The First Era
Until recently, the exact origin of the Lategum was unknown, although it has always been known that they are not of the Earth. While the Lategum remember nothing of their home world, they do recall their capsule hurtling toward the Earth, its outer-most layers burning off until it crashed into the side of Vesuvius during what is now known as the 5th century BC. The capsule split when it landed and the collective of Lategum poured out into the crater, where they stayed for several months until a young shepherd happened across them.
The shepherd thought that he had found a wellspring of oil that he could use to fuel his lamps. It was when he dipped a jar in and his fingers brushed the surface of the pool that the first contact was made.
The Lategum could feel the curiosity and the compassion in the young shepherd's mind and one Lategis felt an urge the collective had never felt before. The Lategis flowed up the young man's arm, coating his skin and flowing over him slowly.
Initially, the young shepherd was filled with fear, but soon a strange blissful feeling overcame him, and he watched as the cool blackness coated his fingers, his arm, and he felt it flow across his torso. The blissful feeling grew as the inky black Lategis flowed over his body, up to the iron ring around his neck that marked his place as a shepherd within Osci society. The blackness moved no higher, instead flowing downward now, enclosing his torso, spreading out along his other arm.
The sensation was strange as the cool blackness reached the shepherd's genitals. He felt them being wrapped then tucked and smoothed over, and when he lifted his tunic, he could not see his manhood at all. It was a curious sight, but he calmed when he reached down and his member emerged from the black smoothness of his groin. He pulled his hand away, and his shaft was drawn back down its smooth hiding place.
By this point, the Shepherd was completely covered from the neck down in smooth shiny blackness like a pool of oil. He could feel moments of pressure within himself, but they passed quickly and subsided entirely after the shadows had lengthened considerably.
The young shepherd lay on the side of Vesuvius for rest of the day, watching his flock and feeling a growing pleasure like he had only felt once before when his father had taken him to the brothels in Pompeii. He knew that he needed to return to his flock before the darkness set in, and so he gathered some scrub grass and tried to scour the blackness off his skin to no avail.
For a moment the young shepherd felt fear, and then a sense of calm came over him. A cloak to cover his arms and legs would be fine, and he could return to the farm village with his flock.
Days passed into weeks and into months and the young shepherd wore his cloak everywhere, careful to keep every inch of himself covered from the neck down until one day that changed his life forever. While he had not tried to remove the blackness from his body since that first night, he still knew he needed to keep it hidden. He wasn't sure why, but he just knew that his oil-black skin should be kept from the eyes of many. The fire in the market, however, changed everything.
The wool he had brought to sell was burning, and he threw himself upon the bales. His cloak and tunic burned away, but the blackness covering him protected him from the flames. Several saw the oil-like coating on his skin and marvelled at how it had protected him. They asked to be shown where to get such coatings themselves. A quiet voice in the back of his mind told the Shepherd that showing them would be good.
A small group of a half dozen followed the young shepherd the next morning to the black pool high up the slopes of Vesuvius. He explained how it had taken some time for the black substance to coat him, and perhaps if they would step into the pool, their coatings would be quicker and less unsettling than his own had been at the start. Two men and four women unclothed then and there, save for their iron neck rings, and they stepped into the pool.
They all sank in up to their necks, but when their neck rings touched the surface; they suddenly felt something solid beneath their feet. The pleasure that the shepherd had described them hit them all as one, butt stronger, and the shepherd who was sitting by the side of the black pool felt their pleasure too. It was intense and he could feel it like a breeze coming at him from six directions, blowing over him and through him just like when he had felt the blackness spread over him.
Over the centuries, the Hospes Lategum has evolved, as have its markings and the designations of the Hosts. Initially, the collars worn by the Hospes were simple iron bands, marked with the Caste of the wearer within Osci society. Even after Pompeii was conquered by the Romans, the marks remained. The mark for the Herdsman's Caste was the leader’s mark, while the mark for the merchants’ caste became accepted as the administrator’s mark. The builders, tailors, and other craftsman’s marks were accepted as the marks of the third rank… the third group of Hosts to join the Hospes Lategum, and the fourth rank came largely from the craftsman’s castes as well.
