Gifted Senses

What do gifted senses feel like?  Variable.  That’s the overly short description.  Though most people share a significant overlap. As described elsewhere the brains of gifted have adapted to interpret what they feel.  Nerve signals, and sensations from external sources, moving along existing pathways, and through evolved structures.  Yet given the variability, I will focus on the average, common experience.

People, and animals.  They feel warm, not just when in contact with them, but up to several feet away depending on the gifts of both parties.  Anything more complex, or nuanced than this sense of warmth implies more than life, but rather gift.  Some argue gift and life are effectively the same thing, and there is plenty of evidence to support the claim.  An excess then in this hypothesis begins to open doors, possibilities, an ability to reach out with that gift and touch forces outside of the self.

One of the problems however with satisfying this common hypothesis into a theory is testability.  Ambient variations in the energies found in gift, and living things are variable.  Gifted people like living on ley lines, and nexuses, not simply because it benefits them in practice, but more subtly because it subdues everything else.

Magic feels either hot, or cold.  Depending on the balance of aether uptake, or entropic backlash present in the spell.  Most spells feel cold, because they work with ambient energy, and avoid significant aether uptake.  A pure aether spell does not simply feel hot, but unnerving, unstable, with a strong entropic aura around it as energy levels try to normalize.

Plants feel delicate.  Like webs of warmth around inert mater.  Dryads and shaped plant life tend to have thicker tendrils of warmth running through them, often deep into the heart of even a mighty tree that would normally be entirely inert feeling on the inside.

Stone, and other dense mater.  Feels like a pressure near by.  Gifted can sense the outline of their environment, even the inert parts of it, if they are dense enough.  Being blind, or a lack of light would only marginally impact a gifted individuals ability to navigate.

Wood and cloth.  Dead organic mater has a lingering texture, not generally unpleasant, but more noticeable even than stone.  Pure synthetic fabrics that have not been created through a magical process can be felt more by how they disrupt the air.  Almost noisy, and rough.  Synthetic fabrics formed by magic tend to feel smooth, cool, and oddly enticing.  Enchanted clothing is actually a sensual satin like feeling.  This pleasantness is in part why Clarions do not like to wear enchanted clothing near the skin.  Direct exposure to entropic effects is however the most commonly expressed reason.

Auras are not seen.  This may seem contrary, and most gifted when first told this may be bewildered, but it is easily demonstrated to them.  Just have them close their eyes.  A strong gift still sees their world even through closed eyes.  This is due to the synesthesia applying to multiple parts of their cognition at the same time.  While they feel in an extension of their skin the presence, the fine, and complex detail of the world also hijacks the visual centers of the brain.

To a gifted their sight extends beyond the peripheries of physical vision.  They catch things “out of the corner of their eye,” that are actually behind them, and to the side.  That being said gifted have a blind spot directly at the back, and any more than a foot away.  This is literally a shadow cast by their skeletal structure.  At best they can get a sense of there, or not there, but it is very hard to say more.  This flaw however is countered quite effectively by defensive spells extending their perceptions, but it is still at best, their worst area of perception.  Reduced to an abstract collection of lumps.

Casting a spell comes with a lot more sensations than simply being in the presence of it, and varies by the method used.  Most new spell work is done by hand.  Repetitive motions forming the basis for mnemonic association, physical skill helping to build structure.  When casting in this way one feels sensations flowing along the skin in the direction of applied energy, often a cool sensation like a breeze.

The more gestural a spell becomes, the more of a rush is typically felt through the hand, or limb casting it.  Some times electric sensations, particularly when working with electric charges, or rushes of tingling, cold, warmth, all depending on what is being cast.

Runes, and traditional patterns of magic are not strictly required.  There are physical laws governing the underlying behavior of spells, traditional magic is just a single, highly robust set of patterns that work.  There are others.  Battle mages work to obscure their patterns, and change the structures they use to protect themselves from other mages dismantling their work.  They retrain the meaning of runes, and do other things to effectively encrypt their protections.

Well practiced spells, particularly ones centered on the caster give the same sensation as hand work, but distributed over the body.  One can feel a web of spell lines forming off of the skin, and in some cases even a vague abstraction of self.  As though the caster is becoming the magic.  While maintaining a spell, particularly a defensive array of spells, a caster has extended, and exaggerated senses through their work.  If they release the spell however it will begin to decay, and they will lose most or all awareness of it.  It may even feel less present than the work of other casters, since it still has a harmony derived from their own presence.

“Living Magic,” aka living energy is warm.  Different living things require different frequencies of applied energy to heal, enhance, or shape.  Healing your own kind is easiest, animals, and plants are harder, as you must attuned to them.  Generally speaking all living energy is compatible, but the wrong type will feel odd, even unpleasant, and most often be less effective.  Clarion healing practices tend to be “close” but the healer is extolled to remain in their own personal frequency, and not attune to the one they are healing.  This makes the process much less pleasant for the healed, and even if the healer tries, makes them far less able to subdue pain in the patient.  Clarion healing can actually even feel cold and hot at the same time.

