These staves are sometimes carved with aged and tired faces, or crafted to resemble crooked and withered limbs. The power of the Enfeebling Echo is to lay an impression or suggestion of great age and physical debilitation on those against whom they are used. Over time a wielder who relies heavily on a staff such as this sometimes begins to develop physical symptoms of great age - liver spots on the hand, graying hair, wrinkles, and even in some extreme cases fragile bones and declining vision and hearing. These marks rarely disappear when the wielder stops relying on the staff, and in some places the implement is called an Enervating Promise, foreshadowing as it does the weakness that many associate with old age. Those with lineage rarely experience any such physical effects from an Enfeebling Echo, however.
In Dawn, Highguard and Holberg the staff is often carved with the head of a snarling wolf, and called a Hungering Wolf as a consequence. Magicians from the eastern nations of the Empire maintain that the staff itself feeds on the life and energy of both wielder and target, drinking their strength in the same way that a dark tree greedily drinks water through its roots. In Dawn in particular, with its emphasis on glory, a staff that can drain someone of their most heroic traits enjoys a particularly dark reputation - as do its wielders. A seemingly young magician marked with signs of great age appears as the villain in any number of folktales from this part of the Empire.
- Form: Weapon. Takes the form of a staff. You must be wielding this implement to use its magical properties.
- Requirement: You must have both the magician and battle mage skills to bond to this item.
- Effect: Twice per day you can cast the weakness spell as if you knew it without spending any mana.
- Materials: Crafting an Enfeebling Echo requires nine measures of beggar's lye. It takes one month to make one of these items.
"That's Magistrate Sybilla to you," the young woman asserted, "I serve the Empire now."
"Oh, how you've changed," her quarry smirked falsely, "You aren't the first Magistrate to discover my heresy, nor the first to take Rhonwen's Leap face-down in the Gancio. I've killed better than you."
"Heresy is the pretext, Thekla. The cause of vengeance may serve the Empire when it aligns with the law."
"Ha! Oh, how I wish the fine cloaks of the Synod were here to hear such words from one of their loyal slaves. Do you wish your last words to be heresy?"
Sybilla bit back the desire to retort. She knew how this conversation went. She'd practised it in her head a thousand times while she followed the subtle clues that led her to the cottage by the waterfall, and its too-familiar inhabitant. "It's only heresy if one venerates it. I know when to stop. You didn't."
"True. And yet what is society without it? Virtue is easy when everyone is virtuous. When the rot sets in, when fools like Walter allow their friends free rein simply because they're rich, when entire Spires and entire cities drench themselves in the fruits of unjust exploitation and ceaseless war and believe themselves right simply because they have the power to exert their will - who speaks for the exploited? Who speaks for peace?"
"The law does, Thekla. You just never saw that."
"I saw the law acquit those who should have been put to death." Thekla's Poise cracked just a little, just as Sybilla had expected it to. Thekla would explain herself to her erstwhile student. She had to. She believed she had done right. She might have blood on her hands, but she would never have had it any other way.
"And so the path that ends only in death," Sybilla said, quoting her tutor's advice in years gone by.
"It does," Thekla nodded, the corners of her mouth turning up in a genuine smile, "It does."
There was a moment of pause, while each considered the truth of their tragic path.
Sybilla drew herself to her full height - half a foot shorter than her quarry, but still impressive in her fine-pointed mage armour - and knocked the butt of her staff on the flagstone of the heretic's hearth. "Thekla, formerly of the Coruscating Spire, I am here to arrest you on four counts of murder and six of assault with a magical weapon, and a single count of devotion to the false Virtue of Vengeance."
"Is that the law? That you must tell me my crimes before you kill me? Am I supposed to feel sorry, then? Is my heart supposed to break, hearing that the Empire that betrayed me no longer wishes my wisdom and courage to put to its bloody employ? The desire for vengeance is at the heart of a just society, but your Empire eats its young without any heed paid to the most crucial Virtue of all. It's a pity you won't find that out until your next life. You were always such a capable student."
Sybilla shook her head. The time for talking was over. "So. To the death, then?"
"Not here. We will duel by the waterfall."
Sybilla nodded and followed Thekla out of the back door of her peaceful little cottage. "I hope you've made your peace," she said, as they strode like companions through the herb-garden, through a small allotment growing carrots and potatoes. This would be a beautiful place to die, if it all went wrong. This would be a beautiful place to kill, if it did not.
"Years ago, when I first embarked on this bloody path. The life of contemplative solitude is not to be underestimated, and my passions have always been magical, rather than interpersonal. Have you made yours?"
"No," Sybilla said, shaking her head. That was why she would win.
"I'm sorry to hear that, girl," Thekla said, hefting her staff and assuming an aggressive stance. "You can't win here. I have decades of experience and more personal power than all of your Sentinels put together. You might be right by your people's fallen standards, but I am right by the unquestionable authority of absolute morality, and..." she paused and looked to the sky, and for a brief moment, Sybilla saw regret on her scaled face, "I wish I didn't have to stoop to your methods, but I have the might to defend my past."
"And those Magistrates you've defeated before didn't understand how you thought. That magic would bring you victory. It will not today."
"Strange. I don't feel any less capable. You still face me as a pup barking at a wolf."
Sybilla smiled and unwrapped the velvet coating from her staff, revealing its gnarled wolf's-head, its panoply of bitter and agonised faces. "I understand you, Thekla, and that's why I know how to defeat you. You have one spell, and then nothing more. Not strength, but speed, and precision, and discipline, will determine our duel. One blow from this stave, and then we're both just women with staves and agonising headaches. But I am armoured. I am young. I am strong. And I have trained for this day for the ten years since you abandoned your people. Since you abandoned me." She raised the staff and felt her centre, as hard and bright as a pearl in the Net. She was ready. At last, she would have vengeance. At last, she would have closure. And she would do so without taking a step outside the course of the law, without betraying the will and destiny of her Empire. She would win, and stagger back down the mountainside to the civilisation that loved her.She had not made her peace. She had not accepted the inevitability of her own death. That was why she would win.