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[CofD] Sir Night Compiles Night Horrors: The Unbidden (In-Character Let's Read)

ZiggyZapf

Sorcerer of Autumn
Validated User
Mr. Zapf, you will be pleased to know I encountered the works of precisely one Acanthus when dealing with actual mages, but there is at least one entity changelings would despise out of principle. [If someone calling himself Metathron is anywhere nearby, stop anything you are unsure of, now.]
Thank you for the warning.

But that is currently a minor item. Let us examine the Golden Quorum, and while Zapf is mostly right, the angels they deal with are mostly ones without any eyes at all. Or mouths. Or noses. [Also, that's my hubby you're talking about there with many eyes. We're not offended, it's just that-wow, you think "demon" is a broad term?]
I'll make a note to be more careful about that sort of thing. The amount of diversity I need to think about has been broadening.

Thinking about it, the popular "Tinkerbell" image of faeries seems to be a similar trend: Going from a wide variety of strange to idealized, tiny winged humans as the default is also quite a change.

Thorn is not entirely sure what happened, but he recognizes a particular book in Clover's possession as the Blank Bible, a strange living grimoire of Abyssal magic. As the name suggests, it appears to be a normal, if old, copy of a King James Bible [Apparently the only version that exists if you believe Ben's evangelical buddies, so no surprises there.], but the pages are completely free of any marking or text...until someone reads it. For myself, Nita, Cichol, and a random Sleeper we picked from a Quorum sermon [Don't ask-suffice to say he's none the wiser or hurt for that experience, thank you memory alteration.], the book manifests a strange, confusing language similar to Akkadian that, bizarrely, I somehow understood without being able to transcribe a proper translation-a condemnation of the concept of the Fallen World on theological grounds, especially of the concept of atheism. [And for those of us who are not omniglots, vertigo. Worse than morning sickness.] Having seen Clover read it himself when preaching to his proper cabal and their auxiliaries (and with some help from telepathic Stigmatics), however, it instead shows him normal writing, in the form of normal religious texts that seem to be from alternate versions of the true Bible, which from my contacts seem distinctly phrased to justify Clover's own thoughts at the time he's reading it. Besides being massively offensive to my own faith [Tim's a classic Christian Integrator, a would-be redeemer of the demiurge.], I can make some distinct assumptions about how that encouraged the younger Clover to become more insular, zealous, and especially narcissistic, if it showed him versions of the Bible that supported his own resentment of his father. Eventually, his anger at Thorn became outright murderous, and after ambushing his father with a possessed oil lamp, Clover fled into the world, either having long since Awakened himself or otherwise doing so later. [Thorn's not a Proximus, by the way, but given how his Sleepwalker son was exposed to dark magic all his life...]
I didn't need to be pulled into the supernatural side of the world to know how someone can selectively read a non-magical Bible to reinforce their own ego and justify their hypocrisy. One that rewrites itself specifically to do that is a scary thought. This is where the Call of Cthulhu advice of "don't look at anything and burn the books" is probably worth considering. Probably not that easy to get rid of, though.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before he was corrupted by the Abyss, either-as I recall from my look at the volumes of the Codex Cruciatum, the seminal work on the Scelesti, one who draws on the Abyss too often quickly finds themselves addicted to the sensation with merging with Annunaki who rule and comprise that dark Realm. [Think a prototype version of reality with a grudge.] From there comes gradual harmony with the Ziggurats, "anti-Watchtowers" that embody the dark side of its respective Path; broken oaths for the fae-like Acanthus, truths best unknown for the scientific and spiritual Obrimos...or for Mastigos like Clover, the ability of trials to isolate and weaken rather than connect and improve. However, normally to even draw on the power of the Abyss to begin with, a mage must learn the trick of imagining a form their spell will take, and also how the Fallen World renders that spell impossible-a Paradox even as it is cast. Needless to say, this is completely counter-intuitive.
A small bit in the 00's Justice League cartoon comes to mind: Flash is pinned down, Weather Wizard sends a lightning bolt down for him, which Wonder Woman successfully cross-blocks with her silver bracers. Flash: "There are so many reasons why that shouldn't work."

