The High Council of Wizardry
The High Council of Wizardry is the Accorded nation of mortal spellcasters. By the law of the Accords, any human willworker - wizard, ritualist, medium, one-trick sorcerer, seer, or mortal with a quirky talent (often referred to collectively as "mages" or "practitioners") – belongs under their purview by default. It is the responsibility of the Council to keep mages to the Masquerade, be held accountable for any of their repercussions under the Accords, to regulate them, and to keep them safe. Most of these responsibilities specifically fall to the Wardens – the police force of the wizarding community.
Of course, any individual may choose to leave the Council – often to join a Free-Holding Lord. Likewise, the Council may choose to disavow an individual; but this is rarely done, as it leaves them to the whims of whatever monster they have offended, and wizards agree in almost every case that handling matter "in-house" is far more preferable, and ethical, than that. Apart from these exceptions, every human with a talent for magic falls under their purview, whether they know it or not. Despite the scope of its auspice, though, only "wizards" are given the benefits of full membership – those who have a strong, wide-ranging talent, backed with formal education. Other practitioners are generally ignored, except to protect them against a threat – or to protect others against them.
As a governing body, the High Council has had a fairly minimal approach to leadership. Although the Senior Council retained the only true authority to make decisions for the nation, they mostly did so only to rule on the Laws of Magic, decide foreign policy, and to arbitrate disputes between wizards. For the most part, each practitioner was trusted to make their own decisions – up until those decisions started conflicts either within or outside of the Council. What the Council has primarily provided (apart from recognition under the Accords – which itself is highly valued) has been a formal network through which mages can share knowledge and build collaborative efforts.
Laws of Magic
As part of its formation, the High Council formalized seven forms of magic which were absolutely forbidden and punishable by death. The duty of finding and executing lawbreakers ("warlocks") falls to the Wardens as one of their primary missions.
In the past, warlocks who could be redeemed were granted parole and a zero-tolerance apprenticeship – assuming someone would accept them. As the number of new practitioners continues to grow, finding them before they can become irredeemably twisted by the dark arts has become harder, and the Wardens' resources thinner, and the number of willing & available mentors even fewer. As such, the enforcement of the Laws of Magic have grown increasingly zero-tolerance since 1995.
First Law: Never Take a Life using Magic
Second Law: Never Transform Another
Third Law: Never Invade the Thoughts of Another
Fourth Law: Never Enthrall Another
Fifth Law: Never Reach Beyond the Borders of Life and Death
Sixth Law: Never Swim Against the Currents of Time
Seventh Law: Never Seek Knowledge or Power From Beyond the Outer Gates
Consulars of the Silver Dawn: a titled position of dignitaries and ambassadors to other supernatural factions, which represent the Council under the Accords. They are the only legitimate representatives of the Council left, but are unable to make internal changes, and are unable to induct new members since the end of the Senior Council.
Wardens: mage soldiers which enforce the laws of magic and protect wizards from outside threats. Since the end of the Senior Council, they are the only source of stability in the High Council, though now receive no oversight, and have grown increasingly militant.
The Ministry of Discrete Shadows: an ancient Chinese bureaucracy which regulated the supernatural. After joining with the High Council, they have remained a semi-autonomous regional authority. They are now urging wizards to join them as a successor nation to the High Council, but have not been successful.
The Children of Gaea: an academy of magical researchers, studying other supernatural beings, history, and occult phenomena.
The High Council relies on the millennia old apprenticeship tradition for educating young spellcasters. Once a young mage, recently awoken to the power, is identified, they are paired with a mentor who guides the years' long process of formal education in magical theory and, more importantly, the ethics and discipline to use magic responsibly.
Unfortunately, over the past few decades, new practitioners have been found in ever-increasing numbers, in proportion to humanity's booming population. Increasingly frequently, adolescents with no prior knowledge of the supernatural are coming into a magical talent and remaining undiscovered for years. Many such youths turn to the dark arts, as obvious applications of magic, and are drawn to far into their corruptive allure before they are found, and consequently must be executed by the Wardens.