As the centuries marched on, the Shepherd came to be known as the First or the Prime. Those who had joined him after the fire in the marketplace became known as the Seconds, and under the leadership of the First and his six Seconds, the fledgeling Hospes Lategum grew year by year until they were 700 of them by 78 AD.
It was then that Vesuvius began to rumble.
Because the collective still resided in a pool on the slopes of Vesuvius, they could feel the coming danger and they had almost a year to prepare before the mountain blew its top. The pool was emptied, jar by jar, and carried by the Hosts back to Pompeii. Large Amphorae were filled with hundreds of Lategis each… new mini-collectives - temporary segments of the original hive-mind. The Lategum knew they needed to restore their whole - their unity being broken in this way was painful despite its necessity.
As a result, the unjoined Lategum focused their mental efforts, and they learned to use the brainwaves of the hosts sleeping minds to communicate. The First was the first to hear the conscious thoughts of the Lategum hive-mind, and its unity and beauty brought an even deeper calm into his already peaceful and gentle soul.
As the pre-shocks and quakes that shook Pompeii grew ever more intense and frequent, the Amphorae were loaded onto ships that the Merchant Hospes owned. They sailed south around the tip of the Italian peninsula then East. The ships landed in Durres in what is now Albania and the Hospes and the amphorae filled with Lategum made their way to Dacia (now Romania).
Targoviste was the agreed meeting place because many of the Merchants had holdings there where they and the other Hospes would be safe. In addition, the surrounding lands were good for sheep, so the Hospes could continue to support themselves as they always had.
The Second Era
Over the course of eight months, one Amphora arrived per week with a half dozen hosts escorting it. Then, in AD 79, they stopped.
300 Hospes died when Vesuvius exploded, along with hundreds of Lategum. One of the losses was the First.
Among the survivors in Targoviste, only one of the three designated successors remained. She knew that First was not an appropriate title for herself, and so she asked that she be addressed as Alpha.
She went among her brother and sister hosts and tested them to see the strength of their bonds with their Lategis and designated them by their ability to commune with and through their Lategis as Beta, Gamma, and Delta. She said that the newest hosts would be addressed as Brother or Sister Epsilon and any to be brought to her wishing to join with a Lategis would be addressed as a Brother or Sister Zeta.
She was the second leader, the first Alpha, and she gave the Hospes Lategum its current rank system, but she warned all that the designations they had been given were a matter of responsibility, not a privilege. Her first words to the Hospes Lategum as Alpha were recorded as “No one Hospes is greater than any other. Though I have been chosen by the First and by Fate to lead you, I am no better than any of you. For that matter, not Hospes is any greater or any less than any other. In the eyes of the Lategum, we are equal. We join with them and in the smallest of ways, share in their unity and equality.”
After that day she led the Hospes Lategum in growing their number again, peacefully and quietly. Many Monks from the abbey at Targoviste joined and many scholars too, and the Lategum found their calm and their quest for an understanding to be a perfect mesh with the desires of the collective.
However, those who found calm in physical labour or in healing were respected for their dedication to their craft as well, and farmers and herdsman were celebrated as providers, though the nutritional requirements of a host once joined diminished significantly.
Despite the political unrest in the area due to the Ottoman Empire to the east and the crumbling Roman empire to the west, the Hospes Lategum thrived. By the early 15th century AD they were nearly 5000 in number, spread out through Targoviste and much of the Romanian province of Wallachia.
As with all good things, however, it was not to last. The Ottoman Empire invaded and many Lategum and Hospes were lost, butchered as abominations by both sides of the conflict. The worst atrocities were suffered at the hands of the Prince of Wallachia, however, Vlad Dracula – better known as Vlad the Impaler. Having learned of the longevity of individual hosts within the Lategum, Vlad not only killed many Hospes but collected and drank their blood in the hope that he would extend his own life in doing so.
