Vagan, keeping low, crept towards his target. His unsuspecting victim lay only feet away, reading a book. He readied himself, tensed, and leapt forward.

Maximillian caught him easily while he was still in the air, dropping his book onto his chest as he did so. He held him at arms length for a moment, and then pulled him close and nuzzled him. Vagan batted at Maximillian's face, and bit him gently with tiny needle teeth while making a noise halfway between a purr and a growl.

"Argh!" cried Maximillian, in mock terror. "My vital essences! Noooo!"

He put the kitten on his chest where, satisfied everyone knew who was now the master, Vagan curled up and went instantly to sleep. On top of Maximilian's book, of course.

"You shouldn't encourage him," said Decima primly from her alcove. She, too, was reading a book, with Azimuth and Vertex forming a pile of black and white fur in her lap. "Anyway, did you know that between 106YE and 112YE the Imperial Conclave was engaged in what amounts to a war with a herald called the Dominus Murum et Speculorum? It's fascinating. Apparently at one point they were actually talking about interdicting the magical practice of "visiting an eternal" because they were so convinced some of the magicians going to speak to them were actually conspiring with this Lord of Mice and Mirrors."

"That's a daft name," said Maximilian. "Did they not consider just getting some cats for the Hall of Worlds? Cats like this deadly hunter. You're a deadly hunter aren't you?"

Decima laughed, which was good. She had not been laughing much since the flight from Spiral. Vagan opened his eyes briefly, stared at Maximilian with contempt, and then went back to sleep.

"Don't mock. Apparently mice are very good at destroying things and very hard to get rid of. There's several references to something happening at the Lyceum involving a plague of the things. Lots of serious accusations in 111YE, declarations of sorcery left and right, the Grandmaster of the Unfettered Mind even gets one raised against her. It's fascinating stuff."

"They also pee on everything, which is why you should be handling that damn thing with mittens. Mice I mean. Not grandmasters."

His wife rolled her eyes. She had found the old book propping up a table in the cramped rooms she and Maximilian had been (slightly grudgingly) given by her mother. Containing interminable details of Conclave declarations between 100YE and 125YE, she was working her way through it, taking notes, and planning to write a few historical essays about the contents. It was good to see her focusing on work again.

Maximilian stroked Vagan gently, lost in thought.

"Presumably they tried enmity?"

"They didn't know who's behind it. There's all sorts of hysterical-sounding accusations early on. In the end the Archmage of Winter points out that it's likely that the eternal is one that's already under enmity, because the herald never leaves the Hall of the Worlds and does all its wickedness through proxies. My money is on it turning out to be Sadogua, if I'm honest. It's got all the hallmarks of childish sulking about it. That or Agramant. But if it is Agramant it's a pretty long con. There's been nowhere near enough bloody murders and cannibalism. Or if there have been, for some reason nobody in the Conclave is mentioning them."

Maximilian grunted.

"Bloody eternals. If we had any sense, we'd put the lot of them under enmity and just get on with our lives."

"Yes dear," said Decima indulgently. "I'm sure that would work a treat."

Magical Occurrences

A number of magical effects have been laid over the Empire since the Spring Equinox. Some of the most significant are detailed here.

Salt Tales

  • Potent Autumn magic protects traders on the Bay of Catazar from Grendel pirates after the Spring Equinox
  • During the coming season all fleets from Tassato, Sarvos, the Brass Coast, Highguard, or Urizen will suffer a 1 rank penalty to production if they engage in trade.

Prior to the Spring equinox, Grendel pirates were preying on trading vessels operating out of the Bay of Catazar. After the Equinox, however, their depredations were greatly reduced. Some magical force appears to be working through serendipity and coincidence to confound the Grendel vessels. In some cases, sailors report more overtly supernatural phenomenon helping them to avoid the Grendel. As the pirates draw near, time itself seems to slow around Imperial ships allowing them to move more swiftly, to manage their ships more effectively, or simply to speed more quickly through the water leaving the frustrated pirates in their wake.

As the Summer Solstice draws near, ship captains report that the magic is clearly weakening - there are many more close calls - and are worried that by the end of the Solstice it will have disiapated entirely. If the shipping fleet is left defenceless, this will mean that the Grendel will be once again free to raid Imperial trading vessels.

