Runequest Thursday #196 - The Cabal of Luck and Death - History, Part 1!

Clint Staples

Over the past few posts for RQT, I have provided a new approach to Sorcery, using my own Runequest Sorcery System in all things, but altering the WAY in which spells, and sorcerers, are organized, or organize themselves. In most versions of Runequest sorcery, the Runes (which are central to divine magic in many RQ settings, like Glorantha) play little part, because sorcery deals with mortals imposing their will upon the universe directly rather than through runic manifestations.

Runic Sorcery grants benefits to the sorcerer who pursues it, allowing him a more intimate and versatile understanding of Runes and the magic that arises from them than a "standard" sorcerer might gain. Runic sorcerers can cast spells that involve their runes with much less investment of Magic Points, which allows them to stay in the game longer without running out of power. Of course this comes at a cost - rituals that bind a sorcerer to a certain rune and force her to give up the use of an opposing rune in exchange. This exchange balances well, and promotes a themed sorcerer (or group of sorcerers) that can be a lot of fun to play with in a setting.

If you have been reading previous posts, you know that the Runes I have explored in my example are those of Luck and Death. And sorcerers who choose to focus on them often receive their instruction from the Masters of Luck and Death - a sorcery cabal that holds these powers in high regard.

 

The Masters of Luck and Death began many centuries ago, when an accomplished sorcerer of the age, Mauros Penwarden, died. The stories surrounding his death vary, and Mauros has done nothing to clarify matters. According to the earliest records of the cabal, Mauros' death was a singular event, in which he came to comprehend the Death Rune intimately, and through it and a passing understanding of the nature of luck (with which he had previously come to be familar), he returned to life, unmarred by anything except the scar where his death wound should have been. Though Mauros shared the details of his experience with only a select few, he was considerably more open about the knowledge of Luck and Death that the experience granted him.

On arriving at the City, which could be Notchet in the Gloranthan setting, but might as easily be Constantinople, Venice, Lankhmar, Baakshan or Cynosure in others, Mauros established himself in a tower, suitably black by all accounts, and took two apprentices - Ilvia, who would come to be known as Ilvia the Fortunate, and Delac Verdictus. Ilvia focused her sorcerous talents upon the understanding of Luck - good AND bad. Delac embraced first the Death Rune, but eventually came to understand the power of Luck, and wove them together in a number of spells that have come down to modern Cabalists.

The potence of Mauros, and the personailities of his engaging proteges, ensured that the Cabal of Luck and Death grew, attracting the sons and daughters of the nobility, paupers eager for power, mercenary warriors with a talent for sorcery, and ne'er-do-wells who hungered for the promise of power in whatever form it chose to manifest. Membership grew large and diverse enough that internal dispute was inevitable, and so arose the concept of the Death Duel - in which the duelists were encouraged to fight to the point of death, but not to cross over the Red Line, as Death came to be called within the Duelling structure. Duels became popular ways to test magical theory, as well as runic connection, and in some cases supplanted normal debate and study as cabal pastimes. When Mauros finally allowed Death to claim his aged husk, the cabal was primed for disaster - which came in the form of the final, some say inevitable rift between Ilvia and Delac.

Ilvia realized the futility of directly challenging Delac, of whom it was said that he could pronounce the Verdict of Death upon a foe and ensure that the runes of Luck and Death conspired to bring it about. She gathered a number of acolytes and fled the City in secret, leaving all title to the Cabal of Luck and Death to Delac. Of her fate, more shall be said anon.

Delac immediately settled into the seat of the Grand Master, ruled firmly, but more or less fairly, and withdrew the stricture of not dying or killing in the Death Duel - which had the desired effect of significantly reducing it in popularity. He encouraged study and exploration with grants from the considerable wealth the Cabal had accrued via its tutelage of those with money and power, as well as its clandestine instruction of a coterie of loyal sorcerous assassins - The Annihilata. Truly it was a glorious age of power, accomplishment and blood that raised Delac high enough to rule the City in all but name. So passed a pair of centuries, and Delac gained another name - The Undying.

Over the course of this time, a small city grew up in the Wasteland, became a junction for trade. It was said that all manner of goods could be found there. Traders, mercenaries, adventurers, profiteers and the feckless ventured there to make their fortunes in Crossroad. And some did so, gaining wealth and power as if destined to grow great. So did one Rekkar, a barbarian from the farthest wastes, come to the City of Trade at a time most fontunate indeed. For the last acolytes of Ilvia had given too much of themselves to bring about the vision of their mistress, allowing the city to prosper at the cost of the acolytes' very essence. Rekkar's own sorcery had been awakened by a chance encounter with a wastelander demoness. On arriving at Crossroad, the energy that had drawn him seemed to wane the closer he drew to its source. Eventually he tracked the last tendrils of power to the crumbling abode of the sole remaining acolyte, herself dying but detemined to await the arrival of the one who would carry on the power of the Luck Rune. Whether she gave up her power and life willingly, or whether Rekkar tore it from her dying breath, is unknown. But when Rekkar left the ruin, it is said that Luck rode on his left shoulder and Death upon his right. 

Delac the Undying was not entirely unaware of events in Crossroad, but his understanding of Fate was such that it was no great feat for him to see what awaited him. At first, he turned Death against Luck, sending Annihilata to destroy Rekkar. Rekkar, and a number of students, turned aside every dagger, every spell, and poured Luck into raising the fortunes of Crossroads ever higher. FInally, Delac remembered some forgotten power, and twisted Fate against the trading city. A horde of barbarians descended upon Crossroads, eager for plunder, power and a way to the civilization that lay beyond. Rekkar's inner circle died in the fighting. Rekkar abandoned the city to the horde, consigned his cult to the winds of Fate, and fled. On his trek, he is said once more to have encountered his demoness, who told him of Delac's machinations. Rekkar determined to go to the City. His demoness, Mordata, accompanied him, became his apprentice in Luck and Death - and the Fata Mordata, a sect of mages that balance the power of both runes, was born of her, and Rekkar's teachings.

They arrived at the City alone, even as Delac came to understand that he must transcend Death to fully comprehend it. So to continue his centuries of existence, Delac embarked upon a the creation of a new Rune, one that embodied Death without surrendering one's Fate to it.

Delac was discovering the Rune of Undeath . . .

 

End of Part One.