"Who's next?" asked the Brother of Wizards, clearly hoping the answer would be 'no-one'. Montaban looked down at the list, then up at Sadogua, then down at the list again in case he had read it wrong the first time. He licked his lips, but before he could reply, he was overcome with a slight cough.

Sadogua groaned. "Tell me it isn't the Thule, Montaban..."

"It is the Thule, oh Eater of Stars... Urnamost the warlock, Master of the Five Arts, Appointed Emissary of Tathenon the Gyre..." Sadogua winced and held up one paw to interrupt the flow of titles. The herald fell silent.

The Great Sloth sighed, yawned, and stretched back in the cushions. Might as well be comfortable at least.

"Send him in, but only if he's got at least ten measures of dragonbone. Otherwise... tell him... tell him I've been eaten by the Dreamscape. Or I've eaten the Dreamscape. Either is fine."

What was it about the Thule? Normally he thoroughly enjoyed a little flattery, but the Children of the Dragons always managed to be so earnestly obsequious they sucked all the fun out of it. With a grunt of exasperation, Sadogua shrugged and wriggled, and darkly glistening scales washed over his corpulent form as bat-like wings stretched from his shoulders and iron hard talons sprouted on his fingers and toes.

Just as he finished, Montaban led a small group of Thule wizards into the audience chamber and opened his mouth to announce them. The Globbersnotch cut him off before he could get started.

"Urnamost! I sense your master wishes my counsel most urgently. So we will dispense with formality, I will accept your tribute, and then I can answer your questions swiftly, so that you may carry word of my utterances to Him without delay."

The warlock opened his mouth to argue, then thought better of it

"Montaban! You're embarrassing our guests! Don't leave them standing there - accept the tribute they've brought." Sadogua narrowed his lambent yellow eyes. "They have brought tribute I assume?"

One of the Warlock's entourage proffered a box - a disappointingly small one - to Montaban. The herald placed it on a low table next to where the eternal lounged.

"Tathenon the Gyre sends this small gift as a token of his deep respect, Wyrm-King." said Urnamost. "He asks only that you might answer a question of pressing import about recent events."

Sadogua flipped the chest open to reveal four measures of dragonbone. Now he remembered why he didn't like the Thule! It wasn't the toadying, it was the fact they were so wretchedly poor. He raied an eyebrow at Montaban, and briefly contemplated eating him instead of the tribute. Then the aroma of the dragonbone reached his scaly nostrils and that settled the matter. He popped one into his mouth, savouring the rich taste and brittle crunch as he chewed.

"Speak, Urnamost," he said as he chewed. "What answer does the Red desire from the Brother of Wizards?"

"We seek answers on the nature of the strange fog that plagues Thule lands. He Whose Rage Darkens The Sun urgently wishes to know what these mists portend."

Sadogua groaned inwardly, and a note of irritation crept into his voice.

"Twice now have I answered this question for one of the Five. I tell you again; it doesn't portend anything. It just is. I told She Who Listens With The Ear Of The Green this, and I told Fraynir's Voice the same thing. I hate repeating myself. The Five know this."

The Father of Bats popped another finger's-length of dragonbone into his mouth to calm himself down.

"But there must be a reason for it!" the Thule protested.

"Why? Does a cat have a reason to chase a mouse?" Sadogua decided he was in a whimsical mood.

"Cats chase mice to eat them Wyrm-King" volunteered Montaban helpfully.

Sagodua glared at the herald and again contemplated eating him, if only to startle the Thule. He automatically took a third piece of dragonbone without looking, sucking it thoughtfully for a moment before biting it in half and gulping it down. "Exactly my point! Mice are horrid things, all bones and tail. Nobody would choose to eat one unless it was dipped in chocolate and dusted with nuts or stuffed with... wait what was I saying? Oh yes the mist. The mist is just the same!"

"But the mist isn't eating mice..." the warlock protested.

Sadogua stared at the orc. Was this really the best the Gyre could do? He sighed melodramatically. "Of course not - nobody would choose to eat mice. I just said that. But memories are delicious, the best ones are all succulent and juicy. And the mist eats memories, just like a crab eats mice."

