Codex: Ravagers (2017)

Ravagers

The Ravagers are beasts, creatures from we know not where, driven by a mad, base intelligence.  They appear human to normal eyes, but that façade conceals a seething hunger for death and destruction.  When in a frenzy state, a Ravager will change, physically and psychically.  Its skin will become bony and thick to better protect itself.  It will exhibit fangs, claws, even horn-like protrusions and spikes.  In a frenzy state, the Ravager’s higher psychic functions disappear, consumed by an overriding hunger for the life energy upon which they feed.  Most Ravagers sate this thirst through the consumption of blood taken from their prey, thus giving rise to the ancient tales of vampirism amongst normal humans.  A few, however, discover that blood alone is not enough.  These cases seem to require the ingestion of human flesh as well.

Normally, in a rest state, the Ravager can pass as human easily enough, despite a distaste for direct sunlight which makes them uncomfortable.  The frenzy state enhances their physical strength and speed fourfold, beyond the abilities of any normal human to match.  They also become tougher, more difficult to injure.  Regardless of their state, a Ravager can be destroyed by sorcery, a Guardian’s powers, and by causing enough damage to overwhelm their recuperative powers, usually by beheading or destroying their bodies completely.

We have no definite information about the origins of the Ravagers.  They appeared in small numbers millennia ago.[1]  Then they flooded the world for a time, prompting the creation of the first Guardians as the sorcerers of the era were nearly overwhelmed by the tide.  We believe that the Ravagers originate beyond this world, past a theoretical barrier called the Pale.  Hundreds of theories have been posited over the generations, though, and the Pale is merely the latest in a long line.

Modern Ravagers appear to have evolved from the nearly mindless creatures that fought our ancestors.  Today, there are a growing number of Ravagers who can conceal their hunger behind a façade of respectability.  Still, they must release the drive, the desire, the need from time to time.  And they must feed.  So, they gravitate to areas of human society where they can sate their desires.  They show up in the ranks of organized crime, illegal fight circuits, certain kinds of night clubs, even militias.  They avoid law enforcement and the military, since their nature would eventually be revealed.

A few researchers believe that Ravagers have a complex and civilized society (Berk; Hall and Pollington; Raffel).[i]  These few also claim that Ravagers are intelligent and capable of controlling their hunger under certain circumstances.  The majority of Arcanum researchers disagree.  The current theory is that Ravagers are beasts who are able to conceal their bestial natures for a brief time.  They appear to lack higher functions, although some can mimic humanity well enough to pass, long enough to feed.  They seem to be solitary, ambush predators with occasional, short lived, groups of three or four appearing.  What connects the groups, or causes them, is unclear, though some have suggested a familial relationship or social system (see Howard and Raffel respectively).

The Council’s official policy is that Ravagers are dangerous, invasive beasts.  The Council recommends that they be destroyed on sight, or that appropriate authorities—Council representatives, the Red Order, or Guardians—be contacted immediately and informed of potential Ravager activity.

[1] Some reconstructed sources appear to indicate that the Ravagers were drawn to, or even created by, sorcery (ref. Clareson; Thompson and Donne; Ptahotep; Eclesius, Spinnett, and Isaak).  Such creation or attraction could have been accidental or purposeful, the sources are unclear.  (See Appendix A)

[i] Berk, Raffel, Hall, Pollington, they’re all right.  The Ravagers are intelligent and have a society based on a complex ratio of age, personal power, and appearance of power, possibly with some lineage thrown in.  They follow the direction of lords and masters and are actually highly organized in some regions, while masquerading as chaotic loners.

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Codex: Guardians (2017)

Guardians

Created by sorcery, the Guardians are the frontline of defense against the Ravagers.  They were developed and created under Arcanum mandate when it became clear that sorcerers could not reproduce and train fast enough to keep up with the Ravager invasion.   Due to the desperation of the era, a rare mix of water and earth sorcery was invented, resulting in the first generation of Guardians.  They were flawed due to an unintentional side effect that left them barren.  Wood sorcery was introduced in the second generation to correct the error.  They have bred true, and much faster than sorcerers, ever since.

Due to the mix of sorceries involved, Guardians possess two forms.  Their rest state is human to all appearances.  In this state, they are still notably stronger and faster than normal humans.  Guardians also possess a combat form.  In this state, their flesh becomes simultaneously hard as stone, yet pliant enough to move unimpeded.  They become effectively impervious to normal means of injury, though still vulnerable to all forms of magic and Ravager claws.  However, their strength and speed are enhanced to an inhuman, Ravager-level, degree.  As they age, a Guardian’s combat form becomes more inhuman in appearance.  This gave rise to stories of golems and animate gargoyles among the humans.

