The default setting for Nevermore assumes that all of the protagonists are part of the same mystical organization, the Esoteric Order of the Illuminous. The existence of the Order gives the protagonists common ground to start from and reason to be working together. This also creates the assumption that they are all aware of the aethyr and the occult. Of course, it is possible to play the game without the protagonists being members of the Order (or even cabals, for that matter). Rules and guidelines for telling more traditional gothic stories will be included in the game. However, today, we’re going to explore the history and organization of the Esoteric Order of the Illuminous.
Origins of the Order
The Esoteric Order of the Illuminous, or simply the Order, is a worldwide organization that has existed for at least 900 years. However, evidence suggests that it has existed in some form or another for much longer. According to the Order’s records, the first official gathering took place in Constantinople in 989 CE. The initial gathering consisted of members of the Soldiers of Mithras, Ravens, Disciples of the Emerald Tablet and the Scholars of Mu. The Theurgists were brought in around the 12th century and both the Rooks and Aethyric Engineers in the 16th century. (I’ll be exploring the history and origins of the cabals in future posts, but for now, you can find some basic information on the website. See https://nepenthegames.com/cabals/)
The primary purpose and goal of the Order, above all things, is to protect humanity from aethyric entities and to destroy every aethyros they discover. All other considerations come after this directive. Early in the Order’s existence, there were discussions about keeping and monitoring some of the more benign aethyros to conduct research and experimentation. The ability to have a “safe” place to harvest raw aethyr is attractive to some cabals, notably the Aethyric Engineers, Disciples of the Emerald Tablet, and the Theurgists. Still, it has been deemed to be not worth the risk. It is the belief of the Order that every active aethyros, even those that appear to be benign, poses a threat to the safety of humanity.
The Esoteric Order of the Illuminous is composed of lodges that can be found worldwide. The lodge is the place where the members of the Order gather to plan their next course of action. It often has a library or workshops where members conduct research and experimentation. Some members might even live at the lodge and it can also be a place to relax or even entertain.
There is no official leadership, although a gathering occurs every decade, which members from lodges around the world attend to share information and discuss the future of the Order. New directives are also established during these gatherings. Lodges can be found in most major cities in America and occasionally in smaller towns or rural settings, although these lodges tend to be rather small. Currently, the majority of the Order’s lodges are located on the East Coast, although one was recently founded in San Francisco.
A lodge usually tries to recruit members from different cabals to maintain a balance of proficiencies. They even recruit from outside their region if they find themselves lacking in a vital area. Day-to-day operation is left to individual lodges, and many function by consensus, although most have a member who acts as their organizer or leader. The leader or organizer is often one of the lodge’s older members, often retired from active investigation. They most often come from among the Ravens or the Soldiers of Mithras, although this is not always the case.
Conflict from Within and Without
The Order is currently in a state of disarray, more troubling than anything since its founding. The European lodges recently dealt with an internal conflict that has left them in disarray. Exactly what happened is unclear, but by all accounts, several of the prominent lodges were infiltrated by the Arcanum (the mortal foes of the Order). Communication has been spotty at best, and many of the lodges have gone dark, leaving their fate open to speculation.
In America, the Civil War fractured cooperation between the lodges. While some tenuous communication remains, most lodges currently function independently, and there is no central governance. During the War, several lodges were utterly destroyed and their members scattered. And perhaps most devastating, the main repository of the American Scholars of Mu, located in Philadelphia, was sacked during a riot in 1844, and many of their rarest books were stolen. It has never been discovered who conducted the theft or where the missing items have gone. Northern lodges cast a wary eye at their Southern counterparts, but it is also believed that the theft may have been a prelude to the magical war in Europe. The question is, are there still Arcanum hidden amongst the American lodges or were they somehow spared the same fate as thier European allies.
An Uncertain Future
To say the Order is struggling would be an understatement. With communications in disarray, the sharing of knowledge and resources is limited, and as a result, each lodge is left more or less to its own devices. Additionally, the incidences and occurrences of aethyros appear to be on the rise. And organizations that practice dark magic, such as the Arcanum, have come to America, where they seek to establish a foothold. Only time (and our protagonists) will tell if the Order survives the rising darkness.