Sorin's Rite of Agony
Winter Magnitude 20
Performing the Ritual
Performing this ritual takes at least 2 minutes of roleplaying. This ritual targets a character, who must be present throughout. The target character must have the Winter Lore skill.
During the ritual the target must be cut with an edged weapon, sufficient to cause the loss of 1 hit.
This spell is an enchantment. A target may only be under one enchantment effect at a time.
They gain two effective ranks (total) of the appropriate ritual lore if they are contributing to the performance of any ritual that delivers a curse. The ritual does not need to be part of Winter lore, but the normal rules for effective skill still apply.
They also experience a roleplaying effect: You are painfully aware of the dangers that threaten you and those you care about. You feel an urge to prepare for those dangers, and to ensure that you have sufficient resources to overcome them.
If the target is a draughir, the roleplaying effect is especially pronounced A draughir may also choose to temporarily add to or increase physical trappings of their lineage. These changes are temporary and do not last more than a few hours after the enchantment ends.
The wound created by this ritual will not heal, meaning that the character's maximum hits are effectively reduced by one. At dramatically appropriate moments it will burn painfully sending waves of feverish pain through the character's body. It can only be healed through treatment by a physick, using the rules for treating a traumatic wound, and using a dose of marrowort. If the wound is healed in this manner, all effects of the enchantment end immediately. Once the duration of the enchantment has expired (or the enchantment is removed or supplanted), the wound can be healed normally.
The effect lasts until the start of the next Profound Decisions Empire event.
This ritual can affect additional characters from the same coven. Each additional character increases the magnitude by 15. Additional characters must be present throughout, and each must inflict a wound on themselves.
The wound inflicted by this ritual continues to bleed; even if the character is a briar, it will not scab-over normally. One possible way to phys-rep such a wound would be with bandages wound around and treated with colouring or fake blood. Applying a little more liquid from time to time will help to maintain the illusion that the wound is continuing to bleed.
This ritual creates a pact between the target and the winter eternal Sorin; in return for increased mastery of Winter magic, the target suffers a lingering wound. Some magical scholars are of the opinion that the pain and discomfort somehow feeds Sorin's desire for suffering, while others claim this is a misunderstanding of the eternal's motives. Rather than feeding on pain, these scholars claim, Sorin simply reinforces his belief that all true strength comes from suffering. Either way, if the enchanted wound is healed in any way then the enchantment ends immediately.
Magicians using the gifts granted by this enchantment find themselves strengthened - they are able to endure much greater exposure to Winter magic than normal. Furthermore, the supernatural insight granted by the enchantment allows them greater facility with any ritual that is intended to create a curse regardless of which realm of magic the ritual draws on.
Even though Sorin is often invoked with this ritual, there is no actual communion with the eternal. As with many similar rituals, Sorin's Rite of Agony seems to represent an agreed-on pact with the supernatural entity. If the ritual is performed in the correct way, then the enchantment is created; Sorin himself has no direct interaction with the ritualists or the target. Still, those who make extensive use of this ritual may eventually attract the notice of the eternal himself.
Magical scholars occasionally come across references to a ritual known as The Bargain of the Black Stone which provides much more significant increase to the amount of magic the target can wield. Details of the ritual are scarce, and Sorin is reportedly disinterested in speaking of it, or of the nature of the "bargain", but it represents a tantalizing enigma for magicians interested in Winter lore.
A variant of this ritual is known to have been practiced among several inter-connected covens of League mountebanks in Sarvos in the second century of the Empire. Called Surut's Burning Brand it required the target to be burnt with beggar's lye and was connected to the Burnt Knight of the Thrice-cursed Court. Eventually the mountebank societies became embroiled in acts of malicious arson, performing increasingly extreme acts in return for more power from Surut; they were arrested and the majority executed for multiple murders. If Surut's Burning Brand were to resurface, anyone practicing it would likely attract a lot of attention from the Imperial Conclave and the Imperial Magistrates.
It is not impossible that other eternals of the Winter realm may be prepared to honour similar bargains. A trade that weakens someone in one way while strengthening them in another is a key theme of the Winter realm, as is a sacrifice that brings power. If these rituals have been formulated, they are not part of Imperial Lore.
This ritual always involves inflicting a bleeding wound on the target. Some covens who use this spell regularly have a specific knife (or sometimes a sickle) that they use to inflict the wound. Some covens require that the target inflict the wound themselves, as an act of self-sacrifice, while others require that one of the ritualist strike the important blow. Some Varushkan covens accompany the wound with a promise or oath to use the additional power wisely, while the Highborn prefer an oath to remain vigilant against the machinations of Sorin or the other Winter eternals. The location and shape of the wound is important as well; a magister is likely to be a little suspicious of a target who wants to conceal the wound beneath clothing, for example. A Navarr caster is likely to carve the wound into a specific shape or design to increase its power, while among Marchers a common method of performing the ritual is for the target to clasp both hands around a sword-blade, inflicting deep cuts on each palm.