It was cold on the mountaintop. Neora tugged her fur wrap a little closer around her shoulders, and settled her hat so it covered her ears. She examined the bottle for the hundredth time. The golden dragon stopper caught the firelight, and seemed to coil sinuously as she turned it over and over in her hands.

"You're certain you know what to do," asked Voormith for the third time in an hour. The taller figure had caught the eye of one of the Urizen gathered further down the mountainside, muttering seriously together. She winked and gave the magician a little wave, laughing quietly as their cheeks coloured and they turned back to their conversation.

"Of course," said Neora, exasperated. "Remove the stopper, hold it up so it seems as if the entire college is inside it, then slip the stopper back in so that it becomes true. Try to make sure not to catch any people. When I'm ready to set it down, hold it so that it looks like everything is where I want it and then remove the stopper again."

She glanced up at the sable-scaled figure to her side. "I'm not a child, you know. I can remember this kind of thing."

Voormith chuckled throatily. "Of course you can, of course you can. Just be careful not to drop it there aren't many of them left and I think the others are all full already."

She looked at the crowd of magicians again, and then back to Neora.

"You know, I can't for the life of me work out who they think we are." she said thoughtfully. "I mean, some of them know what is going on. Most of them don't. I heard them talking. Some of them see to think we're both eldritch inhabitants of the hidden forest. Others seem to assume that we're both naga, and that I am your mother."

"I don't remember my mother," said Neora absently, lifting the bottle up and peering through the glass at the buildings on the other side of the valley.

"No," said Voormith, looking own at her companion a little sadly. "No I don't suppose you do."

Imperial Magic

The Stars Return (Mostly)

  • The stars have returned to the night sky across the Empire

For the last year, the stars have been absent from the night skies over most of the Empire, over Liathaven and over the Barrens. According to the members of the Dawnish House Vexille who claimed responsibility for the shroud, it represented the worlds greatest display of Night magic and provided a surefire protection against magical espionage by enemies of the Empire - although both claims are somewhat debatable.

In the month leading up to the Winter Solstice, however, they begin to return. At first only a handful are visible - and not the same handful from every part of the Empire either - but by the last week before the summit at Anvil, they are all restored to their full glory. Whatever magical effect had been occluding them, and interfering with attempts to scry the territories of the Empire, has ended.

The sole exceptions are the Barrens and Semmerholm. Whatever magic keeps the stars hidden persists in these locations - indeed it appears to have been strengthened. Rituals such as Eyes of the Sun and Moon, Eye of the High Places, and Dreams in the Witch House performed on one of these two territories are impeded. A simple detect magic performed by witches in Semmerholm suggest that the shroud is a Night effect of magnitude fifty, meaning any attempt to scry the territory must likewise be at least magnitude fifty or no information can be discovered. The strength of the shroud over the Barrens is assumed to be comparable, but there is no widespread information about whether that is the case.

Secrets for the Shadow Serpents

Furthermore, any naga who has spent significant time in the two territories where the stars are still hidden experiences the following roleplaying effect; your natural urge toward subtlety and secretiveness is greatly strengthened. Naga in general relish being mysterious and secretive, but while experiencing this potent roleplaying effect you may need to make a significant effort of will to answer direct questions or be honest about your intentions.

The roleplaying effect is significantly lessened at Anvil - indeed the longer one stays out of a territory where it applies the less pressing the urge to secrecy and subtlety becomes - but a naga with a strong lineage who has spent time in the Barrens or Semmerholm will still experience the roleplaying effect at least until Saturday morning.

Shadow Eggs

  • The ritual Distill the Serpent's Stone continues to produce shadow eggs.

Since the Autumn Equinox, the ritual Distill the Serpent's Stone has been producing shadow eggs instead. Matt black in colouration, the oval stone is easily broken open in bare hands. Anyone who does so immediately gains a temporary boost to their Realm lore skill of 6 effective ranks for purposes of performing a single ritual, provided they already possess at least one innate skill rank of that Lore. These additional ranks do not grant any additional mastered rituals, and a character's total effective rank can never be more than three times their innate skill (the number of ranks of the appropriate Realm Lore they have gained by spending experience points). This is more than sufficient to triple the effective power of a master of realm lore - indeed a less studied individual will struggle to use the full power of the stone. At the same time, these shadow eggs appear to have no effect on poisons or curses, and do not allow materials to be transformed.

