Out of void, out of chaos
"It is not for me to say," it answered, bowing its head. A single saffron tear ran down its alabaster cheek and dripped onto the china plate with an audible clink.
"I've very much enjoyed our conversations," said the Earl. "I am loathe to see them come to an end. We have been friends since - wait we are still friends? Is it something I have done?"
Her guest looked up sharply, liquid eyes reflecting the Earl's concern.
"No, no, no! It is nothing like that! It is nothing that you have done and nothing that I have done it is just ... Things change. My affection for you has not changed, but..." It looked away, embarrassed perhaps.
Earl Therese picked up the peculiar little box and made a great show of studying it, allowing her guest to collect itself. The egg inside was matte black, and seemed hungry for the dim candle-light. After a moment, her guest made a small noise to indicate it had regained equilibrium.
"This is not a serpent stone," said the Earl carefully. "And yet we did nothing differently. Can you explain it?"
Her guest smiled sadly. "Things change. I'm sorry I cannot ... I am not permitted to say more and if you are my friend you won't try to force me."
The Earl tapped her fingers on the table, and then let out a long breath.
"Of course I won't. Of course." She considered for a few moments, then locked gazes with her guest and spoke in a more formal tone. "I will accept the gifts you have brought in lieu of the remaining hearthfire, and I am happy that our agreement is discharged. I release you and your master from further obligation."
A sad smile spread across the creature's face. "Thank you," it breathed, and then slowly stood up. The Earl frowned.
"Wait, are you leaving already? I had hoped ..." she left her hope unspoken. Her guest gave her another sad smile, and gently shook her head.
"I'm afraid not. I have to leave."
"You will be back next season though, surely?" Her guest did not answer. It steepled its fingers and bowed slightly, as it had so many times before, and then glided silently from the room without saying goodbye.
There was no need for it to speak - the Earl already knew the answer, in her heart and the pit of her stomach. Therese squeezed the bridge of her nose with her jewelled hand, a little surprised perhaps to find her own eyes glistening with unshed tears. Then she picked up her knife and fork, and finished eating her dinner, wiping up the last of the wine gravy with a slab of thick bread.
As she dabbed her mouth with a scarlet napkin, her Seneschal entered the dining room on slippered feet. Sensitive to her moods, he said nothing until she put the napkin down.
"Shall I gather the rest of the coven," he asked in his quiet voice, his golden eyes concerned.Earl Therese nodded. "Yes. And quickly. We will need to find a new source of hearthfire crystals." She glared at the peculiar box again for a moment, before continuing "... And I think you should write a few letters for me. It's past time for us to find out if anyone knows what is going on - and it is very obvious that something is going on, and I am more than a little disappointed that nobody has told me what that is..."
The Wanderer rarely pauses so profoundly in its perambulations through the heavens, but for the last three months it has hung balefully in the constellation of the Great Wyrm. The emblem of transformation and transfiguration - the concept that change is not just possible but that it is utterly inevitable - the Great Wyrm is sometimes used as a symbol of magic itself . Most pertinently, perhaps, it is an emblem of alchemical workings - the process whereby magic (most especially night magic) combines substances to create something greater. The Great Wyrm transforms everything, for good or ill.
A simple conjunction of the Great Wyrm and the Wanderer, with the Wyrm ascendant, is seen as a sign of some transcendent change. And yet at first nothing seems to actually be changing. Slowly, however, information begins to filter into the community of Imperial magicians from covens who make a study of powerful rituals that something peculiar is afoot.
My Dreams All My Own
- Dreamers experience profound dreams of personal transformation and impossible things.
Odd dreams are a common result of a powerful conjunction. Over the three months, many people experience dreams of profound personal transformation and impossible things. For some, the dreams revolve around the idea of being someone or something other than they are - dreams in which they have a different sex, or no sex at all, or where they possess lineage other than their own. Some orcs dream of being human, and some humans of being orcs. A common thread to many dreams is one where the dreamer experiences a moment in their life where they made a choice - sometimes significant, just as often mundane - but in the dream they make a different choice and events unfold differently.
Others have inspirational dreams of impossible things. Mundane things are made marvellous, and with the strange logic of dreams the dreamer explores the strange. One may explore a castle made of rainbow soap bubbles, or fly through the air wearing a suit made of dragonfly wings. Another may dream of a great siege engine that throws living stars that sing heartbreaking arias as they plunge towards the walls of a fortress of black fire, or of a tree composed of meat whose throbbing fruit bleed when bitten. As often as not, dreamers awaken deeply unsettled and with a nagging suspicion that the impossible things they have dreamt might be in some way real - or that they could make them real somehow.
There is no specific roleplaying effects, but this is an excellent event for a player to choose to have their character experience a dream that encourages them to make a significant change, or inspires them to try and achieve a goal at odds with their usual personality.
The Egg of Shadows
- The ritual Distill the Serpent's Stone is producing something subtly different.
The ritual Distill the Serpent's Stone creates a unique and powerful substance through the art of alchemy - using ilium and crystal mana to transform a handful of base materials into something that can empower magic, remove curses, and transubstantiate poisons. During the coming Autumn Equinox, the product of this potent alchemical transformation will be something a little different.
Instead of producing a serpent's stone, the ritual will create a shadow egg. 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 during the Equinox - they do not seem to have undergone any change at all.
The most common way that most characters in Empire who wish to change their gender do so is to use the herb groveblossom, the acquisition and use of which is "below the abstraction layer". In effect such mechanisms are the in-character equivalent of HRT and have essentially similar properties. You can read more about groveblossom on the technology page.
We've removed the potential for this ritual to allow a change of sex because we had no interest in allowing a potentially comic portrayal of a sex-change. If there is any player who is transitioning in real life who was keen to use this ritual as an opportunity to change their characters gender to one that better suits them, then they can have a quick chat to any ref that they are comfortable talking to about it and we'll sort that for you.We obviously didn't mean to cause offense; I apologize to everyone for doing so. - Matt P.
An Echo of Souls
- Transmogrification of the Soul's Echo is permitting more profound transformations.
As with the power to distill a serpent's stone, the power to profoundly change someone's identity represents grand mastery of the realm of night. As some alchemists combine disparate materials to create unique substances, so this ritual allows others to recombine elements of a person's identity to create a new person.
During the coming Autumn Equinox, the power of this ritual is enhanced. In addition to the normal changes, anyone who is targeted with it may choose from certain additional transformations.
- If they are a naga, they may choose to completely lose their lineage. Over the next few hours all trappings will peel away, leaving them as a standard human at the end of it. At the same time the influence of their naga blood over their character will disappear potentially leading to a change of personality.
- If they are a human who has no other lineage, they may choose to slowly transform into a naga. This may take between a few hours and several days. At the end of this time, they have the naga lineage at whatever strength they desire.
- They may choose as part of the transformation to change any or all of their current skills.
- They may choose to forget only their mastered rituals, their artisan recipes, or their potion recipes. In each of these cases, they can only forget everything or nothing from a category - it is not possible to lose some rituals and keep others for example.
It is important to remember that it is the target who chooses which transformations to apply, and while the coven performing the ritual may try to influence them they play no part in the ultimate outcome of the transmogrification.
Murit and Soghter
- Heralds of Murit and Soghter have disappeared.
Over the last six 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 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.
Since the incident in the Mournwold, 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.
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.
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: During the coming 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.
Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.Mary Shelly