Matthew Dawkins here, with Meghan Fitzgerald’s Maa-Kep draft for Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition! Enjoy!
Shadow of Pillars
Spies, Junta, Dapifers
We would never say we know better, of course. It’s just that not taking our advice would be a mistake.
I listened closely while he spoke. The people would love him, he said. They would offer their loyalty gladly, and in exchange they would gain power over their own fates. All it would take was a revolution, guns and fists raised high in silhouette against the orange blaze that would light up the night and banish tyranny. I could see his passion, his dedication. His logic was sound. His preparations were prudent. Even now, I laud his efforts.
He looked up from his maps and schedules to beam a smile my way. He cut a handsome figure, there in the candlelight, and I admit his plan had merit. It was a temptation, as surely as any convincing bait ever is. I smiled, too.
“So,” he said, “what do you think? Will it work?”
“It would have,” I assured him. “It would have worked very well, were it not for one fatal flaw.”
“What’s that?” he asked, concern writ plain in his bright eyes.
“You told it to me.”
Tradition of the Amulet
The relics of the Maa-Kep are protective talismans, badges of office, engraved emblems that declare something to be true, and unobtrusive seals that can hold back power, carry it, or transfer it from place to place. Worn or mounted, they passively soak in magic and secrets. Like their amulets, the Maa-Kep are subtle protectors and preservers of ideas and ideals, those who quietly move power from hand to hand or rein it in when it needs limiting for the greater good. They serve quietly but never let anyone forget how important they are. They absorb information, only doling it out when and to whom they believe it’s warranted. They’re the secret police of the Arisen, and the beat they walk is all of civilization. They shepherd ideological purity; sometimes those ideas come from the Judges, sometimes from the mortals the mummies guide, and sometimes from their own meret’s priorities.
Magnanimous in Victory, Blameless in Defeat
Maa-Kep rarely take the spotlight themselves, instead gathering information and then reporting it to someone else who will do the forward-facing work for them. This is partially because they believe to take credit is to disrespect their place as tools and useful right hands, passed down to them from the Judges and the Shan’iatu. It’s also for plausible deniability in case something goes wrong. It’s not that they throw their friends under the bus, it’s just that it’s easier to smooth things over later when they’re not the ones catching the heat. They’re loyal to their leaders but unafraid to speak truth to power — if only behind closed doors. They shape civilization around them by forever making corrections and adjustments to everything and everyone, whether with one quiet word or with a brute force tool — like a fellow mummy or a well-armed cult.
In Irem, the Dapifers were originally a collection of middle managers — slave drivers, overseers, and convoy masters. They gradually made themselves indispensable, demonstrating their dedication to making sure Irem’s caravans ran on time and their understanding of the inner workings of empire. The Shan’iatu eventually recognized the guild’s potential to be so much more, and elevated the Maa-Kep to act as secret police whose true purpose was hidden from the other guilds. They preserved the ideological purity of Irem, making sure no one strayed from the path to glory and conquest in the gods’ names.
The Wheel Turns
The guild’s secret duty didn’t stay hidden forever; by the time of the Rite of Return, the others knew why the Spies had been chosen. Their fellow mummies don’t always remember it, though. Having a Maa-Kep in the meret is a slow pendulum swinging between trust and suspicion, as her comrades rediscover her covert goals over and over again; but by the time they remember, she’s always made herself too damn useful to ignore. To this day, it’s gauche to talk about it in polite company, and usually the meret’s cults other than the Maa-Kep’s itself aren’t in the know even once the Arisen remember. To those who don’t, the Junta are valued advisors and scouts, playing the roles of coordinator, majordomo, surveillant, appraiser, and yes, spy — it’s just that few realize this spy is always a double agent, even if it’s for their own good. (Usually.)
