Mastery of these recipes allows an apothecary to brew preparations valuable to ritual magicians versed in the Lore of Night. With one of these potions a ritualist can wield the magic of the Night Realm more effectively, but they also become more susceptible to the influence of that Realm.
As with the Lambent Essences, brewing these potions involves a somewhat more alchemical than herbal approach. The recipes also tend to be a little abstruse, using metaphor and simile rather than direct instructions on measures or processes. More than one apothecary has wasted large amounts of herbs trying to decipher the precise proportions to use.
Prior to the liberation of Reikos in 379YE, Imperial masters of Magnum Opus knew how to brew Chiaroscuran Balsam and Philosopher's Stone. While rumour had suggested a third potion, anyone who might have known how to create this elusive elixir kept that knowledge a closely guarded secret. At least one of these secrets came to light after the fall of the Stone Toad citadel of Urith Barath, built in the ruins of High Chalcis. The recipe for the enigmatic Black Star was found among the effects of one of the defeated Tepel apothecaries, along with evidence that it is a widespread potion known and used extensively by the Druj. Rather than being concealed, was shared widely by the unnamed individuals who uncovered it. It clearly built on the principles used to create the Magnum Opus, and provides a powerful enhancement to the use of night magic by the Empire.
This thin, scented salve is half white and half black. When applied to the skin, the two parts are mixed together and rapidly absorbed by the skin. Users who apply the salve too quickly risk becoming intoxicated by the narcotic rush that floods the system as the balsam is absorbed, which can lead to ritualists acting in an agitated and excitable state for several minutes until their bodies achieve a natural (albeit shifting) balance with the preparation. Users find it easier to wield more powerful Night magic.
Some ritualists, especially naga, enjoy having a fellow ritualist apply the balsam to their skin rather than doing so themselves. This allows them to indulge in and focus on enjoying the pleasant sensations the balsam arouses. Obviously, there is some risk of beginning to crave the use of Chiaroscuran Balsam, and some ritual groups are cautious in how much and how often they employ the preparation as a result,
- Form: Salve.
- Description: This mysterious ointment is half black, and half white. It has a heady, almost narcotic scent that causes the blood to pound if it is inhaled, and a smooth, oily texture that is quickly absorbed into the skin.
- Roleplaying Effects: You feel giddy and excitable for several minutes after applying this balsam. You feel every emotion very strongly and have a strong urge to be gregarious, to seek out opportunities to interact with others wherever they present themselves, and want to be comfortable, well-fed and content.
- Mechanical Effects: If you possess the Night Lore skill then you gain one additional effective rank to the next night ritual that you perform within ten minutes, subject to the normal rules for effective skill. This is a tonic; the effect of any other tonic you have drunk immediately ends.
- Recipe: Two drams of Imperial Roseweald, one dram each of True Vervain, Marrowort and Bladeroot and one crystallized mana.
This two-part elixir is composed of two liquids, one heavier than the other. One part of the potion is red, the other yellow. When shaken, the two liquids mix together to create a swirling, almost hypnotic suffusion of both colours that slowly separates back into two distinct layers. The potion should be shaken and then quickly drunk to get the full effect. It has an indescribable flavour that is rarely the same twice.
Philosopher's Stone was first formulated in the swamps of Bregasland. In some versions of the story, it was developed by a Marcher apothecary working from partially understood inscriptions on a sunken stone. In another version, the naga apothecary was guided in her researches by her lover, a Herald in service to the eternal Sadogua. Both versions of the story agree that the apothecary - whose name appears to have never been written down anywhere - disappeared shortly afterwards. Within a year, draughts of philosopher's stone were for sale in Meade and shortly after in Sarvos and Siroc. Descendants of the unnamed naga have often claimed that she was murdered by conspirators from the League and the Brass Coast with the collusion of mercantile interests in Mitwold after she refused to share the formula; it is unlikely the truth will ever be known.
- Form: Liquid.
- Description: This elixir holds a crimson liquid and a heavy yellow liquid. They mix when shaken creating a hypnotic suffusion of both colours that slowly separates. It seems never to smell or taste quite the same way twice.
- Roleplaying Effects: This elixir has a strong taste of something (practically any taste is possible). You feel a strong urge to be mysterious and enigmatic; to avoid direct answers, to conceal your intentions and to couch your speech in allusion and metaphor. Direct answers and direct solutions are unsatisfying.
- Mechanical Effects: If you possess the Night Lore skill then you can use up to 3 personal mana as if it were crystal mana on the next night ritual that you perform within ten minutes.
- Recipe: Three drams of Imperial Roseweald, two drams each of Bladeroot and Cerulean Mazzarine and one dram of True Vervain.
It seems odd initially that Black Star bears that name - given that the potion itself is milky white and cloudy. When the liquid is agitated, however, little black motes - stars - are visible in the depths. Some experienced magicians versed in the lore of night who have examined the elixir have commented that it reminds them of certain visions associated with the Whisper Gallery - of black stars in a pale, foggy sky - but this may just be a coincidence.
Regardless, the experience of drinking the potion can be a difficult one. While it smells sweet, it tastes bitter and unpleasant, and brings with it a deeply uncomfortable sense of a pattern to things and events. Unless the magician focuses, they will easily become distracted by the awareness of "conspiracy" that surrounds them. This eerie awareness is not about connections, but about intent - and some sensitive souls who have consumed the elixir have reported a conviction that the intent they sense is malign in nature, a hidden hand manipulating people and things to its own end. At least one priest has expressed a deep concern that this elixir may have blasphemous connotations, creating illusory feelings of fear or suggesting that human destiny is influenced by supernatural forces or subject to some kind of self-aware "fate".
- Form: Liquid.
- Description: This milky white liquid swirls like trapped smoke. Black motes appear in the depths, becoming more distinct if it is shaken. It has a strong aroma of ripe fruit, but a droplet on the tongue tastes unpleasantly bitter.
- Roleplaying Effects: You are filled with a growing sense that there is a conspiracy at work around you. It is easy to start speculating on the secret schemes that underlie anything from the performance of your ritual, to the formation of your coven, to the choice of clothing a stranger has made.
- Mechanical Effects: If you possess the Night Lore skill then you gain three additional ranks to the next Night ritual that you perform within ten minutes, subject to the normal rules for effective skill. This is a tonic; the effect of any other tonic you have drunk immediately ends.
- Recipe: Three drams of Imperial Roseweald, two drams of Bladeroot, one dram each of True Vervain and Marrowort, one crystallized mana, and one ring of ilium.