Faced with the potential annihilation of the Hospes Lategum, the first Alpha commanded the exodus of the Hospes Lategum from Romania. She went from one enclave to the next, spreading the word to all the Brothers and Sisters. It was as she was herself preparing to leave Targoviste that Vlad Dracul and a handful of his guard arrived and dragged her away to his palace to be tortured and executed.
It is important to note that the first Alpha had designated two potential successors. It is also important to note that neither potential successor was human, but an animal that had been joined with a Lategis in an effort to communicate with the animals. With the Alpha’s death, the prime successor - the tigress - was elevated to Alpha. The secondary successor – the eagle – took leadership of the Defensores, and swore to protect the Lategum, the new Alpha, and all hosts.
The Third Era
After a gruelling journey through Europe, fleeing the influence of the Ottoman empire and Vlad the Impaler, the Hospes Lategum bartered passage aboard a ship across the English channel. The ship was primarily in service for shipping war materials across the English channel for the English efforts in the Hundred Years War in France. Despite the losses suffered in the exodus from Targoviste, it still took a number of weeks for the beleaguered hosts to all make the crossing, along with the Lategum they had managed to save.
Upon arriving in England in the early spring of 1460, it seemed as though the hopes of peaceful life for the collective were once again in jeopardy from the flames of war, the promises of peace that they had followed the years prior had given way to the Wars of the Roses, a conflict, at its earliest stages, between the houses of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York and Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, over the succession of the English throne.
Nonetheless, after regathering outside the port of Dover, they began moving north-west into the county, looking for a place to settle. Inside the marshland near Bredhurst, they found their chosen place to rebuild. Land, sitting on a solid bedrock in the centre of a dense area of forest, gave them the place they needed to rear livestock and a plentiful supply of lumber for building their homes. The marshland surrounding them gave them a suitable buffer from belligerents, in the hopes that armies would bypass the marsh and leave them be, as well as shrouding their home from other villages and travellers.
Having learned a valuable lesson about what the ravages of war could mean for the collective, the Defensores Lategum, under the leadership The Eagle and Beta 0112, his second, opted to amend the collective's position as mere bystanders or conscientious objectors when war came to their land. No Host was to become a combatant, but the secondary work of the Defensores was to be the safeguarding the collective from harm, by securing tactical allegiances and using whatever influence possible to either avert war or ensure that war was diverted from them. The Alpha was an ardent lover of peace and would gladly see no Host harmed or even involved in the machinations of war, but recognising the need, she agreed to the Defensores' new policy.
The battles of Blore Heath and Ludford Bridge the previous year had signalled that the years of peace between the Lords of the country had ended, and word had reached the Defensores that the lord Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Edward, Earl of March had made landfall in the port of Sandwich, with an army 20,000 strong.
A meeting of the Defensores and the Alpha was called and debated on what was to be done. The collective had remained neutral until now, but it was decided that a side had to be chosen. The (to be later named as) Lancastrians had control of the King's court and had held it for a strong 5 years. The Alpha pointed out, however, that the rule of the Lancastrians was wavering, and that the Yorkists were fiercely tenacious. Thus, the decision was made that they would offer support to the Yorkist army at this juncture.
As the army moved North-West on their march toward London, Defensores Lategum scouts reported back that the soldiers were spreading out and seeking supplies from the nearby townships. Provisions had been lost to rot and maggots on the trip across the channel from Calais, and the men were in great hunger.In response to this, Beta 0112 and two of his Defensores rode out (with their Lategum discretely covered) to speak with the commanding Lords. Fortunately for the collective, the spring had left them with a great abundance of food and wool. Beta 0112 offered a great tribute of mutton, cheese and spun wool to aid the army's efforts, in good faith, with the only requisite that they cross peacefully through Kent and remember the favour given to them by the peoples of Bredhurst. Eagerly, the commanders agreed and the army was fed, clothed and rested before their march on London.
