Marius became a Christian in 75 AD. He was baptized at night, and then circumcised. For several years he learned the teachings of Christianity at the feet of Cassius, slaking his tremendous thirst with the blood of animals. He was taught of a stronger blood, the blood of the Redeemer, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the only path of redemption. He learned of the various Christian cults, and read the letters and texts penned by their wandering members. He believed, and he worshipped, and he begged for forgiveness from God. During the day, his dreams were tortured by every one of the faces he killed -- it was Masada all over again, but he was the dagger across the throat. He repented and whipped himself. He forced himself to starve for weeks, battling the Beast down with an iron will and the help of a relentless and loving God. And as the years passed, he grew into a central figure among the cult's members, a mystic, a leader, a holy man like Cassius.
In 88 he took over the sect when Cassius was called away to Rome. When he failed to return, Marius naturally became the leader. For the next century, he lived the life of a Christian ascetic. He and his band moved across the desert, following the twisting path of the Logos across the sand and into the starry night sky. He witnessed many miracles, and kept his covenant, feeding only from animals. As Christianity spread out across the Empire, he and his followers moved with it.
As the years changed Christianity and pulled it into new shapes, Marius changed with it. As the Church established itself and heresies began to rise and fall, Marius's desert sect of Christians slowly evolved into Gnostics. Over a century his brain had begun to weave elaborate mythologies, and as the miracles of his very existence became commonplace to him, his Christianity drifted into a Gnostic form that was quite different from the original beliefs of Cassius. His stature as an ageless immortal gave his sect a bit more mystery and allure, and it grew in size and power.
When the Gnostic heresies were being reviled and stamped out, Marius had enough good sense to stay quiet. As more time passed and the Empire itself adopted Christianity, Marius began to acquire the attributes of a god to his followers. Generations had come and gone under his watchful and undying eye, and the image of Cassius receded far into the dusts of the past.
But this Gnostic cult with its immortal god couldn't remain unknown forever.
In the year 362 his sect was discovered and raided by agents of the Emperor, Julian the Apostate. All the members were rounded up and tied down, and Marius was "killed" -- he was tied to a rock and pierced with seventy-seven sword thrusts, proving to the cultists as he bled to death that the legends were just that -- legendary. When he finally died, The Roman soldiers laughed and got exceedingly drunk, raping some of his female followers, playing brutal games with the young men. In the morning they left, sealing the cave back up and marching their prisoners away to their eventual deaths.
Marius slid into torpor.When Marius awoke, ravenous, murderous, he immediately killed and devoured the two peasant boys who discovered his cave.They were the first people he killed since Cassius rescued him from the Beast.
Suddenly his mind was pitched into a turmoil of grief and horror. The year was 869, and he was alive, still in existence. God had spared him. He was struck down by his own hubris and left to rot for five hundred years. And the first thing he did upon awakening was to murder again.
It took him many months to learn this strange new era. He travelled back to Rome, finding an Italy changed beyond his wildest dreams. The old Empire was gone, in its place were a Germanic religious monarchy and a strangely ornate Greek remnant, fighting for survival against men with a new religion, a violent and poetic creed born from of the cruel womb of the desert, stranger even than the cults of Christianity.
He kept to animals and learned the languages and customs of this strange new land -- and to his reawakening amusement, he found that he was actually enjoying it. He was thrilled and excited, like when he was first sent to Gaul as a legionnaire, or when he first set his feet upon Palestine. There was new music, new people, new customs, new clothing --It was amazing.
Marius decided that he would try to adapt to this new Christianity. He spent years looking for the right entrance -- and found it in a monastery in Northern Italy. A monastery where the brothers accepted that he had a rare disease, and where they listened in awe to his theological arguments, his knowledge, his intelligence.Marius Flavius Vespasianus became a monk.
This time, however, things would be different. He studied with the monastery for years, careful not to bring too much attention onto himself. He learned everything he could about the world, its history, different languages, new religions. Though he still had his usual disdain for it, he studied politics as well, and made himself familiar with the structure and workings of the Church. As the years passed, he developed a sense of when to move on, and for the next few decades he moved across Europe using monasteries as refuges.
