened. In any event, he or she insists that nothing is wrong.

Over the course of the next year, “the vessel” (regardless of gender) becomes gradually insane, gradually more pregnant (regardless of gender) and gradually more mysterious, uttering bizarre prophecies and, like the White Sibyl, arriving and vanishing mysteriously from any situation. Anyone who tries to harm him or her suffers a Mindblast from above at the moment harm is firmly decided upon. The White Sibyl fails to resurface thereafter. And The Son of The Bull, in reality a massive manifestation of Daoloth in the form of liquid, suffusing, omnidirectional light that consumes its host as it is “born”, arrives on the next May 14 th . It spreads insightful madness throughout Rome and rends the veils, resulting in more fires, rioting, and general mayhem, unless “the vessel” is somehow found and killed before then.

The 10th Sybilline Book (Tome): The Sibylline Books (Libri Sibyllini) are among Rome’s most sacred objects. There are (during the Roman Empire) three remaining out of an original nine. They are written in Greek hexameter and contain a wide array of prophecies. They are consulted by the mainstream cult of Apollo at critical junctures for the Roman state.

The Books were bought by the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, from the Cumaean Sibyl just before the founding of the Republic. Originally Tarquinius was offered nine books at a steep price; when he refused, she burned three, and then three more, until he finally relented and paid the full initial price. They are kept at the Temple of Jupiter in Rome, and are the last word in authoritative prophecy in the Roman state religion. Few have ever seen them, outside of the highest priests of Apollo and their Greek interpreter assistants.

The White Sibyl has a tenth one, always kept in her possession. It appears as an enormous scroll, three feet high and a foot in diameter. It (like the others) is written in Greek hexameter but also includes numerous, hyper-complex astrological charts. The prophecies in the 10 th Sibylline Book predict, among other things: the End Times; when the stars may be right for various Mythos entities to rise; the various future sackings of Rome; and the precise date and time when a great number of pivotal people in history will die, and how. One thing that it cannot predict is what will happen to its current owner; it changes to omit this information if its ownership ever changes.

A thorough study of the 10 th Sibylline Book requires 12 months and a successful Read Greek roll, and success results in +10% to Cthulhu Mythos; costs 2d6 SAN; and automatically grants the spell Augur. Someone who successfully reads the 10 th Sibylline Book also becomes so attuned to patterns in the universe that they gain a minimum of 50% in Science (Augury), or, if they already have that level of skill, five skill checks.

Plot Seeds: What Does This Mean? An initial introduction to Fiat Lux can cast them as useful if eccentric allies. If they have a reputation for dealing with dark threats, Gaius Serullus will hire them to put a stop to it. (Lucius and the White Sibyl, after all, don’t want the world destroyed or to come under the sway of some Mythos nastiness…the messiah will not be born that way, after all).

The investigators may have a bizarre prophecy that they need to have deciphered, and a patron will direct them to the White Sibyl, minding her own business in her street booth. They are warned that the White Sibyl’s prices are steep and some of her associates are a bit odd, but that she is a cut above anyone else they might consult. Remember that she is polite and well mannered, if quite mysterious and inscrutable.

The cult members can serve as recurring NPCs, remembering that by Roman standards they are either quite respectable (Gaius Serullus) or on the fringe of counterculture (Lucius Gaius), but not at all dangerous seeming on the surface. Unless, that is, the investigators notice the blind men shadowing Lucius Gaius in the background, or are paranoid enough to read something real into one of his street corner sermons about the preparing for the return of his messiah.

Where Did She Go? To begin to focus the investigators on the cult as a potential threat, they can be hired by a wealthy patron to look into the whereabouts of a wastrel daughter of someone important. She will have started to go missing for days at a time after making some new friends, and now has not been seen for weeks. Conventional means of investigation lead to dead ends or, at best, suggestions that she has become involved with the cult of Apollo (which the mainstream cult denies). A lucky glimpse of one of her previously interviewed friends at a Fiat Lux flash mob event, or consulting an oracle for a clue, puts the investigators on the right path. The right path leads them to a seedy part of Rome, a proverbial tenement and alley maze where mapping efforts ultimately fail, and even trying to follow the sun leads them in circles. Perhaps they finally find Lucius Gaius in his workshop, who tells them an uncomfortable truth about what really happened to their quarry. The cult is innocent of overt wrongdoing, but the strange nature of their highest leadership is now apparent.

Why Are They Doing This? A customs official at the port of Ostia is found murdered, stabbed to death by poisoned blades. A black ship has vanished from the port, rumored to have sailed from as far as India. The murder victim had impounded some of its cargo, said to consist of a fortune in rubies, pending payment of duties, but the rubies are gone. June 19 th is drawing near, and these rubies are the last things that Lucius Gaius needs to finish the Artifice. Someone of noble rank who had joined the cult quite recently is excited about her (or his) starring role in the annual reenactment of the sacred marriage, but Rome is in an uproar over negative signs and portents from all quarters. And it looks like it’s going to rain on their annual parade.

Depending on what year it is, either expatriate Jewish religious authorities, or the local Christians, or both, are mysteriously moved to action. The “golden calf” nature of the Artifice sits wrong with them, and when it appears in public, either or both of these sects may try to warn the public. Or, they may try to disrupt the ceremony, leading to violence or a distraction that the players might exploit. Or, Lucius Serullus may finally learn more than he bargained for, and turn up dead.

Bibliography:

  • Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome, by Lesley Adkins, ISBN-13: 978-0195123326.
  • Mystery Cults of the Ancient World, by Hugh Bowden, ISBN-13: 978-0691146386.
  • Cults of the Roman Empire, by Robert Turcan, ISBN-13: 978-0631200475.
  • The Render of the Veils, by Ramsey Campbell (Daoloth source story).
  • The Formation of Christendom, by Judith Herrin, ISBN-13: 978-0691008318.
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