Graciana stared at the ground and scratched her head thoughtfully. Nine foot deep, five foot wide, the incision ran as far as the eye could see in either direction. It must have taken them months and months to dig this. Why? Why would anyone do that?

The trench curved and meandered across the plain of Reikos, artfully sketching out a shape that could be the Drowned Man... if you squinted at it just right. Why? Why would anyone do that?

It was called the Sign of Tamar. If anybody knew who Tamar was... the history books didn't recall. She'd checked with historical records before she got posted out here, but they'd just laughed at her. Apparently the Senate tended to commission historical research on this place once every century or so. According to Potts, each time the department just sends them a short note that reads "Pre-dates the Empire, origins unknown, etymology unknown, purpose unknown".

It had once been one of the most famous regio in the Empire. A monstrously powerful Spring aura that the Druj had used to work their magics. Then Llofir had taken it from them and used it to anchor his presence in this world. When the League armies banished Llofir back to the Spring realm... somehow he took the regio with him. Was it conscious spite? A last stab at the people he believed had betrayed his friendship? Did eternals even get angry? Maybe Llofir merged with the site in some way... maybe forcing him back into the realm was the same thing as destroying the regio... Maybe.

She quashed an unfair thought that life was easier for records then for appraisal. Still she smiled at the idea of sending the Senator for Weirwater a report that read "Sign of Tamar appraised. Remains none, potential none, options none." Hah, that would be great for her career.

And it wasn't completely true. After all there was still a long series of earth-work ditches, immaculately cut into the shape of one of the most cursed sigils known to the Empire. Who wouldn't want Reikos indelibly stamped with the constellation of ending. Sounds like a simply brilliant idea. Hard to see any flaws with that plan.

She looked down, staring at the ditch and scratched her head again. "What in the name of the Seven virtues am I going to do with you?"


Click for audio version

The Imperial Senate instructed Graciana i Lòpez i Guerra to appraise the Sign of Tamar. They wanted a report on how any further damage might be stopped and how it might be used by the Empire once it was preserved.

Preservation is a pressing problem. When the the eternal Llofir claimed the Sign of Tamar, the sigil vanished beneath the enchanted forest that the eternal raised over the whole region. Llofir was driven off in the Summer of 383YE, but the forest remained, and slowly but surely the roots of the growing plants and trees were consuming the the earthworks. Left for a decade or more, this great sigil would be completely erased.

Of the potent Spring regio that once stood here there is not the slightest trace. It is as if Llofir took Spring with them when they were driven back to their realm. While that is clearly a ridiculous notion, there is no denying that the battle to defeat the eternal did reshape the land in some fundamental way. Not just the regio disappeared, Tamar's Toes and every other mana site in Tamarbode disappeared when the Garden of Llofir was destroyed.

As a result it is challenging for anyone to find much of value here, fortunately the Imperial Senate have had the wisdom to send their most innovative and unorthodox thinker to assess the site. Well, fortunate provided they're not worried about the potential costs of any proposals she submits.


  • There are three possible routes for restoring the Sign of Tamar
  • A senate motion could instruct the Empire to prevent the Sign of Tamar deteriorating and preserve it for future generations
  • An Imperial army could be assigned to the area to restore the earthworks
  • A mandate could be raised by the Highborn Assembly
  • The Sign of Tamar will be completely destroyed within 6 months if no action is taken

The Sign of Tamar has been obscured by a great forest that sprung up when Llofir claimed the region for his own. As the roots of these plants and trees are growing they are steadily damaging the earthworks.

We recognise the importance of the Sign of Tamar in Reikos and the need to preserve and research it. We call upon any citizens who can aid with this to do so.

Brother Vashti of the Shattered Tower, Autumn Equinox 383YE, Upheld (Greater Majority (573 - 42))

Graciana's appraisal contains relatively little detail of how the earthworks might be preserved, instead focussing on how the the Sign might be employed by the Empire. She has laid out an option for how the Senate could deal with the decay. To this cursory approach, the department have appended additional information on other methods the Empire might adopt, based on previous work done assessing the impact an army might and taking account of a statement of principle passed by the Highborn Assembly last season.

None of these options are easy, but any one of them would work. The Empire would have succeeded in ensuring that the Sign of Tamar was preserved in good condition for future generations.