The Guardians were created and bred to be fiercely loyal to the Arcanum and sorcerers.  They were, and still are, trained from childhood in their duty to protect the world.  Despite the best intentions and most skilled sorcery, genetic mutations do occasionally occur.  In those rare cases, a Guardian may abandon his or her duty, often in early adulthood, and join the ranks of the apostates, alongside an unfortunate number of sorcerers.  The willful decision to give up the fight and deny their vows does, rarely occur late in life as the Guardians match sorcerers in potential lifespan, even though their average age is lower.

Although the Guardians are an integral part of Arcanum society and the Great Conflict, they are not afforded full status in the Arcanum.  Nor are they given a seat on the Council or a voice in choosing the members of the Council, though they do furnish military and security advisors to the Council.  In this way, they share a degree of kinship with the Red and Blue Orders.  There are those amongst the Arcanum who, unfortunately, consider the Guardians to be lesser beings, less worthy of rights, even nothing but tools.  These sorcerers are a minority, but sometimes a vocal one.  Fortunately, they are not supported by many sorcerers and tend to keep quietly to themselves.

Because they have spent centuries, particularly early in their history, ostracized by the early Arcanum, the Guardians created their own society apart from sorcerers.  According to Farman and Dryer, this society is oddly loose and unstructured.  It seems to be focused on the family unit, then clans of families and septs of clans.  Dryer notes that every clan and sept as its leaders, usually the eldest or most experienced member of the clan.  Gender does not seem to matter.  Many sorcerers expect that Guardian society will be strictly regimented—because of their militant role—or effectively chaotic and bestial—because of outdated prejudices.

While not regimented, it is true that Guardians do focus on militant aspects of society, as they were created to.  All Guardians learn to fight in various ways, regardless of gender.  Traditionally, Guardians begin learning unarmed combat around the age of ten, graduating to weapons by fourteen.  Their training covers nearly every year from ten to eighteen.  Even in childhood, Guardian games build stamina, hand-eye coordination, aim, durability, and quick changes between human and combat forms.  Some undertake training and education in non-combat areas, but the Council discourages this, for fear of sowing confusion in the ranks and losing the Great Conflict.  Even so, every Guardian is trained in at least the basics of Ravager combat.

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Codex: Sorcerers (2017)

Sorcerers

Put simply, sorcerers are practitioners of sorcery.  The more complex, and useful, description is that sorcerers are humans who possess an active gene, or sequence of genes, that allow(s) them to sense, gather, and shape magical energy that permeates the world.  This ability is instinctive, but requires practice and training to control effectively, and to keep both the sorcerer and those around them safe.  Sorcerers all appear, to normal senses, to be completely normal humans, barring fashion and related styles that can become quite outlandish despite the Arcanum’s best, and best intentioned, efforts.  The exceptions are some wood and water sorcerers who have been experimenting with physical alteration, and, some whisper, gene sequencing, for decades.

All sorcerers fall into one of two classes.  The vast majority are members of the Arcanum, discussed in the preceding pages.  A tiny minority[i] have rejected society and their duty to live as apostates outside the protections and benefits of Arcanum society.  Arcanum sorcerers benefit from the assistance and protection of their Order (see below) and the shield of the Guardians as well as exceptional education overseen by the Council of Masters and the Orders.[ii]  Conversely, the apostates live like common criminals, or as the homeless do amongst normal humans.  Most apostates have little to no education or training and are, therefore, a threat to themselves and others.

Sorcerers have a duty to the world to join the fight against the Ravagers in one way or another.  After all, we are the only ones who are equipped and capable of withstanding the creatures.  Humans lack the strength and ability, while the theurgists and witches engage in their own, fruitless, struggles, and the non-humans refuse to get involved.

[i] The number of apostates is significantly larger than the Arcanum Council would like to admit, and that number is growing.  We also exist outside the Arcanum for a host of reasons, most because we reject the Arcanum’s restrictions and control, as well as the stifling system of Orders.

[ii] Many apostates form their own organizations of likeminded individuals, by choice not by force.  These groups protect members and serve as second, or first, families for many.  They also provide good, practical education.  All without the tyrannical Council controlling everything.

Codex: Places of the Arcanum 5 (2017)

Camp Gwydion

The Red Order’s Camp Gwydion is both its social center and a sort of training ground.  The Arcanum Council has issued an exception to school authorization for the Camp, provided instruction is limited to martial training and only provided to those who have completed instruction at a Council approved school.  The Camp is located somewhere in the eastern U.S., in the Appalachian Mountains, but exactly where is kept secret.  The Ravager would love to discover the camp’s location.  Because the Red Order is so young and small, Camp Gwydion is overseen by the order’s leader, Randall Heston, although daily operations are delegated to lieutenants.  According to order and Arcanum records, the camp was founded in 1803.

