No Books of Men: World Building – Houses, part I

As promised, I’ve started putting together summaries of the Houses of the High Council. As I’ve been going through these factions, I’ve been drfiting further and further away from calling them Houses. They’re more than simple “factions” however, so until I can think of a different term for them they will continue to be called “Houses.”

The first three of the Houses are those who began as groups independent of the Council, the Order, and the Schism Wars. Houses Lian, Mara, and Masar each have a unique history and set of circumstances which brought them to the Council and thus have a certain degree of autonomy and independence that other Houses might not. That said, they are still full members of the Council and thus follow its guidelines while helping to shape the bylaws of the group.

Name: Lian
True Name(s): Lianjin Shu, The Alchemist’s Guild
In-a-Nutshell: Alchemists and Divine Scientists
Category: Independent
Councillor: Samuel Degallo (Descendent of a long line of Alchemists who can trace their lineage back to the Roman period. Chosen when the previous Councillor died at Leng. Still relatively young (currently 37), but with a natural talent for the brewing of potions and potent charisma.)
Founder: Albertus Magnus, Guantie Huizhong (Two listed as the Guild’s “founding” happened twice. Magnus was the founder of the Roman Guild which allied itself with the Cult of Thoth. Huizhong was not the founder of the Chinese equivalent of the Guild, but he spearheaded the two Guilds reforming as the Lian.)
Demographics: ~130,000 members
Common Tools: Chemicals of all sorts, careful application of heat and pressure to materials, scientific and mystical diagrams, mathematics, meditation, martial arts, elixirs & potions, pressure points
Style Examples:

  • Sam knows he’s going to need all the luck he can get in order to find and confront his former teacher, who is now a powerful and corrupt Lich. By brewing an ancient and secret combination of herbs, chemicals, and ritualistically boiling a potion ovver the course of 7 months, 7 days, and 7 hours. On the night of the confrontation, Sam drinks the potion and over the course of the following evening every moment of luck or chance falls in his favor.
  • Richard needs strength to protect his students. Having no carefully produced elixirs at hand, he instead relies upon Internal Alchemy. Breathing deeply and carefully applying pressure to certain muscle structures, he super-charges his muscles and nearly doubles his strength. Unfortunately, once his students are safe and the spell wears off, his muscles are sore enough to be crippling.
  • Elia finds herself trapped in a collapsed mine. She knows that the only way to escape is through the side of the mountain itself. The only way to do so in the limited time she has before her oxygen runs out. She digs through her pack and pulls out various vials of inert chemicals, produced earlier in her laboratory. Mixing the chemicals in the remains of crushed helmet recovered from an unfortunate miner nearby, she produces a remarkably powerful acid which can eat through stone in seconds but cannot harm flesh. Though it still takes her over an hour, she manages to reach fresh air and sunlight through careful application of her concoction.

Inspiration: Nicolas Flamel (History), Daoism (History), Ra’s Al-Ghul(Batman), Gargamel (Smurfs), Lord Hallyne (Song of Ice an Fire/Game of Thrones), Walter White (Breaking Bad)
History:

Alchemy and its practitioners can claim descent from natural philosophers and wise-men around the world and deep into history. However, the group of Alchemists which boast membership in the Council were founded even before the Brothers formed the Cult. Tracing back to Ancient Greece and boasting many famous early “scientists,” the Guild was firmly entrenched in Roman society long before and after the Cult’s founding. Close allies however, the two organizations often supported one another and the Guild often proved an easy public face for the groups’ shared dealings behind the scenes.

When the Schism War broke out, the Guild proved too closely entwined with the two sides to survive their split. Two “new Guilds” were formed, the Purifico and the Fluxus. Purifico would join Titus in Atlantis and survives in much the way it was after its formation. Fluxus however, proved as mutable and changing as their name implied. With each new culture the Council encountered in its exile, Fluxus absorbed the practices and practitioners of the local Alchemists. The House went through hundreds of structures and dozens of names until the Lianjin Shu joined the Council. An ancient order of Alchemists in the Middle Kingdom, they provided the structure and form for the passionate and fluid Fluxus. Once more reformed into something resembling the ancient Guild, the Lian found new purpose.

Lian today is an egalitarian and influential House. Spread across the globe and spanning countless cultures, Lian has tremendous adaptablity and power. While the practices of the Old Alchemies are still commonly practiced by Lian, increasingly over the last century its mages have shifted away from the mysticism of the past and have instead opted for a more modern approach. Much like their cousins in CES and Opifex, Lian and its members typically prefer the terms Science and Scientist over that of Magic and Mage, but they realize that the two concepts are two sides of the same coin. Much as they adapt to the present while remembering the past, Lian is always in a state of educated flux…

