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.
The Mage Guilds form and incorporate under the Imperial Trade charter that governs commerce within the Throne. While certainly they are anything but a group of humble craftsmen, they nonetheless take advantage of their Trade Charter, which protects the commercial rites and business of organizations who use some kind of specific and definite body of knowledge in order to carve out a legal monopoly, secure protections against seizure of assets or rights by the nobility, and justify international commerce, secure freedom of movement throughout the empire, and all the other advantages afforded to powerful merchant Guilds. Even the Magicians of Water, the exalted masters of Aa’boran in Sha’ra, register their practice as a Guild within the Throne, and thus harness its protections – though with many restrictions compared to how they operate in Sha’ra. Their monopoly protects them from everyone but one another, locked in a shadow war over control of the most lucrative art in the world, and all the politics and intrigue that goes with it.
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 magnitude in 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.
Flame – Faith – Resolve
DEXTERA INFLAMATIO: THE MAGICIANS OF FIRE
Symbol: Red Hand on black background
The Dextera Inflamatio – or sometimes the Burning Hand, or simply “The Fire Guild” are the Magicians who wield the power of flames. Easily the most well-known and most commonly seen of the four Guilds, the Fire Guild primarily sells their services as mercenaries and as military support. They charge the exorbitant fees commonly associated with Mage Guild prices, but they do so in terms of armies and the costs of military losses. They can charge these fees because they are the best at what they do, and their influence on a battlefield is so profound that often that single price is less a mercenary fee and more a transaction price for simply winning the battle. The Fire Guild will not participate on both sides of the battlefield, so whichever army can afford the Guild’s asking price is almost guaranteed to see victory. This puts the Guild in an incredibly powerful bargaining position, and they are primed to simply decide the military future of the Throne and the lay of its internal borders simply by their participation or lack thereof in a military battle, and on which side they choose to fight.
While no one outside the Guild knows for sure, it is speculated based on investigatory accounting that the Fire Guild most likely has enough wealth to purchase a modest state of its own, and indeed, in Rogalia where the laws somewhat allow for it, they do in fact control an entire County through the House of Drake, who are high-ranking members. They have been trying for several decades to break into the market of Lethia, who has staunchly rebuffed using sorcery to accomplish their ends and encourages an active suspicion against all Magicians. Still, there have been the occasional Church-Burning Hand partnerships, especially within the Inquisition and the hunt for heretics. The relationship between the rest of the Church and its most ardent followers remains chilly, but the Fire Guild’s presence in war, finance and politics is ever increasing.
The Fire Guild’s most famous branch, the Incinerators, practice war magic and refine destructive magics meant to turn the tide of combat. Some Incinerators specialize in military operations – not just battlefield mayhem but also troop morale, reconnaissance, and enemy subversion, while others act on a more individual scale as bodyguards, bounty hunters or witch-finders. Less known are the Guild’s more political group, the Beacons, who practice magic of manipulation, control, and social maneuvering. Beacons negotiate deals on behalf of the Guild, or see to its long-term secret political agendas. Lastly, Philosophers act as support for the Guild, doing internal research into the state of magic, developing new sorceries and tools, and testing the limits of Fire’s most versatile ability, Change, which harnesses the transformative and chaotic power of Fire to as-yet unknown limits of potential.
EARTH – FORTITUDE – STRENGTH
INFRAGILIS VIGILO: THE MAGICIANS OF EARTH
Symbol: A series of interlocking triangle shapes forming an eye
The Magicians of Earth, the Infragilis Vigilo, or the Unbreakable Eye, by any name they are known, the Guild practices earth sorcery – magic dealing with the primeval forces of the structures and leylines of the creation of the world. The Guild’s public presence is mostly known for its Architects, the sorcerers who generate wealth for the Guild through the construction of cities, roads, cisterns, and other infrastructure. These Architects are given great respect, for in but a single day or hour, they can often change the lives of entire communities through the construction of some needed improvement – or else save a city or village from being sacked and razed in war with a great stone fortification that the enemy had never prepared for. The lords who rule there pay handsomely for such relief, but the common people who benefit have much to be thankful for.
Outside of these occurrences, the majority of Earth Mages remain unseen and unknown. Travelers far abroad have spoken of encounters with Earth Mages in the wild, whole forests, far from the roads and ports, ripped up by the roots as if they walked off, huge pits where stone and metal were torn from the crust of the world, or killing fields where hundreds of animals bared their necks for slaughter. What these Wardens are doing with such vast quantities of materials is unknown to the outside world, though remnants of their arcane harvest have been found here and there – twisted and strange; sometimes a lump of iron belching smoking oil, other times a bear’s corpse whose bones twisted into knots, yet another a wooden menagerie of identical blinking eyes as if grown that way, lidded in bark. Some believe there are fortresses or even kingdoms in the far, far wilds, used by Earth Mages alone, set on ancient points of power where their magic is strongest. Darker tales still tell of their Cullers, who have mastered the magics of decay, and are said to perform some kind of secret enforcement of the Guild’s aims.