"Cat," corrected Montaban under his breath. Sadogua ignored him.

"But why now?" stammered the Thule, clearly anticipating the famous rage of his grim master should he return without the answer the Red desired.

The eternal took the final measure of dragonbone from the chest and locked eyes with the warlock. "It rained in Askja yesterday didn't it?" he asked. The Thule nodded and opened his mouth to speak before the Brother of Wizards cut him off. "And yet the Five didn't send anyone to ask me why it rained in Askja yesterday... Why was that?"

The warlock paused briefly before answering, to ensure the Brother of Wizards had finished talking. "It rains a lot in Askja. It rains most days..." he offered.

"Quite! It rains most days... so you paid it no attention. But because you've never seen this mist before you imagine it must portend something. You can't accept that today's mist might be no more meaningful than yesterday's rain because you've never experienced it before! Imagine how terrified your ancestors must have been the first time they saw rain! Only once it had been falling for a few years did they get used to it."

Sadogua reached for the wooden chest, only to discover it was empty. He took some pleasure in rasping his talons against the wood, eyes locked with those of Urnamost as the sound of no-more-dragonbone filled the chamber. The orc swallowed.

"Go" he said, taking pity on the poor warlock. "Tell your master that the Brother Of Wizards says this mist is nothing to fear. Tell him the Wyrm-King says it doesn't mean anything, it doesn't portend anything, it isn't a challenge from a rival, or a trick of the eternals, or an insidious Imperial scheme. It just is, and soon it will pass. Just like the rain in Askja passed. And when it does it will leave no more trace than that downpour did. Carry my words to the Roar of the Mountains and do not trouble me again until the time is right."

He said that last with a pointed look at the empty chest the Thule had brought with them. As Montaban ushered the Thule from the chamber, he settled back in his cushions and yawned contentedly, rubbing his belly.

"That went rather I well I thought..." he mused to nobody in particular, yawned, and within three blinks was sound asleep.

Overview

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  • Exposure to a peculiar fog confuses or deadens memories.
  • The fog also invades dreams.

With the nights growing darker and deeper in the wake of the Autumn Equinox, a malaise drifts down from the star-filled skies. An insidious mist rises in woods and hills, and creeps stealthily into cities, towns, and villages. Those exposed to the fog find their memories become clouded, or subtly altered. Their recollections of past events become unreliable; details become muted; and it becomes all too easy to forget unimportant pieces of information after the drifting fingers of earthbound cloud have passed.

Exposure to the fog, whether directly or in dreams, manifests as subtle memory loss and confusion. The effects are not especially dramatic - nobody has lost all their memories, or forgotten vital personal details such as names, loyalties, or ambitions. Rather the effect of the fog is to slowly erode or subtly alter less vital memories. In some cases, victims of the memory-altering mist don't realise they have been exposed for days or even weeks, until they encounter something they know they should remember, but have no recollection of.

This isn't the first time a supernatural mist has troubled Imperial citizens; but unlike the eerie, glowing fog that shrouded the Bay of Catazar in late 379YE and early 380YE, this phenomenon has spread to every corner of the Empire. Nor are the effects purely physical; people speak of dreams in which their night-time imaginings are "invaded" by creeping mist that mutes details and leaves them enervated and confused on awakening. In this case, the fog seems specifically to cause forgetfulness around whatever the topic of the dream might have been.

While the fog appears natural on the surface, even the simplest divinations will alert a magician that the miasma that surrounds them possesses supernatural properties. Rituals such as Bright Lantern of Ophis indicate that the fog consumes or alters memory, but provide no suggestions as to how long it will last or how it may be ended prematurely. Explanation as to the causes of the mist remains elusive. Students of astronomantic lore point to a subtle conjunction of the Wanderer with the the Lock, and the Door, and theorise that this might either be the cause, or a revelation, of the obfuscating haze.

Further Signs

As always there is debate about whether the eerie fog has arisen as a result of the astronomantic conjunction, or whether the conjunction is a reflection of the fog's appearance. And as is usual in situations where the flows of mana and the movement of magic through the world is perturbed, there are many other more subtle signs of the disruption than those found in the sky.

