Eternal of Autumn
Known as the Hidden Prince, Ephisis is a mistress of trade, barter and fair exchange.
She is sometimes referred to as the Accounter, High Merchant, and the Lady of the Counting House. She is the Sovereign Lady of the City of Gold and Lead and the Prince of Scales. She is sometimes referred to as the Invisible Hand in reference to both her sequestration and to certain economic theories. Her love of trade sometimes leads to her being called the Merchant Queen. Her great wealth is often referenced in the title Grand Plutocrat.
In Asavea she is sometimes worshipped directly as a patroness of merchants, traders and wealth; in both the Jarm and Axos she and her heralds are courted for the various mercantile boons they offer. The magicians of the Sumaah Republic consider her, along with Estavus and Prospero to be an acceptable Eternal to treat with; that said it is illegal for any citizen of Sumaah to deal with Ephisis without the assistance of a priestly mediator from the Assembly of Prosperity or the Assembly of Wisdom.
The Sarcophan have something of a love-hate relationship with Ephisis; their tendency to seek a profit without regard for ethics, and to engage in piracy, occasionally grates with this fair-minded Eternal.
Ephisis is always referred to as being female.
Her heralds are often referred to as chamberlains or seneschals in reference to the role they have in managing the City of Gold and Lead on her behalf.
No mortal in living memory has provably interacted directly with Ephisis. She does not host audiences in the Hall of the Worlds, and deals entirely through intermediaries. This has lead to a lot of speculation – but nobody has met a herald who has met her, either. She apparently never leaves her citadel – a pyramid of polished gold at the centre of the sprawling city she rules.
The City of Gold and Lead is built on the Plains of Aggido, framed between two great mountains. Some texts refer to it as the City of Five Rings, referring to the five great concentric walls that have been built to contain the city as it grows. The closer one gets to the central citadel, the richer and more influential the citizens. The central ring is said to be a place of wonders where some of the wealthiest of the Autumn Eternals can be found – along with the embassies from the other Eternals. Almost all the buildings in and around the City are businesses – Ephisis rules the greatest trade hub in the Realm.
The High Merchant is closely associated with the rune Lann, which represents bargains, and the rune Pallas which represents wealth. Her sigil is the balanced scale, and appears on many official documents and banners of the City of Gold and Lead.
While nobody has ever met Ephisis directly, scholars can theorize about her philosophies and concerns based on the actions her heralds take.
Ephisis is fascinated with trade in all its forms. She encourages trade across the Realm and the mortal world - from a bartered exchange of goods, to the most complex financial schemes of the League or the Sarcophan Delves.
She opposes attempts to restrict or control trade, but equally is fascinated by them and by what they can teach her about her obsession. She is known to be ambivalent about taxes – and the citizens of the City of Gold and Lead are known to pay a tenth of their profits to the Accounter's coffers. Of taxes, she has repeatedly expressed the opinion that taxation is a form of trade – the government provides services and facilities, and the citizens contribute to their upkeep. That said, she has also praised systems where citizens voluntarily donate to the state, and those anarchies where the individual has no responsibility to the state at all.
Ephisis is immensely rich. In her opinion, wealth is both a means to an end (securing happiness), and a way of recognising talent and ambition. People who make themselves wealthy in their society deserve to be more powerful because they have worked hard to gain their wealth. Wealth is also an equaliser – anyone can become wealthy, and unwise investments can plunge a complacent plutocrat into the gutter.
Core to her philosophy, however, is the belief in ethical behaviour. This quality is sometimes seen as being at odds with her obsession with trade. Ephisis expects trade to be 'honest' and absolutely despises cheats and con artists. While profit is integral to many trading models, it is up to the merchant, the customer and their society to determine what is a 'fair' profit on a transaction. She dislikes business practices that involve tricking, or deceiving customers or workers and despises the use of force to take wealth from others.
While Ephisis mostly focuses on the trade of material goods. She dislikes trades involving 'future favours'; she dislikes attempts to turn economic interactions into social interactions, and absolutely despises those who fail to pay their debts or honour their bargains. She views many social exchanges in terms of trade. Whether it is a stonemason sculpting a statue for a client, a mercenary fighting for an employer, or a mine-worker extracting ore, all these activities are trades of time and skill for recompense. A common phrase used by the Eternals of the City of Gold and Lead is that the only real commodity of any value is time.
