The Sentinel Gate is the massive archway that stands at one side of Anvil. It is used by Imperial citizens to teleport to battle-grounds to fight the barbarians - as well as to go on quests throughout the Empire.
The Gate is an ancient magical device, it was constructed long before the time of the Empire. The Gate was discovered by the Urizen mages and presented by them as a gift to the Empire when their nation joined. The Gate was then moved to Anvil and erected there, where it has remained since.
The Gate allows the Empire to teleport people to critical locations in the Empire but only at a solstice or equinox. It is now a pivotal part of the Empire's military planning - the ability to strike against their enemies at critical locations has been so decisive that it influences the entire way the Imperial Military Council plan and conducts their wars.
The power of the stars creates connections between times and places - referred to by Imperial magicians as conjunctions. By using the Gate to access a conjunction a character can travel from Anvil to the site linked through the conjunction. The device is powerful and expensive, but not so powerful that it could not be replicated. However the Gate does not create conjunctions - it only provides the means to access them, so creating an additional Gate would not generate any additional conjunctions.
The Sentinel Gate at Anvil was bonded to the Empire centuries ago by Urizen magicians using a powerful Autumn ritual. Because of this, only Imperial citizens can use the Gate. Autumn magic can be used to create a link between the Empire and a barbarian or a foreigner to allow them to use the Gate - and Night magic can transform or disguise a target in such a way that they can pass through. In both cases, it requires that those using the Gate are accompanied by a greater number of Imperial citizens. In the opinion of Imperial magicians, the Gate is secure from intrusion - a belief supported by the last four centuries of use.
Partly as a result of this bond, the Gate can only be used to travel to places the Empire is connected to - either inside the Empire, on the borders or to locations where significant numbers of Imperial troops are present. In theory, the bond could be broken but it would then need bonding to a new nation or power to be usable at all.
Conjunctions only occur at a solstice or equinox but beyond this restriction they appear superficially to be random, defying attempts to explain or predict them using logic. Urizen mages use the Net of the Heavens to explain the clear serendipity in the conjunctions that arise that allows the Empire to intervene at critical moments - but this may simply be the natural hearth magic of the underlying constellations that links them to fate.
Any magician can detect the imminent presence of a conjunction by casting detect magic on the Gate. They can only detect the imminent presence of a specific conjunction in this matter - the caster must specify exactly what destination they are seeking to detect each time they cast the spell. If a conjunction for that location exists - then the spell will identify the approximate time and how powerful the conjunction is - expressed in terms of how many people can travel through the Gate when the conjunction occurs.
Detect magic can only detect the imminent presence of a conjunction to a precisely specified location. It is not possible to use detect magic or rituals to detect all possible conjunctions for a wide area. Attempts to do this always fail. The spell is only as effective as the description of the location provided - ambiguous or unclear descriptions usually result in failure but may sometimes give erroneous answers.
Detecting conjunctions in this way is a form of prognostication, and is affected by the same limits that apply to all attempts to make forecasts or predictions using Day Magic. The information is always correct - but only at the specific time that the spell is cast - and only for the magician casting the spell. The information may change at any time and very occasionally different casters get different results. It is exceptionally rare for a conjunction to disappear once detected, it is slightly more common for new conjunctions to appear. Some Wintermark mystics claim this is because the conjunctions are linked to an individual's skein or perhaps the fate of a nation or even the whole Empire.
Operating the Gate
To access a conjunction to travel elsewhere in the Empire, the Gate must first be activated. The easiest way to do this is to perform the operate portal spell on the Gate - but any equivalent magic will work. Once opened the Gate remains open for a brief period, just long enough for those gathered to travel through it. After that, the outward gate closes and nothing further may pass through. It is impossible to access a single conjunction twice - the Gate can only be opened again if a second conjunction follows immediately after - an exceptionally rare event. Magic cannot restore access to a conjunction once the Gate has closed, no more than it can create new conjunctions.