Castles in the Night

Powerful magical citadels and enchanted defences have appeared in several places across the Empire. The wetlands of West marsh in Kallavesa, the Morass in Holberg, and North Fens in Bregasland are each protected by the Dripping Echoes of the Fen, in each case raised by the Wintermark magicians of the Sussivari Frost Coven. These defences are not tested, but had the Jotun or the Druj (or any other hostile force) attempted to invade these territories they would have encountered stiff resistance.

At the same time, two Frozen Citadels of Cathan Canae are raised in the mountains of Urizen, in Limus by the Dawnish witches of the Summer Dawning Relentless coven with the aid of House de Gauvain, and in Caeli by the Navarr magicians of the Eternal Family. Again, the castles are not attacked, but again had the Druj moved against Redoubt or Morrow the fortifications and their magical guardians would have stood ready to try and repel them.

Spiral Trods

  • The trods in Spiral have been restored to full strength

During the Spring Equinox, the Voice of the Quiet Forest coven performed the Dance of Navarr and Thorn over the recently liberated territory of Spiral. Despite the misgivings of some onlookers, the ritual appears to have been performed without a hitch. Trods curl and weave across the benighted, accursèd territory once more. Old maps from before the fall of Spiral are consulted, and it is very clear that the new trods form entirely different paths than they did thirty years ago. Some of the trods pass dangerously close to the Black Plateau, but none of them cross it. Other than that, the trod network in Spiral appears entirely normal. Another territory bound to the great green web that criss-crosses the Empire.

The Colossus has Two Faces

  • The appearance of Colossus of Sarvos has changed.

Following the attempt to destroy it over Winter, the Colossus of Sarvos has again suffered a peculiar mishap - or a dramatic improvement depending on who you ask. During the Spring Equinox, the appearance of the statue began to shift and change, as if the white granite were wet clay shaped by unseen hands. Over the course of a week, the appearance of the statue shifted. No longer does it depict the First Butcher. Now it is in the shape of a considerably more recognisable figure - Empress Giselle. To the amusement of many, the colossus that surmounts the entrance to the city quayside now stands with an outstretched fan in one hand, and an amused smile playing across her distinctive features.

Many citizens of Sarvos have been open in their appreciation of the change - even the worst critics of Empress Giselle cannot fail to acknowledge that she was a protector and guardian of the city she loved. With her body now interred in a tomb many have described as "gaudy" and "not really a monument to the Empress at all" in far away Temeschwar, it seems only fitting that the Colossus now bears her image.

Golden Grain and the Bounty of Summer

  • A potent Summer enchantment settles over the Mournwold

Following the Spring Equinox, the territory of Mournwold in the Marches experiences a further increase to the bounty received from its farms - as a strong Summer enchantment settles over the entire territory.

The coven known as the Reapers, potent Summer magicians all, have built on the success of Winter to weave an even more potent enchantment over all the farms of the Mourn. Where New Spring, New Start helped the newly planted crops and the lambs, calves, and piglets survive and prosper during their first few months of life, Strong Oxen, Golden Sunshine strengthens ox and farm-worker alike. The beasts of burden and the labourers gain great stamina, keeping them hale and hearty so that while their exertions tire them, they do not exhaust them. At the same time the earlier enchantment is bolstered - fields burst with grain, herds of cattle grow strong and healthy, and both fight off predators and disease with equal facility.

Even better, the enchantment is apparently compatible with the more well-known Strong Ox, Golden Sun which enchants individual farms. Whatever else happens, farms in the Mourn - Marcher and thrall alike - will surely reap the excellent harvests come Autumn.

Twisted Stars in an Ebony Sky

For most of 381, the stars were absent from the night skies over most of the Empire, and over Liathaven and the Barrens. They returned - for the most part - shortly before the Winter Solstice 381YE. They remained absent from the Barrens and Semmerholm. Shortly before the Spring Equinox, the stars over Zenith likewise disappeared from the night sky.

