Secrets of Detroit
The Free Council
Atlantis is a worthy dream, but to the Free Council, other mages make the mistake of casting their lot with the past, ensuring that they will always be lesser than their ancestors. The order sees the Awakened City as a spiritual ideal, but doesn’t believe that its old rites are the best
way to renew Awakened power. It holds that virtually any method, as long as it captures some genuine meaning, can be used to invoke the Supernal Realms. Humanity found the
essential spark of Awakening in prehistory, and never forgot. The Quiescence can only subdue it; human beings recreate the signs of wisdom all around them.
Even this Fallen World contains countless treasures for the Awakened seeker. Arcane power is not
wisdom. The Free Council discovered that truth when it questioned the Atlantean orthodoxy. For all their power, even great masters were blind to the new truths of the quickening age. It was time to drop the old hierarchies and seek the truth through democracy and consensus. Levels of initiation and secrets barred from the so-called unworthy were all the worse because they replicated the values of the Exarchs and their Seers of the Throne.
The Free Council insists that humanity was never meant to abase itself for the sake of occult training. Magic exists now, and it’s moving forward as swiftly as a thought. Cling to tradition, and you’ll get left behind.
Awakened society has always had its share of rebels and strange geniuses, mages who could never accept the easy answers of Atlantean tradition. The Silver Ladder cast them out, the Adamantine Arrow refused to protect them and the Mysterium expunged their words from history. But the Awakened have always been sensitive to the spirit of an age, and there have been times when the trickle of malcontent has grown to a flood. These eras have coincided with some of the greatest achievements in human history, but also with its wars and disasters.
Do mages cause such events, or take their lessons to heart? So many layers of conspiracy exist between mages and Sleeping humanity that it’s nigh impossible to tell who bears the burden of history, but during these pivotal periods, arcane knowledge increases. In the early 19th century, cabals across Europe expounded a startling theory: that upheaval led to genuinely new occult praxes, not mere shadows of Atlantis. Men and women were not as weak as the Exarchs supposed, and trained against their prison across the generations. The new movement gave itself hundreds of different names based on everything from Sleeper inspirations to esoteric humor. Conflict was inevitable. It spanned the globe through the charms of the Boxer Rebellion, the guns of the American West and the bombs of London anarchists.
Mysterium historians call it the Nameless War, for at the time, the other orders refused to even give the revolutionaries a common name. After all, names grant symbolic power. The heirs of Atlantis, for all their internal strife, wanted to see history bury these apostates. The war left the rebels bloody but unbowed, and even increased their membership. Young members of the traditional orders defected, charmed by the opportunities offered by rebel factions. Even so, the Nameless rebels couldn’t prove their worth to the ancient orders until they took a stand for something, instead of against tradition. The Great Refusal fulfilled this requirement. The Seers of the Throne knew that the rebels presented a great opportunity. Nameless mages embraced the Sleeping world’s technologies and fashions.
They could be used to wipe out all memory of Atlantis. Together, the Seers and the Nameless could create a world where humanity could not even conceive of the occult, mending the final few flaws that remained in the world-prison the Exarchs had created. The Seers of the Throne sent emissaries to Nameless cabals, offering them wealth and power in exchange for an alliance that would wed technological and cultural magic to an agenda of control. The Nameless order declined. They declined with guns, bombs and mind-crushing Arts.
On New Year’s Eve in 1899, the Great Refusal of alliance concluded with the official
formation of the Free Council, members of which had finally discovered a common enemy. The spirit of the modern world would be liberty, not technocracy, and it was time to explore it.
The elder orders would have you think that the Free Council consists of poorly trained punks and political blowhards who endanger everyone around them with poorly wrought spells, and who defile the Supernal World with every ill-considered touch. Sometimes, that’s true. For their part, novice mages might speak up for the Free Council out of sheer contrariness, but might also seek to escape the burden of apprenticeship. Many mages treat their pupils as slaves and cannon fodder in battles for ancient lore. A few masters even cripple their apprentice’s development because they’re afraid of being surpassed. Resentment builds and apprentices leave. The Free Council offers an environment in which young mages’ ideas are debated freely, but novices who expect total license to act as they see fit are in for a surprise.
The Free Council takes democracy seriously, but doesn’t take to every notion — and there are many — that is flung on the table. Like mages everywhere, libertines lead dangerous lives fighting rivals and searching for magical power. They believe in security and mutual aid. Empty rebellion doesn’t help either. After running the gauntlet of debate and the sporadic violence of Council missions, survivors are tempered into idealistic but practical occultists who have a flexible set of capabilities. Libertines tend to be generalists outside of their arcane specialties. Their intense interest in culture and technology, and their iconoclasm, makes the ideal member a combination of engineer, anthropologist and guerilla.
Young mages aren’t the only ones who join the Free Council, however. Veteran sorcerers align themselves with the order to either reject their former, corrupt allegiances or to explore radical occult theories. Experienced defectors add political clout and arcane power to the cause. Libertines all have a common interest in contemporary culture and tend to be skeptical of Atlantean heritage. Some of them doubt that Atlantis ever even existed. In any event, they believe that it’s useless to limit themselves to tradition. If Atlantis existed in any age, it should be the future and should be a better place than any legend describes. Of course, Free Council members rarely agree on the best model for an Awakened — or mundane — society. Their sanctums ring with the competing voices of anarchists, free-market capitalists and partisans of countless other doctrines
Volumes have been written (and duels fought) about what libertines ought to believe. Despite this, members hold little in common aside from the charter of unity forged at the dawn of the 20th century.
- Democracy seeks the truth; hierarchy fosters the Lie
The Quiescence does more than blind Sleepers to the great truths of existence. It creates a way of thinking that causes them to lie to each other by diluting power through society’s ranks, creating hierarchies to control the spread of knowledge. This is a radical enough claim by itself, but the Free Council goes a step further and postulates that even mages are cursed to trap their lore in hierarchies of mutual deception. Every generation loses a bit of lore that was concealed in the highest levels of initiation and never passed on. Subsequently, the secrets of Atlantis (if it isn’t a lie) have been filtered through so many masters and apprentices that they’re nearly useless. Only shared discovery and free debate can throw off the Lie.
- Humanity is magical; human works have arcane secrets
The Free Council believes that humanity never really forgot the secrets of magic. Human beings instinctively create their own miracles. These are only shadows of the potential they could attain if they Awakened, but they point to new ways to understand magic. Technology and culture have their own secret laws and symbols, drawn from Supernal regions still waiting to be discovered. Libertines embrace a modern vision of magic drawn from human accomplishments, not hoary myths. This doesn’t mean that magic comes only from modern technology and mass media, though. Many libertines believe that preindustrial and developing societies have been making their own discoveries throughout Sleeping history and that it’s a mistake to cleave too closely to modern Western values.
- Destroy the followers of the Lie
This is one of the most contentious points of agreement among Free Council cabals. While all agree that the Seers of the Throne are the most extreme proponents of the Lie, they do not have any consensus on how to reform Awakened society away from its authoritarian traditions. The most radical cells espouse revolutionary war against the Silver Ladder and their collaborators, but others believe that a peaceful campaign of cooperation and Consilium-level reform will gradually persuade mages to abandon their outmoded hierarchies.