Those who have made use of the conjunction to travel elsewhere in the Empire have a short period of time during which they return safely - usually around half an hour. The noted astrologer Aquila of the Glittered Towers compared it to the passage of the stars through the heavens. The conjunction begins when a specific heavenly body is directly over Anvil - only at that moment is outward travel to the destination possible. The travellers may return to Anvil at any time.
As a result, all Imperial magicians are taught a minor cantrip that usually allows them to calculate how long a conjunction they have used will last. Any magician that has used a conjunction to travel from Anvil can perform this cantrip without cost. It takes a few seconds to perform and if successful, lets them know approximately how long remains before they must return. The cantrip is not reliable, sometimes the influence of the stars is hard to detect and the spell fails.
Most conjunctions are small, they allow anywhere between ten to thirty people to travel, but there are usually at least two conjunctions at any time which are potentially much more powerful. A major conjunction occurs when several normal conjunctions occur at the same time - as a result they often present the option to choose a single destination from one of several possibilities. Imperial magicians soon discovered that these conjunctions could be accessed by the egregores to allow vastly more people to travel through - hundreds or even more - sufficient to achieve major military outcomes. Because of their potent military benefits, these major conjunctions are controlled by the Imperial Military Council which decides which nations will travel and how best to make use of the conjunction.
Even a major conjunction would normally only allow a few dozen travellers, but by drawing on the power of the egregore bond, the conjunction can be accessed by everyone bonded to that egregore. Stargazers who have studied the operation of the Gate and the formation of conjunctions claim that the bond produces a powerful hearth magic effect through the law of sympathy - a character using the conjunction is a single entity - but the egregore can use a major conjunction to allow their entire nation to travel through the Gate as a single entity.
To operate the Gate in this way, the egregore does not need to physically travel via the conjunction (although some choose to do so), but they do need to engage the egregore bond with those who are travelling. This is usually done using a small ceremony or simple arcane rite designed to epitomize the nation's spirit. Invoking the essential nature of their nation produces the required hearth magic that allows the nation to travel through the Gate - at a major conjunction - as if they were a single entity.
There are limits to the major conjunctions - which are only poorly understood by Imperial magicians - which restrict the nations that may travel together. These restrictions appear to be bound by the movement of the stars in some way - which nations may use the conjunction to fight together is rarely the same from one summit to another. While the restrictions cannot currently be predicted, they can be divined - using night magic. The civil service present the Military Council with a definitive breakdown of the available options for using the Gate's major conjunctions each summit.
Major conjunctions have other limitations as well. They vary in size, the smallest allows a single nation to travel while the largest allows four or five nations to travel. Using a major conjunction is enormously taxing for the egregore - an individual egregore is rarely able to make use of more than one or two major conjunctions in this way during an equinox or solstice.
- The Imperial Civil Service use a divinatory magic and scouting reports to help them identify conjunctions and ascertain what opportunities they offer
- They use that information to allocate the conjunction to the Imperial citizen most responsible for overseeing the conjunction
- The identified citizen is legally empowered to choose who is permitted to go on the conjunction if there are too many volunteers
- If you're nominated to oversee a conjunction and would prefer someone else to have that option, then contact us and we will move it to another title holder
Each season, the Imperial Civil Service use a range of divinations to find conjunctions and identify what opportunities those conjunctions offer. This information is presented in reports issued before each summit, as part of the Winds of War and the Winds of Fortune. The civil service briefing describes the size and time of the conjunction and provides all information available to the Empire on what the heroes of Anvil might expect when they pass through the Gate as well as the objectives of the expedition.
The civil service use this information to identify a single Imperial citizen who will be responsible for overseeing the conjunction. To do this, they will first look for the Imperial title whose remit the conjunction falls under, with the narrowest possible focus. For example, a conjunction to protect the mines in north Kahraman would be part of the responsibilities of the Senator for Kahraman - but the Dhomiro of the Cinnabar Hills would be selected by preference because they are also responsible for that area but have a narrower focus. In some situations, where no suitable title-holder with a narrow focus is identified, the civil service may chose a prominent citizen from the Synod who has taken an interest in the matters at hand.