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 territories are impeded. A detect magic incantation in Semmerholm confirms that the shroud there is a Night effect of magnitude fifty, meaning any attempt to scry the territory must at least equal that magnitude or no information can be discovered. The strength of the shrouds over the Barrens and Zenith, are assumed to be comparable, but there is no widespread information about whether that is the case.

Magical scholars suggest that if these shrouds are similar to those that cloaked the entire Empire, and to those created by Drawing the Penumbral Veil the first two will last until shortly before the Winter Solstice 382YE, and the third over Zenith until the start of the Spring Equinox 382YE, unless they are removed prematurely - or replaced, or reinforced, by whatever created them.

Naga influence

As is expected by now, any naga who has spent significant time in any of the three 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, Zenith, or Semmerholm will still experience the roleplaying effect at least until Saturday morning.

Penumbral Veils

A handful of merchants and pedlars report that more traditional magic - the ritual known as Drawing the Penumbral Veil - has been worked over Urdur in Otkodov. It is still not clear at this time if the same veil lies over Nithoggir, Sküld, or Verthandi and difficult to determine without using scrying magic to examine the territories in question.

Likewise, it appears that ritual shrouds have been drawn over Necropolis, Redoubt, Sarvos, and (once the phantasmagoric displays in the skies have ended for the evening) over Madruga. In each of these territories, the stars are warped into a shroud that interferes with magical scrying. In all four cases, these shrouds have a particular resonance to them that means both territories are also prone to heavy, dark fog, and the altered stars are often hidden behind inky black clouds.

Conclave Business

This season, a lot of attention is being paid to the discussions around the use of, and possible changes to, the declaration of interdiction. You can learn more about this topic here. There is also a discussion of relations with the Whisper Gallery and the eternal Sung, which you can find here.

There are other matters for discussion, however, including a number of offers or announcements from the eternals with whom the Conclave deals on behalf of the Empire.

The Sevenfold Path and the Mandates of Distribution

  • The Marcher and Navarr assemblies have passed peculiar mandates.

During the Spring Equinox, both Martin Orchard of the Marcher National Assembly, and Aniera Exile's End of the Navarr National Assembly raised statements of principle, upheld by greater majorities requesting mana and materials from the Grandmaster of the Sevenfold Path. Obviously, as is the legal requirement, the civil service passed these judgements to the congregations of the Marches and Navarr, where they were met with some confusion by many priests. Eventually the conclusion was reached that these were either attempts by the Imperial Synod to influence the Grandmaster, or else that the Grandmaster had requested this process so that they could make informed judgement about how best to use magical resources to help the priests of the Empire.

At the same time priest named Alys also raised a judgement in the General Assembly asking the Sevenfold path to help with codification of an arcane projection, and while it was upheld it did not receive a Greater Majority, but again caused some confusion among those who were aware of it.

An attempt was made by a member of the Constitutional Court to question the constitutionality of using a statement of principle in this fashion, but the magistrates ruled that there was no legal reason not to use the statement in this manner. At the same time, however, any such statements that passed with a greater majority would continue to be disseminated across the Empire as per the guidelines. One of the magistrates suggested that the Grandmaster of the Sevenfold Path may wish to speak to a member of the Constitutional Court to clarify what is going on.

King Adamant and the Academy of Stone

  • King Adamant offers a powerful boon to the Empire

During the Spring Equinox, Adamant sent one of his favoured koboldi to a formal parley with the Empire. During the meeting, there was some discussion (among other things) of the ritual known as the Throne of Stone. Adamant confirmed that he had the ability to bestow its power, and there was extensive talk of what he desired in return. Following the Equinox, Adamant sends one of his heralds - a blue and gold koboldi that introduces itself as Foreman Malachite, to lay out further details of a construction project discussed with the archmage and their guests as part of a wider agreement with the eternal.

Adamant requires a large stone structure, built in a rugged, hilly region (one that has the hills quality). The commission requires an absolute minimum of 60 white granite, 120 crowns, and six months to complete, and can only be created by a Senate motion.

As part of the requirements placed by Adamant, the structure needs to be dedicated to the eternal - which means that the commission needs to be ceded to Adamant by the builder as part of the Senate motion used to commission it. The structure must reflect the glory of Adamant and be designed as a place for architect and engineers to study planning and building of great stone structures - under the watchful eyes of those chosen by Adamant. The Senate will also need to agree that the structure will create an Imperial title, and that the title will be able to announce a single commission each season - more of which in a moment.

