Translated By: quinara
Summary: The final account of the Watcher Secundus Pollius Paulus, in the year 48 AD, describing the events that lead to his Slayer’s premature death.
Disclaimer: The concept of the Slayer and the Council do not belong to me, but instead Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and associates.
Note: The events concerning the Emperor Claudius and his wife are historically accurate, as far as I am aware.
Thanks: First of all to deathisyourart/whoever’s posting this on my behalf, and to both deathisyourart and blond_bear for organising everything – I’m having a blast. Also, thanks to my beta amarasaa, who did a bang-up job, and to Robert Graves (RIP) c/o Penguin Books, since using Claudius the God as a reference was a lot more enjoyable than dragging out Suetonius etc. would’ve been. Finally I would like to thank in advance anybody who comments. I’ll respond as soon as I get home on Saturday.
Secundus Pollius Paulus: Propugnatrix Pollia
The time of Pollia’s calling was not a good one. There had not been a Slayer in our midst for over seven years, and before that only two provincials had been given to us. These were not encouraging. The first had been a Gallic girl, of no use to anyone, who had barely learnt Latin before she died, and the second had been a Syrian, who, although of satisfactory temperament, was killed by a Tralloch demon just a few months into her tenure.
We worried, for this meant that we had been afforded no proper protection since before the assassination of Caligula. The demons were growing stronger, and unnatural deaths in the populace were not as easily explained as they once were. Witchcraft and wild animals could only be blamed for a small proportion of those occurring, and we knew that it would only be a short time before people began to seek the truth from the gods. To this day, we have not decided what we would do, should an augur discover our location in the forum.
We wanted to believe that the gods would favour us, as the protectors of their warriors. But we also knew that the gods were fickle, as shown by the erraticity with which they sent their creatures to us. It would have been folly to have ever thought that we were truly safe, no matter what we hoped.
But, at last, a Slayer was again called in Rome. It was as if all our fears were allayed.
This was one year ago.
One morning in September, I awoke to the news that a messenger was waiting. He announced that a new Slayer had been called, and that I had been chosen to watch her. I left my house immediately for the country, to the house where those with the potential lived.
The villa lay four miles along the road to Ostia. It was a large, ancestral house which had been given to the Council many years ago. I was met there by slaves, who showed me to the mistress of the house, Agalia.
Agalia was a rather large, Greek woman, and a great boon to the Council. By this time, she was well into middle age, but had always remained unmarried (this is unsurprising when one considers Greek attitudes towards their wives and how highly she values her own opinion). For us, however, her stubbornness was quite a gift, and allowed her to deal well with the girls in her care. She had also once possessed the potential herself, which further increased her understanding of the organisation.
When I met with Agalia, I explained the circumstances. Being who she was, she at once knew the girl I meant. She had picked up on change that morning, possibly before the girl had herself. This girl was a Roman, one of our own, and had been found relatively late, at around the age of seven. She had also been a daughter of a noble family: the Valerii.
“It took a time for her to accept her new name,” Agalia told me. (When potentials are found, their old names are replaced, a sign that they are now members of the family of Watchers. If they are chosen as a Slayer, they then take the name of their Watcher.) “It was only when I withheld food that she answered to it. She was a stubborn child, and did not eat for almost two days.”
“Surely you would have fed her in the end?” I asked, having not heard of this method previously and being mildly shocked by it.
“A Slayer without discipline is worthless, Paulus,” she told me. “I will care for these girls, but not at detriment to the world. At any moment, the power of the gods may be upon them, and if they do not know their duty they could be a danger to us all.”
“We are the Council of Watchers!” I was rather aghast. “Not some sort of barbarian cult who butchers virgins!” She laughed at my anger.
“My dear Paulus! They all learn! Tutoruma Sexta was not the first, and nor will she be the last girl who refuses her name and has to be dealt with in this way. I have been mistress of this house for thirty years, and not once have I starved someone to death.” I was still angry, but could say nothing in response.
She then led me to the garden, where, in the sun, the girls were dining. Sexta was called to me and I explained the situation.
“So I am again to have a name, minor though it may be.” She did not seem excited. In fact, I could not perceive any reaction at all.
“You’re to have much more than a name.”
“Yes. Of course.” She confused me, but I thought nothing more of it.
And so, with no further conversation, I took her, Tutoruma Sexta, as a daughter, Pollia Paula.