Runecasters in particular find that any attempt to divine meaning in the runes that features the Rune of Secrets becomes opaque or muddled - the runes lose coherence and refuse to reveal anything except a vague foreboding.

During a performance of The Lament of the Shepherd at Bloody Great Theatre in Temeschwar, which coincided with a ritual intended to grant prosperity to the cicisbeo Guild of the Steel Quill, the troupe magicians portraying the shepherd-queen and her court all fell silent simultaneously, and began to recite very different lines that left the audience disturbed and unsettled - although nobody involved can remember quite what was said beyond the uneasy recollection that it reminded them of something sorrowful that had happened in their past.

Blood mages in Navarr and Varushka have noticed unexpected reactions when they mix blood - especially naga blood - with water. Rather than mixing together, the two liquids remain separate, creating an oddly cloudy effect. Only by vigorous stirring can the two fluids be combined, and they have a marked tendency to separate again over a period of a few minutes if not employed immediately. This is particularly apparent, perhaps unsurprisingly, in blood used to empower rituals related to memory or identity.

The mist is a cause for some alarm, but there is no indication that it is the result of intentional malignancy. Widespread disturbances in the skein of magic across the Empire are not uncommon after all - barely three months previously the effects of a much more dramatic destructive conjunction were felt across the Empire. Yet this particular perturbation in the flows of mana is in some ways more unsettling than any empowering destruction or personal transformation - it attacks the foundation of a person's identity, undermining their understanding of themselves, and their path through the world.

Fortunately, while the effects of the mist are powerful, they are not impossible to overcome.

Shadows Lengthen

The good news is that it seems fairly straightforward to keep the fog at bay with tried and trusted hearth magic of protection. In Varushka for example there have been no reports of the fog entering the dreams of those who sleep in warded homes. while many of those experiencing the memory-sapping properties of the mist in the Marches have been travelers outside the safety of properly marked boundaries. Unfortunately, it is rarely practical to remain perpetually inside defended areas, meaning some reliable counter to the memory changing effects is eagerly sought.

After some examination of those exposed, three specific ways have been suggested for dealing with the loss of memory, and seem especially appropriate to those attending the Winter Solstice.

Firstly, people are encouraged to renew their friendship and acquaintance with others. A short conversation, or a more involved social interaction, help to nail down the detail of shared experience and can reduce or remove even the most subtle effects of exposure to the fog.

Second, priests across the Empire are urging citizens to turn to the virtues to help combat this psychic malaise. Anyone who has been particularly effected may find it useful to receive an anointing, especially in the presence of friends and family, that rededicates them to ambitions or goals they are struggling to hold on to. Likewise, learned magicians from Urizen to Wintermark have suggested that covens, sects, and banners might help combat the plague of misrememberance by taking time at the coming solstice to renew the oaths that bind them together.

Thirdly, Imperial storytellers have pointed to the Navarr practice of Songs and Stories, when strangers come together to tell tales and make music. Troubadours, sutannir, stzena, skalds, and musicians of all nations are being encouraged to take the opportunity to gather in groups during the Winter Solstice to swap stories not of great deeds done by figures of the past, but of the more recent exploits of modern heroes of the Empire. By cementing these tales in the minds of the people, they hope, the creeping forgetfulness can be slowed, or even stopped altogether.

That said... not everyone is as keen to recover their memories. There are several stories of people who, following exposure to the fog, embrace the uncertainty or freedom from the past. Some have even sought the mist out as a way to proactively change or abandon their memories. In some cases this reflects something as minor as a change of job, embracing a new relationship, or putting aside past grievances. Other results are significantly more profound. Reports from some Navarr stridings say that record numbers of people are choosing to walk away from lives in which they felt trapped, seeking new opportunities in different parts of the Empire.

Shadows Lengthen In Play

  • The magical fog creates an in-character explanation for out-of-character confusion
  • Any lapse of memory can be explained as exposure to the memory-corroding mist

It's common for it to be a challenge remembering what happened at the last event, and doubly so after the long Winter gap. In game, the Winter solstice 383YE takes place only three months after the Autumn Equinox... but in real life over two years have passed. We're aware that many players are worried that they won't be able to remember details of things that, in-character, they should know. This peculiar magical fog is designed to provide an in-character tool to justify memory lapses or confusion or even small changes in personality, arising from the lengthy real-world time that has passed.