I still have to occasionally shut up the little scientist in my head, along with instincts that were produced by millions of years of evolution's field tests, so reflexive skepticism isn't quite that counterintuitive to me. Mostly, I've wound up having a 'public' and 'secret' mode of thought, which has dangers of its own.

Clover came up with the technique entirely on his own time. Really, it's an extension of his theology-just as he suffered in his home and found enlightenment in it, so to does he believe magic become purer by making it face its own trials in the form of his own disbelief. [Honestly, if I didn't know what he was accidentally calling on, I'd be cheerleading. As it is, my body can't do non-Elucidian splits.] And to be frank, he has no idea he's long ago woken to an Abyssal watchtower, or that he is exposing Scelestus philosophy. In a fitting twist, the champion of the source of the Lie is deceived by lies he tells himself. [Though with some help.]
And Kreia from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 pops into my mind. Putting your ideals on trial by seeking their opposite and observing the contrast. Unfortunately, I don't think going Gray Jedi is going to work out in real life any better than it did for her.

Personality-wise, Clover is a classic cult leader-charismatic, genial, and utterly narcissistic. He constantly steers any conversation to get the other person to enjoy his company. If that doesn't work, he can be extremely socially aggressive and vicious. [Unlike many people I've known who are like that, he doesn't change to a nasty identity either, he's still smiling when he's ripping your ego to shreds. Kinda creepy.] I also get the sense he also has something of a stunted mental maturity; he's prone to small fits of depression whenever he feels he has failed, even subjective and minor hassles. [Man was banging his forehead and fists against a wall after he misplaced car keys.] While I don't want to go into how I discovered this, I also found he is extremely, shall we say, unversed in romance and sex. [He thinks, and I am being entirely serious, that lust is only capable with preexisting love. Thorn has some 'splanin to do.] This would be simply embarrassing, especially for a clergyman who takes faithfulness as a teaching seriously, except Clover is also a narcissist obsessed with getting married. I would advise any female mage to be obviously unavailable around him. He should be glad I know for a fact he is legitimately not well, otherwise I would be as about as pleasant as I will be with an unrelated mage. [I'm pregnant with twins, so thankfully it was only Timeena who had to deal with the creeping.] (DO. NOT. ASK. Though in a completely unrelated note, I am donating 10% of my Covers' next paychecks to feminist charities.)
I'm going to try to avoid imagining the awkwardness. Society really needs better sex education. Cleaning out all the stupid messages that have spread is probably one of the biggest priorities. I have to admit, though, the idea that lust only follows after love is a new one on me, or at least a new variation on the confusion between romantic and sexual attraction.

--Ziggy Zapf
 

Nicholas Jacob Underwood

Prehistoric cavewerewolf
Validated User
Gropey cult leaders spreading a lie filled religion? and here I thought going to an out of state college would get me away from Hollywood drama. Oh well, at least cultists are good feeding for me

Hey, Sir Night, it is me Lilly Garcia-Bullard. Normally, dad would have joined up with this chat, but he has been busy tying up some loose ends relating to said Hollywood gropers (and by tying up, I mean beating to pulps, you know how Anakim are.), so he told me to join instead. I just hope it doesn't get me attacked by an evil doppelganger of one of you guys again. Also, my brother Toby may jump in sometimes when he has some juicy secret about one of your subjects to drop.

And Juanita , how goes the pregnancy?

I'm going to try to avoid imagining the awkwardness. Society really needs better sex education. Cleaning out all the stupid messages that have spread is probably one of the biggest priorities. I have to admit, though, the idea that lust only follows after love is a new one on me, or at least a new variation on the confusion between romantic and sexual attraction.

--Ziggy Zapf
As someone who was in public school until very recently, I can say that american sex education is a total joke in it's current state. Especially given how much of men's self worth seems to be tied to sexuallity, it sadly makes sense that men would get some weird ideas about it when they aren't taught better. That being said, the memetic plague rat that is my horror does love feeding on MRAs.

And yeah, lust after love seems to me like this guy is trying to rationalize his lustful thoughts as proof of love on some level. in all my time feeding on guys like this, I have found that rationalization is the origin of a lot of these weird ideas.
 
