Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Cultural Context of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant has its foundations in the Divine Masks philosophy of the Ranathim Empire. Early in Ranathim Culture, the race of psychic vampires stumbled across the phenomenon of Dark Communion and began to embody and worship the various archetypes, paths, of Dark Communion as gods. Among these paths was the path of the Mystic Tyrant, and the ritualistic priesthood of the Mystic Tyrant became indistinguishable from the rulers of the Ranathim people, forging the role of the God-Emperor of the Ranathim ultimately codified by their greatest ruler, Anthara.

The original conception of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant was largely no different from any other Divine Mask cult. The Mystic Tyrant had oaths that his servants could take and laws that they must follow to avoid His Divine Wrath, and the head of the cult would physically embody the Mystic Tyrant, becoming its divine avatar. But where the other cults were strictly supernatural, the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant blurred the lines between physical and supernatural. The Mystic Tyrant did not “draw down” the supernatural into himself so much as elevate himself into the ranks of the divine. The cultists did not worship some ethereal “ruling god” that each Emperor embodied, they worshiped the Emperor himself. The oaths they swore were to the state, and the laws they obeyed were the laws of the state, and the wrath they risked was the punishment meted out by the state. Nonetheless, this created a deeply ritualistic rulership, where the role of the divine emperor was as much ceremonial as legal or political. He issued edicts and sat in judgment, true, but he also ritually married the high priestess of the Cult of the Beautiful Fool, ritually dined with the Cult of the Rebellious Beast, and governed over his own rituals. The merging of the political with the religious allowed the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant to merge the competing faiths of the Ranathim people and their conquered subjects into a single, unified system: the Divine Masks.

But it could not last. Eventually, with the destruction of their homeworld, the rule of the Ranathim collapsed. The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, stripped of its political power, lost its power and prestige, but the truths uncovered about the Mystic Tyrant remained. No longer could he be the ceremonial ruler, but instead, a secret master who transcended law and limitations. Where the Mystic Tyrant had once welded together a new paradigm, the Cult needed to do that again, but for itself. Thus began the shadow reign of Satra Temos.

The fall of the Ranathim Empire resulted in the eruption of long simmering resentment and rage at Ranathim excesses. With the shattered hyperspace routes and the lost base of the Ranathim homeworld, the Ranathim had no hope of reforging their empire and an entire generation vanished in the chaos of the collapsing empire. In this storm of anarchy, a warrior-sage Satra Temos acquired the secrets of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, both through careful investigation and archeology and intense introspection. He restored the Cult, but with his own, deeply cynical and deeply ambitious take on power. Rather than rule the Galaxy openly, the Mystic Tyrant would rule it in secret. His cult forged a criminal empire of slavers and gangs all beholden to their terrifying new masters who silently killed those who opposed them, or twisted the minds of their enemies. Anyone who encountered this shadowy power even in passing was either destroyed or inducted into its ranks. The Cult of Satra Temos accepted Ranathim and alien alike, even inducting the first few humans into its number.

The tendrils of Satra Temos extended even into the Galactic Core and, on its boundary, finally exerted power over the homeworld of True Communion and, in so doing, unwittingly triggered a crusade from the Alexian Empire, where knights and commoners alike who had come to believe in True Communion rallied in defense of those sacred worlds and cast off the puppet empire of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant and triggered a new shadow war as the new Knights of Communion began to unravel the conspiracy of their enemy.

Eventually, the two sides destroyed one another in the climactic cataclysm that ended the Alexian Empire. The Cult managed to corrupt some of the members of the Knights of True Communion, the traitor Revalis White, but not before the Knights scattered their numbers and managed to destroy the inner circle of Cult of the Mystic Tyrant and shattering its powerbase.

And so it remained for centuries, the Galaxy thriving in the newly born federation while the Cult regathered its strength and explored new ideas, always wary of the possible return of the Knights of Communion, until one day, they came across a young officer serving in the war against the Galactic Invasion, a psychic with the sort of insight and wisdom not seen since Satra Temos. The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant forged him into the new Galactic Emperor and once again, rule the Galaxy.

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant and the Galaxy

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant has few visible adherents. The Ranathim world of Sarai has a Mystic Tyrant in the classic mold of the sacred king Anthara, but the followers of Satra Temos and other great Mystic Tyrant philosophers tend to keep their head down and exert their power silently. Thus, one cannot find a temple to the Mystic Tyrant in the galactic capital of Sovereign, but even so, most people are at least dimly aware that a shadowy and powerful force exerts considerable conspiratorial influence.

Many in positions of power have heard whispers of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant. Sometimes, a criminal organization will adopt the legendary trappings of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant to evoke the fear that its name carries, but the true Cult usually destroy those who seek to steal their name. Those who seek, instead, to join the Cult may find themselves inducted into some secret organization where they can rub shoulders with other prestigious men, but only a few ever slip past this conspiratorial curtain and find themselves counted among the true ranks of the Mystic Tyrants.

Generally, though, the Cult manages to silently infiltrate organizations or philosophies that interest it, where they find useful members to induct into puppet-organizations a few steps removed from the true cult, and when those new recruits prove sufficiently resourceful, they may be inducted into the cult itself. Generally, the fresh recruits of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant don’t even know they’ve joined until the truth is revealed to them and they become the apprentice to a powerful master.

To make matters more confusing, there might be more than one cult of the Mystic Tyrant. While Satra Temos’ vision of the Cult is by far the most prevalent, it is not the only. The Cult of the Emperor is another such Cult, with its own vision and take on the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, and all such cults are mutual rivals and allies. Taken together, they represent a formidable conspiratorial force throughout the Galaxy: while they surely do not run everything, their influence can and does shape Galactic politics.

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