Our voice sings a lullaby to a disquieted world.
The echoes of his own screams woke the young man from the night terrors that had plagued him for several weeks now. He gasped for breath and sat up in bed, wiping the cold sweat from his brow, struggling to remember the details of the dark images, but they fled from his mind, leaving only a sense of horror. Determined not to return to the nightmare, he sat on the edge of the bed and reached for the light.
Suddenly the window opposite the bed exploded in a spray of glass, as a mass engulfed in black smoke burst through the window and landed heavily on the floor. The oily billowing smoke parted for a moment to reveal a dark sinewy form with a featureless face crouched on the floor, its claw-like appendages gouging deep into the wood as it advanced on him.
Patriarch Balantine, the leader of the Catholican order, sat at the head of the polished dining table opposite Emissary Varano, who was flanked on either side by his aides. All present were attired in identical black cassock sashed robes, save for the gold filigree trim on the Patriarchs collar and his scarlet sash, which denoted the highest rank of the order. The strength in the Patriach’s aquiline visage was evident, even as the years caused his hairline to recede and his hair turn grey.
The mid-day meal that they had prepared upon notice of his surprise visit had given Balantine some respite from his troubled thoughts. He took a sip of wine and glanced up at the arched ceiling overhead, the innocent cherubic faces on the recently restored fresco in direct contrast to the dark news he had so recently received.
Absentmindedly, he twisted the Band of Saint Michael on his finger, looking across the table as Emissary Verano began to speak, reflecting that with his angular features and dark hair, the Emissary reminded him of a younger version of himself.
“You honor us with this visit, your Grace.” The Emissary said, “We are thankful for what the Catholica has blessed us with. We have dedicated ourselves to complete what you asked of us, and hope you will be pleased with our progress.”
“Thank you for your kind words and this delicious meal.” The Partriarch waited until the staff finished clearing the table and had left the room. “Now. What news do you have for me?”
Varano nodded at the magi seated to his right. Magi Thomas quickly scanned the latest additions in his notebook before speaking. “Our humanitarian aid efforts in response to the recent violent events has resulted in access to previously unavailable resources.”
“We have also been successful in applying subtle pressure to the world markets, which will help to keep the global economy from stagnation. Additionally, our delegates at the World Summit have gained the ear of several key countries, and we are optimistic that this will work in our favor on pivotal votes.”
“Finally, Timmy and the Envoys have extended their sold out world tour. Their inspiring music is reaching new heights of popularity with the masses.” Thomas closed his notebook. “Overall, we have observed no detrimental changes to the Tonal. It remains supple and responsive to our influence.”
“And because of this, we can help to keep the world safe.” The Patriarch smiled. He turned to Verano, “What news of the Awakened?”
Magi Andrews thrust himself forward in his chair. “They are showing up at our door in greater numbers these days. We can’t possibly keep up with the pace. Perhaps it would help if we cut short the amount of time we spend on acclimating and mentoring them.”
Patriarch Balantine exchanged glances with Emissary Verano, then responded directly to the outburst. “No. There is to be no compromising in the training of the newly Awakened. We are far from being stretched too thin. If it becomes necessary, we will send out a call within our order to assist the Catholica presently mentoring them here.”
“Now.” He said to Verano, “What of the Sacred we spoke of? Has he made a choice?”
The Emissary nodded at Magi Sayer, the youngest at the table, who responded to the question. “He has. He will be moved in by end of week to better facilitate the Site. But…” He swallowed nervously, “We had to allow him to bring his family with him.”
“What?” Andrews whispered, giving voice to the surprise of all there at such an unorthodox request.
“He was adamant.” Sayer protested. “Without this concession, he refused to come. He stated that his wife was his backbone and his son his strength”.
The Patriarch rested his chin in his hands as he thought on this. “So be it. This Sacred… and his family, is vital to our defense of the Site and its ley lines from those who seek to abuse it.”
He looked at Magi Hall, who sat with a large ledger open before him. “What of the status of our foundation?”
