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

These are the Ancient Houses of the Council. These are the inheritors of traditions that trace back to the most ancient days of humanity. When the first Shaman spoke to the spirits, the Kadji were there. When the first druid spoke to the beasts and trees of the world, the Silvani were there. When the first seer glimpsed the fate of her tribe, the Tanka were there. In none of these cases did these figures know the name their descendents would raise as a banner and a House to be proud of, but their methods and purpose were, are, and always will be the same.

Name: Kadji
True Name(s): Kadji, The Spirit Lodge
In-a-Nutshell: Spirit-Talkers
Category: Ancient
Councillor: Kichea of the Swahili (Though not consider a leadership position, Kichea still claims their seat on the High Council. She is a soft-spoken, but resolute individual who only speaks up when necessary.)
Founder: None according to the Kadji. High Council lists two – “Soaring Eagle” of the Iroquoi and “Knowing Follower” of Australia.
Demographics: ~50,000 members
Common Tools: Mask, Drums, Circles of Salt, Blood, Incense, Dance, Alcohol, Hallucinogens, Chanting, Meditation, Ordering Spirits, Making Deals with Spirits
Style Examples:

  • Jennifer meditates and calls out to the Spirits of the Forest to aid her in defeating her enemies. By promising to plant trees and expand the forest, she wins the favor of the spirits, who twist the branches of the trees to slow her enemies and vines to entangle their feet.
  • Emmanual has been approached by one of his disciples, whose child has grown terribly ill. After inspecting the child and the home, he discovers that the family had accidentally angered the spirits of the land where their home had been built. Through the drinking of Rum and wearing a mask made of green branches, Emmanual summons Grans-Bois into himself and negotiates with the angry nature spirits to leave the boy and heal the sickness.
  • Matt works repairing computers and he’s proven to be the fastest and most efficient in town. Many joke that he can “speak” to the computers and fix them with will alone. What many don’t know is that he does exactly that… By chanting over the computer in a room filled with incense smoke, he awakens the spirits of the computer and commands the spirit to fix the problem of its physical shell.

Inspiration: Aang and Korra (Avatar), Yuna (Final Fantasy X), Calypso (Pirates of the Carribean), Mumbo Jumbo (Banjo-Kazooie), Uncle (Jackie Chan Adventures), Andrew (Buffy: the Vampire Slayer), Thrall (Warcraft) Traditional Medicine Men and Women from across history.

Shamanism and other forms of Spirit-Talking has existed as long as humanity. Seeking answers to how nature worked and communicate across the divide of the Echo, these ancient mystics developed the first form of magic. Despite this ancient pedigree, the Cult of Thoth had very few Spirit-Talkers. What few there were in the Cult, they tended to come from the frontiers of the Roman Empire and were never truly organized. Indeed, many members of the Cult derided the Spirit-Talkers as “primitive barbarians” unworthy of Mana.

This changed when the Schism Wars began. The Order continued to mock the Spirit-Talkers, but the Council saw them differently. Whether it was true respect or desperation is difficult to determine, but the Council approached the Spirit-Talkers (one region at a time) as equals and offered a pact of mutual support. Many Spirit-Talkers rejected such deals and stayed independent of the Schism War, but many more joined. As the Council spread across the world to stay ahead of the Order, these mages encountered the naturalist and spritual willworkers with increasing frequency. Soon, alliances made with the Spirit-Talkers and others proved to be instrumental to both the survival and eventual resurgence of the Council, thus more than deserving of a place among the Council.

Though still not large, the Kadji (or Spirit Lodge) have been valued members of the Council for centuries. Unlike most other Houses, the Kadji are barely organized. No leadership is acknowledged by the House as a whole, the only hierarchy is that of the venrable and wise. However, every few years (anywhere from three to fifty) the Kadji gather and elect a new representative to the Council. This representative holds no particular power over the rest of the Kadji, but is respected as the Spirit-Talker who supports the will of the Spirits and People.

