Ruin slipped quietly and easily into the great houses of Rome, a creature more deadly and perverted than any could suspect from such a pretty young face. Indeed how fair she was to look upon, with her long dark curls drawn up in jewels and her lips the colour of spring-blooming amaranths. Surely she was the beautiful young wife of one of the patricians, but no one asked her and the young woman never told.
On her first day of meeting the newly-elected and well-beloved Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus - the one they called Caligula - she lowered her eyes with a respect she did not truly feel and introduced herself as a mere mortal and under the name of Antonia Caecilia. (Yes, she could have come to him under her own name, the one that these Romans had given her when they had taken hold of the rest of the Gods of her homeland. But why give away such secrets so early? Were she Serum or Ate, it wouldn't matter; both names Folly and Delusion to all that spoke them.)
So the eldest daughter of Zeus, the Goddess who brought all foolish men to their own doom, joined the court of the Emperor and she remained near to his bedside when he fell ill. The poor man really had little choice in the matter when it came to Ate's wishes. A feverish young man had no power at all to resist the serpent-tongued Goddess who knelt at the edge of his bed and whispered in his ear, and who could possibly blame him for being a changed ruler when he finally recovered from his sickness, mind now full of treacherous Ate.
Ate stood by in the shadows when he had some of his most loyal of individuals kill, and drew him back to his own bed which she had now claimed as hers, just as surely as she had claimed the Emperor himself.
Which meant, of course, that the wife simply had to go. Ate considered the possibility of murdering her, but instead decided to have her sent away by her own husband. Ate was the last one to see her as she left the palace and the Goddess wore a smile that no one could find a comfort, and Livia Orestilla, being expelled from her own home, had shuddered in horror through her tears.
Now the good times could truly begin. Though she could often not be seen, Ate was ever at the side of the Emperor, her lips at his ear and her dreadful ideas planted in his mind. Oh, it didn't even take much work on her part. Those with power were so often merely steps away from true, delightful horrors. A nudge from Ate did a world of good for improving the lives of those in the palace. Meaning, of course, Caligula and Ate herself. Who cared for anyone else as long as she was being entertained.
And entertained she was. Caligula was a delight to behold, his grip on reality slipping as Ate's suggestions became more outlandish, and his moods turning ever more unstable. His anger was easy to encourage and he could turn from romping in his bed with beautiful young women to murdering a guard for no reason other than the sheer thrill of it. Ate fed from those who lived for the simple joys of life like those.
Together they sliced the skin from screaming victims and then tore the clothes from each other, blood making their skin slippery and then sticky. Together they brought ruin and pain and pleasure.
She made him into the figure of her father, having him call himself by Jupiter to the public, declaring himself to be the King of the Gods. (And sometimes, at night, when he bound her and pressed her into the bed, she called him Zeus then as well, crying out that name against bruised lips.)
Ate didn't love Caligula, but she loved the things they did together. She loved, too, that final winter day when he was approached by men with ideas in their minds and great plans of a better future. She pressed herself to the assassin - an invisible wraith of a figure but all could feel her in the air - and smiled when the blades sliced through her Emperor, just as the two of them had done to so many others before.
She kissed the dead man's lips, smearing a line of his blood across her own, and then stood. She didn't wait to see what would happen next, as all the interesting parts had already happened. Ate had watched the rise and the fall and little else could hold her attention.
But she returned to the palace and there she greeted for the last time the Emperor's current wife, a middle-aged woman of such lasciviousness and flamboyance that Ate couldn't help but like her. She whispered Milonia Caesonia's name against her hair and then kissed her lips, the blood there still lingering.
By the time the assassins arrived for her, Ate was gone and nothing more than a memory to those that her seen her, a half-remembered woman who may or may not have even been there at all.