Camp Gwydion is a contained, yet paradoxically sprawling, complex in a mountain valley.  The remote location has no passes or tunnels entering it, so is cut off from normal humans, except by their aircraft.  So far, only sorcerers have been able to access the valley.  The camp has several buildings including an administration building, mess hall, camp store, barracks, and indoor training facilities.  There are also numerous outdoor areas from obstacle courses to arena fields.  A low, wire fence surrounds the property, which is patrolled by teams assigned by the camp director.  Because of its nature and purpose, people, often in armor and armed, are constantly moving through the camp and training in the martial aspects of sorcerous society.

Unlike the centers for most orders, it is not uncommon to find non-Red Order individuals at Camp Gwydion.  Many members of other orders are invited, assigned, or allowed to attend the camp for short term, intensive training sessions.  Usually these focus on special tactics, environments, or targets to bring Arcanum warriors up to peak efficiency.  Guardians are also commonly found at camp.  Non-Red Order residents are kept to a special barracks of their own.

 

Carston Manor

The Grey Order’s leadership is based out of Carston Manor.  This is also, presumably, the order’s social center.  Unfortunately, the location of the manor is unknown, even to the continent it is on.  We do know that it is maintained by Master Dan Sowell, of the Grey Order and Arcanum Councils.  When the manor was built and when Sowell took over are both unclear as the order has apparently declared them classified and unavailable to non-members.  So far as anyone can tell, access to the manor follows methods akin to accessing the Shadow Academy—devices and other travel sorcery only shared with members of the order.

Although anyone can attend the Shadow Academy, only members of the Grey Order are permitted at Carston, under any circumstances.  Therefore, all that we know about the manor comes from rumors and hearsay.  We don’t even have a solid idea of what it looks like.  According to some reports, it is a mansion out of the 1920s; others say it is built into a mountain and exists entirely underground.  To date, all such reports are unsubstantiated and unprovable.  Rumors say that the manor, if it even is really a manor, is home to the only complete and uncensored record of the Arcanum’s courts, legal decisions, and laws.  The only thing that we know with certainty about Carston is that it is protected by some seriously powerful sorceries that prevent detection and don’t even leave a “gap” to indicate its location.

 

Hausshús

The White Order bases its politics, social focus, and leadership in Hausshús (literally “Skull-house”).  This “house” is located somewhere in modern Norway, although it was built when the old kingdom covered a rather vaster territory.  Exactly where in Norway is unclear, but it is believed to be north of the Arctic Circle.  The current master of Hausshús is Bianca Casey, lieutenant of the Order’s master, Victoria Gueye.  Casey is also rumored to be Gueye’s protégé.  According to Arcanum history, Hausshús was founded in the 10th century CE, following the destruction of the White Order’s former center by a concerted Ravager assault in 896 CE in Macedonia.

Hausshús is a solid, five story square castle with an inner courtyard.  Each corner is set with a five story circular tower of immense girth, with a couple half circle “courtyards” outside that walls at both gates.  The whole is set on a lake that is frozen most of the year, with two bridges to land.  The structure is made of native stone with a slate roof.  All of the land around Hausshús is barren snow and ice for most of the year, occasionally revealing tundra greenery and herds of caribou crossing the land.  Amazingly, the castle itself is relatively warm and comfortable thanks to various sorceries, but it is still recommended that visitors remain bundled for warmth, which was only a lesser concern of the builders.

As with most of the other order centers, only members of the White Order are allowed within the walls of the castle.  Special permission can occasionally be obtained by members of other orders who petition Master Gueye directly.  Generally, permission is only granted to the Grey Order and some members of the Blue Order.  There is still some lingering resentment of the Red Order, and the Black Order is never permitted.

Codex: Places of the Arcanum 4 (2017)

Shen Zhou College

Located in a remote part of southern China, Shen Zhou College is the school operated by the Black Order.  SZC is overseen by Dean Jiaxin Chou, who was elected to the position in 1942.  As it is controlled by the Black Order, their students make up most of the student body.  However, the college also accepts Grey Robes, and certain Red and Blue Order sorcerers.  The White Order is strictly forbidden, not that many seek entry, by legal means.  Most of SZC’s curriculum is focused on defensive, healing, and similar magics.

Students and faculty at SZC wear a uniform of traditional black robes in the old, Chinese scholar style.  Those from other orders can use their order color as trim on the robes.  Both students and instructors live on college grounds throughout their studies or career, respectively.  The college is organized in departments under the Head Dean, with deans of students and faculty to assist, then department heads, then faculty, and students in a loose, professional hierarchy.  They are not opposed to visitors, but do not entirely encourage outside visits either.