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ZiggyZapf

Sorcerer of Autumn
Validated User
I believe that Thorn and his cabal were part of the relic trade that supplies much of the Mysterium's catalog. While he may not have been precisely a member of the society as a whole (it's much simpler to keep freelancers available to deal with individuals who have problems with us directly), he is owed by quite a number of curators. The idea that he was also keeping an attic full of objects better suited for a censor to take hold of is frustrating.

I would also suggest that you may have.... permitted yourselves to be taken in by Thorn's version of events in Clover's childhood. While a mother abandoning a child may stir up harsh memories for some, a witch locking his son into a low-level censorium whenever he was too smacked out to function shows the kind of foresight of putting him in a jar full of cobras. To say there was no "intent to abuse" in those circumstances is to drastically misunderstand the word intent.

Frankly, Clover would've been safer if he had been brought to a heroin den instead. There, at least the dangers are comprehensible.
At best, I'd say it's not so much about intent than it is about gross neglect. I've got my own sites for storing bad juju, and I work on the assumption that cursed magic items want to be used. Even if they don't have a malign intelligence inside them, the Wyrd loves various themes involving people pushing buttons they're told not to. In my case, one of the popular themes is "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," so I have to be particularly careful entrusting things to my subordinates to handle.
 

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
As someone who was in public school until very recently, I can say that american sex education is a total joke in it's current state. Especially given how much of men's self worth seems to be tied to sexuallity, it sadly makes sense that men would get some weird ideas about it when they aren't taught better. That being said, the memetic plague rat that is my horror does love feeding on MRAs.

And yeah, lust after love seems to me like this guy is trying to rationalize his lustful thoughts as proof of love on some level. in all my time feeding on guys like this, I have found that rationalization is the origin of a lot of these weird ideas.
entirely_possible.zip

In hindsight, it's also possible I'm trying to see some good in a person I know was an abused child. I was, after all, an angel who was at their feet at night. [Not literally, but he was the person who made sure it was their soul to keep.] But I doubt your own observation conflicts with that self-observation.

As for Thorn: I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt given how he is cleaning up his act, but Gemini is entirely right. Sufficiently advanced neglect is oft indistinguishable from malice, and he does not make excuses for his behavior. And the boilerplate nature of his sermons is a thing I didn't realize, but in hindsight, it's a good call. Part of me wonders if he developed that theology largely as a result of the self-induced echo chamber that is the Blank Bible.
 

The Watcher

Cosmic Observer
Validated User
From: Jacob@TheIsland.net
To: Forum

do_you_have_a_waiting_list.zip

My thanks to you all for patroning my work. Also, if Mr. Prospoero is being entirely serious, I am free for a while. [By this he means: OH GOD YES WARDING PLEASE.]
I was speaking in jest but in actuality I am capable of creating wards that offer defense against supernatural effects in general, be they supernal magic, the disciplines of the Kindred, the powers of spirits and ghosts, etc. In the interest of full disclosure while they can block most such things completely, sufficiently potent or adeptly executed effects can at times cross their boundaries. Still, even in those instances such effects are diminished in strength by the ward, making them easier to resist or withstand than they otherwise would have been. The integrity of the ward of itself, meanwhile, is not weakened in the slightest by such breaches. Unfortunately, they do not have an unlimited lifespan. The longest they last is one lunar month, after which they must be laid down again.

The wards described above also stop only supernatural effects, not beings. Wards which impede ephemeral entities such as ghosts and spirits are a separate type, as are those which can block more corporeal beings. All three types share the same limit as far as lifespan is concerned.

If you still wish to pursue having wards laid down after being informed of their capabilities and limitations I would be amendable to making some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement to do so.

