"So for the purpose of the ritual, you'll be taking the roles of Navarr and Thorn. Decide between yourselves which is which. I will be taking the role of Star. Once the ritual begins you must be careful only to use those names when talking to me, or to each other. You understand?"

Beil's voice was calm, reassuring. The young couple nodded their understanding. They had not let go of each others' hands since they came down into the hollow among the weirwood trees, into the regio. They were clearly nervous.

"Really, you don't need to worry. I know some people claim the ritual may leave the child more open to briar taint but I've performed it dozens of times and I genuinely don't think I've seen more than a couple of children grow up to sprout bark. Are we ready?"

They both nodded. Beil took a sharp knife and a clay bowl lined with honey-dark ambergelt. The vate carefully placed three spheres of crystalline mana inside it, and began to perform the ritual - a re-enactment of the mythical bonding of Navarr and Thorn. At Beil's urging, Rees and Yenna cut their palms and mingled their blood together. They let a few drops fall into the bowl, spattering the mana crystals as they swore oaths of love and fidelity.

Without thinking, Beil opened up to the regio. The vate had done this a thousand times before, and saw no reason for the current troubles to change the habit of a lifetime. For six months there had been nothing to draw on - the regio had been silent.

The regio was not silent any more. Power surged through Beil - more power than the vate had ever felt before - almost impossible to control. With a thunderous explosion, a loud crack, and a burst of light the vate was hurled bodily through the air clear across the hollow. The old bowl detonated, sending shards of pottery and ambergelt in all directions. The knife vibrated and twisted in Yenna's hands, and then burst apart into a cloud of red dust and bone shards.

A moment later it began to rain - sudden unexpected heavy rain out of a sky that up until a moment ago had been quite clear.

Rather than run away, like any sensible people, Rees and Yenna ran across the clearing to where Beil lay. The vate was unharmed - merely a little dazed.

"Are you hurt?" Rees' worry showed in his voice. "What went wrong? Why is it raining?"

All three of them were soaked to the skin.

"No, thank you; I'm not sure; and I'm not sure," said Beil looking around blearily. "Are you both alright?"

The two of them looked at each other. Yenna spoke first, a little tenatively. "I'm alright. In fact I feel... actually I feel quite good? Very good. Um."

She blushed. Rees opened his mouth to say something, then shut it again. A number of expressions warred across his face - embarrassment, uncertainty, happiness, excitement. He blushed as well, deep beetroot red. Beil did not have to ask how he was feeling.

"I think you'd better go find some shelter." said Beil. "You're obviously fine. More than fine"

The two did not need to be told twice, scampering out of the hollow through the weirwood trees, heedless of the pouring rain that had soaked them to their skin.Beil could hear them laughing as they ran back along the trail towards the wayhouse.

The old vate stared up at the sky. The sense of the regio's pulsing power was still there - a simple cantrip confirmed the seething, surging Spring magic that pooled all around the hollow just a hair's breadth away. Even as Beil crossed the hollow to start tidying up the shards of pottery and ambergelt, delicate golden flowers were sprouting and blooming all around.

"Well, this is new," said Beil thoughtfuly, speaking out loud. "But at least it looks like the drought is over."
.

The Flood

For six months, the magicians of the Empire have been unable to draw power from regio aligned with the Spring Realm. This problem has ended as abruptly as it began - and with a vengeance. Spring magic is always eager to expand, to overpower those who use it. This urge seems to have been significantly heightened since last Imperial magicians were able to use it. Some astronomancers suggest an untimely conjunction of the the Fountain and the Stallion is to blame. Some goetic magicians are more suspicious and believe that the conjunction merely reflects the efforts of some primal force in the Spring realm to spread its influence into the Empire. It is unlikely either side will be able to provide definitive proof any time soon.

What is clear however is that Imperial magicians can draw on Spring magic via a regio again - both to enhance their power and to target spring rituals at Imperial territories. More than that, the spring magic is like a flood, seeking any avenue to pour into magicians who make contact with appropriate regio.

