Part One : A History of Service
For over 3,000 years, they have waited patiently in the shadows, acting swiftly and silently when needed to thwart man’s destruction at the hands of unknowable horrors. They are the Servants of Man, a clandestine order zealously obsessed with preventing occult forces from bringing about the enslavement or extinction of mankind, regardless of the costs or collateral damage caused. Of greatest concern to the Servants, in fact the very reason for their existence, is stopping the five darkest rites mentioned in the final stanza of the Codex of the Harbinger Star from being performed.
If they fail, the world ends.
The truth of the order begins in Ancient Egypt…
Beginnings of the Order
The world at large knows very little about the real Pharaoh Tutankhamen and the circumstances of his death. To the casual student of history, Tutankhamen was a boy king, who took the throne of Egypt at age 9 and died at 19, apparently of a mysterious head injury. In the shrouded truth, we find the beginnings of this secretive organization.
The majority of Tutankhamen’s deeds were purposely erased from the annals of history by the Servants to prevent others from following in his footsteps. In life, Tutankhamen was a preternaturally adept sorcerer, with tastes that ran towards the horrific and vile. A mystic prodigy, by the age of 9 Tutankhamen could enslave men’s minds with his enchantments, an ability he often used to black ends, including seizing the Egyptian throne. By 15, the Codex of the Harbinger Star, already ancient by the time of Tutankhamen’s reign, had found its way into his depraved hands. At 19 years of age, Tutankhamen’s devotion to unlocking the secrets of the Codex had nearly paid off, and he was preparing to undertake the 5 darkest rites when fate intervened.
Tutankhamen’s slaves, loyal to the pharaoh since birth, began to worry about the larger implications of Tutankhamen’s actions. Tending to his every need, they had overheard pieces of the pharaoh’s plans, and witnessing his descent into madness through the years, they knew his designs meant trouble for both Egypt and the world at large. Though he was to be worshiped as a god, Tutankhamen’s slaves bravely banded together and conspired to kill the pharaoh, with the role of assassin falling to Tutankhamen’s personal chariot driver.
In the dry expanse of Upper Egypt, beneath the red glare of the approaching Harbinger Star, Tutankhamen’s chariot driver smashed in the back of Tutankhamen’s skull with a stone when his attention was diverted. The pharaoh’s body was returned to Akhetaten under the guise that the pharaoh had fallen from his chariot, and his slaves moved quickly to secure the Codex to prevent anyone else from reading its contents.
This small band of slaves, the original Servants, fled north with the Codex across both deserts and seas, until finally settling on a small secluded island off the coast of Britannia many generations later. The Codex would not remain in their possession for long, however, before mysteriously disappearing . . .
The Servants’ Quarters
There is a reason why the Isle of Man has never been an official part of Britain, and yet Britain defends and looks after the otherwise self-governed isle. Since the early 800’s, the isle has served as the main base of operations for the Servants, and several influential members of the British aristocracy have been Servants throughout the ages. There are several conflicting theories as to how the Isle of Man got its name, all of which the Servants readily encourage. In more modern times, the Servants act as a fully independent arm of the British MI-5, tasked with handling matters of the occult.
Referred to as “The Servants’ Quarters”, the Servants’ main base of operations has been located in an underground complex beneath Peel Castle on the Isle of Man since the castle was built in the 11th century. (In later times, the Servants’ Quarters can be found beneath Peel Castle’s ruins). The main entrance is located in a secret passageway beneath the Cathedral of St. German, just below the ruined chancel, where a torch-lit staircase descends into the depths below. (In the 1880’s, this staircase was replaced with a working elevator.) Formal plans for repairs of the castle have been officially approved since 1877, but never implemented due to the Servants’ “interventions.”
Every chapter of the order in various countries around the world has a base of operations (each referred to as “Servants’ Quarters”), but the secret complex on the Isle of Man is the main depository for the order’s wealth and libraries, with the other chapters essentially acting as listening outposts that report information back to the Isle of Man and await instructions from the Inner Eye — the Servants‘ mysterious ruling council.
The Peel Castle complex is well defended by armed guards (and high-tech security in later iterations), illusion magics, and deadly traps for the unwary. Secret passages allow for members to escape from the complex into the system of caves riddling the isle, and hidden doorways have been cut into the cliffs along the coast to allow boats to enter unseen under the cover of night. The Servants’ greatest security feature by far, however, is the Moddey Dhoo — a ghostly black dog bound to the isle by the Servants’ incantations, which has served as a vicious protector and watchdog since the castle’s foundation stones were laid. (For BRP rules – use the wolf stats coupled with a ghost’s powers. For 3.5/Pathfinder RPG rules, use a yeth hound with the ghost template.)
The Servants In Your Game
Regardless of the time period your game takes place in, the Servants of Man can be either a crusading force for good, or an amoral source of opposition for your players as they “protect” humanity with a heavy (and often lethal) hand. The order is comprised of mystics, psychics, scholars, paranormal investigators, spies and assassins, all sworn to protect mankind from being destroyed by those things man was never meant to know. Players can either join the Servants and act as their agents, or the Servants can be a recurring thorn in the PCs’ sides, with far-reaching contacts and members drawn from every walk of life to act against the PCs’ interests.
Further sources of intrigue could even include drawing lines of division amongst the order, allowing the players the option of siding with an ideological faction, or playing both sides against the middle. In any iteration, the Servants work well as an organized, active force against the horrors from beyond, adding elements of “cloak and dagger” play to your game.
If nothing else, at least your PCs aren’t alone in the dark anymore.
Tomorrow we delve into the Servants’ innermost secrets!
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