Hunter: The Vigil: Witch Finders by Mors Rattus
Post 1Original SA post
I would say Witch Finders mirrors Awakening's mage society about the same amount that Night Stalkers did Requiem's vampire society. There's connections, but it is explicitly designed to let you do more than that and to do things that don't fit.
Reality is ambiguous. We think it has laws, but they are all too often bent. Someone draws a star in fresh blood on a freezer door - now it never rises above freezing inside. A woman uses a glance and secret whisper to enslave the hearts of men. A laptop carved with ancient runes suddenly restores data long wiped. Magic exists, and it is the tool of hidden witches. It is dangerous, and they cannot be trusted. History is clear: magic is not good. Ancient Roman law outlaws curses, incantations and spells. Hammurabi's code punishes unjust use of magic. Early Judeo-Christian texts are unequivocal: magic is an abomination and evil, and its users must be driven out or killed. You can argue magic's just a tool, morally neutral, like a knife or a bullet. But all too oftne, it falls into the wrong hands. The shaman who intercedes between village and spirits is tempted by the spirits offering power. The witch who shackles a demon to study its weakness is tempted by it. The magician who uses magic to win money at gambling to pay for his soup kitchen is soon tempted to turn to pure greed. Hunters know that magic is dangerous, that witches must be watched. Some must lose their magic, have it stolen from them, while others need to die.
It seems easy to say 'kill them all, let God sort them out.' For some hunters, that's the end of it. The Aegis Kai Doru, often, feel that way. But it's not so clear-cut. Witches are hard to identify - they are usually human, and magic is rarely obvious. Besides, what exactly is the difference between a woman who tattoos her pagan faith's symbols on her body and the guy who secretly carves them into his floorboards? Why does one of them get magic while the other doesn't have the spark? If the guy's magic is only to protect his home and family, what's the actual problem? Some hunters will say that there isn't one. Others say it's a slippery slope - as soon as he realizes he could gain so much, he'll become tempted to darkness. Better to deal with it now, before that happens. And, of course, witches have secrets - secrets many hunters want to know. Secrets, especially, that ancient conspiracies claim as their own. For many conspiracies, witches are less about war and more about rather bloody competition. And, of course, some witches put themselves over other humans, and hunters don't buy into that. Witches are full of hubris, believing themselves perfect. Maybe they don't mean harm, maybe they are benevolent, but they're children playing with loaded guns.
Magic is dangerous, both to its wielder and its hunters. It seems to encourage hubris, and its users often turn to it for every problem - rather like hammering nails with loaded guns. It works, but...well, someone's gonna lose a hand eventually. Magic is unpredictable. It seems to be able to do anything. One witch can raise the dead, another can turn one thing into another, a third manipulates coincidence to serve them in all ways, a fourth shoots lightning. The rules that govern one witch don't often apply to others. Magic is insane. It is terrifying. It's not sickening like zombies or fearful like the sound of a werewolf hunting you, but it is insidious. It summons power from strange places, it is practically invisible, it can turn your mind to chaos with a single word. Witches look like you. They act like hunters do, often. And even if you ally with them, they are scary, blasphemous beings. Any bargain always feels a little wrong, like at any point your soul might be forfeit.
Humanity has always believed in magic. Some say it predates us. One theory is that magic is how we're supposed to be, that human evolution depends on us discovering how to manipulate other dimensions. We're supposed to be able to do magic, we just don't know it. Most, however, think that's insane and dumb. If that were so, then why don't the witches share their knowledge and power? Most of them are dedicated to gathering power in secret and keeping it for themselves. If magic is something everyone should be able to do, how is it that in thousands of years we still haven't gotten it? You'd think people have managed it by now. Sure, you can point to pop culture for heroic wizards like Gandalf and Harry Potter. But you can also see the Wicked Witch of the West and more. For every harmless healer, there's dozens of power-crazed madmen. They have power and want more.
Even millenia ago, people spoke in hushed tons of lost, primal times and myths. Many cultures have legends of a primal state where good and evil did not exist. Eden, the Golden Age. Later, it was imagined as a time of lost civilization. Atlantis, Thule, Pan. It's not really a healthy idea, historically used by those who want to, say, prove all civilization rose from white folks and that the people of Egypt, Great Zimbabwe or Central America weren't smart enough to figure out how to do things on their own. Archaeologists have never found evidence of an ur-civilization. Occult scholars know the truth is, as they say on South Park, in the middle. There was some civilization that thrived before written history. It destroyed itself. Its legacy was not building or writing or pyramids - it was magic. The world has suffered for millenia for that.
The Loyalists' senior archivist Stefanie Hoffman once gave a lecture on prima grace. Magic is not, she says, of human origin. It predates us. The Rmoahals of the Steinerian schema are inhuman and predate us - enormus, blue-skinned giants. This inhumanity was more than physical. They were hunter-gatherers, but with quite sophisticated language and tools. No personalities we would recognize, though. They lacked imagination and reasoning, but had perfect memory. All thought was past thought. Still, this memory manifested itself in their ability to conceptualize formerly-seen things perfectly . Their language was unique in that anything it said was true. Not that it couldn't lie, though apparently they could not. Anything said, however, was true in a cosmic sense as soon as the words were spoken. These words were more than signifiers - they were conceptual representations. Perfect ones. A human word is like a picture of what it represents, while a Rmoahal word was like a hologram - perfect, three dimensional, ephemeral. Now imagine you could edit that hologram, and by changing it, change the original. That's magic. Every word of the Rmoahal language was a word of power, limited only by the Rmoahal's own innate psychological limits. Thesophy says that the Rmoahals were our ancestors, but some doubt that. Some say they were a parallel evolution, the end of a seperate branch. Either way, their inheritors were more conventional humans, though with the same intellectual limits as the Rmoahals. They lived in a primal state of grace, unable to imagine and thus grasp good or evil. Unable to abuse their perfect power. This was the Eden of legend. Their descendants would eventually sacrifice perfect memory and natural ability to manipulate the True Language for human traits like reason and imagination - and ambition.
This is where the first witch-kings came from, the ones who led to the end of the Primal Age. The Rmoahals had coexisted with humans, and all they needed to do was re-learn the True Language. This is purely conjecture, of course. Shadow histories are fragmentary and contradictory on this. But the point is that the human mind rendered True Language unnecessary, and that to learn it was disastrous. The Rmoahals were unable to use True Language to effect change because they could not conceive of ways to abuse it. Humans, however, instituted a bizarre conceptual world with fluid history and world-spanning tyranny. In what seemed like and may have been mere moments, the witch-kings transformed past, present and future. They created flying machines manipulated by the mind, remade and destroyed the bodies and minds of those they didn't like or care about. They made vast towers, great cities spanning continents. They created Manichaean gods, monsters and demons. It couldn't last. Their power was unstable, something they could not control fully. Atlantis fell, Eden was closed off forever. They apparently ceased to exist. Again, it's all conjecture, drawn from documents liberated from organized magical groups and from spirit channeling or automatic writing. It may not be factual, but it may be true. A possible history. No one has, since, been able to perform magic on a scale like those of the myths. But there is documented proof of magic existing . Surely the magicians have explanations. Perhaps their magic does come from those ancient kings, who altered the minds of their subjects as well as bodies. Fortunately, the True Language does not exist any more - were someone to find it, it could end the world as we know it.
Except...what if a document exists that would be like the Rosetta Stone for True Language? Or what if someone learned it? They'd go mad, of course, but they could reshape the world - even the past. What do you do when the timeline changes around you? What do you do when you're the only one that notices? How do you fix something like that? Suppose you find a Rmoahal, buried but alive. It flees in panic - a giant accidentally destroying things in its wake. It's essentially harmless, but it speaks True Language, and the witches are after it. What do you do with it?
Dr. Madeleine Ogilvy of the Aegis Kai Doru wrote a report in 2008. It talks about one of their severed heads. Not John the Baptist - a woman, between 30 and 40 years old when she "died." Neck was cleanly severed at the suprasternal notch, skin stitched to a leather covering which can barely be seen above the edge of the solid gold neck cap. She has not decayed or edged in over 4000 years. She is beautiful, but in a way that is very ancient. Her hair is braided and adorned with always-fresh oil and gold ornaments in ancient styles not conforming to any known civilization. The nose and ears are pierced with gold. Tattoos are on her eyelids and cheekbones. The eyeballs are removed, replaced with golden spheres. She sits on a stone pedestal from a later era, designed by her original keepers, perhaps. She is guarded by three sisters, all of the same female line that has guarded since the head was moved to Marrakesh in 1476. They are old and have no relatives, so when they die, new guards will be needed.
The head sings. Not every night, but on nights when the moon is clear, at least half-full and not covered by cloud. She sings until it sets. She cannot see the moon, because she is housed in an underground vault. But she knows. Since 1995, Madeleine has been translating the songs. She and her colleagues believe the head sings in three distinct languages, perhaps more. One of them is an early Sumerian dialect. The voice is hypnotic and dangerous to mental health, causing fixation on the head, a belief that the messages are for the listener. The Sumerian song is an epic poem, an apocryphal tale of Gilgamesh and his death at the hands of the nine daughters of Nibiru. It seems to be a lost sequel to a lost version of the story of Gilgamesh, in which Gilgamesh did not lose his immortality and in which Enkidu, an inhuman monster created or summoned by Gilgamesh, never died. The morality is ambiguous. The daughters are not pure, but Gilgamesh is negative to the extreme. He molds monsters from newborns, he and Enkidu slaughter an entire city with a giant mortar and pestle, he fathers monstrous children with demons, he kills his own human children, he teaches magic to 99 eunuchs who serve him as spies. He steals the sun. It is this and the mutilation of the narrator's child by magic that inspires the nine daughters of Nibiru, of whom the narrator is one, to fight.
The nine women embark on a quest to destroy Gilgamesh. They visit Utnapishtim, whose granddaughter tells them they must steal the bloom of immortality from Gilgamesh's stomach. They find the corpse of Humbaba and harvest seven iron scales, which they grind to powder and dissolve in a bottle of wine made the year Gilgamesh was born. They take three of Humbaba's claws and fix them to handles to be daggers, then go home and adorn themselves with jewels, paint and oils before offering themselves to Gilgamesh. He takes three of them to his bed, where they ply him with the poisoned wine and song. He drinks, becoming blind. He has the three sisters cut to pieces, but his magic keeps them alive, and he keeps the three heads, marking them for their crime and gouging out their eyes to be replaced by gold. They are to sing to him forever, and can do nothing else. But now he is blind. The three middle daughters come the next night to Gilgamesh's bed, and they use the claws of Humbaba to gouge a hole in his stomach, that anyone could reach in to steal the flower. However, before they can do so, Gilgamesh transforms the eldest into a worm, the next to a blackbird who can do nothing but eat her sister and the last to a cat, which eats the blackbird and is strangled by Gilgamesh. The heads sing a dirge for them. The thrtee youngest daughters come the next night to the bed of Gilgamesh, graphically pleasure him and then pluck the flower from his gut. He dies, his magic failing. The three youngest daughters steal the heads. The narrator is one of the heads, and unlike the others, she does not decay, but sings on. Madeleine hopes that singing heads may have other stories, but she is done here. She does not believe the story in any literal sense, but the head is here and it tells the story. She wants to be done now.
The original Nibiru did exist - a society of women dedicated to overthrowing Sumerian witches. They evidently had powers of their own, similar ot those of the Aegis or Ascending Ones. Perhaps some of those artifacts or pwoers yet survive, or at least knowledge of them may. Perhaps even the daughters live on, a secret passed on in family lines - a conspriacy like the others. Or maybe the magicians absorbed them and enslaved htem. Or perhaps they're actually gone. MAybe there's just an old woman left, dying in Basra. Or not even that. And it's not as though this is the only song the head sings. Translators sit and listen to to it when it sings - never any recording devices, on pain of death. This will not be the last of its tales.
Kemal al-Hamadi of the Ascending Ones keeps a document talking about the ancient and forgotten Pharaoh Nitocris. She is mentioned only by Herodotus and Mentho, long after the Egyptians have excised her name, and many believe she never eixsted. Herodotus says she was made queen by force of the mob, who slew her brother and thought her easy to manipulate. She ordered a vast hall be built near the Nile, underground. She invited hundreds to dine, then drowned them in the room, to kill her brother's murderers. Then, she cast herself into a room of ashes, whatever that means, to escape retritubiton. And most of the world says she didn't exist. The AScending Ones know this is a lie. Nitocris' brother was a witch. He had sold his soul for command of the dead and of spirits. He ruled a kingdom of monsters as the Empty Pharaoh. His dead army was joined by an army of machines, pwoered by spirits - locusts of chalcedony and ants of bronze. They devoured the people and their livestock at the soulless king's command. A thousand men of the Cult of Set fought the locusts, ants and army. A thousand men of the Cult of the Phoenix dedicated themselves to the death of the king, though only via the aid of the sister, Nitocris, who was of the cult. By the time the king died, the men were three hudnred in all. His army surrendered and returned to their graves, as did his undead laborers. The ants and locusts dispersed, but the Three Hundred Survivors were mistaken in believing them gone.
As Nitocris slept, the ants returned. One gouged under her skin and burrowed to her heart, which it devoured, along with her soul. It excreted her soul to dust and she became its vessel. She was made Pharaoh, and the Survivors ignored the subtler tyrannies she reinstituted. She preferred to desecrate the living, sending the spirit-ants out by night to eat another heart, night by night, to make more witches. The Cult of Set drove off the locusts, but were weakened in doing so, and the seeds of their fall were sown. It was two years into Nitocris' reign that the drowning story occurred. It is true, and it is where the Three Hundred Survivors died. The chamber of ashes was true, too - and it was there that the ants vanished. It is unclear why. The Setite archive is long lost and the Phoenix lost their be st that day, leaving only the untried young. Perhaps Nitocris regained enough will to sacrifice herself, taking her ants with her. Perhaps she had taken precautions. Or perhaps the ants achieved their goal and went into hiding.
There is a tomb in Egypt for Nitocris, though no credible archaeologist would believe it. Inside is an urn containing her ashes. Those who hold it dream of Nitocris. The ants never really went away. They still exist. There aren't so many now, though - a hundred at most. They haven't had a purpose in millenia. They were summoned by the Empty Pharaoh, and now they are tarnished green-black by age. They still burrow into their victims, to the seat of the soul - the brain these days, because it's about where the victim thinks the soul is rather than any biology. When they eat the soul, they control the victim. These beings have great power and urge to cause chaos. They have no true motivations, having long gone senile. They exist only to find a host, and leave when the host dies or the spot a better one. (At which point the old host dies.) These ant-creatures only spread anarchy and destruction, the method depending on the subtlety and cleverness of the host. An ant that could find the ashes of Nitocris would do anything to claim them, or perhaps destroy them. Unclear which.
I am going to reproduce some information from Cheiron's Public Relations Training Handbook in its entirety.
You will in the field occasionally find yourself approached by individuals who insist that Cheiron Ltd and the Cheiron Group are in fact the product of a conspiracy that long predates Cheiron Ltd's original foundation. You must be prepared to counter these accusations ince, as a member of Cheiron's Field Projects Divison (FPD), you will be the public face of the Cheiron Group and likely the only Cheiron Group employee most people will ever meet.
What follows are the most common accusations leveled against Cheiron Ltd. The Cheiron Group has successfully defended against such accusations with litigation on several occasions, these myths are difficult to dispel. Although litigation is a regrettable course, be advised that it may at times be necessary.
The Cheiron Group is a tool of international freemasonry.
False. Edward Barrett, Cheiron Ltd's founder, was never a freemason. Cheiron Ltd and the Cheiron Group have links with a number of international medical research charities and children's charities, some of which reputedly gain from Masonic organizations, but the Cheiron Group has no direct links with freemasonry or any comparable societies. This has been proven in court.
The Cheiron Group is controlled by a consortium of witches.
False. Ideas such as this appear because Cheiron's Board of Directors value their privacy and prefer to remain anonymous. They have successfully protected their right to privacy in court.
The Cheiron Group was founded by the mythological character Cheiron.