Maa-Kep are kingmakers and internal affairs agents, watchdogs and stewards. They are project managers who support their merets and cults, rooting out incompetence, corruption, and untrustworthy sorts. They watch over their allies but also constantly evaluate them. To those who do remember their purpose, a Dapifer is all those things as well as the conductor who guides the meret’s train along the rails and keeps everybody else in line. Some appreciate it; some resent it; and many feel differently depending on the Descent.
The Maa-Kep’s cults are extensions of themselves by way of surveillance, information gathering, and spreading out like a web of eyes and ears with the mummy at its center. The Junta are men in black and spymasters, but also keen investigators with cults full of detectives and journalists, and mysterious strangers who waltz into someone’s life, help him out for no apparent reason, then vanish into the ether — arranging people and events on a grand scale humans can’t see. They’re not the ones who give a man a fish; they’re the ones who teach him to fish by writing the manual and having minions leave it conspicuously on his desk without ever talking to him, watching him from across the street with binoculars while he reads it, and then expecting him to do it right.
Once, the Dapifers weren’t the ones with the big picture vision, instead enforcing that of the Shan’iatu. They were content with that… but the Shan’iatu aren’t around anymore. The Maa-Kep view themselves as the Shan’iatu’s true successors because they enshrine Irem’s highest ideals. They know how things are really supposed to be done, and how to make sure they’re done that way. The less they remember or care about their original mandates, the more they build their own versions of the grand vision in their minds and enforce those. They insist it’s what the Judges want — who better to keep the seats warm for the great sorcerers than the ones who stood by their right hands so long ago?
As Sothis Ascends
A Maa-Kep deals with immortality by resting assured she can rely on her powers of observation and knowledge-gathering to catch her up on anything she forgets or misses, and by staying focused on the minutiae. She can’t contemplate the existential dread of knowing she’ll probably outlive the human race if she’s busy micromanaging everyone else and poking her nose into their business 24/7. She might miss old friends, but at least she got to know them better than anyone else did — probably better than they knew themselves. Thus, they live on in her.
The patterns the Spies see and perpetuate in the world are those of behavior, relationships, and philosophies. They track the principles every society values and how it maintains its high road, or falls from it into a subversion or even perversion of its purported ideals. They understand how civilizations rise and fall by the integrity of their beliefs, their dedication compared to their hypocrisy, and how well their people work together.
A Junta turns her back on the Judges because she sees what she believes is a flaw in the gods’ plans or comes to believe that something has corrupted even those lords of Duat. Those who grow to resent their servitude don’t do so because they hate the concept of serving, but because they feel they’re not being utilized to their full potential, they’re being ordered to uphold an impure idea, or their elegant work is stymied by frustrating obstacles beyond their control. Others fall to corruption themselves, losing faith in their purpose after standing vigil for so long or craving the spotlight after lifetimes of hiding in the shadows.
Who We Are
- Internal affairs officer in a metropolitan police department, monitoring society’s dedication to its ideals through its law enforcement
- Deep-cover espionage agent, collecting intelligence about cultures and nations around the world and only reporting back what will push her employers to act the way she wants them to
- Project manager at a large company, raking in money so the cult can donate large sums to ideologically desirable groups
- Butler and house manager for a rich and bustling estate belonging to another Arisen and consisting of generations of a dynasty cult
- Trusted advisor to an influential politician or crime lord, whispering and nudging to influence governments, underworlds, or both
Beyond the Shadow of Pillars
Mesen-Nebu: You make an excellent vanguard, even if your materialistic streak makes you a bit of an embarrassment. We’d never say so to your face, though.
Sesha-Hebsu: Without you, many valuable secrets would be lost. Without us, your judgments would ring hollow.
Su-Menent: Curb your worst impulses, my friend. Your work is important, but not as important as you think it is.
Tef-Aabhi: It’s an intricate dance we weave, isn’t it? We both have long memories, but yours are so much more reliable. Pity, that.
Wadjet-Itja: One day, we’ll dig up the secret of how you managed your chicanery, and on that day, you’ll wish you never pretended at immortality.