Most are still found before this downward spiral reaches a point of no return, but the increasing number of untrained youths is growing increasingly disproportional to the experienced wizards willing and able to teach them – most mentors already straining to care for as many as 5 irresponsible teenagers.
In an attempt to solve this problem, the High Council tried to create a boarding school for apprentices: the Kolleg St Gemma. The project was too ambitious: too many students, too few faculty, too diverse a population. The school was closed after a violent riot in 1996 and the discovery of several students breaking the Laws of Magic. Other, unofficial attempts like it have been made in the years since, but the High Council has been too strained for resources and too fractured to see any successful new solutions. This has mostly left the apprenticeship system, now rapidly failing an ever-increasing proportion of new mages.
The High Council was formed in 1851 by the alliances which fought Rune Vaduva. After the nearly apocalyptic damage caused by one rogue practitioner, the surviving wizards founded the Council for the purpose of protecting and regulating mortal spellcasters. The organization swiftly grew to incorporate the various secret societies and occult traditions throughout Europe which had previously existed in near isolation. Soon, the Council aspired to become a government for wizards; able to include and support every mage around the world, and ensure the safe practice of magic.
To expand its reach in pursuit of this goal, the Council imbedded in the British Empire, and used its colonies and alliances to quickly make contact with distant groups of mages. In some places, the Council resorted to force in order to claim influence over local practitioners, but in most, they were able to negotiate a peaceful merging with the existing groups. This was successful primarily due to the promise of achieving status as an Accorded nation, achievable only by a group with global influence; a prospect with far greater authority and autonomy, which had long eluded mortal practitioners. In addition, the Council's foundational goal of ending practices of magic which were most threatening to the self, others, and the world around them (a risk which had been experienced to every society of mages to varying degrees), as well as the ideal of respecting a wizard's wisdom and autonomy in governance by acting to build cooperation and arbitrate disputes, both earned strong endorsement among many groups. The swift outreach, and the incorporation of existing organizations with minimal infringement, allowed the High Council to become an Accorded nation by 1858.
Throughout the remainder of the century, the Council was concerned with consolidation – the long and slow process of building the various Orders, developing systems of interaction for wizards across the globe, creating diplomatic ties to other Factions, and extending their influence to corners of the supernatural community long overlooked.
One of the earliest challenges after the Council's formation was the disengagement of it's members from mundane politics. Nearly the entire history of wizards prior to the Council had been as individuals, proud and concerned with their communities, employing magic to guide, protect, and forcibly alter the world around them. Some had served the interests of their governments; some had used magic to become dictators themselves; many had engaged in wars or manipulated events to ensure the outcomes they desired. Many such actions had led to pursuits of the most dangerous magics… but had also been seen as the most noble (or profitable) use of the Arts. To survive as an international coalition, however, the Council argued that it could not allow members to manipulate mortal politics or participate in their countries' agendas. It was difficult to get support for this idea, particularly in an age of colonialism and exploitation, particularly for such a young organization, and particularly when nearly all of the incorporated groups had done this for centuries. In the first several decades, wizards blatantly defied this edict, and the conflicts that followed (both internally between mages, and externally as rival Factions exerted their influence) was nearly fatal for the Council. The argument had gradually quieted as (human) global politics began shifting toward the alliance blocs of World War I, and the looming consequences of continuing to involve so deeply in mortal affairs became obvious. It did not settle, however, until after World War II, which had seen the rise of several splinter factions of wizards, proposing alternative nations which were intermingled with mundane society – and the use of egregious dark arts in order to do so. The depravity to which these groups, the mass bloodshed from the world wars, and the political maneuvering the made by Council leadership eventually came to a thin agreement of non-involvement. It did come with several compromises, however, including turning a blind eye to those who used legal magic in support of mundane political action, and certain allowances as to magic in service to an ethical cause that did not reflect a particular group's politics (especially when conflicts with other wizards & Factions could be avoided).