He also tried to learn what he could about vrykolakes, now called Vampires. He found a new word and a mortal belief system that fit his condition. Superstitions abounded. He was a Vampire. . . . But still, he could find no trace of others.
And something else was happening. A change was occurring in him more profound, perhaps, than the change that brought him over into this world. He was beginning to doubt again. He was beginning to earnestly question everything. Here it was, twelve hundred years from his birthday, and the world was still a very wicked place. The people had not really changed at all. There was no apocalypse, no parousia, no second coming, no end of the world. It was the same as it ever was. He was supposed to be damned, and yet for the last dozen centuries normal men were happily busy butchering each other in numbers that made him dizzy.
How could he be evil?
What exactly was he? At one time he was going to be the protege of the King of the Venturii, and now -- ?
In the year 1055 Marius decided to fulfill his destiny. He would rise to power and carve out an empire. And the best path to that was right in front of him -- The Church.
The night he made that decision he feasted from the veins of two harlots. It was the sweetest blood he ever remembered.
The Noble Marius the Vampire
Marius began a deadly game. How could a Vampire climb to power in the Church? He started by waiting out his time in the monastery, letting the years bring him up the power ladder, finally becoming abbot. He used his limited powers to build influence, and to his amusement, found that a bag of genuine Roman coins could buy his way deep into the power structure. . . .
He played the game with patience, cunning, and courage -- qualities he had always possessed and had several centuries to refine. He created second identities. He found a man who looked like him and bent him into submission, filling his head with memories, goals, and the will to serve Marius. He quietly recovered "lost treasures," thanking the wisdom of Mezentius, his vanished Sire.
As his power grew, he shifted position. Creating a family, he became an Italian nobleman. He dominated and bent whole families to his will, incorporating them into his emerging power structure. He bought land and began trading, patronizing, speculating. His knowledge of the Jewish world gained him capital, contacts, and allies. His knowledge of the Church gained him and his "sons" eventual bishoprics. He bought himself titles, influence, and numerous false identities.
By the year 1200, Marius had become a wealthy Italian noble, and a collector of ancient artifacts. He was also an occasional bishop, and had the ear of cardinals, noblemen, and merchants.
And in 1231, Marius learned about Vampires again. Strangely enough, it was from the Church: he was inducted into the newly established Society of Leopold. The mirror shattered, and he stepped back into the world behind the looking glass.
He knew now that he was on extremely dangerous ground. If anyone could figure out what he was, it was the Society. He played them out carefully, relentlessly, played them out for time. He milked the fledgling organization for all the information he could get on the Vampiric world. He traced the development of the different clans, he learned the whereabouts of Princes, and he discovered that his Sire was known to the Society and was living in Crete, an exile from a failed coup attempt.Excitement surged through him.He would begin to play the most dangerous game.He would make himself known to the Vampiric world.
As Europe stumbled its way through the bloody fourteenth century, Marius played out the game by pushing every rule to the breaking point. He used his position in the Order to pinpoint certain Kindred, then right before they were to be captured and destroyed, they would be warned and helped to safety. Of course, where he thought he could profit, he allowed some to die: Marius discovered that his heart could become quite cold, indeed.
Over the years, he arranged all his information, contacts, influence and favors into a constellation that would finally blaze its message to the heavens: Marius would come out into the Darkness.
In a way, he was almost disappointed at how easy it was. The remaining powerful Vampires of Europe were terrified and panicked, and talked about calling themselves together to unite. Many were surprised, a few were amused, and some were furious when they discovered that such a powerful Vampire had been pulling so many strings for so long. But Marius covered his dirty tracks and posted his signs well, many were indebted to him. He realized that he was, actually, a very old Vampire and that his powers were great. He knew that he was of the clan now called Ventrue, and that if he was careful, he could come out even more powerful -- or, he could be trapped between an angry world of the undead and the fires of the Inquisition.
In 1333 Marius was recognized officially as a Senator of the Clan Ventrue. It was not without some irony that he realized he had fulfilled his father's ambitions.
Brave New World Marius the Ventrue
Marius was to be a key player in the next century, several times almost being discovered or being killed. He shifted his holdings westward into England and France, and as he built up his financial empire he became a prominent voice in the newly formed Camarilla. Manipulative and cunning as ever, he seemed always to escape danger at the last moment. He never made any progeny, and he never sought to reunite with his Sire. In 1455 he heard that Mezentius was unearthed in Corsica and burned at the stake.He did not cry.
