Ghost Story: To Gather in Darkness



Back again? Kid, keep this up and you'll be my second assistant...

Yes, I mean that. You'd be surprised what help another corpus could be. Guilds? Yeah, I know all about Guilds. Not how to contact them or what they can teach you, get those ideas out of your head right now. That's what most new souls think when they first hear about the Guilds. They forget that they were outlawed for a reason.

Outlawed. As in, made illegal, and if you're one of them, you're going to the Forges. Now most Restless you meet will tell you that there ain't no more Guilds, that the Breaking stopped all that. Charon came down from high and kicked them all out, and they just scattered, never meeting again. It's a good joke, but not much else.

Look at it this way. You've got a tight-knit society that thrives on you sharing what you know with others. These societies meet up and at one point have enough power to think of taking on Charon and the Deathlords all at once. You honestly think they're going to disband like good little boys just because the big C said so?

I didn't think so.

It's a good thing that you're in my Haunt, still. That good joke is the party line and I know plenty of Centurions will slap you down hard for saying any different. You're lucky in that respect that I ain't like that. Why? Because it never does to hurt a useful pawn - No, because information is what I trade in, and if I slapped everyone that mentioned Guilds, I'd lose half my income at a stroke.

Okay, I'm going to have to go through this from the top, I can tell. You've no doubt heard about the forming of the Guilds, how each specialized in an Arcanos, and how they banded together to try to overthrow Charon and take over the Empire for themselves. But it doesn't stop with the Breaking of the Guilds. See, while your average ghost on the street will say that it does, even he doesn't believe it.

The Guilds went underground, some into the Establishment as it is, some turning tail and running to the Renegades. They kept up being Guilds, but now they were secret societies, from the Forgemaster to that Renegade crafting weapons for a mercenary group. Both were still Artificers, and probably met up with each other and plenty more besides at meetings of the Artificer's Guild. Of course, they had to be secretive, but even if spies did get in, then they had all the best Artificers and Masquers, so the spies weren't in any kind of form that would let them walk back out.

Some of the Guilds saw no change when they became criminals. Some just went back to their day jobs but leading a double death. Artificers were still needed, and nobody was going to question too much the after hours dealings of their Legion's forge. Bad idea when you need all the weapons and armor you can get. Masquers too, they had the same kind of deal as the Artificers, but they also specialized in the kind of shady dealing every Anacreon needs now and again. Spying. Assassination. That kind of thing.

Nobody was going to go against a Pardoner, and the reasons for that should be obvious. Criminal or not, they're the only ones capable of fixing your head. Crossing a Harbinger's always been bad luck, and they're the main lines of communication and transport. Usurers were slightly more of a gray area, but they were still needed by the Legions, especially for a quick top up right after the Spectres have given your unit a going over. The Legion of Fate had some kind of teacher's pet contest going on with the Oracles Guild and the lady of Fate, but either way, an Oracle wasn't going to get closed down.

Other Guilds had always been on the edge of usefulness. A few went rogue, a few had always been rogue. Their meetings were just as secret as the others had become, though. Chanteurs and Sandmen were both needed by the Stygian elite for entertainment and sure, they had their uses in the front lines. But on the other hand, what part of the Empire's structure relies on actors and music-hall stars? The Monitors had some kind of set-up to them like the mob, even back then. Sure, they were useful when it came to having Fetters checked upon or strengthened, but threaten their Don, and all of a sudden you're Harrowed without ever knowing why. Just too dangerous to keep in the ranks in numbers, especially with their way of working.

Then, there were the rogues. Those that had only been on the side of the Hierarchy because the others were. Sometimes, they were useful, a lot more often they were nothing but trouble. Proctors were the least harmful and the most harmful, at the same time. They didn't kill people, and they didn't steal their bodies. They just wanted to be alive again. But the Dictum Mortum hit them hard.

Remember that, the little 'Ye shalt not traffic with the Living' like it was the Eleventh Commandment? How'd you think it hit the guys who were trying to forget they were dead? They ran. The Puppeteers got stung by that just as badly, but it was harder to have direct proof of Skinriding and the Legions used them to hunt Spectres in the Skinlands. Even so, they were like the crowd when a speakeasy gets raided, panicked and confused. Haunters and Spooks had something in common. They both affected the Skinlands without going there. Thing is, most of the Haunters were and are nuts. They thought it was a good idea to scare the shit out of someone with plagues of flies and bleeding walls just to recruit then when they finally killed themselves. The Spooks on the other hand started Fetter protection rackets and extortion from their ability to break things. Some of them started protecting the Shroud from the other things, laying the smack down onto the things that think it's fun to jaunt here in the Shadowlands.

But that was all back then. With all my talk of it, you'd think the Guilds still had every Artificer and Sandman in their pocket. Not so. After the Breaking, Charon encouraged the corpus on the street to pick up whatever Arcanoi he could. Eventually, Stygian-trained Pardoners started working areas of the city away from those the Guild sponsored, and started drawing off trade. Artificers cropped up that were nothing to do with the Guild. Eventually, the Guilds lost their monopoly, and became the underground societies that they are today. Don't get me wrong, the idea that they've been wiped out is bullshit. But if ever you meet a member, they'll claim that they're just as strong as they were, and that's nothing but honey and horseapples to draw you in.

There are three other Guilds, though you won't find many people making mention of them.

The first got off lightly. Alchemists had already been treat like an offshoot of the Artificers, and as the revolt came closer and closer they just got more and more... absorbed by their parent Guild. They were kinda strange even for Artificers, getting into things like Underworld chemistry and the effects on matter across the Shroud. Their art, Flux, isn't too heavily banned. It can strengthen your Fetters and speed the fall of others'. If you're careful, it's like making sure you don't get caught using Inhabit.

The Solicitors are scary sons of bitches. Very scary. They were some kind of cult when they were around and legal, so I hate to think of what they're like now. You want to know what they could do? Fuck with the needs and desires in your head. They could make you want so much to walk into a Nihil that you'd do it no matter what anyone pointed out. They could make you forget why you even had a Passion. Sends a chill through me just thinking about it. But even they weren't as bad as the Mnemoi.

I take it you've heard about the Mnemoi. Traitorous bastards every one. They used to be lawkeepers and judges as they could look straight into the memories of accused and accuser to get right at the truth. Then it turns out they were taking everyone for a ride, seeing how things straightened out for their own benefit rather than for justice or anything like it. They got caught, and bad. These days, it's plain old illegal to start fucking with someone's memories like that. Straight to the Forges for anyone that gets caught.

And good riddance to the lot of them.