The Vampires of Carthage are the archnemesis of Rome and its antithesis in almost every way. Where Rome expands by brute force, Carthage coerces through trade, infiltration, bribery and should that fail: assassination and war. The vampires are cunning seducers and deceivers in stark contrast to Rome’s soldier culture of honor and self-sacrifice. Carthage’s powerful mercenary armies boast capable men from around the world, all bound to Carthage not by loyalty but by the promise of gold. However, Carthage commands more than just endless swarms of mercenaries: an armada of warships, vampiric war elephants, ancient terrors from the deep desert, ethereal assassins and horrors born from the laboratories of the vampire’s demented alchemists—all bolster their ranks. What Carthage lacks in physical might they make up for with their vast mental powers, often being able to completely dominate weak minded creatures like puppets. Carthaginian society holds three strata: at the bottom exist the commoners, normal human beings as well as other peoples from the ancient world; next is an elite of aristocratic vampires that prey on the commoners and see them as little more than livestock, and even above them is an ancient cabal of deformed nosferatu-like vampire elders that hold all power in the Carthaginian empire. When not engaged in Machiavellian intrigue or decadent pleasure seeking, the vampires practice the black arts and worship their dark patron deities: Bhaal, the Lord of Death; Astarte, Mistress of the Dark; Moloch, the Lord of Pleasure; and Dagon, Lord of the Deep.
Ever since the vampiric curse arrived on this plane of existence, the vampires were hunted. Their kind shunned, expelled, killed and tortured by all those they came into contact with. In this way the vampires realized that their continued existence was completely reliant on secrecy. Thus, after millenia of being hunted they retreated out of sight and silently spun their web of intrigue to protect themselves but also to make those pay that had challenged their very right to existence. Secret societies of vampires sprung up all over the Mediterranean, infiltrating deep into positions of power while never revealing their true nature. With promises of eternal life and treasures, the willing were subverted while the unwilling found gleaming daggers in the night waiting for them. The vampire’s superior mental powers enthralled those susceptible to their hypnotic charisma. Athens, Cyrene, Ephesus, Syracuse, Seguntum and many more began to fall under their influence with their respective royal families at the forefront of vampiric corruption. The once hunted had become the secret sovereigns.
Of these vampire strongholds one rose above all others, Carthago, the “New City”. Originally a small colony settled by the mythical queen Elyssa, the city had become the center of the spider’s web. After the vampire’s successful subversion of the Carthaginian nobility, Carthago grew into a prosperous trade empire. Under the vampires shrewd stewardship and thanks to their special skill to secure advantageous arrangements for their own side by the use of clandestine tactics such as intimidation, bribery, seduction, conversion, assassination, psychic domination and magical manipulation; Carthage expanded nearly unopposed in all directions. Trade routes became the arteries through which the vampiric corruption spread. The enormous profits of their trades allowed Carthage to become a dominant military force as well, with their near limitless vaults of gold funding standing mercenary armies; riders from Numidia, phalanxes from Greece, infantry from Iberia and an intimidating armada of ships ready to do battle. Everything was going according to plan… until the wolves arrived.
The werewolves could perceive them, see them for what they really were. The wolves’ heightened sense of smell revealed the conspiracy in a crude but effective manner. With the vampire’s strongest advantage, secrecy, gone, the Romans quickly snuffed out all plots to infiltrate their territories. Being immune to the bite itself, and with an instinctive revulsion towards vampires, they violently removed the vampiric corruption from their lands. Enraged at the deception, they set out to remove it from all the lands of the earth. Once the news of the foiled conspiracy had spread, many cities and kingdoms requested Roman advisors to protect the integrity of their courts and councils. Where Carthage’s might once seemed unchallenged their influence now quickly began to wane. Carthage had underestimated the Romans and they paid a bitter price. The first open war has been lost. Large territories have already been seceded to Rome and the world has become alerted to their existence. Once more the vampire nation has been dragged out into the open, and the world recoils in horror at the magnitude of the corruption.
Vampires are creatures of magic and as such they possess innate talent in the arcane arts, with Carthage carrying some of the most skilled magical adepts in the known world. The natural psychic abilities of vampires allow them to dominate weak willed individuals like marionettes, ready to share any secret or commit any act, no matter how heinous, on the vampire’s behest. In their search for ever more knowledge and secrets to further their designs, a sizable portion of Carthage’s riches flows into exploration of the magical arts. The vampire’s alchemical laboratories burst with secret experiments that would make the blood of a commoner curl. Hemo-constructs, animated blood golems, human-animal chimeras, and vengeful spirits bound by magical contraptions to do the bidding of their masters, all flow from the deranged laboratories of Carthago.
On the surface Carthage is ruled by a senate composed of the royal families, much like Rome’s senate, but in reality the Carthaginian noblemen are all pawns in the vampire’s machinations. The vampire’s themselves form a hidden aristocracy that controls the senate. The vampire royalty is bifurcated into two wings, a knight order that commands armies, conquers territories and another wing of magical adepts that engage in unspeakable excesses within their palaces, and whose transgressions must forever remain hidden from the eyes of the commoner.
At the pinnacle of the Carthaginian power hierarchy stands the “Midnight Choir”. A conspiracy within the conspiracy, of which only a small number of rank and file vampires are even privy of. The Midnight Choir is a secret council of thirteen of the oldest and most powerful vampires that hold all real power within the empire. With some of the council’s masters being over one thousand years old and resembling deformed Nosferatu-like beings with translucent skin – revealing the inner workings of their bodies – elongated fingers and black yet luminescent eyes; they are as alien in their tastes and ambitions as regular vampires are to commoners. The senior most members of this cabal no longer solely exist on the physical plane but continuously phase in and out of the astral realm which makes them powerful planar travelers in possession of fearsome magical insight. To keep themselves anchored in the material plane and stabilize their involuntary plane shifting, they require a very potent blood only derived from a special source–their fellow vampire kin…
With Rome’s ascendance Carthago has been challenged unlike ever before in its history, and the council of vampire’s has mobilized all its worldly and arcane might to meet the Wolves of Rome. Silver has become a rare commodity as Carthage buys up every ounce to coat its weapons of war with it. Carthage has accelerated the infiltration of those kingdoms opposed to Roman interference. They are even going so far as to call upon long forgotten deities such as Dagon, Lord of the Deep, and his acolytes the Sea-People, the harbingers of the last Age’s apocalypse, to secure a future for vampires as apex predators above all others.
To be continued…