Senate Motion

  • A Senate motion could order the work to be completed and paid for by the Empire
  • The effective cost to the treasury would be 20 Thrones, and an upkeep of 1 Throne per season

To maintain the Sign, the first job is to remove the forest. Or at least enough of it, that the earthworks is no longer under threat. There is a lot of timber to cut back, which will cost a small fortune, perhaps 120 thrones, in all. However, the trees are full grown and in good condition, so Graciana estimates that the felled trees can be sold to local timber merchants for cutting and drying. Once the benefits of those sales are factored in, that will reduce the costs to a mere 20 thrones.

Not a small sum, but that would ensure that there are no trees or plants growing within fifteen feet of any of the long trenches that make up the Sign. However, that would then need to be maintained. Plants, by their nature, spread, so someone would need to be continuously employed to walk the Sign regularly, removing any new saplings or other plants. That would increase the costs to maintain the territory by a throne a season. A single senate motion could be used to instruct the civil service to oversee the clearance, and recruit some people to keep the sign clear.

Imperial Army

  • An Imperial army could spend 3 months in Reikos cutting back the forest
  • A general would need to issue a solid defence order for Reikos with clear instructions to remove the forest
  • It would need to be an army in good condition, at four fifths or more of full strength

To save the cost to the Imperial treasury, the Military Council could assist the Senate. A general could order their army to Reikos with instructions to clear the trees around the Sign of Tamar, remove any invading plants and restore the earthworks. If Reikos were attacked that season, then any efforts to save the Sign of Tamar would be impeded but the army would defend the territory as if they were on solid defence. In that case, the army would delay the collapse of the Sign of Tamar by one season, but not prevent it.

Clearing the forest is hard physical labour; to succeed would require an army that was in good condition. It cannot be completed by a force that is battle-weary and carrying large numbers of casulaties. Any army would need to be at four fifths or more of full strength, before beginning the work. An army that is below that strength would not be able to carry out the work effectively, it would delay the collapse of the Sign of Tamar by one season, but not prevent it.

In theory the work might need to be repeated at some point - since there would be no maintenance, but the forest is no longer driven by the magic of Spring, so no more work would be needed for at least a decade.


  • The Highborn Assembly could issue a mandate chapters to form in the area and take responsibility for the Sign of Tamar

At the Autumn equinox, Brother Vashti of the Shattered Tower received the support of the greater majority of the the Highborn Assembly for a statement of principle calling on any citizens who might be able to save the Sign to attempt to do so. Rallying the virtuous to save the Sign of Tamar would be effective, but it would require a significant supply of liao to ensure that the work was completed in time. To achieve it, the Highborn Assembly would need a suitably worded mandate.

We recognise the importance of the Sign of Tamar in Reikos and the need to preserve it and employ it for the benefits of Highguard and the Empire. We send {named priest} with 100 does of liao to urge citizens to clear the encroaching forests and to commit themselves to the long term preservation of this important historical sigil.

Synod Mandate, Highborn Assembly

If this mandate were enacted, then Highborn citizens would set to, removing the trees and plants that were invading the Sign of Tamar. What's more, one or more chapters would be formed near the sign, dedicated to its preservation. They would tend the Sign of Tamar, ensuring that it would be preserved for many years to come.

A Dry Well

Creating a set of options for the Imperial Senate to consider requires some considerable creativity on the part of Graciana i Lòpez i Guerra. There was a powerful Spring regio here once, but that was destroyed when Imperial armies drove Llofir from the area. All that remains is a series of ditches shaped into the form of a baleful sigil to resemble the Drowned Man.

To create an option for the Imperial Senate to consider, Graciana has had to consider some novel approaches looking at the potential the site might have. It was once an exceptionally powerful regio. There are rumours that the (now dead) Druj Ghulai Greenmask bound himself to the regio in some way, drawing on its power to enhance his magic. And while it is clearly damaged, the site does have a sigil carved nine feet deep into the hard earth in the shape of one of the ill-omened constellations. The Sign of Tamar could serve as some kind of powerful ward, but what if it has the opposite effect... what if it's designed to invoke the power of the constellation by evoking the very essence of it?

Weeks of painstaking experiments by Graciana only confirm what was reported months earlier - there is no Spring magic here. The great power of the Sign of Tamar as was - this potent fount of Spring magic - is simply never coming back. Not in this lifetime. But the Drowned Man is a powerful constellation, and it is not tied to the the Spring realm.