False. The Cheiron Group was incorporated by the directors of Cheiron Ltd, which was founded by Edward Barrett in 1905. Mr. Barrett, a student of the classics, was inspired by stories of the centaur Cheiron, the tutor of Achilles. Cheiron was renowned for his wisdom and skill as a teacher and healer. Mr. Barrett felt Cheiron was an ideal symbol for his company.
There is no other reason why Cheiron Ltd and the Cheiron Group use Cheiron as our trademark apart from a strong sense of tradition and a belief in Mr. Barrett's original vision of a company dedicated to creating affordable, effective medical technology. The Cheiron Group has proven that Cheiron Ltd's origins go no further back through successful litigation. There was in reality no such person or creature as Cheiron. He is a mythological figure, and as such is fictional.
The Cheiron Group uses Cheiron as its trademark because Cheiron is a Satanic symbol.
False. The belief that the mythological figure Cheiron is Satanic comes wholly from the appearance of the character in Dante's Divine Comedy, which is a work of fiction.
The Cheiron Group's trademark symbol appears on Greek temples, Masonic halls and in books of witchcraft.
False. When Edward Barrett designed the Cheiron Group's trademark, he drew on his academic and cultural background. He violated no copyright. It is only reasonable to assume that other well-attested appearances of similar (but by no means identical) symbols come from a similar cultural milieu as Mr. Barrett himself.
Note: Should anyone mention the case of the recently-discovered temple at Santorini, end the conversation and refer the individual in question to Cheiron Ltd's Legal Affairs Department. If the individual persists in questioning or stating these opinions, remove yourself from the situation. Do not take part in any such conversation. Legal action is forthcoming on this issue, and FPD operatives are required to make no statement whatsoever concerning any temple at Santorini or any other archaeological projects.
Yeah, the Cheiron logo shows up in that temple - that exact logo, close enough that you can overlay it on the current logo with no stretching or skewing whatsoever. It also shows up on the shield of a Greek hoplite in a grave; the skeleton's right arm hasn't decomposed, but is shaped very, very strangely. Cheiron bought the site, suppressed the research, blew it up and sued anyone who said anything in public. The logo shows up in stuff over 3000 years - always things that stink of witchcraft. Always the same logo, no matter what legal tries to tel lyou. The origins are mixed up - a cabal of immortal witches, demons summoned by an ancient Greek sorcerer, members of some ancient sect of esoteric wizards worshipping some throne, five men and women who speak the True Language, a cabal of men with bronze ants in their brains and o goal but to use money and power to destabilize the world. Get close enough and they'll send you on suicide missions. Get lucky enough and you may even get targeted by your buddies. The truth is very hard to find. But hey, maybe it's all totally innocent. At least, that's what they say when they exit the board meetings...
Next time: Simon Magus.
Post 2Original SA post Witch Finders
The Middle Ages brought Christianity and the delineation of magic and miracle within it. Jesus did things that seem like necromancy, but was an avid foe of sorcery and magic. The Malleus has an essay by Dom Petur Vuorinen, on Simon of Gitta in Samaria, better known as Simon Magus, the first heretic. He appears only once in the Canon, in Acts 8:9-24, where he is a sorcerer that hears the Gospel, repents and tries to buy the power to heal and do miracles from Deacon Philip the Evangelist. He is rebuked, asks the Evangelist to pray for him, and it's over. Other sources claim Simon did not repent, but instead followed his own occult understanding in the creation of a Gnostic heresy, spoken of by Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Simon claimed that the First Thought of God created the angels, but they rebelled and imprisoned the First Thought in the body of a woman, who incarnated in the form of a prostitute-slave named Helene. God descended in the form of Simon, who bought and freed Helene and made her his lover. He claimed he was the true Son of God and that he and Helene were destined to join and save the world. He had the power of flight, able to leap from a mountain and rise unhurt. He could free himself from bindings, control wind and flame, and create homunculi from the air.
Simon claimed he was pupil to and then teacher of Dositheus, who led the sect of John the Baptist - those that did not follow Crhsti, that is - and so therefore he was the true inheritor of John the Baptist. Saint Clement of Rome tells of Simon's challenge to the Apostle Peter. Simon challenges him to a contest of teaching, then delivers a homily, then Peter, and so on, until after three days Peter wins and Simon flees, to incite a mob. Simon uses his magic to discredit Peter, and when the authorities turn ohim he smears magic juice in the face of Faustus, Clement's father, to get him executed in Simon's place. Peter sees through the illusion but sends Faustus to Antioch, to use him to unravel Simon's cult. Peter and Simon Magus have their final confrontation, according to the apocryphal Acts of Peter, in the Roman forum. Simon flies and preaches, but Peter sinks to his knees and prays. Simon falls to earth and the mob tears hi mto bits. The Church of Santa Francesca Romana supposedly stands where Simon fell and still bears the imprints of Peter's knees.
Simon's cult continues for a while, than vanishes, according to official history. The Black Library of the Malleus Maleficarum holds a single 9th century text of a cycle of stories and poems protraying Simon Magus as a hero who uses magic to defeat secret demons. Some of his foes - for every story or poem details a conflict - seem familiar. One poem, dating back to just before the fall of the Western Empire, speaks of a struggle against The Name That Must Not Be Written, a demon of darkness, which hides within the Catholic Church somehow, presumably as an allegory for the corruption the Gnostic sect saw in the Church. In another poem, he is pursued by the Seven Daughters of Nibiru, but eludes them by magic and cunning. In the segment on the Apostles, the story seems almost apologetic. The Magus falls to earth because "the people ceased to believe" rather than Peter's prayer. Later in the same document, Simon defeats Peter and Paul in debate, but convinces them to malign him in public and make him a monster and heretic. The longest and most bizarre poem deals with other magicians as Simon's foes, particularly a group described sometimes as Christian and sometimes as pagan, known as the Three Seers of the Throne - a rather Gnostic term, perhaps to do with angels. They have many of the powers of Simon Magus, perhaps from a common source. The collection, known as the Simon Romance, is very hard to translate properly - it's full of esoteric terms and was written in Greek by someone whose Greek was not their first language. Simon does not die, it says, but joins with Helene by alchemy and the aide of a priest of the pagan Thoth-Hermes, a 'Thrice-Great' magician as the text calls it, and form a perfect Rebis, both male and female, at peace with both halves. The Rebis ascends to 'the higher emanations.' It is hard to know what to make of it, and seems written by witches, for witches. It uses much allergory and jargon, so it is very hard to unlock without knowing their secrets.
What the Malleus does not realize is that the Simon Romance is a grimoire, meant to be used by those awakened to the secrets of high magic. It is a very dangerous book - Simon's mystic order was ancient in his day, but still exists, still fighting its ancient foes. The secrets contained within the grimoire would be amazingly dangerous in their hands - forgotten incantations could be unlocked, or the location of the true Head of John the Baptist (which is not numbered among the many possessed by the Aegis Kai Doru). It also supposedly reveals the secret of the ultimate cosmic plan of the Lords of the Aeon, called Archons or Exarchs of the Outer Church. Simon's followers preserved the knowledge, but died out before it could be given to their order. That order would kill to discover the truth - and so would the servants of the Lords of the Aeon, for their masters do not often give them instructions not shrouded by obscure, bizarre allergory. The possibility of a direct and obvious plan? They'd kill for that, oh my, yes. And now, the Malleus has a report written by a Finnish Dominican named Petur Vuorinen, a copy of which was among his effects when witches killed him. And they do keep tabs on each other, you know, so if one side gets busy cracking heads and setting folks on fire, the other knows something's up.
There is a record from 1191 from the crusader Count Reynard of Derby, Knight of Saint George, recoutning the Capture of Acre. He was siege commander, casting the heads of the dead over the walls at the Muslims, sending pestilence and fear. On the second day, however, the siege engineers were torn apart somehow, yet without blood and smeared with blue acid. The heads were gone. The men spoke of devils, for were the Saracens not as terrible as Jews? Reynard held back his laughter and went to find the culprits. He knew there was a hated sect in the Saracens called the Batini, seen by Muslims much as Christians vew Cathars or schismatics. Among them are a few who hide amongst the Muslims in secret, worshipping not Allah but a Faceless Angel, One frm Outside, and these Batini call the Angel's servants to do their bidding. Reynard knows the signs of the Outer Ones, so he continues his work and waits for nightfall, where he keeps vigil alone for four nights. On the fourth night, the sky opens and a shadow claws forth, entering his quarters. He ambushes it and cuts it in half, falling away and bleeding blue acid. Reynard performs a ritual with the 'blood', to sense where it was summoned, and seeks it out, where he ambushes the Batin. He cannot pierce the wizard's shields of wind and fire, but the wizard cannot harm him through his shield of faith. The Batin calls on his Outer God, a lesser god that comes through the sky with black tendrils and one great green eye. Reynard stands firm and reveals the sign inscribed on his chest, calling on the Unbegotten Source of Growth, the Shapeless Walker ACross the Planets, and speaks the Words That Must Not Be WRitten, sacrificing the wizard to his own god. The god, He Whose Name Must Not Be Written, consumes the wizard and takes him away, to devour his soul. Reynard prays to the beast, as he has done and will do, and names himself a Christian and hunter of witches.
Batini is an Arabic pejorative term to refer to mystics within Islam. And hidden among those mystics during the Crusades were true witches, like the one Reynard fought. There's no guarantee they are gone, or in fact that they were ever confined to Islam. The worship of these "faceless angels," these gods from outside, spread from Saladin's court across the Himalaya to Tibet and China, reaching Japan by the 1500s. They spread south to Great Zimbabwe by the 1400s. They traveled across the world, though few of their cults survived in Spain due to the Inquisition. A few survive in England to this day, right under the noses of the Knights of Saint George. They came to America with Columbus and Francis Drake. They remained secret there until the 1920s, when a writer of pulp fiction learned of them by chance, changed some details and sold horror stories about them to magazines. Few took it seriously - they praised the authenticity and coherent mythology but never believed them more than story. Whether the writer even understood them at all is unclear. He died young, of a particularly virulent and swift-onset cancer, perhaps the doing of a witch. The cults do still exist today, hidden in the Catholic Church, in New Age movements, in boardrooms and Alpine villages. Some of them seek to bring about the end of the world, while others believe that by sacrifice they can keep their outer gods from consuming the world. Some just want power. All of them believe that in knowing how to contact these gods, they must care about what the cults do. This is false - they are beneath the gods' notice, but are dangerous nonetheless, creating entire invented justifications for their actions and insane plots. We'll learn more about the Knights of Saint George later.
There's always been guides to help witch-hunters find witches, guides that name how to identify them. Open questioning of authority, unnatural carnal desires, knowledge of herbs, seeing visions, losing your Bible, having strange marks on your body, especially if they do not bleed. Some hunters still use these texts, for lack of anything better. Hell, the Field Projects Divison handbook of the Cheiron Group reads like them, except with added psuedo-scientific explanations. Witch-marks become mutations caused by wasteful extrusion of channeled extranormal energy. MAterial on witches is some of the largest parts of the short handbook, because Cheiron fears witches. They are particularly bothered by reports of miracle cures and faith healing - magical healing becoming common is Cheiron's worst nightmare, because then what use is there for pharmaceuticals? They lose all profit. Best to deny them to competitors (not that Cheiron has any direct competition, but they're paranoid), to take them in and strip them down of their secrets.
We find a tale, From Vendemiaire to Thermidor by Louis Giraud, pulbished in 1821. It is a story of a French revolutionary who makes the mistake of claiming that perhaps abolishing history is not required - perhaps they can understand the past that it might not be repeated. Saint-Just, leader of his salon, says the REvolution is perfect, but the man, Cajean, debates. And so, soon, he is arrested for treason. He ends up in a cell, awaiting trial alongside many others. He knows he is going to die by guillotine. He shares his cell with a small man who names himself Panurge, Chevalier Theleme - obviously a false title, but that's hardly uncommon among poor revolutinaries, especially readers of Rabelais. The jail is overstocked, far too many to kill quickly, so they are together three days. The Chevalier proves charming, though Cajean never learns his name. They discuss literature and politics, and he proves to know Rabelais and Voltaire both, quoting even more readily than Cajean. Eventually, they discuss why they are imprisoned. The Chevalier is sympathetic to Cajean, and says he is here because he hunts witches. This, Cajean says, seems to be the principle motive of the Committee of Public Safety. The Chevalier explains that he means magicians, though Cajean doubts they exist, for surely a belief in God is unneeded, and so therefore there can be no Lucifer, and thus no witchcraft. The Chevalier is certain there is a Lucifer, by family tradition, but also believes there is an absent, if not nonexistent, God. They debate the nature of God and the devil, and the Chevalier laughs at the idea that demons are no more than creations of human imagination, and so have no power.
You see, the Chevalier says, demons surely are of our imagination, but the idea that they are powerless does not follow. After all, did not the Revolution begin with talk of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity - and so all that came about was a product of human imagining. Cajean is uncomfortable equating the idea of Revolution with a Devil, but certainly the Terror does give him some weight. The Chevalier suggests that the mob may have brought the Revolution to quite literal life, that they are unknown witches selling their souls to a devil they created - or perhaps that the creators of the Terror, its leaders, are knowing witches. This is no metaphor, he says. He plans to do battle with the Revolution itself, and plans to start by taking down the witches who sit on the Committee for Public Safety. Cajean believes him insane, but he will find a way. Overnight, the Chevalier escapes by unknown means, leaving only the smell of brimstone. They blame Cajean, but can think of no way to punish a condemned man. Two days later, unexpectedly, Robespierre and Saint-Just are a rrested and put to death after brief show trials. The Terror ends, and Cajean is set free just before he would die. He does not understand how, but likes to believe that the Chevalier found a way to defeat the idea of the Revolution.
The Ashwood Abbey London Chapter has a transcript of a talk given in the late 1800s by one Eustace Faranshaugh, who traveled to India in search of the Thuggee in 1876. He traveled to Delhi, where he met some native guides whose names he can barely remember, and a Pirzada - a Muslim magician, a sort of Sufi that has pwoer over wind-demons or djinn. He wanted to fight a djinn but decided not to ask to avoid offending the magician, since he needed to know where the Thuggee might hide and hoped the man would point him right. Also, he wanted to buy drugs from the guy. The drugs were good but not very cheap, and the man sent him to Moradabad, northwest of Delhi - a place of little trouble and known for its brass goods, so he decided to buy a hookah there. He hired new servants and met with the local commander, Colonel Albert Cholmondely-Warner, who volutneered to join the hunt mostly out of boredom. He asnd his troops wer mostly looking for an excuse to shoot natives. They share the drugs and set out. After a fortnight they find no sign of any "heathen cults" and are about to go home when one Sergeant Arthur Mainwaring smells smoke nearby. They are bored, so they go to beat up whatever they find, no matter what it is. What they do find is a statue of Kali, which Eustace is fascinated by because he thinks it's super hot. He sketches it, and he assures us he keeps the sketches in his badchamber, and will happily show it to any ladies present, along with his Tantric skills. Also it was surrounded by rotting corpses, but he didn't really care about them They were butchered from the inside out, all young adults with signs of strangulation - surely by the Thuggee. They decide to make camp and wait for the Thuggee, who soon appear. Eustace is highly disappointed by their lack of ceremony - not even chanting. They had captives to sacrifice, not even cleaning up the mess, and are led by a masked figure.
The group decides to wait for them to strangle the sacrifices, since they'll be distracted then and, besides, none of the captives are European so no one cares if they die. However, the Sergeant steps out mid-ceremony to threaten the high priest, who turns his rifle into a cobra and kills him with it. Eustace shoots the high priest and kill all the Thuggee, two of his own men and all but one of the victims, who only agreed to lead them back to Moradabad at gunpoint. Examination of the body showed that all of the cultists were branded with the mark of a British prison from the next province over, which ahd usffered a rebellion and mass escape. He hadn't realized brandings were still used, and was assured it was uncommon and used only on natives. Eustace considers the story over, but for mentioning that he'd have invited Cholondely-Warner to join the Abbey had he not subsequently died of malaria.
What really happened here? Well, the cultists weren't Thuggees. The real Thuggee weren't a cult. They are politically motivated bandits who killed European travelers and their collaborators. They were defeated in the early 19th century by the East India Company, who spread the story that they were a Kali cult. In 1875, some prisoners got sick of being abused, and they rebelled under the leadership of a magician. He used his powers to do terrible things to the guards, far more than he'd ever dreamed he'd do after being arrested for bread theft, and he had a mental breakdown and believed he heard the voice of Kali. He had no reason to disbelieve the official line on the Thugee, so he decided to recreate a cult that never existed. He was a monster made by the British Raj, a kind of early terrorist with magic powers. Sad story, really.
