Secrets of Detroit
The Guardians of the Veil
Magic is a secret Art. The Guardians of the Veil keep it that way for a reason. The order believes that Atlantis was defined by its humanity. It rewarded the fruits of human brilliance and reflected its flaws. Atlantis was as close to Utopia as ever existed, but it was not perfect. The Guardians of the Veil say that perfection belongs to individuals. Societies are always flawed. Even Atlantis needed wardens, spies and killers. The Fallen World is no different.
The Guardians of the Veil, also called the Visus Draconis, or Eye of the Dragon, secretly protected Atlantis from internal strife and treachery. They say it was a thankless job in which
mages underwent personal quests for enlightenment for the good of the Awakened City. Even in its greatest days, Atlantis had subtle enemies: great beasts, demons cloaked in human flesh and rebels who threatened the city out of madness or avarice.
The order was hated as a matter of ritual, if not reason, because condoning the Guardian’s role would question the legitimacy of Atlantis itself. Like their companions in the Adamantine Arrow, they were to be viewed as instruments of Atlantis — never masters. But while war
was the province of honorable, overt volunteers, the Guardians of the Veil were charged with more subtle matters of state. If revealed, they would undermine the ethos that Atlantis was
ruled by humans, without fearing the night or barbarous tyranny. Sometimes that ideal held true, but in the city’s latter days, whispers accused the order of spying and killing to serve itself.
secret work of the Guardians. They discreetly removed foreign enemies where they could, moving beyond supernatural threats to press chieftains and lords for boons, and if necessary, toppling kingdoms by fanning the fires of insurrection from within. Some of these kingdoms did indeed threaten Atlantis, usually through the plots of non-Atlantean mages, but most only posed potential threats — potential that Guardian mage-spies expertly identified and then squashed, all without implicating Atlantis. If Atlantis seemed like a Utopia to its people, it was partly due to keeping down any power that could one day threaten it.
Even after the Exile, the Guardians practice their subtle arts on Sleeper regimes, spinning useful conspiracies and myths out of the loam of history, and using plots, lies and knives to protect mages from enemies both Sleeping and supernatural. Even though their aims are pragmatic, they are not without occult significance. The order believes that every Paradox widens the Abyss, so magic must remain hidden. Their own dark deeds are an occult sacrifice. They defile their own karma so that other mages may hone their own, free from witch hunters and other, fouler dangers.
Save for the Seers of the Throne and the Banishers, no order is as hated as the Guardians of the Veil. Mages see them as a necessary evil — valued, but distasteful allies. Even the Free Council is more respected, because its own chaotic ethos still emphasizes discovery instead of repression. Awakened wills are trained to shatter barriers and seek freedom, so most mages have an inherent distrust of anyone who would shackle human desire. Still, the order has its uses, and despite the fact that many mages resent the Guardians, they still come to the group for aid — and the order demands aid in return. This is not always voluntary, but experienced Guardians learn to take stock of the skeletons in other mages’ closets and leverage them expertly.
Above all, the Guardians have mastered the art of moving among Sleepers in a mundane guise, planting useful stories and careful measures of magical influence to ward off magic’s enemies while providing for their own interests. Rumors brag that the order once manipulated nations and civilizations to these ends. Even now, Guardians plant memes and secret signs in the world’s cultures. Members of the order might receive assistance by uttering a secret word to a Sleeper, who learned it in the useless (but potent) rites of a secret society that the order created centuries ago. Stories of family lines bred to serve the order across generations and torture chambers reinforced for supernatural inmates fill the annals of Awakened hearsay. And for all anyone knows, half of the rumors may be the Guardians’ own lies. Where slow subtlety fails, invisible knives, silent guns and killing spells prevail, so that the Guardians of the Veil are feared assassins. Stereotype paints them as death-obsessed, remorseless killers, but again, these mages know their sins. This makes them even more dangerous. They are certain that every deed is absolutely necessary to the goal of Awakened
stewardship of the world, and ultimately victory over the Exarchs.
