The Dance of Navarr and Thorn
Spring Magnitude 40
Performing the Ritual
Performing this ritual takes at least 10 minutes of roleplaying. During the ritual the casters must be in a strong Spring regio. This ritual targets a single territory that does not contain an active network of trods. The territory must either contain a vallorn, or must be connected to a territory containing a vallorn by an unbroken sequence of territories containing active trods.
The ritual can be performed using the Anvil regio, but in this case it can only target an Imperial territory.
If the ritual targets a territory that contains a vallorn, it must be performed at a Spring regio in a region with the Vallorn keyword – it cannot be performed using the Imperial regio, or a regio in a region that does not have the vallorn keyword.
This ritual can target a territory with an active network of trods in the event that the trods are damaged, and in this event will repair the trods.
The ritual can create new trods only in an imperial territory. Once the ritual is complete, Navarr stridings must be able to move freely around the majority of the territory to fix the trods in place and begin drawing the strength of the vallorn along them. While other movement along the trods can help to weaken the vallorn, the presence of Navarr stridings is required if the trods are to have any significant effect.
The ritual can be used to repair existing trods even if the territory is not part of the Empire.
Targetting a non-Imperial territory means the ritual must be performed at a powerful Spring regio within that territory. This is rarely effective at creating new trods, and is most useful for repairing damaged or faded trods.
This ritual is extremely old, and pre-dates the Empire by several centuries. It was originally codified by the antecedents of the vates who used it to create the first trods to begin drawing power away from the vallorn. While the ritual could be performed by a powerful coven from any nation, it has never been performed by ritual magicians who were not Navarr. Simply creating trods is not sufficient; the trods must also be constantly powered and strengthened by the peregrinations of Navarr stridings - so performing the ritual without the approval of the Navarr is a foolish endeavour.
The ritual was reasonably widespread among the Navarr in pre-Imperial days, but over time the number of ritual texts detailing it began to decline. The ritual never entered Imperial lore - early conclaves rejected attempts to declare The Dance of Navarr and Thorn part of the Imperial canon due to its specialised nature and lack of general appeal.
Following the reign of Emperor James, the number of people with access to the ritual declined even further - with the borders of the Empire sealed and well-defended, there was little opportunity to perform it. Simple human nature meant that mastery of the ritual declined even further. However, in Summer 378YE following either a magical disaster or action by powerful Druj magicians, the trods in occupied Reikos were seriously damaged. The vate Math Far Distant of Brocéliande, custodian of one of the few remaining ritual texts, entrusted it to Merel Pathfinder the Advisor on the Vallorn. Rather than risk the ritual fading from memory, that competent magician ensured that the Dance of Navarr and Thorn was inducted into Imperial Lore.
The ritual usually involves a map of the territory on which the trods are traced as the ritual is performed. Blood is a traditional element of many Navarr rituals, and is often used to trace the trods on the map. Some create a symbolic map of the territory on a large scale and move across it with trails of coloured sand. Representatives of as many different stridings as possible are usually included in the performance, along with representatives of any steading that already exists or plans to settle in the target territory.
A ritual re-telling of one of the great dances, especially that of Navarr and Thorn may form the centrepiece of the ritual. The ritual has never been recorded as being performed by non-Navarr, but it could be speculated that the witch and the mountebank would be powerful dramaturgical characters to use with the Dance of Navarr and Thorn - although what that might "reveal" about the characters of these Navarr heroes, and how the Navarr might react, is left as an exercise for the dramaturgical scholar.
The vates of Hercynia suggest that the runes of beginning, dominion and the twin-faces of mystery will help in the performance of the ritual. Some vates of Therunin who have ties with the Urizen suggest that the constellations of the Fountain, the Three Mothers, the Mountain or the Chain may be appropriate.
A trod starts and ends with a vallorn.
We wove the trods as a weapon but in the fullness of time they gave life to the land through which they passed, and strength to those who travelled them. As our stridings migrate along the trods, so the wild magic at the heart of the vallorn is leached away. The longer the trod and the larger the striding, the more strength each journey leaches. As the wild magic is drawn away, it infuses the land around the trods and makes them fertile.
When Terunael was overrun, the orcs came as a great tempest and drove us apart. We could not walk the trods where the orcs sought us out. The coming of other people created its own problems as each sought to claim their own land and would not let us move across it freely. Only with the founding of the Empire were we able to walk the trods safely in numbers, further than ever before, and see in the distance a world where our ancestors' great mistake might finally be erased.
This ritual is most useful in a territory that has never been part of the Empire. Today, this almost always means barbarian territories conquered by the Imperial armies. A new territory expands the reach of the trods as a whole and helps weaken all the vallorn tied to those trods. Extending the reach of the trods so they cover a greater distance than ever before significantly increases their effectiveness.
Where the Empire has lost control of a territory to the barbarians, it becomes harder to use the trods and they may fray or fade. If a territory were in barbarian hands for more than a decade, the ritual would be needed to repair the trods to return them to full strength. Doing so extends the reach of the trods a little, and may result in a burst of power drawn from the vallorn, but the exact effects are difficult to predict.