Lycian healers practice attunement with the healed, this creates feedback loops between the nervous systems of the two parties.  They go beyond merely trying to subdue any pain, or discomfort, but to impart pleasant sensations that they will feel mirrored in the point of contact.  With deep enough attunement full Mirroring may begin to occur.  In which they feel phantom sensations of what they are doing in the same part of their own body.  Such mirroring is rare except among lovers, who when using such practices to impart pleasure may begin to feel a sense of the other persons physical sensations.

Healed, or otherwise imbued tissue is more sensitive, and aware.  This can significantly exaggerate sensation.  Sore tired muscles can be restored to a less tired state.  Strained tendons mended.  Bone fractures repaired.  This does not just apply to soldiers, and lovers, but also to pack animals.  Druids, who are more practiced in attuning to non-human energies will often tend to pack animals on long, arduous caravan trips.  The best caravans travel with at least one mage, one druid, and one conventional healer.  Though some times generalists will do, occupying two or more of these roles.  Some caravan masters swear by two generalists instead, particularly when traveling through safer lands.  Most however prefer the reliability of a full compliment on retainer.

Healing an animal is different than healing a person.  Animals will panic if the healer does not attune, and attuning makes the healer (usually druid) feel a bit more animal like.  Often hungry, and absent minded, wanting a nap, or detached.  Clarions generally will not perform such services under any circumstances.

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The Ribbon Dance

RibbonDance

The burlesque practice of the ribbon, or cloth dance is of unknown origin.  Some try to trace the practice to Laset the Living Wave, and an emulation of the forms she would weave through the air with water, by using scarves or ribbons.

Other proposed origins range from; A spring ceremony from pre-ascension lands, brought back to Osyrae by retreating conquers. A corruption of ancient southern Anderhale shamanistic wind practices.  Then there is the implication it was always what it appears to be, and that the modern form of the art is a convergent evolution of many cultural influences around the shifting roll of women in post shamanistic ages.

The practice itself is indeed strange on a mechanical level.  Baring aspects of elemental channeling, and magical spell craft.  The cloth is typically worn on to stage, and stripped away in fluttering displays that end with the sheer fabric wound in spells that each have the same basic spiraling imperative, and that these are caught further in curls of air, and tugs on the spell filaments by the dancer.

From the perspective of an audience the result can seem quite chaotic, twisting, and spiraling with the music, though from high above a skilled dancer’s arrangements may resemble flowers, or pinwheels rolling through each other.  The most capable dancers will at the end of their performance be restored to their clothed state, weaving the swirling fabric back together onto their bodies.

What is most contrary about the art form is that while it its roots can be found most often in historic subjugation, it moved up through pre-imperial courts, placing talented women at the sides of kings, and lords.  Then fell out of favor through the imperial era.  Modernly the practice is maintained primarily by ancient lines of practitioners, or ladies of high born houses, who have embraced the art as a form of rebellion.  Even an escape from the shackles of polite society, where their great gifts let them live like queens among the fringes of wealthy underworld society.

The infamous Red Cloister of western Lycia contain the only known school where the art form is taught formally, and not handed down as tradition practitioner to practitioner.  This particular derivation of the practice is amongst the most elaborate.  The presence of multiple practitioners in close quarters has lead to new traditions of dance involving two, three, and even five dancers.  Lycia is one of the few lands where men who perform the dance are not uncommon, and the royal court of the land will invite the cloisters best dancers to perform a ceremony marking the eve of the spring equinox.  As of 638 E.R. the young King Consort of Lycia has danced in seven of the past ten spring ceremonies.

One of the most limiting factors in the spread of the practice is that it requires a not insubstantial amount of gift.  In most post imperial societies, women with enough gift to perform also have other lucrative avenues of success, and so the practice has endured only out of love of the art form, or tradition.

Arcana: Overview

The Arcana are a topic of much debate in learned circles.  Rational minds tell us that a deck of 49 painted, named, and numbered cards, shuffled and drawn, cannot reasonably predict our future or present.  Indeed there is a great degree of verifiable randomness in the process.  Yet extensive studies with known criteria have historically shown a probability defying frequency of literal interpretation alignment between knowable future events, and cards, both in their conventional, and inverted positions.

From this several interesting things derive:

Arcanists.  These are practitioners devoted first to a mystical practice, and secondly to rational exploration of this ideology.  The Arcana are chief amongst these, and lends its name more broadly to a class of functional but poorly understood practices.  Particularly those of an expressly religious nature.  Commonly used to describe a devoted Clarion or Lycian healer who also practices magic.

Arcana Cult.  A broader term for a collection of actions taken, without understanding why or what parts of the process work.  Areas of fraught analytical endeavor.  Druidic and Shamanistic practices are categorized as such by scholars.

Arcane† Magic.  Is sometimes applied to the whole of Mage practices.  As so much convention and tradition weight the practice under almost mystical dogmatic patterns, when there is little evidence that these are entirely beneficial.  Save to avoid mistakes already made.

Card List:

I II III IV V VI VII
House of Suns TheSun_Single.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png FallenStar_Single NoCard.png Void_Single.png
House of Nobles NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png Lovers NoCard.png
House of Peasants HandSingle.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png
House of Works TheSword_Single.png NoCard.png Tower_Single NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png
House of Beasts NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png
House of Paths NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png TheCrown_Single.png SevenRivers_Single.png
House of Seasons NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png
Try clicking on a card for more information.  Work in progress.

