The significance of their meeting goes back to the myth of the hieros gamos, the sacred marriage between the ruler/god and high priestess/goddess that brings prosperity to the land. Compare this to the marriage of Isis and Osiris, Inanna and Dumuzi, Mary and Joseph. If the Pattern is completed and they marry, then the prophecies will be fulfilled and a great change will come upon the world.
However, the forces of chaos and destruction will likely seek to prevent this from occuring. Both Set and the Dogs of Shaitan will, if they find out about the nature of the two, try to prevent their union. Set fears they will give birth to an incarnation of Horus, and the Dogs (or rather, the forces behind them) prefers chaos and dissolution to a new order.
Finding the statue is a hard task. If the characters learn enough in the temple, they could study old inscriptions from Heliopolis trying to track it down. In an obscure stele from the sixth dynasty it says that "... all gods pay homage to thee, Re. The ever shining Sothis who has moved into her father's house raises her rays to adore thee...", which suggests that the statue was indeed kept at the temple of Ra ("moving to her fathers house" suggests a divorce, possibly forced. There are analogies here to how Set imprisoned Isis after his ascension to the throne). A more detailed search of Heliopolitan records will reveal that there were a "guest temple" for visiting gods near the main temple. A text from the middle kingdom, early 12th dynasty mentions that many of the visiting gods had been returned to Thebes, which suggests that the statue may have been moved to the newly built temples of Luxor.
A search in Luxor is not likely to reveal much. However, Thebes was looted by the Assyrians in 671 BC; it is not unreasonable to think that the priests hid the gods somewhere to keep them safe. If the characters could find a priestly grave from the era they might learn that "The Osiris Tjederef, son of Amun-Re, saved many gods to the temples above from the servants of Sutekh". "The Temples Above" can be found to refer to some of the forts built by Senusert III and the redoubts and temples built by the priest-kings of Amon. This suggests that the statue might have been hidden in one of the temples now submerged under Lake Nasser
Finding the right temple is hard since the small temple of Sothis was lost during the retreat of the ex-rulers to Napata in current Sudan during the second assyrian invasion. It became hidden beneath sand and silt just like the original temple two millennia before. A careful scan through the surveys made of the valley just before the dam was built may suggest several possible sites. One way to find out is to go out there in boat, dive into the murky and deep waters and try to use some coincidental magick to find a connection to the goddess. Another possibility might be to try to get the knowledge from the gods themselves, or make deals with the Watchers. Digging her up from several meters of silt and her ruined temple is a challenge even for skilled mages, but might be worth it.
The statue itself does not look much to the world, a worn granite statue of a seated woman with a star on her headdress. But it is a direct link to the goddess, and if placed in a properly consecrated temple and given regular worship the goddess is likely to do her best to support her faithful.
These are suggested trials. Ideally, they should be adjusted to fit not just the character but also the player, and if the story takes another turn they should be changed and placed in a suitable scene. The order may be varied, although the current order is magickally "correct". One interesting possibility is to develop each of these situations with symbols, events and references suitable to the sephiroth they correspond to, see any textbook on the cabala.
Yesod (the foundation): the first visit to the temple of Sothis. While the Moon is in his right element and may be playing his archaeological trickery too far, Uranus (Trond) will become possessed by the old dead and has to face his fear of completely loosing control, becoming permanently possessed. If Trond becomes too scared of going into the past, he will not be able to help the Order in its quest.
Hod (splendour): research at the Museum. Mercury (Rebecca) is ascendant, finding a lot of useful information (risks becoming too engrossed). But Saturn gets into trouble when Mme Granboul- Ponty turns up; he has to manage to hide his connections and allies from the Technocracy (and possibly from other allies); his complicated web of connections and secrecy suddenly turns out to be dangerous. If he mess up things, he might become "tainted" socially or put under surveillance, hindering the quest.
Netzach (victory): During setting up a good operations base Alicia gets the chance to really interact with the sleepers in the neighbourhood and maybe help them. Can she help them without attracting too much attention? At the same time Jupiter (Constantine) encounters problems when his daughter who he dearly loves and really wants more contact with writes and wants to visit him in Egypt - she mustn't be involved in the secret plans, but can he resist her? And if she arrives, she might distract him at a point when his connections and money are crucial.
Tiphareth (beauty): The Sun (Phillipe) is moving around in society, gathering allies, friends and admirers; very useful for the Order but if he is not careful he might become too well-known to help the Plan. At the same time Mars (Jean) has problems with the security - somebody is apparently trying to kill him or his friends, can she protect them or will she fail again? This is also an ideal point to introduce Laylah, possibly as the person in greatest danger.
Geburah (severity): In a dangerous situation where Mars (Jean) is in her right element (and may become overconfident), Philippe gets into trouble when he realises one of his friends or allies is on the wrong side. Can he avoid betraying loyalty? If he betrays, the rumour may spread and his reputation may suffer.