The night prior to the army's departure from the Kent, Beta 0112 confided in Richard Neville and Edward of York, a decisive piece of intel. Sir Edmund Grey, an opposing commander, was greatly discontent with the house's leadership, and in turn had fallen out of favour in the king's court, with a suspected assassination attempt looming for him. Should an opportunity arise, he could become a swift ally.
In recompense for the service of the Hospes Lategum, Edward gave them his word that he would ensure his father bequeath an able protector to their lands when the war was won.
Indeed, through a little swift bribery and messages from the Yorkists, Edmund Grey did indeed switch sides, at the battle of Northumberland, less than two weeks after the Yorkist army had left from Kent. After the day was won for the Yorkists, Edmund Grey was told by the Yorkist leaders of the people of the marsh whose bounty had given their army the valuable supplies they had needed to carry on their march.
Intrigued, Edmund Grey ventured to Bredhurst with his personal guard when the campaign halted for the year and met with Beta 0112. The two of them became fast friends, despite the former's warlike nature. Many Hospes celebrated new allegiances and a brighter future for England over wine and song, and it was later in the evening that Edmund Grey, having ingested much wine, swore an oath of allegiance to peoples of Bredhurst. Beta 0112 thought nothing of it at the time, but it was indeed, an oath upheld.
It would be four years later, after the closing battles of the second war of the roses, that Edmund Grey was made the first Earl of Kent by Edward IV. In the Hospes Lategum, Edmund Grey found great advisory knowledge and wisdom for his lands, as well as the bounty of the Hospes Lategum's keen knowledge of animal husbandry and medicine, which was indeed ahead of its time. During his time as Earl of Kent, he kept the Hospes Lategum from harm, ensured the holy blessing and protection of the church was bestowed upon their lands, and even stationed some of his army in the area to defend the lands from bandits, rogues, and wayward skirmishers from the battles to the north-west. In time, he was made privy to the collective's true nature, and while he politely declined to become joined, he came to respect the Hospes Lategum's way of life in a way other nobles of the world could not.
So it was until the House of Grey was passed to George Grey, second son of Edmund Grey, and second earl of Kent, who was taught the ways of Hospes Lategum by his father and was entrusted with their safeguarding in years to come.
George upheld the agreement of his father, and in turn, the Hospes Lategum gave him their support in coin and wisdom in his further endeavours.
George Grey in his lifetime would serve dutifully under Richard 3rd, being made a Knight of the Bath in 1483. He then fought years later under Henry VII's banner against Perkin Warbeck, ensuring the favour of the House of Grey with the Tudor family and by extension, the well-being of the Hospes Lategum.
George Grey's son, Richard Grey, inheritor of the Earldom of Kent, inherited his father's responsibilities. Alas, not so wise as his father, he ended up very much in debt through gambling and was left almost penniless when his property was sold to the royal family to cover his debts. Remembering the good graces of his father and grandfather, the Hospes Lategum donated to him a sizable sum from the collective's treasury so that he would not live in poverty and lose his peerage.
The House of Grey continued to be an ally of the Hospes Lategum in later years, but as the power of the old noble houses faded after the years of the Tudors and Stuarts, so too did the protection that could be offered to them, requiring the Hospes Lategum to hold steady their independence and for the Defensores to ensure the safety of the collective by other means as the world changed around them.
It was during the time of relative peace that the current Alpha entertained proposals from the Praeceptores that a study of the possibility of creating other beings like herself and the Defensor Magnus. There were no breakthroughs, however, and progress on creating further animal-to-Lategis joining was non-existent until the works of Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel shed light on the concepts of evolution and selective breeding. Although the process normally took hundreds of generations, the idea that traits could be selected and bred for was a short stretch and attempts to breed more intelligent animals began in earnest with domesticated cats and dogs. The process was slow, but after only three generations, progress was seen. Smarter cats who understood how to open doors and dogs who could tell a real trail from a fake one by not only smelling but feeling and looking for signs of authenticity.
