Tarchaniotes, Nyssa

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A picture of Nyssa Tarchaniotes as she appears nowadays

Many years before the birth of Christ, Nyssa Tarchaniotes the High Priestess of Apollo’s Oracle at Delphi. Although the god withdrew his gift of prophecy after a vampire raped and killed her, the witch-goddess Hecate replaced it. Nyssa’s diary, ‘The Chronicles Of Antioch‘, became a standard reference for supernatural events from the third century through the First Crusade.

Nyssa still has a high reputation as a seer. She dwells in Istanbul, her house concealed by mystic wards only the most powerful mages can penetrate. For her services, Tarchaniotes charges each client a pint of his or her blood. She uses a bit of it to seal a contract binding the client never to harm her and to defend her from harm if necessary. Nyssa sees her visions in the rest of the blood, which she drinks at the end of the session. Many potent mystics are said to owe Nyssa favors and bear her geas.

Tarchaniotes avoids killing the mortals she feeds upon so heroic mystics will not decide she is too evil to consult. However, she does not discriminate in her clients: good, evil, or neutral mystics may all seek her help freely. The vampire-seer never issues false advice though at times she cannot answer a question to her client’s satisfaction – and her prophecies are sometimes ambiguous.

Tarchaniotes differs significantly from most of the known types of vampires perhaps due to her relationship with the goddess Hecate. She casts a reflection in mirrors, pools of water and highly-polished surfaces. She is not weakened by religious symbols nor is she adversely affected by garlic. However, she is dormant during the day as sunlight is lethal to her. It is speculated that if one were to decapitate her or drive a wooden stake through her heart, she would die but there has been no attempts to end her life on record.

Adapted from material originally published in The Mystic World by Dean Shomshak. ™ and © Hero Games, Inc., 2004.

Takofanes

The origin of Takofanes adapted from material by Steven S. Long & Darren Watts

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A picture of the Archlich taken during his most recent assault on the world of the living

Sixty-five thousand years ago in the Turakian Age, Takofanes the Undying Lord, also known as the King of the Throne of Human Ivory or simply as the Archlich, was a power-hungry man named Kal-Turak. He subjugated nearly every pocket of human habitation and, through sheer force of will, even conquered death itself. The rule of the undying despot who had become known as the Ravager of Men went unopposed for centuries until the free peoples of that time finally cast him down and imprisoned him in a tomb buried deep beneath the surface under what would become Oklahoma. The tomb survived undisturbed for millennia thanks to the potent magicks placed upon it. However, in 1987, with the tide of magic higher in the world than it had been in centuries, Takofanes freed himself.

Takofanes destroyed the entire town of Tahlequah, Oklahoma and turned its residents into zombies. From there he headed eastward, leaving death, devastation, and madness in his wake as he crossed the United States. His goal was the same as it had been in the past – reign over the world and every soul upon it. Whether they remained alive or undead mattered little to him. A combined effort by several superteams to stop him from crossing the Mississippi River failed, resulting in the deaths of Archangel, Corundum, Delphi, the Hyperkinetic Man, Tightwire, Flechette, and Goldfire.

A second attempt at stopping Takofanes in eastern Kentucky by a larger group of superheroes and several supervillains including the Crowns of Krim succeeded with no further loss of superhuman life but he vanished from the battlefield before anyone could lay hands on him. It was not until that final battle that anyone saw him so much as acknowledge the existence of those opposing him. Since then, Takofanes has returned several times, always in a different location but always spreading death and havoc wherever he goes. He has never worked with other villains and presumably regards all living beings as servitors-to-be regardless of their powers in life.

Resembling a human skeleton garbed in macabre, ornate clothing and borne in a litter carried by his undead servants or the sheer force of his magic, Takofanes commands great magical might particularly in the arcana of Necromancy. He wears on his head the fabled Dragon Crown, seventh and greatest of the Crowns of Krim. Mystics who have fought Takofanes have had no difficulty sensing the evil magick imbued in the crown. Although the exact nature of the magick remains unclear, it seems to protect the Undying Lord from certain mind-affecting powers. On some occasions, the emerald seems to glitter particularly brightly when Takofanes casts spells himself. Where he passes, corpses rise from their graves to serve him, and ghosts appear to wreak harm on the living. Everyone who stands against him and is slain returns from the dead as a mindless revenant under his complete control.