After the structure is complete and ceded, Adamant will allow the Imperial Conclave to appoint someone to oversee it, using the declaration of candidacy (as such this would be an Imperial title). This Master of the Koboldi will be Adamant's representative to the Empire, and vice versa. In addition to the patronage of the eternal, the Master of the Koboldi will be able to announce a single commission each season that uses at least 30 wains of white granite as part of its costs. This commission will not count against the limited number of commissions the Empire can begin each season. Adamant is strenuous in his assertion that he will only provide this assistance if the Master of the Koboldi is free to build a folly, fortification, ministry, great work, sinecure, runeforge, or college of magic as they see fit.

Adamant may provide other benefits to the Master of the Koboldi, as his representative. What he will also do is help the Conclave to harness the power of the Throne of Stone ritual.

All in all, it appears that the King on the Granite Throne is broadly pleased with the Empire at the moment, and keen to help it find joy in his personal favourite activity - making massive structures out of stone.

Eleonaris and the Crag of Icy Glory

  • Eleonaris has offered a boon to the Master of Ice and Darkness

The eternal Eleonaris, patron of the Icy Crag of the Eternal Sun offers a boon to the Conclave - or more specifically to the Master of Ice and Darkness. While the Master can currently speed the codification of rituals of Summer magic through the acquisition of rare tomes, or by paying the salaries of those with specific expertise, this is hardly a glorious pursuit. As such, and as patron of the college, Eleonaris offers to provide knights and courtiers of her own realm, from the Fields of Glory, to offer their aid to the magicians of the Crag in formulating rituals.

To receive the benefit of her patronage, the conclave must pass two declarations. First, a declaration of concord thanking Eleonaris for this gift, declaring that they hope that this is the beginning of a stronger compact between the Conclave and the Fields of Glory, and accepting the boon. Then, a declaration of Amity to cement the new relationship between the eternal and Imperial magicians.

If both declarations pass, then it will become possible for the Master to speed the codification of certain rituals. When formulating any ritual of Summer magic that creates an enchantment on a character, or any ritual that draws on the power of Eleonaris directly for whatever reason, they will be able to spend orichalcum in place of coin to research faster. The first five ranks of additional research in a season cost 18 ingots. The next five ranks cost a further 44 ingots. The next five ranks cost a further 88 ingots, and so on doubling the cost for each additional five ranks of research within the same season.

This boon will remain available to the Master until Eleonaris no longer has amity, or until she is no longer the patron of the college, whichever comes first. The Commander of the Golden Armies understands the Conclave may wish to deliberate on this matter, and kindly allows them until the end of the Autumn Equinox to make up their mind one way or another.

The Black Sloth and the Inclination of Gratitude

  • Sadogua is pleased to have his amity restored

Eleonaris is not the only eternal pleased with the Empire. The Brother of Wizards was once again declared a friend of the Conclave during the Spring Equinox and, after a farcical misunderstanding, expressed his gratitude to the magicians who had helped secure his amity. He intends to visit his friends in the Empire during the Autumn Equinox; right now he is busy spending time with the ailing Richard of Holberg seeking a cure for the condition that is slowly killing him. However, he urges magicians of the Empire to speak to him of their plans, and of boons that might help them achieve their... Ambitions? Yes, definitely their ambitions.

In particular, he calls out to three individuals.

First, to the Archmage of Night Elyssiathain of Endsmeet. If Elyssiathain sends him a missive, he will arrange a small bequest of three crystal fire each season to whichever Conclave order the archmage selects, to last as long as his amity does. It is a small thing, but the least he can do to show his appreciation to his friends for forgiving him for his recent misjudgement.

Second, to Simargl the Empty One he reiterates that there are (as agreed) no hard feelings over the Boar King business. Furthermore, if Simargl, as Dean of the Lyceum raises a declaration of Endowment, he will prepare plans for a small structure to add to the Lyceum that will allow the Dean to permanently increase the speed whereby Night magic can be formulated following the same rules as the various bargains they have struck privately in the past.