Elder Lucas Gray, a Marshal of Salt Like City, recounts the events of 1879. He saw a man, John Houghton, claw his way from the grave after being hanged for four murders and a bank robbbery. One of the dead was his brother and partner. Lucas was glad to see him go. Less so to see him as a zombie whispering his name. He came by daylight, and none dared stop him. A bullet in the heart did nothing, but one in the head worked fine. Lucas pretended he was just someone broke out of jail and hid the corpse. It was not the last. Next was Kurt Sterne - a man who killed his own mother for the money and got hanged for it. Then it was Henry Gordon, cattle thief killed by Lucas in self defense. Then it was Frank Henry Chase, who came for revenge after Lucas hanged his brother for murder and got shot for his trouble. That one was just rotting skin and bones, and would've killed Lucas had he not taken to sleeping with his gun. When at last Jack Chase came for him in the night after Bible Study, he decided to find out what was going on. After all, while Joseph Smith was persecuted as a boy, he was a prophet and Lucas was just a lawman, and not a clever one. Eventually, he checked the graveyard at midnight. He wasn't expecting a little woman to come along and stop by the grave of Francis Lee, hanged three years ago for murder. The woman knelt at the grave and spoke to it, and then the corpse started to dig its way out.
That'd be when Lucas stepped out and surprised the woman. She started to laugh madly, terribly, and he was forced to shoot her when the corpse ripped from the earth. It went no further after the woman fell, just sat there and then retreated back beneath the soil. Lucas didn't enjoy the shooting, but he knew his bible: Suffer not a witch to live, and if that wasn't a witch, what was? He reasoned, though, that he should keep it secret, so he left the body. Next morning he gets called in for it - Leah Houghton, aunt to John Houghton. Her home was normal, except for a basement full of books about things like a Name That Must Not Be Written, which made no sense, and strange drawings, horrible drawings. He took it all home and set it ablaze. The funeral was attended by some folks no one knew, who looked at him funny, but he couldn't do anything just on suspicion, and they left. He never saw them again.
Yeah, witches can raise dea servants. Sometimes it's just muscle, sometimes it's more than that. The problem is when these necromancers aren't working alone - whole conspiracies eixst, reinforcing each other. And they have long, long memories. Thirty years after the death of Leah Houghton, Lucas Gray, retired and age 76, was strangled by a mystery assasilant. Three days later, his grave was violated, the body apparently stolen.
The modern age has brought new horrors. In 1944, Task Force: VALKYRIE launched its maiden operation, Operation WALPURGIS. They eliminated the Eisler group, reporting events including distracting optical effects similar to foo fighters, unusual heat and cold, the freezing of gun barrels or burning of them at the behest of the Eisler group (including the spontaneous combustion of one soldier). Some of the Eislers could absorb bullets, others had supernatural speed and strength - enough to push a tank across a street singlehanded. Others could harm with a touch, and at least one could change their appearance, infiltrating the squad and killing four soldiers before being caught by his inability to speak English. The bodies were all found, every one, to be perfectly hermaphroditic, with both male and female genitalia and reproductive organs. While each probably began as just male or female, the doctors couldn't confidently say which in any case. Each had a single eye in the back of their heads, though if they functioned properly is unknown. The lab techs also recovered some devices, a few of which they believe they can reverse engineer and make use of. Colonel Purchase, the commanding officer, requests more members, however, having had only three survivors including himself - not enough for a task force.
Jack Merrygold's last dispatch was recorded on top and left in a post box two days before his disappearance in 1994. He was looking into a man named Andrew Dunn, whom he found about it from a member of the Willardston Grove Full Gospel Church, who wanted to talk to him about their new pastor. She never shows up at her meetign with Jack, though. She was, instead, in a lake. In pieces. He knows it's her, though he's not sure how. His Long Night buddies say he's nuts, but he's certain. He decides to go look into the new pastor's past. He discovers that no one can agree where he came from, which is weird, but not enough that he might be a killer. Police work reveals that it was, in fact, Kathy in the lake. No one comes from Willardston to her funeral - not even her mother. Odd, that, she was well beloved by others. Jack tries to talk to the Willardston people, but they say absolutely nothing about Kathy, ever. They just claim up, saying she committed the unforgivable sin and had to be cast out. They seem scared.
Only one sin is unforgivable, he knows: Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. There's a lot of argument in the community these days over what counts, what with the New Work of the Holy Spirit and the Toronot Blessing revival movement. Jack finds the idea of Kathy committing it monstrous, though, and if Pastor Dunn was behind her death - which he thinks is so - well, that seems unforgivable. He heads to Willardston with Lars from the cable access show, who's good at getting stuff on film. He's a heathen, but a good man. Lars starts recording the sermon on his tape recorder. IT's a weird one - lots of songs where Jesus is more boyfriend than Savior, some speaking in tongues, something about the Spirit coming on, and then a lot of people laughing madly and weeping. Someone crows like a rooster, some people scream, then one of them falls on her back, weeping, at the touch of the Pastor. So do a few others he touches. Jack decides it's time to go. Everyone in the place is affected...except PAstor Dunn, Jack, the security guards and maybe Lars. Jack flees, leaving Lars to escape on his own.
Lars got hit by a car that afteroon, walking on the Interstate. No one knew why he was there. Jack finds he has LArs' tape recorder in his pcoket somehow. He doesn't know how. He listens. There's the singing, the fleeing Jack...and then ten minutes of service. The recording ends, then starts again. Quietly, someone is talking to Lars. Lars is calmly telling him who Jack is, who his friends are, and that they know all about what's going on. Then the tape ends.
Strange? Yes. But is it magic? If you ignore the bizarre deaths and bizarre appearance of the tape recorder, it sounds a lot like stuff happening in evangelical churches across the world. It could be magic. It could be totally mundane. How do you tell? Hell, even the murders could just be a crazy minister blinded by his own cult of personality. Or they might be done without his awareness, by members of the church believing themselves doing God's will. Or...or it could be magic.
Detective Inspector Franke Crowe of the South Wales constabulary receives a document in 2008, a transcript of his visit to the Cathays Young Offenders' Detention Centre alongside social worker Simon May. They are coming about allegations of abuse. Lewis, the man in charge, thinks this is about Crowe's daughter, Bianca, who had attended the centre several times. Crowe insists this has nothing to do with the investigation. This is about Satanic abuse. May says it's not Satanic, just occult. They argue briefly, and Lewis insists this is about Crowe's daughter, who somehow escaped the institution after two years of imprisonment there. He shouldn't be here and is using this to find out about how the investigaiton is going. May tries to convince Lewis to let them speak to the children, but Lewis refuses, saying they're thugs who won't tell anyone anything, without conscience or empathy. Lewis does something, knocking Croew out briefly. He tells May that he is going to go and turn in a report that all allegations are false, and that he won't have a choice or even remember the conversation. However, May stops whatever it was Lewis did, revealing that Lewis isn't the only one with secrets. He does something himself, and Lewis falls out of a window. May wakes Crowe up, assures him that he didn't kill Leiws and the Lewis is dead. May says that Lewis broke down and hurled himself from the window.
So yeah, Lewis was a magician of some kind, perhaps abusing the children in his care for some occult purpose, using them as resources. But Simon May is a magician himself - one helping Crowe, though keeping his nature secret. You can't trust a witch, and they don't expect you to. They hide things, so you don't trust them, and they see you don't trust them. But that's nto to say you can't work with them, regularly or just once. You just have to be careful. Or maybe they hide their powers from you, or pretend they're miracles or something similar to what the conspiracies use. Is it really any weirder than those guys, anyway? Or maybe they're honest. It's not out of the question. But if they are, they'd better not trust their hunter buddies when their friends show up - the friends with hardcore views on Bible verses about witches.
Next time: The various groups on witchcraft.
I'll probably get a ways into that tonight, but after that I'm off to Origins until Sunday night.
Post 3Original SA post Witch Finders
Ashwood Abbey gives us one of the more infamous quotes in nWoD. Have you ever fucked a man who can fly? Now, the thing about Ashwood Abbey is that, really, they don't think of witches as enemies, per se. They're just people who can do all the stuff you wish you could. They're just humans, unfettered by reality. That's amazing! They get to break physics, not just taboo. Sure, some witches are dangerous and have to be put down, but you can say the same of humans in general. The Abbey does like hunting those witches, though - they're unpredictable which is really fun. They don't bother trying to figure out or analyze witches or what they can do. They tend to be focused more on stories about the witches they've met. They have a fairly wide range of information, then, on what witches might be able to do, but very little on what they are. They tend to think of anything not obviously possessed or inhuman as being a witch. Often, when they invite a witch to a party, the witch will try to explain how the magic works. They tend to smile, nod, and not listen to a word.
As for what the Abbey does? They often approach them as they would a prospective member, watching them for a while and, if they seem interesting, inviting them to a party as a guest, where they're asked about what they do and can do. And often about if they'll have sex with the Abbey members. At the end of the night, the hunters hold a private vote on whether or not the witch is an entertaining and friendly guest. If they are, everyone goes home with stories and they stay friendly. If not...well, then it's time for the secondary entertainment. They might roofie the witch and have their way with her - no, really, that's a thing they mention - or they might go hunting the now-drunk witch. And, of course, they realize not all witches are suitable party guests. Some are too pious, some too obsessed with secrecy, some too depraved even for Ashwood Abbey, or working for dark entities that you wouldn't want hanging around the table. There's lines, even here. In those cases, they ignore the less harmful ones most of the time and go a-hunting the dangerous ones if no one has any better ideas for a fun evening. In Boston, on the annual Hathorne Ball (held on leap years, so not really annual), on the anniversary of the first arrests of the Salem Witch Trials, the Abbey dress up in period garb for a costume ball, and at midnight they head to a hedge maze or labyrinth containing a captive witch. Whoever strikes the killing blow is given the title Justice Hathorne for the year, and is given great status and honor until the next ball.
The Long Night find witches a bit of a dilemma. Some things obviously need to die - monsters, serial killers, you know. But witches are human - more human than slashers, whose very thoughts make them alien. Witches act normal. They're still people, just with magic powers. Doesn't matter what kind of power - a witch is a witch, and Exodus 22:18 is very clear on that. Doesn't have anything about how they act. At least with werewolves, you know that they're proof someone laid with a beast at some point, the sin's in their blood. Witches aren't carrying their father's sins - they have power that they asked for. They don't even try to return to a state of grace. If the curse of magic is so bad, suciide's an honest cure. Most witches enjoy what they are, revel in it. That's bad. That's real bad. Sadly, the Long Night lack centralized information, and so often all they know is that witches have dark power and will go to any length to get more of it. Magic's addictive. They're often underprepared for what witches can do, especially the ones that operate by coincidence or utterly lack subtlety at all. The first are hard to pin down and frustrating to deal with. The second just have lots of minions and monsters and fire to hurl at you, which kill you dead or control your minds. Now, the real scary thing is when you realize what witches are doing. Their powers come from the Devil (mostly; a few Long Night admit some might do miracles granted by God). They are the scouts of the End Times. They serve the Devil's interests, and with them around, the Apocalypse can't come yet. Witches are a sign that the Long Night is losing - that Christ can't come back yet. The lengths they go to show their true colors. They use their powers for personal gain, to benefit themselves. They sacrifice people for yet more power. They bring the end just by using magic.
The Long Night fight magic. They don't know a lot, but they know all magic comes from the Devil, even if he appears in a nice-looking form. Even the rituals anyone can do are Satanic. The ancient chants and strange runes are giveaways. But for some reason, God doesn't stop magic from existing. That's their job, apparently. The hard part is when magic looks like miracles. Miracle, in theory, is proof of the Holy Spirit infusing your soul. But what makes the difference between magic and miracle? You just have to know it when you see it. Miracles come the right way - healing, stigmata, speaking in tongues - and they serve the congregation, not the witch. Still, it's possible for witches to pretend at being miracle-workers, and Long Night cells each respond differently to such things. Conversion is always an option, and many try their best to convert witches first. It's safer and nicer. Some, particularly those that sacrifice people, are clearly beyond redemption, but many could be saved. Magic strengthens the will, however, so extreme methods can be necessary...but hey, isn't there value in turning magic toward God's will? Some cells have had success with conversion via...well, cultic programming. They don't attack the understanding of magic, but the witch's personality, breaking down the parts that drive them to evil and building up new traits to enable them to serve the Lord. It's a hell of a lot of work, but valuable if you can do it. Other cells are more drastic - they force situations where a witch must sue their power to save the hunters from another evil, often something obviously Hellish. It's easier to convince witches in high-stress situations, after all. A few even try deathbed conversions, sometimes to the point of arranging near-death experiences to shock them into a state where they can be convinced of Jesus' love.
The Loyalists of Thule do not have a unified outlook, but they do communicate. They don't blanket classify witches as enemies like they might demons or zombies. They are a potential source of information - witches have the means to unearth lots of hidden knowledge, after all. With a glance and spell, they can find out secrets of monsters that would take years to learn normally. It'd be foolish to ignore that. Still, they don't entirely trust mages. The concept of some people being spiritually superior to others hits too close to home. Plus, they have records, if not always accurate ones, of occultists and witches among the Nazis. Suspicion is common, and witches are kept at arm's length, used only as needed. There's no telling how much they learn about you, after all, when you learn from them. It is fairly common, usually unspoken by the Loyalists, to blame the worst horrors n Hitler's personal occultists and witches rather than the Thule Gesellschaft. They bear some of the blame, yes, and they admit that. It was their theories that inspired Nazi ideology. But the real horrors, they hold, were devised only when the witches moved in. They tell themselves it was them that caused the Holocaust, not the Thule theories. As evidence, they point to encounters with Nazi wizards. The fact that numerous historians, both mundane and occult, have dismissed the idea of the Nazi leadership being influenced in any way by occultists seldom comes up - it's easier to believe a pretty lie. Senior members of the group frown on this, though - the responsibility is the Loyalists' and shunting it onto Nazi witches cheapens their debt.
The Loyalists usually don't take an active hand in killing witches that hurt people, but they make sure someone else does. They maintain contact with other hunters with more experience in, you know, killing stuff. When possible, thy prefer to hand off wizard jobs to others who specialize in them, but if they don't know anyone who can, they will do it themselves. Especially if the witches are Nazis. They hunt those folks down - and also any witches whose practices echo those of the Nazis, regardless of ideology. In that, they are very proactive. You make monsters by stitching parts of animals and people together? You might not believe the same shit as Mengele and may consider him repugnant, but to the Loyalists, you're the same. They will not allow you to live. Most Loyalists believe the Nazi witches mostly survived the fall of the Nazis, along with many Nazi leaders. They think it's likely those magicians still live - they can extend their lives, after all. In the past, the Loyalists maintained ties with Nazi hunters - mostly Israeli Jews dedicating their lives to hunting down escaped Nazis in the decades after the war. At least one "Mossad assassination" of a death camp commandant in Argentina is rumored to have been a joint operation between the Loyalists and some Catholics allied to the Malleus. As the years roll on, though, most Nazis, magical or not, have died of old age and there aren't som any Nazi hunters, so the Loyalists have less of an information network there.
