Monday, September 28, 2009

Character musing: Kaeso Caemilius Tetricus

Nobody will remember this post from a very long time ago. But I am thinking that if I go for NaNo this year, that this might be the route to take. I've only pondered a little bit more beyond this in specifics (including designing the heroic main character, Captain Brigand MacIntyre), so I think it might be a good idea to start fleshing out characters and ideas.

The concept for this vampire novel I want to write is to break away from the ridiculous notion of vampires I see taking over the world of fiction. I should make it known that I absolutely hate, completely despise the entire concept of vampires. Drinking the blood of a human being for sustenance is revolting, especially when most people make vampire-creation into a choice made by humans. It's the same choice made by cannibals. You wouldn't approve of Jeffery Dahlmer, would you?

That's how I came along my line of thought: vampires are monsters, pure and simple. They shouldn't be sexy. They shouldn't sparkle and be played by Robert Pattinson. They should be filthy, rotting, attempting against all hope to cling to the shreds of humanity left as they age and pass beyond their intended time, stealing life from humans for the purpose of greedily extending their faint clasp on what was once important to them. They should be despised.

So I came up with the concept of vampirism as some form of disease. Indeed, it lengthens the lifespan of a human, and makes them stronger, quicker, higher visual acuity and strengthened scent capacity. A lethal creature that needs to feed and eat human blood to survive and maintain the unnaturally lengthened lifespan. But then I asked myself the vital question: how would humans behave in this situation?

Vampire novels love to portray vampires as these gentlemen types who's unnaturally long lives has little to no effect on their psyche, other than making them exceptionally suave and attractive. My thought to this is...have you met someone who's 80 years old? Most of them are cranky and infirm. If you took an old person and shot them into a functioning body their personality traits would remain the same. Our psyche ages alongside our body, not as a function of it.

I admit that expanding the life of an individual dramatically would surely expand the limits of a person's mental capacity for existence, but the simple fact is that human society's dynamic nature would exceed the ability of the extended individual to encompass change. And I don't mean just in today's world. Imagine if you lived in Hamburg in 1100 AD and lived for 500 years. You'd live through the evolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the foundation of the Hanseatic League, a switch in religion, fires, executions, rebellions, and the like. That would be more exacerbated in recent years - a vampire born in 1850 but alive today would see a stunning period of change.

Language evolves and alters. Some areas of the world have seen several popular languages wash through over the years. Consider Malta, which since 300 AD has belonged to the Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Aragonese, Knights of Malta, French, British, and themselves, each with their own culture and languages. How could an old mind keep up with those changes? No, I think that this would cause vampire-types to slowly creep into insanity.

Thus, vampires would become predatory creatures, marking out areas progressively further away from human civilization and preying on what poor souls tend to wander into their area of dominance. The unfortunate side-effect of occasionally creating another vampire would be often avoided by ensuring all victims were fully slain; only a vampire forced to flee from half-a-meal would create another vampire, simply because no creature wants to create a being that would compete for its feeding grounds.

As a result, the amount of vampires spawning would be relative - a single, youthful vampire would create companion creatures for a period of time up to a hundred, hundred and fifty years; beyond that period the sense of detachment would arrive, and the being would leave major city centres, heading away from the dangerous and changing population to the relative obscurity of the countryside. A removal from all human contact would accelerate the depths of insanity the vampire feels, and even if it has surviving companion vampires, after some decades or centuries it would turn on them, out of frustration and a desire to not share scarce food.

There would be exceptions to this rule, and they would be the most (or least) dangerous of vampires, and exceedingly rare. And that is where I came up with the idea for the bad guy in this vampire novel - one of the rare vampires capable of forcing his mind to work along with the varying changes in human society, capable of remaining blended with it.

Naturally, I decided to make him quite old, and those who know me will not be surprised when I chose to make him a Roman, originally. I prefer "C" names, so his common use name will start with that. Then we started to research Roman names. Wikipedia is a wonderful thing.

Starting with the praenomen, which would be the bad guy's personal name, whom only his closest associates would use. There are only a small handful of praenomina to choose from. I immediately ruled out Caius/Gaius, as they are basically the same and also I don't want this man to be related to other famous characters in history (one Gaius Julius Caesar, for instance). I like Kaeso, Tiberius, and Tullus, but I think I shall go with the first.

The nomen is the name of the gens, the political grouping and family alliance into which Kaeso was born. Usually people address someone by their nomen, or their nomen and cognomen if two of the same gens are in the same discussion or somehow relevant. This is an important decision for this character. I don't want him to be part of an overly famous family: IE, no Julii, Aemilii, Claudii, Cornelii, et al. A lesser-known gens is more appropriate. Since he will primarily be known by this name, I think this is the "C" name I'll choose. Caemilius has been rattling around in my head for months.

