The Pax Romana

uring the great Pax Romana, Charon’s road builders spread far and wide, building a network of roads through the Darkness. This network was truly expansive, connecting the Shadowlands of such far-off places as Britain, Gaul, Mauritania, Rome, Thrace, Galatia, Damascus, Armenia and Tanais. Wherever Rome went, Stygia followed. As Roman legionnaires died during the wars of conquest, many became soldiers in the Stygian militia, protecting the Ferrymen as they went about their business of gathering souls. Ferrymen regularly embarked from the quays of Stygia, departing for the Far Shores of the Norse, the Celts, the Gauls, the Romans and others. Anyone who died found a ship waiting.

It was also during the Pax Romana that Charon discovered the horses that lived in the great Slough of the River of Death. These wild steeds had somehow been caught in the ancient Sundering. Some say the horses had been intended as a gift from Poseidon to this brother Hades, but had broken free, swan the Styx, and now ran wild in the Darkness. Charon coveted these beautiful, pure, milk-white horses, with their long, flowing black manes and blood-red eyes. With the help of Nhudri, he created the tools necessary to tame his own. Soon Charon had personally tamed 13 death-steeds, which he presented as gifts to all the Ferrymen who wanted them.

After spending many months talking with philosophers and listening to the greatest minds of Rome, Charon introduced the doctrine of “Lux Veritas,” the Light of Truth. He felt that Stygia had both a right and a responsibility to preserve the greatest thoughts and works of humanity. He gave word to all his Legions and minions to bring to Stygia any antiquity of merit, where it would be safely hidden in vaults deep beneath the Senate.

But all was not well in Stygia. Charon’s increasingly authoritarian rule, coupled with the deaths of various rebels and martyrs in the living world, produced a class of dissatisfied malcontent wraiths. These wraiths, known as Renegades, defied the authority of Charon and his minions.

Renegades began to harry the Ferrymen on the roads as well as on the River of Death. In response, Charon mounted several soldiers to act as escorts for the Ferrymen. He called these soldiers his Equitaes, much like the Roman cavalry.

As Rome began to fall, Stygia felt the dissolution. Christianity was spreading in the living world, and suddenly many Fishers (as they were called by Charon’s Legions because of the fish symbol they used to signify themselves to each other) began appearing in Stygia. Building vessels from the flotsam lignin the shores of the Isle of Sorrows, the Fishers set off for their own Far Shores, a place they called “Paradise.” None of the Shining Ones had ever heard of such a place, but the Fishers had faith in its existence.

At about this time, Stygian wraiths began to notice more and more Spectres along the roads, in the Shadowlands, along the riverbanks – everywhere. Wherever Spectres went, chaos, Oblivion, destruction and confusion followed in their wake. They skinrode wild bands of barbarians, particularly a tribe called the Vandals, and attacked Rome itself. In the battle that ensued, the Vandals were slain. The wraiths of the dead Vandals, upon seeing Stygia, they thought they were being brought to another version of Rome in the afterlife. Accordingly, they attacked it as well. Although the organized and better-armored Equitaes repelled them, the subsequent siege laid by the possessing Spectres tested the defenses of Stygia to their limit. Charon himself was often seen on the battlefield, his scythe cutting a swath through the armies of the dead.