Gold & Green
The Adamantine Arrow
The Arrow makes up more than a third of all mages within Sacramento’s borders at any given time, but fewer actually call the City home, and fewer still are involved in its politics. Arrows, as an Order, are the single largest presence in the cabals laying careful siege to the Bay, and the exhausting rigors of surveillance, counter-surveillance, and combat mean that they’re rotated out of the front regularly, granted time to rest and recharge. In Sacramento proper, the Order is led by the city’s Hierarch, the famous Life and Death master Téméraire. The Moros councilor serves well, but reluctantly, and she’s honest with anyone who asks – she was simply the consensus choice after the Diamond Orders and the Free Council rejected each others’ initial candidates. Good thing, then, that the consensus picked someone both powerful and restrained, say the Arrows.
Téméraire, persuaded to retire from front-line duties after nearly two decades of fighting by her friends and superiors, oversees a split Order. Half of the Sacramento Arrow, led by Téméraire’s Obrimos lieutenant Superb, sees the City’s wartime commitment to the front as mostly completed, and the faction’s beliefs are represented by its membership: mostly retired veterans or brand-new recruits looking not to shape the wider war but the city they’ve settled in. The other half, led by the Moros adept Abstract, sees the city as a training ground and depot for supporting the war effort only an hour’s drive away. Sacramento could be transformed into a martial academy for the order, and provide students and replacements as soon as mages across the country could be persuaded to move out west.
Troublemakers and the order’s enemies will exaggerate this divide, but its members know that politics still take a backseat to day-to-day obligations, and the Arrows have their hands full assisting Mysterium expeditions into the Valley, forging new bonds with the Free Council, avoiding the Guardians, and stalling the Silver Ladder’s tantrums over being locked out of the city’s formal power structure. Regardless of how much they bicker in private, every Arrow soldier will ask “how high” when Téméraire orders them to jump.
The Guardians of the Veil
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The Silver Ladder
Oddly for the Diamond Order most associated with the assorted trappings of power and influence, the Sacramento Silver Ladder is on the outside looking in, and if you listen to them tell it, they have no one to blame but themselves. More than a decade ago, when the Great Western War was just an idea being discussed by a dozen Arrow and Free Council elders across America, the Silver Ladder made its position firm and public: it would not support a reckless war of expansion against an enemy vastly more powerful and fortified in ancient strongholds. Ten years later, the same Silver Ladder elders will be quick to point out that in the cases of three of the four fronts, they were right: Houston and Santa Fe are still in Seer hands, and the land for miles in either direction is scarred with Paradoxes of fearful size and number. Four Pentacle masters died in a single night in the suburbs of Seattle.
Dormition, the Thyrsus Spirit Master and Magister leading the Sacramento convocation, understands things differently. In the one area where the Pentacle has driven the servants of the Exarchs from their homes and hallows, the inaction of the Thearchs has meant that they don’t have a single Councilor in the city’s new government. The Arrows are coldly polite, and remember that the Thearchs were absent from the long, bloody days and nights of the last decade. The Mysterium feign sympathy and interest in righting the city’s political imbalance, but are too busy plundering deserted Seer hideouts and cataloguing new artifacts to do anything about it. The Free Council despise the Silver Ladder’s “autocratic” ideology on principle, and remind the other Orders whenever possible of the absurdity of a group of meritocrats demanding a government position be given to them out of charity.
The Silver Ladder is the smallest, least influential Order in the city, and they desire to change this. It has been circulated that there is opportunity for advancement for ambitious and clever Thearchs here, as soon as they can convince the other Orders that having the wisest and most enlightened mages in the Pentacle as a part of their government is an unambiguous good. Where this gentle encouragement has failed to produce recruits, more direct action has been taken, and more than a few rising stars in the Midwest have just been unceremoniously ordered out West, to their general displeasure. Red Cat, Dormitian’s Mastigos subordinate, has had to remind several ambitious newcomers that their apprenticeships are not complete, and that if the Order has commanded them to this place then they had best serve without complaint. The mages of the Silver Ladder, after all, do not ask, but order. They will see themselves at their rightful place at the head of the Pentacle, and soon they will remember that they do not ask.