In 1492 Columbus discovered the New World.Marius, once again, felt the surge of excitement. . . .
Throughout the early sixteenth century, Marius shifted his capital in one direction: West, to the Americas. He made whole fortunes on gold, spices, and shipping; and while many other Ventrue looked on confused by the New World and unsure of what opportunities it heralded, Marius embraced it with open arms.
It was around this time that he began to realize something quite important. He was nearly 1600 years old, one of the oldest Ventrue he knew about. And yet, so many of them could not seem to keep up with the times. Many were stuck in the past, twittering about issues long dead and buried, afraid to face the spirit of the age: the Renaissance seemed to be killing many of his Ventrue companions, eating them out slowly like corrosive acid. New medicine, products, science, inventions, new art and music -- only the Toreador seemed to be really enjoying the new times. Paranoia, suspicion, and fear still ran deep. Gunpowder was heralded as the end of the world by many Ventrue, Marius simply invested in firearms and trained his soldiers how to gain the advantage in warfare. He was genuinely excited by the changes, but some of the Elders were slipping into virtual torpor.Having involuntarily spent five hundred years in this state, Marius had no desire to revisit it.Finally, in the year 1750, Marius decided to start yet another game.
He went across to America.
America was the start of a whole new chapter in Marius's life. By 1750, there were only a few vampires in America; and the opportunities for one as old and cunning as Marius were staggering to contemplate. He settled himself in Philadelphia and for the next few years he shifted his assets from across the ocean and constructed a small shipping and trading empire. Sensing the winds of change in the 1770's, he severed all ties with Europe and moved to Boston, where his newly "American" business was active in financing some of the revolutionary activities of the rebellious colonies. He helped finance both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, and in the early part of the new century he began to invest in banking and railroads. Although other millionaires became prominent, Marius managed to avoid most of the attention and politics of the mortal world, turning instead to creating a network for the Ventrue who were slowly but surely coming over from Europe.
In 1853, on invitation from Immanuel St. James, he relocated himself to New York City. There, the Prince instructed him to organize the Ventrue Clan and to assist in the development of the Santa de Luzarches, the Toreador Cathedral that was to be the crown jewel of the New World Camarilla. As the Civil War raged on, Marius set himself to establishing New York City as a Ventrue paradise. In the later part of the century he began using his railroad and shipping fortunes to invest in energy futures, and in 1886 he founded Gravitas, Inc., which was to be his principle corporation. Gravitas was, in many ways, Marius's perfect ideal. His real empire -- shipping, railroads, coal and finally oil -- were spread out under a network of various subsidiaries which practically ran themselves. And Gravitas could focus on investments and less tangible ways of making money. He enjoyed the low profile he maintained, spreading his money around quietly, surely, like a slow and invisible solvent, dissolving the borders of the material world and extending his power. And as long as he agreed with the Prince, he was essentially left alone, free from Camarilla politics. He controlled the Ventrue, and they controlled the City. If St. James wanted to host fancy salons and entertain dignitaries from across the ocean, so be it. . . .
But the twentieth century would not be kind. While the First World War drove the first wedges between the clans of the NYC Camarilla, it wasn't until the collapse of Wall Street and the Depression that the cracks began to really show. All the Ventrue felt the shock of this catastrophe, and even Marius was forced to divest and trim his sprawling network in order to survive. After that, things began to go sour for the Camarilla. St. James and his Tremere clan declared themselves rogue, and decadence began to creep across the city like a paralyzing oxidation. When the Anarch riots of the forties weakened the Camarilla's hold on Brooklyn, Marius and his Ventrue were too occupied with wartime business to really be of much effect. And after that, the next few decades seemed to move with a pace that left even Marius dizzy. The Sabbat began a war and struck deep into Queens and the Bronx. The Council was unable to make realistic and forceful decisions, and the Prince began to show signs of mental collapse. Europe was in turmoil as the twin ravages of war and communism flamed across the Old World. Technology spiralled upwards, and many of the Elders found themselves genuinely panicked for the first time in centuries. It seemed that Anarchy was to have her way with the whole world. . . .