† In the original Palentian sense ‘Arcune’ would literally be a deep inward, or concave shape.  The etymology appears to be convergent with arc, cave, and cove, as well others.  It appears to have distantly referred to a pouch or box, but by the time of the Maji arrival had come also imply a hidden place.  Aen on the other hand in some Pre-Ascension dialects appears to have meant to close, or shut.  As such the modern Arcane has a likely transitional sense of, “a very closed box.”

Functional Investigation:

One of the more studied aspects of the Arcana is that each card in enchanted, not simply for durability, but through a ritual process producing identifiable differences in each card.  Examination of the process, enchantment, and ritual shows sequential patterns, than align well with traditional groupings of cards into sets of seven.  This also means that a seer practiced enough with their cards can easily identify what a card is, before it is revealed.  Many advanced seers hold that one places the cards not as they are drawn, but as they belong.  That in sorting the random, one finds the pattern.  That when the noise is filtered out, the words spoken are clear.

Even as this stands, the literal order shows statistical significance.  Here it is presumed that something poorly understood in the enchantment variations is interacting with an unknown force.  That some form of probable connection can be drawn between this force, and how the cards shuffle.  Some have even tried to imply that the patterns are closely related to the structure of Storm Monk practices.  That perhaps the cards do not shuffle as they are drawn at all, but that until they are seen, exist in an indeterminate state.  The right stack finding the seer’s hand from their interpretation of what they have already subconsciously seen.  Pulling meaning from their own gift.  This is often promoted along side the mnemonic device theory of prophetic verse.  That it is a tool to interpret what the seer has already seen, to draw forth precognitive memory.

One of the stranger theories put forth (with scarce evidence) is that highly skilled seers can some how manipulate what card is atop the stack.  Slight of hand, even has been suggested to explain some seer’s knack for delivering the card they want.  Though statistical aberrations remain prevalent even in controlled circumstances.

Playing Fates:

Older than the Arcana was The Game of Fates, originally a three suit betting game.  Legend would place the game as having come from the City of the Sun, modernly the High City, and capitol of the Clarion Ascension.  In its earliest forms it was played with etched stones, but they were both inconvenient, and too identifiable.

The game had been a popular vice in many impoverished areas of the city, and even spread to some wealthy circles, skipping over most of the middle classes.  It was after the game was brought before the Principality of the city that the game was highly popularized with a commission to produce painted cards for play, and to add four to the original three sets for larger games.

What is most interesting is the singular record of the introduction of the game at court.  Found only in the Osyraen Royal Library, in the original hand of the court herald of the City of the Sun, 563 B.E.  This account implies that the predictive practice extended back to the Three Fates version of twenty one cards, and a beggar who was a seer in disguise had placed himself before the Principality through clever manipulation of the guard.

In gaming this history gives us The Three Fates, and The Seven Rivers groupings of the game.  Depending on the houses used.

Each share a common core of desirable hands, and scoring rules.

The Ace or Pinnacle is the highest value card in each house, unless Dooms are High is set as a condition of play.  Precise hands vary by given numbers of cards in the game.

Pairs, Sets, Runs, and Houses

Most of these are obvious, but there are some quirks  A set in the number it shows, trumps a same sized set of higher value.  This means that a pair of twos trumps a pair of aces, and a trio of threes can beat four fives in a Seven Rivers game.  A House to be specific is a hand comprised only of one House of cards, and any house is then sorted by its content, and runs.  The top run however is not in a four card hand 4 5 6 7, but 5 6 7 1.  A High House, or Royal House.  This is the Ace, Monarch, Consort, and Knight.

The ordering of the houses otherwise determine between otherwise equal houses, and is bellow.  Giving the final quirk that a set in both the number and the house trumps any run.

  1. (1) House of Suns
  2. House of Nobles
  3. House of Peasants
  4. (2) House of Works
  5. House of Beasts
  6. House of Paths
  7. (3) House of Seasons (Elements)

Here we see a traditional ordering associated with the mysticism of The Three Fates.  The houses are arranged by volatility and permanence.  The stability, and long arc of the cosmos, through the energetic forces of the elements.  Though when looks closely enough, the stars do change, and the elements obey laws.

It is notable that iconography varies between many Three Fates and Seven Rivers card sets.  Drawing variable amounts of inspiration from seer decks.  Notably the iconography of  the Paths and Seasons gets blended into the House of Elements.

The playing cards are never enchanted for anything but durability, but the enchantments may decay over time in recognizable ways.  For competitive play un-enchanted cards are used to insure fair play.

It would technically be possible to play the game with a seer deck that had not been enchanted, though some of the terms might be confusing.  Seers do in fact play a version of this game, but given they can identify the cards from the back, the actual gambles are stranger.  Any hand can win, if they can spin the right tale.  This does mean that the game requires three extra judges (who do not have to be gifted.)  This particular game is considered the most crass by many seers.

Common Rule Variants:

Three Fates:

Standard Betting: Ante, then Call or Raise until two players remain, then either may Call.

