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Postfest XVI(Needfest 2011): The Order of the Illumination of the Soul
Posted on Sun, December 25, 2011 by LordCeb
MasterArminas writes "Psionic powers and the practitioners who use them are not unknown in the World of Greyhawk. Often referred to as mind-mages by the common people . . .


There are many who view the wielders of these mental arts as heretics and witches. Organized religions especially have rather harsh strictures regarding those who exhibit powers owing nothing to the Gods and requiring little—if any—formal training. Founded to protect young psions and psychic warriors from the Inquisitors, the Order of the Illumination of the Soul seeks to shelter, nurture, and encourage men and women who discover the Gift of psionics. From their base at the mighty Crystal Keep in the Griff Mountains, the adepts of the Illuminati seek out psionic characters and offer them the opportunity to master their Gift in peace and safety.


Amelia struggled against the rough grip of the two burly Hextorian guards as they dragged her through the cobbled streets of Greenswath.  She was pelted by clumps of mud, rotten fruits and vegetables, and stones as she went; all of these items flung by her fellow villagers.  Gagged, and her head covered, she couldn’t cry out, but she could hear those who had once been among her friends.

“Witch,” sneered one.


“Cursed heretic,” said another.

She shivered and she shook; this couldn’t be happening!  Not to her!  She hadn’t meant to harm the smith—but he had tried to force her, and she had just lashed out in pain and fear.  But the village elders had not believed her story, and the smith denied lusting after her.  And then the Inquisitor had arrived, and it all turned ugly.  Her trial has lasted just two hours, with the smith and his son and many of those Amelia had called friend testifying against her; and her protests of innocence rang false among those who saw the raw burns covering the face of her victim.

Finally, the two soldiers came to a stop and forced Amelia to her knees.  They tore off her hood, and she saw the Inquisitor standing before her—and behind him the pile of kindling that surrounded the tall wooden stake; the dry kindling upon which barrel after barrel of oil was being poured.  She cringed in fear and she struggled, but the guards held her fast.

“Amelia of Greenswath,” the Inquisitor intoned in a stern voice.  “You have been charged with foul witchery; your assault upon Jon the blacksmith having resulted in serious injury.  Renounce your allegiance with the powers of the Abyss, child, and beg The Tyrant for his mercy and succor—for your soul lies in the balance here today.  Renounce your evil powers and recant your heresy, or you shall burn on Oerth before you burn in Hell.”

Tears streamed down her face as she struggled in vain, but the gag kept her from speaking—from answering.  And the Inquisitor smiled.

“She refuses to recant her heresies!  Her perversions to the will of Hextor continue despite the evidence of her crimes!  So be it, witch,” he finished as he nodded to the guards.  “Place her upon the pyre.”

Desperate, Amelia reached deep within herself and concentrated on the Inquisitor—but one of the guards slammed a mail-clad fist into her belly and she doubled over in tremendous pain.  And then the Inquisitor stepped forward and back-handed her.

“Your petty tricks will not work on me, whore.  We know well how to deal with your kind.”

He nodded, and the guards hauled her to the stake, and hung her on an iron spike by the chain that dangled between her manacled hands.  The guards quickly moved away and the Inquisitor took a burning brand and lifted it high.  “In the name of Hextor, and the Overking of Aerdy, I find you guilty of these crimes, witch, and condemn you to a fiery end.  Suffer, as you have made the people of this town suffer!”

Amelia tried to scream as he dropped the brand, and the oil caught, igniting the kindling.  But even as the flames erupted the flickering tongues altered color to a bright blue and then suddenly died—snuffed out.

“I think not,” spoke a voice from the crowd.

The townspeople stumbled away from three men wearing robes who had just appeared in their midst.  Two of the men bore slender swords in the hands, but the speaker was unarmed.

“What is this?” snarled the Inquisitor.  He gestured towards the strangers.  “Take them!”

The guards began to move forward—and the first managed to take three steps before he screamed in pain, dropping his mace and sinking to his knees.  The mournful scream caused the townsfolk to panic and run, and then blood began to stream from the guard’s nose, ears, and eyes—and he collapsed lifeless to the ground.

The second guard rushed forward in a charge, but the speaker made a gesture with his hand, and the guard emitted a squeal of surprise as unseen forces grabbed him and flung him high into the air.  The squeal became a panicked cry as he reached the apex of his arc and plunged into sheer face of the local quarry with a dull thud, his broken body then falling with a splash into the pond at its base.

The Inquisitor raised his holy symbol and began to chant the words of a prayer to his god, but the speaker shook his head.  “Burn an innocent child, shall you?  A girl who has seen only fourteen winters?  Not while I have breath remaining in my body; you will suffer in her stead, priest.”

