The Mage Guilds
The Halls of Power
Admission to one of the four Guilds of Magicians is a rare honor, reserved for the clever, the bold, the dedicated, and the loyal. But never the most clever - far too dangerous of a rival should they surpass you; never the most bold - one must be able to predict the moves of their subordinates, and competition; perhaps the most dedicated - certainly a diligent student who will do anything for the power you possess could be bent to your will; and never the most loyal - for it is the rare Magician who does not feign a loyalty to his masters in exchange for secrets and knowledge, but the true loyalty is only ever to power, and to their own interest. Even those Magicians who pursue magic for what they consider purer motives are still subject to the backstabbing, the intrigue, and the clawing for secrets that is the culture of the Magician Guilds.
Being selected for entrance into a Magician Guild and thus for training in the magical arts is much like being selected for admission into an exceptional college, with a little like being tapped to head up a highly financed enterprise with an international trading company. They select for greatness and potential, and will seek to advance their students to a certain proficiency of magical power - the best marriage of useful and tractable.
The primary way that Magicians are controlled is by seduction with deeper secrets and knowledge. The Esoteric studies that form the foundation of a Magician's arcane knowledge, the Techniques themselves that are the products of such knowledge, and the greatest prize of all, initiation into deeper Circles of Mystery, which allow the Magician greater and greater power for the summoning of arcane power. All of these things are dangled ahead of Magicians, and while most Magicians have mentors and superiors in the Guild that in some manner have a vested interest in their advancement, every Magician knows that they could be cut off at any time - and some day they will be. No Magician reaches the pinnacles of power through simple hard work and talent. Most Magicians end their career in the Third Circle, unable to break the glass ceiling on further advancement. The Fourth Circle Magicians are the un-ignorable elite, while no Magician becomes an Archmage of the Fifth Circle without the power to demand that position from the rest of the Archmages of their Guild.
The Circles of Mystery
When advancement does come, it comes in the form of a mystical incantation that unlocks a deeper potential within the Magician. No one fully understands the nature of this Incantation, but it is well-known among Magicians that only the Archmages of the Fifth Circle are capable of devising them.
In order for the Incantation to be effective, a certain degree of arcane knowledge is necessary for the Magician. At minimum, the Magician must know their upcoming Circle Rating + 3 in new Techniques to advance. (For example, to qualify for Circle 2 is 5 techniques, to qualify for Circle 3 is 11). For the specific effect of Circle on a Magician's power, see Spellcasting.
While that is the minimum requirement, most Magicians are able to reach that goal with relative ease given enough time. Instead, the true requirements are up to the superiors within the Guild, who often prescribe more specific and concrete tasks. Usual tasks for advancement to the Second Circle usually involve casting a specific, difficult spell, or being presented with a general task and demanding the candidate Magician solve it with spells that they are capable of performing. Tasks for the Third Circle often involve the evaluation of a masterpiece spell of the candidate's own design, a contribution to the Guild's vast libraries of knowledge, or sometimes even a test of personal enlightenment or an academic treatise. Still other masters carefully watch their pupil's performance over a long time to understand their sense of judgment and capability, or perhaps their loyalty.
When a student receives their first training (purchasing the Arcane Initiation Perk either at Character Creation or in play) they choose a role within the Guild that they will generally fulfill. This role determines the kinds of training they get, as well as the first Domains they learn in their training. Initiates begin play with a number of well-worn spells created for an Initiate of the First Circle in the role that they fulfill.
DEXTERA INFLAMATIO: THE MAGICIANS OF FIRE
Symbol: Red Hand on black background
A view from without:
Forward Lance-Commander Junis,
Congratulations on your promotion. As requested, your primer on siege warfare and special weapons and tactics is included with this document. I would be in err, however, if I did not include as a special weapon a word on the Burning Hand. Dextera Inflamatio is perhaps the most often seen of the secretive mage guilds because of their popularity in warfare. Warfare can be found everywhere, and so people from many different lands and cultures have glimpsed them, or heard of one nearby. They are most often called in as special agents during an open ground war, using their control over fire to devastate enemy forces. A well placed Firestorm can be the end of a battle, and against an enemy not similarly equipped or prepared, almost certain victory in that battle for those lucky enough and wealthy enough to hire one. Their role in warfare is not always so straightforward, however, as to simply destroy the opposition. Fire mages have been known to be able to inspire forces with a passion and conviction to fight in the bitterest of winters, the harshest of conditions, and against almost certain defeat. The cost of hiring a Fire Mage to accompany an army, or even a private caravan, into the bitter northlands to protect them from the cold can often be better than the loses to men and animals that may happen if they refuse. Some Mages can even gaze into the flames and see the location of the enemy, their plans..their thoughts. Rumors say they also have power over treachery, able to make an army turn on itself, fly into a brutal rage and hack to pieces anything in it's way. No one refuses to pay a Magician of Fire for their services.
