The Hermetic Wild West
Sixty years of increasing integration into the lives and politics of mundanes had a downside. As tensions rose around the election of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln to the White House, and as southern states started talking secession, Hermegic magi could be found on all sides, deeply committed to the issues of the time. When the Confederacy formed and the Civil War began, the Atlantic Coast Tribunal was split in half.
The covenants in the cotton-farming southern states had become almost as dependent on slave labor as the plantation-owners, relying on slaves instead of paid grogs for defense and income. More importantly, however, they were deeply connected with the southern politicians who granted favorable status and all the pleasures of modern life to members of the Order whose magic could make so many aspects of life so much easier.
A key role was played by a covenant of Verditius magi in Savannah Georgia. Uniquely dependent on natural and magical resources for their crafts, they guaranteed to the state government of Georgia magical support in any secession efforts, as well as pledging magical armaments to any military exercise.
When war broke out at Fort Sumter, the Confederate forces were awash in minor magical items granting them an edge over their northern opponents. The North, not willing to be defeated so easily, rapidly turned to the covenants of the northern states requiring magical aid.
This prompted a political crisis. The Treaty of Mercury protected magi from being forced by mundane governments to break the Code, and warfare against fellow magi outside of a duly constituted Wizard’s War was definitely against the code. The northern Order attempted to resolve the crisis politically, but was unable to reach a compromise.
When the Confederate government threw out the Treaty, obligating all magi in the confederate states to march to war, the northern covenants felt forced to act. While the politically minded were in deadlock at Tribunal, northern magi began quietly arming and supporting the Union military.
Although Europe had experienced magic in mundane warfare during the Napoleonic wars, not since the Schism war had magi of the Order of Hermes fought their fellows in open battle. Unlike the Schism war, however, this conflict was not House based but rooted in mundane politics. Magi of nearly every house fought on either side of the conflict, creating a brief four-year span of chaos unprecedented in Order history.
The American civil war was unique in many respects. It was the world’s first “industrial” war, causing unprecedented bloodshed. It was the Order’s first mundane-motivated war, highlighting the value of a certain degree of separation from mundane affairs.
Of the thirteen Houses, only three stood apart, keeping most of their members out of the war, and striving to heal the breach to the Order. House Guernicus, whose devotion to Hermetic law made violence on the behalf of mundane politics abhorrent, the magi Trianomae of House Bonisagus, whose mandate to keep the Order at peace was being shattered, and House Tremere, who had been preparing for this sort of strife for centuries, worked hard to pressure covenants into standing aside from the conflict. While some other Houses had minimal involvement for other reasons, those three were instrumental in actively engaging to bring an end to magus-on-magus hostility, through force if necessary.
House Guernicus appealed to the greater House Tremere to marshal their members from Europe, and the European magi answered the call. Vast magical resources and manpower came across the sea in support of the north. House Guernicus made the legal ruling that the Confederate-allied magi had been the instigators of the war, and the original violators of the code, and threw the resources of Europe behind the north. The magi Trianomae moved tirelessly from covenant to covenant working to restore a sense of Hermetic unity and purpose. 1865 saw the war rapidly concluded with hundreds of thousands dead, the infrastructure of the south destroyed, and many southern covenants plundered for their vis and resources.
In the aftermath of the war, House Guernicus aggressively tried hundreds of cases in the Hermetic courts. Most northern magi, who had exercised some degree of restraint in the fighting, were given lenient sentences, citing the necessity of self-defense against southern-supported armies. Nevertheless, the Quaesitoris were not unduly partisan in cases of excessive force. Hermetic criminals from both the north and the south fled west before the Hoplites of the Order could arrest and detain them. Dozens of Wizards’ Marches were declared by the re-unified Atlantic Coast Tribunal, and the call went out to the distant covenants in the wild west to be on the lookout for renegades.