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The Tenth Sphere and The March to Armageddon
Virtually every Mystic Tradition, Technocratic Convention and Disparate Craft has its own pet theory on what, exactly, constitutes the "Tenth Sphere." These ideas have ranged from Self to the Unified Field Theory to the much-touted Unity. All of these theories were well-thought-out, diligently researched and actively propounded.
Of course, all of them were also wrong.
The Tenth Sphere does not exist. There is no "final truth" that leads to perfection, no easy answer to the innumerable problems that have plagued humanity since it first looked to the world and knew that something more could be. It would be convenient if there were, but Creation rarely conforms to expectations and certainly doesn't go out of its way to make things make sense for the human race. It was up to the Awakened to reconcile these paradoxes for themselves but, instead of accepting that Reality makes its own rules, they made up stories and convinced themselves over the course of generations and centuries that those stories were true. In the case of the Traditions, many did so ln order to lay claim to the Tenth Seat at Horizon, the one that mysteriously appeared years ago, before the devastation of the Reckoning. This delusion made them easy prey for a cunning hunter, for the Tenth Seat belonged to one and one alone, and none could challenge his dominion over it.
Master of The Tenth Seat
Over the course of millennia, he has worn many names. In medieval Europe, they called him the Black Man, patron of witchcraft and devil-worship. (Some believed that he was the Devil.) In the Arabic world, where he abided for many years in days long ago, he went by the name of al-Aswad, the name he gave to those who followed after him as Fallen Oracles. To the Sumerians, he was Ut-Napishtam, the primordial man who was chosen by the gods to survive the Great Flood and was thereafter granted immortality but made to abide apart from all lesser creatures. ln truth, he was all these things and none, the anointed champion of the darkness from beyond Creation, and his True Name is lost to the deep memory of time. Perhaps the most far-thinking human being ever to exist, he was chosen not for his power or his knowledge - for with life enough a man might develop these qualities - but instead for his wisdom, patience and sense of strategy. The gods who raised him up remembered being outcast from the endless shadow in which they abided, shoved away by the hateful presence of something new - existence. They looked on it and were pained by jealousy, for they, though powerful and terrible, could never truly be. That privilege was reserved for all that existed within the hateful light.
Still, these elder things were cunning and resourceful, and they knew many secret paths into Creation, the furrows they had left when they were fragmented and greatly lessened in power through their forceful expulsion. Shards of themselves, the barest fractions of their essence, they poured into the world, seeking those who could hear them and be moved by them. At last, one living thing heard and answered.
What began was a dialogue, perhaps the first bargain forged between man and spirit (if spirits they could be rightly called, who were the avatars of all that which did not exist and yet hungered and hated). In exchange for his aid in helping the elder darkness to achieve being within Creation, they would exalt him above all other creatures. The man sealed the covenant by sacrificing his Name. Carving it upon a stone, he cast his Name into a fire and, as the stone blackened, so too did his skin, his hair and even his eyes, becoming like unto pitch. The shattered fragments of the One who had driven out the elder darkness saw this and were terrified. Acting in fear, these shards descended through the planes, from their high places of power, to unite in just the same fashion with other mortal men. The one who was Nameless, grown much in awareness through his pact, felt this change and, inwardly, he laughed. The so-called "Pure Ones" had sown the seeds of their own destruction.
The Hundred Centuries Campaign Begins
What began thereafter was the lengthy crusade to set the pieces in place for the final, devastating coup upon reality itself. Some key events in the history of the Awakened and the Sleeping alike were of his artifice; some, but by no means all, most or even many. Instead, he acted as he had to, coming out of seclusion only when necessary and otherwise allowing the evils to which humanity was prone to do his work for him. When he found others who were worthy, he offered them his covenant, transforming them into the incarnate vessels of the Darkness Beyond. Including himself, six in all rallied to his cause, the first six widderslainte, poisoned souls who had infected Creation with its unmaking.
It would be many years yet before the Hebrews named them the Qlippoths, the shells of the Sephiroth and the embodiments of the "virtues" of the Tree of Death, but they were now the living reflections of all that which dwelled Outside. The Unnamed had his council of lords and ladies, his hands and eyes, just as he was the hands and eyes of those Beyond.