AIR – SPEED – INTELLECT
PRAECEPTOR CAECUS: THE MAGICIANS OF AIR
Symbol: Topside of an open hand inside a black ring
For years, perhaps centuries – no one is sure, the Praeceptor Caecus, the Unseen Teacher, sometimes the Unseen Hand – the infamous Air Mages, have been operating inside the Throne, and without. A shadowy organization that, like the other Arcane Guilds, formed under Imperial Trade law to take succor under the protection of Guild laws, though only sent one, quiet barrister to update the legal forms each year. They maintained no Guild office, no great towers or underground fortresses, no grand temples, and no fanfare.
Their presence, however, was undeniable, and while many a person might have questioned their existence, the other Guilds knew all too well of their Assassins and infiltrators, entering highly secure areas – even the towers of other Guilds, removing key targets without any evidence more than could be detected in a lingering enchantment, or their Manipulators, changing the thoughts and memories of individuals throughout the world, forcing them to dance in unseen concert with co-conspirators they never imagined, unwitting pawns with their secret thoughts laid bare to be pillaged, stolen, and rewritten. Even rarely would they encounter one of their Masterminds, coordinating disparate cells who knew nothing of one another, communicating through magical dead-drops and relaying invisible messages communicated only in thoughts – plucking the strings of circumstance to make great enterprises dance to their unheard music. No one ever got closer than this – the Air Mages simply didn’t know one another, and so even under torture could not reveal their conspirators. They had no stronghold to take away from them, no land to claim. Their group behaved more like a religion, a cult, or a secret society of outlaws than a Guild, and even the Archmages of the other groups could not reveal who controlled the pawns, or to what end.
In the Lion Age 603, the Edicto Discidium formalized the official separation between the Arcane Guilds and the Throne nobility, and nearly immediately announcements began that announced the creation of Officio Magistratus, a civilian police arm of the Imperial Throne. The Officio Magistratus act as investigators and police on behalf of the Emperor, and have officially hired the Praeceptor Caecus Guild to render its services to the Emperor. The public understanding is now that the Air Guild acts as the Emperor’s secret police within the empire, enforcing his will as direct agents of the Throne.
Still, the prognosis remains unclear. While the Officio Magistratus is quite public, its roster of members is not, and neither is it clear where one group begins and the other ends. As well, rumors abound that there are at least two, perhaps more, factions within either the Air Guild or the Magistratus who are not aligned in interests. Unlike in the past, some members operate openly, freely announcing their presence under the authority of the Officio Magistratus, while others remain scrupulously secret in their dealings and operations. Individuals who are found to be working for the Officio Magistratus, or to be sorcerers of the Air Guild, are given broad authority to demand silence from those who learn the information, or to correct the memory of their witnesses under Imperially authorized magical excision.
Confusion with how to deal with the new Office, the limits of its jurisdiction in regard to local nobility, or even whether it will be tolerated by the other power blocs of the empire are still largely unknown, and even the members of the group itself, still fit into secret cells that have little contact with one another, can’t say for sure whether and how they are doing the Emperor’s will.
WATER – SPEED – FAITH
SAHIRIM: THE MAGICIANS OF WATER
Symbol: A standing oval mirror with a diamond in the center
The Sahirim are the high magi of the Shariqyn, masters of the more esoteric sect of Aa’boran, Aa’boran Biraq, popular in the cities and among the wealthy. In Sha’ra, the Sahirim are an incredibly powerful political body, taking direct control of many aspects of daily life. Much of the higher learning, commerce and politics is under their sway, and while the Shariqyn that oppose them retain important protections against their growing power, their ability to control the presence or absence of simple, life-giving water in the desert means that their control is inescapable.
The Water Temple follows the teachings of their founder, Danarius the Enlightened, one of the thirteen Witchkings. Created from the members of his original group who survived the crash of his flying city, Vangloria, and the native Shariqyn who they made a pact with to survive, the Sahirim (The Wise Masters in Shariqyn), have taken it upon themselves to recreate both Danarius’ lost magic, and to achieve another godlike messiah like Danarius himself in order to achieve their ends. From their place of power in Siri, the Shariqyn capital, the Sahirim Navigators weave through time and space in order to find the futures that best serve the needs of the Temple, and then steer the world along that Path. Unlike the powers with which they compete, the Temple Navigators can replay events, influence history to create alternate presents, explore distant dimensional parameters and eventually locate the Diamond Path that will ensure their plans come to fruition.
There is doubt, even among the Sahirim, that any one of them can accomplish this feat without first achieving total comprehension of the universe as only Danarius had achieved. A remarkable proportion of the Temple’s efforts go into an attempt to create a second Danarius, an enlightened being that can comprehend all of time and space. Those who the Temple believes have an intuitive sense, a latent possibility to achieve this, become Monks, training in remote temples to master their inner challenges and then being released into the world to find additional stimulation to further develop their spirit. The Temple believes that being exposed to the correct combination of world and spirit, the Monk will find their potential. This process has has intermittent results, and the nature of such a combination is still being understood. It is the role of the Sages, gurus who try to achieve understanding and widely encompassing wisdom, to guide the Monks and Navigators who search the unending halls of history in search of the ultimate goal.
Within the Throne, the Water Temple is a registered Trade Guild of Magicians, and exploits the same protections that the others do. The Church disagrees with this stance, suggesting that their presence under Guild protection is simply a vehicle for foreign priests to spread their dogma. However, as yet, the taxes that the Water Guild pays to operate in the Throne, as well as their connections with lucrative Shariqyn spice and silk merchants. have proven an equally convincing argument for their continued presence, though it is unknown what the future will bring.