Peasant: – Start with two cards, discard as you please, with each draw up to two or three.
Royal: – Four Card Hands, standard bets
Imperial: Five Card Hands, standard bets
Three Card River: Three card hands, with each round a card is turned from the deck, until three are revealed.  Then all remaining players must Call or Fold.
Storms Wild: The Monarch of Elements represents any card of the holders choosing.

Seven Rivers:

Royal: Four Card Hands, standard bets
Imperial: Five Card Hands, standard bets
Veil: Four Card Hands, after round of bets each player reveals a card
Four Card River: Four card hands, with each round a card is turned from the deck, until seven are revealed, or all fold.  On the seventh card all must be revealed.
Four Card  Thief: On the final Call the Jack of Peasants may be exchanged for any card revealed.  This means that the Noble House of Peasants is the top hand.
Called Coin: The holder of the Pinnacle of Paths my toss a coin rather than Call, and defer any bet for the round.  If it is tails the coin goes to the pot as a bet, if it’s heads they give the coin to an opponent, and take one of their cards blind.

Ascension Counts:

Little is known of the practice of Ascension counts as so many old documents were burned or destroyed during the Ascension purges.  It is for this exact reason they are known as Ascension Counts, as several other terms can be found in surviving documents, but none are considered clearly authoritative.  They are also sometimes called Clarion Counts.

The Numbers:

  1. I
  2. II
  3. III
  4. IV
  5. V
  6. VI
  7. VII
  8. S
  9. SI
  10. SII
  11. SII
  12. SIII
  13. SIV
  14. SV
  15. SVI

The introduction of the S at 8 is interesting, and there is some surviving evidence in Clarion writings that were not purged that the 8th, that in excess of the 7th, is the boundless, and the origin of the Rune ∞, used by convention for aether uptake, while the Rune S is used signify entropic focus.

The S is almost ignored in all relation to Arcana or Playing Fates, except a modern tradition out of Mordove manufacture that marks the Ace as $ signifying a union of 1 and 8.  Some argue this makes the card 9, which is supported by some clarion writings that indicate:

The SI should be written $.  It is III of III.  Boundless be the numbers beyond VII.

Otherwise uninformative in a modern context this rare line indicates a marking tradition that would conflict with the modern use.  Further Ascension counts do not contain a Zero, as found in the more prevalent Osyraen number system.  The crossed ϴ is magical notation typically represents equilibrium, balance, and cancelation (sometimes instead written ø for distinction.)  In ancient Osyraen notation this was used also for equality, with the parallel line notation being derived some time after the Maji passed through Napir.

A Curious Case of Dragon Heredity

I think it’s mentioned in II:24, dragons by volume eat a lot of stone.  Their scales are woven silicates (green dragons are different).  What was not mentioned is that a dragons environment has as much to do with its color as any heredity possibly could.  Particularly greater dragons, who have ascended from mortal form.  The environment of transformation will predispose the color of scales.

Black dragons originate from the black granite quarries north of the Osyraen capitol.  This was where Prince Vhale experimented on his subjects, before becoming the Black Emperor Vhale’raus.  A name taken to brag that he had taken the Sun, as the light barer he is named for, never could.  With the exception of Mar’etten, and Lestra of Thebes all black dragons live in the Osyraen mountains.  Lestra’sa herself has shown with her gray offspring the results may vary with the heritability of dragon coloring.

The white flight are the children of Roshana who herself transformed inside a white granite tower.  Though the stone of Napir is relatively pale, it is not the white of central Corinthia.  None the less it has not proven overpowering to the coloring of her children, not even Calista’etten, who was dragonborn, and ascended in her late nineties in Napir.

The green flight are all children of Alara, and are as a mater of fact photosynthetic.  Alaram and Roshana’s mate both ascended amidst forest.  Do not however permit this more organic, leaflike substance fool you. Green scales are actually harder due to complex carbon constructs under their photosynthetic exterior.

What does become curious is that the White Flight is white, and the Green Flight are green, while the sire of these broods are a green dragon, and a black.  Clearly demonstrating the importance of the mother in dragon heredity.  Though it is highly probable the reason for this is the magical part of the offspring comes almost entirely from the mother.  Dragons have human (dragonborn) children primarily because they genetically are human.  The rest is a magical overlay, a parallel pedigree of arcane origin.  At least for the first generation, and to some extent the second, third, and sometimes fourth.  Eventually however the spell rewrites what lays under it.  This leads to draconic descent (falling) of the generations.  Becoming more beastly.

That is until the seventh generation.  Which currently present a cap on dragon population through reproduction.  Seventh generation dragons cannot reproduce.  Most of their eggs come out fossilized.  Examination of the interior of the stone shows structures like a dragon whelp in different densities of stone.  Some are strange inert collections of inorganic material.  Seventh generation dragons are fairly docile, and eat almost entirely stone.  The gray brood of Lestra cap out around three generations.  This is believed to be a consequence of her having been turned against her own will, and having been (largely) ungifted servant in mortal life.