Serpent's stones that have already been distilled keep all their old powers and can be used freely - they do not seem to have undergone any change at all.

The Halls of Knowledge

On the first full moon night after the Autumn Equinox, the Halls of Knowledge in Zenith disappear. Shortly after sunset, tendrils of peculiar shimmering mist rise from the ground and snake around the buildings quickly hiding them from sight. Perhaps ten minutes later the mist clears and the college is simply gone. A shallow mountain lake rests where the college of magic once stood. The majority of the faculty, students, and researchers had evacuated but a small number of them were left unaccounted for.

Two months later, on the last night of the full moon before the Winter Solstice, the Halls of Knowledge reappear - in Morrow. Swirling serpents of rainbow steam rise from the ground along the shores of one of the largest of the hot springs of Peregro. A handful of minutes later, the hissing streamers of fog coalesce into structures and the college of magic is suddenly there. None of the buildings appear to be any the worse for wear for the two months they have spent... elsewhere. The unaccounted for scholars... remain unaccounted for. The halls, libraries, dormitories, and even the gardens are all perfectly intact but they are empty of life - there are not even any spiders left in the place.

As far as anyone knows, this miraculous transportation of the Halls of Knowledge is one-way, and precisely how it was accomplished is not common knowledge.

Castles

  • The fortification Aleksandra's Watch has been completed well ahead of schedule due to Imperial magic
  • A dripping castle of mist and mud rises in the Morass

Aleksandra's Watch, an impressive fortification in Karsk commissioned by the Imperial Senate in Spring, has been completed several months earlier than expected. All the signs point to the use of powerful Autumn magic wielded by Imperial magicians to complete the project well ahead of schedule. According to reports from Lestasny there has been considerable interest in the magic used not only by Almodin Oktístis the Asavean architect who oversaw the design and construction, but from the Thule orcs in Krevsaty.

In addition to the citadel in Semmerholm, a magical fortification appears in Holberg. Shortly after the Autumn equinox, a dripping edifice of mud, twisted black stone, and peculiarly solid mists rises from the Morass. The enchanted fortification seems to be the result of a Dripping Echoes of the Fen enchantment created by the Sussivari Frost Coven, but has taken a form very different to that usually woven by the more subtle magic of the Night realm. It is garrisoned by deadly heralds - creatures in the form of immense serpents, eight-foot or more in length, but with human arms and voices. They wield deadly spears of volcanic glass, and while prepared to converse pleasantly with citizens of the League treat all others as dangerous trespassers. Shortly before the Winter Solstice, the castle sinks back into the mud along with its eerie soldiers - and it is only once the enchantment has ended that those who saw it suddenly recollected that it looked an awful lot like a mirror-image of the Druj castle that once stood at Rebehof.

Richard of Holberg

  • The Imperial Conclave asked Richard of Holberg to design magical structures in Mournwold, Morrow, and Tassato.

Rescued from the Grendel by Imperial heroes during the Summer Solstice, Richard of Holberg - a renowned arcane architect and theorist - offered to design three magical structures for the Imperial Conclave. The architect's health is not good - he is unable to attend the Winter Summit at all - but he has published the designs for the use of the Conclave. Each represents a unique commission which must be authorised in the usual way - by a Senator, the Bearer of an Imperial Wayleave, by the announcement of the Crystal Architect of the Spires (for the one in Morrow), or - perhaps ideally - by the Arcane Architect . The only restriction he wishes to place is that where these structures create an Imperial title it should be appointed by the Imperial Conclave through the Declaration of Candidacy - but having made these plans publicly available he has neither the authority nor the capacity to enforce such a restriction.

OOC Note: Note that it is not possible to commission something that produces vis without an opportunity such as those detailed here. There is no time restriction on when these commissions may be built - unless the situation changes dramatically they will be viable going forward.