The Inquisitor’s eyes went wide, and then he grimaced as his armor and vestments began to smolder and smoke and his flesh ignited in a sudden flare of flame.  He screamed as the eerie black tongues of fire consumed him, quickly reducing his body to a pile of metal and ash.

The speaker lifted his gaze and looked upon Amelia as she shook and shivered on the stake, and he then he gently lifted his hand again and she floated over the stack of wood to land on the ground—her manacles popping open and the gag fell free.

"Who are you?” she whispered.

The stranger smiled.  “A witch, my dear.  Just like you.”

“You are a mind-mage?” she cried.

“Aye, as are Pieter and Ian.  I am Master Kelson Dyss, child, and I have come to make you an offer.”

“An offer?  What could you want with me?” she squealed.

“Oh, child, your mind burns bright and clear—but it lacks of discipline.  The Order to which I belong seeks to find youngsters such as yourself and give them an opportunity to learn to how to channel and control their Gift, rather than the Gift controlling you.  I can offer you safety and security, far away from the close minded bigots who seek to destroy that which they cannot understand—and I can teach you to use your Gift so you never again need fear men such as that foul priest.  Or the smith.”

“They are coming,” interrupted Ian.

“Yes.  But you must make your choice, child.  Come with me, now, and become a mind-mage in truth.  Or stay here and make your own way in this world.  I do not desire to force you into a decision, but the people of your village have run to the garrison, child, and an Animus leads them here.  We must not tarry.”

Amelia rubbed the red welts from where the too-tight manacles had held her, and she shivered again as she looked back at the pyre which had nearly consumed her.

“There is nothing for me here,” she whispered.  “And if I stay . . .”

“The villagers will finish what they began,” Master Dyss finished for her.

She looked back up at the stranger, her eyes growing wide.  “You will teach me?”

“Child, I will show you the reality of wonders you have only dreamed of until now.”

Finally, she nodded.  And Master Dyss extended his hand to her.  She took it, and the four of them vanished, leaving the village empty in their wake.


The Order of the Illumination of the Soul

Founded by Kelson Dyss in 544 C.Y., the Order (also known as the Illuminati) is an organization of psionic-using creatures dedicated to protecting young psions, psychic warriors, and wilders from commoners and religions that would do them harm.  Born in Medegia in the autumn of 512 C.Y., Kelson Dyss found that his Gift was regarded as heresy and witchcraft by the devout followers of Hextor.  In his sixteenth year, he was forced to flee for his life and made his way to Nyrond.  Even here, he discovered that his use of psionics alienated him from the general population.  As Dyss grew in power and ability, he became increasingly concerned over the treatment of young men and women bearing the Gift.

In 541 C.Y., while on an adventure in the Griff Mountains surrounding Lake Abanfyl, Dyss and his companions discovered an abandoned Dwarven fortress on the shores of the Lake.  Thirty-seven miles to the east of the City of Pendleton, the ruin was isolated and in horrendous condition, but it’s basic structure was sound.  Once the beasts that had made the ruins their home had been defeated, Dyss parted paths with his companions and set about restoring the ancient fortress.

After two years of hard work, the renovations of the newly christened Crystal Keep of the Illuminati were complete.  Dyss next spent several months empowering a series of permanent teleportation circles in a chamber deep within the Keep.  The Chamber of Portals links the Keep with the cities of Pendleton, Nevond Nevnend, Rel Astra, Radigast City, Rel Mord, Greyhawk, Marner, Niole Dra, Chendyl, and Irongate.  A matching teleportation circle in those locations leads back to the Chamber of Portals itself.

The Crystal Keep is built into a spur of the Griff Mountains that is thrust out towards Lake Abanfyl.  Carved from the living rock two hundred feet above the Lake’s waters, the Keep is accessible only through the Chamber of Portals and a long winding road that rises over several switchbacks carved into the granite face of the cliff.  This road circles the Cold Marshes along the south-eastern shore of the Lake and eventually connects with the City of Pendleton and the Duchy of Tenh.  A long tunnel bored through the base of the promontory lets the road continue to villages and towns farther to the east in the Abanfyl Valley.

At the summit of the switchback access road, is the Keep proper.  Twenty-foot high walls (fifteen feet thick) surround the grounds, while the interior rooms and chambers have been carved into the cliff.  A sixty-foot tall tower looms over the Keep, with the topmost level being capped by a hemisphere of quartz crystals, lit from within.  The light provided by the tower softly illuminates the Keep grounds and is visible for miles around.

Dyss then set about recruiting psionic-using creatures; with the stated goal of transforming the Keep into a true Academy and safe-haven.  Over the next decade, the managed to assemble several dozen fellow psionics and prepared the Order of Illumination for the next step.