A Cold Star

  • Graciana presents three opportunities, each of which needs the sign to be maintained either in advance or at the same time
  • Any motion to commission implicitly includes the maintenance as none of these projects will be possible without it

The Drowned Man marks the end of things. What if some other power filled the space where the tides of Spring magic once flowed? One realm, more than any other, resonates with the theme of things ending... might the Sign of Tamar have some connection to the Winter realm?

This insight proves the breakthrough needed to make progress. Graciana's team are quickly able to confirm that the Sign of Tamar has enormous potential for Winter magic. Once that capacity is identified, Graciana is finally able to let her imagination run wild about how it might be employed.

After a lot of work, and after extensive consultation with prominent Highborn magicians living in Reikos, Graciana has drawn up three proposals. To be precise, she drew up one proposal, but she was persuaded by La Salle to go back and add two other options so that, as he put it, "the Senate might have something to actually consider". Graciana has made it quite clear that she considers the first two proposals to be... thin gruel... worthy neither of her time or efforts in this regard. None the less she is a loyal civil servant and has done as requested.

All of these options would require the maintenance of the Sign of Tamar to be completed, either first, or at the same time. None of them will work without the foreboding influence of the grim sigil carved into the earth. Without the Sign, it is likely there would be no winter magic here. A single Senate motion can be used to authorise this commission, but the costs for the work will include an additional 20 thrones to clear the forest, and one throne upkeep, if that work is not accomplished by any other method.

Graciana is slightly apologetic for the grim requirements for her commission, but in her defence she points out that the Imperial Senate charged her with finding ways to employ the Sign of Tamar, a great sigil that evokes one of the most ill-boding and malign entities in existence. If you want candy-floss, best you start with sugar first, she says.

Steeped in Blood

  • The Imperial Senate could commission a sinecure that produces 5 pieces of Winter vis each season
  • The sinecure would require 8 wains of white granite, 8 wains of mithril and 32 crowns to construct
  • The position of Curator of the Sign of Tamar could be a national or Imperial position

The region around the Sign of Tamar has a strong resonance for Winter magic. Graciana has calculated that the Imperial Senate could commission a series of small beacons, arranged at the eleven cardinal points of the Drowned Man constellation. These beacons would need 8 wains of white granite, 8 wains of mithril to construct and 32 crowns, and take three months to complete. At the centre of each beacon would be a mithril gourd with a long thin neck. By placing honey at the bottom of the vase, flying insects will be attracted into the neck where they will become stuck and die. These pinpricks, these tiny endings, will be enough to invoke the power of the Sign of Tamar, and the gourds will slowly fill with Hearts Blood, producing 5 pieces of Winter vis each season.

To make use of this bounty, the Empire would need to create a title to oversee the Sign and appoint someone to the position. Graciana's notes suggest the title be called "The Death of Flies" but La Salle has crossed that out and suggested that "The Curator of the Sign of Tamar" would be more appropriate. As ever the final decision is with the Imperial Senate should they choose to take up the option. The title will need to have the responsibility for maintaining the Sign of Tamar and the eleven beacons needed to harvest the Winter bounty.

It could be a national or Imperial position, and an argument could easily be made for appointment by the Senate, the Bourse or the Conclave.

Broken by Traps

  • The Imperial Senate could commission a sinecure that produces 3 doses of The Barren Watchtower each season
  • The sinecure would require 20 wains of weirwood and 40 crowns to construct
  • The position of Curator of the Hoarfrost Hostel could be a national or Imperial position

Rather than try and contain the Winter magic, another approach would be to litter the area with cruel hunting traps. This would make navigating the woods around the Sign of Tamar slightly more difficult, but it would prove deadly for the wildlife currently flourishing here. Normally a hunter will come by regularly to check their traps, but here the animals would need to be left to die in the traps. Weakness, hunger, fear, cruelty - are all powerful resonances with the winter realm - and of course death is one of the strongest of Winter's associations.

