Ok. Here’s Part IV. I’ll be talking about the ascendance of Camelot, its fall, the Venatori, and lots of other little things that in turn lead to the rise of the Conclave amid the birth of a new nation – The United States of America.
The Ascendance and Fall of Camelot
After Arthur drew the sword, everything changed. The Britons had a king who had both power and the worth to wield that power rightly. Through steel, diplomacy, and sheer will Arthur forged a kingdom out of chaos. Others may have called themselves king, but he was the King and they knew it. It was during this time that Arthur created the Knights of the Round Table to help him dispense justice throughout the land. (He also gained Excalibur from the Ladies in the Lake at some point during this time, but sources are conflicted on when or how. Many think he grew unworthy of his weapon and it left him only for him to gain Excalibur in exchange during an epiphany.)
The usual cycle of Camelot takes place more or less as is expected (Lancelot comes along falls in love with Arthur’s Queen, Arthur dies at Camlann, etc.). Some high points:
- Merlin uses the power of Stonehenge to assemble the bricks of the fallen Tower of Babel. With them he assembles the tower and uses its power to cast multiple spells so mind-bendingly impossible that they have become the stuff of legend. Merlin created the Mists (the magical force that hides the supernatural from mortal eyes) which took centuries to fully propagate. He created dozens of magical artifacts and spells and laid terrible curses and geas on others.
- Merlin seizes the Conclave using the power the Tower gives him and forges it into something more worthy of its mission. Many knights become members and Merlin searches the land for the magically gifted to help them hone their powers and join the Conclave. It’s structure would stay the way he made it for almost 1500 years before modernized.
- Merlin was eventually murdered by Vortigan (now a vampire) with the help of Nimue, but not before he imprisoned both women (for what happened to Nimue happened to Vivian) and the undead warlord. In doing so, his last act (because it took him over a month to die thanks to the spells he’d woven over himself) he created the Labyrinth. An extradimensional prison. He gave the keys of the Labyrinth, multiple prophecies, and custodianship of his remaining spells to 19 of the remaining Knights of the Round table before sealing the Tower of Babel using Excalibur and then hurling the blade into the Labyrinth where it remains. The it was unknown until the end, the Round Table itself was forged from stones from the Tower of Babel making it impossible to use, but for one who had already claimed the Tower (this would become important much later on).
- Merlin’s death resulted in multiple students and fellows of his forming the Venatori instead of joining the Conclave. The Venatori would hunt the creatures of the night for centuries before being subsumed into the Knights Templar, reinventing themselves as the Venatori once more, only to lose so many members that only a few of Merlin’s monster hunters remain to modern times.
The Conclave and the Custos
The Conclave, newly reminded of its mission by the implacable Merlin, entered a golden age as they managed to mostly balance the various powers of the supernatural political world against one another. Before Merlin, the Conclave was mostly a moderately sized group of sorcerers who handled conflicts between the supernatural factions, studied magic, and did little else. Merlin was the one who decided to bring in hedge magic users, psychics (though at the time they were just thought to be another form of magic), and even non-mages who provided physical muscle to the group. Before this, the Conclave didn’t have “teeth” and thus it could barely perform its function within the supernatural world – to keep the Covenant as God had commanded. Merlin hadn’t been all that religious, but the Covenant was as good a way as any to keep humanity from the predations of the more malicious ceteri (supernatural folk).
The remaining few knights that stayed (who became known as the Illustrious Nineteen in Custos History) recruited solely from sorcerers who had passed their Trials and were physically and mentally fit enough to survive the brutal training they devised. In the end, it made the nascent organization tough enough, smart enough, and powerful enough that they survived two insurrections from rogue Houses (magical groups lead by a single family) and a coordinated effort by the vampire tribes to completely tear down the Conclave – all while doing their job. They were also charged with keeping and maintaining multiple spells Merlin had cast that had yet to be fully formed. They also were in charge of keeping the Vallum – the wall between the land of the living and the dead/supernatural – whole and functioning. This also included the Mists, a semi-alive supernatural construct that could make the un-illuminated skeptical or downright disbelieving of the supernatural and allowed the ceteri to hide. As administrators of the Mists and its maintenance, the custos are the keepers of one of Merlin’s last acts on Earth and one of his mightiest spells. A duty they do not take lightly. The order put down rebellions, maintained the dominance of the Conclave over the supernatural world, and did it all behind the scenes so as not to draw suspicion. (Something that would lead to a partial splitting of the order later on.)
In 1119, Godfrey de Saint-Omer (a member of the Venatori) was offered a chance to build a new – and openly operating – knighthood under his friend Hugues de Payens. This caused the loss of several custos and all about destroyed the Venatori in name and function. The Templars were openly formed to keep pilgrims safe on the road to the Holy Land from brigands and bandits. Secretly they were there to destroy one of the most massive vampire incursions the world has ever known. Vampire “lords” openly ruled villages and cities exacting a blood price from inhabitants.
The custos did what they could, but when the Templars focused solely on the problem, more than a few knights were relieved. Watching the Houses was busy enough work at the time. After the order was disbanded many Templars returned to the fold of the custos, while others rejoined the now small Venatori. Of particular note were the most devout of them forming the Gladius Dei and fully rejoining the church as their own private organization of monster hunters – if it wasn’t human, it was a monster.
The Second Night War and The Finding of the New World
Sometime around 1346, one of the Four Horseman was successfully summoned into our world by a warlock seeking power. Pestilence rode across the land decimating three-fifths of the population with the Black Death before the custos and the Conclave banished him. Many blamed the custos for not finding the warlock sooner, while others protected their grim and silent guardians. It was shortly after this that the Conclave completely banned the summoning and binding of demons or the dead and attached to it a grisly and final price – death. This resulted in the First Breaking of the Houses an all-out war between the Conclave as an institution along with its allies against the so called “Night Houses.” These Night Houses were once part of the Conclave, but rebelled at being told what sort of magic they could practice. Up until then the Conclave was a ruling body with few rules. They mostly dealt with non-human relations, keeping the peace, etc. Their banning necromancy and demon summoning for even the Conclave’s members enraged them to the point of open sedition and rebellion. The custos of the day put down the rebellion, but at great cost to themselves. Fully half of them were slain during the ensuing battles and an entire generation were crippled in mind or body after the seeing the horrors summoned from up from the pits of Hell. It was during this time that the Conclave nearly dissolved as a group thanks to infighting on what to do, greed, and other woes within the ruling body.
After the new world was discovered it was the custos who urged the ruling body of the Conclave to settle anew in the lush lands to the west. The Conclave had become a toothless joke, barely able to keep itself together. A fact that many of the Great Houses took advantage of; ruling it in all but name. Unable to fix the corruption that had spread deep within it, the remaining members of the Conclave that were loyal to it and not some House – along with several Houses who wanted a new start – fled to the New World and left the Old World to find its own way. The Conclave would find new purpose in the new land and when the Thirteen Colonies declared independence they helped the nascent nation by protecting against hexes and curses flung at it from across the sea, fought supernatural saboteurs, and otherwise defended it from the madness of the English monarch of the day.
Picking Over the Bones
Oy. That’s another one down and I think only one more remains. The modern day events (anything after 1900 or so) and the current state of Ceteri. Any comments? Questions? I want to hear them.