Her heralds are often used as advocates by other Eternals and mortals alike, and view mediation as another form of trade. She would always rather mediate a dispute than fight, but that is not to say that she is weak. She employs brotherhoods of mercenary soldiers to guard her city, and they are very well paid indeed.
In the Autumn Realm, Ephisis remains neutral. She is believed to have close ties with Estavus, but to keep the other eternals at arm's length. There is particular rivalry between Ephisis and Prospero over the Echoing Bazaar – a mirror of her own marketplaces but one where favours and influence are used rather than good hard coin. Many of the other powers of the Autumn realm come to the City of Gold and Lead to trade, and none are interested in losing access to her services. A Prince who attacked Ephisis would risk drawing the ire of all the other Princes.
Ephisis and her heralds regularly invoke the Lictors. Given they are invariably dealing from an open and honest position, they see no harm in using magic to ensure that anyone they are dealing with is incentivised to be likewise honest.
Within the Empire, Ephisis is known to favour the Freeborn especially, being impressed by their commitment to honesty in business dealings. The murky practices of the League are a source of constant frustration, and she is known to be interested in the slow struggle between market towns and households in the Marches. On the whole, Ephisis is a quiet supporter of the Empire, especially impressed by the institution of the Imperial Bourse. Indeed, her heralds have directly intervened to assist or protect the Bourse on the rare occasions where it has been threatened.
She is also fascinated with the idea of open trade. Her heralds often demonstrate the ability to quickly evaluate the magical properties of an object offered for trade. She is known to share this ability with some mortals, although the boon often comes at a steep price.
Most magicians know the eternal through the ritual Ephisis' Scale. Beneath her citadel, Ephisis has vaults of unimaginable size, containing all the valuable items she has accumulated through trade with her fellow eternals and the mortal world. It is impossible to guess what lost treasures, secrets and objects of incalculable worth are contained in those vaults. “Mundane” trade with Ephisis is very common – she has an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything she owns, and queries to the eternal regarding specific items have sometimes been remarkably successful.
This connection with the preservation of wealth means that Ephisis has access to some of the finest vaultsmiths and lockmakers in the Autumn Realm. She is known to be able to create secure containers similar to those made with the night pouch incantation or the Secrets for the Shadow Courier ritual, and may share them with magicians.
Ephisis seems to have no interest in cursing anyone. Indeed, she is much more likely to trade for something that can help remove a curse than to help a magician in placing one. Curses that disrupt trade are particularly abhorrent to her – a single malediction can disrupt the economic activity of an entire region.
Ephisis does not deal in influence. She never does something for a promised favour in the future. This does not mean that she does not understand intangible trades – only that she avoids trades where someone promises to do something unspecified at a future date. A deal in which one party agrees to perform a specified task for payment is eminently acceptable to the eternal.
Pharam Vex, Voivode of Chains
Pharam Vex, known in the Empire as the Voivode of Chains, concerns itself with the trade and value of sentient beings - primarily in the form of slavery - and is particularly active in the nations of Jarm and Asavea. Pharam Vex was once active in the Empire as well, but withdrew its patronage when placed under Enmity by the Imperial Conclave during the reign of Emperor Ahraz. While the Enmity was later revoked, the Voivode has since remained distant from Imperial concerns.
Pharam Vex is apparently capable of taking many forms, usually with shining copper or crimson skin and great curling horns, but it is always richly dressed in the manner of a foreign merchant prince and attended on by silent, often masked servants. Regardless of its appearance, every recorded encounter with Vex mentions that it is bedecked with chains. These chains do not seem to be ceremonial; the Voivode claims to be as much a slave as the chattel it is so eager to barter and trade in, bound to Ephisis' service.
- From a speech to the Imperial Conclave in 328YE by Constantia Flamespire, Imperial Archmage of Autumn
The Maître de la Cage de Golde, as they call it in Asavea, is said to manage great hosts of enslaved Autumn entities in the City of Gold and Lead, trading their labour and services to other Eternals and Heralds in return for riches and wealth. When dealing with the mortal world, the Voivode sometimes offers boons of service from its slave-host, dispatching regiments of wretched minions to work in mines or haul wagons of building materials. These slaves are sometimes humanoid but can take other, stranger forms, although they almost always wear masks that cannot be removed without killing the hapless entity.