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 Silver Ladder

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PostSubject: Silver Ladder   Thu Apr 23, 2015 12:00 pm

Nickname: Théarchs

Rote Skills: Expression, Persuasion, Subterfuge

Summary: The Silver Ladder desires to establish a proper hierarchy of the Awakened -- with its members at the top.


The Silver Ladder is used to ruling mages. They were advisers who held the balance of power, the Vox Draconis, the Voice of the Dragon. As priests, viziers, and judges of old, the théarchs upheld the principles of law. To hold together an entire nation of mages is a feat that has never been matched since, and the order is rightly proud. When the Silver Ladder's judges ruled fairly, they maintained a balance of power between mages and an unenlightened humanity. As priests, they advocated a wise balance between material needs and spiritual desires. Of course, the théarchs had human weaknesses even then, and more than any other order were swayed by the promises of the Celestial Ladder. To put gods and demons under the reign of humankind what greater promise than that?

Other orders were humbled by the Fall, but not the Silver Ladder. Although some of them still speak of balance between the material and spiritual, others use these as words to justify their desire to wrest the Imperium Mysteriorum for all humanity.

The Silver Ladder also binds mages together. It reformed the Exile into the Consilium system and rendered down countless interpretations of the Art into a set of customs that all mages may follow. The orthodox orders usually recognize the inherent worth of the Silver Ladder's direction, though none would be as vulgar as to call it control. Even when another order reaches ascendancy in a Consilium, the théarchs are there, offering skilled advice to Hierarch and council.

Members

The order has little patience for error or excessive humility. Mages should not let arrogance blind their ability to assess a situation, but they should never make a fawning display of themselves by taking the blame for events outside of their control or bowing to an unworthy master. While this manner causes friction with other mages, it isn't always a bad thing. A certain amount of conflict keeps mages thinking.

Therefore, a successful théarch has a slightly brash but thoughtful personality that cloaks a will of iron. He is politically adept and his occult prowess is unquestioned. He does not dwell on the theoretical aspects of magic except where it would serve his practical needs, but he never uses that as an excuse to skimp on his studies.

The Silver Ladder does not always prefer such forward tactics, but it is good for the order to project an image of strength. In other situations, a light touch is required, but this should never be applied in a way that calls théarchs' prestige into question. "Accuse publicly, apologize quietly," is a common maxim, but make no mistake: The quiet word is as carefully plotted as the loud one.

Philosophy

The Elemental Precepts describe the legalistic philosophy that the Silver Ladder espouses. The order has spread this doctrine among Sleepers and mages for millennia. No authoritative text exists, and they are often taught as a series of parables or aphorisms.

Diamond: The Awakened are one nation: Diamond is the sanctified, transformed Earth in the Elemental Precepts, the base upon which all other achievements rest. This constitutes a nation, and mages are beholden to its laws. Other mages must respect the Consilium more strongly than any Sleeper government.

Thunder: Imperium is the right of humanity: The purpose of the Awakened is to secure the Imperium Mysteriorum the Sovereignty of the Mysteries for humanity. No Exarch or god has the right to control human destiny, and even natural calamities are an insult to human divinity. Thunder is energized Air, the life-breath of humankind, and the moral duty to seize Imperium is synonymous with the right to life itself.

Star: The Silver Ladder is the path to victory: The Star is the sign of Supernal Fire, in the form of the Oracles' Watchtowers. The order claims that its most powerful members receive instructions directly from the Oracles. Théarchs pledge to arm the Awakened against the Lie. They therefore deserve the respect and obedience due the seneschals of the Oracles.

Blood: The Sleepers follow: Blood is living Water and heralds the birth of human beings, but it is also the sign of a wound. Sleepers are wounded by the Quiescence and need the direction of the Awakened to prosper. They must be healed and raised up to claim the Imperium Mysteriorum. This is a slow, careful process that must follow the traditional forms of apprenticeship.

