There are two, among those organizations known universally in the Empire, that traditionally wear full-face-hiding masks.
The first of these is the Masked Order of the Unnamed, eikone of seals, secrets, and mysteries. The intrigants who serve the Unnamed wear masks of the same serene, beautiful face, anonymous within their night-purple robes. The masks do differ in materials: masks of polished silver, of pale ivory, of rose porcelain, blue wood, or midnight onyx. These have meaning – the Unnamed permits nothing less – but centuries of studies by scholars outside the Order have not revealed it. (And besides, if they did, the Unnamed’s Inner Circle would imbue them with a further esoteric meaning, if they do not already possess one or more.)
The second is the Eupraxic Order of Reason, who wear masks of smoky glass beneath hooded robes of gray, upon closer inspection a twisting fractal pattern of black and white intertwined in deep complexity, but never blended. As is their practice, they declare their meaning openly: they go masked and cloaked that those who seek their counsel will see nothing, perceive nothing, consider nothing but the argument itself, and that no personal characteristic of theirs may be permitted to taint this in the eyes of their clients.
Intimidation, however, is evidently not considered a problem by either group.
The priest of the Unnamed, unidentifiable behind flowing night-purple robes and serene mask of polished silver, moved steadily through the market towards the statue of Valentia I. The crowd parted as he – or she – passed, leaving a respectful distance. The reputation of the Masked Order made even the bold wary of becoming involved with their intrigues.
Reaching the statue, the masked priest drew a night-purple xaról flower from the folds of his – or its – robe, laid it at the statue’s feet, then turned and stood by the pedestal, settling in to wait.
His – or hesh’s – instructions had been clear, if cryptic, ending, And provide no word of reason, as the Unnamed One commands.
Not that he – or ve – could have given a reason had he desired to; the commands of the Inner Circle were never explained to those below. Upon reaching the Middle Circle, he’d – or they’d – been taught that ”the purpose of the game is the game itself”; that the secrets and intrigues of the Unnamed One required no reason beyond themselves – which was undoubtedly true, but complete? That, only the Inner Circle would know.
There. He – or whoever – looked up from his musings, seeing the one his orders had described – a woman passing the statue at noon, with the rare silver-blonde hair and rose-copper coloring of the sunrise eldrae. Pressing the engraved silver token of the temple’s favor into her hand, he turned and walked away, leaving her looking after him in surprise.
Gambit Pileup: The more or less inevitable, continuous, and ongoing consequence of people who see social-fu as something to be mastered every bit as much as any other excellence; a society that despises violence and coercion – and, for that matter, outright fraud – and as such places a premium on the ability to get people to do what you need or want them to do without resorting to such things; and a whole lot of people who are far too clever for anyone’s own good.
Everyone, and every organization, has a plan. Anyone who tells you otherwise has two plans. Minimum. (The incomprehensibly ultratech machine-gods, of course, have ALL THE PLANS.)
That four eikones (Éadinah, eikone of night, darkness, subtlety, espionage, and deeply-laid plans; Leiriah, eikone of mists, illusions, deceptions, trickery, wit and intrigue; Úlmirien, eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, more trickery, epiphanies, unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts; and The Unnamed, eikone of seals, secrets, mysteries, and that which you are not cleared to know) find this sort of thing entertaining, useful, and eo ipso worthwhile – and in a couple of those cases being essentially incapable of playing anything straight – only adds to the fun.