There is no expectation that the citizen who is identified by the civil service is required to go on a conjunction. There are many in-character reasons why a citizen might not consider themselves the best person to send, and many of our participants do not actively engage with conjunctions for out-of-character safety reasons. No-one should ever go on a conjunction unless they want to. Many nations have individuals who are highly experienced with planning for skirmishes and recruiting characters to go on them - so there is usually in-character help available on request.
Combat is likely or highly likely on many conjunctions with will make them inaccessible for some participants. Our refs have access to standard accessibility advice for all conjunctions using our tablet system, so any participant can check the details with a referee at any time.
Any character who is nominated to oversee a conjunction can always delegate the authority to another willing character if they wish to do so. This might be a proxy, but it can be any citizen. If you have been nominated to oversee a conjunction and do not want to be responsible for a Sentinel Gate conjunction and you don't want to nominate another character to take the responsibility for you, then please mail email@example.com and we will make the appropriate changes to the conjunction.
Some conjunctions are discovered in play, or found through mechanisms other than the civil service prognostication. In these cases, anyone who is aware of the conjunction can attempt to go, and characters must decide by themselves who gets to go in cases where there are too many volunteers.
Of course not... what a foolish notion! You have preordination all the wrong way round my friend.
Robert of Mitwold comes to Anvil because the power of the constellations compels him to; it arranges all matters so that our Marcher friend cannot help but come to Anvil and find someone who can assist him.The conjunction draws what it needs to it.
- The Gate can only be opened at predestined times. It is not possible for anyone or anything in the game to open the Gate at any other time
- Detect Magic can be used to check for the existence of a possible conjunction to a specific location and the region and territory it is in
- At the predestined moment, any Imperial citizen can use operate portal to activate the Gate, or an egregore can do it using hearth magic
- Only an Imperial character can use the Gate, or someone who is the beneficiary of a ritual designed to fool the Gate
- Any Imperial magician who passes through the Gate can use a few seconds of appropriate arcane roleplaying to sense how long remains before the Gate closes
- No character or object may travel out through the Gate once the assembled citizens have passed through in good order
- Sights and sounds perceivable through the portal can be perceived in-character
The Sentinel Gate only opens at predestined times and only to specific locations. There is no way for any character to create new conjunctions. The Gate is governed purely by fate, there is no power in the world of Empire that can act on the Gate to create or change conjunctions. Any character who can perform Detect Magic can use the spell to check for the existence of a conjunction, to a named location - but they must know the name of the destination as well as the region and territory it is in.
Only Imperial characters can use the Gate. Magical creatures that are created or summoned cannot use the Gate, and neither can heralds, foreigners, or barbarians. A character can carry their regular weapons and armour through the portal, and anything they can personally carry (including shared loads), but beasts of burden and their loads cannot pass through. The only exception is a character who is the beneficiary of an item, boon or ritual such as the Cuckoo's Egg - which explicitly tricks the Gate into allowing the recipient to pass.
Characters can only leave Anvil through the Gate when it first opens. Nobody may pass through the Gate once the assembled citizens have passed through in good order. Sights and sounds perceivable through the portal can be perceived in-character by those at the other side. Characters can return at any time while the Gate is still open - any Imperial magician who has gone through the Gate can sense how long remains before the Gate closes by using a few seconds of appropriate arcane roleplaying and checking with a referee.
- Sentinel Gate design - a longer explanation of some of the out-of-character design philosophy for the Gate.
- Conjunctions - advice for preparing for conjunctions
- Anomalous conjunctions - a Historical research report regarding anomalous conjunctions, specifically the one involved in the death of Empress Britta.