At many tables or virtual table-tops round the globe these past couple of years, there have been many shoot-outs in the Garden of the Seekers on Coriolis, and many times brother Ramas has been shot, stabbed or other-wise killed on that peaceful bridge at it centre. This garden, like many more across the Horizon, is maintained by acolytes of the Circle of Seekers. But who are the Seekers?
It is said that the Seekers could have become an important faction on their own, but for some reason chose not to. Instead they are credited with being instrumental in the creation of of the Church of the Icons, which is, remember, “the Horizons youngest faction” created after the arrival of the Zenith. But if that is the case the seekers did not hang around for long. Once the Church had a firm footing in the Horizon’s politics the Circle of Seekers retreated, or were they pushed out? The core book says “Today, the Seekers […] have been marginalized, looked upon as wise ascetics and prophets rather than actual figures of power within the faction.” Being “marginalised” seems to suggest it was something done to them, but I think its more likely to be their choice – they are after all ascetic philosophers, dedicated to “understanding the Horizon and the innermost nature of the universe.” Perhaps the hurley-burley of factional life is something they would prefer to do without. Perhaps they created the Church specifically for that political purpose.
That said, they do sometimes involve themselves in modern politics. The core book tells us that with a reputation for being skillful and neutral negotiators, they have often been called upon to end bitter conflicts. But such interventions are rare and at the request of at least one of the participants. Apart from this and the gardens they maintain, they keep themselves to themselves.
So where do they retreat to? According to the core book, apart from “scattered colonies and temples” on Menau they are “strongest on Sadaal, on Mira and her sister systems, and on Dabaran, where they have both the Temple of the Circle and a monastery school in Lotus, the holy city.” This last is their headquarters as it were. The Temple City of Lotus is a bit like our Rome, an independently run city state: “A mere fifteen years before the beginning of the Portal Wars, the Circle of Seekers — having tirelessly cared for the city’s pilgrims through a tumultuous series of coups and usurpers — were entrusted with governing Lotus.” That said, there is a schism in the Lotus City according to one the adventures in the Last Cyclade. The Lotus Council is in the ascendant, claiming to better represent the ice worship across the Third Horizon.
The idea of retreat, of separation from the rest of society is a very import one in Seeker philosophy. According the to the core rules the title of Seeker “is only awarded someone upon initiation into one of their monasteries, which are always shaped like circles.” This reminds me of the Neal Stephenson novel Anathem, where each monastery is a series of concentric circles, and progress through ranks of the monastic order is market by moving into an inner circle, getting closer closer to the centre of the monastery. I must admit, I had the same thought about the monasteries on Zalos, so perhaps the Seekers and the Order of the Pariah share some commonalities? But what are the secrets held by the innermost circles of the Circle of Seeker?
One thing not every Seeker will publicly admit to is that their acetics can manifest Mystic powers. Importantly, they could even before the advent of the “Mystics Disease” when people started manifesting such powers spontaneously. Is there a connection? Well this is where we got into real spoiler territory and if you don’t already have an idea what I am talking about you might want to stop listening/reading.
Players who have participated in a Song for Jarouma make have worked out that the “Emissaries” were scientists, possessed at an incredibly long distance by people from the Second Horizon. These people are called the Symetry, or the Santulans (it may be that the Santulans are the leaders of the Symetry). We are told that they fled the tyranny of the the First Horizon and became the dominant political force in the Second.
The Atlas Compendium tells us that the Circle of Seekers were originally a part of the Symmetry, and together they discovered several nodes in the Third Horizon which could create a mystical link between systems in a fashion that falls outside of the technology and methods used by the Portal Builders. Using the nodes, the Seekers could stay in contact with their mystic allies in the Second Horizon. Its one of the these nodes – long thought destroyed by the forces of the first horizon during the portal wars, that was used to possess the scientists on Xene.
Which raised questions. The Seekers claim to have severed all connections with the Symetry during the portal wars? But have they? Is that actually something they convinced the other factions of to avoid being purged like the Nazareems Sacrifice? The Lotus Council has split with the other seekers because (the say) the seekers are too wedded to older, second horizon thinking. Are they really still in communication with the Symetry? The Last Cyclade says that “after the loss of their observer at the (Coriolis) Council, the Santulans (the Symmetry) instead strengthened the Children of the Song and are preparing their acolytes in the Circle of Seekers for the coming darkness. The mystics of the Third Horizon are being turned into a secret strike force for when Ardha once again shows its true face.” Well if that is true, it suggests its happening via these nodes.
And if at least some nodes still exist, do the Circle of Seekers have an instantaneous communication network across the whole Third Horizon? Are they secretly manipulating the Church of the Icons from a distance? According to the Last Cyclade perhaps not, or rather, perhaps not as successfully as they had hoped: “the Circle’s leaders are becoming worried about [the Church’s] submissive attitude when dealing with the Hegemony and the Consortium […] it is becoming increasingly clear that the Seekers will have to start acting independently.“
If you are a GM, running players who have opted to be part of the Circle of Seekers, what does all this mean for them? How much should they know? The idea of circles within circles and advancing though the monastic ranks means they might have to purchase Faction Standing before being let on on these secrets. Maybe even faction standing isn’t enough. Maybe though, they could be surprised by fast communication across the horizon, or offered a way of learning the mystic powers talent and an mystic talent appropriate of the Circle, like Thought Transferance or Puppeteer.
And consider, after the events of The Last Cyclade, what are the motivations of the Seekers? Are they still in league with the Symetry? Or are they more loyal now to the people of the Third Horizon. What might they do, with an army of mystics. Are they the “New” Seekers?