Thorn is not entirely sure what happened, but he recognizes a particular book in Clover's possession as the Blank Bible, a strange living grimoire of Abyssal magic. As the name suggests, it appears to be a normal, if old, copy of a King James Bible [Apparently the only version that exists if you believe Ben's evangelical buddies, so no surprises there.], but the pages are completely free of any marking or text...until someone reads it. For myself, Nita, Cichol, and a random Sleeper we picked from a Quorum sermon [Don't ask-suffice to say he's none the wiser or hurt for that experience, thank you memory alteration.], the book manifests a strange, confusing language similar to Akkadian that, bizarrely, I somehow understood without being able to transcribe a proper translation-a condemnation of the concept of the Fallen World on theological grounds, especially of the concept of atheism. [And for those of us who are not omniglots, vertigo. Worse than morning sickness.] Having seen Clover read it himself when preaching to his proper cabal and their auxiliaries (and with some help from telepathic Stigmatics), however, it instead shows him normal writing, in the form of normal religious texts that seem to be from alternate versions of the true Bible, which from my contacts seem distinctly phrased to justify Clover's own thoughts at the time he's reading it. Besides being massively offensive to my own faith [Tim's a classic Christian Integrator, a would-be redeemer of the demiurge.], I can make some distinct assumptions about how that encouraged the younger Clover to become more insular, zealous, and especially narcissistic, if it showed him versions of the Bible that supported his own resentment of his father. Eventually, his anger at Thorn became outright murderous, and after ambushing his father with a possessed oil lamp, Clover fled into the world, either having long since Awakened himself or otherwise doing so later. [Thorn's not a Proximus, by the way, but given how his Sleepwalker son was exposed to dark magic all his life...]
I am not familiar with this specific Blank Bible but I have heard a number of accounts of tomes which turned out to be Abyssal entities manifesting in a physical form that would allow them to manipulate or feed upon its readers. One instance that this reminds me of was a Gutenberg Bible in the late 16th century. I recall that, similar to this case, there were confirmed reports that it too altered its contents depending on the individual.

While a mother abandoning a child may stir up harsh memories for some, a witch locking his son into a low-level censorium whenever he was too smacked out to function shows the kind of foresight of putting him in a jar full of cobras.
I would say putting putting a toddler in an armory full of loaded guns would be a more apt analogy. Horrible as a jar of cobras would be, only the unfortunate child would be at risk. Thorn, by putting his son in close and unsupervised proximity to cursed items of power, endangered not only him but potentially others as well.

Thank you for the warning.
I didn't need to be pulled into the supernatural side of the world to know how someone can selectively read a non-magical Bible to reinforce their own ego and justify their hypocrisy. One that rewrites itself specifically to do that is a scary thought. This is where the Call of Cthulhu advice of "don't look at anything and burn the books" is probably worth considering. Probably not that easy to get rid of, though.
If it is in anyway similar to the Gutenberg case I mentioned above, some sort of banishing ritual might be necessary to dispose of it.
 
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Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
any_security_is_good.zip

After the luck and competence I have had with security, even a lunar month of relative safety is fine. We can discuss this later. [Better a month of resistance against a broad type than nothing at all, eh?]

But enough talk, let's examine the power behind Ben's throne, and the living wall defending it, Deacon Thrush. [And we mean living wall. Man's built like a tank!]

I don't know a lot about Thrush's past, possibly because he's cut all the loose ends that could lead to him. I do know he was picked up by a Nameless Order, one of those relatively minor nations of mages compared to the Seers and the Pentacle's component Orders. Unfortunately, these Nameless, the Brotherhood of the Empty Star, were examples of the reason that a sentence of banishment in Awakened society is being labeled Nefandi, to be stripped of name. [And by "name" we mean "every instance the court can find of your research or even Shadow name, they strike from the record." When certain forms of arcane knowledge pose a clear and present danger, sometimes Nuke It From Orbit is the proper response.] The Brotherhood is an extended cabal of proud Scelesti - the same ones who found and guard Clover as he slowly marches towards his bloody destiny. They well and truly worship the Void Between, viewing it as a source of endless freedom endless truth, endless power. [Yes, the Realm of Lies worshiped as a source of Truth. Did we mention it's also called the Heart of Paradox?] In time, they indoctrinated Thrush, made him the Fierce Cupbearer of the True Hireomagus, as they call him; the person who both protects Clover and pushes him down the path that, they say, will ultimately lead Clover into raising the Time Before from the depths of the Abyss and usher in a golden age of magic. [Of course, these are people who worship the indirect inspiration for Lovecraft, so, uh, I'm skeptical it would be that wonderful for anyone else.] And he's done so; I don't know how he got hired, but Clover seems to trust and like him. He's fading into the background, relatively, but I get the sense he's fine being the vizier/bodyguard rather than the man on the throne. I know for a fact that he enjoys being the brutal, coldly efficient stick to the carrot, letting Clover remain innocent and blandly accepting of his path. [Believe me, I'm just glad he had no idea on how to counter an Unchained. I'm afraid of going bird until I pop out these two, because I really don't want to lay eggs! So yeah, not easy to escape.]