Lestra is as such one of the chief chinks in the assertion that the gift cannot be given.  As while she is quite pale compared to other ascended dragons, she is still quite powerful in gift compared to most mages, or other practitioners.  While most dragons can weave spells into their breath to produce desired effects, Lestra has difficulty doing so.  The natural manifestation of it however is curious, and quite effective.  It does not freeze in a conventional sense so much as attempt to crystalize what it touches.  Her reduced gift means that she can manifest far less of this power than other dragons.  Attempts to replicate the effect by mages have all failed.  None of her offspring have shown any similar capacity.

Arcana: The Six Starred Crown

TheCrown.pngShown also Inverted as it is part of the symbolism of the Arcana.

Here we have The Six Starred Crown, penultimate card of the House of Paths (aka Counts for their heavy association with numbers.) A card associated with wealth and command, but also with responsibility and challenges.

Inverted it can often imply the desire, or act of casting off the gilded cage of the blessings handed to you. The shirking of responsibility, or the loss of control.

As with the other cards of the house it explicitly has a number core to it’s iconography. Six. The imperfect number. It is often understood that wealth and title are but approximations of true power.  Some argue that it is intrinsic to the corruption of power that lends it this position.

It is notable that the Paths are numbered most traditionally from highest to lowest, the inverse of convention for other houses. Such it is by convention that the first and last cards The Seven Rivers and The Coin of this house are both considered the Doom, or Bane of the house. As in boundless choice lies the shackles of indecision, and in the fickle hand of chance, lies responsibility only for dealing with what lies before you.

By this token then The Six Starred Crown represents both the limitations that come with prominence, and the many choices offered by power and wealth.

Notable along with the numbering of the house, while most bear a symbol indicative of their ace as the Pinnacle Card, the Paths have a seven forked branch, or river, symbolic of The Seven Rivers (Styx.)  It is a mater of historic curiosity that the proper term of the symbol is “The Branch“, not any allusion to rivers.  Some historians infer that this is related to the traditional depiction of The Tree of Autumn, as a near inversion of the Seven Rivers.  Some ambiguity though does arise that river branch is a proper term, but this is almost certainly derived from tree branch, and if anything can be said of seers and mystics, they are not the biggest fans of coincidence.  They choose vague meanings precisely to ask deeper questions.  Dualistic interpretation is stock and trade.


 

Commentary:  I’ve been toying for some time with the idea of going through and making the 49 cards of the Thaean Arcana.  This tarot inspired aspect of the world forgoes lesser arcana, and the entire deck is effectively trumps.  Over time I will cover many little aspects of the practices that arise around this method of divination, and perhaps drop clues as to how they might be more than meaning ascribed and drawn from random occurrence.  As things go this aspect of the story was added in more for fun than function, but that does not mean I have not thought through many ramifications, and how functional forces defined in the world may be in play.  Going quite the other way over the course of Book III we will hear a quite contrary view that their primary function is not intrinsic divination, but rather perspective.  Offering unexpected angles, and lenses for seers to peer through.

I’ve always been fascinated with mystical symbolism, not the specifics of any given one, but trends, patterns, cultural underpinnings.  One of my absolute favorites comes from my upbringing and forgive me sighting my sources:

“a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1)

It is interesting that I’ve gone half here, but then, perhaps there are another six out of view.  Let me be clear I’m not trying to draw any meaning here, just saying I love the imagery of a crown of stars.  It’s shown up in more than one story.

Stars are just in general a weakness for me.  An aspect of the near boundless expanse of the universe.  Stars, are so very important, and powerful.  They fill the cosmos with their light.  A good flashlight can maybe do what, a mile before it disappears?  There are over 24,000 of those around the Earth, maybe one less around Thaea?  I’m undecided.†  About seven circuits of that at the speed of light, in one second.  Most of the stars you see up there are hundreds of light years away.  Gonna need a better flash light.  Seriously, yes, if one wants to crown a god, or a sufficiently arrogant mortal, then the diadem of choice, has to be a star.

† I’ve long imagined Thaea is just a bit lighter than Earth with a much thicker atmosphere, to help dragon flight be less fantastical.

 

The Rooks of Avrale

It is popular to think of Avrale in terms of Rooks; the granted duchies of the nation exemplified by towers that give them their name, and by some boasts are the origin of the shape of the piece in Chess, and not the other way around.  These however do not fully describe all of the regions of Avrale, but we will begin here:

Wesrook, and Seaperch:

The city of Wesrook, and the Duke (currently Duke Regent) command most of the coastal expanse of Avrale from the sheltered bay of Wesrook Harbor.  This includes a number of windward villages along the ocean steps.  Most notably Seaperch, a prosperous gold mining town seven miles north of the city proper.

The wealth of Wesrook, between seagoing trade, gold, and fisheries makes it an economic force to be reckoned with within Avrale and even the wider world.  Wesrook however is a fractious city, divided between the uncommonly comfortable liberal commoners, and the aristocratic often Clarion upperclass.  Three times in the past two centuries the Duke Proper has chosen to serve as Knight Commander of the King’s guard at Broken Hill, rather than reign over the region, leaving the seat to his brother, while retaining inheritance for his son.