Magi Hall ran his eyes across the columns of figures as he spoke. “Our foundation continues to grow. We have been blessed with many successful ventures. This past quarter, we have acquired several key pieces of real estate; three Fortune 500 companies; and controlling interest in many resources worldwide.”
“Excellent. Please ensure that our loyal members, including those new to the fold, share in this blessed prosperity.” Patriarch Balantine said. Hall nodded his understanding and made a note in his ledger.
The Patriarch turned to Verano again. “What about the other Keepers outside of the Catholica? Is there anything of note involving the Arx Novum or the Archivists that should be brought to my attention?”
Magi Andrews interjected loudly, “I don’t see why we continue to cater to them. The Arx Novum is becoming more arrogant by the day! Why…”
“Enough!” Emissary Varano stared warningly at the errant magi, before speaking to the Patriarch. “There have been no new reports involving the other orders. Both the Arx Novum and Archivists have been very helpful with some of the challenges we have faced. If called upon, we are prepared to return the favor.”
“Good. Let us not forget that we are necessary to one another. Now I think some fresh air will do me good.” Patriarch Balantine pushed his chair back and stood. “So it has been and shall be.” The other magi stood and bowed their heads in response.
The Patriarch walked the length of the table to the open doorway leading to the veranda. As he passed Emissary Varano, he simply said “Walk with me.”
The two men walked out into the warm sunshine in silence, only stopping to enjoy the beauty of the flowers in the manicured gardens of the estate. They followed the flagstone path to the edge of the courtyard, and stopped in front of the carved marble balustrade that provided a safe barrier from the steep drop onto the hillside several hundred feet below.
Gazing out over the estate, the Patriarch spoke. “There is something that troubles me.”
The Emissary’s face paled. “Your Grace, I assure you. We have been….”
“Not you, my son.” The Patriarch interrupted. “It is another matter. I have just learned that newly Awakening magi are being systematically hunted down and slaughtered. Their bodies have been found rent asunder in a most horrific manner, by something not of this earth.”
“Indeed this is a grave matter.” Varano said.
“The Keeper’s Council has tasked the Arx Novum to investigate the murders. Should these attacks continue, the Catholica has charged the Arx Novum to seek out the newly Awakening and escort them safely to our doors.”
“Do we have any clues at all as to motive or origination of these foul murderers?” Verano asked.
“Not exactly.” The Patriarch said. “But there is something else. I have heard news that some newly Awakened magi are having visions of a time we thought lost to us. If there is any truth to this, if they are truly experiencing memories of Bab’el, then it is possible that the two may be connected.”
“We are caught in a dilemma then.” Emissary Verano took a long moment, then chose his words carefully. “Might I suggest we provide these magi with the protection of the Catholica so that we may investigate the reports of these visions ourselves, otherwise the opportunity to unlock these revelations of Bab’el may remain forever lost to us.”
The Patriarch nodded at the Emissary. “A wise choice.”
They stood side by side, looking out over the lands. In the distance, the white facades of the city gleamed bright against the cloudless blue sky. Closer to them, the Sacred Site was nestled in the hills below, guarded and kept safe by the order.
Patriarch Balantine crossed his arms behind his back and breathed deeply of the fragrant breeze from the gardens. “We have much to do. But for now, let us rejoice in the bounty of this day, for we are doing good works.”
Written by Gregory “Lahzarel Thane” Krywusha and Becky “Bekira” Tilly
Catholica Key Points:
- Keepers nickname The Catholica as The Voice of the Keepers.
- Catholica controls physical real estate: they possess 95% of the world’s Sacred Sites, which are the only places in the world where new inscriptions can be created.
- Many of the world’s religious buildings are secretly owned and controlled through Catholica connections.
- Catholica run the schools for newly awakened Magi of the Keepers. This gives them a way to indoctrinate Magi to their views of reality.
- The tonal shifts over time to permit different physical laws. The Catholica holds the secret to balancing the tonal which would leave the world undefended from inter-dimensional interlopers and the entities that exist between realities.
- They provide the propaganda and finances to expand the Keeper goals of total control of magick.