More remarkable progress was needed, however, and it became possible in the late 1890s. The chromosome was discovered and the composition of DNA was starting to be understood. The Lategum Medici and Lategum Praeceptores studied and experimented, trying to find ways to not only see, but to identify the chromosomes that governed intelligence.
The research was disrupted, however, by a war with new terrors that many hosts could hardly fathom. There were explosions all around and the sound of massive machines of war flying overhead. It was 1940, and the London Blitz had begun.
The Fourth Era
The current Alpha could feel the fear in all her Brothers and Sisters and confusion from the Lategum collective. There was no volcano here like Pompeii, and they were on an Island now, supposedly safe from other empires invading thanks to the channel that separated Britain from the rest of Europe. But the bombs were falling and it was time for exodus once more.
The Hospes Lategum had a fair stockpile of gold that it had accumulated over the centuries and this gold was used to procure a ship. It wasn’t fancy, just an old freighter, but it would serve the needs of the Hospes Lategum perfectly.
The Lategum Collective was divided into several tanks and those tanks were transported to the boat by train. The only Host capable of flight kept a watchful eye from above, and this choice would make him a hero and end his life.
A single British fighter plane, smoking badly, riddled with bullet holes, was plummeting toward the train conveying the tanks filled with the Lategum to their waiting freighter. Without thought for his own safety, the Defensor Magnus tucked his wings and dove for the plane.
The canopy ripped away easily, and in seconds, the controls were jammed to pull the plane hard right continuously with the pilot’s seat belts. We then pulled the pilot into his arms and spread his wings. Instantly, he was lifted up and away from the spiralling plane, and he began to follow the plane’s smoke trail toward the ground.
A German pilot spotted him, however, and opened fire.
The body of the fallen eagle – an eagle that had come to the Hospes Lategum with a broken wing – was collected and given burial at sea by the surviving Hospes.
The Hospes Lategum stayed at sea for three months, avoiding known shipping lanes as much as possible, and as the ship's supply of fuel was about to run out, they found a recently abandoned island in the South Pacific.
There were buildings there already, and bunker deep beneath the island which was easy enough to clean up and make comfortable. Rolls of carpet that had been used to pack the tanks holding the Lategum in were spread out in the many rooms of the bunker.
With the new headquarters up and running, the Hospes Lategum found a new peace in their stay. Times were well enough, resources were easy to come by and membership was growing again. With the success of genetic research technology was able to flourish and new and exciting things were to come. Unfortunately, in just a few short years after finding their new home, a new war was to break out not far from the peaceful island.
In the 1950s, the Korean War war began and with it, ships were often a constant threat and invasion seemed imminent. Thankfully, the island was far enough away that the Hospes was no real threat to either side or even on their radar. Bombs went off in the distance, and war loomed always on the horizon never coming any closer.
In 1952, the Battle of Triangle Hill began, and with it came the threat of aircraft bombing. With supplies low, the Hospes turned to trade with passing ships that needed fuel and rest. Sitting on an active volcano meant that fertile land was plentiful, which meant growing food for trade was very very easy.
As months came and gone, the land of the Hospes was tended to and moulded slowly. A new home was built for those guests of the Lategum in case of need. While construction was easy enough, the actual housing was not. The Hospes had no real need for money and so rent was not an issue. As such, the house remained mostly unoccupied for a great duration of its use. Though it still stands to this day, it is rarely used other than the occasional nap or for small gatherings of unjoined guests.
In 1953, an agreement was signed between the warring nations, and the fighting ceased. The dead were collected, and the occupation of Korean territory was withdrawn. Once again, we would have our peace. And with peace, the Hospes Lategum would flourish once more. New members were joined and some left to spread the word of the Hospes and its goals so as to further our mission.
When the Vietnam War started in 1954, the Hospes believed that they would be caught in the crossfire again. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. With guerrilla warfare at an all time high, the countries were too busy to care about our peaceful island any further, though it left an impact on all. The devastation that the tactics of war gave horrified the peaceful Lategum and left a foul taste in the mouths of those who remembered the sacrifice and horror of the second world war.
