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Join date : 2014-09-19

PostSubject: Mysterium    Thu Apr 23, 2015 12:13 pm

Nickname: Mystagogues

Rote Skills: Investigation, Occult, Survival

Summary: The Mysterium searches for valuable lore hidden throughout the material and invisible worlds.


Forget Fallen World governments and occult politics. Knowledge is power. Over time, mystic lore trumps worldly ambition. The members of the Mysterium believe their order to be the purest, because it shuns mundane power. These mages prefer to seek pure magical knowledge. That doesn't mean there aren't influential mystagogues, as mages of the Mysterium call themselves. The order does not dictate individual ambition, but members of the Mysterium seek out knowledge first. Power is the welcome side effect of holding the chief currency of the occult: Sorcerous lore.

The stereotypical Mysterium cabal is a group of lonely sages minding mouldering grimoires, and corroded Artifacts. There have certainly been occasions when this image rings true. Witch hunters and ignorance has, throughout history, forced the order to seclude itself, waiting centuries for human curiosity to defeat dogmatism. Old mystagogues still tend ancient library-fortresses, but the modern order is more adventurous. Today's mystagogue is an archaeologist, cryptographer, and master of riddles who scours ruins. He soothsays the layout of city streets and programming codes. But aside from these puzzles, enemies threaten the Mysterium. Ancient curses and cultist bullets try to keep the secrets of Atlantis submerged and mages ignorant, and must be dealt with. The modern order values its scholar-adventurers as much as its librarians.

The modern world is a storehouse of secret lore, waiting to be retrieved, catalogued, and developed for the good of the Awakened. Mysterium mages travel to obscure corners of the globe to add what lies there to the sum of occult knowledge. Don't assume, however, that the order freely shares its hardwon research. Some knowledge is too dangerous for general consumption or too valuable to just give away. Exploration takes its toll in money and lives, and the Mysterium needs some leverage to fund, staff, and protect future quests.

Without the Mysterium, also called the Alae Draconis, the Wings of the Dragon, the ruling cabal could never have built the Celestial Ladder. The order grew nearly as mighty as the Silver Ladder, and restricted access to its collection to keep challengers from usurping its place. So the order became an architect of the Fall, and destroyed the libraries it created. Survivors dared to hope that the barbarians they once plundered had done the same to them. Order mages founded their own traditions as they wandered, teaching the crafts of writing, poetry, and storytelling, imbuing it all with vital magical symbols. They hoped that future generations would sift truth from fiction and Awaken to Mysterium secrets.

Modern mystagogues believe they are that future. The time has come to collect the secrets of magic from their prisons of ancient languages, myth cycles, and forgotten crypts. This is the most important mission in the world to them. Though attitudes vary, the order as a whole has little patience for the sanctity of human history. All that matters is magic, and the secret codes that lay hidden in the world. This is why other mages accuse the Mysterium of grave-robbery and plundering. But the order calls its accusers hypocrites, because they are all too happy to use the knowledge that Mysterium mages risk their lives to acquire.

Members

Mysterium members are usually better educated than counterparts in other orders. The society doesn't reject talented, uneducated sorcerers, but such novices quickly learn the academic skills they need to identify and analyze arcane treasures. Educated mages aren't often spared further training, though, since they need to know how to survive in uncivilized places and discover occult ruins and well-guarded lore. Recently, the order has begun to delve into modern cities, applying the disciplines of sociology and even burglary to its research. Sleepers, enemy mages, and supernatural monsters bring relics with them to museums, secret lodges, and private homes. Rather than letting these artifacts fall into disuse or abuse, the order acquires them by expedient means. These situations require considerable street savvy, and some of the newest members are recruited to fill this growing niche.