Rituals And Observances

The Silver Ladder's rites are well known because they are common to all mages. The order preserved the Duel Arcane and founded the first Concilii. Its conventions have become the norm. And yet, there are some traditions that the order reserves for itself.

Convocation: Every year, all deacons from at least two Concilii gather to set a common policy for the year to come. This is known as the Least Convocation. Lesser Convocations occur every three years, gathering all of the deacons in a larger region defined by geography and tradition. Theoretically, there are also Great Convocations (where every deacon on a continent meets) every five years, but these have not gathered in over a century (when the European deacons debated the order's response to the Free Council). A Grand Convocation of deacons from around the world is an unfulfilled dream, said to be the first step to creating a true Awakened nation.

Lex Magica: The Silver Ladder enforces a special legal code among its own ranks. This constitution governs everything from the proper relationships between mentors and apprentices to the circumstances under which a théarch may kill another mage or Sleeper. These laws are held to be enforceable regardless of Consilium policy on a given matter. Any théarch of superior station may pass judgment on minor affairs, but major crimes such as theft and murder are dealt with by a lictor.

Titles And Duties

The Silver Ladder uses several titles to denote rank and function. Local tradition dictates many of these, but two are universal and well known.

Acolyte ( Status 1 ): Junior members of the order have one primary duty: To obey. They follow the Shadow Law and Elemental Precepts, but whenever an unusual situation arises they should consult a superior. The order doesn't trust acolytes to think for themselves beyond the very fundamentals of being a Silver Ladder mage. Some caucuses treat acolytes badly, but this is considered poor form. A higher-ranked théarch should treat them like younger siblings well-loved children at least and educate them. The order demands much of its neophytes, but rewards them well. The entire caucus should devote itself to training them. Many caucuses give grimoires, special training and cold, hard cash to exceptional acolytes. Acolytes take care of general low level business. They deliver messages, cast simple spells and keep the caucus' meeting place in order. If the deacon wants to spread a rumor, she sends acolytes to Consilium meetings and Awakened haunts. Some deacons take acolytes as personal servants, but in these cases they're expected (though not required) to provide tutelage in return.

Lictor ( Status 2 ): It's not easy being a lictor. You can't have apprentices or a permanent home. The order expects you to travel widely. You can pick a regular circuit or go where the wind takes you, but you're always at the Ladder's beck and call. You need to be able to go anywhere at a moment's notice, absorb the minutiae of local laws, judge fairly, and if nobody else steps up, deliver the punishment yourself. These requirements ensure only the smartest, most resourceful théarchs take the position. They have to be dedicated, too; lictors are virtual nonentities in the political process. On the other hand, former lictors can be highly influential. The order respects anybody who's done a stint as lictor, so once she moves on she might look forward to a fast track to leadership. This works only if the théarch was an effective working lictor. Just taking the job and sitting around means nothing to the order. Only a lictor can name another lictor. Lictoral Law says a lictor must retire after installing a successor unless a Convocation specifically orders the lictors to expand their ranks. This keeps lictors from forming power blocs bound by lineage. An experienced lictor trains his successor on the road for about a year. Despite numerous attempts to standardize lictor education, the exact requirements for graduation still depend upon the lictor's judgment alone. Some regions have powerful, brilliant lictors; others have weaklings who spend more time sampling the local bars than working. (Even incompetent lictors are rarely corrupt, however, because the punishment is torture followed by spiritual annihilation.) Lictors usually operate in overlapping territories, but a deacon can call any lictor in to try a case. If she summons a lictor from far away, most people see it as a snub directed at the local office-holder. Lictors have considerable powers. They are: Immunity, Judgment, and Support. Immunity -- It's against the Lex Magica to challenge a lictor to a duel over any matter related to his duties. Lictors are not beholden to oaths that would impair their official activities. If there are questions about whether immunity applies, the local Consilium or Convocation settles them. Only retirement or a Magisterial discharge relieves a lictor of his position; the latter is a significant black mark on a théarch's reputation. Judgment A lictor's judgment is final; there isno appeal. It applies to Silver Ladder mages of any rank. It may apply to other mages if they submit themselves to the lictor's justice something the order encourages. This happens quite often in areas with highly-regarded lictors, corrupt Consilii or both. Many Consilii have arrangements wherein the lictor's decision is automatically considered Council justice. This grants the lictor immunity in all actions related to delivering the stipulated punishment. In death penalty cases, the traditional thing to do is ask the local Guardian interfector to kill the guilty party. This way, the interfector exercises his immunity, simplifying the political process. Lictors determine the format of any trial over which they preside with the sole restriction that there must be a prosecuting and defending factotum. (The accused can dismiss his defender.) Most lictors use the adversarial system, but a few reach decisions by cooperative means or even trial by combat. Unlike in the Sleeper justice system, the lictor directs the primary investigation. Participating factotums are entitled to inspect the evidence and find their own clues. Support A lictor can command any and all Silver Ladder resources in the course of an investigation or trial. Some lictors abuse this for personal perks, but a caucus indulges only so much of that before it complains and the lictor risks the most excruciating punishments the order can devise. A reasonable lictor can order acolytes to help him uncover the facts or ask deacons to set oathbound Arrows to guard a prisoner anything the order can provide.