Name: Mara
True Name(s): The Shadow Clan, Maradooshan, Skotoseiskia, Dilaan Laqoon, Sgriosaineolas, [Countless other regional names]
In-a-Nutshell: Necromancers
Category: Independent
Councillor: “The Shadow” (True identity unknown, ritualistically purged of identity when elected)
Founder: “The Shadow” (True identity unknown, ritualistically purged of identity when elected)
Demographics: ~80,000 members
Common Tools: Blood, Bone, Pain, Sacrifice, “Grave Goods” (i.e. bits of tombstone, moss from a grave stone, etc), Prayer, Chanting, Symbols of Death
Style Examples:

  • Peter must break through a locked door in order to reach the vile artifact he seeks to destroy. There is no chance he will find the key, and he lacks the strength to kick it down himself. Pulling out a femur bone from within his cloak, he quietly chants a paean to the dead already claimed by the artifact and promises vengeance if the lock were to fail. With a sudden motion, he snaps the bone in half. A moment later, the lock begins to tarnish and rust while the surrounding wood begins to rot, until the door looks centuries old. With a sharp kick, the decayed wood gives and the metal shatters. The door swings open.
  • Kat is investigating the murder of one of her Circle mates, but cannot seem to find any leads. While she knows her Circle-mate did not leave behind a Ghost, she suspects her friend wasn’t the murderer’s first victim. After a bit of research she tracks down the grave of a man whose death seemed eerily similar. Tracing a circle of salt around the grave of the victim, she invokes Dis Pater and prays for guidance for the slain. With a dagger cuts her palm open and annoints her circle with five drops of blood. After a moment of silence, a faint male figure forms within the circle. Now she could only hope this Ghost would provide some answers.
  • Hotaru is dying and she knows it. A single bullet to the stomach would likely kill anyone, but five? She won’t survive the hour unless she does something. Fortunately, the gang-banger who shot her provides an easy alternative to her death: his. He’s gloating and showing off his prowess to his nearby buddies. Either he doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care, as she crawls over to him. Dragging herself to her feet, she revels in the pain. She channels the screaming pain and terror of incoming death, uses it to fuel her magic. She feels her limbs fill with the strength of the grave and she closes her hands over his throat and squeezes. She barely notices his struggles or his friends sudden panic. All she notices is the weakening hold of her soul in her body, and the same happening to her killer. She squeezes harder and his struggles grow weak. Finally, his body dies and his soul flows into her with only moments to spare. The bullets rise to fall out of her wounds, the wounds close, and she feels her heart begin to beat strongly again. Tossing their friend’s corpse aside, Hotaru looks to the gang-members. “Run.”

Inspiration: Black Hand (Green Lantern), Kel’thuzad (Warcraft), Horned King (Black Cauldron), Dr. Orpheus (Venture Bros.), The Sith (Star Wars), Dr. Facilier (Princess and the Frog), Victor Frankenstein (Frankenstein), Rogue (X-Men)
History:

Necromancy is an Art as old as Shamanism, but unlike its spiritual cousin Necromancy has often been at odds with its communities. Shamanism tends to be favored and beloved by its community, even if it keeps its distance due to unease and worry. Necromancers are often seen instead as selfish, cruel, or even evil. Even when working towards the good of a community, Necromancers are often condemned, exiled, or even executed by misundertanding benefactors. Ironically, this mistrust more often creates “evil” Necromancers than the Art itself. Due to this discrimination, Necromancers organized earlier than any other mystic group. Though often scattered and individualistic, Death Magi created networks of mutual aid and support to survive their persecutions. Soon thereafter, they formed ranks (based on a combination of skill, age, and charisma) and organizational regions. All of this predated that of the Cult of Thoth by centuries or, as some argue, even millenia. To say the “Shadow Clan” of Necromancers is ancient is a gross understatement and it often held itself apart from the Cult and its later Schism Wars.

This changed with the Black Death. Much of the mortal blame in the era fell upon “witches” and “necromancers” despite there being no clear connection between the willworkers and the disease. Even those who would form the Council suspected the “Shadow Clan” of creating the plague to win favor with the Order. While the Clan had no official part in the plague or the ensuing tragedy, some within the Clan suspected that some of their compatriots were involved to some degree and this concern was only vindicated when a substantial portion (some estimates reach a solid third of the Clan) defected to join the Atlanteans.

Between the betrayal of their own and the increasing pressure from the Atlanteans (including their former friends and family who had joined them), the Clan found themselves in dire need of allies. Fortunately for them, the Council (then on the run) was in similar circumstance and the two groups joined their strength to survive in the rapidly changing world. At first the two groups maintained their individual identities, but over the centuries the lines between the two slowly blurred until the Clan and Council were one and the same.

Today, the Mara (a shortening of the Council’s “official” name for the Shadow Clan, Maradooshan) are wholly loyal members of the Council, but are afforded certain liberties due to their former independence. These include (but are not limited to) their Councillor’s identity remaining a total secret, even to other Councillors. “The Shadow” is selected every year at the (N. Hemisphere) Winter Solstice by the “Shadow Council.” The selection process, the ritual which removes and obscures the Shadow’s identity, and even the identity of the Shadow Council remain wholly unknown to the High Council as a whole. In addition, the Mara are given leave to “police” the Council for traitors (both Atlantean spies and other threats) and ignore some of the laws of the Council. Because of these liberties, the former independence of the Mara, and the long standing prejudices against Necromancy; the Mara tend to face tremendous prejudice from their fellows.