Shen Zhou is a relatively large complex centered on a core building that dates back to the 12th century CE.  Its paved courtyard extends to a set of thirty foot walls.  The courtyard is dotted with a few dozen native trees and about a full score of buildings that serve for classes, dorms, library, and physical training or practice halls.  The whole is a juxtaposition between slate grey paving and brightly painted and gilded roofs and walls.  Heavily, intricately, carved pillars support exterior eaves, with scenes of dragons and other beasts.  Overall, SZC is, perhaps, the most open, and pleasant, of the Arcanum’s schools around the world.

 

Abelard Institute

The Abelard Institute is the Blue Order’s social and political center.  To honor its namesake, the institute is located in western France, near the coast.  Currently, the institute is maintained and administered by Jacob Chu, elected to the role in 1997.  As one might expect, the institute houses the Blue Order’s largest research archive, library, and collection of laboratories in the world.  Despite being a young order, the facilities at the institute are impressive, and potentially outclass those of elder orders.  There are, unfounded, rumors of an illicit, unauthorized school at the institute, but a few Council investigations have found no evidence to support the claims of the order’s detractors.

The institute itself is a classic example of grand Victorian architecture with a dark grey, rough foundation leading to a smooth, pale stone upper structure.  Flat, faux columns flank the tall, narrow windows of the second story, mirroring six true columns that rise over the front entrance.  The third floor boasts a faux fence with crenellations, and a grey slate exterior.  A stylized widow’s walk encircles the roof, enclosing numerous chimneys.  On the surface, there are a mere three stories to the institute.  Beneath, it is rumored, there could be as many as a dozen layers of archives and library stacks as well as experiment labs.

With the exception of Council investigation teams, that have found no wrongdoing, the institute is only open to members of the Blue Order in good standing.  Students are forbidden entry without an escort, until their training at a Council approved school is complete.  In very rare cases, the Order’s council or the institute’s master might allow a member of another order temporary access, with an escort at all times.

 

Blackstone Manor

Blackstone Manor is the Black Order’s socio-political center.  It is located about twenty miles due east of Luxor, Egypt, well outside the Nile’s fertile region.  Despite this location, the land around the manor is lush and verdant, thanks to earth and water sorcery, along with some wood sorcerers.  Currently, the manor is curated and managed by Manuella Bah, appointed to the role in 1982.  According to Black Order and Arcanum history, Blackstone is one of the oldest order holdings in the world, if not the oldest.  At the very least, it is the oldest continuously operating center.  Both histories note the manor being founded at some point circa 1400 BCE in the earliest days of the Arcanum proper.

The manor is a low, two story structure of black sandstone, unusual for the region.  It consists of a couple blocky main buildings connected to dozens of courtyards, some containing storage, pools, or lush gardens and trees.  The whole is done in a characteristic Egyptian style, with occasional wide columns and murals on the interior walls, though the exteriors are plain.  The courtyard walls average six to seven feet, with a ten foot outer wall around the whole complex.  Because it is the center of an ancient order, the manor is constantly bustling with people.  However, due to the climate, they mostly move around indoors, or in submerged rooms and corridors that link the buildings.

As with all the order centers, only members of the order are allowed within the walls of the manor.  Special permission may occasionally be obtained by members of other orders who petition the Black Order’s council and the manor’s caretaker.  Usually, these petitioners belong to the Grey and Blue Orders.  Some, race, cases of Red Order visitors have been recorded.  The White Order is never  permitted under any circumstances.

Codex: Places of the Arcanum 3 (2017)

Shadow Academy

No one in the Arcanum, not even its students or faculty, know where the Grey Order established the Shadow Academy.  It is said that those who attend are transported via sorcerous means, pre-made devices located in a few spots around the world.  The Academy is overseen by Marwa Ali, who has overseen the school since the 1980s.  Because it is a Grey Order school, the Shadow Academy accepts students and visiting faculty from all orders.  However, the majority are Grey Robes.  No orders are forbidden, only Apostates are turned away by the administration.

Students and instructors at the Shadow Academy are routinely required to wear a uniform of traditional grey robes.  Those who come from other orders wear a blazon of the appropriate color to indicate their Arcanum assigned order.  The location of the school is kept secret even from students and faculty, due in part to the potential animosity of others, and to maintain its neutrality.  The Academy does follow a loose hierarchy from the headmaster to the senior faculty, junior faculty to staff, to students.  In some ways, this hierarchy is said to be strictly enforced, in others it appears to be loose.

The Academy’s appearance is well documented.  Its appearance on the surface is small, perhaps too tiny to serve its purpose.  In fact, the school looks like a shack at first glance.  The two room, ancient farmhouse never sees the light of day, as it is always covered in gloom and shadow.  This layer is merely an illusion to steer away normal humans and the casually interested.  Even without the illusion, the school seems small, like a twenty room all wood, cabin-style lodge.  It is said, by those outside the Order who attend as students, that most of the Academy exists in caverns and tunnels beneath the surface, reached through the cabin-lodge’s basement.