Tree of ice (conjunction)
As dawn broke across the trees below her, she began to move in a slow circle around the prone Pietro. As she moved, she touched him on the forehead; on his lips; on each shoulder; on either side of his chest; on his navel; on each shin. As the sun peeked above the horizon for the first time, she began to sing a quiet bubbling song weaving nine words of power over and over in time with her flowing gestures.
Iosca leaned close to Yani, and whispered reassuringly:
"Jacova is evoking the power of the Tree of Ice," she told the boy's father. "It will purge the last of the sickness from your son. You must not become afraid at what you see - the venom must flow out of his body. It may look as if she is hurting him, but she is not."
Yani nodded jerkily, his face pale, his eyes red from crying.
"Is she powerful enough to do this by herself?" he asked, haltingly, not wanting to appear ungrateful, but concerned nonetheless.
"Yes, you need not worry. She is a master of this magic, she has performed it many times. The Tree of Ice will melt and flow through little Pietro, and where it has passed there will be no more poison. Trust us. In this place, at this time, before the Tree, there is nothing so corrupt that Jacova cannot purify it."
The magician's song had become louder as the onlookers whispered among themselves, her gestures wider, swifter, and more joyous. The sun was nearly above the horizon when her bubbling, liquid song was rudely interrupted.
A shudder ran through the Tree of Ice, and then cracks began to appear revealing the mithril framework beneath. Before either magician or father could move, great chunks of ice began to slough off the Tree, like calving glaciers. Jacova desperately tried to maintain focus on her ritual, but was knocked to the ground when one of the boughs snapped off completely, striking her face. She disappeared from sight behind the bier.
Iosca ran to her aid, arm raised to protect her own face from flying shards of ice. She stifled a whimper when she saw that Jacova was not moving, blood pumping from a ruined face and madly twisted shoulder.
Whispering a line from the Rhyme of the Bear to steady her nerves, she swiftly began a healing invocation. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Yani covering his son's prone body with his own, shielding him.
Immediately she knew something was wrong. Her stomach twisted in her belly, and a freezing chill ran through her. There was an unspeakable taste in her mouth something ... impossible to put into words how ... like bile and salt and rotten milk. She clamped her teeth tight and rasped the last few words of the spell, sending healing energies through Jacova. She was able to prevent her gorge rising for long enough to see the bleeding slow and the torn skin and flesh begin to knit before she was forced to turn aside and vomit her early breakfast onto the flagstones of the Izlechivaya Dvor.Pausing only to wipe her mouth, she called for Yani to come help her move the heavy length of ice and metal that pinned Jacova to the stone. She spared a glance for the broken tree, and for a moment in the early morning light it appeared to run with thick, rotten blood. She swore under her breath, but this was a problem for another time. For now, she had lives to save.
It appears that the Wanderer has aligned with the constellation of the Fountain, with pronounced and unexpected effects. Perhaps it is simply the usual unpredictable influence of the Flame-in-the-Dark, or perhaps it is something more - for any conjunction of the Wanderer by default includes a conjunction of the nameless star that now accompanies it.
As the Fountain rises above the horizon with the dawning of Spring, something corrupt is rising with it - and may well continue to rise until spring turns to summer.
Whatever magical tides are being reflected in this alignment, it seems that it reflects a negation or corruption of the constellation, associated as it is with both life-giving water, and with the wellspring idea of beginnings.
Those who have tried to draw on the life-giving waters have described those waters as "tainted" - and spoken of a thin film of "filth" that smothers the surface of the water. The experience of performing certain rituals, or casting certain spells, causes nausea - and sometimes even more potent malignant effects.
Astronomantic scholars are worried, and almost without exception blame the new star for this apparent warping of the Fountain's natural meaning. Yet it is not merely an astronomantic phenomenon. As with every conjunction, the stars are as much reflecting a wider magical shift as causing that shift through their movement. Dramaturgists report that both the Witch and the Garden resonate particularly closely with this astral arrangement, leading to bouts of stomach sickness that incapacitate performers, or attempts to employ the Garden stymied by rotting backdrops and broken magic. Those who favour rune magic speak of sticky residue that comes from nowhere to taint their runestones, oozing from the surface of Evrom, Cavul, or Rhyv.
That this is a negative conjunction seems without question, but it is not without potential advantages.
Unlike many conjunctions, this strange alignment has implications for those who engage in spellcasting as well as for ritual magicians.
Any magician casting the spells heal, restore limb, purify, swift heal, or purge suffers an additional roleplaying effect whenever they do so - they experience a sensation of nausea brought on by some combination of disgusting, rotting tastes and odours, or the sensation of being spattered with something noisome and unpleasant.
This doesn't prevent the casting of the spell, but leaves the magician feeling ill - and the more spells they cast in a short period, the more unwell they will be left feeling.
This effect only applies if the magician is actually casting the spell - magic items that duplicate the effect of these spells without using wording such as "cast (the spell) as if you knew it" or "cast the spell X times per day" can be used normally.
During the coming event certain ritual magic is easier to perform - but at a price.
Attempts to perform rituals that heal or purify living creatures bring with them sensations of sickness, fetid rot, and corruptive taint. It is as if a thin film of vile scum lies between the ritualist and their magic. While magicians can penetrate this yielding barrier easily, the sensation of doing so is disturbing and unpleasant, often giving the ritualist a feeling of being "unclean" or nauseous. Performing rituals that create venom or sickness bring the same awareness, but the experience is a less nauseating and more tempting - any ritualist engaged in such a ritual feels an urge to embrace the poison they are evoking and draw strength from it.
Rather than trying to keep the taint at bay and work their magic in spite of it, a ritualist can choose to open themselves to it instead, risking their own health to gain additional power.
Any contributor who is about to perform one of the effected rituals can tell the referee that they wishes to embrace the taint. They will gain a temporary one rank bonus for that performance of the ritual, but in the process they will become sickened; the referee will give them a card detailing the effects of the taint. This option is only available if they are not already suffering the taint from a previous ritual.
The rituals in Imperial Lore which are effected by this conjunction are:
- Spring Blessing of New Spring, Blood of the Hydra, The Hands of Sacred Life, Fountain of Life, Rampant Growth, Chirurgeon's Healing Touch, Vitality of Rushing Water, Hands of the Healer, Touch of Vile Humours, Unending Cascade of Blood's Fire, Curse of Gangrenous Flesh, Fetid Breath of Teeming Plague, Rivers of Life, Rivers Run Red
- Day Ascetic Star of Atun