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The Awakened

While the history of the Awakened is at least as long as that of humanity, when speaking of the Ascension War most mages refer to events beginning in the 14th Century, when a faction styling itself the Order of Reason banded together to wipe out superstition and heresy to unite humanity. Their battle cry was “One World, One God, One Truth,” and they lived up to it, spreading across the Earth with science and faith, while battering rival beliefs into submission. Against them stood the Free Council of Nine Mystic Traditions, a coalition of wizards, witches, priests and medicine folk, fighting for both their own liberty and that of their peoples.

Except it was all a lie.

The Order of Reason was guided by the Exarchs, archmages who sought to contain humanity’s potential for their own purposes. The Exarchs’ agents likewise infiltrated the Council of Nine, in particular the Ahl-I-Batin, Order of Hermes and Celestial Chorus. Troublesome groups were purged from within both factions; alchemists known as the Solificati were exiled from the Council after a scandal that nearly destroyed their alliance, while the Craftmasons (ostensibly the minds behind the Order of Reason in the first place) were crushed by their colleagues for dissension. Fortunately, a group known only as the Oracles opposes the Exarchs, and the war between Reason and Mysticism went cold for centuries. During the Victorian Age things heated up again when revolutionary scientists joined the Order of Reason, crusading for a Utopian science that would liberate humanity. To say the Exarchs were displeased is a spectacular understatement, and in 1904 their whole conspiracy collapsed under its own weight.

Both groups were torn asunder. Freedom-loving scientists allied with magic and faith, and the old mystic alliance was reborn as the Council of Awakened Traditions. Those who sought the Exarchs’ favor reorganized as Panopticon, the archetypal Prison of the All-Seeing Eye.

The Council of Awakened Traditions have numbered ten for the last century, renewed and revitalized by the arrival of their former rivals in the Order of Reason:

  • Akashayana (or Akashic Order): Martial artists, ascetics, yogis and psychics, the Akashics hold the Seat of Mind, the Awakened Sphere of thought.
  • Celestial Chorus: Monotheists who exalt faith over dogma, the Choristers hold the Seat of Prime, the Awakened Sphere of reality itself.
  • Dreamspeakers: Shamans, medicine folk and ghost dancers, Those-Who-Speak-In-Dreams hold the Seat of Spirit, the Awakened Sphere of the realms beyond.
  • Ecstatic Underground: Seers and seekers who break all boundaries through passions from love to music, the Ecstatics hold the Seat of Time, the Awakened Sphere of continuity.
  • Euthanatos: Grim keepers of karma and the Wheel of Life, the Euthanatos now hold the Seat of Death, the Awakened Sphere of endings.
  • Genesis Union: Transhumanist scientists from medical and engineering disciplines alike, the Biomechanics hold the Seat of Life, the Awakened Sphere of biology.
  • Hallowyck: Witches from pagan and goth traditions entwined, the wise folk now hold the Seat of Fate, the Awakened Sphere of luck and destiny.
  • Order of Hermes: Classic wizards of discipline and Will, the Hermetic mages hold the Seat of Forces, the Awakened Sphere of energy and force.
  • Society of Ether: Masters of science both weird and wonderful, these retro-futuristic adventurers hold the Seat of Matter, the Awakened Sphere of unliving substance.
  • Virtual Engineers: Explorers supreme of all sorts, from cyberspace to outer space and mechanics to mentality, these Adepts hold the Seat of Space, the Awakened Sphere of distance and correspondence.

Their enemies in Panopticon usurped the would-be Technocracy forming within the Order of Reason, uniting it with allies culled from the Tradition to form the Five Ministries of Convention:

  • Hegemony: This “New World Order” maintains the flow of propaganda for Panopticon. Thus, the Hegemonic Ministry controls governments, order, and thought itself.
  • Paternoster: A toxic mix of religion and secret sorcery, the Paternoster Ministry is a literal patriarchy, manipulating religious organizations to control humanity’s very soul.
  • Invictus: Any empire needs armies. The Invictus Ministry infiltrates them all to ensure conflict, dehumanization and a steady supply of killers to wage war on the Traditions.
  • Syndicate: Mastery of not simply wealth, but economies, grants the Syndicate Ministry unparalleled power over corporate reality and the fate of human potential.
  • Illuminati: Panopticon knows full well that magick is real. The Illuminated Ministry creates the hidden wards and subtle spellcraft that subvert Awakening itself.

Marauders are insane Awakened who seem immune to Paradox, but fortunately, hate the Fallen more than anything else and attack them on sight. They sometimes widen fractures to more fantastic realms, but try to seal the more dangerous ones. Often, they fail at the latter, falling straight in. Marauders don't have factions in the classic sense, but there's a general division between the ones who are trying to shake humanity out of its rut (albeit with earthquakes) and the ones who will do whatever it takes to loosen the paradigm. The latter consider most Sleepers "excess population."

Nephandi are the Fallen of the Awakened. Rather than seek Ascension, they oppose enlightenment itself, fighting to drag humanity down for their own reasons. They, too, have factions of a sort:

  • Scelesti believe that the Black Spiral is a creation of the Outer Lords, which is more or less a mass of alien Lovecraftian nightmare lore. Most Scelesti are saner than they appear, playing to the “mad cultist” archetype while they await the chance to break out one of the “gifts” they’ve received from their supposedly exiled masters. Their most infamous faction is the Hand of Glory, a vile neo-fascist conspiracy dedicated to fusing magick and science in an effort to destroy civilization -- and remake it in their image.
  • Malfeans believe that the werefolk are right, and that the Black Spiral comes from an archetypal supreme god of corruption known as the Wyrm. Cruelest of the Nephandi (which takes real work), Malfeans deliberately sow misery, venom, and despair to hasten humanity’s Fall. Their most powerful tool is Pentex, one of the world's largest mega-corporations.
  • Infernalists are, for the most part, the amateur hour of the Nephandi. They “sell their souls” to malevolent spirits for magical might. Most of them are fools, but some make a slightly saner bargain: power in exchange for working to kill the world. Since the rifts prove that there are other worlds, this may not be as amazingly moronic as it first seems...