The three suggestions that have been made for ways to counter the effects of the fog are designed to give in-character excuses for players to shore up their shared understanding of the game and provide enjoyable roleplaying at the same time. In particular, a period of time has been set aside to provide space for the sharing of stories and music in each nation, and the egregores will be encouraging players to contribute to these events.

The fog is also an in-game excuse to change your character if you wish. We're aware that two years is a long time and peoples; circumstances may have changed dramatically in that time. Embracing the memory-corroding attributes of the fog can give an excuse to take up a new role, or find a new place for your character in the game.

Song of My Soul

As is often the case with a perturbation of the flows of magic, the presence of the peculiar mist is accompanied by some alteration to the fabric of Imperial magic. Specifically, these rituals that are part of Imperial lore will work slightly differently during the coming Summit.

Arcane Mark

The Arcane Mark ritual is familiar to any magician who belongs to a Conclave order. The ritual is vital to the functioning of the Imperial Conclave, used to connect a magician to their chosen Order. There's no record of the unnatural mists causing damage to any Arcane Mark, but there are some stories of people whose exposure to the fog has caused them to forget, or become confused about, their purpose in being part of one.

Several scholars at the Lyceum have discovered that the current conjunction has an unexpected effect on those taking an Arcane Mark. Anyone who receives the 'Mark of one of the seven Conclave orders not only feels reconnected to the principles and goals of the order, but also gains a small increase in personal magical power. To experience this empowerment, the target must recite (or read aloud) the manifesto of the order as part of the ritual, finishing by stating a single specific action they will undertake in the coming days to support the order's principles or pursue its goals.

Arcane Mark

Any character who receives the Arcane Mark of one of the seven Conclave Orders, recites or reads the Manifesto aloud, and states an action they will take in service to the order experiences additional effects.

At the completion of the ritual the character gains a temporary +1 bonus to their maximum personal mana. Furthermore, the Mark provides a source of supernatural strength that allows them to respond to any roleplaying effect that would cause them to act against the principles of their Order with a loud denunciation or restatement of their commitment to its goals. These effects last until the start of the Spring Equinox 384YE.

It is not possible to claim these benefits when using Arcane Mark to attune to "no Order". It is explicitly possible to receive the Arcane Mark of an Order one already belongs to a second time; normally there is no advantage to doing so but characters who want to gain the additional benefits by being targeted by the ritual again can do so freely.

Cast Off The Chain of Memory

  • Cast Off The Chain of Memory also creates new memories that are clearly not actual memories belonging to the target.
  • These memories can be washed away with a simple ceremonial handwashing.

Cast Off The Chain of Memory is a potent and subtle ritual of Night magic that allows someone to discard memories they would rather not be burdened with. While the peculiar fog is at large in the Empire, those receiving the ritual experience a peculiar "echoing" effect. They lose the unwanted memory as normal, but they also receive a new memory of something that did not happen to them. The memories are very vivid, but appear to fade over time. It is obvious if the individual thinks about it for a moment that the memory has come from outside - but some may be subtle enough that the person who receives them may become confused as to whether they are true memories or not.

There are several reports that these memories are so powerful that they inflict lingering effects on the one who receives them. Luckily, Devorah of Twin Suns, a Highborn magister from Syrene, has discovered a simple method of discarding these unwanted memories. Provided the recipient washes their hands in pure water within ten minutes of receiving the supernatural memory, while firmly stating their rejection of the memory, it quickly fades away. Once ten minutes have passed, however, the memory appears to be as permanent as any other recollection.

Cast Off The Chain Of Memory

Whenever this ritual is cast during the coming event, in addition to removing a memory it will create a vivid memory that will be provided by the referee in the form of a printed slip. The character is profoundly reminded of this false recollection, and some of them may bring with them ongoing roleplaying effects.

