EXCERPT: Nero is Mad, of Course

ROME BURNS.

The great city yawns and gasps in its death-throes. Stone cracks, and screams rise to heaven on wings of smoke with feathers of ash.

I fear this is partly my fault.


The world’s caliphs and emperors and gods know of me, most of them. Ascendancy often includes an introduction to higher things, an intimacy with the esoteric truths that prowl beneath the shadows. However, knowing of me gives no assurance I will come.

There are two reasons for this. One is that former rule sometimes fails to survive succession (it isn’t always murder, but often enough), and crucial knowledge of the Night Children, of the Blood King, is forgotten. The other reason, of course, is that I do not care to go.

I grow weary of this world and its heresies, its hypocrisies, its convoluted hierarchies and halidoms. My children still matter to me—yes, even those who have rebelled—but more and more, I find little else does.

I will not simply come when called like some trained dog or ensorcelled demon. However, I admit no one has ever tried by slowly bleeding one hundred and twenty-six virgins in the warm night wind before.

Tonight, my name comes to me on that wind, borne by soft, bloodied whimpers like the dreams of zephyrs that pass over battlefields. I have ignored the calls from the Seven Peoples of this world for many years, but this, tonight of all nights—this, on an evening when I contemplate the end of a life so long as mine, this, on the anniversary of my first and favorite child’s death—this, tonight of all nights, is the way Nero chooses to speak my name.

I am Nox Eterna to him, Eternal Night, the living-dead lord of blood and hidden moons. I am also Father to my children, Blood King to my many enemies and equals, and Thief to her who vexes me most—so many robes to wear, hot and heavy and cumbersome. Yet tonight, for reasons I do not know, I decide to answer his call: I don the persona of Nox Eterna and go to see what the mad human wants.

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