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

After a cold that knocked me off my feet for almost a week, I’m back with three more Houses!

These three are the “Founding” Houses of the Council. These are the groups which, possibly older than the Cult of Thoth, helped come together to form its core in the Roman Period and later recruited the other Houses. These are all very different in level of organization and stability, but all are united in their loyalty to the Council. Most also tend to have contributed to the Order’s ranks centuries ago, and thus have counterparts within the Order.

Name: CES
True Name(s): Cognitive Exploration Society, The Choleric Examination Society (Archaic)
In-a-Nutshell: Psychics and Parapsychologists
Category: Founder
Councillor: Aahi Rath (A 1st generation Hindi-American and well known (in mundane academia) Cognitive Psychologist)
Founder: “Lord Filius” (An obvious codename, the Founder’s true identity is unknown)
Demographics: ~155,000 members
Common Tools: Meditation, Hand Gestures, Psychology, Breathing Techniques, Mantras, Martial Arts, Incense/Essential Oils, Tarot
Style Examples:

  • Fatima channels Mana into her understanding of Psychology and body language to interpret her target’s thoughts, thus allowing her to read his mind and glean details impossible with “mundane” Psychology.
  • Niklas channels Mana into his Tarot deck as he focuses on his Werewolf problem and how to solve them. Softly chanting a prayer for guidance as he lays out cards in the traditional five-card spread, he glimpses the motives keeping the Werewolves in town and thus how he might encourage them to move along.
  • Kimiko knows that her presence is required at a meeting of her fellow Masons, but she lacks the ability to teleport and doesn’t have the time to travel along mundane routes. Using a carefully designed computer program she creates a semi-solid hologram of herself at the meeting site before meditating on the location and projecting her consciousness through the internet allowing her to utilize telepresence and attend the meeting psychically.

Inspiration: Professor X (X-men), Lyn Cassady (Men Who Stare at Goats), Carrie (Carrie), Fredrick Abberline (From Hell), Raz and others (Psychonauts), The Jedi (Star Wars Series)

CES was originally founded as the Collegium Essentialis Sophia and has always been loyal to the High Council. Some members of CES claim a lineage which can be traced back to before the Cult of Thoth, though these claims have never been substantiated. Regardless of its exact pedigree, CES has supported the Council since time immemorial.

During the first Schism War, CES was divided almost cleanly in half. Their connection to the divine through the power of the mind and rational thought encouraged many to support Titus and his claim of purity, both of purpose and blood. After eight centuries however, CES had acquired a powerful anti-authoritarian streak. This latter group saw Titus and his claims of divine right and power as cause for concern, especially as it closely resembled a rising trend in mundane politics. Defiantly, the group split. Followers of Divine Wisdom joined Titus in Atlantis and renamed themselves the Ordo Sophia. The remaining members retained the title of CES, but abandoned its original meaning and instead renamed themselves the Choloric Examination Society.

The CES have since retained their defiant, modernist, and revolutionary spirit. A tradition of renaming the group (though keeping the initials CES) every century or so has taken root. Democratic and philosophical governance has always been the norm, but in 1763 Democratic representation became the official structure of the CES. Since then, the Councillor and all other positions (including the local Magisters) have been democratically elected and serve five year terms.

Name: Opifex
True Name(s): Artisans, Opifex, Guangjiang, Alharfiiyan, Fundi, Artesanos, [Countless other names for Artisans in other languages]
In-a-Nutshell: Enchanters and Magismiths (and Science!)
Councillor: Miriam Deitrich (A revivalist blacksmith, Miriam has helped to “rediscover” the “lost” arts of medieval blacksmithing within the mortal world, and has continuously refined the art of mystic blacksmithing in ways unseen in generations.)
Founder: None (Or rather, too many regional founders to list)
Demographics: ~135,000 members
Common Tools: Crafting tools (e.g. Smithing hammer, sewing needle, skinning knife, etc), mystic substances infused into products, runes or similar mystic markings, applied sciences, strange technologies.
Style Examples:

