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The Old Order Changeth: The Masquerade

Many secret forces have controlled the world in the past. None have ever been so pervasive or powerful as the Masquerade.

The Second Age was a time of savage warfare and primordial power, waged in the shattered remains of the Atlantean Alliance. The Third was the beginning of what we know as history, and except for the still-widespread existence of "superhuman" powers such as magic, took place more or less as the history books say. The Fourth Age was what we know as the Dark Ages, and while it was truly an era of ignorance for many, there was much wonder and learning for those who dared to uncover the secrets of a Mythic World. Throughout it all, the great mass of humanity remained vulnerable as the mighty waged their wars around them.

Alas, while the wizards, remaining Exalted, and fae of the Fourth Age began with the intent of protecting humanity, eventually the "masses" became an afterthought. Enlightenment became something for the elite, and the rest of humanity was supposed to be grateful for what the mighty gave them. Not all of the wizards and creatures of the Mythic Age felt this way, but the majority attitude ensured their supremacy...and their downfall.

Not all mages were wizards, even then. Some sought Awakening through more codified, easily accessible means. Outraged by the excesses of the Hermetic orders and proud Celestial Chorus faction, they determined to bring the masses their own power. They also approached the Eternals; they had retreated to focus on their own pursuits, but the immortals were disgusted with what had been done to humanity. In a move that would prove troubling throughout their history, they also contacted the Camarilla, a society of vampires who had banded together in the face of annihilation by the wizards, monster-hunters and mage-priests.

Together, they developed a two-pronged assault on the nightmares and wizard-tyrants of the world. The science-mages had discovered an earth-shaking fact -- the faerie and most magickal beasts required the Glamour of humanity to sustain them, a power dependent on belief. Wizards could not be wholly undone by cutting off this belief, but by transferring humanity's faith from magick and the fantastic to reason and logic, spellcasting would become much more difficult and dangerous except in seclusion. Even the Exalted would be weakened by the shift of Essence, though they could sustain themselves by going into hiding with the rest of the supernaturals. Meanwhile, the Eternals and Kindred existed outside the need for this belief (vampires being a bizarre cross between Eternals and Exalted themselves), allowing them to use their powers unhindered as long as they remained secret. Thus was born the Masquerade Alliance.

Consisting of the seven Prides of immortals known as the Society of Aeons, the Enlightened will-workers called the Order of Reason, and the vampire clans which form the Camarilla, this sometimes fractious (but always effective) alliance erased belief in magick and the spiritual realm from the world at large. Though resisted by many great powers at first, humanity was inspired by the possibility of shaping its own destiny free of control by capricious fae, spirits and magical beasts, and the Masquerade quickly became a juggernaut. The Fifth Age had begun.

With science and reason leading the way, the Masquerade found it easier than they ever imagined to rewrite history wholesale. It took several generations to wean humanity off magick entirely, but the masses seemed to want a more peaceful, ordered world, even if it meant that Awakening became more difficult. In the war's greatest irony, the wizards spent so much time in isolation that they didn't realize how difficult magick was becoming outside their citadels until the shift was well underway. The fight to free humanity was going well...until the Masquerade became its own worst enemy.

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Next: Resistance and Madness

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