The order also recognizes that knowledge doesn't just collect in dusty tomes and artifacts. The secrets of Atlantis are encoded in oral tradition and ancient customs. The Mysterium documents these where it can and scrutinizes every phrase and gesture for hidden meaning. The secrets of magic can even be found in modern architecture, film, and in the sprawling Internet. Investigators have to be careful here, because much of the time mass media carries arcane messages at the behest of hidden supernatural players. Tangential to this calling are the order's efforts to acquire secrets that other mages have intentionally suppressed. Mystagogues may have to play the part of spy, thief, and even art critic to fill the order's libraries.

Philosophy

The Mysterium's ethos revolves around its mission to locate and preserve Awakened knowledge. Order mages have written several treatises on the subject, but most of them can be distilled into the following three aphorisms.

Knowledge is power: Without occult knowledge, a mage is nothing. With it, she knows the secrets of the universe and the fundamental problems affecting humanity. The Exarchs imprison the world by promoting ignorance, because they understand this truth. Some Mysterium philosophers would go even further and claim that knowledge is reality itself, either in the form of a mystical understanding of the Supernal World or as patterns of pure information, waiting to be programmed by the application of suitable spells. Ignorance, then, is more than a practical disadvantage. Believing the illusion makes reality weaker and the Abyss stronger.

Knowledge must be preserved: humanity stumbled into an age of ignorance that crippled Awakened and Sleeper alike. The situation has degenerated to the extent that apostates and Free Council radicals sometimes claim that the Awakened City never existed! The Mysterium believes that uncovering and preserving humanity's magical tradition is the only way to transcend the Fall. Every fragment of arcane lore is a tool that mages can use to bind Above and Below, or at least slow the growth of the rift between them.

Knowledge has a price: Arcane lore is dangerous and is only acquired at great cost. Accordingly, the Mysterium does not share its secrets with Sleepers, and mages must meet certain standards. The order always demands payment. The best thing a mage can do is offer an uncommon grimoire or enchanted item in exchange for what he seeks. Even then, the Mysterium doesn't share its knowledge lightly. There are some books and some secret names that mages should never know, because they summon up what can't be put down or would constitute a weapon sufficient to destroy the Awakened balance of power. Unlike the Guardians of the Veil, the Mysterium does not believe in lying to the unworthy. It merely denies them access to what they unwisely seek.

Rituals And Observances

Mysterium rites revolve around the acquisition and preservation of knowledge. Mystagogues are initiated into greater levels of trust as they advance, but are expected to uncover arcane secrets of equivalent value or to dedicate their lives to preserving them.

The Athenaeum: An Athenaeum is a Mysterium storehouse. Unlike Free Council Lorehouses, these are secret installations where mystagogues meet to secure and catalogue their finds. Athenaea are always protected with strong wards and are the direct responsibility of a Curator. When an outsider wishes to view material from the Athenaeum, she must have it brought to her. She studies it under guard. There is no chief Athenaeum; they are created whenever local members of the order feel the need to do so. Normally, the region governed by a single Consilium will either possess one of its own or be adjacent to a region that does.

The Mystery: Even individual mystagogues are not granted full access to the order's collected lore. The Mystery is a series of ritual initiations that uses divinatory magic to assess a candidate's suitability and what she must provide to prove her worth. Normally, a mystagogue is assigned a task or sacrifice appropriate to the level of initiation sought. These trials almost always involve gathering new lore for the order or confiscating dangerous or stolen occult materials. The highest lore of the Supernal World, the Abyss, and certain summoning spells typically require the greatest degrees of initiation.

Titles And Duties

Every member of the Mysterium is called a mystagogue: One who has been initiated into the Mystery of the order's lore. The ranks of initiation have various symbolic titles for each of the five degrees, such as third-degree member. In addition, there are two other well-known titles.