The Menhirs of Protection

The first and most ambitious structure Richard has suggested is a series of standingstones in Mournwold. In conjunction with the landskeepers, he has designed a network of stones that will not only provide a bounty of crystal mana spread across the entire territory but also provide substantial protection from the worst kinds of curses.

The Loom of the Heavens

For Morrow, he has come up with a quite esoteric proposal. In Operus, across a wide valley from the spire of Weave, is the flattened peak known as Starstep. According to story the top of the mountain was sheered away by the magical disaster that claimed the life of the crazed magician Aelia of Starstep during her ill-fated attempt to pass bodily into the Day realm and usurp the throne of Sinokenon. There is a potent regio atop the mountain aligned with the realm of Day. Richard has suggested a structure similar to a grand metal loom that he claims will spin starlight, focusing the Music of the spheres to a central point where it may be collected as prismatic ink - potent vis aligned with the Day magic.

Richard's proposed loom requires a sobering 20 wains of mithril, and 40 crowns of additional materials and labour. However, Richard has also sketched out an alternative suggestion that requires significantly less mithril. For only 10 wains of mithril to provide the basic structure a significant amount of tempest jade and weltsilver - 50 ingots of each - could be substituted for the remaining wains. The plans are ambitious, and if it were commissioned there is in theory no upper limit to the amount of materials that could be contributed if the builder wished to make an even larger and more impressive loom - with a commensurate increase in the amount of prismatic ink produced.

The loom will need to be commissioned as normal, and will take a season to complete. Once finished, it will create an Imperial title - Weaver of Stars - who will receive six vials of prismatic ink each season from this potent sinecure. It is possible that the Weaver will also attract the attention of Sinokenon - for good or ill - but Richard simply shrugs when this is mentioned.

Watcher of the Wheel

In the northern woodlands of Madeiras, in Tassato, there is a ruined tower overgrown with ivy. A solitary weirwood tree grows inside it, reaching up to the heavens, its branches protruding through the walls. According to some old tales, it was once owned by a troupe of enigmatic dramaturgists who engaged in dubious rites to win the approval of one or more of the Night eternals. The area is avoided by the woodcutters and hunters of rural Tassato, but Richard of Holberg has designed a structure intended to harness the powerful flows of mana through the area.

He proposes a garden of night-flowering plants, laid out with each representing one of the magical materials known to artisans, in the order familiar to magicians who practice The Eight-Spoked Wheel. The structure will require 10 wains of weirwood, 20 crowns of additional materials, and a season to complete. Once finished it will create an Imperial title - The Watcher of the Wheel. Each season the Watcher will be able to harvest and process magically infused plants that will yield one portion each of warm ashes, vital honey, crystal fire, and heart's blood.

Eternal Affairs

Emissaries

  • Roshanwe and Sinokenon have provided boons to the Imperial Conclave
  • The koboldi of King Adamant have been roaming the Empire in response to the Conclave's invitation.
  • A herald of Tharim known as Donum has been active in the northern Empire.

Last season, three eternals of the Day realm - Roshanwe, Sinokenon, and Ylenrith - offered gifts to the Imperial Conclave. The magicians voted to accept the Gift of Binding offered by Sinokenon, and the Gift of Inquisition offered by Roshanwe, but declined the Gift of Purity offered by Ylenrith.

At the same time, King Adamant of the Summer Realm offered to send his koboldi servants to help Imperial magicians expand and improve their mines in return for any valuable mundane metals and gems they might recover during the season. The Conclave accepted the offer, but according to the koboldi the mine-owners of the Empire largely declined their services. They are a little disappointed - but are significantly cheered up by the possibility of working to rebuild the Gate in Semmerholm.

Last season, three heralds of Tharim entered the Empire via the regio known as the Copse of the Bone Birch. One, Obligatus, is still sat on the old stump near the middle of the regio. One is unaccounted for. The third, calling itself Donum, has turned up out of the blue in the northern Empire. Tall, pale, and decidedly sinister, it has been poking around the edges of the Night Quarry and the Fortress of Salt, but disappears when challenged. It has also been seen talking to collectors of antiquities, mine and quarry workers, and historians across Temeschwar, Skarsind, and all over Varushka. It is very hard to pin down, but it seems to be interested in acquiring relics related to orc enslavement and is paying in old coins, heart's blood, and the occasional minor boon.

