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Tosia stopped, unsure of whether to turn left or right. "What do you think?" she asked Threppnybott, but he didn't respond, only wrinkled his nose a little as if to share her uncertainty. "Left then" she announced, and the two of them set off. She'd gone left yesterday, and that had led to a dead end, but maybe this time it would be different.

They walked on a little further, Threppnybott chatting the whole time about a celebration he'd personally witnessed for a coming of age in the Vale of Green Leaves. Unfortunately the way led to another dead end, but this time the passage looped round a large oak tree and the only way onwards was back the way they'd come. Tosia shrugged, and looked at Threppnybott but he just scratched behind his ear; he had no more idea of how to get through the maze than she did.

There was nothing for it, so they walked round the tree, and then twice more round for good luck, and then carried on their way. By the time they were leaving the oak behind, Threppnybott had finished his story of the celebration and was recounting a tale he'd heard of brigands on the roads near the Castle of White Sand. It was a gory tale of murder and robbery, and he got quite animated in the telling of it, his feet pounding the earth as he jumped around with excitement relating the running battle that had ensued between the merchant's schlacta and the robbers.

Fortunately the way back was quite different to the way there. There were openings in the thick hedgerow, one to the left and one to the right. Threppnybott cocked his head to one side, as if pondering the choices, but Tosia had already decided that today they were going to go left, so they took that branch. But it only led back to the Oak Tree which was annoying. Tosia had wanted to hear the rest of Threppnybott's story about the bandits and now she wouldn't get to hear how it ended until tomorrow. Still there was nothing for it, ending up back where you started was always how it ended.

She leaned down and kissed Threppnybott on his nose. "See you tomorrow" she said as the hare vanished.

"Ma! Da!" Tosia shouted as she sat bolt upright. "I've had that dream again..."

Zoria, Paragon of Wisdom, sorceress of ancient days, who commanded the birds and the beasts to serve.
Click for audio version


The Maze of Zoria has been consecrated with True Liao. The Varushkan national assembly charged Illya Nikovitch Volkov the Guardian of the Maze of Zoria, to perform the task. The great circle of trees, vines, and dense plants has been infused with the Dagger of the Mind, complementing and enchanting the existing magic of the ancient maze. Did Zoria herself build it? Legends say she did, and that she laid the enchantment across it that means that the narrow, winding, branching passages must be traversed alone, and that ensures no two pilgrims take the same route to the centre. Some people assume that the quicker one completes the maze, the wiser one is, but perhaps the truly Wise are those who know the opposite to be true. They travel judiciously, taking the time to experience the maze, and arrive safely.

The consecration has had several powerful, but subtle, effects. Some are focused on the Maze itself; some on the Guardian chosen to protect it; and some on the entire nation of Varushka.

The Twisted Paths

  • Traversing the Maze of Zoria is an intensely personal spiritual experience that can leave someone permanently changed
  • For the next year there is an opportunity to visit the Maze and emerge with new goals or insights into your character

The Maze is already a place of pilgrimage; the Imperial Senate expanded the small shrine there a year and a half ago. With the urging of the Varushkan national assembly, more pilgrims have been taking the journey to visit the Maze, and traverse its twisting paths. Travelling through the Maze of Zoria is a personal, solitary experience; while two people might enter together they are quickly separated by apparently mundane means - they look away from their partner for a moment and realise they are now alone.

Some those who venture into the Maze. Most return with a new appreciation for the myriad possibilities that swirl around them, and a profound sense that nothing is impossible if one can find the right question. A few emerge altered by the experience, with a new sense of purpose, or a new understanding of themselves. A handful emerge with their sense of who they are and what is important to them shattered: Wisdom is not always knowing the answer, it is finding the right question. Sometimes those questions are difficult to hear.

Regardless of the outcome of judgement 56, we, the Varushkan national assembly, urge the virtuous to pilgrimage to the inspirational tomb of Zoria to test their wisdom and share their stories of the paragon of Wisdom.

Illya Nikovitch Volkov, Varushkan Assembly, Autumn Equinox 384YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 212-0)

With the true consecration in place, pilgrims have been drawn to Miekarova to experience it for themselves. Most who do so emerge having had a powerful spiritual experience that leaves them profoundly aware of their ability to solve problems and overcome challenges.


  • For the next year any player can decide their character has traversed the Maze of Zoria and emerged changed
  • There are no mechanical effects; this is an opportunity to make changes to your characters' goals or personality

Until the end of the Winter Solstice 385YE, any player can decide their character has travelled to Miekarova between events and traversed the Maze of Zoria. Most who do so will emerge energised by the power of the Wisdom consecration, with a profound sense that nothing is impossible and that they can solve any problem if they ask the right questions. You may also decide that your character has had a more transformative experience.