Witchfinder, The

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Photograph taken of Blain moments before engaging Doctor Arcane outside Boston in 2006.

One night, eight year old Jeremy Blaine’s comfortable, middle-class childhood came crashing down. He and his parents were caught in Takofanes’s debut march across the United States. The Archlich slew Blaine ’s parents and reanimated them as part of his army of the dead. Perhaps Takofanes didn’t see him cowering behind a dumpster; perhaps he simply didn’t need a child zombie. Nevertheless, Blaine was spared the fate of his parents.

 

That meeting with Takofanes taught Blaine that devils walked the night, and the worst of all were the devils in human form who treated with the Dark Powers. He lost his parents to magic but he could stop the magicians from claiming any more victims by killing them all first.

Blaine grew up in foster care. He became a top student and star athlete in high school, but he turned down all the offers he received from college recruiters. On his eighteenth birthday, he inherited his parents’ modest savings and used the money for a five-year trip around the world. He visited private libraries and esoteric sages, martial arts trainers and weaponsmiths. At the end of his journey, he was ready to begin his life’s work.

Blaine assumed the guise of the Witchfinder. His goal was to purge all magic from the world – kill the wizards, set fire to their scrolls and manuscripts, destroy their artifacts and burn down their sanctums – or die trying. He saw all supernatural creatures as pawns of magicians, and tried to destroy them as well. Besides conventional weapons, the Witchfinder also employed items of occult power in his crusade, most noteworthy of which was the Spear of Destiny.

Blaine began a bloody rampage in May, 2006 in New York City by murdering three high-ranking members of the devil-worhipping cult DEMON. By the time the magic-wielding superhero Dr. Arcane engaged him in Boston in July of that year, Blaine had murdered another eight people belonging to various occult organizations. It is rumored that Dr. Arcane became involved because Blaine had targeted his family for termination.

During the confrontation, both men vanished in what eyewitnesses claimed was a brilliant burst of light. Although the semi-retired superhero reappeared nearly a year later, Blaine has never resurfaced. In an enigmatic statement made to authorities in April the following year, Arcane stated that Blaine was neither dead nor in custody.

Blaine’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Although Blaine has no metahuman abilities, Blaine has utilized a wide assortment of military-grade hardware as well as a variety of occult objects he has collected against targets to great effect against powerful supernatural adversaries. He is an expert marksman with a wide variety of projectile weapons, an expert hand-to-hand combatant, an expert military strategist as well as an expert in demonology, occult lore and comparative religion.

Adapted from a text originally published in Arcane Adversaries: An Enemies Book for Champions by Dean Shomshak. ™ and © Hero Games, Inc., 2002.

Archmage, The

A description of the office of the Archmage by Dean Shomshak.

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Portrait of Branna (384 BC-865 AD), Gaelic sorceress and second female Archdruid, from the private collection of Arcana Arcanatis

The Archmage is not a person, but an office – the most powerful mystic on Earth, blessed with sorcerous gifts surpassing all others. At the death or retirement of each Archmage, his chosen successor gains the office’s awesome power, no matter where in the Multiverse either person is at the time.

The Archmage’s chief power is an effortless facility with spells. An Archmage does not need the chants, talismans, potions, magic circles, or other paraphernalia used by most sorcerers. He casts spells by will alone. At present, only supermages such as the likes of the horrific Takofanes perform magic with such effortless ease. An Archmage also gains an extended lifespan. Archmages live for centuries, until they encounter something able to kill them or they voluntarily step down and once more age at a normal rate. (The Eternal Tulku may have become immortal before he became an Archmage.)

