For over two centuries, a cold war – sometimes verging into the hot – has been waged in the shadows of civilization. The participants: mystics and savants, masters of the Arts Arcane, scholars well-versed in the lore of the occult, sorcerers, witches, and wizards. Arrayed on one side are the forces of darkness – black magicians, demon-worshipers, greedy fools seeking power in wizardry, soul-bereft sorcerers reveling in the misery they cause. Arrayed on the other is the Trismegistus Council.
In the 1780s, in the dark days leading up to the French Revolution, certain French nobles sought both dissipation and safety in studies of the occult. Willing to walk the left-hand path to easy power, they were soon corrupted (though magic was, at that time, at one of its lowest ebbs ever). Such were the seeds from which the Circle of the Scarlet Moon was born.
As the nineteenth century began, wiser occultists and scholars in Europe, England, and America could sense the rise of the Circle, and of the evil it embodied. Unwilling to let black magic work its will in the world unhindered, three of these people – Lord Reginald MacKenzie of Scotland, Eustace Blackmun of Virginia, and Franziska von Hersbruck of what is today Germany – decided to create a counter-force. Taking their name from the fact that there were three of them, and from Hermes the patron of magicians, they called themselves the Trismegistus Council.
Unlike the Circle, which tended to recruit more readily, the Council watched prospective members long and carefully, to determine if they had the knowledge, the wisdom, and the moral fiber to belong. When someone was judged ready, and all members voted in favor of him, an offer of membership was extended. No one offered membership ever refused it. When the group became too large for unanimous voting to work efficiently, a Leadership Board of five members was chosen to evaluate potential recruits.
The size of the Council, like that of the Circle, increased steadily through the 1800s, especially in the latter half of the century. The battles between them – dark and subtle things, often worked through curse, counter-curse, and seemingly mundane accidents and events – became more frequent, and often more deadly.
In the first decade of the twentieth century, the Council expanded the scope of its activities, taking on other threats besides the Council. During the pulp era, several members were bold adventurers, taking the fight directly to the Circle in the struggle to obtain lost artifacts, recover ancient texts, and unravel the mystic secrets of the world. It’s even said by some that the Raven, famed Hudson City crime fighter of the 1920s and ’30s, was a Trismegistus associate. But the Council experienced its greatest failure – and greatest triumph – when it failed to stop the Circle from helping Hitler’s Reichsamt für die Sicherung völkischer Kulturgüter (The Reich’s Office for the Safety and Security of National Cultural Items or RSvKg) to raise the level of the world’s magic and usher in the Era of the Superhuman.
Since 1938, the Council’s role has shifted away from direct activity and back into the shadows. Now there are superheroes, many of them with mystic powers, to fight the dangers that threaten the world. Though all too oft en naive, these beings can battle the forces of darkness in ways the Council’s members never could. The Council has become more of a body of watchers and advisers, aiding mystic superheroes while continuing the struggle against the Circle of the Scarlet Moon, which works its evil still (often through or with supervillains, or organizations like DEMON).
Possessed of great magical lore and wisdom, and in the case of many members potent spellcasting ability as well, the Trismegistus Council could be a welcome ally, or significant hindrance, to any mystic superhero. By and large, the Council regards itself as a body of seasoned professionals, and most superheroes as bumbling amateurs and showoffs. It helps only those it deems worthy, and only in the ways it deems appropriate; it has spent two hundred years concealing its existence through means mundane and magical, so only those heroes whom it wishes to find it succeed in doing so.
Originally published in Champions Universe by Steven S. Long and Darren Watts. ™ and © Hero Games, Inc., 2002.