The Five Orders of Ivory Tower rule the Desert Realms. They make their home in Dragon's Reach, a small city built atop a large mesa near the center of the Desert Realms. Built around the base of the mesa is another city: Blessed Gathering is home to many people, a center for trade and a stop along most of the safe routes through the desert.

Known for their colorful markings, each member of the Five Orders possesses abilities bestowed or enhanced by the prominent tattoos they wear. The Orders use these abilities and their status to manage various aspects of daily life among the Desert Realms, with each Order holding responsibility for a specific area.

Each Order maintains its own traditions for training, recruiting, and any internal matters. They operate autonomously in this regard. But all orders work together to guide the people of the Desert Realms.

The Elder Council is the ruling body of the land. From the tower at the center of Dragon's Reach from which the name is derived, twenty-five individuals, five from each Order, guide the Desert Realms. The Council makes law and oversees the growth of the realm, and judge matters between Orders and crimes which threaten the security of the Desert Realms or its people. Members of the Elder Council are traditionally the five eldest members of each order. However this is not always the case, and the leadership of each order may select representatives according to other criteria. The chair of the council is held by the member who has sat longest on the council. He has some control over the agenda and recognizes other members in open debate.

Order Hyacinth is the order of orators, diplomats, and negotiators. Those of Hyacinth are often found in the legal workings of the Desert Realms as well, on both sides of issues both criminal and civil. Criminal penalties are severe in the Desert Realms, but the process attempts to be as just as possible in determining guilt. Hyacinth ensures peaceful relations among the people and between the people and neighboring lands.

Those of the Order never speak simply to hear their own voices, but always with purpose. Their voices carry a power which their markings amplify, a power to persuade, to divine truth, and even to compel others to speak against their own interest. The law of the Desert Realms recognizes no right against self incrimination, and a Hyacinth judge will have no compunction about using his power to compel truth from a suspect.

Hyacinth is the only one of the five Orders whose membership is purely hereditary. All members of Hyacinth are born to another member, though not all born to another member will become members. Children of Hyacinth are recognized at and early age and receive their first markings right away. From this time until they receive their second markings, they are forbidden to speak to or in the presence of anyone outside the Order, lest the power of their voice do unintended harm.

Hyacinth markings are bright red, usually restricted to the face and neck, with artful designs incorporating circular patterns.

Order Lilac is the order of scholars, teachers, writers, and artists. Men and women of learning, creativity, thought and insight responsible for keeping and passing on the knowledge of the realm. They are the teachers and librarians, and the artists who evoke thought with their work.

Lilac's mission is aided by the power of their markings, which helps them glean knowledge from texts, or find the art as yet undisplayed on the canvas or a block of granite or marble, or to make intuitive connections which help them study new subjects.

Order Lilac recruits from the promising young of their land, the most artistic or intellectually gifted are offered a place with the order. They apprentice for several years before acceptance, whereupon they receive their marks and become full members of the order. With rare exception, the apprentice must accomplish one deed demonstrating great thought or artistic merit before he receives his markings, and often his first task on receiving the markings is to review his own work to find ways to correct or improve it.

Lilac markings usually reflect the personal focus of the individual. An artist might be covered in his own images. A scholar might display scrolls and tomes. A writer might have some of his words on his person. Some of Lilac's traveling scholars possess hidden markings, to avoid attracting attention when outside their homelands.

Order Sapphirine is the order of mysticism and magic, sorcerers and wizards, responsible for training and regulating magical talent. Unschooled magical talent can be very dangerous, especially in the magic steeped Desert Realms. Order Sapphirine ensures the safety of the people from unschooled mishaps, and also serves the land and with their sorcery. They also provide private services for those who can pay.

Sapphirine's most prominent House teaches a school of sorcery named Wind and Sand. They harness the power of the desert itself to accomplish feats of magic, and they tap the unseen potential of the desert to find hidden water and create arable land. There are about a dozen other Houses of varying size, age and status, each founded by a master of a different school. The oldest of these carries centuries of tradition, while the most recent was formed only a few decades ago.

Order Sapphirine recruits exclusively from among the gifted of the Desert Realms, trying to catch them as early as possible. However, the Order also acknowledges the rare phenomenon known as 'Recognition.' Found throughout the spheres, Recognition occurs when a Master of a mystic art and an untrained stranger know each other and feel an inexplicable bond despite never having met before. The many theories regarding this phenomenon are better discussed elsewhere. But when a Master of Sapphirine Recognizes a pupil in this manner, the pupil is part of Order Sapphirine from the moment he accepts apprenticeship, regardless of nationality or any other consideration. One of Sapphirine's most famous Masters was a foreign born beggar humbling himself in the streets, begging for the mercy of strangers, until the day he and his Mistress Recognized each other.

Sapphirine markings are usually abstract patterns, always in an iridescent shade of blue. The extent of the markings reflects the individual's accomplishment within his school. An apprentice will have meager outlines or a few markings. A Master or Mistress will have extensive markings covering their entire body. These markings serve as a reserve of energy and an aid to focusing, making their magic easier to work. The markings often seem to move when the mystic works his magic.