While the memory is vivid, the default assumption is that the target knows that it is not a real recollection - although it's perfectly acceptable to confuse the false memory for a real memory. As determined by Devorah of Twin Suns, the additional memory can be removed by ceremonial washing and verbalised rejection provided the roleplaying starts within ten minutes of the ritual being completed. At this point, the slip should be destroyed or discarded and any lingering effects immediately end.

If the memory is not washed way within the time frame mentioned, the roleplaying effects (if any) fade over the course of an hour or so. The memory itself however is permanent until it is naturally forgotten, or a magical effect such as Cast Off The Chain of Memory is used to get rid of it.

Infant Starts with a Blank Slate

  • With the addition of a measure of Beggar's Lye, the ritual removes all skills from a willing target.

A comparatively recent addition to Imperial lore, Infant Starts with a Blank Slate allows a ritual magician to wipe away mastery of arcane rituals.The blood magicians of the Tears Unshed Shall Dry coven of Hercynia make regular use of the ritual, during which they mix a little blood and fresh spring water with a measure of beggar's lye. Shortly after the first reported appearance of the memory-changing mist a lucky accident saw them discover a way to use the ritual to draw on quite astounding levels of power. Their initial discovery saw the coven remove not only the mastery of rituals, but also the knowledge of how to cast any spell, as well as the lore of Spring magic from their subject! The woman was apparently able to quickly remaster their magical aptitude, but took advantage of the rituals' unexpected potence to eschew recovering their ritual lore and instead - after a short period of practice with a master - rededicate themselves to the path of the thorn, training in the arts of fighting with spear and shield!

Their accidental discovery has since been replicated by several other covens. If Infant Starts with a Blank Slate is performed with a measure of Beggar's Lye as an additional component during the casting it becomes greatly empowered. Instead of simply removing knowledge of mastered rituals, it frees the target from the constraints of all kinds of knowledge. At the same time it fills them with a supernatural enthusiasm - and aptitude - for learning new techniques.

Infant Starts With A Blank Slate

Including a measure of Beggar's Lye in the ritual causes it to remove all skills from the target. As with the standard effect of the ritual, this will only work on someone who is aware and willing.

When performed in this way, the ritual removes all learned skills from the character and creates a slightly different roleplaying effect: you feel a great sense of release, as if a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. You feel liberated, freed from unnecessary constraints. You are driven to evaluate your life so far, and determine whether it is time to take a new path, and learn new things.

The effects are very similar to those of retraining, but they effect all the characters skills; all the character's character points are refunded. The refunded experience points are locked to that character, so they can only be used to buy new skills for that character.

The ritual makes it easy for someone to learn new skills, requiring only a period of roleplaying practice with someone who already has the skills, and a trip to GOD.

Transmogrification of the Soul's Echo

It's not entirely clear who discovered this opportunity, or how knowledge of it has spread so quickly, but it certainly works. Under the effects of this conjunction of the Door and the Lock, the potent Night magic ritual Transmogrification of the Soul's Echo can be performed using liao alongside crystal mana. This information has caused consternation among some priests and theologians, but it is not entirely unprecedented. It has always been possible to use liao to make performing Whispers Through the Black Gate a little easier, for example. Here, though, there is an additional wrinkle. It appears that if the ritual is performed with a large amount of liao, it also washes away all spiritual marks on the soul of the target, removes curses, and temporarily prevents new liao ceremonies influencing the target directly.

The implications of this are a matter for some discussion, to put it mildly.

Transmogrification of the Soul's Echo

During the Winter Solstice, casters can consume up to 15 doses of liao when performing Transmogrification of the Soul's Echo. Each dose of liao consumed reduces the magnitude of the ritual by 2, up a maximum reduction of 30 ranks. If any liao is used, the ritual has an additional roleplaying effect: you feel refreshed in spirit, optimistic about the future, and at peace with the past.

As well as having the normal far-reaching impact on the personality of the target, there are additional effects if the full amount of liao - 15 doses - is used in the ritual. At the completion of such a ritual, all testimony, anointing, dedication, and excommunication effects that were not created by the use of True Liao are completely removed from the target. In addition, the ritual removes the effects of any lingering curses effecting the target. Finally, the character cannot be targeted with testimony, anointing, dedication, or excommunication until the start of the Spring Equinox, unless those effects are created with True Liao. They will simply fail and no liao will be consumed.

