A story of Eordh.
Young people today hear the word “theurgist” and think “blasphemer”. “Heretic.” “Sorcerer.” But I am old, older than you can imagine, and I remember when Theurgists commanded respect, reverence, gratitude sometimes. We erected Stelae in the wilderness to keep monsters out of human lands. We barred the way for invasions and barbarian raids. We tended sick and wounded commoners. We advised lords on how to run their domains wisely and with kindness.
How, then, did we Theurgists, we to whom the Holy Ones granted power, become so reviled?
This is what happened.
The Flight of the Light
When the West went mad and blamed magic for all its ills, most Theurgists in the Order of Light fled back to the lands where we began, here in the East. We knew what would happen. Without us to tend the Stelae monsters would return to the West. Without us to repel the barbarians the raids would resume, even more frequent more vicious. Without us to mediate between now independent nobles, wars would break out. Yet what could we do? To appear before a noble would sign our death warrant, quite literally. To work our wonders would only incite the mobs. We would go the way of witches and artificers and the great Magi, no matter how pure our motives or how tremendous our accomplishments. We used magic, so the Purists wanted our lives.
Most of us made for our sanctuary of Kadmon. Not all of us reached it. The loss of our brethren and the perils of our journey made the assembled Theurgists angry and frightened. And anger and fear are the enemies of wisdom.
Hail To The Sun God
Neveretheless we rededicated ourselves to helping the people of the East, even those of us not born there. Again we fanned across the land – well, the part that would have us – and pursued our mission: help the helpless, speak truth to power, and build sanctuaries to raise up a new generation of Theurgists.
Then came the news from Trikaya.
After winning a bloody war of succession, Queen Yset declared herself a reincarnation of Mitra and took the name Mitra-Yset. At the time Mitra had a small but significant sect with many scholars and nobles among their members. The priesthood of Mitra backed her claim, and in turn became an extension of the Trikayan state. Worse, Trikaya could influence the laws and rulers of nearly every land even without fielding an army. Not that the Trikayan armies were not formidable.
In other words the queen of a large and powerful country had declared herself Sun God(dess) of an influential religion, and also commanded a standing army. It was inevitable that we and the rest of the Eastern Lands panicked.
We joined the general outcry denouncing Yset’s blasphemy and the complicity of a priesthood of Mitra, god of truth and the keeper of oaths. We barred the borders of other countries with the power granted by the Holy Ones. We silenced the mouths of Yset’s missionaries. In truth, we skirted the line of our own oaths to the Holy Ones to do no harm and to accept Fate.
Some of us, however, went further. Some of us went mad.
The Forbidden Invocations
The great Covenant that empowered Theurgists of those times, the contract between initiated mortals and the immortal Holy Ones, was often writ on long scrolls of lambskin and dwelled in every Theurgist sanctuary.
In Kadmon, our first and oldest sanctuary, where the first Collegium was born and the Order of Light organized, lay a chamber accessible only to the Grand Masters. There, on tablets of marble inlaid with gold, were written the words of the Covenant in the Supernal language, the tongue of the Most High.
The Covenant was inscribed on our hearts and in our minds. We recited the Covenant every time we invoked its power. We knew the Covenant.
Although, as it turns out, we did not know all of it.
Behind a door in the Covenant Chamber lay carved basalt slabs: the “Forbidden Invocations”. They were relics of a more violent and distrustful age, when lords and commoners alike misunderstood us Theurgists. Why the Holy Ones agreed to them I will never understand. Yet there they stood, part of the whole Covenant yet unknown to all but the Grand Masters. Each Invocation called down a curse that could maim or kill, could blight the land or blot out the sky. For each misfortune visited on another, the speaker would suffer an equal misfortune. They were anathema to all we had built and stood for.
Heedlessly, the Grand Masters unleashed these curses upon our supposed enemies.
The Covenant Broken
Thus the Order of Light went to war with the God of the Sun. We would plague the army, the Sun Queen would heal them. (For she truly was an avatar.) She would sear our temples with blinding light, we would conjure clouds and cool rain. Thus the war of “benevolent” magics went, for years.
Militarily and magically, the contest was a stalemate. In the hearts and minds of the people we were both sworn to protect, the Mitraists won.
The end of the Theurgists came when our assassins – assassins! – struck down the Sun Queen. Can one imagine such a sin? Such hubris? Not only to cause death, but to strike down one of the Fated, an avatar of a god no less. What good would she have done? How would she have guided the Hegemony she founded?
The shock, horror, and hatred of the common people was nothing to our own when our powers disappeared at that moment. We had broken the Covenant. The Holy Ones had taken their price and meted out their punishment. It was said that the gold of the Covenant Room melted, the marble shattered; it was said that every scroll with the Covenant written upon it blackened and shriveled.
I still remember all the words. They do nothing. No Holy One will hear them. Yet they are a comfort, sometimes.
The purge of witches in the West presaged the hunt for Theurgists in the East. Many hid, cast off their robes, shaved their beards, cut their hair, and found honest work far from the courts of nobles and the scrutiny of Mitraists.
Many others were arrested, if not for conspiracy to assassinate at the time then for insurrection, lèse majisté, or incitement to riot afterward. They thought themselves like the Prophets of old, speaking truth to power, or like the Magi of old, spreading virtue and wisdom. In truth they, and we, had lost all moral authority and scholarly rigor. Those who denied that loss in turn lost hands, tongues, sometimes heads.
But in the end, the Mitraists were very wise and very kind. Most of us lived.
Then there are fools like me, pestering the Holy Ones, begging for our sins of omission and ignorance be forgiven. At last they heard my plea. They grant me small things: scraps of insight and wisdom, small mercies that do not impede Fate’s design. Unbelievers would call it “luck”, but nothing more.
Ah, and one other gift they have granted me: to be forgotten.
I tell you this tale knowing that when we part you will not remember my face or my name, and in an hour’s time you will forget this meeting entirely. It is both a gift that ensures my freedom, and a curse I richly deserve. If Theurgists once coveted glory and renown, now let us do our good work without reward or recognition.
Forget me, and the arm you broke, and remember only the sun on this lovely spring day.