Whispers through the Black Gate
Winter Magnitude 30
Performing the Ritual
Performing this ritual takes at least 2 minutes of roleplaying. During the ritual the casters must be in a strong Winter regio. This ritual can only be cast at sunset.
During the ritual, the ritualists must clearly name a single dead character. Under normal circumstances, at the completion of the ritual a spirit will be summoned. If a spirit appears, it may be:
- the spirit of the dead character, who may be questioned for up to ten minutes. They know whatever they knew while they were alive. This outcome is most likely when attempting to summon the recently deceased.
- a different spirit, who may be questioned for up to ten minutes. It is believed that such spirits represent dead people who had a connection of some sort to the deceased (however tenuous).
- a dangerous spirit or spirits that may attempt to harm the ritualists spiritually or even physically.
Spirits summoned by this ritual are only aware of the ritualists who performed the ritual. Under normal circumstances it will not leave the regio where the ritual was performed and any interaction must take place there.
The ritual may fail to summon anything at all. If this happens, no mana is spent but anything else expended in the summoning (potions, once-per-day items, the ability of the coven to perform rituals together) are still expended.
The casters cannot predict in advance with absolute certainty which will appear. The longer it has been since the named character died, the more likely it is that something other than that character's spirit will appear or that the ritual will simply fail. If the ritual is performed using the name of someone who is not dead, or it is not clear who is intended to be summoned, the ritual is most likely to fail or result in a hostile spirit.
It can be risky to summon someone who has been dead longer than a year. Certain items connected to the spirit in some fashion make this a less risky proposition. It is not possible to use just any item in this manner however; the detect magic spell will explicitly indicate if an item can be used as a focus for Whispers through the Black Gate, and who will be summoned if it is used in this fashion. Such items are generally usable only once however.
You may call an additional spirit by increasing the magnitude of the spell by 15 for each additional spirits. All spirits appear simultaneously and depart simultaneously.
The ritualists may consume up to 5 measures of liao as part of the ritual. Every measure consumed in this way reduces the magnitude of the ritual by 2.
If you plan to perform this ritual, you will need to let the main referee desk in GOD know at least two hours in advance, or longer if we need to track the player of a dead character down ourselves. If we are unable to obtain the player, or they do not wish their character to be summoned, one of the other outcomes will occur. If we are able to obtain the player then the first option will usually occur.
Dusk usually runs from half an hour before sunset, to half an hour after. If players wish to portray their dead characters, they should report to Monster at least half an hour before this period. Please check in GOD for the correct time for dusk for this event.
The player of a character who died while part of a sect bonded to a Litany of the Labyrinth will receive a slightly different briefing when playing their ghost. It is important that the player make sure the person briefing them knows this special circumstance exists.
Only items that explicitly mention they are a focus for this ritual can be used to help summon a long-dead character. It is still possible to attempt to call such a character without a focus, but it is significantly more risky to do so. The likelihood that the ritual will produce no effect, or summon an unexpected or dangerous spirit, increases the longer it has been since the target died.
This powerful ritual eases open the door of death for a short time, raising the spirit of a recently deceased person. In some ways, this ritual represents little more than a more than an advanced form of Voice for the dead; in other ways it is a profound alteration of the natural order. Priests and magicians alike are fascinated by the magic this ritual represents.
A spirit summoned with this ritual can be questioned about anything it knew when it was alive; it seems to possess all the memories and the personality of a deceased individual. Sometimes the spirit is unaware that it has died, especially if that death took place very suddenly or happened while the target was asleep. More often though, the spirit knows it has died and under what circumstances. Regardless, the spirit cannot speak about anything that has happened to it since it died. Attempts to learn more about the Labyrinth of Ages or the Howling Abyss have simply served to frustrate arcanists and theologians alike.
The spirit is only aware of the ritualists who performed the ritual; when it comes to questioning the dead, it is the magicians who must take the lead. Being able to see a departed loved-one, but unable to reach them, can be a profoundly upsetting experience for the living, and for the spirit once it realises a beloved spouse or child is present, but they they cannot see or hear them.
A conjured spirit appears to be at least slightly corporeal; it seems to possess a pseudo-body and if it is struck firmly it can be dispelled back to wherever it came from. Most spirits cannot physically interact with the living; only in the case of the rare malignant spirit have there been any reports of attacks and wounds on ritualists.
It is possible for a priest to use the exorcism ceremony to dismiss a spirit prematurely. In the case of most spirits called by this ritual, a single does of liao is usually sufficient; more malign or dangerous spirits may require a more potent exorcism however.