Outside of warfare, or perhaps in a different war entirely, Dextera Inflamatio is sometimes witnessed along side Church Inquisitors or witch hunters. No one knows the true relationship between the Church and the Burning Hand, but in a hunt for a dangerous wizard like a Necromancer, a Fire Mage is almost always present.
Dextera Inflamatio seems to be the wealthiest of the Mage Guilds, and have towers in several of the major cities in the Throne, and even some dotting the border-lands. It is understood that people of noble bearing or of wealthy trade families have an easier time being accepted into the Guild, though a talented novice without a copper to their name is by no means unheard of if they possess the talent to excel.
I urge you to use caution when dealing with them, sir, as they are selfish to a man. I have not met the Fire Mage who did not place his own self above others in some way, large or small. I've seen from taking the privilege of larger rations to declaring incinerated infantry acceptable losses for the success of the operation. Congratulations again on your promotion, and feel free to request additional information as necessary.
Handred Fourson Rear Watch Captain
A view from within:
The Burning Hand is a symbol of power. A tower erected in a city is a symbol to all who see it, whether they comprehend it or not. Dextera Inflamatio rules here, regardless of local government or law. Our purpose, and our highest ideal, is mastery; a perfect control over perfect power. As a novice in the Guild, you will learn the principles of power, what they mean, and how to master them. Membership in the Guild means you are different than the huddled masses in the cold of the iron city below. You are more than they are, because you have learned unleash the power of the soul. The soul is a fire that blazes within each person. Those you meet out there, eeking out a life that means nothing, are but the smallest of candleflames, softly glowing embers in the burnt out shell of their body. Having been given the Initiation of Fire, you are more than that. Your soul has been relit by your own will, and burns with a health and vigor that they cannot match. The Path of Mastery will teach you to stoke that flame into an inferno, a leashed storm, spinning and crashing and blazing against the very borders of reality, confined only by your discipline. You will take that violence, that potence, that vigor, and you will squeeze it down to the point of a pin, retaining the might of an inferno in the size of a hand. And with that hand, you can do anything.
The Guild will come to control everything by extension of this philosophy. Just as the hand holds a power as vast as a hall, the tower holds a power as vast as a city. The lords of many lands already have become dependant on our power for military victory. To deny us what we wish is to accept military defeat, and thus, destruction of their country and people. Beyond that, our wealth covers the trade ports. If we were to withhold our aid there, trade ships would have no place to sell or purchase their goods. In short, we hold partial military and economic control over the Throne.
Once you advance to the Second Circle, we will show you what your role will be in all this. If you hope to advance farther than that, you had better succeed.
PRAECEPTOR CAECUS: THE MAGICIANS OF AIR
Symbol: Topside of an open hand inside a black ring
A view from without:
Praeceptor Caecus is something that everyone knows exists, but few have ever seen evidence of. I heard that at least one member of every council of elders, one member of every city government, one member of every major crime ring, one member of every smuggling division, and even that one member of the Archmagus Circle in the other Guilds is a member of their cadre.
I met what I could have been one once. He spoke like a gentleman at the party. Had every lady all over him, even the governor's wife. I couldn't believe that the governor didn't do anything about it. He pretended not to notice, and took another mulled wine. When I went to talk with him, I figured I'd listen for a little while and then try to say something interesting when I figured out what was being discussed. But by the time I was over there, they were knee-deep in a conversation about how I was coming over to say something interesting. Everyone talking to the man turned and looked at me, waiting for me to say something profound, and I froze and looked a fool. The women stifled smirks at me, failing to be polite. Then the man called me by name and asked me not to be embarrassed, to sit down, and enjoy some of the governor's wine. I did, of course. I was already indebted to the man who had just made me look ridiculous.
Later that night, I looked for him to ask him just what had happened at the conversation and how he knew what I was planning to say. I couldn't find him, however. I asked four different groups of people where he was in the gallery, and everyone gave a different answer saying that they had known for sure that he was in the west wing, or the north wing. It was like trailing a ghost, each time I got to where he was supposed to be, they hadn't seen him anywhere but another wing. And nobody thought that that was very strange at all.