Doing this would encourage the ill-omen of the Sign of Tamar to spread its pernicious influence throughout the surrounding woodlands. According to Graciana this would result in the Sign of Tamar developing into a minor Winter regio, one that might draw Highborn or Navarr magicians seeking to perform winter rituals (who would hopefully be alert enough not to fall foul of the traps). To take advantage of this development, Graciana proposes to build a small herbarium, dedicated to gathering herbs from the area, mixing them into potions and selling them to the magicians seeking to use the site. The Hoarfrost Hostel would thus pay for itself by producing potions of the Barren Watchtower, three of which would be available to the whichever citizen were appointed to oversee and operate the Hostel.

Graciana's notes suggest the title be called "The Death of Rabbits" but La Salle has again crossed that out and suggested that "The Curator of the Hoarfrost Hostel" would be more appropriate. As with other options the final decision lies with the Imperial Senate. The title will need to have the responsibility for maintaining the Sign of Tamar, the traps in the area and the Hostel itself. The Hostel would require 20 wains of weirwood and 40 crowns to construct and could be built in three months.

It could be a national or Imperial position, and an argument could easily be made for appointment by the Senate, the Bourse or the Conclave.

Drowned in Cages

  • The Imperial Senate could commission a unique structure that would boost the winter powers of the citizen elected to maintain it
  • The commission would require 40 wains of white granite, 20 wains of mithril and 120 crowns to construct and take six months
  • The title Consort of the Drowning Man would need to be an Imperial position elected by the Imperial Conclave

Graciana's final option for the Imperial Senate to consider is highly experimental and represents something rarely seen in Imperial magic. To create the plans Graciana has had to consult widely with some of the brilliant Winter magisters living in Highguard, and correspond with a couple of noted experts at the Lyceum. The results are highly unorthodox but everyone involved has checked and rechecked and they are certain that it should work.

The approach requires lining the trenches of the Sign of Tamar with smooth white granite, with every gap between stones painstakingly sealed with mortar to make the surface water-tight. Several nearby streams could then be redirected into the channel, causing it to slowly fill with water. The mithril would be used to create a lattice of light but sturdy bars covering the surface of this "moat" which would then need covering with broad flat leaves. The result would be that any animals attempting to move over the bars would fall into the water below where they would be trapped and slowly drown.

If the Senate decide they can stomach these grim requirements then the possibilities presented are fascinating. According to the calculations, once the work to entomb the "Drowning Man" is complete, the entire area will serve as a powerful winter regio - one every bit as potent as the regio at Anvil when it comes to supporting Winter magicians. Crucially whoever can stomach clearing the carcasses from the cages will gain a unique benefit, something akin to an enchantment, or a bond with the regio itself. Greenmask often claimed to have bonded himself to the Sign of Tamar, which is what first prompted Graciana investigate this possibility. It appears that perhaps the orc sorcerer's words were more than empty braggadocio.

To make use of this bounty, the Empire would need to create a title to oversee the Sign and appoint someone to the position. Graciana's notes suggest the title be called "the Consort of the Drowning Man". The title will have to be an Imperial position appointed by the Conclave. Whoever gained the position would benefit from a permanent boost to their Lore of Winter equal to that provided by a dose of Sorrow's Mask, for as long as they held the position and kept the Sign of Tamar in good condition.

OOC Note: The Consort of the Drowning Man title gains three additional ranks to perform Winter rituals, subject to the normal rules for effective skill. When someone new gains the title, the power transfers to them immediately; they would be assumed to secure their connection to the Drowning Man each downtime after that. The additional power for Winter rituals is neither an enchantment, nor the effect of a tonic or magic item; it is a unique bonus. However, the bonus does not stack with that provided by the Imperial Regio - the character cannot claim the additional rank of lore when using the Imperial regio to perform Winter rituals (but can still draw on it for targeting purposes, and this does not stop other contributors drawing on its power in any way).

This Appraisal in Play

A construction of this kind is unique and has never been attempted before by the Empire. To create the final proposal Graciana has had to call on the assistance of eminent scholars of Winter magic, whose understanding of that realm far exceeds her own. If you play a Highborn magician and have one or more ranks of Winter lore then you are encouraged to roleplay that you have been called on by Graciana to lend your skills to her appraisal. How much help you provided, or how involved you have been in the rituals and experiments that have been conducted is up to you.


During the Winter Solstice, Sela of the Suns of Couros enacted a mandate to encourage Highborn chapters to preserve the Sign of Tamar .

Further Reading