Characters changed by the Maze receive unexpected insight into their own strengths and failings; personal truths or secrets that they have been hiding from; beliefs that they profess to hold but that actually they do not agree with; traditions or customs that they have used as a way to avoid taking necessary action; routines or ways of thinking that have become ingrained; and so on. The Maze offers inspiration or guidance that helps them take a different path, address things that are holding them back, or seek out a new start away from the baggage of the past. In this it is similar to the dreams that a priest dedicated to wisdom can create with liao, but much more personal and powerful. Whatever form it takes, this spiritual effect pushes a character to take action of some kind - the urgings of Wisdom are not passive or introspective.

You're free to make up your own story of your visit to the Maze but the important thing to appreciate is that the changes it prompts come from within the pilgrim themselves. There are no external forces at play here - no visions, no ghosts, no whispering voices. Rather, the Maze helps those who traverse it to commune with their own souls without the protection of self-delusion or self-deception. A character will only experience this effect once - repeated visits to the Maze will not create further numinous experiences.

It is possible for your character to have gone before the Winter Solstice 384YE, provided they they didn't go to Broceliande, Rachensgrab, or to map the Sea of Snow.

Over the next year, these powerful experiences will become fewer and farther between, and by the start of the Winter Solstice 385YE this opportunity will have faded entirely.

Laws of Dominion

  • The Guardian of the Maze of Zoria has gained a number of innate powers arising from their connection to the Maze

The Maze of Zoria is something of a mystery. In the weeks after the consecration, the Guardian begins to experience a peculiar effect. They find themselves dreaming often of the Maze even when they are not present, and wherever they are they can sense roughly the direction to the physical location of the Maze. Zoria was a Sorceress - a term that had a very different meaning in pre-Imperial, pre-Conclave times. As such she no doubt understood the many laws that underlie magic. There are many such laws, but in this case it is the Law of Dominion that is most relevant.

The Guardian now gains a number of personal powers that defy easy explanation. As long as they are recognised as the sole custodian of the Maze, the Law of Dominion allows them to draw on these powers even when they are not physically near it. They are not the result of any legal change; the Senate has no ability to create similar effects. They arise purely from the interaction of the true consecration, the Maze of Zoria, and the Law of Dominion. These powers are explained in more detail on the Guardian of the Maze of Zoria title page but include:

  • The ability to perform the insight ceremony three times every day without needing to use liao, know the ceremony, or be dedicated.
  • Their aura is permanently marked with a unique effect visible to those able to see such things.
  • They can create powerful personal auras on themselves that cannot be removed.
  • They can draw on the knowledge of the Maze to create unique potions, even if they are not an apothecary.

These powers are lost if the Guardian loses their title; and gained by their successor shortly after their title is confirmed. More details can be found on the title page

The Dream of Wisdom

  • The Guardian can traverse Zoria's Maze in their dreams
  • Once this year they may receive an oracular dream by consuming a dose of liao

The Guardian of Zoria's Maze regularly dreams of traversing the labyrinth - the walls of twisted branches and close-pressing hedges; the silence; the dark sky above; the little creatures nesting in the bushes or scuttling between their roots. On certain nights these dreams are especially vivid and sometimes - rarely - the Guardian can bring back something more concrete from these ethereal visions.

Once this year (until the end of the Autumn Equinox 385YE), the Guardian can choose to ponder a specific question while settling down to sleep. They consume a dose of liao and dream of being in the Maze of Zoria. During that dream, they receive inspiration and guidance relating to the question they pondered. This ability can only be used by a character with the dedication skill, and involves a technique similar to that used to create oracular dreams - but subtly different in a way the Guardian cannot explain to anyone else and which they cannot reproduce once they surrender dominion over the Maze.

The Guardian will only be able to employ this oracular vision once this year.

OOC Note: To use this power, the Guardian writes their question down, and takes it along with a dose of liao to GOD who will register it and pass it along to the game team. When the Guardian retires for the night they will dream about the Maze, and about the question that is perplexing them. Next morning, before going into character, they can go to GOD and pick up the details of their oracular dream vision. The dream can provide guidance about problems or situations relating to the past or present, but might also in theory provide unreliable information about the immediate future. Obviously, given the limitations of the plot team, this ability is only really useful when used to ask about ongoing plot events related to the campaign - we don't know where you left your other sock.

A Law of Bonds

  • The Thule have confirmed they have one of Zoria's relics and are prepared to sell it back to the Empire

Zoria was by all accounts a powerful magician, and knew many secrets. Legends say that she taught ancient humans the secret of domesticating animals, as well as the secrets of agriculture, and there are plenty of stories of how her mastery of beasts allowed her to offer aid or overcome challenges. In many of these stories, she wields various tools that she has crafted with her superior understanding. Their properties change depending on the needs of the tale but there are three constants; a staff through which she wields magical power, a star that she wears at her throat that grants her insight, and a belt of protection. The circumstantial similarity to the archmage regalia may not be coincidental.