Acquisitor ( Status 1 ): To outsiders, Acquisitors should have the most popular position in the order. They're adventurers who travel around the world, rappel into tombs, avoid arcane traps and recover or steal wonders from their tombs and display cases. They combine brains and brawn into one charismatic package: Indiana Jones or Doc Savage for the Awakened. Good Acquisitors do have the whole package. They need to be tough enough to take a bullet or a Doberman bite in the leg and keep on running. They need to be charming enough to talk their way past guards and mob bosses and smart enough to recognize a lethal rune, a hidden motion sensor or a tail from Interpol. Acquisitor is the low rung on the Mysterium status ladder because Acquisitors do dangerous, dirty work. The job has an incredible burnout rate. Acquisitors have to maintain multiple identities to cross borders and ingratiate themselves with the illegal antiquities trade. Trespassing and theft are routine. Violence is rare but especially brutal, as nobody lets someone off with a beating for stealing a 6,000-year-old gold amulet. The trade in illicit antiquities is second only to the drug trade in terms of worldwide profit, and they are often linked. An Acquisitor's nemesis is less likely to be a rival scholar than a paranoid cocaine magnate. After a few years, these mages are usually happy to move on to other responsibilities. The Acquisitor's ideal background doesn't help his status. The best Acquisitors were often thieves, failed academics and corrupt antiquities dealers before they Awakened. Joining the Mysterium redeems them after a fashion, but the order has a large number of respectable antiquarians who bear grudges against these crooks. An Acquisitor's work has two simple goals. First: Find occult lore and artifacts that aren't in reputable, Awakened hands and bring them to an Athenaeum. Second: Explore secret places and investigate strange phenomena. There's a misconception that this always involves firsthand exploration, but just as all mystagogues, Acquisitors know the value of guanxi. If they can buy artifacts, they will. If another cabal's visited an Atlantean ruin, they'll trade favors for the information. These indirect means rarely suffice for the Acquisitor's entire tenure. Eventually, she has to work in person. This is especially true when it comes to ruins and site-based phenomena. Secondhand accounts can't necessarily be trusted. Acquisitors have a rule among themselves that governs whose Athenaeum gets a particular item. This is formally called the Rule of Occult Salvage -- but it's irreverently known as "first dibs." The first mystagogue to identify a target for acquisition chooses its destination. She keeps this right for as long as it takes to attempt the acquisition once. If she fails, the right falls on the next Acquisitor to discover the target, on down until it comes back to the first mage. The order expects Acquisitors to cooperate, even when one of them strongly feels that the Rule would send the prize to the wrong Athenaeum. Unscrupulous Acquisitors have sabotaged colleagues' missions so that they can claim the prize for themselves. It's a major breach of trust, but it does happen.

Censor ( Status 1 ): Censors are the most hated branch of the order. They're often compared to Guardians of the Veil, but Censors themselves believe that if anything, they save the Awakened from Guardian excesses. The Mysterium doesn't believe that there are secrets that the Awakened shouldn't know, but that there are things that should stay hidden until they're truly needed. Censors keep the other orders from flagrantly abusing magic by holding onto its most extreme forms until the time is right. Magic that calls upon the Abyss is unjustified almost all the time, but it's conceivable that acamoth investments or controlled Befouling could tip the balance in situations that threaten an entire Consilium. The nature of dangerous secrets means that individual mages do not have the right to make these judgment calls alone. They should use this knowledge only for the good of a community, so it stands to reason that the community should decide when and how the Awakened use Exarchs' Artifacts, Abyssal magic, vampire occultists and other volatile resources. In an ideal world, the Mysterium would keep an open catalog of these secrets; the Consilium could draw on them at times of need, wisely debating the consequences. Unfortunately, the Mysterium's ethos just hasn't caught on widely enough to make this a safe, practical option. Censors tend to have aggressive personalities. They know that other mages don't like Censors and don't try to make friends with anyone who obviously rejects their agenda. Ironically, this makes Censors some of the most charismatic figures in the order. Other mystagogues, ever mindful of guanxi, cultivate an artificially humble, non-confrontational attitude. Censors have nothing to lose by being bombastic straight shooters. Nevertheless, when a Censor does form guanxi with another mage, the Censor tends to make the most of the relationship, pumping contacts for rumors and favors. When this kind of passive intelligence doesn't work, he does a little legwork and gets in mages' faces. If that means he has to dole out a beating or fight a duel, he'll do it. Censors are the closest thing the order has to a formal security force. Caucuses either teach Censors how to fight or select battle-hardened mages to fill the position. Acquisitors often move on to Censorship positions because the jobs require similar skills. But a Censor isn't just an extroverted thug. It's up to her to assess a magical item, spell or occult secret's possible dangers. Censors need a diverse occult education to identify the significance of potential targets. In a city rife with vampires, Censors need to know about the powers and vulnerabilities of vampire magic in case a mage decides to trade favors with the undead. Censors also keep in touch with local Curators, as their Athenaea ultimately store confiscated items.