The Archmage wields tremendous authority over the spirit world. He may call on any power within the Inner Planes. He can invoke the light of God to burn and banish demons, or the fires of Hell to chastise angels. He can borrow a pagan god’s mastery of nature, or the urban magics of Babylon. Ghost, ghoul, and god all find the Archmage summoning the power most baneful to them. Invaders from the Outer Planes encounter an even greater threat: the Archmage can curse them through the power of Earth’s four great spirit-realms, to render the Inner Planes deadly to them.

Over the centuries, the Archmages accumulated many of Earth’s greatest mystic artifacts and relics. They employed some of these magical treasures; others, too dangerous for human use, they locked away to keep them from unwary hands. According to occult legend, a being called Thanoro Azoic initiated the line of Archmages, longer ago than anyone now can say. “Azoic” means “no life”: some mystics believe Thanoro Azoic came from another plane before life existed on Earth, and guarded the planet for eons until the first human wizards became powerful and wise enough to assume his burden. Other mystics believe the First Archmage bore some connection to the mysterious Nagas who taught mystics and heroes long ago. Most sages opine, however, that “Azoic” must be a mistranslation of some other word or name.

After Thanoro Azoic, the line of Archmages has broken twice that mystics know. The first time happened in antiquity. This interregnum lasted more than a century. The Hellenistic magus Thestor restored the line of Archmages after a quest to find Kryptos, the cosmic personification of secret knowledge. Thestor’s grimoire, The Krypticon, became the most treasured possession of succeeding Archmages.

Seven more Archmages followed Thestor: four men and three women, from all around the world. The office returned to Europe in the seventeenth century with the accession of the Russian mystic Bohdan Stanislavski. The Circle of the Scarlet Moon murdered Stanislavski in 1908 in a magical cataclysm, which destroyed most of the arcane artifacts the Archmages had collected for centuries, such as the world had not seen in millennia. Stanislavski lacked an heir as his apprentice had died fighting an Edomite horror in Africa a few years before.

Many contemporary mystics dearly want to restore the office of Archmage and regain humanity’s greatest safeguard against supernatural danger. Unfortunately, everyone who definitely knows the secret of doing so can’t or won’t talk. The serpentine Nagas, whose knowledge of the mystic arts has no equal on Earth, remain silent for their own inscrutable reasons. Perhaps they think it’s useful for humanity to lack one clear mystic authority or perhaps, as some mystics whisper, these ancient entities no longer care what happens to the world.

The retired Archmage called the Eternal Tulku once knew, but he slipped into senility long ago. Perhaps someone can learn the secret of anointing a brand-new Archmage during one of Tulku’s rare moments of lucidity. Regardless of the general mystery surrounding the process of accession to the position of Archmage, mystics know the following:

  • A future Archmage shows great mystic mastery even before his anointing. Specialists and dabblers need not apply.
  • Documented Archmages followed every major style of sorcery – Hermetic ritual magic, Taoist wizardry, shamanism, and more except for alchemy.
  • Moral requirements seem lax. Although an Archmage’s duties include refereeing conflicts between the spirit powers and defending the Earth from supernatural invasion, not all of them have been exactly heroic. A few mystics quite seriously believe that Takofanes the Undying, considered by some the most evil and powerful villain on Earth, is an Archmage from remote antiquity who rose from the dead and reclaimed his power.
  • A prospective Archmage must learn the spell that curses invaders from the Outer Planes. Any sorcerer could learn the Quaternion Banishment, but the mystic must first receive gifts of power from the gods of Faerie, Babylon, Elysium, and the Netherworld. For more than a thousand years, no one except apprentice Archmages ever filled this requirement. Mystics who hope to anoint a new Archmage – or take the office themselves – strive to rediscover the Quaternion Banishment and obtain the necessary gifts of power.
  • On the other hand, a nascent Archmage may not bind himself to any single god or spirit. The Archmage speaks for all humanity in the quarrels and councils of the gods. To do this, he must remain neutral – receiving power from gods, but not becoming beholden to them.