Network Zero doesn't really kill witches. They want to interview them and preserve what they see for posterity. Witches are lucid and several respond well to interview requests. Plus, they have a hell of a special effects budget. There's a division on how to deal with them. Most of Network Zero believes it's a chance to be investigative - find out what a witch is doing and why. They dig deeper than anyone else, following occasionally iffy links until they find a source - a fact or event that explains what's going on. They recast everything in light of that, to predict what'll come next. They focus on why witches use the magic when they do. Unfortunately, they often vastly overestimate the importance of random events and can jump to false conclusions. A smaller faction believe that the why is less important than that a witch is doing magic. They focus on shadowing their targets to understand who they associate with, then strike deals. Sometimes, the witches will take them to places that shouldn't exist, like the underground river of blood running through Chicago or a house where time and space work differently. If the reporter survives, they can sell those videos and views of them to other hunters for a mint. In LA, a cell filmed a 20-minute interview with a magical EMT, including a segment on how he used magic to save lives. In New York, another cell taped a detective with the NYPD Special Victims Squad using ritual magic at a crime scene, though without an interview. On the other hand, the video hosts had to pull a video of a witch's campaign to become state senator when it became clear that the video enchanted people to vote for him. Some witches try to use interviews to point hunters at nastier targets, or just enemies. They generally don't stay so naive long, though - militant cells can start fights for any number of reasons, and other cellls often like to show up the witches that tried to manipulate them on live video. Of course, not everyone with a book of spells is a real witch. Some of them are just using magical books or strange rituals. They lack spontaneous magic that other witches can use, and the Network often thinks they're not really prime material, but they have enough archived video of these rituals to last a lifetime. They have very little footage of psychic phenomna, however - they're hard to film and often easy to fake. Most hunters who take their time to do studies in front of a camera get no useful results.
In the field, you need some tricks to deal with the witches that don't like people witnessing or filming their magic. That's a lot of them, really. They can get violent. Posting rituals online can get whole covens mad at you - and it's not just hunters that watch videos. If the footage is good quality and the audio's decent, another coven can work out or counter what the witches in the video are doing. In some places, a coven will agree to work with Network Zero, though. They'll do interviews, even help track serial killers and monsters. In return, the hunters don't film them doing magic. Of course, if the cell finds a new coven not part of the agreement, all bets are off. Other witches don't want any involvement at all, and you have be careful with them Telephoto lenses and webcams with cell modems are good for that. And, of course, not all cells are so forgiving. In Kanses, a cell alliance called the Red Harvest has started hunting and burning witches, catching their hunts on camera for the Network. Snuff films, really. They still get posted, in the interest of freedom of expression, but are heavily password protected. They include torture that'd sicken the Abbey, and at least one witch burned alive on caera for the "crime" of healing the terminall ill.
Null Mysteriis is fascinated by the sheer variety of witches. Everyone can have their own pet theory! And all of them might be true. You just need more information to figure it out. But that means everything can be equally false, too. This cynicism is usually a sign that you've been focused on magic too long and need something new to think about, though a unified theory of magic is highly sought after. The real problem is just that every witch does something different. While any one ability could be the subject of a number of theories, a few witches can do all of them, it seems. The best hypotheses focus on the power a witch demonstrates, the powers those powers infer, and how a witch uses them. A master over fate doesn't use the same energies as a devout priest, even if they do the same effect. The power of human sacrifice or scarification is likely something else entirely. They've proven that hte coincidences that many witches are surrounded by are functions of their other abilities, which is often not helpful. Sure, the witch who can manipulate space can hop into a waiting taxi, but no amount of research can prep you for that - or whatever given coincidence the witch might use that day. It's infuriating, but fascinating, each time you fail to predict a coincidence. Psychis are a bit of a nedge case. Some scientists have found records of government research in the 60s and 70s, basic at best, focused more on application than IDing a source. The researchers interested in it tend to be rather different than normal witchfinders - they can at least ocntent themselves with the knowledge that their subjects have a limited range of abilities, allowing them to focus on the mechanisms of psychics, rather than predicting what they can do. Ritual magic may be yet another thing, or an offshoot of larger magic, depending on who you ask. It does allow scientists to study single defined instances of magic in controlled circumstances...though often that means being in the right forest under a full moon and sacrificing an animal with a silver-handled knife. Most scientists, at least, will happily do that if they're hunters and it means the chance of understanding.
Investigation and theorizing are the core response to witches for Null MYsteriis. They research, surveill, shadow and profile. They never stop researching. Everything is data to support or break a theory. The current frontrunner for unified theory involves localized manipulation of probability fields. Normally, magic involves changing probabilities - a gas main blows, bullets miss. Somehow, the witch hooks into probability and skews it. Blatant use of magic requires the mage to create the possibility of it happening, then increase the probability. This can happen subconsciously at times or by ritual to focus conscious perceptions in order to create possibility from nothing. This is really littlem ore than a framework for observed data, but hey. It's there. Null Mysteriis tend to specialize in testing theories on the fly with witches, fudging things to work out later in order to reach a useful conclusion. Whether a countermeasure works is just as important as the holes in theories - assuming you live. Generalist researchers often worry that the dedicated witch-finders are mavericks, often forgetting to paper over glaring holes in their hypotheses thanks to adrenaline, too busy focusing on how to stay alive. More academic hunters often call them FErmats, for their habit of having an answer too large for the paper - or anything else. Hell, one hunter even submitted two papers in swift succession that referred to and contradicted each other. The psychic researchers, though, they're as close as it gets to the old guard, used to quasi-acceptability and repeatable testing. Most don't 'hunt' psychics - they sit in a room with them along with some Zener cards, etheric resonance meters and coffee. They talk to them, priding themselves on traditional methods, even if they rely on theories long since debunked, like orgone.
The Union are reactive. No problem, no involvement. So their perspective is skewed - they only notice witches that cause trouble. They have a forum to talk on with no organization and a broken search tool. A few of them spend their free time trying to extract accoutns others post in search of trends, but they know they're lacking in categorizaiton. They just don't care. No other group is better placed to witness the damage witches can do. They're small picture people. Sorcerers are around? Listen to the word on the street. A witch loves sacred geometry, so she's on the city planning board. No one can build anything without her altering it for her own power. Another walks the streets, patching up the homeless with strange medicine - he replaces their hearts with clockwork, and any day now he could turn them against his foes. A third witch is running for mayor, embedding spells in her flyers to get votes. She might go for senate after that. The Union tends to split witches into two types - immediate trouble and postponed trouble. Even witches that try to help you are postponed trouble. They're up to something, it's just not a problem right this second. Some witches think you're useful, especially after bad experiences iwth strict hierarchies, but they're passive - they share knowledge, watch your back. They very rarely offer magical assistance. Any Union member who thinks such a deal could be relied on anyway is either stupid or naive. Witches are tricky and will use you for their own ends. They are not friends, they're trouble, now or later. Witches exploit the cracks in a community - but you can fight back. Bring normal people to help you, not as cannon fodder but because normal people have this weird tendency to make the most outrageous types of magic flicker out. It doesn't really level the field, but it helps. The Union doesn't bother trying to split psychics from witches. No point. They're the same thing - the how and why are what matters, not the kind of power. They're just problems you need to solve, and where the power comes from doesn't actually matter.
When a witch is immediate trouble, you go break heads. Don't bother with background checks or interviews, don't bother with talking them out of their powers - it won't work anyway. Just take them out. It means they don't come back and can't hurt anyone. The problem is doing it. Most Union aren't ex-military and those who are still can't get heavy duty firepower easily. Better to go after a witch's organization. You have ties to the community. Use them. Force them to fight a battle they're not ready for. Infilitrate the company they rely on, use harassment claims to ruin them - five of 'em in a month? Doesn't matter if they're false. Anyone with Photoshop can ruin a local politician's dreams. The street doctor's army? They have to go up against their friends and loved ones now. Witches exploiit the cracks in the community, but you can fill those in. When you can't, either because you fail or they have too much of a power-base, well, violence works. Because most Union hunters start with social tools and weapons, most witches neve realize how far they'll go if pressed. They expect the kind of people who use violence as a last resort, and badly. Instead, they find people willing to kill. There are no specific witch-hunters in the Union - everyone's a generalist. Their information is from discussion boards. Sure, specific members may claim expertise, but that means nothing without useful information. The real specialists tend towards a skewed view, too - use anyhting as a weapon. Anything . News footage, HR policies, anything. Everything. Sometimes they forget their weapons are people, too.
Next time: Conspiracies.
Post 4Original SA post Witch Finders
The Aegis Kai Doru hate witches. It's a very old grudge. They also, however, believe that not only did witches cause the end of primordial paradise, but they exiled the only people wise enough to stop them - the progenitors of the Aegis. So, their hate is full of smugness and superiority, comforting them with the knowledge that they're better than witches. This belief is only reinforced when they take down crazy wizards who summon demons or when a magic spell slips out of control and kills an innocent. They pat themselves on the back in the solid assurance that witches today or no wiser than they ever were, and are utterly incapable of restoring the pre-Fall paradise, no matter what they say. Despite this, those who know the full history often feel some envy towards witches. After all, the oldest records say that the early Aegis were not just relic-keepers, but wizards. Doctrine holds that they would have stopped the cataclysm, had they not been exiled. And if they were magicians and wise enough to foresee and avert the disaster, mustn't it be possible that other magicians could be wise enough to fix things?
Officially, the Aegis Kai Doru kill all witches. That's the party line, and the sum total of it. In practice, individual members react differently. Many do follow the basic line, but others are more case-by-case. All witches are suspect, of course, and any causing harm must die, but if you have to choose between hunting down a vampire feeding on college kids or going for a coven that seems to just be doing some weird astronomy, many Aegis hunters will take the vampires out first. Of course, there are those witches that claim to want to restore the world to its glorious, pre-cataclysm state. They are the most dangerous, because history shows that magicians cannot be trusted with the world. What might have happened if the people of Babel had tried a second time? We could all be unable to speak at all. Same with witches. The Aegis do their best to stamp out that kind of crazy whenever they find them, even if they secretly hope such a scheme might work. It is possible for an Aegis cell and a coven to coexist. The grudge of the Aegis is historical, not religious. It's hard to hate over things from millenia ago, really, and if a witch isn't hurting anyone or mucking around with the building blocks of reality, aren't they beng kept in check, just like they should be? The leaders of the conspiracy heavily discourage this attitude, but it's relatively common on the ground level. Actual alliance is pushing it, though in extreme cases the Aegis might consider allying with a harmless coven to take down a much worse foe. This is inevitably short-lived and often ends violently, however. The Aegis is also deeply uninterested in collecting lore on how witches actually work. They already know. They'll study individuals to hunt them, but they don't care about the how. The fact that their records and much of what they know is millenia out of date, distorted or just wrong doesn't really matter to them. They have only two real responses to witchcraft: murder and ignoring it.
The Ascending Ones do not reckon tha all mystic powers are eivl. After all, they use magic themselves. They know some of it is fune, while other types are sins as bad as murder or rape. Figuring out what kind of magic you're dealing with is the hard part, and no one wants to be responsible for killing a man so righteous that angels take their requests directly to God. Traditionalists who keep to the ways of the Cult of the Phoenix are happy to ignore where witch powers come from, so long as it's not bargaining with demons. The Order of the Southern Temple tend only to care what you do with it, and often try to be professional or friendly with mages that seem nice enough, even allying with them. The more modern and pragmatic arm of the conspiracy has little to do with witches. Some sorcerers are in the drug trade, but less so than, say, vampires. Plus, most places where dealers hang out just don't attract witches - no libraries, no antiquities dealers. Some witches, usually the worst of the lot, see the inner city as a good source for victims, since no one's going to mess a gangbanger or crack addict. They often find themselves surprised when they run into Ascending One cells, which even at their worst are fiercely protective of their people. Alchemist wizards are particularly interesting to the Ascending Ones, who often want to study their brews, no matter what kind of alchemy they do. Sometimes that means a truce or pact, and other times it means breaking in to steal stuff or kill the guy and take his shit. Anyone who can get back a formula that can be adapted into an Elixir is sure to gain prestige.
The Ascending Ones judge witches by their actions. They're not going to be hypocritical and go after a witch just because they can do magic without relying on elixirs. Those who act in the interest of the community are ignored or approached in the interest of conversion. The AScending Ones prefer converts to corpses, but refusal to convert does mean you have to take them out as heretics. Those who prefer to use power for personal gain are often warned to mend their ways - leave a dagger or poison on their pillow as they sleep, to let them know they're being watched. Sometimes it works, sometimes the witch uses it to trace back to you with magic. In that case, well, gotta kill 'em. Honor-bound duty. Take them down as spectacularly as possible, for preference. Of course, if you find a witch engaged in true blasphemy and wickedness - dealing with demons, harming innocents, that sort of thing - there is no mercy or warning. They must be slain. Period. Even the Jagged Crescent, pragmatic as they can be, mobilize everything they have to take down depraved magicians. More than one witch, especially along the Mexico/US border or in Latin America, has gone too far and ended up a drug war casualty.
Cheiron is fascinated by witches. They, of all monsters, show no biological change unless they alter themselves. This is a real problem. Even slashers tend to abnormal brain structure or hormonal imbalance. Witches don't. Their studies have shown that some have odd nerve clusters and neural arrangements in and aroudn the hippocampus, so that's a place to start, but it's not universal or even common. Sure, you sometimes run into witches that alter their own bodies - and they're valuable, make no mistake - but they're not common, either. This has made mages a bit of an obsession for osme Cheiron scientists. They're fascinating - externally, their powers are very diverse and unique, but inside, they're just like any human. It makes no sense at all. Ultimately, Cheiron just doesn't accept that magic can be spiritual or mental - all of their theories are about exploiting bodies, so magic must have a biological origin of some kind or else what's the point?
Cheiron does stalk witches, but it also goes hunting for places where magic has weakened reality and pulses up closer to the world than normal. They don't care about any mystical wellbein - it's just, there's weird shit sometimes. Often, there's nothing, but sometimes you find a living creature that shouldn't exist. Catch it if possible. Dissect it if you must, but if you can get it to breed, do it. These things slip through the reality cracks that magic leaves behind. Most witches hate them, say they shouldn't exist. Hunters sometimes catch the word 'Abyssal' over surveillence gear. A number of them seem tied to magic, hunting witches or feeding on etheric energies. These are very useful indeed. Others just kill everything nearby. Some are obvious targets, but Cheiron's not likely to notice a magically sentient, evil house until it starts changing its inhabitants. (Yes, magic can cause that by accident.) The closest they have to dedicated witchfinders are the guys who specialize in hunting down those manifestations. A few don't even wait for the wizards to leave, trying to get a double bag. (They die very often.) Cheiron tries to avoid physical combat with witches - they're paranoid monsters, sure, but Cheiron agents aren't religious or government. They can usually get a witch to talk a little bit, maybe even set up a meeting on home turf. Some of them are more like counselors than monster hunters, wanting to understand where magic comes from. Sometimes, witches help willingly, others need bagging and tagging. Two cells, in New York and LA, have set up as "parapsychological experts," debunking psychic frauds and helping true psychics. One of their big lines is electrostimulation to remove trace powers - often, people view visions of death to be a curse, after all, and Cheiron has a record for results and discretion.
The Lucifuge know that all powers are either angelic or demonic. Werewolves? Demon inside you. Weird shit coming out of the earth? Demon. Witches? Not possessed by angels or demons. They don't fit. They're people who steal divine power, and the Lucifuge are very interested. Most witches understand the source of their power, but not how they got it. The closest ones, say the Lucifuge, are the ones who say they stole their knowledge from the great city of Pandemonium. Others claim to have heard a chour of angels as they do their magic. They're almost right. Others come nowhere close - New Ager spirit types, or those who say they're doing the work of the dead. They're so wrong it's almost funny. The Lucifuge know that all magic powers are divine, angelic or demonic. They aren't given easy, and witches have the will to steal a little spark, exchanging a fragment of their soul for an angel or demon's power. That's why some witches go on and on about the Supernal - they mean Heaven and Hell. But their understanding is incomplete - power but not knowledge. A terrible burden. The Lucifuge hate them for that - they weren't born with Lucifer's blood or power, but took it anyway, and they have more than any of Lucifer's true children. Worse, they seek even more power as if they have some right to it. The Lucifuge hunt them to return those shards where they belong, hoping it'll balance the books before anyone notices. Plus, witches get the Lucifuge mistaken for witches by other hunters. Sometimes, they got hunted. Now, the Lucifuge have no explanation for psychics. Some say it's a revolutionary quirk or perhaps a sign of something else out there taking an interest. But no divine or demonic intervention, at least. They also know of ritual books, rituals that can bind the power of minor demons via words and actions rather than any power of the soul. These get sent to the Lucifuge libraries, but they never leave any living witnesses to remember the rituals.