With clever manipulations, gentle prodding, brutal threats and occasionally a precise application of mind-numbing violence, the six Fallen Oracles, the first Nephandi, worked to sculpt the progression of human history. Still, as the Unnamed himself told the rest, it was important only to guide, rather than force. Men were capable of ruining Creation on their own and needed only the barest direction in doing so. The Unnamed preferred to think of himself as a father, helping his children, all of humanity, to achieve its full, destructive potential.
So it went, as years became decades, centuries and even millennia. The Unnamed and his fellows watched the rise of Sumer and Egypt, Greece and Rome. All those they found worthy of the "gifts" of their lords, they took to hidden places, the tunnels carved by the ferocious expulsion of those Outside, and anointed them in blood, rending their souls and piecing them back together inside-out. This they did in order to teach their disciples the suffering that the primordial ones had endured, and to flense away their human weakness and failing. Those who were strong emerged changed - cruel, hateful, cunning and powerful. Those who were weak did not emerge at all, having wandered out into the vast labyrinths of those furrows, rotting arteries spiderwebbing through Creation, and met those they would call master. None survived the gnawing hunger of those elder beings.
Most importantly, the Unnamed established the standards of the Fallen covenant, whereby human beings might accept the Outer Darkness into their souls and thereby become avatars of its power. In fact, through careful bargains with his masters, the Unnamed made it so that he, of all human creatures, would wield control over the very fabric of the Pact. Whether they knew it or not, from that day onward, all Nephandi everywhere would be subject to the will of one alone. Though he sacrificed much in order to make it so, he felt the trials he endured were well worth it, for his lords were vast and terrible beings, not much given to offering their attentions to such small creatures as mortal men. It suited them well to have a caretaker for their menagerie, and the Unnamed, first among their slaves, was perfect for this purpose. In the end, he became the sole arbiter of their good graces and the hand responsible for dispensing their power. Such authority would later serve the Unnamed well.
The World Changes
As time and times changed, the Unnamed gradually found himself barred farther and farther away from even the most distant shores of Creation. So saturated with his masters' power was he that he was now more a creature of the Void than the Tapestry. Still, he could, when needed, exert his will and walk the dark and forlorn paths of the Earth in order to pass along some shred of hidden and blasphemous knowledge to a promising apprentice of his foul arts. At last, reluctantly, however, he realized that the Fallen Oracles would eventually be all but barred entirely from the world. It was time to pass along the knowledge of the Pact to others, that they might be able to forge the unspeakable bond and deliver unto the Masters their tithe of souls.
The Unnamed chose several men and women for this purpose and gathered them up in the ruins of Ur. It had been 313 years since the birth of a carpenter's son in Galilee. Twenty in all had he chosen, and all were called to stand before the Unnamed in turn. He stared into the eyes of the others and, by day break, six yet lived, all of them now knowledgeable in the ways of the Pact. Tired beyond reckoning through the great expenditure of energy he had made in order to show these children the secrets of his power, the Unnamed retreated into the Void, there to recuperate and rest. While it would be many decades before he would awaken again and trouble the world of men with his tread, he was joyous in the knowledge of the one secret he kept for himself. No matter what else might happen, his victory was now assured.
Those who would bend knee to the service of the Unnamed were many and they hailed from many shores. Some called the darkness "Shaitan," "Ildabaoth," "Ahriman" or "Lucifer." They saw those Outside as gods (or, in many cases, as one god) and prayed to them for power. Many, turning away from the rise of the power of Him who was martyred for mankind, embraced the Pact as a means of denying the Cross. Others, who hailed from quarters far removed from Rome, Persia and the other bastions of civilization, came to understand the darkness as a myriad of spirits. Some worshipped it as ghosts, returned from the Underworld to plague the living with their hatred and their jealousy. In the end, the pure adulation of the Void was tarnished, blasphemed by giving Names to that which existed outside of Adam's knowledge and had never been shaped by the Will of his Word.
So it was that the power of the Fallen diminished even as it grew, for, in Naming their masters, the Fallen gave others the ability to know them and to gain power over them. It was a grievous hurt and one from which the Fallen would not soon recover, but all it really did was prolong the inevitable. The Pure Ones - those who were the scattered remains of the One who had sprung up out of the Nothingness and broken Itself upon the hard armor of those who came Before - began to diminish through the long process of passing themselves along to greater numbers of magi, priests and philosophers. In all things, there was equilibrium and order. This was just as the Unnamed would have it.
