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On the most holy day of the birth of our Lord, the king went to mass at St. Peter's, and as he knelt in prayer before the altar Pope Leo set a crown upon his head, while all the Roman populace cried aloud, "Long life and victory to the mighty Charles, the great and pacific Emperor of the Romans, crowned of God!"
- Annals of Einhard
At the beginning of the ninth century western Europe was at a turning point. After centuries of barbarism and chaos there was once again an emperor in the west, Charles the Great, king of the Franks. The last pagan German tribes were converted to Christianity, the Muslim advance was halted in Iberia. Scholarship flourished in monasteries and royal courts. Peace and prosperity spread through the lands. Many believed that the great days of Rome were come again.
Suffer not yourselves to be carried with the Great Stream, but stem the tide, you that can lay hold of the Haven of Safety, and make your full course toward it. Seek one that may lead you by the hand, and conduct you to the door of Truth and Knowledge, where the clear Light is that is pure from Darkness, where there is not one drunken, but all are sober, and in their heart look up to him, whose pleasure it is to be seen.|
- The Sacred Pymander of Hermes Trismegistus
There has always been magic in the world, though often hidden from the eyes of the uninitiated. When Rome fell many of the ancient mysteries were lost or scattered, but in the eighth century the twelve greatest mages of Europe gathered at Durenmar in the Black Forest to pool their knowledge and create the Order of Hermes. Together they ushered in a Golden Age of magic and learning.
The Northmen continue to kill and take Christian people captive; without ceasing they destroy churches and dwellings and burn towns. Along all the roads one sees bodies of the clergy and laity, of nobles and others, of women, children, and infants.
- Annals of St. Vaast
Charlemagne's empire is riven by war as his descendants struggle for dominance. From the south Saracens maraud through Italy, threatening Rome itself. From the north the Vikings conquer and plunder where they will, and most of England lies in Danish hands. Everywhere there is death and destruction. Many believe the end of days is arriving, and none doubt that the Darkness has come once again to the West.
I hereby swear my everlasting loyalty to the Order of Hermes and its members.... I recognize the enemies of the Order as my own enemies, and shall do all my in power to oppose their deeds. |
- the Hermetic Oath
With knowledge comes power, and with power comes corruption. The Order seeks to impose its sorcerous hegemony over Europe, forcing all magi to join or be destroyed. The Hermetic Code, originally meant to prevent strife among magi, has become a justification for magical war. And now some magi, seeing the chaos around them, say it is time to extend their rule beyond the sphere of magic....