Some witches may claim the power of Heaven, but the Lucifuge hunt them anyway. It's their job to return that power ot its rightful place - and the only way they know to do that is murder. Some hunters try to use elaborate rituals to return the shards once the witch is dead, while others believe it'll go home on its own. Some say the witch must die a specific way - one New England cell says you must put out both eyes, so the power can exit the empty sockets. Sure, some witches can do good work, so they can live as long as you can allow, maybe. But other ssay that even if they don't mean to, demons will seek them out. Demons love magic, and witches are so easy to tempt. Many feel like they have total control of their power but want even more of it, which demons can offer. Others seek to grasp more of what's available to them - and dmeons help with that, to. All they have to do is help the demon. Just a little. It's a slippery slope, and best to take them out before it starts. The Lucifuge do take their time in witch-hunting, though, to study how the witch acts, who they used to be before being a witch, what they were like. This often holds clues to the witch's mindset that can be taken advantage of. Those people who use strange rituals have already proven evil intent by using powers drawn from demons. You might educate them or recruit them, but your job is to collect any copies of the ritual and ensure no one remembers how to use it. Can't just leave demonic rites around where any idiot with a scanner can post them online, you know.
The Malleus Maleficarum are the Hammer of the Witches. They have strong feelings on them. Only the Aegis and Long Night come close. Where the Aegis hate witches for history and the Long Night hate them as willing servants of Satan, the Malleus love witches. They lvoe them so much that they'll torture and brainwash them into recanting heresy and becoming good Catholics once more. They are old-school inquisitors - the Long Night might vary between trying to redeem witches or killing them, the Malleus know that witches are misguided and can be forced to see the light - by torture, confession and death. Works over faith, you know, and death is often the only restitution that can be offered. That's the party line, anyway, but 'love the sinner, hate the sin' is so often warped to 'hate the sinner, really, really hate the sin.' For every priest that claims to torture from love, six make no disguise of their hatred and their eagerness to torture witches to death. Witches seldom see any distinction there. Theologically, there is only one explanation for witchcraft: a witch has, by free will or guile, sold their soul to the devil for power. Everything they know bears that out, and the properties of magic are proof of Satanic origin. One key study described that, in the words of a magician, no sorcery could be made to last forever on a human being. The Malleus point to this as proof that magic is of Satan, for only God can make permanent, lasting change in His creations. Witchcraft can take many froms, from Satanic rites to neopaganism to psychics, and sometimes it comes in the guise of miracles. Theologically, the Malleus are on shaky ground there. Some say it's proof of God's love, others say that the Devil can quote Scripture, too, and why not disguise his works? The Hammer's leadership has never given clear policy here.
Witchcraft is heresy. Period. Doesn't matter how, it's all heresy, and heresy must be punished. Confession os the key - a witch must be captured and made to confess. It might be private, gained however you see fit. Those who freely repent and seem properly penitent, well, that's fine. But most confessions must be forced by torture. It's a long tradition, and most Malleus chapter houses have at least one antique torture device prominently displayed, usually an Iron Maiden. It's not for use - it's a reminder that extreme measures can be needed to save the soul. Some hunters are staunch traditionalists, bust most have moved on to sonic torture, electrocution and waterboarding - less lasting harm, after all. It's incentive, not punishment. Most witches don't understand they're the servants of Satan, requiring pain and purification by ordeal to open their eyes. The most painful to deal with are those that think their magic is a gift from God, who can't understand why brothers in Christ want to hurt them so much, who resist confession fervently. Once broken, though, their confession is swift. Some confessions are public, before a gathered congregation of hunters, and the witch will read their own sentence. Not all, however, rely on medieval methods. Within the last 50 years there's been a growing faction trying to apply more modern and liberal methods. Sometimes, that means religious counseling and interfaith discussion, sometimes it means cult deprogramming. Once you get confession, you send word to the Vatican for judgment. For minor sins, conversion may be enough, but it frequently isn't an option. Some must walk a pilgrimage (under surveillence), some are captured and imprisoned, and there are a number of hidden prisons across Europe, plus a few in cities like Boston or Philadelphia. If the crimes are severe enough, heresy means death. Burning is traditional, but most prefer nooses, bullets or forced overdose. While confession is policy, cells ultimately operate alone and on their own initiative, so some leave harmless witches alone until they prove dangerous, and some skip the confession and go straight to murder - though the crimes needed for that kind of sanction are extreme. Selling the souls of innocents, say. Those who recant but return to evil are not generally given more chances, and it's not unheard of for those that cause terrible casualties to a cell to 'tragically succumb' before they can be captured. Vengeance may be un-Christian, but hey, that's what confession's for.
Task Force: VALYKRIE treat witches the same way other agencies treat suspected terrorists. They're under a lot of pressure to take out the threat and can get clearance for heavy weapons just by saying the word 'witch.' On the other hand, analysts need information, which means sleepers to infiltirate covens, setting up elaborate surveillence, tracking down every link. There are no mid-level sanctions, no way to deal with suspects you're unsure of. There's no magical no-fly list, and ID checks are useless against magical mind control. Like terrorists, witches look like normal people. Unlike terrorists, there's a hell of a lot of 'em on American soil - and these guys, terrorist or reality deviant or whatever you want to call them, can do a lot more than blow up buildings. VALKYRIE's got a lot of theories on where witches come from, all with some proof. (Sometimes they even steal Null Mysteriis theses and claim them as records with the names removed.) Witches might be possessed by or servants of the First People - pissed off Native Americans trying to take revenge. Maybe they're genetically modified insurgents, brains and souls tinkered with by a supernaturally potent Middle Eastern nation or a returning Soviet Union. Maybe they're the result of an anthrax-like magical contagion. Maybe all of the above. Pet theories abound, and often do more harm than good. False information falls too easily into agents' hands, especially when a CO's pride is on the line. VALKYRIE knows psychics like the back of their hand, though. They've got MK-ULTRA's research, KGB remote sensing experiments stolen or trickled after the Iron Curtain fell, maybe even some active MK-ULTRA researchers. But the point is, witches and psychics damage the culture of democracy. Sorcerers fuck the vote, mind controlling politicians - or worse, becoming politicians. They can conjure up infectious bacterial weapons just by wishing it. If the American people knew how often they needed to be protected from witches, they'd shit themselves.
TFV's main response is shock tactics. Bursting through the door with flashbombs and guns blazing often helps, though not always. Big guns are actually less useful against witches - unlike shapeshifters or vampires, witches die just the same as anyone else. Anything bigger than a bullet is probably a waste of ammo, though sometimes you get guys who can turn bullets into roses or bugs. When surprise fails, you're on your own. Most of their tools are great at regaining surprise by knocking out concentration or focusing witches on other targets, but when they're not effect, it's time to use the secret weapon: everyone. When it comes to witches, you have a two-stage strategy. First, find out who they are, putting surveillence on them via Homeland Security, FBI or NSA. VALKYRIE has a lot of leeway, and hundreds of witches are under surveillence, maybe more. It used to be hard to get warrants, but the Patriot Act did away with all that. Hooray America! There's a number of dedicated witch-hunter units, normally in urban areas - not because of any concentration of witches, but because if an occult WMD were detonated, that's where you'd want to protect. On top of that, many agents go through EOCHAI training as part of Project TWILIGHT. Most who do that but don't join a witch-hunter squad are sent into cells as mission experts or specialists. Unlike other training programs, EOCHAI is prized for tactical knowledge more than weapons access.
As for folks with neither conspiracy nor compact...well, it's hard to ID a witch. Most cells don't know much, but it seems like there's some kind of occult underground, with the "heirs of Atlantis" on top and other witches serving them or hating them. That means witches tend to congregate together, and a group of witches is easier to spot than just one. Watch the occult bookstores and their regular customers. Learn to tell the NEw Age fluff from real magic. Witches tend to be a little off-kilter - eccentric weirdos, mostly. The guy who keeps adding to his labyrinthine mansion? The girl with the pack of hoillow-eyed boys following her and drooling a bit? The homeless guy drawing weird sigils, which people always stop and leave change on? Witches. Great job, you've found one. Now what? You get all kins of reactions, depending on motivations. Some are violent, others are more fascinated. Either way, it's best to watch before you act. You can usually trace one witch back to others, or to magical hotspots. In 1980s Phoenix, a cell calling itself the Desert Rats IDed a witch as a murderer, but shadowed him for a year and investigated everyone they saw him meet rather than kill him. In the end, the witch killed three more, but they were able ot take out the entire coven plus three other witches before getting killed going after a guy they claimed was the chief warlock of Arizona. People are divided over that - three people died, after all. That could've been prvented. But a lot of the witches they found were low profile and would never have been spotted otherwise. On the other hand, there was no evidence they had anything to do with the killing - indeed, the killer's coven may not have known and, when they found out, may have tried to stop him. PEaceful relations are rarer but hardly impossible. Witches are the easiest things to get along with - vampires hunt, werewolves are feral and violent, but a witch is a person.
Just so you know, ritual Satanic cults don't actually exist in the real world. It's not a thing. At all. Anywhere. Ever.
Next time: Origins! And after that, THE CONSENSUS
Post 5Original SA post
I couldn't sleep, so I wrote instead. I'll sleep on the plane.
So, everyone knows there's how the world is supposed to work. We don't understand it yet, but there are rules. Laws. Gravity works. Inertia works. Fundamentally, the universe is rational...except when it suddenly isn't. Someone pushes the bounds, and sometimes they break. When that happens, Division Six comes in to clean up. Division Six claims to be governmental; it's not. It claims to operate worldwide; it doesn't. It claims to date back to the Culper Ring of George Washington; nope. It can be traced reliably only back to 1976 and the Vicentennial. A hunter working for a prominent New England congressman, a hunter named Thomas Major, teams up with a few other DC power players who had become aware of a shadow war between occult societies. They're unclear on the details, but based on interrogation of three witches captured trying to influence the government, the theory was that the Bicentennial could be of huge occult significance, and any policy changes during this mystically potent period would ripple out over the next two centuries.
Major and his cell are rather bothered by this, so they set out to kill any and all witches they can find in the capital. Whether it'd have actually had any real, lasting effects on America's future can't be determined - not long after the hunts started, most witches in the city fled or went to ground, and the Bicentennial passed without incident. This was not the end, though. In January 1977, Major is contacted by a man who calls himself only MisteR Jones. Jones says he belongs to the Panopticon, a secret, to-level bureau monitoring "reality deviants" and attempting to minimize their impact on the government. The Panopticon had, he said, monitoring and information-finding tools that dwarfed the NSA, but they had no force projection capability. To minimize red tape, Jones was authorized to establish a pilot program to test the feasibility of using a small group of extragovernmental operatives to directly deal with reality deviants. Major and his allies agreed, and Division Six was born.
By the early 80s, it was an unqualified success. Major and most of the original cell were dead, but later members expanded into several major cities, including New York, Philly, Chicago and Las Vegas. It was around then that their false history started to take root, claiming to be dating back to the Revolution and involved in key events in history. A few old hands, who'd been around since Major, know the truth, but they assume it's just meant to overawe new recruits. AGents are paid by direct deposit of cash into bank account, given nonspecific but vaguely federal-looking ID, which carries no actual weight but often gains cooperation. The whole thing looks like what you'd expect from a top-secret agency, so few ever question why there's no chain of command, performance reviews or due process.
Division Six operates largely as it has for the last 30 years. Each cell's leader gets instructions between once a week and once a month from someone they believe to be a Panopticon spy. They get a list of names of known reality deviants, sometimes just one nome, sometimes over a dozen. None of them come from a central clearinghouse - the lists are Jones' enemies, revals and potential threats. Division Six eliminates them, believing they are keeping the laws of the cosmos intact. Some day, Jones will die or his cabal of hunters will become known to his enemies. It remains to be seen whether Division Six will survive such an event.
The facts as laid out by Jones say that the laws of reality are meant to be static. Some flex room is built in to allow for weird events, but there's a set framework. Unfortunately, due to entropy, it's no longer as rigid as it should be. Flaws creep in, and the careless or power-mad can exploit those flaws to gain powers that appear magical. Division Six focuses almost entirely on human witches. Their theories say that all supernatural beings are a symptom of reality breakdowns, but humans deliberately forcing their minds into the cracks and pushing them open wider are the cause. Eliminating monsters just treats the symptoms, not the disease: mages. In hunting reality deviants, Division Six's members are their own greatest assets. For reasons they don't really understand, the human mind can apparently hold the universe together temporarily, not just pull it apart. When Division Six agents are present during a manifestation of reality deviance, many times the witch will find their spells harder to control or failing outright. The superstructure of reality is reinforced by the same power that can pull it apart. It's nt perfect protection, and it can be overcome by determined willworkers, and it doesn't seem to stop others at all. Division Six operatives are conditions to expect any form of weirdness near reality deviants. Often they are subtle, easily overlooked, and the mental reinforcement agents rely on is much less effective if a witch can do magic without them noticing. At times, the conditioning takes too well, and the agents become inured to reality deviance, unable to separate it from reality. They can no longer disrupt magic when this happens, and they usually get retired to teaching positions or "promoted" to the Panopticon, rarely to be seen again. At least three such agents have been confirmed as ending up on Division Six hitlists.
Seers of the Throne, man.
Division Six is cell-based, but each member also gets assigned to a specific department with particular duties. They're expected to cross-train for each other's jobs so that operational readiness is maintained in the case of an agent's death. Department Alpha are the planners and logistics guys. Nominally in charge, they organize resources provided by the rest of the team and turn them into viable strategy for kills. They are also the ones that get lists from the Panopticon. Department Charlie is surveillence and intel, dangerous work. Charlie agents are often also used to place traps due to their infiltration skills. They especially like car bombs, and most have some explosives experience. Department Whiskey is not well trusted - they're the ones who make the kills, either at range or up close and personal. It takes a special kind of crazy to kill people just because they do magic, but they don't seem to mind.
Status in Division Six is gained by performing duties well and killing wizards. More academically inclined members can get some by publishing new theories on reality deviance, psychological studies and profiling techniques. At one dot, you're a recruit. You don't know the real history and probalby buy into the fake one. You probably think you work for the government. Whenever you risk Willpower to intimidate someone with your status, you get an additional Willpower point as a result, even on top of your normal pool. At 3 dots, you've gotten extensive condition to reinforce reality and have helped eliminate several reality deviants. Whenever you witness a Vulgar spell, the caster suffers an additional -1 Paradox penalty. At five dots, you're a hotshot agent, the top of the list. They tell stories about you. You never pay for beers. You're a mentor, and you have taken an agent on as a protege. You get three dots of Retainer.
Aegis Kai Doru : These are some spooky sonsabitches, my friend. I'm not sure if an object can be called a "reality deviant," but that stuff they carry around isn't quite right.
Network 0 : Way to go, jackass. Show the whole world what crazy fucks can do if they put their minds to it. Christ, do you want the structure of reality to come crashing down around your ears?
Null Mysteriis : I've worked with these guys before. They've got some sound theories, and they were very interested to hear about the reality superstructure and how deviants are tearing it apart. I hope all that shit I told them wasn't classified.
Task Force: VALKYRIE : In Boston I saw one of these guys take on some kind of water demon. The lucky bastard had an actual, honest-to-God ray gun . Why the hell don't they supply us with that crap?
Magic's the bloodstream of the universe, according to the Keepers of the Source . It flows through Earth in invisible patterns, following terrain and the spirit world. In some places, it pools, making sacred places of power. The ignorant assume these pools are merely natural collection points, that the energy is there to be taken, another resource to use. They are wrong. The Earth is a living organism, and those places where the Source pools up are her organs. Draining the energy from these holy places is like stealing blood from a human heart. It causes the Earth Mother intense pain, and that must be stopped at any cost.
They started as the Dowsers,i n the Summer of Love, and were founded by Meredith Lehane, AKA Starflower, a New Ager in San Francisco. She had a minor psychic gift that let her perceive the flow of mystic forces around her, and she and several associates adapted the practice of dowsing to map that flow. She believed that a complete map would be the key to achieving a higher plane of consciousness. As her techniques got more precise and elaborate, Starflower became a local celebrity among occultists, and even a real witch followered her work with interest. She got many new members, some of whom shared her gift. One of them was an idealistic man named Duncan Redgrove, a prodigy she took under her wing. In 1970, they attended a Samhain festival in Balboa Park, a key confluence of ley lines. By this point, they were familiar with the idea of Source pools and had begun to theorize the pools were organs of the Earth Mother, but they didn't realize they could be harvested. At midnight, as the moon reached its zenith, one of celebrants, a witch named Cassandra, siphoned ths ource - and to Starflower and the other Dowser psychics, it was as if the Earth itself screamed in pain.