The liberation of Sacramento took years, and it still happened quickly enough that in the chaos of the Seers’ retreat, countless minor hideouts, storage facilities, refurbished tombs, hallows, and libraries remained, unsecured. Most of them also remained well-hidden, and booby-trapped, and they are what the Mysterium of Sacramento is currently obsessed with. Paradoxes from the fighting still linger in alarming number all throughout the Valley, and since the leaders of the city’s government are hoping to see more and more immigrants, they will have to be contained or solved. Since the Guardians have made it known that their role in this campaign (for their agents’ safety, and because the elders running that Order out West have a peculiar sense of humor) is to remain private except for a very small number of agents known by their work names, the Mysterium has picked up the slack. Paradoxes, after all, are dangerous but also worthy of study, and between the exploration of dangerous treasure troves and containment of reality breaches, the Mysterium has plenty of truly satisfying work.
Rather than be distracted by the sectarian politics of the state capital, the Order has decamped to the smaller university city of Davis, fifteen minutes away by car. UC Davis, with its libraries and laboratories, is a natural home for the Order most concerned with research, and the distance lets them work in peace. It doesn’t hurt that Davis is rich, tree-lined, pleasant, and mostly free of the worst scars of the fighting.
The Mysterium is led by the Order’s two most senior mages in the region, both Councilors: Dido, the Acanthus Hierophant and Councilor, leads the Order’s field expeditions, ranging north to Redding, east into the ancient Sierra Nevada, and south, disappearing into the endless Central Valley for days before invariably returning with some new item of interest. Anthony, the Thyrsus Councilor and a Daduchos Superior, is the Athaneum’s Curator, watching over the artifacts Dido and the others bring in, and the students that have come to the city to learn. Assisting Anthony is the Acanthus Daduchos Bantam, who is content to teach, relax, and associate with the more frivolous Free Councilors who come to Davis to party with other young people. Rumor has it that the Order elders, impressed, have dispatched another Daduchos, somewhere from the Midwest, to work at the promising academy.
The Free Council
What if there was a city – a real city, mind you, this isn’t rhetorical – where the mages had not only driven out the Servants of the Lie, but also the worst Servants of Hierarchy? Where the Diamond Hierarch was that rare thing: sympathetic and friendly? Where the hallows were literally unnumbered and uncounted, where someone could study whatever they wanted, where the Free Council was respected and heard, where mages were experimenting with democracy once more, healing the wounds of the earth, curing drought, fighting the Seers on their own land, conquering that land…what if there was a city where we were winning? Wouldn’t you want to move there? Won’t you?
The Free Council’s pitch is simple and effective: come here, and you’ll have land and we’ll have power. It is simple and effective because they actually do have both, and because they seem, miraculously, organized and capable enough to hold on to both. The Libertines are as large as the Arrows in the city, and they vote.
The Free Council shares the Arrows’ dual urges: to settle the Valley, yes, but also to continue fighting the Seers. No one wants to seriously consider the idea that the front has lost its momentum, or that the Exarchs would never allow their Servants to actually be driven out of San Francisco. At the same time, few except the most zealously militant Libertines want to ignore all they’ve won. The most powerful Free Councilor, and the second-most powerful mage in the city after Téméraire, and the Obrimos Councilor, and the elected leader of the Free Council in Sacramento, is a veteran of the decade of fighting, proud to be settling down. Bell’s friends and admirers know that Téméraire doesn’t want to be Hierarch forever, and that if they can just get more Libertines in the city by the time she steps down, well…who’s to say numbers won’t win out?
The other Free Council elder on the Council is the Mastigos Mind master Océan, famous for her quick temper and quicker political instincts. Bell and Océan were both elected, and lead the Free Council ably, but it’s still the two dozen veterans of the front in the city, and more immigrants and new recruits, that give the Order its iron backbone. There are minor heroes of a million nameless skirmishes, and some are known throughout the region, like the Spirit-talker Oasis Child and the Obrimoi sisters Boomer and Sooner.
The Free Council’s hope and optimism are the dominant emotions in the mage community: when they’re gathered, great things really do appear possible. Drought, war, paranoia, hubris…all of these are just human problems, aren’t they? And can’t we, if we try hard enough, solve them? Can’t we make a city where we stream through Nature like the water in the rivers? Where we replace the dying stars in the sky with the burning lights of our own free souls? Can’t we…?