The world of Malifaux is thick with magical energies. Those newly arrived in the world often describe an electric feeling in the air, making the hairs on the back of their neck stand up. Almost all of Malifaux's residents develop some small ability to manipulate this energy, usually manifesting as minor magical talents. A small number will display noteworthy powers, powers that represent a threat to the Guild presence in Malifaux. These individuals have been labeled Arcanists, and the Guild expends significant resources in hunting these dangerous men and women, and have dedicated their Witch Hunter task force to eliminating this unpredictable rogue element.
The Witch Hunters have not proven very popular with the citizens of Malifaux. Each man and women is viewed with suspicion by the Guild, and even the most minor display of magical talent can result in unexpected midnight raids. It is unknown what happens to those taken by the Guild, but everyone has their theories, none of them very kind to the Guild. Occasionally, a fledgling Arcanist will succeed in driving off or evading the Witch Hunters. These cases always result in significant newspaper coverage, sparking the collective imaginations of every Malifaux citizen. These individuals are able to do what the common man cannot: spit in the eye of the Guild.
Of those few that rise to fame, their flames are often short-lived. There are very few options for someone on the run in Malifaux City. There are few places to hide, unless a person is willing to brave the wilds outside the city's walls. Hunted as they are, these individuals often run straight into the arms of the Union.
The Miners and Steamfitters Union is an organization that represents the interests of the labor class in Malifaux. While primarily concerned with the well-being of those that mine Soulstone, it also represents any ancillary professions, such as the steamfitters who operate and maintain the steam engines used to pump water from mines and the heavy machinery necessary for efficient mining. The Union maintains offices in several places throughout Malifaux and the surrounding towns. Unknown to the large majority of its members, these offices also serve as safe houses for runaway Arcanists.
Utilizing this network, the Arcanists are able to recruit new talent into a highly structured criminal organization. Behind the legitimate face of the Union is a society of professional criminals. This organization maintains a lucrative Soulstone smuggling operation and is responsible for several high profile raids on Guild property. New members are usually put to work on petty crimes, giving them an opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to the organization.
Because the Union receives overwhelming public support and because Union officials and laborers are involved in almost every level of Malifaux business and industry, the Guild finds it extremely difficult to fight these criminals. The Guild struggles with strong negative public opinion while charismatic and daring Arcanists are viewed as folk heroes. Every successful heist is celebrated quietly in the saloons and union halls, away from the ears of the Guild. To the citizens of Malifaux, Arcanists are a modern day Robin Hood and his Merry Men. The reality, however, may be closer to an underground crime syndicate. To the Guild and those who believe their propaganda, the Arcanists are nothing more than terrorists.
In recent years, Arcanist activity has escalated dramatically. The scope of their operations has become ever more ambitious, and there are some who whisper that the entirety of the Northern Hills has fallen under their sway. Whether this is true or not, it is clear is that the Arcanist organization has established itself as a major power in Malifaux. To the people of Malifaux, the Arcanists represent the power to reclaim the fruits of their own labors from the tyranny of the Guild. The Arcanists' true agenda, however, seems to be profit and power.