Claviger ( Status 3 ): Clavigers ("key holders") are the caucus' "party whips." They're responsible for maintaining the Silver Ladder's ideological purity. Clavigers have proven they understand the Elemental Precepts well enough to interpret them in difficult situations, but they aren't so wise they can overrule a deacon. They're the caucus' emissaries to the Consilium. Deacons allow them latitude in interpreting the order's goals when it comes to negotiating with outsiders. Even deacons who have a bone to pick with the Ruling Council still send clavigers to take care of basic relations. When deacons sit on the Council, clavigers are usually their provosts. Clavigers are the order's main preachers. They convince other mages the Elemental Precepts are necessary. This is an unhappy job; as a rule, mages don't respond well to evangelism. A skilled claviger sweetens her words with gifts: Spells, secrets, and political favors. Some clavigers are extremely popular for their open handed ways; others are reviled for being obnoxious martinets. As liaisons, clavigers are the théarchs most likely to speak to strange supernatural beings. Deacons are too valuable to risk in direct meetings and acolytes don't know the order's wishes well enough to take care of business, so it falls on clavigers to make contact with vampires, werewolves and the other occult detritus of the Fallen World. Clavigers who perform these duties invariably learn their human-centered faith doesn't fly with monsters. Inside the caucus, clavigers report to their deacons regularly. They turn general directives into specific instructions for the order's acolytes. Middle management is a less than spectacular job, so it's hard for a good claviger to get the recognition she needs to advance. Too often, her expertise is credited to a deacon's superior leadership or an acolyte's exceptional performance.

Deacon ( Status 4 ): Loneliness at the top would be a comfort. Instead, the deacon is all things to all théarchs: leader, lawgiver, priest and chief representative. His duties aren't confined to his caucus; when Convocation calls he must answer, and if necessary assume Magisterial duties. Deacons are ambitious, socially gregarious, and above all worldly. Other théarchs of this stature avoid the position, opting to intensify their quest for the ultimate Mysteries. Thus, the deacon's chair represents something of a sacrifice. Time spent ministering to the order is time away from researching Archmastery. There are deacons who aren't Masters, but unless they have some other exceptional talent they don't get a full measure of respect. Enlightenment and power are twins, coiled snakes of a caduceus. There's no wisdom that does not proceed from competence -- no Ascension without the Imperium Mysteriorum. A respectable deacon should be a qualified factotum, too, and knows the Ruling Council almost as well as his family. It is his family -- he's its father, mother and elder role model whether they acknowledge it or not. The deacon has many duties. He sets the caucus' agenda. He calls lictors when he needs to and lays down the local Shadow Law. Along with his brothers in other Consilii he organizes Convocations and carries out their decisions. He sits on the Ruling Council or chooses the claviger who does -- and if he goes for the latter option, the claviger speaks the deacon's words, not her own. If the Consilium has a théarch Hierarch, he's usually made a deacon to prevent internal conflict. A caucus can theoretically have any number of deacons, but the general sentiment is that multiple leaders will inevitably compete for power. Unless deacons work out a strict pecking order the whole caucus understands, there will be trouble. Clavigers will join one clique or another; toadying acolytes will try to play them against each other. One successful model sets up an archdeacon and lesser deacons with particular duties: one for the Ruling Council and one for Convocations, for instance.

