29.3 Loss

Hector took a sidewise glance at his friend as they walked down the street.  He was wearing his basic combat gear at the time which meant, among other things, his face was concealed by the helmet’s polarized visor.  He didn’t want to give Jason the impression that he was… well, worried.  He was though.

Jason had been… better, sort of, since his first session with Jessica Healer.  It was… a little disconcerting that he’d been put back on active duty immediately.  Operative Robert hadn’t given him any specific instructions, but they’d come to an understanding that Hector would keep an eye on Jason and, between the two of them, they’d make sure to keep him away from the… more stressful aspects of their job for a while.

“So what is a… Crowley Lodge?”  Jason asked him.

The Hector walking alongside him didn’t answer, that was the sort of thing Analysts were for.

“The Crowley Association is a loose network of… well, the impolite term is cults.  More accurately, they can range anywhere from a study circle to a full blown quasi-religion.” he said.

“So a Lodge is a local chapter of this Association?”

“That’s right.  Depending on the level of their participation, members will either live onsite or visit on a regular basis.”

“That seems simple enough, but what do they actually do?  You implied some sort of study.  A philosophy group?”  There was a bit of mild curiosity in Jason’s voice, though he kept his features locked in his customary polite mask.

Unseen, Hector smiled.  Good.

They took the name from a turn of the century British writer and explorer, Aleistor Crowley.  Supposedly, they base their philosophy on his teachings but I haven’t been able to find any concrete links.  He died in the forties and the first Lodge didn’t pop up in America till the sixties.”

“Interesting, but you have not answered my question.  What was it that this Crowley wrote about, that these Lodges purport to study but get wrong?”

Not frustrated, Jason sounded amused.  Yes!

“Magic.”

Jason stumbled then recovered.

“Please explain.”  He was actually grinning!

“Crowley was interested in a lot of occult stuff, travelled all over looking into it but especially Middle East.  Wrote some pretty interesting stuff, got demonized by the British press a bit but I haven’t been able to find anything that’d justify their calling him ‘the most evil man alive.'”

“Good.  I would hate to think we were so casually strolling into a den of monsters.”

Was that a deliberate reference or…  He was still smiling, faintly.  Probably not on purpose then.

“Regardless, his biggest claim to fame is that he predicted the coming of what he called the Age of Horus.  A magical awakening among the populace where… let’s see, where ‘Do as thou will shall be the whole of the law.’  Much less creepy than it sounds once you’ve read his stuff but you can see how that might cause concern.”

“What was the timing of…?”

“He was just starting to pick up real notoriety in nineteen oh seven.” Hector stated flatly.

“He predicted the first Empowerments?”

There was clear shock in Jason’s voice.

“Eh, debatable.  There’ve been plenty of other people who made similar claims.  Still, the timing was certainly suggestive and, well, true to the spirit or not, do as thou will certainly comes to mind when you take a look at the Battlegrounds.”

Jason didn’t say anything for a bit.

“Does it work?”

“Does what work?”

“This magic they study.  Is it real?”

With someone else he’d make a joke, tease them a bit, but Jason didn’t react well to being mocked.

“It works but I don’t know that I’d call it magic.  Every one of their ‘Adepts’ registers as Empowered to sensors like Anna Insight and the rate of… they usually call it ‘Awakening,’ among their members is about the same as the general rate of Empowerment in the population as a whole.”

“What about Crowley himself?  Was he Empowered?”

“He spent most of his life, at least the portion of it after oh seven, in England and he wasn’t ever Knighted.”

“Ah.”  Jason went contemplative for a moment.

This was much better than the rapid swings between quiet misery and irrational anger he’d been displaying recently.

“So what is it that makes them a concern for the Citadel?”

“Partly it’s just that they’re a large, semi-organized group with a lot of Empowered.  Add to that, I mentioned that a few Lodges have shown a distinct cultish leaning.  It’s a lifestyle that attracts… unusual mindsets and a strong personality can end up with a dangerous level of influence.  The Association as a whole has never been tied to any significant criminal acts but you can see how something like that’d be worth keeping an eye on.

“And one more thing, the big one as far as official policy is concerned.  For whatever reason, their Empowerments- or Awakenings, whatever- display a very high level of uniformity.  Power level, method of application and actual effect, they just flat out don’t fit into the normal curves.  Policy is, we try as hard as we can without actually breaking the law to get them to register whenever a Lodge comes to our attention.”

“Is it likely to be difficult?” Jason asked.

Hector stopped and turned to face the entrance to a tenement style apartment building.  The general area was… not quite abandoned, but definitely run down.  This one had all its windows intact and bore a few signs that recent repair work had been done.  It wasn’t actually luxurious, but it was enough to stand out if you were paying attention.

The door was painted green, with a drawing done in gold.  It was a pyramid with a stylized eye and rays coming out.

“Guess we’re about to find out.” Hector said as he raised his gloved hand to knock.


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18 comments on “29.3 Loss

  1. It sounds to me like Crowley Lodges should be a MAJOR object of study for the Citadel.

    If their “awakenings” are uniform, it implies that they are doing something that causes that. And understanding anything about where powers come from sounds like important information. I mean decide-the-fate-of-the-world important.

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        • Drugs and cult-like indoctrination to suggest a similar mindset (way of facing problems) and environment that creates similar causes of empowerment (is this a universe where physical threats make physical empowerments, mental trauma mental empowerments?)… that could do it.

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          • If that’s the case, then sending many thousands of “normal” people to fight Monster (and die) should be the best way to get one or two with powers suited for fighting Monster.

            Liked by 1 person

          • That’s quite possibly the mechanism, but if they’ve got anonymously similar types and power levels, it implies they’ve figured out something very important about exactly how it works, something the Citadel would dearly like to know. If they can figure out the mechanics, even if they can’t raise their empowerment rates, they could apply specialized conditions to large numbers of people and get several made-to-order Empowered. Like I noted last chapter, they’re critically short on defensive Nulls; if they could get like ten Special Forces soldiers who are immune to mind control and direct attack powers their lives would become much, much easier.

            Also, the fact that they haven’t raised their Empowerment rate is itself meaningful; it implies that the type of Empowerment is based on conditions, but whether or not someone gets powers is not.

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          • “It implies that the type of Empowerment is based on conditions, but whether or not someone gets powers is not.”

            Or that their clandestine organization is doing a great job of blending in and lying about how many Empowered they really have

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      • To be fair, I read it as that they have the same powerset. The same strength was a possibility, but I doubted it, mostly because of the “Authority Equals Asskicking” trope. I pretty much expected the leader of a given lodge to be more “Awakened” than the common members.

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  2. Well, that would only be possible if they’re generously supplied with powers to counter Anna and similar.

    Granted, if they can pick specific Empowerment, they could totally do that.

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  3. No!!!! I’m caught up! I hate having to wait for more! Great series so far Unillustrated. Between this and Twig it’s going to be a fun ride.

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    • Welcome to the site and thanks for reading!

      I’ve been there many a time before so I feel you. One of the things I like about Wildbow is that he does his serials with a preplanned beginning and end, plus he finishes quickly enough that I don’t mind waiting for a story to be complete before I start it. Hopefully, since I plan to be going with this one for awhile, you’ll be willing to stick around.

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    • Huh. Actually, that one is a coincidence. I can’t swear that the Worm reference wasn’t somewhere in the back of my head but I think it’s more to do with all the RPG’s and fantasy books I’ve read. Adept = Magician in my brain. If anything, I was thinking of a less malevolent version of the Masonic cultists from the early Wild Card books.

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