Houses of the Order
The Order of Hermes is represented by a number of Houses, each noted for a particular outlook, speciality or purpose. Several of the Houses no longer exist, either through being wiped out, or beache of other events beyond the Order's control.
Though no longer present within Aerdy, House Bjornaer is quite common outside those lands. It was originally similar in ideals to House Diedne, since both Houses were very close to the original Oeridian magi who existed before the formation of Hermetic magic.
Not all of House Bjornaer are Hermetic magi. Amongst the druids of Oerik, the title of Bjornaer is seen as something to be respected, and many who call themselves Bjornaer have nothing to do with the Order, and don't care much for it either.
Respected for its great theoretical knowledge of magic, the Domus Magnus of House Bonisagus relocated to the City of Greyhawk over eighty years ago, when the fall of the Order into diabolism became too obvious to ignore.
The entire of House Bonisagus was declared renegade in 501, by Madrigan of House Guernicus, and a Wizard War declared against that House. The war did not spread much beyond the borders of Aerdy though, and the House now thrives alongside the Guild of Wizardry in Greyhawk.
Most of House Criamon recognise that the Infernal is very dangerous, and that it is probably best to leave such well alone. Unfortunately, once given the opportunity to study demons first hand, without recourse from the rest of the Order, many of the House were unable to resist the chance.
House Criamon teeters on the brink of damnation, but it is not the hunger for power that will be their downfall, but their insatiable curiosity and desire for knowledge.
This House was only too willing to side with Tremere and Guernicus during the latter two's fall into darkness. Though not all Flambeau practise diabolism themselves, they are more than happy to hunt down anyone who complains about the rulers of the Order.
In 532, a rival Domus Magnus of House Flambeau was founded in the City of Greyhawk, by members of the House opposed to diabolism. Wizard War has been declared against members of this false House, though so far no-one has got up the courage to make an open attack against it, considering it is right in the middle of enemy territory, not far from some very powerful magi opposed to diabolism.
A third faction of this House has been rumoured to be part of the Scarlet Brotherhood, working with the more subtle arts of Perdo magics. These rumours have been doing the rounds for the last two hundred years though, and so far only their title of Shadow Flambeau remains consistent between rumours.
House Guernicus, are the Quaesitoris, the priests of the Order. It was they who allied themselves with Ivid II in the fifth century, and openly took upon the ways of diabolism.
Though House Tremere are the rulers of the Order, they keep their control through the Quaesitors, who are feared by all within Aerdy - magi and mundanes alike. Few within the Order are willing to openly question their judgement.
Ever since Madrigan became Primus of the House, it has shifted more and more into a matriarchal society. Most of the female magi of the House wear a black opal around their neck. It is believed to be of great diabolic and magical significance, but no-one outside the House knows exactly why.
A few members of House Jerbiton still exist within the Great Kingdom, even though the Wizard War declared against them is still open. They do their best to protect the mundane folk of the Kingdom from the activities of the Infernal, and also the more arrogant members of the Order.
Outside the Kingdom, House Jerbiton is desperately trying to stir up support for a campaign against the black heart of the Order at Rauxes. Many magi have just come out of one major war though, and none are too willing to enter into another one.
Disbanded in 465, this House no longer exists, either within Aerdy, or outside it. The somewhat greater openness of the Order amongst the common people has reduced the need for specialist messengers.
When Merinita founded this House during the early days of the Order, the influence of the Fey was still reasonable. Today though, the magical regions of faerie nature are rapidly shrinking in size, and the House is itself following along the same path.
Officially, no members of this House are found within the Kingdom of Aerdy, after the House was wiped out by the combined actions of Flambeau and Guernicus.
House Tremere for all intents and purposes rules the Order. Over the past hundred years, they have steadily increased in power and influence until now, when no other House can stand against them (except Guernicus and Flambeau, both of which supports them).
House Tremere sees itself as quite separate from the Overking, though the exact details of the relationship between them is somewhat unclear. Generally, both consent to the wishes of the other. What will happen when both have conflicting desires remains to be seen.
Unlike the Quaesitors who have given themselves over to diabolism totally, House Tremere views the Infernal as a useful ally, but not one to give oneself over to entirely. That is left to the Quaesitors to do.
After the failed attempt to oust Ivid from his throne in 572 CY, House Tytalus has fallen out of favour amongst the ruling Houses. The leaders of the House were executed, by order of the Overking, and their replacements are somewhat weak and ineffectual.
House Tytalus is trying to gain favour once again, but is viewed with contempt by many of Tremere.
It is said that House Verditious has been the least affected by the changes wrought throughout the Order in the past few centuries. The fall of whole Houses to diabolism, the virtual collapse of the Great Kingdom, and even the rapid growth of Infernal powers throughout Aerdy are of absolutely no import to those of Verditious.
As long as they get to work undisturbed in their labs, many Verditious couldn't give a damn. Except to note that the availability of certain diabolic ingrediants required for their experiments are now somewhat easier to come by.
The Order Today
The Order of Hermes was originally founded to bring together magi within the Kingdom of Aerdy into a powerful, unified whole. Since that time, things have rapidly gone down hill.
The Order is currently split into two factions - those in Aerdy, and those outside it. The Aerdy magi have fallen to the temptation of the Infernal, especially amongst the higher ranks.
House Tremere now rules the Order, aided by the Quaesitoris and their demonic allies. For the most part, those opposed to the recent changes have either been killed, or have fled Aerdy, though a few still remain, either unaware of the changes around them (many of House Verditious fall into this category) or actively fighting against the changes. Most of the latter are from House Jerbiton, which has taken upon its shoulders the task of cleansing the Order of diabolic influence.
Outside of Aerdy, things are very different. The Order has never been very well received by those external to the Great Kingdom, for view can look upon it without seeing it as just another attempt by the Overlords to extend their power even further.
For the last thirty years though, it has started to become fashionable amongst the younger magi near Greyhawk to be affiliated with a House of the Order. The symbol of House Bonisagus seems to have become something of a fashion statement, much to the annoyance of the more serious members of the House.
Obviously, not all Houses can be found to have a real presence outside of Aerdy, but those that are are growing in popularity and strength. House Bonisagus is the largest, followed by Flambeau, Jerbiton, Bjornaer, and Criamon. There are a few members of House Verditious, Merinita and Tytalus, though members of these Houses are quite rare.
Relations With Other Organisations
For the most part, magi are independent, rarely forming into anything larger than a group of friends. The Guild of Wizardry in Greyhawk is something of an exception, though it functions much more as a training college and gentleman's club for retired magi, more than an active force within the world.
Things though, are changing. The exceptional library at the Guild has always attracted magi from all across Oerth, but with the recent troubles, and the ever growing presence of the Infernal, many are beginning to see the Guild as a training ground for an army of magi to combat the Darkness.
Many of course, disagree. Kieren Jalucian, Master of the Guild of Wizardry, is especially opposed to the idea of the Guild becoming anything more than a neutral place of learning. Though he sees the might of Iuz and the Overlord as something to be combated, it should be done so by those outside the Guild. This stance has put him in direct conflict with several other important members of the Guild, who are pushing to have their favourite, Marcus Jakart, a high ranking member of House Bonisagus, replace him.
Another group whom the Order must contend with is the Circle of Five. Though now considerably less powerful than before the actions of the traitor Rary, the Circle still has considerable political and magical power across Oerik.
The Circle has yet to officially decide either way whether it would like to see the Order gain in strength and popularity, but unofficially, it does seem to be pro the Order of Hermes (at least that part of the Order based outside Aerdy).