Name: Masar
True Name(s): Albahithin En Alhaqiqa, Masar Alhaqiqa
In-a-Nutshell: Mathematicians and Rationalists
Category: Independent
Councillor: George Ramirez (A powerful and arrogant statistician from the US. Claims his mathematic formulae can predict the future better than the Tanka, determine the thoughts/actions better than the CES, and design more potent artifacts than the Opifex. Whether his claims are true is debatable and most others merely roll their eyes at him.)
Founder: Muhammed al-Ibrahim (Early Islamic philosopher and a trusted advisor to Caliph Harun al-Rashid. Specializing in linguistics and mathematics, he organized the learned mystics first of Baghdad and eventually the entire Caliphate.)
Demographics: ~100,000 members
Common Tools: Mathematical Formulae, Statistical Models, Representational Effigies, Labyrinths, Computer Programs,
Style Examples:

  • Sal is up to something. He’s always up to something. Knowing all too well that his actions must remain secret while simultaneously steering people and things towards his goals, he seeks to ensure that Steven investigates the appropriate locations at the appropriate times. By analyzing his targets psychological habits and calculating the best moment to pique his target’s interest, Sal knows when and how. Now he simply has to make sure it happens. By building a near perfect model of Columbiana, disguised as a hobby train model in his basement, and placing a figure based on Steven and moving through the streets he creates sympathetic magics and “chance” occurences that ensure his target goes where he wants and when.
  • Yusef is looking for a lost cache of mystic texts, predating the Cult of Thoth and rumoured to hold untold secrets and tremendous power. He spends years researching the cache through myth, legend, and historical texts. Finally, when he feels he’s gathered enough information, he creates a powerful computer program infused with his own Mana and feeds all his collected information into it. By running countless scenarios and constructing innumberable models, all done at speeds impossible with modern computers, his output reveals three possible locations with a combined certainty of 93.41%. Now he only needs to convince someone to fund an expedition…
  • Naila is on the run. Her research into Atlantis and its hidden histories has been making enemies within both the Council and the Order, but the Order broke first and has now sent assassins to kill her. Running for her life, she finds herself trapped in an alleyway with no way out. Thinking quickly, knowing she has only moments, she looks around and with some rapid mental calculations she ascertains the method to get the most out of her own physical ability, physics, and the materials at hand. With perfectly timed applications of Mana and adrenaline, she leaps atop a nearby dumpster and seems to climb and leap up the very walls of the alley and to the rooftops above her. It’s bought her time, but she needs to keep moving…

Inspiration: The Calculator (Batman), Adrian Veidt (Watchmen), Gregory House (House), Will Hunting (Good Will Hunting), Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes series), Egghead Jr (Looney Tunes), David Levinson (Independence Day)
History:

Founded in the late 8th century under the court of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, Alhaqiqa wasn’t the first large scale organization of mystics (the Cult of Thoth was the first), but it was the first truly multicultural mage society. The only requirements to joining in the early centuries was a dedication to reason as well as mysticism and conversion to Islam. By the 12th century, the Alhaqiqa was the only group to rival the High Order for sheer size. The Schism divided the High Order and rocketed Alhaqiqa to become the largest mystic order by almost double. Even the destruction of the House of Wisdom and Baghdad by the Mongols didn’t significantly damage the Alhaqiqa’s place at the top.

The Black Death changed everything. As the plague spread through the region, the Alhaqiqa were struck hard. Some figures estimate that nearly half the organization died in less than half a century, providing tremendous support for the theory of a mystic origin of the disease. As the Schism Wars divided the High Order in two and sent the High Council fleeing to the “corners” of the globe, the Alhaqiqa found themselves without a home and drastically lower numbers. The Council and Alhaqiqa found easy allies in each other, but Alhaqiqa refused to join the Counci formally for centuries. Their fiercely held independence finally failed after the Battle of Nasby and the lesser known as Iahab Alharb (or “Flame War”). The Scourge and the hundreds of lives lost at Iahab finallly proved enough for Alhaqiqa to formally join the Council.

Today, the Masar still stubbornly cling to their history of independence and often prove contrarian to the rest of the Council. In the five centuries of its membership in the Council, Masar has proven the dissenting view in well over half the decisions made by the High Council. Many have argued at varying points that this is the result of deep seated resentment of having the join, a response to the Council’s “inherent racism,” or even just sheer bloody-mindedness. In truth, its that most of its Councillors have seen value in the “Devil’s Advocate” position to ensure sound decision making. This true purpose is little known and often overlooked, particularly because until very recently the Masar were powerful in Africa and the Middle-East but almost unseen outside those regions. People grow suspect of those things they don’t know or understand and the Masar revel in being the “X factor.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s