South Rook:

The city and tower are situated near the center of an ancient caldera that formed vast open flatlands amidst the security of high mountains.  The unique geologic history of this region, and terrain has created some of the most fertile stable farmland of the world.  Well drained soil wicks away excesses of ample rain through subterranean lava tubes, and funnels it out the southern cliffs in spring falls that become the northern tributary of the Niven River.

South Rook is tightly controlled by its Duke and Barons.  The larger, and more reliable of the three major breadbaskets of Avrale, South Rook holds incredible sway of the politics of the nation, more so even than Wesrook.  While South Rook is marginally less wealthy on the whole than Wesrook, the aristocracy has kept tight hold on that wealth, and over the past few centuries become strict Clarion adherents, all but forcing the faith upon the commoners.

This has caused passing, but never volatile political strife between South Rook and the Midrook Dynasty, and quietly held bad blood over the Council of Mordove’s choice to recognize the young heir of Midrook as the future King, having pulled away the highly gifted eldest son of the reigning duke of the day.

Nohrook:

Almost another country, the vales of Nohrook have been separated from central Avrale several times over the centuries as Osyrean armies have taken the lowlands between the main passes.  The mountainous rocky terrain of this region is none the less rich with game, and wild edible plants to have maintained numerous villages, and other outposts.  The influential Lansly family almost holds more sway over Nohrook than the duke of the region, who trusts the Lanslys implicitly as his representatives at court, and keeps to himself in the far north.

Anders, Ashrook, and the North:

The rolling prairies tucked between Midrook and Nohrook are vast, and though held by Avrale in the centuries since the Dragon War, historically have been conquered many times by the armies of Osyrae.  At the time of the Dragon War the region was in the command of a Northerner given the title Duke Ashton of Ashrook, and barracks in the city of Anders expanded to form the castle of Ashrook.  This lasted a scarce fifteen years before the Dragon War devastated Ashrook, and left only the Duke himself, severing all of his heirs.

After the war the surviving Duke Ashton wed a common woman from the farmland where he grew up.  He split his assigned lands between her son, and the people of the north.  The sitting Queen Regent accepted this disposition, and her young grandson did as well.  The north has been a democratic region with an elected representative ever since.  The Ashtons quietly have run the region, but always remained out of the limelight, propping up the elected representatives to court instead.  It is rarely emblazoned, but known well through the north.  An Ashton always returns.  The meaning is a mater for debate.

East Rook:

The lonely tower of East Rook sits on the border of Helm.  It overlooks the main road from a high hill.  East Rook is held by an Adorned Knighthood instead of a Duke, and the village is a quiet out of the way place to live.

Midrook:

Once the largest and richest city of Avrale, Midrook has never fully recovered from the Dragon War.  The city remains bisected by an obsidian scar three centuries later.  The Tower of Midrook sits at the west end of the once proud wall, and has been held by cousins of the reigning line since the Midrook dynasty took the throne after the death of several (some brief) former kings in the war.

The Long Valley:

Up from the lowland of Brokhal is a broad well cultivated valley that reaches all the way to the cliffs above Wesrook, and the Serpents spine, named for how the west most ridge of these mountains look.  The Long Valley is traditionally held by the crown, and managed by one or more barons.

Brokhal and Broken Hill:

By land area Brokhal is one of the larger cities in the western world, and the capital of Avrale.  It is however none the less considered a village for is sprawling, sparse density, and only marginal population of less than two thousand.

Broken Hill is the castle of the crown, and a proud bastion that sits high above the valley of Brokhal.  It is however isolated, with a three mile winding forested road connecting it to the village bellow.

Highvale:

The orchards of Highvale have been there since before record, though they were nearly lost during the Dragon War.  The Queen Regent Gwenevere, inspired by the writings of Sylvia Grey, and fearful of the growing influence of Clarion adherents invited a branch of the Lycian Order to take up the land, and build a cloister there to restore the orchards, and the almost abandoned village.

Highvale village has become a hotbed of conflict in Avrale between Clarions, and the reclusive Lycians who stick to their orchards, or travel elsewhere in Avrale, subverting Clarion attempts to contain them.

Silver Creek:

Deep beneath the glaciers of mount Saeah an unusual mining town stands defiant in the face of the grinding power of a glacier that gave Silver Creek its name.  Resourceful mages melted a path through the glacier till they found the source of the silver flakes.  The deep exposed veins have made Silver Creek a huge source of wealth for the crown which holds both Midrook and Broken Hill, putting Silver Creek clearly in their purview.

High Land and Lost Vales:

The endless branching mountains, foothills, and valleys of Avrale are filled with hidden alcoves that keep much to themselves.  Notably a large but barely accessible village mountain lake in the south eastern mountains.  All of these swear their allegiance to the crown, but most are too sparse, or out of the way to demand taxes from, or provide much service.  This creates a situation of live and let be between all parties.

Carth:

Not a part of Avrale, but of worth mentioning the vast island nation of Carth lies across a narrow straight from mainland Avrale.  Carth has had good relations, and open trade with Wesrook for nearly a thousand years.  They have on the other side had endless struggles with Osyrae, though even at the height of the Dragon War went unconquered, in part because they were not deemed strategically important.