These additional effects will not take place if the mana cost of the ritual is reduced by any other effect - the full magnitude 60 must be accounted for.

Song of My Soul In Play

  • The ability to use these rituals in new ways is available only during the Winter Solstice

It's common for a conjunction such as this to effect a handful of rituals. In this case, the conjunction is granting additional power to rituals related to memory and identity. Anyone can take advantage of them during the Winter Solstice, and most of the effects will have faded by the start of the Spring Equinox.

Strange is the Night

The fog alone would be reason for concern, but it seems that astronomantic tulpas accompany the mists. Taking the form of hooded figures with red masks, they aren't violent or threatening, but are clearly more than innocent travellers. They refuse offers of hospitality, but are interested in engaging in talking with anyone who will listen. Any conversation with the tulpas quickly turns to the subject of memories and the past. They encourage discussion of painful or unwanted memories, and then invariably offer to help mute that pain by removing the memory. They clearly require consent; if anyone agrees they urge the subject to talk as fully as possible about their memory. As the target speaks, they find that unwanted recollection becoming more distant, until it is entirely gone.

There does not appear to be any cost for this "service" beyond the detailed verbalisation of the memory. Indeed in some cases the tulpas reportedly give something back after they have taken a memory. It's not clear what it is that causes them to do so, but after consuming a memory they may offer to give the person they are dealing with a memory in return. If the person agrees, they quickly describe the memory, and touch their target briefly on the head or hand. That individual discovers they now remember an event that did not, in fact, actually happen. Or rather, that did not happen to them. Some of these memories have been unsettling, some have been merely confusing, and some of them are clearly not memories of people in the modern Empire. It seems they are more prone to do so when offered an important or "powerful" memory, one rich in emotion, heroism. or of obvious value to the subject. Quite how they evaluate the memories they are offered, however, is impossible to guess.

The tulpas have been reported in almost every nation of the Empire with one glaring exception; they do not appear to be manifesting in Varushka. There's no easy explanation for this peculiar detail, but some astronomantic theorists believe it might be a result of the constellation that the entities emanate from. Investigation suggests that the tulpas are connected to the Door - which raises questions of its own - and that their reticence to appear in Varushka may be connected to the prevalent hearth magic of wards and the home. By contrast, some Varushkan cabalists point to the creatures' refusal to accept hospitality as "proof" that their intentions are not entirely benevolent.

Further questions hang over the specific appearance of the tulpas; the spirits associated with the Door rarely take on anthropomorphic forms. When they do, it is most common for them to appear as reflections of the ritualists who have summoned them or caught their attention. Is it possible that this fog, and the tulpas that accompany it, might be the result of a ritual? If the tulpas themselves have provided any answer, it has not been made public.

There is some evidence that this is not the first time these tulpas have appeared in the Empire. Octavia of the Stream's Source - a member of the Department of Historical Research - has performed what she describes as "very preliminary" research that suggests that this conjunction has happened at least twice before. Most recently there was talk of "disturbing mists" and "masked tulpas" in the aftermath of the death of Empress Giselle in 346YE, with another apparent appearance in 296YE during the Second Interregnum. If there was any inciting event she has not been able to find reference to it, and in both cases, the records suggest that the tulpa and the fog disappeared as quickly as they appeared.

Strange is the Night In Play

You're free to roleplay that you have encountered one of the tulpas mentioned, and even given them a memory. Follow the description given here when creating stories of such an encounter. Tulpas encountered in downtime will not have given you a memory in return however; this is something that can only happen in play.

Resolution

Following the Winter Solstice, the memory-changing mists seem to have abated and there are no more reports of peculiar tulpa moving around at night. The rituals influenced by the conjunction have returned to their normal function. Obviously, the effects of the mist are likely to be felt for some time to come.

While the active effects of the conjunction are over, it's perfectly fine to explain forgetfulness or misremembering by referencing them even if you weren't at Anvil for the Winter Solstice.