The next major challenge facing the Council was it's competition with The Dark Aristocracy. It addition to most wizards finding vampires morally reprehensible, the two nations were both centered in Europe, and vampires had been those to most abuse the non-Accorded status of wizards in the past by enslaving spellcasters. As the fledgling Council tried to secure its influence, it was often aggressive in dealings with the Red Court, but was frequently out-maneuvered under the Accords, leading to long feuds and disavowed insurgent strikes. It was during the Cold War that [[The Dark Aristocracy]] made fully clear that its wealth, power, entrenchment, and cunning far outpaced the Council at that point. An 'understanding' was reached before it came to war, and the Council backed down, much to the resentment of its members.
By the mid 1980s, the Council had become aware that ever increasing numbers of people were developing a talent for magic. While this wouldn't reach a tipping point for decades, it was already placing a strain on the traditional method of training young wizards – the apprentice system of pairing between one and three with an experienced mentor. The ratio of new talents to available mentors was increasingly unbalanced, and many wizards still felt the attention to an apprentice was too great an investment of time. An experimental solution was proposed and, in 1989 to seize upon a symbolic moment, was put into place, in Germany. The Koethener See Kolleg St Gemma was the first ever boarding school for apprentice wizards, and it accepted students from across Europe. If successful, it was to be used as a model for the future of magical education. Sister schools were already being planned in China, South Africa, and Mexico when the experiment failed, spectacularly.
In a highly controversial move which shook the politics of the High Council, a student was discovered practicing dark arts and arrested; his family, wealthy and influential politicians in the Council, leveraged the mundane education board and legal system to force the warlock to be readmitted. Upon his arrival back at school, a riot occurred in which a Warden and two students were murdered – one of which belonged to The Eldryn Families. Dubbed "the Ebner Decision", the devastating political nightmare that resulted upturned the High Council and shook the supernatural world. The school was permanently shut down in 1996, and the project called a catastrophic failure.
In 1998, the last surviving member of the Senior Council died. Prior to this point, those wizards who founded the High Council remained a ruling body (the Senior Council), which had the sole authority to legislate and make executive decisions for the nation. Their rule had been tolerated due to its initial inclusiveness of leaders from groups across the world, and to it's policy to interfere as little as necessary with the interests of individual mages. They were advised by representatives of powerful Orders and groups within the Council, and almost exclusively made rulings on the Laws of Magic, foreign policy, and arbitrating disputes within the Council.
However, the Senior Council inevitably aged and passed away. Eleanora Vanderhall, the last surviving member, was said to have been interviewing candidates to appoint to the Senior Council at the time of her death in 1998, but had ultimately failed to do so. This event left the High Council without any official leadership nor a means of electing new members to the office. Various individuals stepped up in the following years, claiming have been candidates or unofficial heirs or otherwise worthy of leadership, but none gathered enough support to transfer power.
In the years since, the Council has been in a state of disarray and collapse. Many members have left the High Council in favor or reorganizing the secret societies and small groups which existed prior to its creation – in the processes, taking considerable resources with them. Those leaders still left with an interest in maintaining the Council have fought over how to install a new system of governance. At present (2010), the strongest case has been made by The Ministry of Discrete Shadows for all wizards to reorganize under their bureaucratic governance, but this idea still remains unpopular in most of the Council, due in part to a traditionally Euro-centric perspective. While competing self-interest and hemorrhaging membership gridlock the Council, rival nations have sued them under the Accords using the Councils own internal laws in order to keep the stalemate as long as possible. Only the Wardens, who have grown increasingly militant and unregulated, and the Consulars of the Silver Dawn, who have dwindling numbers themselves, have any remaining authority and thus are the last sources of stability for the fragmenting High Council.