Long before ivy grew on the walls of Miskatonic University or the Deep Ones first came to Innsmouth, centuries before the mad Arab penned the dreaded Necronomicon, the malevolent powers of the Cthulhu Mythos plagued mankind. During the Age of the Antonines (96 AD–192 AD), when the Roman Empire was at the peak of its power, dark and unknowable forces were at work. Ancient wizards sought ways to cheat death, explorers stumbled on the remnants of alien civilizations, foul cults practiced unholy rites, and inhuman creatures sought to mix their blood with ours.
Across Rome’s vast empire, a few brave men and women rose up to meet these threats for the greater good of mankind. They carried light into the darkness, dispelling a poisonous taint which grows best in the shadows. With steel and spell and burning torch, these heroic investigators of the ancient world defended their civilization from the fearsome powers of the Cthulhu Mythos. Golden Goblin Press is proud to offer up nine tales of their horrific struggles and sacrifices.
Tales of Cthulhu Invictus – Edited by Brian Sammons
- Vulcan’s Forge by William Meikle
- Fecunditati Augustae by Christine Morgan
- A Plague of Wounds by Konstantine Paradias
- Tempus Edax Rerum by Pete Rawlik
- The Unrepeatables by Edward M. Erdelac
- Magnum Innominandum by Penelope Love
- Lines in the Sand by Tom Lynch
- The Temple of Iald-T’qurhoth by Lee Clark Zumpe
- The Seven Thunders by Robert M. Price
My story, The Unrepeatables follows Damis of Nineveh, the former companion of the famed miracle worker Apollonius of Tyana, and ex-Centurion Modus Macula as they investigate the summer home of a famous charioteer under suspicion of profaning the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Here’s an excerpt.
“Yes,” said Damis. “I have been trying to convince Macula to attend in the coming year.”
“Fat chance,” Calidas piped up. “If I remember Macula, he does not believe in the gods. Isn’t that right?”
“I believe in what I can put between my hands,” said Macula.
“Ah! A brimming wine goblet! A fat woman!” Bibaculus laughed, squeezing the girl at his side until she squealed and slapped his hairy arm.
“Or a sword,” finished Macula.
“But wasn’t Apollonius a devotee of Pythagoras?” Atomus asked. “How does one reconcile initiation in a Greek rite with monotheism?”
“By Jove!” Calidas spat into his cup. “You’re not a Christian are you?”
The room shook with laughter.
Damis smiled thinly.
“In no other manner can one exhibit a fitting respect for the Divine being than by refusing to offer any victim at all; to Him we must not kindle fire or make promise unto Him of any sensible object whatsoever. For He needs nothing even from beings higher than ourselves. Nor is there any plant or animal which earth sends up or nourishes, to which some pollution is not incident. We should make use in relation to Him solely of that which issues not by the lips, but from the noblest faculty we possess, and that faculty is intelligence, which needs no organ. That is what my master taught.”
“Even Jews sacrifice,” said Calidas. “How else can that which is worth attaining be attained, save through offering and hardship?” he went on, squeezing Brehane’s hand. “Without the race there is no victory.”
“Is that what you believe, Atomus?” Damis asked.
“What makes you think I am a Jew?” Atomus countered.
“What are you then? A Simonian? One of these Valentinians?” He leaned closer. “Something else?”
“My father was a priest in the Temple when Titus burned it and carried off the Menorah for the Colosseum. What I knew of the glory of the holy city I knew from stories. I grew up in its ruins. I was there when Hadrian burnt the Torah atop the Mount, breaking his promise to rebuild the Temple and renaming Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina.”
The atmosphere around the table had plummeted into a silent coldness, and Damis and Atomus glared at each other with naked but inscrutable dislike.
“This is too heated a discussion for the dinner table,” Calidas said, finding his victorious smile again. “Don’t be boring, Atomus. Macula? What say you, Damis?”
“Soleas poscere,” said Damis, signaling that the dinner had ended for him.
Dutifully, two of the slaves emerged with their sandals.
Macula, mouth full of dormouse, blinked surprise. Something had roused the ire of the old mystic, but he had no idea what.
They got up from the table. Damis took him by the elbow and guided him to the lararium on the wall to pay their respects to the household gods depicted in miniature statuary in the recessed little niche.
As Macula began to bow, Damis gripped him tightly, causing him to straighten, and steered him out into the atrium, where two burly slaves standing in the vestibulum pulled open the doors for them.
Soon they were on the dim, torch lit road winding down the hill, the lights of town below, the moonlight playing on the rippling bay.
“I take it you’ve found something,” Macula said.
“I’m not sure. Take this, for I fear we shall know in a moment.”
From under his voluminous philosopher’s robes, Damis produced a short, glittering pugio in a silver frame scabbard which had been fashioned into a fanciful depiction of a man sinking a sword into the breast of some dragon-like monstrosity.
“Where did you get that?”
“Master Damis! Master Macula!”
Macula half-turned, to see the two well-built door slaves trotting down the road after them.
They had napkins bundled in their hands.
“Our master begs you not to forget your napkins.”
Macula narrowed his eyes. It was customary for the host of a party to wrap his guest’s personal napkins about some token gift before returning them.
Except they had taken their napkins with them.
As the first of the two big slaves reached them, Macula whipped the dagger free of its scabbard with a ring and thrust the point in his heart to the hilt.
He had to kick the body off the blade as the second slave lunged at him, something flashing in his fist.
Macula ducked under the swing and jabbed upwards, catching the second man under the chin, the point popping out of the crown of his skull.
He retrieved one of the napkins and wiped the blood from the blade.
The napkin of the first man had a dagger hidden in the folds.
“So I was right,” Damis breathed.
“What’s going on? Why did you bring a pugio to the party if you didn’t suspect anything?”
“Traveling with Apollonius I learned to take precautions. The star Sothis is ascendant. It is an ill-omen.”
“I thought you hated astrology.”
“I hate astrologers,” Damis corrected. “I thought very little of this errand of yours, true, when the night began.”
“Till you saw that Iacchus in the mosaic?”
“It raised my suspicions. You may not believe in the gods, Macula, and the guise in which you know them may indeed be a lie, but just as Jove is Zeus, once they had other names and other faces, terrible to behold.”
As he spoke, Damis removed a pouch from his robes and spilled its contents into his hand. There were six rings, each with a different colored intaglio gem, like the one he already wore, engraved with a symbol representing each of the seven stars.
He slipped them on one at a time.
“Iacchus,” he said, “the son of Hades and Demeter, who was later known as Bacchus and Dionysus, whose maenad cult was driven to terrible ecstasies, ripping apart goats with their bare hands. And yet the nameless cult of Iacchus, or Icthiacchilius as he is known, sacrificed a goat without horns beneath the moon and the Star of Sothia, and tore their victim apart with their teeth. And behind him, behind Demeter and Mithras, behind Nuada, Ashur, Neptune and Cthulhu, the great whirling chaos, the Womb of Darkness from which the gods spawned, as far outside our knowing as is dread Tartarus. Chaos. Tiamat. Azathoth.”
Macula shook his head, staring down at the moonlight on the blade of the dagger, which was engraved with seals and unreadable voces mysticae.
“So what do we tell Marcius Turbo?”
“I fear there is no time to return to Rome,” said Damis. “This night, foul things are afoot in that house, and must be stopped.”
At that moment, a shrill scream rang out from high on the hill, a woman’s scream, prolonged in agony, which dwindled till it was lost on the sea breeze.
Macula was already running back up the road with Damis huffing behind.
On sale now at the Golden Goblin Press website.