The most common use for this ritual is to call up the spirit of a murder victim to question them about the circumstances of their deaths. In such circumstances a magistrate is often present, but the ritualists must perform any interrogation themselves. The majority of magistrates treat the witness statements of the dead much as they would the living; they know there is no requirement that the conjured spirit tell the truth about what happened, and even though departed the spirit is likely to share the same motivations and prejudices it had when alive.
The ritual is expensive, and a little risky, but has also been used in the past to allow the living one final chance to speak to a departed loved one - or enemy - before the black gate closes forever. Likewise, it has been used on occasion to attempt to gather intelligence about a distant event or the plans of enemies, although such uses are frowned upon in general. During the Freedom Heresy the ruthless League general Sagio de Temeschwar had the spirit of a deceased briar warrior called up and proceeded to torment the spirit by describing in intense detail the tortures he was inflicting on the briar's still-living wife. While the general did not in fact have the woman present, so effective was his performance that the weeping spirit disclosed several key facts about the secessionist's plans. In a final act of cruelty for which he was widely criticised, Sagio let the spirit depart in the belief that his wife was still suffering unspeakable agony. His acts also reignited discussion of whether the ritual calls an actual spirit from the Labyrinth, or simply an echo of the target.
Sometimes this spirit calls up a malign spiritual presence that is a threat to the ritualists. Recorded incidents have included a mass possession by spirits that tried to drive a coven of landskeepers to acts of monstrous hatred, a horrible shadowy spectre that killed two of the magicians responsible for raising it before it could be dismissed; and a band of restless spirits whose anguished cries inflicted crippling weakness on the coven.
Occasionally the spirit that appears seems entirely unconnected to the target spirit. These events were dismissed as enigmatic anomalies until a Highborn steward of the dead named Esther of Highcastle drew parallels between two incidents and public records of liao visions. Her theory was that some of these spirits were echoes of past lives, although she could offer little explanation as to how and why this could occur. In other circumstances, the spirits summoned represent the ghosts of dead people who had a close connection to the intended target, although again why the ritual sometimes produces the "wrong" spirit is not understood. For example, there has been one incident where it appears that the dead individual's father answered the call of the ritual, and another where a member of the target's coven appeared rather than the dead person themselves.
Over the years, magicians have encountered the greatest difficulty calling forth paragons and exemplars. There are numerous explanations as to why the ritual often fails or produces unexpected results when used to try and call such spirits. First, many have been dead for considerable periods of time and the ritual becomes increasingly unreliable the longer someone has been dead if there is no appropriate focus - and such foci are very rare. Second, there is a belief that some of these spiritual inspirations "transcend" the bonds of death in some fashion. Finally, there is the unspoken awareness that some of these figures may not be entirely real, represent several distinct individuals, or simply have gone by different names when they were alive.
The Axou necromantia are without a doubt the most successful users of this ritual. In particular, they are adept at tracking down and making use of focal items to summon long-dead individuals. They are known to create a special kind of focus - a lekythos - that can be used multiple times to summon the same spirit, but such things must apparently be created when the desired spirit is still alive. Even they, however, are reported to not entirely understand how the ritual works. They do agree with Imperial scholars that it is not sufficient to simply have an item connected to the deceased when performing this ritual: such items may help mollify a spirit, or smooth communication with it, but unless the item has a special supernatural connection divined with detect magic, it is no guarantee the correct spirit will be summoned if the target has been dead for more than a year.
This ritual is usually accompanied by solemn music, incense and chants recounting as much detail as possible the life of the target spirit. It is usually accompanied by a design laid out on the ground, often with braziers or candles. at key points of the design.
Fire and light often play a key role, serving as a beacon for the dead spirit to 'find the way' back to the mortal realm. Similarly, some ritualists like to have things that belonged to the target in life, or people important to them. Imperial orc shamans ideally want to have someone from the same legion, while Freeborn ritualists prefer the presence of someone of the same family, especially a child or parent. Likewise, many Navarr include small amounts of blood in this ritual, the smell of which help attract the attention of the spirit and remind it of its life; Marcher spirits might include an offering of food or drink, an action that leads to the ritual sometimes being referred to as The Feast for the Dead.
It is important to realise that the ritual is not technically complete when the spirit appears. Many ritualists consider it to be only half-way through at this point. The spirit must still be addressed, and agreeing in advance how this will happen can save time and prevent confusion. Some ritualists include an hourglass to track the amount of time available before the spirit must depart.
At the end of the ritual, the spirit should be formally dismissed - sent back into the Labyrinth or the Abyss - and some ritualists believe that if the spirit is not treated well it is more likely to become one of the restless dead. The end of the ritual is often marked by the mournful tolling of bells, as the spirit departs.