Daduchos ( Status 2 ): A mystagogue becomes a daduchos after initiation into the Mysteriorum Anima. It is a turning point for the mage; he may have been socially aware before hand, but now the ritual has opened his eyes to the ebbs and flows of the Mysterium. It is the perfect time to give him responsibilities of importance within the order. A daduchos directs the neokoroi in their basic services to the order, their educations, their pursuits of knowledge and their advancements in the Atlantean Mystery. Daduchoi play politics on the order's behalf, making the cloakroom deals and official dispensations necessary to keep the order afloat and allow it to pursue its mission. They guide the order in that, as well, keeping the Athenaeum secure and organized, and they name a Censor from among the neokoroi superior; the daduchoi's judgment decides who of their order can access what of their secret knowledge, and they decide which other mages and which donations of knowledge are worthy of a peek at the order's preserved information. All this they do publicly, giving of themselves for the advancement of the Mysterium. It is hard work, and many are stretched beyond their limits and suffer for it. But daduchoi do not sacrifice everything to forever become overworked administrators. They do not give up their habits and hobbies; anything that relaxes them becomes that much more important (and harder to find time for). Daduchoi continue to study the Supernal and mortal disciplines they have chosen; some broaden their expertise across additional disciplines (which becomes easier with the concomitant increase in access to knowledge), but more refine their knowledge in the disciplines they have already mastered. They refine their understanding of the Mysteries just as they did when neokoroi, if more slowly. It is difficult for most daduchoi to hare off on a search for some new and exciting bit of supernatural lore, given their greater responsibilities. They thus come up with donations to the order sufficient to warrant their advancement less often, though this isn't a problem: most mystagogues believe it takes longer (in general, anyway) to become worthy of initiation into each successive Mystery. The exceptions to the rule are those mystagogues who refuse to give up their lives as archaeologists in the field and continue to search out old artifacts. It is a dirty and thankless job most of the time, and most daduchoi who wish to continue serving that purpose see no interference from their peers or superiors. After all, ancient ruins are one of the Mysterium's constant sources of interesting relics, and a daduchos is usually more practiced at getting to the truth than a neokoros. The only restriction is that a daduchos actively at work at excavations and reconstructions must maintain a larger team, training at least one neokoros in the art and coordinating the like efforts of neokoroi in the same region.