Name: Silvani
True Name(s): Sylvan Lodge, [Any of countless names for regional groups]
In-a-Nutshell: Naturalists and Shapeshifters
Councillor: Gn. Narangerel (A middle-aged woman with a remarkable talent to communicate with the natural world (both plant and animal) and weather manipulation. Despite her support of shapeshifters amongst the Silvani, she eschews it herself out of respect and tradition)
Founder: None or [Too Many Regional Founders to List]
Demographics: ~75,000 members
Common Tools: Flame, Pure Water, Blood, Runes, Herbs, Crystals, Wooden Wands, Sacrifice, Pharmaceuticals (rarely),
Style Examples:

  • Narangerel has been called upon to heal survivors of an Order’s attack. She has little of her usual herbs on hand, so she turns to the world around her for help. Chewing a bit of her reserve she enters a receptive state and commues with the plants of the area. Through the guidance of the natural world, such as the wisdom of the trees and the cunning of the ivy, she devises a crude but effective poultice (infused with a bit of Mana) to stabilize her patients until more intensive help can arrive.
  • Roan has a knack for growing things, a “green thumb” of a sort. Anything he touches seems to grow bigger, stronger, more potent, and faster than it would on its own. When is more mundane friends ask, he merely shrugs and says he has a knack for it or claims proper fertilizers are the cause. In reality its his tendency to speak calmly while watering his plants, carefully cultivating, and sacrificing a bit of his own blood as fertilizer.
  • Lady Nightshade has had enough. The logging companies, under manipulation of the Order she didn’t doubt, are coming to cut down her forest. She has to stop them, but she knows that these people only speak one language and that is the language of money. She can’t afford to do this traditionally, so she needs to make sure it costs them too much and make it seem accidental… Natural… She convinces the large beasts to overturn trucks, digging creatures to destabilize the ground beneath the effort, and by turning into a feline form she lead the predators to attack the workers. Sure a few employees die, but that drives up insurance and lawsuits. It will stop the logging and that is all that matters…

Inspiration: Poison Ivy (Batman), Storm (X-Men), Man-Thing (Marvel Comics), Neville Longbottom (Harry Potter), Beast Boy (Teen Titans), Animorphs, Malfurion Stormrage (Warcraft), Amy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer,

Much like the Kadji and Tanka, the Silvani theoretically predate any other House’s founding my centuries at the least and millenia at the most. Alongside the shaman and seers of the ancient world, the Silvani were the naturalists and herbalists of their communities. The line between these three groups are often blurry and indistinct, but the easiest way to describe the Silvani is their focus on the material and natural world (as opposed to the ephemeral and abstract worlds of the Kadji and Tanka). Despite their ancient pedigree and deep roots in countless cultures, the Silvani as an organized force are a very recent development.

The Silvani were known to the Roman Cult of Thoth from the very beginning and the modern name for these willworkers derives from the Cult’s name for them. Indeed, some members of the Cult made overtures towards approaching individual naturalists (particularly those worshipping Roman Wild Gods) and suggesting they organize themselves as equal members of the Cult. They were met with near universal rejection. The Silvani valued their freedom and independence too greatly to tie themselves to a group, let alone the wider Cult. Theirs was the natural world, the storms, and the seas. What need did they have for the paltry arguments of petty men?

This changed with the Schism War. That War drove a divide down the center of the world of willworkers, whether officially allied with a side or not. Some few joined the newly minted Order on their magic island, but they were rare. A few more joined the Council in fighting back against “oppression.” The vast majority rejected the war entirely, and soon found themselves caught in the crossfire and cut down by uncaring combatants. Plague ravaged their friends and family alike. The rise of monolithic governments and the outlaw of traditional beliefs dissolved their support networks. The rise of cities, filled to the brim with loyalists to both sides, weakened their Art. By the end of the Renaissance, the Silvani were on their last legs and growing desperate.

Some still call the Silvani’s alliance with the Council an act of betrayal and declare themselves as “independents.” These lost souls often rejoin the fold sooner or later, as they realize just how dangerous the world can be with some degree of support. Fortunately, even for those Silvani who chafe under the yoke, the Council is the sort to “live and let live” so long as basic tenants are followed. Even those Silvani who play the political game are often seen as devil’s advocates, rebels, and rabble as they seek to stir up trouble and shake up the status quo. Many of these same firebrands claim to do it for the betterment of the Council, by bring a bit of nature’s chaos to the marbled halls of the Council chambers.