It wasn't until a week later that they figured it out. Starflower went to Cassandra, begging her to return what was stolen, but the witch just gave some convoluted explanation about Mana and something called a Hallow and insisted it was perfectly natural. Starflower tried to explain, but Cassandra wouldn't listen - her mentor had taught her that harvesting the enrgy was natural and vital, and surely a mystic adept knew more than a New Age psychic girl. Starflower left, disheartened, and went back to the Dowsers. When Redgrove heard, he was outraged. He'd felt the Earth scream, and anyone that could willingly do that to their Mother was a monster. He advocated usng force to make Cassandra return the Earth's blood, but Starflower refused - she was a pacifist, and believed it'd make them no better than the Earth's life-stealing rapists. Redgrove wasn't convinced, but Starflower was still the leader.
For five years, the Dowsers were a joke in San Francisco occult society. Whenever a witch drew Source, within a week they'd show up in the street or at the witch's house, to ask them to put it back. Most just smiled and nodded and ignored them. Others verbally abused them, assaulted them or cursed them. Three, at least, died in mysterious accidents that some thought were the work of witches afraid of those who knew the truth. Discontent grew, and Redgrove led a group favoring more drastic action. In 1975, the Dowsers interrupted a ritual in Golden Gate Park, stopping four people at a sacred outcropping. Fourteen Dowsers were there, including Starflower, blocking the stones from the werewolf pack that claimed them as territory. Twelve died, and Starflower was hospitalized for three months. With her down, Redgrove moved to take over, abandoning peace for direct action. The next time they found a witch stealing Source, they beat him into a coma mid-ritual. They got more militant and innovative over time. The witches retaliated spectacularly against direct assault, so they turned to ambush and traps, particularly ritually tempering Source pools to draw in witches after letting out deadly traps. A fire at one such pool in 1977 killed at least five witches and a dozen innocents after the next door apartment building caught fire. In 1979, the werewolf pack that maimed Starflower were killed via fertilizer bomb at their sacred site.
Starflower tried to control it, but by the time she recovered Redgrove had too much control. OVer the years, she was marginalized, until 1985, when Redgrove officially asked her to leave and changed the group name to the Keepers of the Source. She left the group and the city altogether. Today, the Keepers operate much as they have since Redgrove took over. He died in 1996 - freak lightning strike, surely no accident. His daughter, Karen, leads now. She's more moderate, pushing people to give witches a chance to see their error before beating them to death, but she's not afraid of violence. Starflower is still alive, living in Philadelphia under her real name now - Meredith Lehane. She's an advertising executive and has shed her hippy lifestyle. Some days, she even convinces herself she can't hear the Earth Mother screaming any more. Since 9/11, they've moved to subtler attacks - car bombs are terrorism now, not mob hits, and that gets Homeland Security on your ass. They favore "accidents" - ruptured gas main, electrical fire and so on. They are still largely based in San Francisco, especially areas with strong hippy connections, though some have struck out for other cities. Joining is easy - they proslytize on campuses and corners, where they are usually seen as nuts. Most of their literature is about corporations bleeding the Earth Mother - they've learned that witches strike back violently if discussed openly. New recruits are encouraged to protest and demonstrate, and only brought to the hunt if they seem amenable to extreme methods.
Turns out the hippies are nuts, who knew?
The Keepers don't actually object to witches or monsters. They're fringe New Agers, after all, and several practice "magic" as part of their religion, identifying as witches, vampires or other stuff. They don't even mind actual magicians - it's just stealing Source that bothers them. Most of the people that do that are magicians, but cultists, werewolves and demons sometimes do, too. They're not nearly so good at fighting those, though, so they often call in more militant groups for it. Despite their history, their understanding of the supernatural world is very narrow due to their monofocus. They're barely aware vampires even exist. They are familiar with werewolves, and generally avoid them since it goes very poorly when they fight them. Demons, ghosts and other entities that anchor themselves to sacred sites occasionally pop up, but the Keepers lack the knowledge and skill to detect or deal with them well. They are equally active against non-Source-based threats to the Earth, though. Since the mid-80s, when they found that logging, development and other environmental shifts could destroy Source pools, they've been active environmental campaigners. They protest destruction of historic neighborhoods, spike trees and devote a lot of energy to fighting environmental threats from mundane foes. A trio of deaths in the late 90s after sabotaging a construction site nearly made them national news, but coincidental chaos ensured that it never quite made it to the evening news.
Ashwood Abbey : Free love is a beautiful thing, but this...this is just degenerate.
The Cheiron Group : These soulless corporate bastards are everything that's wrong with the world today. I've never actually seen them steal the Mother's sacred blood, but I wouldn't put it past them if they realized how.
Lucifuge : They seem to really hate witches, even though I can't see much of a difference. I'm not going to tell them that, though.
Null Mysteriis : Hey man, when are you going to stop watching and do something ? Your scientific hoodoo really don't cover it, and once you get your hands dirty you'll figure it out.
Three primary philosophies exist in the Keepers. The Children of Gaia are a small but growing group, inspired by resurgent interest in Starflower's old pacifist teachings. On the other hand, the Hand of the Mother are still a large, influential philosophy even after Duncan Redgrove's death, preaching a no-mercy attitude towards defilers. The Dynasts fllow Karen Redgrove, vacillating between the two extremes but never settling. Both of the other philosophies have been courting Karen to get the rest of the compact behind them.
You get status in the Keepers by protecing Source and developing new philosophies on the world and Source. At one dot, you've been to a few meetings and protests, maybe a few police incidents. You get a specialty in Weaponry (Improvised Weapons), Express (Protests) or Science (Environmentalism). At three dots, you've proven willing to go to extreme lengths to protect Mother Earth. The rest of the Keepers look up to you and you'll always have crash space and bail money in San Francisco, and you get 2 dots of Allies. At five dots, you've gotten the attention of leadership. Through use of drugs and meditation, you have opened yourself to the Earth Mother's pain so you can protect her, gaining the Unseen Sense (Source) merit, or a three dot Mentor if you already have it.
Next time: What I desire is man's red fire to make my dream come true.
Post 6Original SA post Witch Finders
Anyone who's fought a witch knows how powerful they can be. They can do anything, and often, hunters wish they had that power for their own. The Promethean Brotherhood do not wish. They take, using an ancient ritual found in a forgotten Greek tomb. They are the Fire-Stealers, and they have learned a way to sacrifice a witch in order to steal their power. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. They keep trying, to find a way to perfect their art and claim all that power for their own.
The Brotherhood goes back to the 1850s and a junior professor of archaeology at Oxford, by the name of Jacob Hite. He was apprentice to a magician of the Order of the Silevered Thorn, an exclusive occult society. He helped his master, Maecenas, work his rituals, but never developed the power for himself. His jealous ygrew and grew as he continued to fail to grasp any Gnostic enlightenment, but he kept it up because of the status it gave him. In 1858 (I think? The book says 1868 which is impossible from later stuff.), Hite oversaw the excavation of an Orphic temple in Macedonia, where they discovered a papyrus written in what would later be identified as Linear B. None of the Greek linguists could understand a word of it, and most thought it was gibberish made up to impress the cultists by their leaders. Hite, however, felt the writing was immensely important, and he abandoned all of his duties and his dig to work on translating it in the village of Derveni.
Ignoring all attempts to contact him by anyone - even the lawyers - Hite kept working until 1867, when he had a mostly complete translation. Sections were missing and the language was imperfect - parts of the text had been burned - but he had a ritual of sacrifice to Hecate that, if done right and at the right time, would allow you to murder a witch and steal their power. A normal, rational man would dismiss this as superstition, but Hite knew witches were real, that there were powers he could not comprehend, and he wanted them. He returned to London, claiming to have gotten ill, and returned to his life, both teaching and assisting Maecenas until the moon could become the proper crescent.
At last, Jacob Hite drugged his master with laudunum-laced tea and murdered him with a ritual dagger, gaining immense power and enlightenment. However, not even a week later, the magic began to leave him. Within a day of that, he could barely do the simplest spell, and he felt his wisdom flooding from his mind. Not long after, it was utterly gone. Something clearly went wrong. A month later, he tried again on a lesser magician he'd known. The power lasted only two days. Hite enlisted several other servant-apprentices who shared his resentment, trying to find what he did wrong. Initially they were horrified, but their greed proved too great, and all six men agreed to seek the secret together. They went slowly, throughout England, fearful that too many deaths in one place would draw attention. Over the next six years, they murdered at least 25 witches in Britain and Europe, constantly refining the Rite of Hecate. Its efficiency varied wildly - sometimes it lasted months, and they thought they must have solved it, and other times it failed utterly. Indeed, in one attempt in Paris in 1884, one of the original seven was torn apart by invisible claws as he performed the Rite. A rare few times, the Rite seemed to work perfectly, lasting over a year - and, in those cases, the successes ended up killed themselves by their fellows.
Members died in botched rites or at the hand of the witches they hunted. New members were initiated - almost always academics with a background in Greek linguistics and mythology. Jacob Hite moved to Vienna, setting up the Brotherhood's central lore repository. The loose cells throughout Europe regularly sent him reports of their newest hypotheses regarding the Rite of Hecate and what it was missing. Hite died on New Year's Day of 1900, apparently suicide. He had, the day before, successfully performed the Rite on an Austrian prophet known as the Nostradamus of Vienna. Even now, the Promethean Brotherhood debates whether he saw something that made him choose suicide or if he was just overcome by 20 years of failure. Leadership went to Heinrich Klopf, a scholar who focused more on study than field experiments, finding the waste of human life shameful and unscientific. He preferred to perfect the ritual first and leave this sloppy guesswork to the past.
In 1953, Linear B was fully deciphered by the world's academics, and many of the Promethean Brothers were certain their work was incomplete. However, the writing on the papyrus, now long since faithfully hand-copied many times to preserve the details of the characters, appeared to be from a form of Linear B, but carrying additional flourishes and variations hinting at a deeper layer of meaning. Those who successfully did the Rite claimed that, while their power lasted, they could instinctively understand its meaning, and most of the great strides towards understanding have been made by those who successfully performed the Rite. In the last 60 years, the Brotherhood has come far. Advances in computer technology and cryptography have advanced their understanding more in the past 50 years than the 100 before them. The compact's current leader is Jacob Hite's descendant, Dr. Alexander Hite, and he is a young, charismatic man who has organized and energized them. They have moved and expanded the Vienna headquarters three times in the last ten years, and their membership grows across Europe and even in some North American college towns. Actual performances of the Rite are less frequent, thanks to Knopf, but they tend to succeed a lot more than in the past. They believe they will fully understand the Rite within the next five years - at which point they can begin in earnest.
Witches have power, and that's what the Fire-Stealers want. They aren't really concerned with muchy beyond that. Sure, killing a crazy wizard is good for society, and many of them take comfort in the idea of eliminating threats to their communities, but really, they want power. Many come from the same background as Jacob Hite - acolytes or assistants to witches who never achieved the same level. They are often bitter, frustrated and uncaring about what kind of witches they kill. Others, particularly the more academic types, try to justify their work by practicing the Rite only on the worst witches - it's not really murder if they're doing humasn sacrifice, right? It's like using corpses of criminals for research! The Brotherhood focuses almost exclusively on magicians - it's what the Rite of Hecate is for, you know. They have little knowledge or awareness of other threats. Occasionally reports come in of Brothers trying to perform the Rite on vampires or other creatures, but it always fails. Still, sometimes they do still mistake other creatures for wizards, which sometimes improves their understanding and sometimes gets them killed. Occasionally, they have even hunted other hunters, particularly of the Lucifuge or Malleus, who look a lot like witches to the Fire-Stealers. The Aegis Kai Doru is also rather distrustful of them - they don't like actual witches, and don't like idiots stealing witch power without even learning how to use it right.
There are three main philosophies within the Brotherhood. The Orphic Temple believe the Rite of Hecate is unreliable not due to imperfect understanding, but imperfect belief. To do the Rite, one must both practice and believe in the Orphic Mysteries, and so they work to rediscover the old Orphic rites, acting as priests and supplicants to the old religions. The Cautionaries believe that the Brotherhood should not hunt until the Rite is completed. Serial, ritual murder is too risky for too uncertain a reward. Only a few sacrifices, carefully controlled, should be performed each year. The Experimentalists, on the other hand, believe the Rite should be taken in new directions, theorizing wildly about the parts that are incomplete or not fully translated. Some skin and wear the tanned hides of witches, some eat their hearts or blood, some kill slowly and painfully over quick kills. Many are nuts, and the rest of the Brotherhood tend to find them utterly disgusting. The Rite itself is, in fact, on the verge of bringing the Brotherhood to full conspiracy status - it's unreliable, but they've almost got it. Indeed, the game provides a Rite of Hecate endowment that you can use, which lets you steal a magician's Gnosis, gaining access to half of the witch's powers and all the effects of being a wizard, which last for days based on the victim's power.
Ascending Ones : Some of what they do looks like witchcraft, but their potions and oils don't provide enlightenment along with power.
The Cheiron Group : How very interesting. I wonder if what they do is all that dissimilar to what we do, just from a different angle? I'd love to compare notes sometime.
The Long Night : Avoid these fanatics. They hate witches, but they hate any sign of idolatry or "devil-worship" equally. Do you want to explain to a fundamentalist with a gun why you're setting up an Orphic altar and sharpening a brass dagger?
Lucifuge : So far, no one who has performed the Rite of Hecate on one of these gentlemen has succeeded. I'd dearly love to try for myself, though.
Status in the Brotherhood comes from identifying witches, performing the Rite of Hecate (especially if it works) and providing new insight into the Rite. At one dot, you are an initiate and have been told the purpose of the Fire-Stealers. You have begun your own studies and get the Language (Ancient Greek) merit free, plus an Academics specialty of Ancient Religions, Greek Mythology or Linguistics. At three dots, you have advanced your understanding significantly and have performed the Rite at least once. You've developed a support network to cover your tracks, gaining two dots of Allies. At five dots, you have a deep, nearly perfect understanding of the Rite, and have perofmred it several times to great insight. The Rite is three times easier for you than most people.
No actual relation to Prometheans.
Now, you find the Knights of Saint George all over. They sponsor Anglican newsletters, they run hostels, they're often the subject of conspiracy stories. They never take the spotlight, but they're who the conspiracy theorists turn to when Opus Dei gets boring. The Sacred Order of the Knights of Saint George hides in the Church of Engand, and some say they were originally founded by Knights Templar seeking refuge. Others say the Templars were patsies set up to distract from the Knights of Saint George, the true conspirators. History says they didn't exist until after the Reformation, but other sources can prove a direct lineage to Saint George himself. Whoever compiles the records, there's always doubt about their authentic participation in the Anglican Church. Whatever the truth, though, they are devoted. Almost all members are not actual knights, and only three in the past two centuries have had knighthoods, but they still call each other knights. Some have power and ifluence in society, helping the poor and sick, while others work among the people to make life better for them. Most keep their beliefs personal and will not mention God unless asked. They believe that love of God is spread by deed, not word.
The rise of evangelism in the Anglican Church has divided them. Some believe that the evangelists are good potential recruits, but the majority worry that anyone weak-minded enough to be duped by a propaganda course won't be ready for the truth. The Alpha course is more about conditioning and peer pressure than faith, and while it is popular, most Knights would prefer not to lower Christianity to the level of fringe religions - or so they claim. See, they've been lying for a very long time. Saint George, they know, slew the king of magical beasts, the dragon. The Knights hunt witches and magic-users, and have done so since long before Christ, because they know the truth.
The inner circle know there is no God, save for faceless angels beyond space and time, terrible things drawn by magic like moths to a flame. They do not worship these gods - they appease them, giving them magic so they don't come looking. The last time they failed was on June 30, 1908, in Tunguska. The focused interest of a faceless angel hit with a thousand times the force of the Hiroshima bomb, devastating 830 square miles of forest. They do not want that a second time. They have learned some secrets of their dark masters, enough to gain some power and ability to counter magic. Their power comes from the dreams of the faceless angels, and if they were to wake, the Knights would have no power. They focus on witches, but also hunt the products of magic that walk the earth. The walking dead are half-living creations of alchemical magic, given life and sin by their creators. Some of these monsters convert blood into magical life, while others run on stranger stuff. It doesn't matter - they create magical power by existing, so they must die. Werewolves are aberrations, shapeshifting magical traditions who fell from grace and forgot their true forms. They guard sites of mystic power, sites that magicians and the Knights both want. There are stranger things than that out there, too, and all forms of magic must be fouight and defeated.