More importantly for the Deacon, he has another title: General. The Golden Quorum is not just Clover's personal cabal, it is a large force of increasingly insular and radical guerrillas - and Clover seems to be one of the few people who doesn't know. Thrush feels having true zealots willing to die for him may provoke a bit of self-reflection at this stage. Worse, it seems to be mostly Sleepers, meaning that spending time around their pastor or his vizier when they work magic drives them into insanity via Dissonance, although the Paradox that results is a good thing for a Scelestus. [It's also because of Thrush's behavior we think Ben can be saved; he's not evil enough to be a Bible-quoting supervillain yet.] Worse, he doesn't need to fear Unraveling; as an Obrimos who favors the Prime Arcana, he can dispel the Quiescence as need be to complete an operation.

Ironic, then, that everything I know about Thrush suggests he purified himself of the Abyss a long time ago. He doesn't even use the Path of Befouling if he can at all help it. I've seen his dreams, and there's no trace of faith there, not even in the idea of the Abyss. He knows it's a Lie, and the fact people would serve it rather than, and I quote, "a sky-father that at least ostensibly comprehends his followers exist" disgusts him. [Rude. I don't invoke Huitzilopochtli for anything other than the spilling of blood, and lots of it.] He's very, very intent on being perceived as a Scelestus, even conjuring illusions of "acamoth" to deal with, to avoid suspicion from his Order, but his soul is purely resonant with the Watchtowers, not the Ziggurats; he honestly doesn't believe in the Brotherhood's prophecy. He believes Clover will be a great temporal leader, but not the messiah the Empty Star prays he will be. [He's not faithless though, as a certain Marta Ludin discovered; he may hate his Order, but he genuinely regards Ben as having earned his trust and loyalty. This may or may not be even more screwed up, given what he's doing.]

Make no mistake, though; Thrush is not a charismatic man by any means, but he's a canny politician and good at playing on the feelings of more radical mages who want the Time Before back at all costs. Really, it's so that he has someone who can finally kill the Empty Star [The man has long realized what cultic abuse did to him, and he's waiting patiently to take his pound of flesh.], but I know of at least one Hirearch [Awakened claims judge, essentially - which given how important property is to them, makes them the effective mayor of any mages they have jurisdiction over.] who he's personal friends with. He's also trained as a combatant, but he doesn't favor magic; because he can easily break things himself (and very effectively; he's one of the more graceful combatants I've met, even given his size), he is mostly on the subtle side of Obrimos as a whole, relying on Prime Arcana to conjure illusions and briefly existent things to weigh the advantage in his favor, though he's hardly incompetent when throwing lightning about if push comes to shove. His real power, however, lies in him being the effective general of the Quorum; he is never without soldiers who view him as the hand of Clover. [Whatever you do, do not let him into melee.]

Next, I examine the rabid sheep of the dark shepherd and his living crook, the Golden Quorum itself.
 

Patkin

ougikawa
Validated User
He believes Clover will be a great temporal leader, but not the messiah the Empty Star prays he will be. [He's not faithless though, as a certain Marta Ludin discovered; he may hate his Order, but he genuinely regards Ben as having earned his trust and loyalty. This may or may not be even more screwed up, given what he's doing.]
Hm. I would argue that this is a parallel to the distinction between a messiah in the Jewish faith and a messiah in the Christian faith. Thrush is looking for a king to follow, the Empty Star is looking for a representative of the Abyss made manifest. Both forms of loyalty can be trouble.

(I apologize if it seems like I keep correcting you in matters of religion. My specialty as a mystagogue may be teratology, but I spent a lot of my college years studying theology and ethics and so forth. It's why my caucus trusts me as censor and my partner thinks it's funny I didn't wind up a theurgist when I shook off Sleep.)