The Barrens in particular seem problematic. Trods have been established there twice with the aid of our Dawnish friends at Drycastle – once in 75YE and once again in 245YE. In both cases, the trods have unravelled over the course of a few years. Some few trods are still intact but they are of minimal value in drawing the power of the Vallorn and dangerous to walk. It may be that the Druj are to blame, because those orcs have always been strong there and jealous of other magics. It may be that there is a force there – perhaps the dark spirit of the Great Forest of Peytaht – that actively unpicks our trods. If any vate knows, they have not shared their wisdom.
While it could be performed in a territory that is not part of the Empire, doing so is of limited use because stridings simply cannot move freely enough in large enough numbers through the territory to bind the new trods into place. Moreso, without the freedom to move, the freedom to follow the trods where they wind, the trods are without purpose.
The trods could be traced across a territory controlled by an allied power, but only if that power were prepared to allow unrestricted access to large numbers of Navarr. There has been no time when a foreign power was prepared to offer such unfettered access to their lands, and certainly not on the kind of time-scales that would be needed to make newly forged trods effective.
The magic of this ritual draws on the power of patterns and to a degree that of tattoos and brands – it can be imagined that the trods are symbolic tattoos on the face of the earth. It is not a requirement that the ritual be performed by vates, however - any coven could perform the magical working necessary to form the trods. In practice, the creation of trods would be pointless without the support of the Navarr - no other Imperial nation has a nomadic population in sufficient numbers, or is as committed to tracing and re-tracing the trods over the time scales involved in teasing out the malign power of the vallorn.
We do not really know whether the ritual creates the trods in response to the intent of the ritualists, or reveals trods that already exist. Some magicians say that there is no difference – that the ritual both shapes the trods and reveals them in the same way that the best sculptors both shape and are guided by the wood or stone that they use. Regardless, attempts to create trods in straight lines, or specific designs, have proved to be impossible and attempts to guide the trods away from locations that are dangerous or inconvenient have likewise been unsuccessful - the trods go where they want to go.
Less mystically minded magicians describe the process of drawing out the trods to be like guiding the path of a river - the water can be encouraged to flow in a certain direction, but it cannot be made to flow up-hill or to take one path when another offers less resistance.
Trods do not extend across very large bodies of water, such as the Bay of Catazar. The sea is hungry, deep, full of currents that scoff at the idea of permanence. As a river dies when it reaches the sea, so the trods will not long survive exposure to the corrosive ocean. Lakes, major rivers or areas of swamp and marsh provide no particular obstacle as evidenced by the paths that cross the marshes of Therunin.
Water is a good metaphor for our trods. They ebb and flow as we move along them; we are both carried by the current and draw the wild magic behind and around us. They are a dance – the steps drawn on the face of the earth but we the dancers give meaning to their design. Without the design, our movements have no weight. Without the movement, the design is just a drawing. Intent creates the pattern. Intent draws and channels the wild chaos of the vallorn from its heart and tames it, spreads it to the four corners.
One the wild chaos is tamed, then we may move against the vallorn itself. The beasts that live on the body of the vallorn and breathe its tainted air secure it in place. They are the dancers, while the vallorn is the design. It is never swift, but when we have drawn enough power we can strike to clear the vallorn from a place. It will not return to that place without malevolent intent of another being. This is how we claimed Miaren, one careful step at a time. It is patient work – the vallorn is stronger the closer we come to the HEART, and more vicious. It may be that to weaken several vallorn is easier than to eradicate one, and when the time comes we must choose carefully. Only when all the taint has been cleansed from a territory is the vallorn truly gone from that place.
It is not enough to kill the vallornspawn alone, for the wild magic returns and twists new creatures. It is not enough to walk the trods alone, for like an anchor the vallornspawn hold the taint in place. Both dancer and dance, both thorn and trod, both are required to destroy a vallorn.
This ritual has never been part of Imperial Lore. We brought it before the Imperial Conclave only once, in the first years of the Empire. The magicians chose not to include it at that time because it was seen as being of limited use to anyone outside the Navarr nation. When the Imperial borders were sealed in the time of Emperor James the number of vates who had mastered it dwindled. We should have been more careful to keep knowledge of it alive, but in truth the number of covens who could perform it has always been small.If the target territory contains a vallorn, the ritual allows that territory to be joined to nearby land to create a network of trods, so that they can be used to begin drawing the power of the entity away. The wider the network of trods that the vallorn is connected to, the more effective they are at leeching power from it. If a new vallorn were uncovered, the first step towards eroding it would be to connect it to the existing Empire-wide network of trods that we already use. In theory, if some power were to significantly damage the trods in a territory, this ritual might be used to repair them. Doing so would not require as much power as forging the trods from scratch, but would likely still be challenging. If the trods in a territory were damaged sufficiently, it is likely that they would slowly erode or unravel. While the damage is very unlikely to spread beyond the borders of the territory where the damage has taken placed, the loss of an entire territory from the trod network might severely impede the ability to draw the energy from one or more of the vallorn.Taken from the original ritual text for the Dance of Navarr and Thorn