Order Aurous are soldiers and warriors, responsible for military defense, law enforcement, and training of soldiers and guards of the Desert Realms. Not all soldiers or guards are Aurous, but all Aurous are soldiers and guards, or have retired from these duties with honor. Men and women of Order Aurous act as commanders and head the local law enforcement in each town.

Aurous maintains a strong tradition of excellence, honor and integrity. It is not enough to be the strongest; one must also stand as an example. The markings of Aurous enhance their prowess in battle, fueled by their courage and integrity.

Aurous recruits exclusively from native born citizens of the Desert Realms who have distinguished themselves through their bravery, sacrifice, or integrity. There are no exceptions to these requirements. Even the strongest, most noble foreign born is ineligible for the markings of Aurous.

Aurous' golden markings take the form of symbols of strength, skill, and honor, and are borne with pride. Weapons, armor, and other symbols which evoke strength and skill mark their bodies.

Aurous acknowledges courage, skill, and honor wherever they encounter it, even if it is the courage, skill, or honor of an enemy. They hold no grudge against anyone who fights bravely and honorably, and indeed may form lasting friendship with those they first meet in battle. To those who display these traits alongside or against an Aurous warrior, the Order offers the marking of a Golden Tear. A single teardrop of gold ink is tattooed on the face of the individual below one eye. Any Aurous seeing this will accord that person all the respect and courtesy due a fellow Aurous... or be sure not to underestimate him if facing such a person in battle.

Order Viridian is the smallest of the five Orders, and the hardest to define. Viridian has no core mandate, but serves the Desert Realms in a number of ways, its members having distinguished themselves in some way. This includes foreign born sorcerers and honorable warriors who are barred from the other orders, but also includes accomplish tradesmen and specialists from among the people of the Desert Realms.

Farmers, drovers, smiths, physicians, and other trades have representation through Viridian. Foreign born warriors may fight alongside Aurous, and foreign mystics may study with Sapphirine, but they wear the markings of Viridian, and their accomplishments enhance Viridian's status. In addition, Viridian's number includes a certain element which answers directly to the Elder Council: agents, troubleshooters and spies.

Any individual, regardless of his birth or nationality, who distinguishes himself through accomplishment in any field of endeavor, may be invited to join Order Viridian. Those of foreign birth will be required to pledge themselves to the Desert Realms, and become full citizens once all the requirements are met. Rarely, a native born person who would ordinarily belong to another Order may join Viridian. This requires the approval of Viridian, the other Order and a majority of the Elder Council. In these cases, any old markings are retained, but a ritual employed by the Council changes the color to the green markings of Viridian.

Viridian's markings are the most varied, lacking any consistent theme beyond their verdant green color. Viridian's master artists look upon each person, and look deep inside them as well. They often spend days just observing the new member before beginning their work. Then, they inscribe upon the canvas of flesh that which they divined of the individual.

Unknown to all but the Elder Council and a select few among the Five Orders, there is a sixth Order. The secret Ivory Order protects the ancient secrets of the Five Orders, and defends the Five Orders from threats large and small. The Five Orders protect the people and the land. The Ivory Order protects the Five Orders.

The Ivory Order consists of exactly five people, one from each of the Five Orders. Each is very powerful, made moreso through the magic which binds them together. Through ancient and arcane rituals, each member of the Ivory Order shares the power and the responsibility represented by the five orders. Each is a powerful sorcerer; a noble and brave warrior; an accomplished scholar or artist; a great diplomat or orator; and an accomplished tradesman or agent. This power is amplified by their great age. The magic sustains their forms, and so the youngest of these adds centuries of experience to the inherent power of the Ivory markings.

The markings of the Ivory Order take the form of whatever order the individual came from, but the color changes. In an odd mystical symbiosis, the colors of the five merge, sharing among them to create markings of almost pure white. When their number is reduced for any reason, the markings take on the color of a mixture of the remaining colors, showing the Order to be incomplete until they can recruit a new member. Their power is reduced accordingly when their number is depleted.

Plot Hooks

  • Travelers within the Desert Realms will certainly notice the colorful markings worn by about one person in one hundred, and may reasonably encounter individuals of any Order in the normal course of events with the Desert Realms.
  • Away from the Desert Realms, travelers may encounter a contingent of Aurous Warriors escorting a noted master of Sapphirine or Hyacinth on some business, or a lone Aurous pursuing a criminal, practically anywhere in the world.
  • A Lilac scholar might be found anywhere there is knowledge to be gleaned or great art to marvel at.
  • A Viridian might be encountered in pursuit of some secret duty for the Elder Council, again practically anywhere.
  • One of the Ivory Order may be found on a mission, though he will certainly take pains to disguise his markings. Heaven help any adventurer who finds himself on the opposite side of one of these men or women.
  • What IS the secret of the Ivory Tower anyway? How might the PCs run afoul of this secret in their adventures?
  • In Longspeak's Everway setting, the Ivory Tower's secret is all of its power derived from the magic of a sleeping Dragon, and the Ivory Order was charged with ensuring the dragon remained asleep.
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