In 1955 Marius decided that the situation had reached a point of crisis. The Prince was no longer capable to rule, and the Sabbat were encroaching into Northern Manhattan. He decided to grasp the nettle, and finally enter politics. At first he was quite subtle -- he reined the in Ventrue and formed the "Venturi Business Association," a network of like-minded Ventrue outside of the decadent Primogen Council. Together with the Ventrue in the VBA, he began plotting for a coup de'tat. Assets were brought into the city all the way from Boston to Washington D.C. Marius still had many connections; promises were made to other Princes, favors were called in. Mortal politicians were dominated and controlled, in direct violation of St. James's precious rules. Finally, by 1965, Marius was ready. He would wrest control of the city from St. James. He would save New York.
And then disaster struck. He was betrayed, betrayed by the progeny of an old enemy, a Vampire he once turned over to the Society of Leopold. He was stunned, for the traitor was Rachel Warwick, a Vampire who had worked her way up the ladder of power since the early thirties and had become a trusted member of the clan. She was not even really a Ventrue -- she was a Giovanni spy under the command of St. James, and had infiltrated his organization during the Depression, using her powerful magic to successfully masquerade as a Ventrue for almost forty years. All in all, it was a masterful stroke.
St. James moved with uncharacteristic speed. Brooklyn erupted in violence, and three key Ventrue were murdered by Brujah anarchs. The Prince declared Brooklyn to be a Free Zone in return. Six highly placed ghouls were assassinated, including a state senator and one of Marius's cardinals in Rome. Marius's Ventrue on the Primogen Council, Peter Van der Zant, was "discovered" by Vampire hunters and burned alive. One of his closest Ventrue -- Sir Thomas Hutchinson -- was persuaded to leave Marius, and he was given Peter's seat on the Primogen Council. And finally, the Prince called a conclave of all the East Coast Princes. And while most of them loathed St. James, when gathered together and witnessing his swift action, all felt the touch of rebellious progeny at the back of their necks . . . There could be no doubt that St. James was the rightful Prince.
Marius was too powerful to be removed or publicly humiliated. The Prince was certain that the Roman methuselah would get the message. And even though Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx were lost to the Anarchs and the Sabbat, there was still a rightful Prince on the throne.
Marius raged for the first time in many years; he raged, but realized that he was still alive.
And still in control of the remaining Ventrue, at least.
He could always start again. Build, plan. Wait.
The Christian Marius the Vrykolakas
He needed blood, and he took it. At first Marius experienced only horror -- two or three victims would die each night to satiate his uncontrollable lust. Marius was utterly unprepared for the intensity of the thirst. It drove him, night after night, riding him like a master with a whip, lashing him on through the streets of Jerusalem. Hundreds fell to his hunger during the next year, prostitutes, thieves, traders, beggars, Roman citizens, even an occasional soldier. He frenzied whenever he tried to stop. He hunted in vain for his Sire, the man he once thought was nothing more than a Greek trader, a spinner of exotic tales, a teller of charming lies.He found no one, not his Sire, not another vrykolakas.
Until he found an old friend.
One night Marius awoke to find himself in the presence of Gaius Cassius. And his old friend and lover had not aged a day. There they were, two men who should have been dead by now, both still looking like they were in the prime of their lives: but Marius was a creature out of myth, and Cassius was a cursed holy man.
Their reunion was quite uncomfortable. Marius found out that Cassius had been following him for several weeks, fully aware of what he had become. Once he was certain that there were no others, he acted. By day, he moved the body of Marius to a new location -- a secret Christian commune in the desert.
Marius's life was going to take another radical change.
Of course, Marius resisted at first, even fought; but they kept him weak and defenseless, feeding him the blood of an occasional animal. It took months to wear him down, to deconstruct his defenses, to unravel the web of deceit that Mezentius had spun to ensnare his soul. But eventually he began to listen, and reaching back across bloody nights and war-torn decades, he remembered a simpler time. He remembered a young Prefect and a crucified man that bled even when dead. For the first time, he fully realized that the supernatural world of the gods was terribly real -- Marius and Cassius were proof enough of that. And if the God of the Jews and Christians is real, then he was damned.