Finally, he wishes someone called Master Pearl of the Marches to send him a missive detailing a boon he would request - something personal for himself. His herald gives no indication who this person is, or why the Black Sloth thinks they deserve a boon.

The Lord of Bridges and the Mysterious Declaration

  • Prospero offers aid to the Empire

Word has come that Prospero, the Lord of the Loom, wishes to offer some sort of assistance or opportunity to the Empire. Notice is given that he will send a mortal representative to Friday evening session of the Imperial Conclave. Further details are frustratingly absent, but it seems clear that this representative plans to engage directly through the Conclave by means of a Declaration of Concord to be put before the magicians of the Empire.

Coiling Azoth and the Crucible of Gifts

  • The new (old?) eternal Azoth wishes to speak with the Archmage of Night

Over the last year or so, there have been rumours of changes in the realm of Night. Soghter and Murit are no more, and have apparently combined in some way to form the new eternal Azoth. A herald whose skin is a patchwork of black and white swirls, wrapped in a scintillating cloak of many colours, has indicated that his master intends to send an emissary to speak with the Archmage of Night during the coming summit - to deliver gifts from the past, to discuss matters of current interest, and to speak about future relations with the Empire. In particular, the herald will also be wishing to speak to all those who gave gifts to the Source and the Emanation when it was "in the crucible", whatever that means. The herald fails to specify a time, however.

The Navarr and the King of Spiders

  • The Spider King wishes to meet with representatives of the Navarr

A message reaches the conclave civil service shortly before the Summer Solstice from a looming herald of the Spring eternal Arhallogen, who is called the King of Spiders. The message is terse to the point of rudeness; Arhallogen wishes a meeting with Navarr vates who can speak on behalf of their nation. No more than four. They may bring the Archmage of Spring if they like, but the Ebon Stinger does not care one way or another. A herald will be in the Hall of Worlds at around half-past eleven on Saturday. That is all.

The Voice of the Pines

  • Agramant has sent a message to the Conclave

Finally... a rare and particularly unsettling communication reached the Empire a little over a week ago purporting to be from the malign eternal known as the Agramant. A fat, grinning herald covered in short fur appeared in the Hall of the Worlds, and refused to depart until he had delivered a message to a civil servant on behalf of the Howler in the Pines. When threatened, the herald slipped back out of the Hall, returning a short time later to continue to try and deliver his note. In time a civil servant associated with the Conclave was located and the message handed over. The herald then scampered away and did not return.

The message is short and politely phrased, but rather unsettlingly written in runes. Once translated, it claimed that the Howler wished to offer his formal thanks to four people for their assistance in his recent project. The letter then went on to name Emilia the Archmage of Winter, Solomon the Archmage of Summer, Pavel the current Imperial Magus, and Kyra the former Grandmaster of the Unfettered Mind. In each case, said the Hunter in the Wastes, he would be more than happy to offer them a small boon if they wished to speak to him to discuss it (in Kyra's case, the current Grandmaster would be the one to request the boon).

Further, the Walker in the Wasteland offered boons to the Conclave if they wished to accept them. He has provided two bags of seven heart's blood each, and requests that the Declaration of Endowment be used to deliver one bag to the person most responsible for the excellent curses laid on the Mournwold, and for the person most responsible for the awakening of the Black Plateau in Spiral and the catastrophic losses inflicted on the Grendel thereby. He is aware that there may be some complaints from the magistrates, and accusations of treason, if the Conclave accepts these gifts, so he suggests that the Conclave first use the Declaration of Concord to declare that these are actually not gifts from Agramant, or not treason to accept, or something similar. The Conclave has until the end of the Summer Solstice to accept, and if they do he will be more than happy to offer other gifts in recognition of the Conclave's commitment to his wider goals.

Finally, he suggests that the time may have come for an end to hostilities between the Empire and himself, and if the Archmage of Winter agrees, indicates that he would be delighted to receive a plenipotentiary invitation to parley. After all, if the Conclave can find common ground with the maniacs of the Thrice-cursed Court he does not doubt that some accord between himself and the Empire could be achieved.