Rites of Spring

Any magician working a spring ritual will experience a roleplaying effect: you find the experience of working spring magic exhilarating but tiring. You are left panting, sweaty, and aching by the completion of the ritual. The higher the magnitude of the ritual, the more tired they will be at the end of it. These symptoms will fade with a short rest. If you are a briar, you instead feel energetic and alert.

Furthermore, when contributing to any Spring ritual that is targeted using a regio, any Imperial magician can choose to embrace dangerous levels of magic - allowing it to surge through them and risking short-term or even potentially permanent consequences. They must inform the referee that they choose to do so before the ritual is begun, and will then gain a temporary one rank bonus for that performance of that ritual. However they will also receive a magical traumatic wound from the referee - it is up to their sense of drama when during the ritual the traumatic wound begins to manifest. Each individual can only do this once - one you have received a traumatic wound you cannot receive another.

The rituals in Imperial Lore that can be used with this opportunity are: Foam and Spittle of the Furious Sea, Forge the Wooden Fastness, Rivers of Life, Rivers Run Red, Thunderous Tread of the Trees, Mountain Remembers Its Youth, Thunderous Deluge, The Dance of Navarr and Thorn, and Hallow of the Green World. It would also be possible to use this ability when performing an appropriate Arcane Projection.

Three Opportunities

The Well of Valas

  • In Hahnmark, the opportunity to construct a magical well that will provide Spring vis

South-west of Valashal, not far from the edges of Rundhal Marsh there is a certain wide well each of whose stones is marked with one of the runes of Spring. Even mawrig is represented - although for every appearance of the Rune of Storms there are three of Bravash, Rhyv, and Evrom. The well stands at the heart of a Spring regio - for centuries it has been the habit of Steinr couples who wish to conceive a child to spend a summer night when the moon is full eating, and drinking, and trysting at the well. It is said that such children as are conceived on such nights are hale and hearty, and often bear good, strong briar blood.

One such couple, desperate enough to approach in Winter, tested the waters and to their surprise discovered them thick and glutinous, like treacle. Hurik and Manun, a pair of experienced and well-respected runesmiths were prevailed upon to investigate and discovered the magic of the regio had seeped into the water - infusing it with the sweet essence of the Spring realm. For the most part the water is simply very sweet - but the power could be harnessed to create a more potent effect. If the runes that cover the well were inlaid with mithril, say the runesmiths, it would be possible to focus the magic and gain a unique benefit thereby. it would also, they say with very serious expressions, require a fine mithril bucket engraved with the Rune of Wealth.

Hurik and Manun can oversee the runework themselves. It would require a suitable commission, but would not count against the number of commissions the Senate could arrange this season. The construction would need 10 wains of mithril, and 20 crowns of additional materials, and take one month. At the end of that time it would create an Imperial title - the Moonwell Runewarden perhaps - who would receive each season a single bucket of vital honey from the well (enough to provide four doses of the exotic material). The civil service suggest that such a title would most likely be appointed by the Imperial Conclave, or the unanimous decision of the Wintermark senators. Hurik and Manun - mention it would be fitting if it were an annual appointment rather than a lifetime appointment, but they place no actual restriction on their willingness to do the work.

Evenstar in Naris

  • In Redoubt, the opportunity to create a unique sinecure that provides both crystal mana and healing herbs

The spire of Evenstar in Naris on the southern coast of Redoubt was once a hospital staffed by potent practitioners of Day magic and Spring magic and built around a potent Spring regio. The doctors and many of the patients were carried away into slavery when the Grendel attacked it in Winter 380YE. It was liberated eventually but not before Grendel sea magicians had used the regio to unleash devastating magic against Redoubt.

The magic of the regio never really went away - there was just nobody left to harness it. With the abeyance of magic at an end, the Urizen have identified that this is one of the regio that seems to be seething with undirected Spring potence. The herb gardens maintained by the healers have exploded with fecundity, rapidly overwhelming the spire and transforming it into a beautiful, tragic garden - a flower-strewn monument to the men and women who died here or were carried away by the orcs. The flows of raw mana that pass through the ruined spire - that once fed the mana sites nearby - coalesce through several of the trees and vines now growing here, producing rare crystalline fruit that function as crystal mana.