I only saw him one more time that night; he was kissing the hand of the Abbess of Markhem. She blushed terribly. After that, he left in a carriage owned by the largest shipmaker in this part of the Throne, as the same shipmaker waved him goodbye.
I only heard later that the south wing was robbed that night some time during the party, and the only thing stolen was a rare opal given by the Elves to the Von Herkheist at the formation of the Throne. I never saw him again.
A view from within:
When all of humanity conspired to create debate, the possibility for factions of thought was born. In that moment, ideals were given more weight than swords, and words could kill as easily as arrows. Paper become the dart of the powerful, and knowledge the mark of the mighty. Praeceptor Caecus is the refinement of that idea into a perfect communication of intellect and purpose. The most artful assassin needs never raise his hand in violence, nor ever appear at the scene. There is a power and a beauty in the simplicity of pulling one delicate string and destroying the entire interlocking spider's web of deceit and lies.
They are the ones who can go anywhere, take anything, and be whatever we need to be. It is about a fluid and changing idea that can only be felt, and never seen. Politics, faith, ideas and theatrics are all of our domain, and all can be played like music. You will learn this, never fear. The power of the wind will give you the insights that you need into the head of a man. You need only listen, and it will come. You can hear it already, but it confuses you. It is like listening to a wind-chime and trying to guess from the sound how many chimes hang from it. But you will learn. You will learn to dance, and to sing, and to play coy, and exactly when to hold your tongue and exactly when to speak precisely out of turn.
Praeceptor Caecus has no home base, and thus our organization is immune to assault. Our motives are as simple and as elegant as the wind which sails it along, and you need never wonder of the complexity of our purpose. We exist to make sure things flow the way they must; to direct the channel of that fluid through a tunnel of our design so that humanity and the Throne and all the other things we hold important thrive in exactly the manner that they should, and none more than is necessary. Our assassins create no noise, and no disturbance, delicately depriving their victim of air while waiting patiently below the currents of water where everyone knows no one can breathe. Our spies eavesdrop on conversations six locked doors and two hallways thence, even while hurrying the same information they learn along the winds to our relayers in the field. Our courtesans demand every bit the attention they deserve from exactly who they need to see them, and deftly glide into the center of everything, where the web believes itself strongest.
Never you worry. It all seems hazy and nebulous now. But things will clarify, and blow all that smoke away soon. For now, go out to the balcony, and listen to the wind-chime on the other side of the manor. Come back when you know how many chimes sing its chorus.
PERFICIO PONDERO: THE MAGICIANS OF WATER
Symbol: A standing oval mirror with a diamond in the center
A view from without: We do a lot of trade here with the monastery. Strange kind, them. Even the novices that they send down to buy the sheep and the flatware from time to time seem so peaceful and enlightened. Every once in a while one of the masters comes down and talks to all the farmers and the shopkeepers in the town market. They tell us the principles that we should live by to make our lives important and meaningful. Everyone is part of a circle, they say, and every one of us has a place on it. I know a lot of people'd like to believe that, seeing as how things are going in these times. But the monks of the Water Temple are good to us; they steady the waters during a storm if people are getting hurt, and they make sure that the fishermen can keep their catch. That's all we need, really. I know they can do more, but I know it's all we need. I suppose in a lot of ways, we've all become dependent on the Temple. We don't mind though. They're a lot more easy going than the King.
My niece tried to join them, actually. She's such a sweet girl, always wanting to help everyone. She loved to listen to the speeches that the monks would give in the market about the Truth and the ways which a man could become better, more than he was. She wanted to live out those principles, be more than she was so she could do more for others. Such a sweet girl. She talked to the Novices and asked how she could be like them, and they sent her to the monastery to speak to one of the masters. I don't know what they said or did. I don't know what went on up on the hill, that day. But she came home a wreck, said she didn't understand, would never understand, didn't want to understand the Truths of the world. She took her life that summer, bless her. Such a sweet girl.
Even so, I don't blame the Temple for that. That was her choice, and the monastery has always been good to us. Everyone and every thing is part of a circle, they say.
A view from within:
Come, sister. A decision to seek enlightenment is the selfsame first step to achieving it. Your heart has learned that you wish this for yourself, and your mind carried you here. The heart is like the rushing of a river, the mind, the rudder of your skiff. Enlightenment is the culmination and quietus to a lifelong journey toward a perfect peace between every facet of your soul. We here at the Temple walk the road to achieving this glorious end in all events of our daily lives. It is not an easy journey, and there will be much pain. Humans, however, can achieve anything that they wish; that is what separates them from animals. Humans can overcome any obstacle because they have the power to silence their fear and their instinct and override them, taking a road that all of their senses tell them not to. For example, drink this. ...Good. It is a poison to kill animals.