Cheshed (mercy): During the construction of the Pattern, Jupiter (Constantine) has to organise the financing and organisation of the project, avoiding both becoming too grandiose and to underestimate the costs. But Venus (Alicia) will have to ensure that the project is done with conscience and without undue harm to others; if she fails she will feel the burden of the problems the project will cause among the sleepers.
Binah (knowledge): During the final phases of the project, it becomes clear that some ritual resources needed for crucial rites are lacking and must be obtained. Saturn (McPatric) can probably arrange meetings with the artisans and dealers able to provide them (another possibility is to involve the Library of Alexandria). But when the cabal gets in touch with them a secret of an ancient mystery is hinted; Rebecca has to avoid getting side-tracked by this temptation or she will not be able to help finish the project. See the next section for some suggestions for interesting mysteries.
Chochma (wisdom): During the struggle with Asal-Apophras-Set Trond's knowledge of old Egypt and the dead will become extremely valuable. But all the revelations will place the Moon (Brian) in a troublesome situation: what to do with them? Another possibility for this dilemma is to confront him with Maat herself - can he stand the Truth?
Keter (crown): the final trial, the consecration of the Pattern.
Some mysteries worth studying are:
The sleepers should never be overlooked. Curious street children may become curious and want to discover what the strange foreigners are up to. Completely mundane police and security agencies may become interested in strange behaviour, especially if crimes are committed. Culture shock might provide a lot of amusing, problematic and downright dangerous situations. Especially the female characters may run into problems with traditional arabian views, and westerners should be careful where they walk in certain parts of Cairo.
Another mundane problem is health. Most visitors to Egypt quickly acquire "Cairo quickstep", the local variant of tourist diarrhoea. It is not very dangerous, but might make the cabal a bit inefficient the first days. More serious diseases are a real possibility, especially since mages seldom want to go to a technocratic hospital and have to rely on magickal or traditional healing. Things can get really nasty if the cabal upsets the Law of Maat (Procaryote is a very handy paradox spirit), and the Camels of Pestilence might be sent after them by Set or the Dogs of Shaitan.
The Arcanum is interested in the same things as the characters, and the search for knowledge might develop into a race between the mages and sleeper researchers.
Some of the Watchers might offer aid, either because they think the Plan is indeed a good thing, because they want to trick the humans into some kind of deal or perhaps just out of curiosity. Maybe they will suggest magickal support in building the Pattern in exchange of freeing a trapped Watcher owned by (say) Mr. Rifaie.
Basically, several groups will do their best to co-opt the help of the PCs to achieve their different ends. Some are fairly simple, others are mind-bogglingly subtle. Of course, other groups want to prevent this and may do their best to interfere. Tricks like setting up traps for bumbling characters to fall into (possibly so they might be "saved" by the fortuitous arrival of the planner), masquerading as agents of other fractions, double-crosses, unholy alliances with the enemy's enemy and double-agents abound.
The thing to remember is that most of the intrigues are fairly subtle and low key; direct magickal offensives or meetings with high-level mages are rare. The Batini will likely use middle-men like Jamal Haroun instead of meeting directly with the characters, the Priestesses of Isis prefer to work in total secrecy (help or sabotage just appears with no explanation) and even the Shayks of the White Night might meet the characters at a café instead of in a dark alley. More can be achieved by courtesy, talk and dealing than with violence and brute force - even if there are plenty of muscle hiding behind the scenes.
The level of spying and paranoia has to be adjusted to fit the chronicle; too much, and it becomes ridiculous and the cabal would have to fend off spies and intrigues at every turn, too little and they will quietly change the world fundamentally without any opposition. The ideal level is to keep them alert, cautious and at the same time bring in the mysterious opponents (who sent the watcher? and is he friend or foe?).
Of course, unless the characters are extremely obvious most groups will not immediately find them, and even once they are known they will not necessarily merit constant surveillance. At first, the prime goal for most groups aware of them will be to learn more about them and their goals. Later, the objective will be to find out what they are up to, where they live and what alliances they make.
The Armorers can protect themselves in many ways. Lying low, sensible precautions, a good cover story, some magickal and mundane security and common sense can go a long way. One major concern should be to find ways of getting around, working and hiding without anybody knowing - quite easy in a huge, sprawling city like Cairo but much harder if it is not one's home turf. The cloak-and-dagger stuff can add a very exciting dimension to the otherwise dry research (just how do you hide your interest in the mastaba of Amen-Ka from the curator you need to ask for a look but suspect works for somebody? And how do you make him reveal who that somebody is?).
If different groups find out what the Order is really up to, they will react differently:
One trick is to set up an NPC as an enemy, making the characters begin making moves against him or her, and then let a completely independent group assassinate the enemy. Suddenly a roadblock just disappears, and if the PCs have focused too single-mindedly on resisting it they might get into trouble - maybe they will be framed for the deed. And who did it? Could it be some kind of help, or a gift with strings attached? It is also worth remembering, that every drop of blood shed in Cairo's secret struggles increases the tensions further, and can act as the spark that ignites the jihad.