The profusion of life and crystal mana will quickly fade as the surge of magic subsides, but part of it could be harnessed with a web of mithril and weirwood. Such a structure would require a commission - whether from a Senator, or the Bearer of an Imperial Wayleave hardly matters. It would cost 10 wains each of mithril and weirwood, and 20 crowns for additional rare components. It would take a season to complete, and at the end of that time produce a sinecure and an Imperial title - Evenstar Defender perhaps - who would receive a seasonal bounty of 7 crystal mana and 13 random healing herbs to do with as they wished. Such a title could be appointed by declaration of the Imperial Conclave, or by unanimous decision of the Urizen senators, depending on the motion raised.

Eye of Serenael

  • In Miaren, the opportunity to create a great work that will provide herbs to mana sites and crystal mana to herb gardens across the territory

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are several strong regio in Miaren aligned with the Spring realm. One of the most powerful - the Eye of Serenael - lies on the outskirts of modern Seren, the largest Navarr settlement in the Empire. With the surge of magic running through regio aligned with Spring, a troubling fountainhead of raw magical energy and seething fertility is seeping from the regio. The energy pooling here is not dangerous as such, but occasionally it discharges in bursts of spontaneous spring magic bringing sudden uncontrolled plant growth, violent weather shifts, and the occasional ruination of crated goods.

The Navarr are the masters of channelling, containing, and gently herding Spring magic - and of harnessing its vibrant fecundity. An elderly vate passing through Miaren with her striding, suggests a way that the wellspring of magic could be used to the benefit of the nation. The trods of Miaren are old and well-walked, and well suited to drawing Spring magic along their length. By building a suitable structure over the regio, its magic could be safely guided in such a way that all the steadings of Miaren could potentially benefit.

She suggests a squat labyrinth of white granite, carved with swirling designs symbolic of the trods that criss-cross the Navarr territory could be built, and planted with weirwood saplings from the golden trees. Such a structure would require 35 wains of white granite and 35 wains of weirwood to build, a suitable commission, and 140 crowns. It would take six months to build but once complete it would safely channel the magic of the Eye of Serenael - and potentially several of the smaller regio - throughout Miaren. The result would be that every mana site in the territory would be infused with life - and every herb garden would be infused with magical plants whose essence could be harvested to provide crystal mana. This would mean every herb garden would share in a seasonal bounty of 36 crystal mana, and every mana site would share in a bounty of 54 random herbs.

Heart of the Tempest

The effects of the surging Spring regio are not uniformly positive. The Heart of the Tempest in Mieriada in Miekarova has begun to expand. it is spreading slowly - perhaps no more than a handful of paces each week in fits and starts - but expand it is. There is a wildness at its heart, and the strange plant-like creatures that dwell within its tangled thickets have been seen abroad beyond its woody boundary. There are some reports that they are spiriting away lone travelers and taking them back to the woods. There is some concern - more than one mystic has endured troubling dreams about the Heart of the Tempest in recent years. There is a worry that a hitherto unknown sovereign may lurk at its heart.

At the moment there seems to be no immediate remedy to the slow, careful expansion of the peculiar woodland.

Limited Opportunity

The three opportunities to commission structures in Hahnmark, Redoubt, and Miaren are only available while the Spring regio continue to behave peculiarly. It is likely that the flood will have abated by the Spring Equinox, so any opportunity that is not taken during the Winter Solstice is likely to be lost.

Resolution

During the Winter Solstice, the Imperial Senate voted to construct Seren's Whispering Garden, taking advantage of the opportunity to channel the energy of the Eye of Serenael.

Following the Winter Solstice, the Heart of the Tempest ceased expanding and over the course of several weeks the forests became quiescent - or at least as quiescent as forests in Varushka ever become.

The tide of Spring magic subsides in the weeks following the Winter Solstice. The opportunities to harness its power - whether through embracing dangerous magic or creating structures to channel spring-tainted mana - are no longer available.