Beyond these minimal requirements, everything else is conjecture. Skilled astral voyagers search the Upper Planes for the elusive Kryptos. Scholarly mystics seek letters from old Archmages, memoires by mystics who knew them, and any other text that might give more hints.

Originally published in The Mystic World: A Setting Book for Champions by Dean Shomshak. ™ and © Hero Games, Inc., 2004.

Thompson, Alicia

A brief biography of silent-film star and diabolical devil-worshiper Alicia Thompson

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Promotional poster for the 1912 Ziegfield Follies

Reputedly one of the many lovers and students of English occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) during World War I, silent-film star Alicia Thompson (1898-1933) began her acting career by the side of her father, Allan Thompson (1858-1912), at the age of 4. Her mother, Edna Thompson née Anderson (1870-1900), was both a talented singer and dancer who died of complications due to pneumonia, leaving the young Alicia in the sole custody of her father.

The father-daughter team were much sought after in Vaudeville and by 1910 had become headliners at New York City’s famous Palace Theater run by Benjamin Franklin Keith (1846–1914). The two took Broadway by storm until 1912 when, amid allegations of pedophilia, the elder Thompson took his own life with a lethal overdose of diamorphine.

It was shortly after her father’s suicide that the beauty, poise and raw talent of the then 14 year-old caught the eye of Florenz Edward Ziegfeld (1867-1932), who immediately showcased Thompson in that year’s Ziegfeld Follies.

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Still from Thompson’s first film Moonchild, 1919

It was at this time that the young singer, dancer and actress became involved in the occult. Although her name had been linked to several prominent occultists at the time including Crowley, these reports have never been substantiated. She has also been said to have been an initiate of the occult secret society the Circle of the Scarlet Moon. One apocryphal story that circulated widely after Thompson’s death in 1933 among the Hollywood elite of the time was that she had sold her soul for riches and power.

In 1918,  Samuel Goldwyn (born Szmuel Gelbfisz, 1879–1974), chairman of Paramount Pictures at the time, recognized Thompson’s potential in the nascent movie industry and offered her a five-year contract at of $500 a week. Her first film, Moonchild (1919), was such a critical and commercial success that a year later the twenty-two year old renegotiated her contract with Paramount, who agreed to pay Thompson an unheard-of salary of $5,000 a week.

Brujeria Mass
A photograph of a Black Mass purportedly conducted at the Beverly Hills home of Thompson in 1925

By 1925, she had starred in ten remarkably successful films and her name had been linked romantically to several of the silent-film eras greatest males stars as well as some of the most powerful men in Tinseltown, including Goldwyn himself. In 1926, a maid in the employ of Thompson, Jane Clinton (1902-1926), reported to the Los Angeles Globe that the actress was a practicing satanist and headed a devil worshiping cult. Representatives of the actress denied these accusations, which were soon forgotten when Clinton jumped to her death from the final D in Hollywoodland (now only Hollywood) sign atop Mount Lee. However, whispers of satanic rituals continued to surround the actress and her associates, many of whom were later linked to the devil-worshiping cult called DEMON.

Brujeria Man
Only known photograph of Vargas taken in Havana in 1931

In 1929, the actress married reclusive Venezuelan oil magnate Ricardo Vargas (1890-1982). After their wedding, the couple shuttled between their homes in Beverly Hills, New York, Buenos Aires, London, Milan, Havana, Caracas and Cairo. Although they were known to associate with some of the most notable and infamous people of the time, they shunned the limelight. The couple would hold exclusive, invitation-only events about which no one would ever disclose any information. In 1930, reports began trickling in to authorities in Cuba and Venezuela of a cult calling itself the Brujeria that was practicing human sacrifice. One eyewitness alleged to have seen Thompson and Vargas officiating in a ceremony in which a month-old baby was sacrificed. Authorities in both countries dropped the case after witnesses and evidence began disappearing.

Thompson was admitted to a private sanitarium in Caracas in 1932 suffering from hysterical paranoia and died in 1933 from a massive aneurysm. Vargas, who never remarried, rarely traveled outside South America after Thompson’s death.