The One and The Many
The only true fear that the Unnamed harbored within his cold heart was that the scattered heirs to the power of the Pure Ones might unite as one and, as their spiritual ancestor had before them, drive the Darkness out, this time with such thoroughness as to bar the Void forever from Creation. As the Unnamed awoke to discover the fractiousness that had overpowered his children, he was enraged and horrified. Further, he looked with great wrath upon the Names they had given and those they had taken upon themselves. Stumbling in the long darkness of their masters' sleep, they had lost their way. Many now had no true sense of what it was they served. Only a few kept alive the essence of the Pact and remembered its lessons. Worst of all, many of them accepted a single Name as their own: Nephandi. The only thing that kept the Unnamed from despair was the change he saw taking place in Rome.
Magi and philosopher-scientists, unaware that the one thing was the other, and vice-versa, squabbled over their beliefs. They had proven themselves, thankfully, no more wise or understanding than the chattels that were not gifted with the power of Will. Indeed, within his sanctum far beyond the kingdoms of men, he laughed aloud to see them strike at one another and, as he had done unto his initiates, anoint themselves in blood. While his own children had become mired in ignorance, his enemies had become engrossed in petty struggles to prove the superiority of their beliefs. And then, in the midst of this folly, something both miraculous and terrible happened. One magus, pushed beyond grief by the slaughter of his family and apprentices, strode beyond the boundaries of simple Will and into an unfettered madness from which there was no return. He existed, within his own mind, in a world in which his loved ones yet lived, and nothing could make it otherwise for him. Those who tried to show him otherwise were annihilated by his insanity. The Unnamed pondered this occurrence, for such things could be dangerous weapons against his chosen, but it was all but assured that such madmen would never be able to unite with the other willworkers against his cause. So it was, the One had become Many, none of which could find concord with one another. As Rome fell, truly and finally, into the barbarism of the Dark Ages, the Unnamed could not help but feel a great joy.
By the point at which the Nephandi stood on the brink of victory during the Second World War, the Unnamed considered himself an entity at least on par with many of the very beings he served. Over time, newcomers had stuck their noses where, in his estimation, they did not belong. Such unfortunate happenings had always been turned to his advantage, however. The conclusion of World War ll was just such an event.
With the Nephandi strong and growing stronger, it seemed that even the temporary alliance of the Traditions and Technocracy combined was insufficient to the task. Still, at the seeming moment of their victory, the Nephandi lost their powers, their prayers and supplications falling upon deaf ears. Many potential answers have been put forward in the years sense, ranging from the sage to the ludicrous, but none was the answer. It was the Unnamed and his Aswadim who laid low the Nephandi that day.
Why? Because, despite his devotion to the cause, the Unnamed could not bear to be upstaged, especially not by interlopers like the "demons" of the Cross and the evil spirits feared by wild shapechangers who rutted with beasts. Further, he saw the many flaws in their designs. It was a plan of great zeal and little forethought, but such had always been the downfall of the Fallen. Therefore, using his mastery of the Pact, the Unnamed struck at the source of the power of the younger Nephandi, severing the bonds of spirit that tied them to the masters to whom they had sold their souls. When the Traditionalists and Technocrats opened wide that door to the Beyond, he waited on the other side of it, harvesting the ripest and most powerful souls for his own. Others, he slew for their power, harvesting the Quintessence in their bodies and spirits like a sweet honey and storing it for later use. Then, by means of the secret paths known only to those who dwelled in the Outer Dark, he made the long and arduous journey back into Creation, now fattened with many strong Avatars. These he devoured and reconciled within himself, growing in might until he became something more than human, Nephandus or even Oracle.
Satisfied with all that had transpired, the Unnamed began to walk the Earth again, this time concealing his gifts and offering them to but few. The end was growing close, and he had no wish to offer his Pact to simpletons or madmen. Enough of those were coming into the Power on their own - the unfortunate byproduct of a wasted age.