Name: Tanka
True Name(s): Seers of Tankahupa, The Seers
In-a-Nutshell: Fate Watchers and Prophets
Councillor: Diego Munoz (A soft spoken man from Colombia with an eternally distant expression. Though he rarely speaks, and almost never above a whisper, his wise counsel has steered the Council away from disaster countless times)
Founder: “The Unknown Prophet” (No records exist which describe his/her identity, but numerous visionaries (later the founders of the Tanka) were approached by a cloaked figure in their dreams and told where to find (and save) the Council. These early Tanka refused even collective credit as Founders, instead they pointed to “The Unknown Prophet”)
Demographics: ~40,000 members
Common Tools: Dance, Mantras, Isolation, Meditation, Drugs, Pain, Tattoos, Incense, Significant Objects
Style Examples:

  • Diego has just returned from a meeting of the High Council. War is on the tongues of some of his fellow Councillors, understandable in the wake of Leng’s destruction, but Diego is skeptical. He knows the Order wants them wiped out, and there needs to be a response, but he fears a new Schism War would end poorly. As he entered his modest apartments, he went to the fridge and pulled out a small clay jug. He poured himself a glass of Ayahuasca, which he quickly drank down before entering his meditation chamber. Sitting on a small rug, lovingly hand woven by his mother decades ago, he sat down and calmed his breathing. Soon, the Gods granted him visions of the future. War promised naught but blood and fire. Overtures of peace proved no different. Only inaction showed a path to salvation, only by allowing a million tiny wars could they avoid a destructive War.
  • Tom needs to escape the temple where he found his latest artifact, but there are countless traps and threats between him and the outside. As he runs, he allows his concious mind to turn off and retreat into an active meditative state. Instinctively, he leaps over opening pits, dodges dart traps, and ducking under pendulums. To the observer, he knew when the dangers were coming before they happened and in a way he did. When he finally nears the exit, he sees his beloved wife and he flashes her a sudden grin. Thus his concentration broke and the last heavy stone pendulum struck him in the head and into unconsciousness.
  • Ophelia is haunted by her dreams, has been her whole life. She sees objects and shapes, figures and animals, symbols float through her dreaming mind, all focused on the people she will meet in the next day. She sees omens and portents in flights of birds, movement of the wind, and the shapes of the clouds. Often she cannot discern what the meaning of these visions mean, but once in a while she is so struck by the dreams that she researches and interprets their messages. She can see the multitude of possible futures, so many possibilities so as to overwhelm, everywhere she looks.

Inspiration: Abdul Alhazred (Lovecraft Mythos), Sybil Trewalaney (Harry Potter), The Weird Sisters (Macbeth), Destiny (X-Men), Doyle/Cordelia (Angel), The Doctor (Doctor Who), The Drunken Master, Garnet (Steven Universe), Yoda (Star Wars)

Some see time as a river, flowing from past to future. Others claim that time is predetermined and we merely play out a script we cannot see. The Tanka know the truth: time is an ocean with no beginning or end, that time does not pass from one to another outside our perception of it. All time occurs at once and yet it does not. Time is fixed, yet it can be changed. Time has always existed, yet it never will. Contrary to a fault, the Tanka are privy to knowledges the other Houses can never understand, yet someday they must. They will speak of the future since the dawn of time, yet they have known the past to the end of time.

In the more literal realm of the physical world, the Tanka can trace their roots back to the earliest peoples and religions of the human race. They have always been enigmatic and somehow apart from their compatriots. Even in communities where they interacted with the ancestors of the Silvani and the Kadji, their companions didn’t quite comprehend what the Tanka and their prophecies meant but their wisdom was greatly valued. So valuable were their visions that every group would eventually come to these scattered mystics and ask for their membership. The Cult of Thoth asked and the Tanka said, “Not now.” The Alhaqiqa asked and the Tanka said, “Not now. The Shadow Clan asked and the Tanka said, “Not now.” The Alchemists asked and the Tanka said, “Not now.”

At the Dawn of the Schism Wars, the Tanka (previously still unorganized) arrived en masse to support the flagging forces of the Council. While some individual Seers had joined with the Order, the majority showed support for the Council instead and their guidance helped to save the Council in the tough years following the First Schism War. Ever since, their guidance has been rarely given but always heeded (if not always followed). The Tanka are the advisors, guides, and consulars of the Council. They are few in number and politically weak, but they are not concerned with such temporal matters. They see a bigger picture. Their concerns are greater than the Council, the Order, and even the Schism Wars themselves. Just what the greatest seers and visionaries of the Tanka see in their rituals are unknown even to the less potent of their own ranks. It is truly a mystery…


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