  • Noah is under attack by Mantis Men in the Hollow Lands. He needs to defend himself. Fortunately, he had earlier constructed a ray gun which utilizes aetheric resonance to pull Mana out of the air and into pure energy which is emitted in the form of an energy beam. Unfortunately, because of the unstable nature of the crystals, he only has a limited number of shots before the crystals crack and become useful. Hopefully he’ll be safe before that point…
  • Miriam is crafting a sword to be used by the Guardians of Avalon. She wants to construct the weapon from the mythic element of Mithril, for its lightness and strength. Through a careful smelting process where she combines silver, crystalized Mana, and an arcane mixture of herbs and oils by the light of a full moon. She has been asked to include a minor form of countermagick, to defend against invasion by the Order, to which she carves runes of protection into the near-final product.
  • Emil has already lived for a century and he wishes to continue to prolong his life. Using a three tiered system, he will add another half century to his life span. First he immerses himself in a vat of mercurous chloride treated with Xenon radiation, which retards the degradation of his cellular structure. Second, he walks into a specially crafted chamber which alters his personal chronal timeline through bombardment with tachyon particles. Finally, he performs self surgery and installs a new blood cycling device which cleans and replaces old cells in the bloodstream and eventually reverses the aging process slightly. Of course, all of this work prolongs his life but the Scourge effects of breaking nature’s laws make it impossible to fully reverse the aging process and making him increasingly frail and ancient looking with each treatment.

Inspiration: Doc Brown (Back to the Future), Egon Spengler (Ghostbusters), MacGuyver (MacGuyver), Tony Stark (Iron Man), Victor Frankenstein (Frankenstein), Professor Farnsworth (Futurama), Gepetto (Pinocchio), Hephaestus (Greek Myth), Bismuth (Steven Universe), Sauron (Lord of the Rings)

The Opifex inhabit a strange place in the Council. They claim a lineage that traces back almost as far as the Kadji and the Silvani, claim independent organization under a variety of monikers and timeframes (varying on region and culture), and yet only trace their “official” history back to the Cult of Thoth. Semi-independent even in the Roman Cult’s period, the Opifex were still wholly dependent on the Cult (and its successors) to justify its existence. This isn’t to say that mystic artisans were all reliant upon the Cult (most weren’t), nor to say that all artisans were members of the Opifex (most weren’t). Rather, the Cult was the first to organize artisans into a coherent and politically independent group, and (excluding the later Alhaqiqa) for much of history the only large and significant grouping of its kind.

Because of its unique position within the Cult, the Opifex were powerfully divided by the events of the Schism. Legends speak of the Opifex’s Order Hall literally rumbling with the thunder and fury of the debates in the early days of the divide. Legends also speak, possibly less reliably, of how said hall was literally split in twain by a bolt of lightning when Titus and his followers (almost half the Opifex with him) departed for Atlantis. What is known historical fact is the failed attempts to mend the rift within the Opifex. Decades of failed communication, internal politcal strife, and an eventual frigid silence cementing the divide. It isn’t a coincedence that when the Schism turned to open War, there were Opifex weapons and machinery in abundance on both sides. When the Council went into retreat, the Opifex unexpectedly grew to proportions equal to (and eventully beyond) their original numbers. By recruiting and giving equal place to global artisans, the Opifex grew into a political and temporal powerhouse.

Today, the Opifex are one of the largest Houses (surpassed only by CES) and easily one of the most influential voices in the Council. This is due largely to two major causes. The first in the open handed and full throated inclusiveness of the Opifex. They welcomed artisans of skill, regardless of ethnicity or background, even in the time of the Roman Cult and their openness served them well during the Council’s flight. The other cause is equally simple, but surprisingly effective, and that is their drive to modernize. The inventive and innovative drive has always been at the heart of the Opifex and it has led to a state where traditional Blacksmiths and Woodworkers stand side-by-side with Electrical Engineers and Theoretical Physicists. Their openness to all comers (so long as they have the “Gift” or “Genius” to keep up) and decidedly modern outlook makes them popular with new and modern magi in ways only comprable to CES. The future is in their hands after all..

Name: Sophia
True Name(s): The New Sophia, Order of the Sophiates (archaic)
In-a-Nutshell: Miracle-Workers and Priests/Priestesses
Founder: [Numerous Regional Founders], Officially acknowledged as Alexander the Faithful
Demographics: ~75,000 members
Common Tools: Prayer, Mantras, Sacrifice, Philosophy, Candles, Incense, Religious Ceremony, Enochian, Various Religious Symbols
Style Examples:

  • Maria needs a way out. The Order is attacking, the defenders are failing, and the day is lost. The only thing left, in her mind, is to ensure that defeat doesn’t become massacre. Dropping to her knees and praying for safe passage while invoking the name of St. Christopher she hopes to find a way to save herself and, more importantly, the other survivors. A moment later, the clouds above part and a beam of light appears. Knowing that her prayer was answered, Maria begins urging others into it. A moment later, she enters herself and finds herself in a field beneath a peaceful blue sky. Later, she would learn that she had ended up in Southern France, half a world away from the battle.
  • James has had enough. People have suffered and died for the Council’s petty wars with the Order. None of it meant anything and the leaders don’t care. A statement needs to be made. Invoking the name of God in Enochian he demands justice by listing his targets’ crimes. A moment later, a bright flash announces the arrival of a powerful Scourge spirit, which proceeds to impose ironic punishments on the accused.
  • Owen is under attack and running with a limp. Clearly, he finally crossed a line. Stumbling through the park he repeats the phrase “Pain is an illusion” over and over again knowing that so long as he maintains his mantra he will not feel the pain of his wounds. It buys him the time he needs to prepare himself to strike back. Carefully constructing a powerful existential argument against his target, properly charged with Mana, he knows will cause his opponent to become catatonic for a time. At least long enough for Owen to find safety.

Inspiration: Claude Frollo (Hunchback of Notre Dame), Most Jedi (Star Wars), Matt Murdock (Daredevil), Nightcrawler (X-Men), The Faceless Men (Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones), Connor and Murphy McManus (Boondock Saints), Father Mulcahy (M*A*S*H), Rorschach (Watchmen)
History:The Sophia are unique for surviving not one Schism, but two. The Order of Sophiates were founded before the Cult of Thoth as a religious order aligning itself with various gods and their cults within Roman Society. As members of varying religious orders, the Sophiates had widely varying beliefs but all agreed on the twin principles of Wisdom and Responsibility. They were commited to leading their non-Magi compatriots with wise counsel and responsible leadership, a cause which transcended individual belief and led them to co-found the Cult of Thoth alongside the other orders. Conflict arose however after coming of the Christ and his followers.

The Christian faith originally found no problem fitting in with the rest of the Sophiates, as Christian Magi were as committed to Wisdom and Responsibility as leaders of any faith. As time passed and the number of Christians within the Sophiates rose, conflict reared its head. During the reign of, and after the conversion of, Constantine I the proportion of Christians reached the tipping point at over half the Order’s numbers. Their numbers and the conversion of the Emperor emboldened the Christian Sophiates, which led to the Sophiate Schism. A period of “civil war” broke out between the two factions, with frequent conflicts (both philosophical and literal) breaking out over two decades. When the proverbial smoke cleared, the Sophiates had reformed and were again united despite religion but non-Christians now found themselves marginalized and cut off from political power both within the Sophiates and the High Council as a whole.This divide fostered resentment which bubbled beneath the surface for centuries and strife frequently broke out, though only rarely was this unrest visible to others within the High Council. This political divide was only exacerbated by increasingly common “heresies,” rejected by the “Pure Sophiates” following their own interpretation of Orthodoxy.

When the High Council began to divide between those loyal to Titus and those loyal to the Council, the Sophiates seemed uniform in its support of Titus and his “Responsible” rulership. The long standing rift within the Sophiates reared its head however, as those marginalized members of other religions and “heretical” sub-sects of Christianity declared themselves loyal to the Council. Many claim, even now, that this was a political manuever but the “New Sophia” denied anything but loyalty as their cause. These holy warriors proved potent allies, not for their numbers but for the zealous fervor they brought against the Order in defense of the Council. Every time the Schism Wars returned, the Sophiates took the fight to the enemy (either by sword or pen equally) and refused to back down.

Today, the Sophia are small and shrinking with each generation. The “True Sophiates” of the Order brought the vast majority of the group into the Order centuries ago and the “New Sophia” have never truly recovered. Though they have found recruits from across the globe, but never in large numbers. The “surrendered to god” (whatever god that may be) nature of the Sophia has proven difficult to reconcile with many religious magi, and thus these willworkers turn instead to other Houses. Those reigious magi with the conviction to join are almost equally split between the “True” and “New” factions, and thus not shifting demographics much. This is exacerbated by the increasing areligiousness growing in young people today, which has caused a shift upward in the average age of the Sophia and the increasing perception that the Sophia are nothing more than “outdated old men” to most younger magi. Despite this perception, they retain political respect and influence on the Council through their fierce loyalty, fervent defense of the Council and its causes, and its dedication to Wise and Responsible leadership.


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