Savant ( Status 2 ): Savants hold the order's most ancient office. Legends say that the first Savants memorized Atlantean lore so that future generations would be able to learn the secrets of magic. Savants were persecuted by barbarians and monsters. Mages' enemies gloried in the downfall of the Awakened City and wished to keep its inheritors from ever reclaiming the Art's power. Throughout history, Savants have always saved knowledge from those who would destroy it. In China, Savants saved knowledge that would have been destroyed by the Qin emperor. In Europe and the Middle East, they memorized and copied Greek and Roman teachings. In North America, indigenous Savants resisted forced cultural assimilation. They kept old languages, stories and wisdom-teachings alive. A modern Savant devotes himself to two fields: One occult, one worldly. A Savant connects these subjects with his own theories and meditations. One Savant devotes herself to ecology and werewolves. Through ecology's lens, werewolves are apex predators that affect human and spirit populations. Viewed through werewolf teratology, ecology is the visible manifestation of spiritual forces; Shadow politics, powers and mythic quests influence nature as often as genetics. Savants are expected to record their lore to the best of their ability, but their primary purpose is to simply know it. Savants memorize everything, just in case their notes burn. Ideally, if every Athenaeum fell to the order's enemies, the order's Savants would reconstruct the Athenaea's contents from memory. Not everyone has the mental discipline (or the Eidetic Memory Merit) for the task. These days, the Mysterium's holdings are too diverse and scattered to make this a realistic goal, but the order's mages still view Savants as the ultimate defense against persecution. In some cities, Savants still conceal their expertise, but most now discuss their studies openly, serving the order in the same fashion as Sleepers' professors. Savants are important assets; their knowledge can be traded to other mages for favors. Despite a common duty, Savants are a diverse lot. Some live cloistered lives, but just as many lead adventurous lives for the sake of original research.

Curator (Status 3): Curators are usually the highest-ranked members of a Mysterium caucus. A Curator's official duty is to protect, enhance and organize the local Athenaeum. Her unofficial duties include promoting Mysterium values, protecting the order's political interests and approving major bargains between mystagogues and outsiders. There can be several Curators in a single caucus, but this isn't common except in regions where the order is especially prominent. In these cases, the Curator with the highest Mysterium Status assigns her inferiors particular duties. In some cases, the head Curator isn't the most prominent Mysterium mage in the Consilium; she allows a colleague to take center stage. A Curator needs to be a skilled manager. She isn't necessarily the most learned mage (though she's no slouch), but she knows how to direct others' expertise for the good of the order. She also needs enough money to pay for the Athenaeum's space and security. Censors determine whether or not Athenaeum content needs to be locked away indefinitely, but Curators decide who can see or borrow anything else. Curators often master the skills of mundane curators and librarians, but some believe that an Athenaeum should be less organized than Sleeper institutions. Some Curators organize the space using personal intuition so that the Athenaeum reflects their personalities. This also has the advantage of making a particular item difficult to find without their permission. Curators approach politics from the standpoint of a learned advisor. They avoid overt power plays in favor of guanxi-based bonds. To learn a Curator's stance, examine her friendships. A Curator who favors a particular candidate for Hierarch will make friends with all contenders but she'll accompany her choice on social occasions. Such a Curator will serve as a go-between and press for a state of affairs in which each hopeful gains a measure of respect from the rest. The Curator's resources let her smooth proceedings with bribes: Lore and services from the entire caucus. When emergencies arise, it's up to the Curator to pull the caucus together. Guanxi binds the order, but there are times when friendship and face don't cut it; somebody needs to give orders and expect them to be obeyed. In these cases, Mystery rank is the difference between quick obedience and dithering debate. A dadouchos needs to argue for her plan; a Hierophant and known Arcana master can send Censors to their deaths. The Mysterium will never match the military might, duplicity or fanaticism of other orders, but there's a lot to be said for knowledge and raw intelligence. Ideal Curators bring out the best in others and solve problems with the talent they have on hand.


Hierophant (Status 4): Initiation into the Mysteriorum Calamitas makes one a Hierophant of the Mysterium. This is almost the highest honor the order can bestow, and comes with a like amount of respect from other mystagogues. Her new awareness of the Fallen World's profound flaws and the danger they represent, to her and the Supernal World, gives her new responsibilities. She leaves behind administration and organization; it helped her develop her sense of priorities, of people and of the world, giving her the wisdom for her next step into the Mystery, but she has more important things to do with her time now. The Hierophant serves her order as the wisest of priests, helping neokoroi and daduchoi alike enlighten themselves with a few quiet words. She watches the threats of which her enlightenment makes her aware, seeing subtle movements in the Tapestry and acting to counter them before others become aware of the danger; sometimes her weapons are her Arcana, sometimes her order. And she never abandons her own research, education or enlightenment; making herself all she can be is as much a debt to herself and all her effort thus far as it is to the order. When not secluded and untangling imponderable questions, the Hierophant guides her order. She leaves the detailed navigation to daduchoi; a light touch in the right place is enough to keep the order on course and saves her effort better spent on other things. That she is smart enough to do this is part of what keeps lesser mages in awe of her.