Factions

Powerbrokers: The Powerbrokers are the most notorious faction within the Silver Ladder. This faction is honestly named; the members are interested in power, although not always for its own sake. More specifically, the members are mages who have an interest in controlling and directing others in both the mortal world and the society of mages. Also, regardless of their other interests, most Powerbrokers consider themselves to be the rightful rulers of the Sleepers. Because of their efforts and the power some of their members hold in both mage and mortal society, many mages from other orders consider Powerbrokers to be synonymous with the Silver Ladder. Some from other orders worry that Powerbrokers consider themselves to be the natural rulers of the Pentacle mages and fear the degree of covert control and hidden influence members of this faction possess over other mages. However, the majority of Powerbrokers are largely more interested in attaining both wealth and power in the mortal world. The power and influence wielded by these mages gains them no shortage of allies among other orders. In their own way, their wealth and connections aid the great struggle in ways that are as potent as magic itself.

Theurges: Theurges see themselves as the direct heirs of the priest-kings of Atlantis. For them, magic is not merely a source of potentially endless power and knowledge: It is also a source of spiritual enlightenment, enlightenment their predecessors in Atlantis used to spread to the Sleepers. While Theurges often differ on what they see as the proper role for spiritual seekers and teachers, they belong to the most mystical and spiritually focused faction within the Silver Ladder. Almost all agree that both seeking a deeper understanding of spirituality and using this knowledge to help shape the beliefs of Sleepers are vitally important activities. Their efforts can take them in radically different directions. Some become fascinated with the Shadow Realm or the Underworld and seek deeper understanding there. Others strike up strong friendships with mystagogues and help them in their search for ancient relics and archaic tomes. However, almost all Theurges also seek both spiritual understanding and spiritual power within the Astral Realm. Here, they can seek to understand both themselves and the more esoteric aspects of the Fallen World, while also occasionally attempting to manipulate the Astral Realm in ways designed to reshape mortal opinion and belief. This fascination with the Astral Realm is one of the most important commonalities between Theurges, and they are one of the organizations within the Pentacle most concerned with and interested in exploring, understanding and controlling both Temenos and Anima Mundi. Theurges differ as to what they believe the exact nature of their mission should be, but all agree they have a duty to assist mortals in dealing with spiritual and supernatural problems. Some focus upon attempting to protect mortals from the threats of the Abyss and other supernatural dangers. Others attempt to provide spiritual comfort and understanding, and a few give mortals who come to them seeking knowledge as much of an understanding of the nature of the Fallen World and its relationship to the glorious Supernal Realm as they believe these mortals are capable of understanding.

The Ascended: While many mages hope to eventually gain sufficient power and understanding to be able to become Archmages, members of the Ascended specifically focus their efforts upon attaining this goal and eventually achieving the even more legendary one of Supernal Ascension. Many of their efforts involve seeking out whatever information they can about existing Archmages and the methods by which they attained this exalted status. In addition to sharing a single-minded dedication to magical excellence, members of the Ascended are fascinated by the nature of magic and are driven by some mixture of ambition, perfectionism and desire for magical transcendence.
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