Two of the three items are believed lost; and finding them now will be a challenge by itself. Legends suggest that one of the three had fallen into the hands of the Thule orcs of Otkodov in pre-Imperial times. To the surprise of many, after a long delay, Rak Who-Speaks-For-The-Dragons-Undivided is happy to confirm that the Dragon Hinodir, of the Bright Orb, has Zoria's Staff of Pure Vision. Rak shrugs off preliminary attempts to find out how Hinodir came by Zoria's staff saying that it is a tale for another time. He hints that Zoria is not unknown to the Thule, and strongly implies that Hinodir and Zoria were contemporise. He goes so far to suggest that the Dragon knew the Sorceress personally. That seems remarkably unlikely, the Dragons are old, but few Imperial historians believe they are that old.

What is not in doubt is that the Thule say they have Zoria's staff. Rak refuses to say what the staff does, beyond the fact that it is a magical artefact infused with star metal that has "minor powers that some magicians would find useful." Attempts to push the ambassador further are rebuffed - he is very clear that if the Empire wants it back, then it is the priceless historical relic of Zoria they would be buying, not some magicians focus. If the Empire want to buy a magical focus from the Thule, the Thule are happy to sell them one; but if they want Zoria's infamous Staff they will have to pay accordingly.

And the price is not cheap. Rak says Hinodir of the Bright Orb will accept not one ring more or less than 120 thrones, 4 crowns and 11 rings for the staff. Rak is clear that the coins will not leave the Empire, the ambassador is under instructions to dispose of any payment they receive alongside the embassies existing funds to buy food and send it north. But the amount is very important; it must be exactly 120 thrones, 4 crowns, and 11 rings. Rak can provide no information as to why such a precise total is required; Hinodir of the Bright Orb has not seen fit to confide in him and he does not question.

The offer is apparently good for only a single season. The Thule's needs will change after Winter. They might be prepared to negotiate other terms once Spring comes, but the Empire should expect the price to go up under those circumstances.

The Naming of the Beasts

  • The beasts that frequent the Maze of Zoria appear to communicate with devotees of Wisdom in waking dreams
  • They provide information about the sovereigns of Varushka

Zoria knew the names of all the beasts, and it turns out that this may have been a metaphor of some kind. According to many of the tales that reach the Maze, she was able to treat with powerful supernatural agencies without fear because she knew their names - because she understood their nature. Many Varushkans believe she was the first cabalist, although some of the stories of the Suaq disagree and say that she was a daughter of Sermersuaq, and practiced the lore of the icewalkers. Modern scholars ponder on the similarity between a figure that treats with supernatural powers, and the role of the archmages, and wonder if it is a coincidence.

The maze has always been a haven of wildlife, passerine birds of every kind are seen and especially heard here, releasing their mellifluous songs into the twisting nest of branches. Anyone who visits the maze will usually encounter a plethora of rodents and mustelids of every kind, as well as rabbits, hares and other small creatures, many of which are surprisingly noisy. The Maze has always been like that, but something about the aura created by the consecration seems to enhance this effect in some way. The dawn chorus becomes positively deafening in the Maze as a thousand different birds, many rarely seen in this part of Varushka, compete to make themselves heard.

All of these creatures seem to be usually calm while they are near the Maze. Not tame as such, but much more tolerant of humans than they might otherwise be. Visitors find the tiny inhabitants of the maze will take food left for them, and even take it from the hand if the feeder keeps still. The birds and animals in the Maze seem to be particularly drawn to the Guardian, flocking to them, and regaling them with song and sounds. It is almost as if some legacy of the paragon's hand is at work on the Maze.

The strange side-effect seems charming and heart-warming to many, but it slowly transpires that something more profound may be at work. The Guardian and those who spend time working to support the Maze find their sleep is interrupted by bouts of lucid dreaming. In these dreams, they are walking in the maze, attended by the birds and other animals that dwell there, just as they do during the day, except now one of the birds is not singing to them, but talking to them. Tosia, the young daughter of one of the attendants recounts having the same vivid dream every night one week, of walking the maze accompanied by a hare she calls Threppnybott, who talks to her the entire time.

The waking dreams clearly seem to be connected with Zoria. The paragon was known to be able to command bird and beast, fish and fowl, so perhaps the dreams are not all that surprising. It's only when people start to compare what the dreams are about that something extraordinary is revealed. Most of the dreams are nothing but nonsense, talk of snowfalls in the mountains of Miechernya, or gossip about a wedding in a vale in Brez. But the one recurring theme seems to be the various sovereigns, particularly the most powerful ones that are capable of extending their influence beyond their vale to reach across Varushka.