The Last Few Steps
Finally, after millennia of struggle, the Unnamed was in the position to win his war. It was, however, no time for celebration. Only a fool counts his enemies slain before he himself has crouched over their cooling corpses and seen their souls escape with their final breaths.
The Taking of Mus
While the Hermetic College Covenant at Mus seemed like a trivial goal to most of the Fallen, enough of them could be cowed into submission through various emissaries to force them into battle. While the Technocracy fortuitously assaulted the chantry, the Unnamed dispatched his servants to defeat both sides and drive them out. The Fors Collegis Mercuris was important in his endgame, but he could not yet allow any to know how or why, not even his Aswadim. Too much hung in the balance to trust anyone but himself. Even the dark and brooding masters of the Unnamed went uninformed in their fitful deathlike slumber.
The Great Deception
The board was set, though most of the pieces upon it fancied themselves players. One final play needed to be made. The rest would fall into place on their own. Using the vast power he had harvested from the defeat of the sleeping Nephandi Lords in 1945, the Unnamed transported his own throne into the heart of the Traditions, Horizon itself, as well as opening a vast rift in its landmass. Surely, the foolish children would argue among themselves, each seeking to claim the chair, each trying to expand their power at the expense of their fellows. Sadly, the Traditions proved the Unnamed right and fell to petty bickering.
Most importantly, though, was the fact that they did not question whence the seat came. The Traditionalists accepted the Throne of the Unnamed into their midst. This would prove most significant, since, in doing so, they essentially invited him into Horizon, indeed, into the heart of Concordia itself. It was a dangerous gambit, for the seal of the Unnamed was graven upon the chair and, by it, the Traditions might know him, but he was confident in his ruse and his power, and he knew that the time for half-measures had passed. It was a perilous gambit, but the Unnamed was quite certain that even the mightiest of Traditions mages would prove unable to decipher the sigil according to anything other than their own pride and self-congratulatory worldviews.
The Traditions, the only enemies who could conceivably mount a credible offense against the Unnamed, were lost in their own games of state. Even those who touted the Tenth Seat as Unity could not swallow their pride long enough to bring that ideal about by shutting their mouths and letting someone else's beliefs win the day. It was no less than he had expected. Arrogant and contrary to the end, the Traditions would never see the death blow coming.
As for the Technocracy, the Marauders and the Disparates, the Unnamed spared no time or effort. Such foes were, to his thinking, weak, foolish and clumsy. They would fall when the time came, but no special effort would be devoted to them, so profound was the Unnamed's disrespect for these willworkers.
The heavy weight of bleak destiny fell at the waning of the millennium. Masters fell, realms withered and brother turned upon brother. It was, to the thinking of the Aswadim, perfect. Such cataclysms were set in motion by the hubris of other mages. The Fallen needed do nothing to make it happen, though they saw all the signs of it upon the Horizon and laughed with glee to see the hammer finally fall. In a matter of two years, all potential resistance had been crushed, reduced to a pathetic few, incapable of long holding out against the unleashed power of the Unnamed and his Fallen.
The stars were right. It was time to finish the game.
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The Rogue Council
So, who's been sending those messages, telling the Traditions to get in gear and fight the good fight? The Unnamed, of course, from his Fors Collegis Mercuris, located within the Shard Realm of Correspondence. With the ability to send anything, anywhere, untraceably, the Unnamed and the rest of the Aswadim have been trying to get the Traditions to shake off the lethargy of recent centuries. This will cause them to move more openly and expose themselves. Further, such activity among the Awakened can only lead to more Awakenings, fattening Creation with a bevy of ripe and potent souls on which Those Beyond might feast.
Perhaps most importantly, though, the Unnamed understands well that the heirs of the magi and philosophers of long-ago days, the Traditions and the Technocracy, will set their sights upon one another in these grim final hours, allowing him and his chosen to operate unimpeded by unfortunate entanglements. Freed from the threat of conflict with their two greatest enemies, the Fallen are liberated to lay siege to Creation itself.
Important to note is the fact that this scenario assumes that you have been using the events portrayed in Manifesto: Transmissions from the Rogue Council, or, at the very least, that the Rogue Council phenomenon exists and that your characters are aware of it. If not, you'll need to make a couple of adjustments to "Hell on Earth, " but doing so shouldn't be too problematic.