One of the items acquired by Dyss during his adventuring days was a minor artifact known as the Crystal Ball of Shai’kar.  Intelligent and psionic, the Crystal Ball of Shai’kar allows Dyss to scry across the Flanaess, seeking out those who are new to the Gift.  Through the use of this device, he gains insight into the future which might be as well as the present that is and the past that was.  He searches for untrained psions and (with the aid of the power of the Crystal) homes in on their unique mental impressions.  Once these children are found, Dyss will travel to them and offer them a place within the Order.

Vast libraries and amply stocked classrooms fill the interior of the Keep.  Here, the cadets are trained in all areas of scholarship, their psionic abilities, and with arms.  Gardens and arboretums fill many interior spaces, along with flowing fountains and tasteful murals.  The overall atmosphere is one of quiet contemplation and peace.  This removes the distractions from the minds of the cadets and allows them to focus on acquiring knowledge and learning their own limitations.

At present, there are three hundred and twenty-two permanent residents of the Keep.  This number includes Master Dyss, eleven mid-to-high level psions, fourteen soul-knives, six psychic warriors, and three wilders—all of whom assist in training and instructing the cadets.  Many of these faculty members also have families at the keep.  There are forty warriors and fighters who comprise the Keep’s guard force with the remainder of the staff consisting of experts and commoners hired by Dyss under long-term contracts.  At any given time, there are forty-to-sixty cadets in various stages of their instruction.  Most of the cadets are pre-teens or teenagers when brought to the Keep.  In addition, many alumni of the Keep return for short or long-term visits.

In the wake of the Greyhawk Wars, Master Dyss has taken more of an interest in the realms of the Flaness.  Disturbed by the uptick in assaults upon psionic-using individuals, in 572 C.Y. he harnessed the power of the Crystal Ball of Shai’kar, his own internal reserves, and those of every member of his faculty to send a message simultaneously to every ruler throughout the Flanaess.  The message was simple, short, and extremely direct:  persecute my people at your own peril.  Curtail your inquisitions or pay the penalty with your own blood.

Although alarmed at how the message penetrated their own defenses, many Kings, Dukes, Baron, and Counts discounted the warning:  until the Tyrant of Monmurg was the recipient of a personal visit by Master Dyss.  For a long time, the Tyrant was one of the harshest persecutors of psions in the Flanaess, and he ignored the warnings.  His guards told the tale of how a dozen men suddenly appeared in the throne room and paralyzed the guards and guests.  Once several psionicists in the dungeons had been freed, the leader of these strangers, a man who called himself Master Dyss then sentenced the Tyrant to suffer what he had intended for the prisoners.  Unseen forces pulled against the limbs of the Tyrant, as if he was being drawn and quartered, while burning-hot brands marked his body from head to toe.  Upon the Tyrant’s Death, Master Dyss and the others simply vanished, releasing the guards from their paralysis.

Since then, the nobles of the Flanaess have taken the warnings of the Illuminati rather more seriously.  Unfortunately, it has also brought the Order of the Illumination of the Soul to the attention of several powerful individuals who are even now searching for the Order’s base of operations.  Recently, the Lord Mayor of Greyhawk City asked the Archmage Mordenkainen to provide magical protection against the Order, but the Archmage only laughed.  He then told the Lord Mayor if you don’t bother the mind-mages, then the Illuminati won’t bother you.  It appears to be simple enough to me.  Still, rumor has that the Lord Mayor is seeking a magical means of protecting his secrets from the Illuminati."
 
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Re: Postfest XVI: The Order of the Illumination of the Soul (Score: 1)
by Argon on Mon, December 26, 2011
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Masterarminas,

I have got to say your a godsend for the Greyhawk community. You have supplied many quality articles for the site. I for one appreciate the effort and enjoyed this article. I hope many other people find it useful as well. Though I don't use the terms psion or psychic warrior. I have my own take but can use the Order with some slight tweeks to fit into my campaign easily. I'm sure other people who stay within the guild lines and rule set for the game as is will find your work a welcome continuation of those rules.

Master Dyss has some work to do.

Later

Argon



Re: Postfest XVI: The Order of the Illumination of the Soul (Score: 1)
by Crag on Mon, December 26, 2011
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I love the idea of a psonic order, though I do nat permit psionic characters often the ability is written entirely out of the social context, except for mind flayers.

I am concerned about the teleportation circles as it seems too convenient for me. I like to keep the value of the travel and distance prominent in the game world. The ease that the crowned heads were threatened also concerns me. I would rather have the Order of the Illumination possess agents and recruiters to create adventure possibilites outside of the royal threat. 

 




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