Next comes the cognomen, which is the sub-family within the gens. IE, Gaius Julius Caesar was of the Julii, of the Caesar sub-family within the Julii. I want a T for this, so we'll choose (without actually researching the Camelius gens) Tetricus.

I am of mixed thoughts on an agnomen. Agnomina are given to people well after their birth to describe some part of their life. For instance, Publius Cornelius Scipio was given the agnomen Africanus after conquering Carthage. I almost want *him* to choose his agnomen, or perhaps have an agnomen in mind to use eventually. Like morticus maximus. But I'll leave it open for now.

K. Caemilius Tetricus was born in 89 AD, and grew up during the first part of the Pax Romana - Roman Peace in Europe. Like most young men, he joined the Legions at the age of 16, as a regular soldier. By the age of 24, he was a tribune, having distinguished himself both as a combat soldier and a leader. At age 29, he became a legate, commanding a legion. At age 33, he was slain fighting the Picts north of Hadrian's Wall, or more accurately, where it was being built at the time.

Except that Caemilius was only wounded, and his body stolen from the battlefield by a group of three vampires, who drank from his broken body and left him to die. But he didn't die - he became one of them, he gained immortality and strength and all those amazing features of the vampire. Caemilius was struck by the ferocity of the beasts that had turned him, and how unhuman they had become. Upon realizing what had happened to him (not that the term vampire existed at the time), he realized that he was given a unique gift.

One of the particularly unique things about Caemilius that lent him to eternal life was the fact that he was mostly a sociopath, that years of a hard legionnaire's existence had pretty much stripped away his ability for empathy. At the time where he was turned, he had been quietly planning his next stage of ascent in the Roman hierarchy, with his ultimate goal to become Emperor. Now, that could never happen - he knew that if discovered, he would be hunted to the ends of the earth and destroyed. And when he was eventually assassinated by his soldiers, it would be discovered that he was actually immortal.

So he settled for learning. Caemilius infiltrated the banking families, posing as a cousin or a brother-in-law, and eventually held the pursestrings of the Empire in his hand. And when he tired of that, he slowly plucked the strings free, watching as the Western Empire was toppled by any number of external factors. He learned the ways of the Goths and Visigoths and lived among them; when he became bored, he moved to Constantinople and resumed a debauched, Roman way of life. But he always ensured that he was interested in what came next - he always pushed his mind to remain sharp.

His ability to sense others with the same affliction meant that he met many vampires in their various stages during his first half millennium of existence, and was able to plot out how they developed, and how sudden changes stymied them. He realized how vicious and dangerous they had become, and founded the secret Tetrican Society for the eradication of the "uncivilized beast" sometime around 350 AD, believing that only he had mastered this unique form and that all others were vicious, violent, and disturbed creatures that should be destroyed. Caemilius did most of the work for the Society, setting out the groundwork as to how a vampire's stages develops, and how its violence ebbs and wanes throughout its lifespan, as well as how its humanity falls away.

After watching hundreds of examples go from social beings blessed with eternity to insane monsters feeding on lost travellers, Caemilius's conviction that he was the only being capable of truly existing as an eternal human was shaken when he met another, very sane and even older vampire who had travelled to Europe from Asia with the caravan of Marco Polo. Both men seemed surprised that it could happen, and immediately became friends...for some years. The companionship turned to rivalry as both launched schemes to control the politics and finances of the day, and eventually Caemilius dealt with it in true Roman fashion - he staked his rival in his sleep, sometime in the 16th century. Discovery of the body, staked through the heart, led to the formation of many modern vampire myths.

The Tetrican Society and Caemilius broke paths around 1650, when Caemilius realized that without his partner, he was starting to detach from society. For the first time in hundreds of years he had found someone to relate to, and was suddenly unable to cope. If the Tetrican Society's official goal (destroying every vampire) was reached, he could never have another companion. Though the members of the Society had never known they were founded by the very thing they swore to destroy, Caemilius had always "rejoined" the Society every hundred years to help guide them. No more.

It was around this point that he began to develop his plan to find a new companion. Even working towards this goal seemed enough to keep him sane, to keep his mind attached to the increasingly delicate threads maintaining his cohesion on a daily basis. By the year 2010, he was ready to finally act on this plan.

You didn't think I'd put the plan here, did you?

1 comment:

Andre Vienne said...

I would presume craigslist. You can find anything on there.

Still though, I'll be honest, the first thing that came to mind when you mentioned rural, insane vampires, was Deliverance.

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