Another possibility is to let death strike closer to home, to friends, acquaintances or innocents. How do the mages handle the death of their caretaker, victim of a hung spell intended for them? Can they accept the fact that their magick may indirectly have caused the death of the little old lady who dies of fright when a manifestation of Anubis briefly manifests? And what about the eventual fate of Master Cavendish?
Character death is another possibility; Egypt is filled with plenty of dangers and enemies. However, in Egypt death may be just the beginning. There are mages and powers out there that can make quite a difference in death, so a dead character can still be involved in the story. The most obvious possibility is mummification. The full ritual will bind together the different parts of a person for eternity, but finding it, having it performed and the spiritual quests of the recipient is an exciting story in itself. Today the only group that might be able to perform it is likely the Priestesses of Isis, although it may be possible to combine old hermetic magick with the mummification procedures known by the choristers in Wadi el Natrun. If the Plan is highly advanced, it is possible that Isis intervenes for a favoured mage and sends her priestesses to save him. If this happens to Philippe, then the similarities to the Osiris myth get even stronger.
The Guardians of the Dead will be watching. In Egypt death is a serious matter.
Wizards believe in gods in just the same way they believe in tables. Terry PratchettYes, acts of the gods are a definite possibility in this chronicle. They should be rare and subtle; the gods are hampered by unbelief and remoteness, but as the PCs become more and more involved in the divine plots their interest will awaken. At first, the gods will just barely notice them, but after a while they may take an interest if the PCs are getting somewhere.
The best way to use the gods is to let the make subtle coincidences in the characters favour (or detriment), especially to guide them in the right direction. The cry of a falcon might warn a character about to enter a Nephandi trap (Horus), a camel might suddenly attack the character's car when he is on his way to an important meeting (Set), sewer water may flood the temple of the Order (Nun). They should not be quite mundane, since the gods are after all not entirely attuned to the modern world, but still coincidental. They are likely to involve animals or symbols of the gods; Set will influence things that belong to the desert while Isis will use women, living creatures or the Nile. Mages who pay scant attention to the symbolism might miss the interventions.
Direct, vulgar acts are unlikely, practically impossible outside the Umbra or certain places. But it is quite possible for the mages to meet the gods halfway, by consecrating a temple properly and paying their respects to them (even a small amount of worship goes a long way if you have been near-forgotten for millennia). In fact, the gods may become the best allies the PCs can find - but they are demanding.
Of the gods, Set, Horus and Isis are the most likely to intervene. Osiris is busy with the underworld, Hermes and Maat too impartial and the solar deities mostly on the side of the chorus.
The power of Set usually manifests in the form of things related to the desert, like drifts of sand, thirst, wildness or storms. Just like Horus Set is unable to manifest truly in the world due to static reality, the gauntlet and the lack of worshippers. Instead he relies on manipulation and intrigue to reach his goals.
Set is able to influence people and things which are attuned to himself, like the snakes and scorpions of the desert, wild and corrupted people (especially drunken red-haired foreigners) and all kinds of wastelands. In some regions Set can manifest strongly (like in the ruins of his old temples) and even give supernatural aid to his followers. However, in the Nile valley he can only act by manipulating them. Set is also likely to attempt to use other malevolent powers like dwellers of Tuat, djinns and spirit- crocodiles against his enemies.
Horus preferably acts through his animals the falcon and ichneumon (an excellent way to attack the snakes of Set), people with authority like policemen, judges and officers, weapons and in general through any object linked with government and just power. He is strongest in the Nile valley, especially the delta.
Isis has dominion over life, growth and health, making her the natural ruler of all growing plants, small animals, cattle and women. The PCs may be saved from a pursuing riot mob by a veiled Arabian woman, find a sparrow picking at an electronic bug in their rooms or be cured from disease by eating the fruits of a certain date palm which they saw in a dream. She might even lead them to the hiding place of her scorpions or harpoon.
Where Set is cold, calculating, and ambitious, Djewhty [Thoth] is the passionless watcher and chronicler of us all. It seems paradoxical that he should intervene on our behalf, but of all the gods, he is the most apt to come when (properly) called. In calling on him, however, one enters into something of an unspoken bond: for from that point on, Djewhty will record one's name and deeds in his great Book of Life; and one is then guaranteed to be subject to final judgement in that vast, dim hall in the Tuat that awaits us on our death. This is the price of evoking Djewhty to intervene in the affairs of a mortal. Dr. Corey Bantik, Modern Egyptian Ritual Magick
Especially Trond is vulnerable to nightmares about present, past and future threats. Quite often he will vocalize the desires of the dead from various eras, ranging from the hatred against the invading frenchmen over the ambitions of failed invaders to the desires of the land itself.
The hammers are useful story-wise. They both provide a link between the members, a potential talisman (maybe they will do aggravated damage on beings hostile to the Pattern?) and story- seeds. What if somebody stole one of the hammers, and when the Armorers managed to track it down to a dingy room in southern Cairo found a strange boy who claimed he stole it to get in touch with them - he needs their help?
Another thing to think of is the Oath. Characters who break their oath should realise that they do wrong, and incur the Law of Maat. Oathbreakers must atone for their weakness, or the final consecration will fail.
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