Briars and Hares

  • Small groups of briars offer aid to the needy in Zenith and Mournwold.

Since shortly after the Autumn Equinox, small bands of briars have appeared in both Zenith and Mournwold. They offer aid and support to people who need it, providing wholesome food and helping with manual labour. In each group there is at least one magician well versed in healing magic - both incantations and simple rituals. Indeed, there are a few reports of these briars offering the Blessing of New Spring to struggling farmers, and enchantments of strength and good health to those fleeing the Druj.

They appear to be a combination of briar-born humans from across the Empire, although there are some reports that a few of these briars seem suspiciously unfamiliar with Imperial customs. The only thing that unites them is that they bear the symbol of the hare - possibly the same virtuous animal that symbolises Ambition in Varushka. When asked what they are doing, they give the same answer - a variation of "We were asked to help. We are sorry we cannot help more, but the archmage of Spring forbid it."

The Patronage of Eleonaris

  • Eleonaris' champions won the Summer Tourney; the Lion of Summer is now the patron of the Summer college

Following many months of wrangling, jostling, a curse of dire weather, and some behind-the-scenes political shenanigans, Eleonaris has become patron of the Icy Crag of the Eternal Sun in Miekarova. The Lady of Pennants is believed to be excessively pleased with this state of affairs; and those eternals whose champions did not win are at worst disappointed. Until one of them chooses to launch a formal challenge to Eleonaris' dominance - or until an Archmage of Summer invites another eternal to vie for the position of patron - peace appears assured. The attention of the Sovereign in Scarlet and Gold is very much on Dawn at the moment, but it is likely that she will want to send someone to meet with the Master of Ice and Darkness to discuss benefits her new patronage might portend.

The Patronage of Jaheris

  • Emissaries of Jaheris have indicated that their master wishes to speak with the champions who fought under his banner.

One of the eternals who participated in the contest to become patron of the Icy Crag was Jaheris - the unicorn prince and the former companion of Eleonaris. Recent developments seem to suggest that Jaheris and Eleonaris are no longer allies - indeed they may now be sworn enemies. Jaheris' heralds have visited several parts of the Empire in the weeks leading to the Winter Solstice, delivering words of conciliation and friendship to Imperial magicians.

Apparently Jaheris will be in attendance at the summit - or at least in as much attendance as an eternal lord of the Summer realm can be. He invites those who fought under his banner in the Summer tourney to come meet with him at nine o'clock on Saturday night. Once he has had a chance to speak to his champions, he has vouchsafed that he will meet with other magicians who may feel they have business with him, starting at half-past-nine.

The Toad's Medallion

  • Heralds of Sadogua have been offering a reward for the return of a certain item

For the last three months, on every night of the half moon, a trio of heralds of the Brother of Wizards - the eternal Sadogua - have been appearing in various places around the Empire talking to magicians of all kinds and calibres. The eternal has misplaced a certain medallion that has a great deal of sentimental value. It takes the form of a metal chain from which hangs an elongated loop, and in the heart of which is set a round gemstone held in place with twisted wire. He thinks he may have given it to someone - possibly the delightful family Gremani of Varushka in return for some quite excellent singing - but the heralds are a little cagey. None of them come out and says it but there is a strong implication that Sadogua has absolutely no idea what he has done with his medallion and is unable to find it with his own (not inconsiderable) scying magic.

According to the heralds, Sadogua offers a small reward for information leading to the return of the medallion - at the very least he will meet with any magician who can return it to him in person and listen with a friendly ear to any requests they may have. As always, the ritual Missive for Sadogua can be used by any Imperial magician who might know something about where the missing medallion might now be.

Murit and Soghter

  • Heralds of Murit and Soghter have disappeared.