The Guardians of the Veil choose their members carefully, through a process of slow indoctrination that begins as soon as the order senses a combination of Awakened potential and the necessary mindset. At first, they lure novices into a conspiracy filled with other Guardians and Sleepers. Senior members test a novice’s ability to keep secrets from the unenlightened, and to commit questionable acts for a greater cause. This stage is called the Gray Veil, the least important curtain over a web of plots that test a mage’s dedication and condition her ethics to accept the order’s methods. The second stage is the Crimson Veil. Here, a mage must be willing to kill for the conspiracy. Sometimes a sorcerer actually murders someone whom the order has already marked for death, but any demonstration of sincere intent does. Yet the Guardians don’t want mindless servants. They want mages to believe in an ideal so strongly that they will kill, lie and die for it, but they don’t want them to
totally abandon individual moral judgment. The final Black Veil therefore presents a quandary to the initiate, asking her to perform an act that is immoral by the order’s own standards. If the
mage obeys, she can never join the order. The secret society she once knew vanishes. She is not killed, but the Guardians watch her for life. If she refuses to obey, the order lifts the final deception and she becomes a true member. Many people believe that the order prefers initiates who used to be spies, killers or conspirators in the Sleeping world, but this is based on a misunderstanding. The Guardians of the Veil use mundane intelligence agencies and secret brotherhoods as proving grounds, but most prospects are lured to join the order. Consequently, Guardians often come from innocuous backgrounds before the order takes them. The society would rather mold a moral, pragmatic factory worker into an accomplished spy than hire a government-trained psychopath.
The Guardians of the Veil have few ancient writings, because writing is a secret shared with anyone who reads. They keep an oral tradition instead. This Law of the Mask is introduced among the earliest Veils, but is only taught completely to a mage who graduates to full knowledge of the order.
- Paradoxes strengthen the Abyss as punishment answers pride
A Paradox is more than a discontinuity in reality. It is a flaw that opens the Fallen World to the
poison of the Abyss. Guardians point to anomalies and manifestations as proof of this, as well as traditions that seem to show that astral journeys were once far less arduous. The order discourages vulgar magic; Guardians who casually fling reality defying spells about risk censure or worse. Symbolically, the Supernal World itself is too pure to tolerate vain blandishments. Even as hidden masters, mages have a place in the cosmic order. If they cannot use subtle talents to subdue the Fallen World, their souls might let the darkness in.
- Sins for a just end grant wisdom to the Awakened
Wisdom is a real force, not a subjective concept. The Guardians of the Veil hold that enlightenment is an impersonal entity that can be generated and transferred among Awakened seekers. Most mages hone their Wisdom by using magic carefully and clinging to compassion, because magic is the art of perfecting humanity — not abandoning it. Guardians take another path. Lies and killing are sins, but if they are offered up as sacrifices for the good of the Awakened, they create wisdom — for other mages. The order recognizes that their ways erode the integrity of their own souls, but they also provide safety and justice for the enlightened. Though the classical doctrine claims that there is an actual metaphysical
transfer of merit, most Guardians are satisfied with knowing that their sacrifice helps mages.
- Merit must guide the Fallen World
Rule falls to individual merit. The Awakened are wiser than Sleepers, and masters are wiser than apprentices. Mages should always foster greater wisdom among their charges, but
never to the extent that they might overstep their bounds and endanger other quests for enlightenment. Arcane secrets and obscure symbolism must weed out seekers who aren’t ready for the higher facets of mystic lore. Sleepers should not truck with the secrets of Atlantis or endanger mages. Mages should be sparing and even mysterious with their wisdom, and give humble but firm guidance to the less accomplished. This meritocracy has no room for chauvinism; sex, sexuality, ethnicity and the like are almost never used to determine worth. Petty bigotry is beneath the Awakened perspective.