Autumn Magnitude 10
This ritual is part of Urizen lore rather than Imperial Lore. Any Urizen character with the appropriate lore can master or perform this ritual. A character from another nation who mastered the ritual before it became part of Urizen lore may still perform it, but does so under the usual rules for performing a ritual learned from a ritual text.
Performing the Ritual
Performing this ritual takes at least 2 minutes of roleplaying. It targets a closed box or package including a specially prepared letter which must be present throughout.
This ritual requires both a specially prepared, single page letter and a closed box or package of non-living material with dimensions up to 8”by 8” by 8”. Attempting to send additional written material will cause the ritual to fail. If the package contains anything living the ritual fails - the mana is not expended and the box simply stays in place.
At the completion of the ritual the letter and package vanish (or in the case of a physical box, the contents of the box vanish but the container itself is left behind) and are conveyed to a single named character at a known location in the mortal realm. It can take anywhere from several hours, to several days, for the package to be delivered. There seems to be no relationship between the physical distance to the target and the time the package takes to arrive.
The specially prepared letter is a key element of the ritual. Preparing the letter includes clearly identifying the intended recipient by name (and title if appropriate), and by their location. If this information is incorrect or incomplete, the package will fail to be delivered. Should the package fail to arrive for any reason then it will not be returned; instead the person who prepared the missive receives a formal in-character note indicating the courier has failed to deliver the parcel in their pack at the start of the next event.
The ritual cannot send anything to an eternal or herald, to a creature in a magical realm, to a ghost, or to the inhabitant of a regio chamber. Any attempt to send an ethereal courier to such a target will fail - even if they are in the mortal realm.
The ritual extrapolates from the more commonly known Call Winged Messenger, but as well as delivering a letter or missive, it can be used to send a package or parcel as well. Anything that is not alive and that will fit into an eight-inch by eight-inch by eight-inch container can be delivered anywhere in the mortal world in a matter of months. The ritual has little difficulty transporting coins, magical materials, Bourse notes for mithril, white granite, and weirwood, magic items and potions (presuming they will fit in the package), and even perishables such as food and drink (although time still passes at the normal rate for the contents of a package so food may well spoil by the time it arrives). It becomes quite unreliable when sending written material however - experiments indicated that written objects such as pamphlets and books usually survived the journey intact but attempts to add additional pages of communication resulted in the writing being ruined when it arrived at its destination. The exact limits of the ritual are a little unclear - it appears that intent has some impact on the outcome - but the ritual texts urge magicians to err on the side of caution when sending additional written material with an ethereal courier.
As with Call Winged Messenger, Ethereal Courier creates or summons an invisible, incorporeal messenger that carries the target package almost anywhere in the mortal realm. Ritualists perfecting this ritual reported sudden winds, whipping breezes, the sound of slow-beating metallic wings, and an occasional leonine roar or avian cry. Recipients reported similar sensations on occasions where they have been aware of the package arriving - although at least a third of the time the package arrived while they were sleeping. Attempts to catch or spot the "spirit" have proved no more successful with this ritual than Call Winged Messenger.
The Ethereal Courier always delivers the package somewhere - making it particularly important to ensure that the specially prepared missive is properly addressed. Some experimentation suggests that valuable contents may end up in a chamber of the Autumn Realm known as "the Lost and Found". Associated in some way with both the City of Locks and the eternal Mazen this peculiar location is a kind of storeroom for missing items. Anecdotally items that end up in the Lost and Found have a serendipitous tendency to reappear in the mortal world in an ironic or inconvenient fashion.
Icewalker Gunnar - one of those scholars of the Halls of Knowledge who sadly disappeared when the buildings moved from Zenith to Morrow in 381YE - theorized that a container marked with suitable runes would travel more securely (he suggested Diras and Verys, the same runes that empower a runebox). He also suggested that it would be possible for some of the eternals of the Autumn realm to provide containers that worked more effectively with this ritual – in the same manner that Ephisis might provide a larger-then-normal box for use with the Ephisis' Scale ritual. Wild speculation about how big such a box might be - including the potential implications of a box the size of a wardrobe - have yet to be tested.
A box or package is the focus of this ritual, and it must fit within well defined dimensions and be a single entity (it will not send several small packages unless they are tightly bound together in some fashion). The specially prepared letter should be affixed to the package and must be addressed as clearly as possible; the address is usually recited loudly and clearly during the ritual.
The astronomantic constellation of the Door seems to be especially useful in the performance of this ritual, and one recurrent theme is the image of creating a door and tossing the package through it at the completion of the ritual. Some magicians report the package disappearing in mid-air as soon as it passed through the symbolic portal, as if snatched up by a waiting courier. The Web also seems to have a strong resonance for this ritual - especially where either the person who prepared the letter or the ritualists have a connection of some kind to the recipient. Likewise, packages intended for recipients who are relatives of one or more of the participants can be sped on their way by the evocation of the Three Sisters - the crotchety mage Lucien of the Halls of Knowledge theorised that doing so with a package or letter that would cause sorrow or regret to the recipient would be especially effective but there has been little opportunity to prove this theory one way or another.
Other elements that might prove effective with Ethereal Courier include the runes Queros or Sular; evocation of fast or winged spirit animals such as ravens or hawks, heraldic beasts such as the gryphon or pegasus, and the eternals Ephisis and Lashonar.
Preparing the letter
The specially prepared letter required for Ethereal Courier is created in the same way as the letter used with Call Winged Messenger. The rules for creating such a missive can be found here. The "known correspondents" listed in the Call Winged Messenger description are also suitable targets for an Ethereal Courier.
Packages for PCs
This ritual is much more successful for sending a package to a non-player character than to a player-character. While it could be used to deliver materials to someone on the field at Anvil, it may not arrive until the next event depending on our ability to actually deliver the package. In almost all cases, when sending a package to a player-character the ritualists would be better served paying someone to deliver it by hand on their behalf.
In every case, the text that is transported will be the text that was written on the computer by the correspondent. This is fixed at the point where the letter is printed - as are the recipient and their address. When the ritual is cast, the referee connects the unique ID number of the letter to that of the ritual, and this is what the plot writer sees when they check the details of the letter. When used with an Ethereal Courier, it is helpful for the letter to explain why the package is being sent to the target.
You must have the targeting information for a letter correct before printing it. The iridescent gloaming is consumed at this point, and if there are mistakes with the letter it is a costly proposition to correct them. While it is possible to deduce an address - for example a a Wind of Fortune may mention a certain character as being in a certain location - sending a winged messenger without confirming this address in-character is a risky proposition that will commonly fail. If that happens you iridescent gloaming will be lost, but you will get the letter back in your pack at the start of the next event you attend.
The Ethereal Courier is not intended to be a way to get round the character-limit set by Call Winged Messenger. Attempts to include additional communication in the package will fail - while it is feasible to send a book or pamphlet to someone, a quirk of the magic means that attempts to send additional pages of letters result in those pages arriving blank or unreadable.
Likewise, this ritual cannot be used to assassinate NPCs. Attempts to send cursed or dangerous packages will never harm the target regardless of circumstances; sending a bottle of poisoned wine will simply result in a furious NPC rather than a dead one.
Phys-reps included in an Ethereal Courier will be put in lost property (as if they had been stolen in-character) rather than returned directly.