Pollia, as she wished to be called, and I returned to Rome that day. I tried to make her feel as welcome as possible, though remain authoritative. It is quite possible that through contradiction I did neither of these things.
I have only the barest recollection of that day. I do believe, however, that even on that first night Pollia went out to slay on her own. I have no memory of ever going out with her, and it seems unlikely that she would have behaved differently on that night to how she did from then on. It would not surprise me to find that her repugnance of me and my methods began from the first day.
However, I did not understand her then. I believed that she was enthusiastic and did not wish to have me holding her back. I believed that on one night she would accept my offers of assistance and guidance. When understanding came, several months later, it was clear that she would never have accepted me as part of her life.
It remained the same from then on. Pollia would go out on her own each evening as well as throughout the day. She told me, always, that she was spending her time training at the Campus Martius, although she continually rejected my help in any form. I worried about her training at the Campus, in plain view of the soldiers and civilians who also trained there, but was so relieved that she was training that I said nothing.
Thinking back now, there are many things that I could have done differently. For one, I could have had her followed, and found out where she was actually going. Or, of course, I could have insisted upon helping her; it was my occupation after all. Instead, I let her command me in that regal tone of hers, and did nothing but the same tasks that I had always done.
I have no clear memories of the early times, and the first event that I do remember, with the clarity of shame, was the time that I was summoned to the Council.
Pollia had been in my ‘care’ for about six months. To be honest, I could barely remember what she looked I like: I saw her too little. I had extra food bought for the house, and my secretary, Tacitus, informed me that Pollia took money for clothes and other such things, but otherwise she might as well have not existed.
As I have said, I was continuing the work that I had done before: translating Oriental annals of the supernatural into either Greek, where appropriate, or Latin, for the less fantastical works. There are several scribes in the city that could have done the same work, of course, but most of the material was far too sensitive for eyes not of the Watchers’ Council. For example, I would not trust even our own scribes with the knowledge of how to summon a fire dragon.
Naturally, I thought that my summons would be about one of these texts. I was quite confident as I walked into our own ‘senate’, and met by my colleagues and superiors. My work was beneficial, and, as far as I knew, accurate. Of course, the same could not be said of my other work.
“Secundus Pollius Paulus, what is the progress of the new Slayer?” The man who spoke, Caius Plautius Flavius, was the unofficial leader of the Watcher’s Council at this time. His formal cognomen, Flavius, was literal; his golden hair was one of the many sources of his pride and vanity. He was, however, known almost universally as Caius Plautius Rex to those who did not follow him. This was a name that reflected his overwhelmingly arrogant and manipulative qualities, akin to those of our early kings. He was a man who, I believe, only gave me control of the Slayer so that I might fail, allowing one of his favourites to subsequently take my position.
I answered him as unerringly as I could, “Good. She’s still got a lot to learn, but I’m pleased with her progress.”
“Is that so?” He was smiling.
“But I was under the impression that you barely saw your Slayer, let alone gauged her abilities.” Rex’s supporters (that is, half of the Council) laughed.
“That is not true! I see Pollia quite often.”
“Quite often? That is a commendable achievement, considering the girl lives in your house.” There was more laughter.
I was distinctly embarrassed by this point, but refused to submit.
“She goes out every evening and trains every day.”
“Really? Then perhaps you can explain to the Council why numbers of vampire-deaths have been unaffected, nay increased, by Pollia’s calling.” This was a shock. The implications ran through my mind.
“I can only suggest the possibility of an apocalypse.”
“Yes. That is what we thought, at first. The fact remains, however, that the next prophesied event is not due for another decade.”
“Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that, unless a clear reduction in vampire-deaths is seen, your Slayer will be terminated and you will be ejected from this Council. Farewell.”
There was no response that I could give, and so I left.
Throughout that evening, I became more and more angry. To be treated in this way by my own charge was abominable. It was shameful. Shameful on myself, on my family and on the entire Council of Watchers. Pollia might possess the power of the gods, but she was under my supervision. She would be trained, properly, and she would slay with the might expected of her.
She was Roman; and born a noble, no less. She should be glorious.
It was around midnight when she returned. She staggered through the front door, obviously intoxicated, and slowly stopped as she caught sight of me. Her eyes widened as she swayed.
“Well, if it isn’t dear Paulus! You shouldn’t be up this late, you know.” She put a hand to the side of her mouth as if to whisper, and then said, in a loud voice, “Old men like you need their rest.”
