Begin journal entry.
There was a time when we were powerful. Our numbers were never many, yet there were many more of us, more than now. We were a noble order: a solemn, storied Brotherhood that traced our provenance into distant antiquity. Ours were the hands that held authority of governance. We illuminated the path, and it was by our guidance that Kings and Bishops, Philosophers, then Presidents and Prime Ministers, Scientists, led humanity always forward, always out of ignorance, toward enlightenment. There was no dissent—our prejudice against those who opposed us was extreme—and for centuries before I joined the ranks of the Order, we believed ourselves to be exalted and mighty, entrusted with the right to rule the world we had constructed.
We were the Wise. We were the True Order. We were the Archimages.
On May 29, 1913, in Paris, the Enemy revealed themselves to us. They had been watching us, hidden, for all the long centuries of our dominance. The depth of their contempt was abyssal. Because of the crimes we had committed in pursuit of hegemony, the Enemy believed it was their duty to bring us to justice, to destroy what we had built, to hunt us down, every one of us, and hold us to a reckoning.
Their word for us is Warlock. As if we had worked only evil, in all that time.
There were a few among us who reasoned that greater wisdom lay in forsaking our positions of temporal strength, retreating in order to study this new adversary, to understand who and what they were, what kind of power they could wield against us. Yet these voices were lost in the clamor for war. Pride had usurped caution. The Archimages had been challenged. We would not yield.
All of this took place many years before I became what I am. I know that, in the time before the War, initiate Archimages had been trained to heal, to lead, to expand the horizons of knowledge. I was taught to fight.
The two great wars of the twentieth century coincided with the War in secret. We met our Enemy in ceaseless exchanges of violence, fighting on both sides of both great wars, chasing an ever-elusive foe, draping the veil of history across our own bloody conflict. Always our skirmishes remained hidden. Neither our Enemy nor us dared to come into the open, to reveal the existence of what we were to the rest of the world.
Slowly, inevitably, the best of us were taken. Cold War replaced the World Wars; years passed, decades; always our numbers diminished. We were losing. It was impossible to know the fortitude of the Enemy. They seemed to us undaunted, unchanged, more daring and more powerful since they had first risen to fight us.
It was decided, at last. A final stand. We could not wait any longer. Information came to us of an opportunity, a time and place, in one of the American cities, when the Enemy was meeting, gathering for council. We would take them by surprise, confront them with all of our remaining strength. If we failed, if we lost this last heroic assault against our unrelenting adversary, it would be our destiny to disappear.
The Battle of San Francisco began at 5:04 p.m. on October 17, 1989.
Our greatest Archimage, the master Akira Nakamura, had taken it upon himself to neutralize the strongest of the Enemy, their leader, the one we called Brightness. Nakamura pretended to run into him on the street, and in an instant he enfolded both of them inside the powerful seal of his Archimagean Thaumasphere. Then he Traveled. The plan had been that Nakamura would take Brightness across the world, removing him from the battle—of all the manifold capabilities of the Enemy, Travel was not one of them—and then he would return, rejoin the assault. Brightness had been a scourge against us for so long; we relished our chances without him there. Yet something went wrong. We believe that Brightness interrupted Nakamura’s Travel, that both of them materialized deep inside the earth where they perished instantly. Shock waves of destructive energy were released from their demise like stars gone supernova, deep underground.
I stood with my comrades on the corner of Beach and Divisadero as the street began to move in every direction at once. The houses around us, their foundations liquefying, buckled and flowed as if melting. We had located one of our Enemy in one of these Marina District townhouses, where he was surrounded by his servants and soldiers. We struck at him without hesitation, opening our Excoriations. The shimmering dimensions of our defensive Thaumaspheres appeared in orbit around each of us. Ribbons of hot white light peeled away from the surface of these incandescent globes, whips of energy that knifed through the air, penetrating the walls of the house, cutting through the bodies of the men and women in our Enemy’s retinue, sparking at last across the figure of the one we called the Scholar.
The house exploded. A crack shivered through Divisadero, knocking me off my feet.
The Scholar came...