Over the last nine months, magicians from the enchanters in Dawn to Stargazers of Urizen have reported that heralds of the night eternals Soghter and Murit appear to be disappearing. Heralds of the two eternals have been conspicuous by their absence. Indeed, the only two who seem to have been in evidence anywhere are the ones known as Centimani, herald of Soghter, and Alkahest herald of Murit, and they seem to be appearing only on the field at Anvil. Those with ongoing arrangements with Imperial citizens have terminated those arrangements, encouraged those friendly to Murit or Soghter to call in any boons owed, and generally concluded their business before vanishing. They are believed to be returning to the Night realm as soon as their obligations are discharged.

Further, across the Empire regio associated with the two eternals have become "sealed". The doors at their hearts seem to be locked in some fashion, apparently from the other side. While they can be forced with ritual magic, the few magicians who have risked doing so either have not returned - or have returned utterly changed in some fashion with no memory of how the transformation took place. Concerned communiques from the Principalities of Jarm and Faraden imply that the same thing is happening there.

Needless to say this has lead to a great deal of speculation that something significant is happening to the two eternals - and that it seems focused on or around the Empire. So far, other night eternals refuse to offer an explanation as to what is happening, and generally change the subject if it is brought up.

OOC Note: As with the Autumn Equinox, the Archmage of Night cannot use their plenipotentiary power to contact either Soghter or Murit. Any rituals, special abilities, or magic items that would allow communication with either of these eternals will simply not function - no mana or uses are expended, there is simply no effect.

Sacrifice to Rhianos

  • The Imperial Senate commissioned a marvellous treasure ship which has then been sunk in pursuit of the support of the Regent of the Eternal Sea, Rhianos

During the Autumn Equinox, the Imperial Senate commissioned a wonderful treasure ship of weirwood and mithril named the "Adventure". The ship was sailed into the Bay of Catazar, and deliberately scuttled to try to gain the support of the Regent of the Eternal Sea, Rhianos. The eternal, the Regent of the Eternal Sea - consumed the ship in a storm.

Proposed and paid for by Anwar i Del-Toro i Riquezza, Senator for Madruga, and seconded by Ariadne, Senator for Morrow, this ship was apparently commissioned at the request of Solomon, Archmage of Summer. The issue has caused some consternation among orthodox religious adherents that this act is an act of propitiation - a type of idolatry - but legally speaking, only the Imperial Synod has the power to make that determination.

"It's the most blatant act of idolatry in the history of our Empire. They are publicly mocking the very foundations of the Way!" Flecks of spittle coated the bishop's thick black beard. He had been ranting now for nearly half an hour, ever since she brought him the news.

"I think people feel that it's just a ship your grace. They don't really see the harm." Lucretia was treading a fine line, the bishop was presenting a sermon to the Carta Atturo at lunch time and she really needed him to calm down or he'd never convince them to donate to the the new roof for the church. But if she went too far it would only make him more angry.

"Just a ship!?! It's blatant propitiation. People have to be told that these things are insidious - they're all the bloody same. They inveigle their way into the Empire with their whispers and their promises of aid. The Highborn have the right idea! All of them are perfidious worms. Except the one that's a bloody frog - and he's the worst of the lot. We should enmity every last one of them."

"Perhaps a strongly worded letter to the Assembly of Nine your grace?" If she could get him to put this off until tomorrow he might just calm down and focus on what was needed.

"Fuck the Assembly of Nine! What the hell are they doing letting this go? A bloody senator stands on the floor of the Senate and literally says he is going to do this to get in the good books of some bloody watery eternal no-one has ever heard of! Where the hell was the militia? They should have arrested this senator and chopped his head off right there on the floor of the Senate!"

"The magistrates can't prosecute until the Synod passes a judgement on the matter..." She regretted the words as soon as they were out of her mouth. Teaching him how to suck eggs was not going to calm him down.

"Don't tell me how the bloody law works - I was a bloody cardinal once! The Assembly should do something about that too. Change the damn law - take the muzzle off the magistrates - let them go after these bloody heretics and idolaters. There'd be no more Bull temples then I can tell you. They'd root this heresy out root and branch and burn the bloody lot of them."

Lucretia eyed the clock. Forty minutes now... and he was just building up steam. She made a mental note to tell Simon to cancel the meeting with the carta. It was terrible form - very bad for business - but a lot better than meeting the bishop today.