The Eleventh Object is an ancient Greek theatrical mask, or a facsimile thereof. The character portrayed is Miles Gloriosus, the braggart soldier. The inside of the Mask contains the Verditius runes for transforming minds, but these are, of course, not functional. When a magus wears the Mask, the usual suspicion mortals feel toward Gifted people is entirely suppressed. This is less useful than it appears in print, because, of course, the magus still looks like a man in a clay mask, which is difficult to explain in most circumstances.
The Mask first appears in the Order’s history as the original Object of study of Clement of Criamon, the first Curator of the Objects. Clement said he had found the Mask in a graveyard for magical traditions, on the Floating Isle of Horus. Clement was of course, barkingly insane at this point in his career, or at least so vested in the strange spiritualisms of House Criamon as to be unintelligible to any save his fellow cultists. He only became lucid after wearing the Mask constantly for many years, leading to the insights contained in his tractatus, the famed, if now little read, Xenognosis.
The Mask is the only Object which Clement regularly names by its form, rather than an ordinal number representing the Object’s place in a sequence which he claims was not based on its date of discovery. Clement’s Proximity Sequence is no longer used, as he was aware of only twelve of the Objects, although he predicted that thirty would eventually be found. Indeed, it is his prediction of the time and place of the manifestation of the Thirtieth Object, and his conjecture as to its possible nature, that makes this expedition, and these reports, necessary.
The Mask was stolen from the Order by a demon, according to popular tradition, but recent researchers have suggested that this may have been some other thing, for which we lack a classificatory schema. The Mask’s features had, however, convinced some Hermetic magi to study the concept embodied in the ineffective runes on its underside. It took over a century for magi from various houses to create the first of the Mask Mysteries, but once it was established, other breakthroughs and discoveries rapidly followed. Mask magic, in various forms, flourished in an unlikely combination of Houses.
The Eleventh Object was collected by the Academy in 1423. It had laid in the private collection of a nobleman in the Eos Lands, untraceable to Hermetic magic. A group of House Tremere’s psilos, suddenly unable to communicate with their commander due to the first use of succursus cloud weapons against a covenant by mortals, guessed correctly what had occurred, and decided it was vital to kill any mortal who might have sufficient knowledge to create another such device. One of their victims, an advisor to the Duke of Brabant, had the Mask in a private laboratory, in which he was studying “whatever passes for Natural Magic in the Insipid Places.” The series of assassinations which followed probably shortened the period of mundane chaos following the War of the Trees, and prevented it from spreading beyond the Rhineland.
In my own studies, I have been permitted much use of the Xenognostic Mask. It is initially disorienting as it is possible to see the connections that underlie material things in a novel way. I concur with Clement that this is similar to, but distinct from, the understanding granted by some of the more sensual and similistic schools of Enigmatic Wisdom. It differs, however, in ways which cannot be expressed clearly save with a specialised vocabulary. At its simplest, Enigmatic Wisdom seeks the hidden connections between things. Strange Wisdom seeks to see the potential in things.
It is difficult to hold both the Enigmatic and Strange Wisdoms in the mind simultaneously: it is, in my case, too much for my humble mind to grasp. It is, however, very beautiful to try, regardless of how dangerous my sodales say it is to attempt. I must note, given the quote above, that seen through the eyes of the Mask, the Insipid lands are lovely, and that it may be time to lay our older, perjorative, terminologies to rest.