Shh, now! Do not panic! Your lungs and chest are now full of water. Your throat has collapsed to forbid expulsion. If you do not perform properly, you will drown. Do you understand? I said, do you understand? Good. Now, stop struggling. Stop struggling and breathe the water... Do not refuse me. Relax. Calm yourself. Inhale, feel your reflex to choke, and ignore it. Let it fill your lung, and gently push back out, and up your throat. Good...You lived because you were able to overcome the insanity of your weak inner beast.
What we are doing here does not concern animals who cannot master themselves. If we are ever to be more than we are, we must cease to be what we were. The Temple of Water is a place where humans can learn to be something more. We walk the diamond path toward an enlightenment that will elevate us above the common human condition to something farther, higher, more. Make no mistake. We are here to make a god. Until that time we are cautiously neutral. Why do I tell so much to an uninitiated aspirant such as yourself? Do not worry over that. Tell me, girl. Do you have the spiritual fortitude to endure such a quest? Do you have the breadth of mental acuity it will take to reshape the very perspective of your mind's eye? We are what we think. All that we are arises from our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world. Can you embrace this fundamental truth or can you not? Decide now whether you be beast or man. ... Go home then.
INFRAGILIS VIGILO: THE MAGICIANS OF EARTH
Symbol: A series of interlocking triangle shapes forming an eye
A view from without:
Society as we know it wouldn't really exist without the help of the Earth Mages. It was the Earth Guild who designed the first bridges strong enough for wagon trains. It was the Earth Guild who designed and built the walls we erect around our cities to keep out invaders. It was the Earth Guild who laid the roads out between the capital and all of it's extremities so that people didn't need to navigate the woods or its dangers any longer. It's the Earth Mages that bore tunnels through mountain sides or make hills more gentle for travel. The important cities of the Throne all have walls that make them resilient to siege weaponry. Having the Infragilis Vigilo on our side makes living in the cities more secure than anywhere else. They are truly the architects and wardens of humanity. They are constantly designing new ideas to make life more efficient for the people of the Throne. They've arranged special trade routes between cities like the famous "Emporer's Ride", the trade road that travels between Fenristadt and Scrow but takes half the time of a journey of similar length anywhere else. Any time a new town needs to be set up in the wilderness, the Earth Mages are there to lay the ground work and make sure the roads between the nearest point are safe and easy.
The Throne keeps them busy maintaining the upkeep of all the structures they've made. Once a year or so they send someone out to put a new enchantment on the roads, or the walls, or the castle keeps where the nobles stay. They're always paid well for that, and no one wants to be without such a security. I believe they have everyone's best interest in mind; everyone needs a job, and theirs protects everyone.
No one knows where they meet or where they study though. Some people say it's out in the wild, far away from the cities. Other people say it's underground, maybe even beneath the cities down below the very sewers that they laid down. They seem to enjoy their privacy, because I've never heard of an Earth Mage living inside the cities that they upkeep. If the only price we have to pay is their fee and the respect of their privacy, I say we have a good deal for the knowledge that we don't ever have to venture too far out into the wilds to maintain our lives and happiness. God bless them.
A view from within:
Ever since man's first forays into magic, we have sought to become so much more than living a life content as nature's children. We sought to rise above its predictable mercies. We sought to become its master. The Infrigilis Vigilo is but the gateway to such mastery.
We control the land, the plants, the food and thusly the means for life itself. Animals pay homage to us and recognize our greatness.
Yes, apprentice, this includes man. Men are but complex animals. It is true that we too are men by flesh and blood, but much like how it is the minds of men that raise them above animals it is our own minds that raise us above them.
All mankind rests beneath us, apprentice, and you are expected to understand this. Peasantry, nobility, your former friends, your former family. Yes, even your own mother and father, for they are but geese that have lain golden eggs and have chosen to remain geese in all other ways. So abandon them, young apprentice. Abandon them all, for one day it may be your task to destroy them. For although man is the most complex of animals, it is also the most dangerous. It consumes and is never satisfied. It grows and is never finished. That is why we must contain them. Herd them like the cattle they are. These cities we build are their prisons. Their stables... and one day it may be time for the slaughter.
However, apprentice, do not be forlorn with this knowledge. Rejoice for you have risen above your stock. Your once insignificant existence has blossomed into something far greater. Welcome to the inner circle.