I ignored her. “Where have you been, Pollia?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I’ve been slaying. Slaying the vampires and protecting the innocent. Because I’m the Slayer.”
“I was not aware that vampires gave their killers gifts of wine upon their death.” Pollia frowned.
“What are you talking about? They don’t. If they did, I might actually bother killing them….” She slapped a hand over her mouth, comically (though I did not find it amusing). “Did I say that? Oh dear!” She began to giggle, and I could bear her childishness no longer.
“Enough! I demand to know where you have been!”
“With my cousin.” She said it proudly.
“With your cousin! While you were supposed to be defending the city?”
I spluttered. “But you are the Slayer! Do you have even the most mild comprehension of what that means? It means that you, and you alone have the sacred duty to protect this world from the forces of darkness! It means that the gods have chosen you as the Empire’s protector! Does that mean nothing to you?” She continued to smile at me. “I suppose it doesn’t.” I still received no response, which made me quite angry. “Well! Be that as it may, you shall do your duty. From tomorrow, you will be trained by day and slay by night. And if you refuse, you will die, because you were not put on this Earth to dally your life away. You were put here to fight, and fight you shall!”
This speech had left me quite exhausted. It appeared, however, to have had no effect on Pollia whatsoever.
She approached me.
“Darling, darling Paulus,” she crooned, pouting with her lower lip. “You don’t seem to understand that I don’t want to slay. And since I don’t want to, I’m not going to.” She put a hand on my chest, which rose and fell with my breathing, still heavy from exertion. She looked to my face. “And you’re not going to make me, or kill me, because I’m going to give a reason not to.” She smiled. “A reason that appeases both of us and our desire.” She removed her hand, put her index finger to her lips, giggling. A seductive gleam was in her eyes.
Rage, still with me, made me slap her to the marble.
“Vile girl! May I never set eyes on you again!” I turned and left. I still shook with anger.
It was not her age that repelled me, for men older than me have married girls younger than her, but it was instead the realisation of how she must have been spending her nights. If she could behave as a common whore, without a glimmer of conscience, the implications were endless.
I spent the next two days in my room. Tacitus informed me that, during this time, Pollia had left the house in order to live with her cousin.
I began my work once more, but quickly found that I could not concentrate. The threat from the Council still hung over my head. It was necessary to terminate Pollia, I knew. She was of no use to the world, and every day that she lived was another day that we were without protection. But I was not ready to give up my position.
There was only one option left to me: to protect the city myself. It was an idiotic endeavour (I knew this then as I do now) but there was no other possible course. I had been out of the field for at least twenty years and had never been the strongest of men, but I would have to try.
As night fell on the third day after my confrontation with Pollia I gathered together my stakes and gladius, as well as components for the few spells I had at my disposal. Thus prepared, I left my house and headed towards the subura. The houses of the poor were vampires’ prime hunting grounds at this time of night, as they could easily catch those people who were returning home late from work.
I found a pair of vampires, whom I dispatched quite easily, in the first hour. As the night continued, I moved to the main streets and came across several more, all of varying degrees of strength. The city was not ridden with the beasts, but the lack of a Slayer was clearly evident.
I returned home in the early hours before dawn, bone-tired and nursing several minor wounds. I slept for two, perhaps three hours, before being woken by Tacitus. He informed me that a new delivery of texts had come in, and that, if I did not complete those I already had, a huge backlog would soon be created: something that would, without doubt, make the Council suspicious.
It was then that the true enormity of my task struck me.
Over the next six months, I believe that I grew steadily more insane. I abandoned sleep very quickly, catching no more than one or two hours every night, and this caused me to view everything in a haze: a fog lay between me and the rest of the world.
By day I worked with the never-ending stream of Oriental texts. It seemed as though the moment I finished one set another shipment would come. By night I patrolled, relying almost solely on fire-spells. Lack of sleep had taken away any strength I had, and continually leeched my concentration.
I dreaded the times that I would discover a demon, and have to research it before I went out again, for I had no time for such research. During these times, I enlisted Tacitus’ help, for he knew the way around my library better than I did myself by this time. I should not have entrusted him with so many secrets, but nor should I have been facilitating my Slayer’s depravity. There was little I could do.