Carth never officially joined the Empire, and has been ruled by the same royal line for eight hundred years.  They have several times struggled to maintain their population, the rugged forested terrain of their island making isolated tribes work to maintain intermarriage, and their gene pool.  Carth petitioned for a seat on the Council in the year 400 E.R, and was granted a provisional one, which has since fallen vacant.

The Noble Ranks:

The ranks of Avrale are fairly common through the rest of the world, and so worth addressing, though there are several other hierarchies that may be considered elsewhere.

Monarch and Consort
With rare exception the Queen or in past eras sometimes King is second only to to the reigning Monarch, sitting in their stead, or providing a softer side to their stern command.  These powers are enumerated in fact, but most often ceremonial in practice.

Duke, Duchess, and Duchies
The regional rulers of Avrale, and all have some often arbitrary seeming position in line for the throne.  All deeply complicated by intermarriage, lost favor, deviations from the default heir at the declaration of a sitting king or queen.  It is considered good form to forget how far or near one is from the throne by the numbers, since it all can change.  The actual duchies are referred to as Rooks by tradition, though the word duchies gets some use around granting of title, or land, as it is more traditional through international affairs that Avrale has binding treaties governing.

Knight Sire

There are three ranks of Knight in Avrale, two heritable.  All are given the same deference as a rule, and the full titles are rarely used, and internal hierarchies of command preferred in theory.  Though this internal hierarchy often matches the larger one.  Knight Sire is the automatic rank of the younger brother of a sitting Duke, though it is available to that Duke at their preference, leaving their younger sibling the sitting Duke or Duchess Regent.

Knight Adorned

Adorned knights hold a heritable position granted in favor to a family line that has shown a reliable, and honorable role in the nation.  This heritance comes at a price, and a son must offer himself to the title in life service to the army to maintain the line.  A Knight Adorned or their ancestor is granted the title in a conventional knighting ceremony by a sitting monarch.  Unlike Knights Unadorned who may be granted their role by Dukes or Knight Sires for utilitarian purpose.

Of note the Knights of the Empire, are Knights Adorned, but of more equivalent rank to a Knight Sire in theory, if not in practice.  Many Knights of the Empire however offer such service to the lords of various lands as to be Adorned again, and recognized properly within the hierarchy of a lands military.  The phrases “twice Adorned,” and “trice Adorned” are sometimes used.  Indicating both the original Imperial Knighthood, and the more regional one(s).  The Mark of the Compass Rose, is the primary element of the crest of Dame Roscae and her descendants, purportedly styled for her uncommon valor in the years after the Empire’s fall, having been Adorned by no less than four nations, in addition to her inherited adornment.  Her descendants often style themselves down, refusing to take their full rank until they feel they have in some small way lived up to the legacy.

Knight Unadorned

Most often simply Knight is the rank that fills out the mid level of military command.  These Knights are granted their position by Dukes, or Knight Sires.  It is utilitarian, and given much less respect than the higher knights.

Barons:

Barons are structurally curious.  They outrank all Knights in civil maters, and are bellow all knights in military or law enforcement ones.  Barons may rise through any avenue of commerce through which they become land managers for royalty, or hold substantial land in their own right directly beneath the monarchy.  They may also be granted these lands, circumventing any gradual rise.  The position is heritable if the lands are held beneath the monarchy, or if accepted by the lower nobles in charge.  The honorary sometimes outlives the functional role, particularly for those wealthy enough to hold sway without land.  Strictly a Baron without land is a “Low Baron,” by legal definition, but it is never spoken or written.  The honor either sticks, or it doesn’t.  One could, in theory, get away with using it as a “safe” slight where technically accurate, but it would still be considered terribly risqué, which may not always win your favor.

The City of Mordove

Foundations:

No one is sure precisely how Mordove was founded, or when.  There are mentions of strong stone walls in the first records to be found in ancient Palentian.  They took the city despite its defenses, and kept it as an outpost protecting against any potential Anderhale incursion several decades before the Lycian genocide.  The conquest of Lycia redoubled the importance of this outpost, which fell to Anderhale forces ten years before the Lycian rebellion retook their nation.

Ancient Mordove was sacked three times during the following decade as the three nations fought over the strategically important position.  It was ultimately abandoned by Corinthian forces after the fall of the Anderhale capitol, as Corinth recalled troops to help hold a tenuous grasp on the conquered nation.

Palentine retook the abandoned outpost, and built a new set of walls that would later outline the shape of the main academy.  Mordove went unassailed for a decade, and the general holding it refused to accept initial introduction into Corinthia when southern Palentine joined.  This meant Mordove operated as a city state for another decade, and remained an independent nation state when joining the empire under the Lord General’s successor.  This title of Lord General would persist until the treaty of Mordove restructured the city state to function more as a capital, and less as an independent body.

By the third decade of Corinth’s reign Mordove had already become a challenger to the royal academy.  The original central fortress was completely subsumed by the institution, and spilled into the surrounding city.  The main royal academy would however continue to outshine it until the destruction of Corinthia during the dragon war.

As the most renowned surviving institution of higher learning in the post war world, Mordove was the natural place to found the Council.  Representatives of all the nations of the former Empire were called to write, and ratify the Treaty of Mordove.  The articles of which helped enshrine the next few centuries of relative peace.  One of the critical articles called for the encouraging of migration of gifted to Mordove.  This was done in a number of ways, from political pressure, to stipends for gifted residents based on the strength of their aura.  Further support was given to gifted women who bore and raised gifted children.