Not, of course, that the Knights tell anyone their history or beliefs. You must first pass the First Revelation, a test of faith and duty, before you learn that magic is real. Many of them know nothing more, despite hunting magicians. Only those who devote themselves to the mission undergo further Revelations, and only those who test themselves to the limit learn the real truth. Once you know, that's it. You're stuck. No one leaves the Knights - it's impossible. Those who reveal their secrets will find themselves in padded cells in order-run asylums.
Before they became a knightly order, the Dragonslayers were just an unorganized collection of people. They didn't talk to each other, making up their own myths and ways of shaping the dreams of the faceless angels. They stood apart from other people since the dawn of civilization, killing witches. During the time of Christ and after, they continued. They were heathens, though, putting them outside the communities where magic hid. All that changed when Henry invaded Aquitane. He had a witch for an advisor, who cursed Richard the Liobheart, that he could not concentrate and that his men would obey him to the letter, not the spirit. For three weeks, he suffered. On the night before battle, one of Richard's advisors sought out a local group said to know the ways of magic, no friends to Henry the Young King. These men, dragonslayers, dissolved the curse and freed Richard, who won the day. Afterwards, he foudn the men, who told him they knew ancient truths, and brought him into their fold. In return, he founded the Knights of Saint George.
Richard was the last English king to embody Saint George, and after his initiation, that spirit primed the royal line to defeat magic. Every king has part of that spirit in them, no matter if they were born and raised poor, if they're women (and so queens) or even French. Later kings ignore the strange, horrible dreams that mark them as hereditary leaders of the Knights. Luckily, Richard had an illegitimate son, stolen and raised by the Knights. The blood still runs true, and the spirit of Saint George remains with the order. It's led the Knight Commanders to both victory in defeat. In the late 1500s, they went to America, finding more than magic to fight. They found natives who practiced the way of the dragonslayers, discovering many secrets from them in the guise of 'converting the heathens.' In 1892, a secret arm of the Pinkerton detectives burned down the Pittsburgh library of the Knights under cover of the Homestead Riots, destroying many priceless and uncopied documents and reports as well as killing five Knights. No one caught them, but most believe they worked for witches.
Where possible, the Knights induct Richard's illegitimate descendants. The commanders have so far all come from that bloodline, and they have the final say on who undergoes the First Revelation. Something about the bloodline means that without their blessing, the Spirit of Saint George won't help out. The current Knight Commander is an old man, and there are two potential challengers. One is a staunch traditionalist that would reform them around an elite core and cast out those who won't accept the Revelations. She's a woman, though, and most of the old guard would never take a woman as Knight Commander. The other wants to meld Gnostic and Goetic teachings with Anglicanism, and many Knights fear such a program would work against their history of lies and misdirection.
A preview of Knightly thought.
The Knights of Saint George have kidnapped many witches, gathering information by torture and interrogation. Some mystics say their magic comes from dragons. Others say they are agaents of another world. The testimony is hardly reliable, but enough have agreed on one of those two points for the order to believe them true. The true gods are matters of Scripture and Revelation, and no Knight believes a witch who claims to know otherwise. Even so, they have their own positions. Some say the 'dragons' are the natural adversary of their faceless gods, just as the One True God has Satan. Others say that the dragons are gods of another world, a reality that mages tap into via magic. The faceless angels police the boundary between these worlds. A few have stranger theories. The dragons are aliens, the angels a defense system seeded by future humanity. The source of amgic is a different dimension, and the angels slumber in the void between dimensions. They tend not to spread these theories around - they're heretics within the order, and would be hunted just the same.
Next time: Revelation.
Post 7Original SA post Witch Finders
There are three Revelations that must be passed through to understand the whole of the Knights of Saint George, a progression from the public face (Anglican religious order) to the true nature (magic-hunting heretics). There's no schedule - some Knights get through all three nearly imediately, others never get past the first. Those that are not beyond the First Revelation are still members, but Squires rather than Knights. They look after the front, running soup kitchens and hostels, keeping the finances in order and maintaining churches. They aren't expected to know about the supernatural, and if they do, they'll be getting the First Revelation or excommunication shortly. Every cell keeps a sacred space to perform the Revelations. The UK and a few urban US cells use full Knight churches, but others need to deal with things differently, begging the keys to small Anglican churches for midnight vigils or basing themselves out of a basement. The Knights keep in contact with each other even when on their own, though they often have only badly-scanned versions of important texts like the Key of Solomon, the Ars Goetia and the Gnostic Gospels - the original manuscripts rarely leave the main three Knight libraries in Seattle, New York and London.
After the First Revelation, initiates know that witches and stranger things walk this world in human form. Some receive it after showing promise in study, while others are forced into it after discovering the hidden world. Either way, that's when you become a Knight. You learn that mages draw power from outside the world, and are encouraged to study Christianity, particularly secret apocrypha. The Goetic Gospels particularly concern the power of wizards and ways to face them, by embodying your sins and facing them, you can inflict those sins on witches. While you get full access to the Knights' collection of information on wizards, you can't see everything . Some books are off-limits. You learn how to turn the power of witches back on them, but not of the dragons and the faceless angels. You get secrets to investigate, but must go carefully. The Knights will gently guide you away from mainstream Christianity, encouraging you to read ancient scriptures and focusing on Goetic discipline and devotion over contemplation of God. This is to prepare you for the Second Revelation.
The Second Revelation teaches secrets of the Knights as well as the world. Some have it thrust on them, but most show readiness by poking holes in Knightly doctrine or questioning how witches get power while forsaken by God. The Order inducts only those ready for the truth. To undergo the Second Revelation, you must reaffirm your faith in the order, spending a week in guided meditation and demonstrating your dedication to duty in the face of difficult situations. You are told, then, tha the Knights appease the old gods, destroying magic so that the faceless angels do not pay attention to this world. They learn that the Goetic Gospels have a secret truth - they shape the dreams of the faceless angels, using their power to defeat witches. They are told of the dragons, the immense beasts that bless mages with their power, and the order's history of dragonslaying. This helps break down the Knight's resistance to the heresy of the order, twisting their faith until it can accept. It's similar to cultic brainwashing, but subverts faith rather than destroying it. It seems to make sense, revealing the truth hidden beyond the First Revelation. A few Knights are too strong-willed for this to work, and usually they get cut loose without being told much. However, they're not perfect, and some Christian Knights keep their faith even in the face of the faceless angels and dragons. It's rare, and these people tend to disappear.
Many never move beyond the Second Revelation. They know the truth of the order and the enemy. They hold to their new faith and gain strength from it, removing magic from the world and dedicating it to the outer gods. That's all they need. For some, though, it isn't enough. They need to know why they fight magic. This comes at a price - the Third Revelation teaches secrets, but makes you a target for witches. Only a few members ever undergo it. The secret lacks field utility, but can be shocking, so it requires yet more guided worship and meditation to mold the mind until it can accept the truth. They are shown the Treatise of Saint George, a patchwork document outlining the secret history of the world as the knights see it, tying together the theology and beliefs into a history. Once, the world was paradise, but it could not last. Alone of all creatures in the universe, humans have a world to themselves. Angry creatures from beyond this world, the dragons, sought to take the paradise and shape it, bringing twisted magic with them. However, away from their home, they had not the power to use this knowledge. They found a source of power in humanity, giving some of them forbidden, corrupting knowledge. These people were the first witches, and they did not realize that whenever they used their magic, it made the world more suitable for the dragons. All they knew was that they had power. Under the rule of dragons, most people lived in fear of magic and its users noticing them.
At this time, 72 statues stood over the Earth, each a mile high. Each was a man, but with great wings and no face. Nobody knew what they were for until more dragons came. The statues moved, then, each faceless angel becoming an angine of war forcing the dragons out of the world. The witches remained, but lesser, without their draconic tutors. When enough magic gathers, the dragons can return. The faceless angels could stop them, but their destruction threatened to tear the world apart. The dragonslayers rose, then, killing witches and monsters and usng their power and holy places to empower the faceless angels who keep the dragons out. Since then, they have fought magic for fear that the faceless angels will again turn to watch this world - or worse, the dragons will overcome them. This is the final barrier for a Knight, and everyone who undergoes the Revelation learns it from the current Lionheart. (At the moment, a little old man masquerading as a collector of religious books in the city of York.) They are told of the need for secrecy, for only those who need to understand the truth to lead the order can know it. If it were otherwise, the servants of the dragons would long since have killed the Knights.
The Knights are very serious about their religion. They hold weekly prayer services and often work out of normal Anglican churches, to remind them that no matter how deep they get, they still represent the Sacred Order of the Knights of Saint George and are Christians. No matter what they do, they must appear to be virtuous Christians in public, or else they can't exist. Those who have passed the Second Revelation also attend secret services, often at the same churches on different nights. There, they make their peace with the faceless angels and dedicate themselves to the mission. They also trade information and stories at these times, and they study the Goetic Gospels.
The Order's main strength is in England, where their main library is, and around the secondary libraries in upstate New York and downtown Seattle. They can find safehouses anywhere there are Anglicans, but magical knowledge is much rarer outside of Europe or large urban areas in the US. Cells in most of the US often feel cut off, communicating via coded messages in newsletters and mailing lists. They can't get messages home with any real speed, so they often join into multi-cell 'chapters' to support each other in ways the Knight Commanders can't. In Europe, it's different. Ease of travel within the EU and the lesser focus on religion makes it easier for them to communicate. It can be harder to maintain their face as philanthropic Christians, however - some countries welcome them, but others, especially those with strong divide between Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox, they must be very careful. Places that used to be British territories still have safehouses for the Knights, and often they outlasted British rule via the Anglicans. Africa and India have strange magicians who work magic alien to Western mages, and the Knights have a headstart on them thanks to their Church affiliations.
Not that they only hunt witches - they hunt any magic, anywhere. They often use simple denial tactics, but in larger areas of power they'll set up surveillence and traps, since it's not that easy to deny access to both a sacred grove and haunted house at once. They know how to rededicate these places to the faceless angels, removing their magical power from reality. Some things slip the cracks, though - magic items, items of power. The flaming sword of the angel guarding Eden shows up at auction. A kid uses the pistol that killed Lincoln in a school shooting, and it never needs to be reloaded and is always fatal. An antique typewriter writes a single chapter of a murder mystery every night - a murder that hasn't happened yet, but always ends before the culprit is named. An early television has no aerial, showing only strange designs in blood and strange visions of Hell, from which strange demons sometimes watch back.
Sometimes you find weird places - a house larger inside than out, a manor that has spells woven into its interior design, a penthouse with no right angles that binds a strange creature inside. In thesep laces, the walls of the world are thin, and in other places. Strange things occur there, where magic s loose. Strangeness comes from magic, all over. It's a weird world, and they try to stop it. They know quite a bit - they have to, to properly identify and fight magic. They have many books on witches, often contradictory ones. Some say witches need long ritual, which is clearly not always true, but sometimes is. Some say that magic is just show and pageantry around psychic events - also sometimes true, but not often. The Knights are aware of all of this. They know that witches often gather in covens, much like hunter cells, to broaden their abilities and keep safe. This variety of power makes them very dangerous, and it's best to split the group up and deal with them singly. That way, you limit their power and keep them confused. The coven is weakened and the worst magic is prevented.
The Knights are aware of larger organizations of witches. They know that at least one group pursues strange artifacts and investigates weird places as 'mystery archaeologists.' Sometimes, you can infiltrate these groups, letting them do your work and then destroying them in secret. Others belong to a more militant group that infiltrates mundane conspiracies to distract them from real secrets, and these wizards are often very dangerous in combat. They are sure other groups exist, but lack evidence. They have identified three kinds of mages - Animists, Necromancers and Theists, who share magical styles and abilities granted by the dragons. Animists make deals with spirits, can invite possession and can alter their own bodies and the bodies of others, or curse people. Necromancers commune with the dead, command ghosts and may control physical matter, strengthening it with soulstuff or weakning it. Theists use the power of angels and demons, gaining power over natural forces, the minds of men and control over space itself. The Third Revelation knows that the differences between witches are just figments of their imaginations, but the rest of the order believes the dragons link different witches to different aspects of the otherworlds.
Mage to Hunter comparison.
As for what to do with witches, well, it's easy. If magic exists, the faceless angels will pay attention to the world. Thus, magic must be stopped. If you could somehow take magic from the mage but leave them alive, that'd be great. Sometimes brain damage works, but not always, and often it's just easier to kill them. Inevitably, the lure of magic will call to them while they live, after all. Watching a coven takes time you don't have,but you still need to do your homework. The Knights reduce some of that - they understand witches and how to fight them. Spells generally take a few seconds of concentration, and you have to go in hard and fast. Use the Gospels, surprise, explosives, even human shields. Do what must be done.
More monsters are out there, and the knights know about them. They also know that every threat lkeads back to a witch, even if not obviously. Supernatural beasts are magical, and that means they must be fought. They often hit the books to study these creatures, which they know less about. They know vampires don't care about crosses and garlic, but don't really know what does work, most of the time. They've found that vampires often collect mystical lore or objects, or assist necromancers. They know vampires are the alchemical creations of magical demiurges, turning human blood into magical life via a vampiric crucible. Once they find the link to the magical world, they s trike. Sunlight, they know, works decently well, but also know that vampires take home security seriously. They know silver bullets work on werewolves, and that werewolves guard mystic sites, which is often worth letting them do because it limits the amount of magic in the world. Sure, they're cursed to be wolves, but they aren't agents of the dragons, so a few knights will even make alliance with werewolf packs to fight witches. It doesn't always work - they don't always like to talk, and don't always see witches as threats - but it's worked often enough that most knights will try it. Of course, others know that some shape-changers are witches using magic, and don't trust werewolves at all because they do have magical power.
The Knights know that some necromancers will sew the dead together to make golems, which leak magic that makes people notice and hate them. It's easy to get people to fight them, but it's hard to keep the mob sane or keep secret truths away from them. Being publically Christian means they care about demons, and particularly so after the Second Reveliation, for they believe demons are related to the dragons. They have a wide range of information on demons, almost as much as on witches, but they know there's few shared traits. Banishing rituals sometimes work, but you have to know which to use each time. Observe and gather information first. Always observe before doing things.
As for humans with no connection to magic? The Knights have no remit to hunt them, but often find that the human targets of other hunts have some link to magic or witches. The rest are just sick, terrible people that abuse others, and the Knights often help take them out for moral reasons. The knights' experience dealing with mindbending magics means they tend to be fairly stable when confronted by serial killers and slashers, and most Knights know that slashers are avatars of sacrificial magic, existing to end lives. Their kills increase magic in the world, so they must be stopped as normal. What most will never know is that slashers have nothing to do with magic - their beliefs are the result of propaganda and misinformation by the Third Revelation to convince them that every possible threat ties back to magic. They know they're spreading a lie, but it's for the best of motives - if people knew about the nonmagical monsters, they'd look to witches as saviors. All supernatural power must be destroyed, even if that means lying to their own. Evern mad, powerless cults can be used by witches as pawns. Sometimes a Knight will go slasher, becoming maddened by their experiences and killing innocents to use new, untested Goetic Gospels that may or may not even exist. They may strike at their fellows for being in bed with blasphemous powers, especially if they crack during their initiation into the Second Revelation. These can be exceptionally dangerous and must be hunted as if they were witches.