At several points during this time, I was called again before the Council. Each time, Rex disbelievingly told me that death-numbers were lower, but not to a level the Council was satisfied with. He had an odd look on his face throughout these meetings, a sly, sardonic look which was inexplicable. I could say nothing, however, and spent every ounce of my energy concentrating on my responses. Like a machine, I would say, every time, that I would encourage the Slayer to new heights, and further her training.
Upholding my appearance was especially difficult, since, on several occasions, I was scarcely able to recall Pollia’s name.
One morning in September, I was trying to work at my desk. There was great commotion in the rest of my house: slaves were running to and fro, calling for Tacitus. They then left for a short while, before returning with even more noise.
Tactitus burst into my study.
“This can go on no longer!”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, shortly, not looking up from my work. I could feel myself growing angry: my current situation left me with little temper.
“Pollia. She needs to be killed.”
“No,” I said. “As I’ve told you a thousand times, Tacitus, that would mean my expulsion from the Council, and I have not done what I have in order for that to happen.”
“But the girl has left all bounds of common decency! At this very moment she is parading herself in nothing but a leopard’s skin and giving herself to anyone who so much as looks at her.”
“What!” My temper snapped, and I could feel a boundless rage within me as I looked up.
“She is at the palace, attending the wedding between Valeria Messalina and Gaius Silius.”
My anger gave way to shock, which in turn calmed me.
“Then her cousin…”
“…Is Messalina. Yes.” I sat back. It was a shock, but made so much sense.
Messalina of the Varlerii, wife to Emperor (well, until very recently), was commonly known as the most debauched woman in Rome. Over the years of Claudius’ reign she had bedded more of the nobility than I can name (‘bedded’ may not be the correct term, but I have no knowledge of the particulars), as well as holding countless orgies and other such events – sometimes even at the Imperial Palace.
Our Emperor had always remained oblivious to this. That is what I believed; others believed that he condoned her actions. In any case, he was either foolish or equal to his wife’s depravity. His character had always been that of a fool, however, and I saw no reason why it should be different in this circumstance.
It was thought that he might have found out, since, about a week before this, he had divorced Messalina. Oddly, she had since held the same position that she always had. (This was something I never understood.)
If Pollia really was the cousin of Messalina it was not at all surprising that events had unfolded the way they had. I despaired.
“Wait,” I said. Something occurred to me. “You mentioned a wedding.”
“Yes.” Tacitus had returned to his usual stern character. “Between Messalina, the Emperor’s wife, and Silius, the Consul-Elect.”
“And you say that Pollia is wearing nothing but…”
“…A leopard skin.”
“How can that be?” I shook my head with confusion, and Tacitus sighed.
“It is not what you or I would call a wedding. The whole affair is a homage to wine, with everyone drunk and dancing, and Silius dressed as Bacchus; complete with several ‘Bacchantes’, including Pollia, running around at his feet.”
“And you say that this is going on in public?”
“At the old mansion of the Asinians. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole of Rome were aware.”
I put my face in my hands. It appeared that my fate was sealed.
Pollia was hung later that day.
The Emperor had sent his personal guard from Ostia, who caught and arrested many of the revellers while they were still at the party. The Bacchantes were ordered to be hanged, and were, betwixt two trees.
I watched the event, surreal as it was. In the light stood the Emperor, quoting the Odyssey, aptly and accurately, while in the dark were the vampires, laughing amongst themselves at the Slayer’s fate.
Despite my efforts, there were still several of them. Seeing Pollia’s body, however, made me apathetic to their presence, and I returned home quickly as night fell.
That night, I slept, and continued to do so long into the next day. Tacitus did not wake me.
- After the debacle of Pollia, it became policy of the Council to test Slayers’ abilities on a regular basis. This series of tests increased in difficulty as befit the age of the Slayer. It was supposed, in this way, that the same incident would not occur again. The tests were slowly abandoned over the years, and the only one that remains is the final one – the test referred to as ‘the Torture’ (cruciamentum) in Roman times, which occurred at the age of eighteen.
- A new Slayer was called in the Roman world straight after Pollia’s death (the belief that Slayers were called after random intervals of time was based around the ignorance of other Slayers being called in the undiscovered world). She was relatively successful, though not of any note.
- Several Watchers were found to have been involved with Messalina. These consisted of Caius Plautius Flavius and several of his supporters. All were either banished, executed or committed suicide. It can be presumed that several of these men also had relations with Pollia Paula.
- It is believed that, shortly after writing this, Secundus Pollius Paulus also committed suicide.