Once it becomes clear that the dreams might be more than simply fervid imagination, people began to note them down and compare them with what little lore is known about the sovereigns. By pulling together these threads, the Guardian is able to start weaving a tapestry that depicts the sovereigns in all their terrible glory. If the dreams are to be trusted (and they certainly seem to agree with everything that is known about the sovereigns) then it presents the tantalising prospect that the Guardian might at long last be able to catalogue these terrible threats to the benefit of all.


  • A new opportunity is available to military units allowing them to confront monsters in Varushka

This fortuitous benefit may well be timely for there are multiple reports that the Wolves of Varushka are becoming more active. It's not clear until a week or so before the Winter Solstice but as people from different vales come together the stories are impossible to ignore. More ghoulish horrors lurking beneath the trees; more lupine plaguebringers spotted in the dark; more dubik active in the forests of Ossium and Karsk; more rusalka in the waters of the Semmerlak, and the rivers of Volodmartz and Karov. More tales of mora traveling the roads in the guise of merchants, or pilgrims.

The boyars have a tried and tested way to deal with such threats, sending their schlacta to clear the roads with steel axes and burning torches. As such the threat is not yet sufficient to cause significant problems for Varushka, but it most assuredly will do so if it continues to grow. What is causing the stirring of these creatures none can say. A few foolish schlacta suggest it might be linked to the true consecration of the Maze, but the idea holds little weight with those who study the stars and are learned in the ways of fate. It may be just as likely that the stirring of the sovereigns is what caused the true consecration of the Maze to take the form it has, they say.

The best efforts of the boyars to combat the growing danger mean that there is now a significant amount of new work available all across Varushka. There are opportunities for bands of mercenary schlacta and warden fellowships to be well paid in return for fighting these monsters; there are opportunities for Dawnish knights-errant in search of glory to make a name for themselves by dashing over the northern border of their nation and laying into the beasts of Varushka. OOC Note: Following the Winter Solstice, any Varushkan or Dawnish military unit can have an adventure that involves traveling to Varushka to confront monsters, protect vales, and escort travellers through dangerous territory. Adventure in Varushka is found on the independent action dropdown. In place of their normal production they will receive a mixture of money, forest, and mine resources from the boyars, merchant-boyars, and wise ones.

OOC Note on Sovereigns

  • We are going to update the wiki over the coming year with information on all the important sovereigns in Varushka in the same way we maintain a list of eternals
  • Players may still have a unique monster in their background that terrorises their vale, but is not powerful enough to be significant in Varushka and beyond

We have decided to change the way we treat sovereigns, to treat these powerful threats the way we treat the eternals. Over the coming year we will update the wiki with additional pages, one for each of the significant sovereigns that exist in Varushka. These threats are the most important ones, though tied to a single area like any sovereign, they are powerful enough to extend their influence far beyond those limits - to the borders of Varushka and beyond. We will try to include all the known information about a sovereign, including what is known about how it can be dealt with, what pacts it commonly agrees to, what monsters it commands, what kind of threat it represents and the range of powers at its command.

Our goal is to give our players much more information about the important sovereigns, to help new players enter the game on a more equal footing with players who have been playing for many years, and to give experienced players much more information to use when roleplaying so that wise ones and volhovs can talk knowledgeably about the threats these monsters represent. We want to provide players with a wealth of lore about these creatures. There will always be plenty of things you can discover about these sovereigns, but the very existence of these ageless monsters who threaten all of Varushka will not be one of them. It will also help us focus our plot-writers on using known threats in plots involving sovereigns so that players know more about what they are facing, which is more in keeping with the spirit of Empire's closed-world setting. We want our plot to focus on what beings like this are doing, not what they are.

Players are still free to create monsters in their background. We won't add these to the wiki, as they represent local threats that are important for that group's background and characterisation, and could be central to a player event, but they won't appear in the plot of Empire events run by us. We'll switch over our plot to focus on the existing sovereigns over time as we add information on them to the wiki.

The in-character explanation for this information surfacing is the transcription and publication of the dreams of the Guardian and the others who work at the Maze. As far as anyone can tell, the dreams appear to be accurate, the true liao consecration appears to have tapped into some ancient well of memories.

Despite what the wise ones may say about fate, this change has absolutely nothing to do with the stirring of these sovereigns - that is a completely different plot that is happening currently, we've included it here purely because it makes contextual sense to incorporate it alongside this news. This plot isn't connected to the consecration or the decision to change the way we handle sovereigns in any way.

Further Reading