Secrets of Detroit
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.
In Atlantis, the Mysterium’s members were professors and librarians. Legends describe the Cenacle of Sighs, where mages could consult the ghosts of savants and vast libraries written in the tongues of fae, demons, angels and gods. The ancient order ventured into the hinterlands to learn the natural sciences and cull the innovations of barbarian states.
These expeditions were almost as martial as they were scientific, because outlanders (and the night-horrors who often ruled them) feared and hated the Great City. The early mystagogues paid for their knowledge in blood, securing a place of honor in the city’s silver halls.
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, so that Atlantis’ wisdom would spread throughout the world. 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, renewing the Atlantean arts.
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 Atlantis, 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.
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.
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
After Atlantis fell, 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.