His affiliations within mainstream Awakened culture are perhaps more troubling. The number of provosts, heralds and so forth I've seen taken down because they regarded the tale of Faust a how-to guide rather than an educational warning means it can prove a trial (in both a literal and metaphorical sense) to free a particular consilium of nefandi influence. I'd like to request a list of names if you could provide them, Sir Knight.

Gemini
 

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
here_it_is.zip

The major one is Hirearch Hyperion of Portland, Maine. I also know of several links he has to more messianic Guardians of the Veil and the Silver Ladder. I am not certain about how close they are to Thrush, but I am more than willing to send their identities privately, to make sure of innocence.

And I am not offended. I consider myself spiritual, but I am no theologian. I find that actually rather fascinating, even if I am not sure Thrush would ever put it in such religious terms.
 

ZiggyZapf

Sorcerer of Autumn
Validated User
From: Dingbat@FontsByThePound
To: Forum

"Brotherhood of the Empty Star." That's certainly an ominous name. At first, it sounded like Lovecraftian astronomical references, but then I remembered the Supernal Pentacle, representing the five realms. An emptied five-point star would be an appropriate symbol for the Abyss, a place antithetical to the Supernal. Not sure why exactly, but "empty" is a word that ironically carries weight with me. Given my preference for unarmed combat, I'm fond of "empty hand." (Especially since I've got a pair of holes in my palms, now. Being able to grow wicked claws if things get bad is comforting, though.) Other uses do get pretty creepy, though. "Empty" beings that lack emotion, or worse, hunger to fill that emptiness by extracting contents from others. On a related note, my neighborhood's started getting graffiti in the form of "Empty set" symbols over the last couple of months. Hopefully just someone fascinated/making a statement with the mathematics concept, but I've got people asking around. Any bells rung around here?

(Little bit of Star Wars geekery: My favorite lightsaber combat style is "Form Zero": Find a non-combat solution. Though I doubt Jedi would approve of some of mine. Fear has its uses, if you manage to not screw everything up with it.)

On theology and religion, I'm quite jaded. I've seen way too many promises, wishes, and so forth that were broken, or worse, fulfilled in horrible ways. So it's hard selling me on big solutions, utopian thinking, and so on. I'm more the type to soldier on with incremental improvements, and cautiously hedge any bets on big positive changes. (I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop with our relationship with the local Union cell.) I suppose that's one thing about living with emotional trauma: Hope is a scary thing, while despair is familiar and comfortable in the short term.

As for Thrush's motivations, revenge against the Empty Star may very well be his agenda. If not, I suspect it all hinges on exactly what hopes he's pinned on Clover's abilities, and anything that might separate him from the typical Scelesti. Frankly, I'm worried I may have to wrap my head around the idea that we're not supposed to wrap our heads around things like the Abyss. There's a lot of crap in this world that breaks people's minds or at minimum gives them knowledge that motivates them to act in ways outsiders don't understand. (I'm sure we've all got our stories about being in the latter situation.) It's not always obvious where someone who's seen stuff falls on that spectrum.

--Ziggy Zapf
 

The Watcher

Cosmic Observer
Validated User
From: Jacob@TheIsland.net
To: Forum

Regarding the Brotherhood, I've found that there have been references to an "Empty Star" dating back to at least Babylonian Baalim sects. Not that the Brotherhood itself dates back to those times. From what sources I've managed to dig up, I've only managed to find traces of their existence dating back to the latter half of the last century. But the iconography of the Empty Star is apparently a reoccurring one among many abyssal cults throughout the ages. Most likely, it was adopted by the Brotherhood for its mystical resonance and as a claim of spiritual descent from these previous cults.

As far as Thrush, if revenge against the Brotherhood is a major motivating factor it might be possible to persuade him to steer Clover onto a path less threatening to the world at large in return for offering resources or aid toward fulfilling that agenda. Of course, if one preferred to remove him from his position as Clover's chief confidant, providing a rival of his (and there are always rivals for the leader's ear in cults of personality) with evidence he's faking his affinity with the Abyss and its entities and insinuating his ties with mainstream Awakened culture are signs of potential betrayal could create a internal conflict that weakens his sway over Clover and the morale of the Quorum as a whole.
 
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