The Knights divide themselves both by doctrine and method. There are three main arms, but many smaller specialized groups. The Congregation of Vasago are the support network. They oversee the Squires, buy the safehouses and supply equipment. Some are Anglican ministers or members of Anglican parishes. They also maintain the order archives and reports, acting as messengers and traveling teachers for the Revelations for isolated cells, often with the help of other hunters for protection. The Congregation of Foras hunt magic rather than witches - mostly crypids, hauntings, relics and inhuman creatures. Some have infiltrated witch groups with similar interests, using them to track down strangeness, hanging back and using them as stalking horses...sometimes even when they should act. They tend to be rather progressive in their faith, and while they'd never speak their heretical ideas about the angels in public, most understand they see things differently than other Knights. They do understand that their gods and magic are very dangerous, though. Most knights are part of the Congregation of Malthus - witchfinders. They hunt in the field, take out wizards and work out who the enemy is. They do the raids, they make the kills, they work on limited information often for lack of time. They are proactive, tracking serial killers, cults and other things in the hope of discovering covens. They often work with other hunters, and are usually paranoid about the order's security, ensuring that the secrets of the Revelations do not leave the order's hands.
The Long Night : I worked with a young man for a short time who showed a certain fanatical devotion to his cause. I saw fear in his eyes, and heard it in his voice, even after we'd chloroformed our target. Only later did I realize what scared him: that his God would find him wanting even after all he had done. He fought like the Devil, though. I don't know if the Revelations would come as a great comfort to him, or make me his next target.
The Loyalists of Thule : I was investigating the gardens of a villa outside Turin when they appeared. There I was, trying to find a way to bleed off the magic without attracting attention, and a cell appeared, offering their services. All I had to do was make sure that they got "their cut" of information. They made one mistake: they didn't tell me anything about them. I've encountered too many witches who hunt for the same secrets as I do to trust anyone appearing on my site.
The Lucifuge : Children of the Devil? Hardly. Most likely they're a bunch of mutations, quirks in the world caused by magic bleeding in from the background. That'd make them a problem if they went the same way as most witches, but in their madness they're out to stop the strange and the weird from taking over the world. They're useful allies, but if they learned the truth I fear they'd tie their devil in to our angels.
Task Force: VALKYRIE : We have to be careful when rededicating mystical energy. It's all too easy for the big guns to notice, and when they notice, they send their Men in Black. We have a hell of a time convincing them that we're on the same side. If you do convince them, they're a big help. If there's no chance you can get useful information out of a bunch of witches, drop these guys on them then grab whatever's left and count yourself lucky.
Status in the Knights is a mix of initiation into the Revelations and capturing mystic knowledge. Many of the upper echelon have been doing this a long time, so it takes a lot of achievement to get respect, and it's also hard for a Knight with only the First Revelation to grasp the direction and decisions that must be made. At one dot, you've undergone the First Revelation and know that magic is real. You have been shown how to use the Goetic Gospels to deny wizards their power, but don't know the truth of the order or understand why its goals seem un-Christian at times. You can buy Goetic Gospel merits. At three dots, you've taken the Second Revelation and cannot turn back. You have destroyed magical relics and tried to rehab witches. You've got access to the libraries and spent time there, gaining 9-again on Occult rolls related to witches and magic. At five dots, you know the secret truths of the Third Revleation. You know you are fighting for all of history, past, present and future, and get a three-dot Retainer to help you.
Next time: Mechanics.
Post 8Original SA post Witch Finders
As always, we start with new Tactics. This time around, we get stuff like 'corrupting magical places so they stop producing magic' or 'distract people' or 'perform a magic-removing lobotomy.' Yeah. Let's move on to powers.
Task Force: VALKYRIE hasn't much gotten an anti-magic gun, but they do have the Screamer Pistol (3 dots). If you can't concentrate, you can't cast spells. Stopping a spell in action is hard, but disrupting concentration is easier. The screamer pistol generates a beam of ultra-low-frequency sound which, at a distance, leads to hallucination and altered consciousness. At close range, it destroys the ability to concentrate and, in extreme cases, can hit the resonant frequency of the human bowel, causing it to violently vacate itself. Good luck casting a spell through that! This works on anything with a sense of balance and coherent thought processes...except werewolves, who appearently just get really angry.
The Malleus have access to the Revelationes Coelestes. Basically, they believe that magic is a pollution, like tainted blood. Historically, due to societal misogyny, menstrual blood was also seen as corrupt, so Saint Birgitta of Sweden wouldn't let her nuns ever touch altar clothes with their bare hands. The Benediction's name comes from her celestial revelations, because this Benediction highlights the 'pollution' of witches by forcing any witches nearby to spontaneously blood from various orificies - mouth, eyes, nose, occasionally vagina. ("[A] female witch might have her menses early.") No wounds, but it makes doing shit rather difficult.
The Lucifuge believe that part of Hell is the Abyss, the Formless Land and the Void. Nobody knows the truth, but they know that witches are terrified of creatures from 'the Abyss.' They can use the Abyssal Bondage to channel the witch's shadow with Abyssal energies, consuming their magic. You can't contain that power within you - it'd kill you at best . But you channel it, pouring it into a handful of your own blood, freshly drawn. You splash the blood on the witch, and it warps their magic out of control. It's painful, but if it works, the target's magic goes haywire - it targets itself randomly, or if you give even more deeply of your blood, the spell's nature also twists, doing something entirely unrelated to what the witch desired.
The Ascending Ones have discovered that many monsters hide themselves in human form - or are entirely human. By mixing dimethyl triptamine, or DMT, with alchemical reagents and the vitreous humor of a human eye, they create the thin, glowing liquid called Tallyman's Eyes (3 dots). It shows the hidden essence of the supernatural. You put three drops in your eyes...or you shoot it up into your pupils. That makes it last longer, but it won't wash out and can permanently fuck up your vision. While using it, you'll identify just about any magic-user on sight, as long as you can see them normally. You can also resist any mind-altering powers of anyone you know to be a magic-user. It lasts for only a few minutes with eyedrops, but for quite a while with injection. Sometimes, you can even tell when an area is magical.
The Aegis Kai Doru have many strange, witch-made artifacts. One of them is the Centurion's Gladius (5 dots). They have discovered only four in the world, each an ancient Roman sword found in an unmarked grave. Strange patterns and runes form on the corrodoed blades, moving while watched. No two have the same marks but all share the same abilities. Any enchanted item struck by the blade loses all power, reverting to mundane form temporarily. They appear indestructible and immune to magic despite looking fragile. They're exceptionally poor weapons in combat unless you wipe some of your own fresh blade across the blade, however, making it as sharp and well-balanced as it was the day it was forged. Downside - you can only use one of its powers each day, so it's either anti-magic or a good sword.
Witches, uniquely, have little biology for Cheiron to harvest, but magic-eating critters do. Cheiron has found enough unearthly creatures that eat magic that they believe they are the animal life of some alien world. One of the more common ones they've found is about the size of a cockroach, the Agonizer (4 dots), that buries itself in the base of a human throat, then attaches to the brain, spinning new nerve fibers through the body. These act as antenna to detect and consume magical fields. The host acts strangely, seeking out and researching weird places and occult sites. Even then, those that Cheiron doesn't find die out. There's not enough magic around. Cheiron isn't monstrous, mostly, and they don't expect field ops to give up their brains to the job. That would be wrong. Instead, they trim the nerve-antennae down and attach them to four-inch metal spikes, then implant the bug on the outside of your right arm, with each spike flat just under the right palm. Flexing your wrist pops the spikes out and turns the area of the palm between them brown, like old blood. You do have to keep your Agonizer happy, though. Sometimes a walk through a magical field will do it, but more often you have to spike a witch, allowing the critter to devour the magic out of their soul, crippling them with pain. Your other option is that it tries to do that to you. The Agonizer eats magic, y'see, and it will weaken magical places and drain power from witches rather than dealing damage. But if you don't feed it each week, it will fuck you up.
So, the Goetic Gospels. They're based in Christian iconography, but the text they draw from is not Christian. The First Revelation of the Knights of Saint George believe they are a forgotten teaching of Christ, giving his Apostles the power to cast out devils in their souls in order to turn them on their foes. To the higher Revelations, they are a mystery, a cipher of secret knowledge on the ancient gods. Either way, they are an immensely powerful tool. Many of their powers require a meditative state - which for the Knights entails acting in oneness with the darkness within themselves and outside the universe - a sort of perfect emptiness, without joy or pain, for as long as they are not grievously harmed, do not have their sanity broken and have some willpower left. There are three types of Goetic Gospels, which you assign dots to seperately. You have the Gospel of Amon, which lets you torment witches with demons and magnify their flaws. There's the Gospel of Beleth, which lets you poison magical energy that witches draw on. And there is the Gospel of Agares, which lets you disrupt and destroy magical effects. The Gospels themselves are holy texts teaching you how to vanquish the demon they are named for, and the secrets of the powers are contained within them. Each Gospel has five dots, but you can't have more than five total dots of Gospels without going insane. Each dot above the fifth is going to drive you horribly, madly insane. You may, however, reassign your dots via meditation, prayer and mortification of the flesh.
The Gospel of Agares is often seen as the most 'important' Gospel practically, as it fights magic directly. At one dot, it has the Lie of the Heart. By invoking a demon of falsehood, you shield yourself from active magic. Any currently active spells ignore you as long as your power is greater than theres - you can walk through wards, for example, without triggering them. Any spell cast directly at you still works, however. At two dots, there is Crocodile Armor, for the god-king Agares appears an old man riding a crocodile, carrying a goshawk. The crocodile imagery calls forth a minor demon that manifests to deflect magic, giving Armor that solely functions against spells and magic weapons. At 3 dots, there is Agares' Goshawk. By meditating on it and terrible wrath,m the Knight conjures a goshawk demon that tears apart an active spell - it might destroy a ward or unravel an empowering spell. It's slow, but it works well. At four dots, there is Envy's Barb. Most Knights would never admit to envying magic, but they do. By channeling that, they may summon forth a demon that hates all magic, anything the user does not have. It spots spells, latches onto them as the source of envy and counters them as they occur. By mortifying the flesh and harming yourself, you can also harm the witch as the spell is eaten. (And no, it doesn't prevent Paradox.) At 5 dots, there is Flagellant's Denial. Moritification of the flesh is potent, providing pride and righteousness via devotion. Channeling that pride summons forth a demon, an avatar of Agares, which prevents magic from working around the user. The more you hurt yourself, the more powerful the magic it will prevent. It just won't work until you leave.
The Gospel of Amon allows you to exploit the debasement of your foes. While doctrine says it's used only on witches, it works on just about anyone, with the exception of the final power. At one dot, Stolen Vice allows you to call forth a demon from one of your own sins and send it to bedevil someone, stealing the rush of willpower that comes from indulging vice and even, with some mortification, sending it back to you. At two dots, there are the Maddening Whispers, where you call up your own wickedness to send madness to your victim. You manifest a demon, which latches onto your target and drives them insane, or very insane if you mortify your flesh, for 24 hours to a week, as long as you can see the victim in some form of recorded media. At 3 dots, there's Magpie Mysteries. Magpies are symbols of greed, and by channeling your greed you send a demon that steals the power of a witch to use any single Mystery - basically, one type of magic. Any spells the witch has already cast stay active, but they can't do new ones. And mortification lets you pick two. It doesn't usually last very long, but it only has to be long enough. At four dots, there is the Vicious Cycle. You set a sin demon on someone and they relive their worst actions, making rolls for degeneration as if they had just done it. If they fail, they are penalized on all rolls and can't regain Willpower from Virtue. Moritification makes it seem even worse than it actually was. The final and 5-dot power, Demon King of Nothing, requires mortification of the flesh while meditating on pure nothingness inside you. You draw it out, conjuring a terrible demon that takes root in a witch's soul. Any spell they cast results in Paradox, not just vulgar or failed magic. You can make it worse by dealing even more damage to yourself. Basically, you fuck a witch up so bad that all their magic is going to backfire on them, or at least might.
The Gospel of Beleth is only 45 years old - it was discovered in an ancient temple in the Middle East, long forgotten by time. Its teachings are as yet not fully understood, and only three of its hidden powers have been unlocked, but surely there are more waiting. At one dot, you summon the Gluttonous Devourer by focusing on your own gluttony and conjuring it up. The imp you create latches onto a witch, preventing them from generating Source, or Mana, or whatever you want to call it. It will devour any Source they receive for a while, then vanish - but if you mortify yourself, they'll also be exhausted just by the attempt, too. At two dots is Servitor of Sloth, which lets you channel your own sloth to force a witch into lethargy and malaise, requiring them to expend an effort of will just to use their magic, a very difficult one if you mortify yourself. And so far, the final power is at 3 dots, Poison Baubles. You mortify your flesh and call on your wrath to summon a demon up to poison a witch's Source, causing them terrible pain the more power they are currently containing within their bodies.
Goetic demon crossover stuff.
We then get some basic rules for how to run witches. They get a Gnosis trait that grants them access to Mysteries of various power levels - stuff like Disease or Foretelling or Fortune or Hearth or Passion at tier 1, Health, Mind, Nature, Shadow and Twilight at tier 2 and Elements, Space, Supernal, Time and Transmutation at tier 3, which requires Gnosis 5 to use. (It's a 1-5 scale.) Mages spend Source to do magic, and gather it in a way based on their primary Mystery. Not all spells require Source, however.
We also get a new merit: Gifted, 1-5 dots. A Gifted person has an innate power, the ability to cast a single spell. They can never become a full witch, but they don't need any Source, replacing any Source costs with Willpower. They never suffer Paradox and you can take Gifted multiple times. However, more potent magic harms the body when channeled this way - tier 2 spells cause bashing damage from headaches and bruising, while tier 3 causes lethal damage from nosebleeds or heart palpitations the first time they get used per scene. With ST approval, a Hunter may take the Gifted merit. We get basic guidelines for how to design up custom spells and rituals, and example spells for each Mystery.
Next time: ST section.
Post 9Original SA post Witch Finders
First up, we get an essay on how Mages are uniquely a moral challenge for Hunters. They have strange powers, yes, but those include mind control, subtly or brazenly commanding Hunters to fight among themselves. How do you deal with someone who can turn you on your friends and family? And even without that, they're morally a problem. It's easy to wonder whether their powers can be used for good. Witches can justify themselves amazingly well, and before you know it, you're trusting them, listening to them. And that's not always a good idea. (In fact, it rarely is.) Plus, they look like humans. They are humans. They can hide in plain sight in ways even werewolves and vampires can't. They live like anyone else, often have jobs and families. They can pretend to be normal. Figuring out how to spot them is a challenge just as hard as taking them down. They can control coincidences - and that can easily drive you to paranoia.
We get some essays on the many ways to classify witches - what they can do, how they can do it, how powerful they are, why they do it. Witches are a diverse and highly ambiguous prey for a hunter, and the GM shouldn't shy away from that. What does a Long Night guy do when he runs into a devout Christian healer-mage? How does the Lucifuge handle someone who seems to be channeling the will of God? What about someone who can move stuff with his mind - is that a witch if that's all they can do?
We then get a magical history of Philadelphia, starting with the Lenape and heading into the modern period. Buried in here are some new relics. The Ohtas are found largely around Philly, and many museums have one, but few know they are powerful. They are hand-sized human figurines made of wood, between six and ten inches tall. The wood is always local and always Lenape. Most are faceless, and some actually look rather like angels. The wielder cannot act against the Lenape or their descendants without suffering a grave curse against whatever they do. However, when activated, these statues bless the user, granting them skill at whatever they do, particularly if it assists the Lenape or their descendants.
There's also the Hex Sign (1-5 dots), a folkloric magic of the Pennsylvania Dutch. These relics are rare - the actual magical ones need to have been painted or forged by those who had 'the touch,' but if they are found they can be activated. (Apparently, all of the actually working ones were made by the Pennsylvania Dutch or those with their blood.) The power of the relic limits its spread - the weaker ones can cover a hundred square yards, while the strongest only cover one room. Depending on the symbols involved, they do different fings. The Distelfink (a sort of mythological lark) brings happiness and helps resist insanity. A double-headed eagle grants courage and strength of will. Hearts improve your charisma. An oak leaf makes you stringer, smarter and more charismatic. Tulips protect against magical attack. A black outer ring assists with unity and teamwork, while a brown one resists disease and a wavey one grants skill in manipulating others. A 6-petaled rosette prevents bad luck, while a 12-petaled one allows you to retry when you fail. Eight-pointed stars give skill and knowledge, and wheat grants prosperity.
The Philly section is actually pretty good, save for defining what actually happened during the Philadelphia Experiment. (Why would you do that?) I suggest reading it yourself.
Next time: Spirit Slayers.