The Korean and Vietnam war only solidified the goals of the Hospes in their efforts to keep peace and bring peace to all lands of the Earth. In the wake of such destruction, the current Alpha made a vow that never would she be witness to any more senseless violence, making sure that she and her children of the Lategum were safe on the island by any means. This lead to an agreement between the Hospes and a few outside friends of military decent that would protect the island from outside forces or from prying eyes.
Because of rising technological advancements made from wartime efforts, the genetic research from the Hospes nearly tripled. New gene therapy was discovered and genetic anomalies were all but faded out of the group of beings that would come to be known as "furries". These beings who had new lives and wonders often joined with the Hospes in thanks, though some would not as they wanted a life away from the island. This was, of course, encouraged as freedom was key to the Hospes, freedom to seek a new path and a new life for themselves wherever they please.
With new found life, furries would spread far and wide, have children, and spread out all over the world. And then, in 1969, man first walked on the moon. New and exciting dreams began to be dreamed, and with it, the Hospes looked to the stars curious about their partners' origins. With the success of Neil Armstrong and his crew, the Hospes was excited over the possibilities and the wonders of what the cosmos held for us.
With new light and new invigoration, the Hospes began to build new technologies, an expanded horizon, and a new hope for discovery. With ever expanding technology, and beautiful stars to gaze upon, the Hospes promised to reach for the stars and always continue to grow. In light of this new found hope, plans for a telescope began, though construction would wait for quite a few years still as the headquarters was in need of a bit of modernization.
In the late 1970s, with rising economic boom from our neighbours to the east and west came the easement and acquisition of new supplies, construction equipment, and scientific tools. Our military friends helped facilitate new trade for equipment and soon enough the Hospes had what was needed to complete many scientific research projects. Cures and vaccinations all over the world were attributed to the Hospes, even in secret, and now that worldwide politics were cooling down a bit, it was easier for bits of information to leak out about the Hospes.
However, in the 1980s with the rise of the Cold War between the US and the USSR, the tension was at an all-time high and the threat of nuclear annihilation was strong. The military friends that once aided us quickly abandoned us as the technicality of the island's ownership was questionable. After being gifted the island by the US as a former territory, the sovereignty was endorsed at the UN by Gorbachev to try to make the Soviets seem relevant. However, in 1979 the island became recognised as a sovereign nation under the Pacific Trust.
With the world on edge, and technology growing still due to tension, the Hospes agreed that it was best to stay hidden once more and work on their advancements. The plans for the telescope drawn up years ago would soon start coming to fruition as the observatory began construction. For the most part, the Cold War seemed to be a grand thing for the Hospes as it gave us time to reflect and relax from the outside world, even if the occasional ship still landed in our bays and explored our island.
When 1991 came and ended the Soviet Union, the Hospes regained the aid of the United States and our military companions came back to us. New trade agreements were reached and new materials were gathered for the observatory. New computers were installed and even updates to the bunker were done as work was easy to come by in exchange for housing and food. All were welcomed to the Hospes and to this day all are. With things calming down, the Hospes announced itself to the world at long last, letting many more members come to the peaceful island in search of a life and purpose.
After the threat of war was gone, and new information about the Hospes started circulating, we had become known across the world. With over 40 patents directly from the Hospes itself and many friends in US and British territories, we were able to flourish and thrive in our peaceful surroundings, working ever harder toward the goals we set out so many years ago. To this day, the Hospes strives for greatness and peace, even under the threat of Nuclear war, terrorism, piracy, and politics. Never will we give up, and never will we stop trying to help the world.
With membership growing once more, all seemed well with the little island that the Hospes called home, and things finally seemed like they were going to get better. The observatory was complete, trade was flourishing again, and the world was quiet. While the Hospes worked, the world moved on, and we continued to strive for greatness.
Written by β3491, β7870 and γ3501