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Guardians of the Veil
Awakened society has always had its share of rebels and strange geniuses, mages who could never accept the easy answers of Atlantean tradition. The Silver Ladder cast them out, the Adamantine Arrow refused to protect them, and the Mysterium expunged their words from history. But the Awakened have always been sensitive to the spirit of an age, and there have been times when the trickle of malcontent grew to a flood. These eras coincided with some of the greatest achievements in human history, but also its wars and disasters. Do mages cause such events or take their lessons to heart? So many layers of conspiracy exist between mages and Sleeping humanity that it's nigh impossible to tell who bears the burden of history, but during these pivotal periods, arcane knowledge increases. In the early 19th Century, cabals across Europe expounded a startling theory: that these events led to genuinely new occult praxes, not mere shadows of Atlantis. Men and women were not as weak as the Exarchs supposed, and strained against their prison across the generations.
- Leadership: Syndic
The elder orders would have you think that the Free Council consists of poorly trained punks and political blowhards who endanger everyone around them with poorly wrought spells, and who defile the Supernal World with every ill-considered touch. Sometimes, that's true. For their part, novice mages might speak up for the Free Council out of sheer contrariness, but might also seek to escape the burden of apprenticeship. Many mages treat their pupils as slaves and cannon fodder in battles for ancient lore. A few masters even cripple their apprentice's development because they're afraid of being surpassed. Resentment builds and apprentices leave.
The Free Council offers an environment in which young mages' ideas are debated freely, but novices who expect total license to act as they see fit are in for a surprise. The Free Council takes democracy seriously, but doesn't take to every notion - and there are many - that is flung on the table. Like mages everywhere, Libertines lead dangerous lives fighting rivals and searching for magical power. They believe in security and mutual aid. Empty rebellion doesn't help either. After running the gauntlet of debate and the sporadic violence of Council missions, survivors are tempered into idealistic but practical occultists with a flexible set of capabilities. Libertines tend to be generalists outside of their arcane specialties. An intense interest in culture and technology, and a certain amount of iconoclasm, makes the ideal member a combination of engineer, anthropologist, and guerrilla.
Young mages aren't the only ones who join the Free Council, however. Veteran sorcerers align themselves with the Order either to reject their former, corrupt allegiances or to explore radical occult theories. Experienced defectors add political clout and arcane power to the cause.
Libertines all have a common interest in contemporary culture and tend to be skeptical of Atlantean heritage. Some of them doubt that Atlantis ever even existed. In any event, they believe that it's useless to limit themselves to tradition. If Atlantis existed in any age, it should be the future and should be a better place than any legend describes. Of course, Free Council members rarely agree on the best model for an Awakened - or mundane - society. Their sanctums ring with the competing voices of anarchists, free-market capitalists, and partisans of countless other doctrines.
Volumes have been written (and duels fought) about what Libertines ought to believe. Despite this, members hold little in common aside from the charter of unity forged at the dawn of the 20th century.
- Democracy seeks the truth; hierarchy fosters the Lie - The Quiescence does more than blind Sleepers to the great truths of existence. It creates a way of thinking that causes them to lie to each other by diluting power through society's ranks, creating hierarchies to control the spread of knowledge. This is a radical enough claim by itself, but the Free Council goes a step further and postulates that even mages are cursed to trap their lore in hierarchies of mutual deception. Every generation loses a bit of lore that was concealed in the highest levels of initiation and never passed on. Subsequently, the secrets of Atlantis (if it isn't a lie) have been filtered through so many masters and apprentices that they're nearly useless. Only shattered discovery and free debate can throw off the Lie.
- Humanity is magical; human works have arcane secrets - The Free Council believes that humanity never really forgot the secrets of magic. Human beings instinctively create their own miracles. These are only shadows of the potential they could attain if they Awakened, but they point to new ways of understanding magic. Technology and culture have their own secret laws and symbols, drawn from Supernal regions still waiting to be discovered. Libertines embrace a modern vision of magic drawn from human accomplishments, not hoary myths. This doesn't mean that magic comes only from modern technology and mass media, though. Many Libertines believe that pre-industrial and developing societies have been making their own discoveries throughout Sleeping history and that it's a mistake to cleave too closely to modern Western values. Of course, other Council cabals believe the opposite: that the Enlightenment and its heirs are the only streams of human history worth paying attention to. What both groups have in common is that they see these developments as new and vital in their own right instead of scrambled memories of Atlantean glory.
- Destroy the followers of the Lie - This is one of the most contentious points of agreement among Free Council cabals. While all agree that the Seers of the Throne are the most extreme proponents of the Lie, they do not have any consensus on how to reform Awakened society away from its authoritarian traditions. The most radical cells espouse revolutionary war against the Silver Ladder and their collaborators, but others believe that a peaceful campaign of cooperation and Consilium-level reform will gradually persuade other mages to abandon their outmoded hierarchies.
Rituals and Observances
The Free Council has existed for little over a century, so members know that the Order's traditions were invented, not revealed. The spirit of invention and adaptation persists, so Free Council cabals regularly invent rituals and conventions that suit their own interests.
- Assembly - Free Council cabals are run democratically, either by absolute consensus or majority vote. In addition, cabals often form regional Assemblies as an alternative to the local Consilium. Individual groups send syndics (see below) to the Assembly, who in turn formulate proposals to be voted on by every mage represented. Some Assemblies require members to forswear association with a Consilium, but most do not. Even so, the collective power of a well-run Assembly can decisively sway a Consilium, since all members share a commitment to a particular policy. A variation known as the Column organizes mages in battles against their enemies. While any democratically governed cabal is allowed to join an Assembly, Libertine mages invariably make up the majority of their ranks.
- Lorehouses - The Free Council's mission to renew the arcane arts can be realized only by the easy exchange of magical discoveries. The Lorehouse system assists that transaction by providing an open storehouse of magical knowledge. This doesn't always mean it's easy to get access to a Lorehouse; its controlling cabal dictates any requirements. Some Lorehouses use a free-market model, selling their stock to any mage who can meet the price in hard cash, Mana or barter. Others serve only cabals that profess an ideology acceptable to the Lorehouse's owners.
- Techne - The order prefers to call its style of magic techne, a Greek word meaning a skill or art. Techne is not just an application of ancient Atlantean techniques, but a philosophy combining technology, art and culture to produce magic that is relevant in a modern context. While other orders cling to a tradition belonging to an ancient past, the Free Council forges ahead to new horizons.