Factions

Archaeomancers: "There is no such thing as new knowledge. Everything possible exists at this very moment. We only have to find it." Despite the best efforts of the Mysterium, more magic has been lost to the world in the past millennia than the combined knowledge of all Awakened mages alive today. The mystagogues know this, and one of their major factions is devoted to uncovering these lost mysteries. While Sleeper archaeologists study human cultures through the recovery, documentation, and analysis of material remains, the Archaeomancers do the same for magic. By studying the past, they seek to recover, document, and analyze whatever fragments might hold clues to the vast store of knowledge and magic that has been lost to modern magi. Some Archaeomancers, of course, are motivated to do so out of their own desires for power, or to find the key to proving their own pet theory to be fact.

Archivists: "Knowledge is power -- both knowledge used, and knowledge denied. The secret is to know when each is appropriate." Alone among the major factions of the Mysterium, the Archivists focus is not on the discovery of new knowledge, but on the protection of that which has been claimed by the order. To this end, the Archive is also the only faction that exists as a organized community, as well as a group of individuals dedicated to a common purpose. Most Curators, Savants, and a good many of the Censors belong to the Archive, and because of this, as well as their organized structure, Librarians are most politically powerful of any mystagogue faction.

Bricoleurs: "Yes, yes, I know it does that. But, what if we tried doing this with it?" There are those who say that there is nothing new under the sun, that all that ever will exist exists now and only waits to be discovered or re-found. The Bricoleurs disagree. While Reclaimants and Archaeomancers seek to recover knowledge and magic that have been lost in to the ravages of history or has fallen into the wrong hands, the Bricoleurs strive to take that which has been recovered, discovered, and uncovered, and to create something wholly new with it. By combining known quantities in new and creative ways, they seek to expand the realm of what is possible. And, much to the chagrin of naysayers and traditionalists, sometimes the Bricoleurs succeed.

Egregori: "The greatest Truths often lie just beyond what the eye can see and the mind can comprehend." There are secrets that cannot be taught with words, knowledge that cannot be written in books. There are places so holy that to visit them is to commune with the Divine and experiences so sacred that to endure them is to become Divine oneself. Not all information is quantifiable by even the most talented pen. Some things must simply be seen, heard, tasted, felt or experienced. The teachers, seekers, wise women, and sacred fools -- they are the Egregori. Egregori are more than a faction. They are, collectively, an entity that serves and protects one of the great truths of the universe that some things are beyond words, beyond measure they simply are.

Reclaimants: "Where did I get it? Let's just say the former owner wasn't going to be needing it any more." Whether prowling the dark chambers of Sleeper occultists' secret lairs or hobnobbing with high society at art auctions, Reclaimants hold to a single creed: Get the job done by whatever means necessary. An Artifact in the hands of a Sleeper is a blasphemy to the Mysterium. In most cases, the item's power and potential are wasted through the current owner's inability to wield the object or lack of knowledge of its nature. Or worse, the item may be being wielded wrongly: to promote the Sleeper's own power or in manners that bolster the Lie or threaten the Veil. Regardless, it is imperative (in the eyes of the order) that such items are brought into the hands of those who can use these objects for rightful causes or in the case of some, protect the world from the items' use. The tool that the order uses in these cases is the Reclaimant faction, a group of mystagogues who specialize in removing powerful and forbidden knowledge from the hands of those outside of Supernal society and returning the knowledge to the order, where the object can be used or archived safely.


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