Mordove was the place to be if one sought power or prominence in the post imperial world.  Mages were banned from military and governing positions in most lands, with a few grandfathered in exceptions for some royal lines.  A limited number of positions as caravan mages, and mercenaries were all that were left for the conventional battle mage.  Enchantment became an over saturated market, and many competent mages found themselves to be lack luster enchanters.

This did lead to a number of renegade mages forming bands of brigands, a pattern which continues into the modern era.  All together though, most mages are happy to seek out Mordove, and find a place, and a role.  Councils, sub-councils, instruction, raising more gifted youth.  Bulk enchantments for distribution by caravan where needed.  Fortune telling a perennial niche.  More mundane craftsmanship flourished, often refined with magic training.

Structure:

The city of Mordove is the largest contiguous city on Thaea with a population of nearly a million residents, and a disproportionate gifted population of over thirty percent.  More than a fifth of its residents are at least part time students, instructors, or support staff of the Academy.  Fully a third are in the direct employ of the city for upkeep, maintenance, construction, and other public services.  The overlap between these two catagorise is harder to parse.

City government is primarily managed by seven elected Ministers who represent the physical areas of the city, and eight appointed Councilors from the Low-Council who represent broader reaching concerns and disciplines.  One of these is elected by the group as Chancellor, who in turn technically answers to the sitting Archmage, but the two historically stay out of each-other’s business.

The Archmage is a mostly honorary position granted to an elder council member, and requiring their replacement as sitting council member.  The Archmage does however have a number of enumerated functional powers in directing council business, and may vote in the event of a tie, or abstain, leaving a deadlock, and direct business on.  The Archmage may be drawn from Provisional Seats, and in fact three of the past ten Archmages have been enchanters, and one Diviner.  The Archmage may also refuse the post, forcing another vote. This has happened five times in three hundred years.  The Archmage is also the de facto head of the Academy, but many have appointed all major duties to a deputy administrator.

The Actual Treaty:

The Treaty of Mordove is one of the most lengthy, exhaustive, and convoluted legal documents ever crafted.  This often impenetrable, ever growing collection of precedents, subsections, appendices, and amendments outlines a deceptively simple premise.

Kings are not mages (not always true, given a number of exceptions,) and reign at the sufferance of the Council, and the laws of the Treaty.

Only two kings have been deposed under the terms of the treaty, and a third by the super majority vote of the council, requiring seventy percent dissent, and a clear moral imperative.  The very definition of clear moral imperative is outlined in one of the lengthiest appendices, which itself has an entire volume of amendments.

If all this seems absurd it is perhaps because the council often has little better to do, given their function is not to govern.  Rather they manage who governs, the legality of their decrees, and the best interest of the world as a whole.

The Prime Council seats:

The Prime Council has 16 Members, representing the nations of the former Empire.  Their relationship to the nations they represent is however often complex, or even indirect.  The successor to each seat is sponsored by the sitting member while still alive, and need only be accepted by assent of both their peers within the Mid Council, and the members of the Prime Council.  Assent requires a vote of always one less than half the votes available.  That is seven votes for from the prime council, and whatever it amounts to among their available peers.

Voting Council members may be removed by a vote of seventy percent of the Prime and Provisional council, or the unanimous vote of the rest of the Prime council.  The prior has happened twice, the latter only once.

There are sixteen Prime Council seats, but for brevity we will discuss only the most controversial in their number.

The Clarion Ascension
Corinthia
Western Palentine
Eastern Palentine
Southern Palentine
Central Palentine
Napir

Notable is the seemingly disproportionate influence of Palentine, this must however be taken in context that these four nations are very often not in agreement, and contentious with one another.  Though Southern and Central Palentine are often more moderate, and unreliably will side with Eastern or Western, often canceling each other.

Corinthia conversely is disproportionately influential as more than a quarter of this nation has been rendered uninhabitable, and the border territories have grown ever more depopulated.  Corinthia votes reliably, and all but in lock step with Lycia.

The Clarion Ascension is made up of many smaller city-states, and governed regions.  It has petitioned relentlessly to see its power in the council expanded with additional seats, and been consistently denied.

Napir openly refuses to recognize council authority in their nation, and yet wields it with a voting seat.  This muddled arrangement however is enshrined in the Treaty of Mordove, and Napir’s very particular structure of governance cannot be adapted to council rules.  This is largely due to the unique nature of the position of Storm Queen, and the incredible literal powers wielded by this landlocked sovereign.

The Provisional Council:
The Provisional Council adds a variable number of seats that hold votes, though these seats are sometimes dropped to the lower council, it is most often enumerated as:

Enchanters
Architects – the only council seat occasionally held by an ungifted.
Diviners
The War College
Healers
Druids
Shapers
The North Eastern Tribes
The North Western Tribes
The Knights of the Empire – most often absent.
Osyrae

The Osyrean seat is particularly controversial, as Osyrae has recognized their own representation only four time in three hundred years.  King Heron recognized the sitting representative at the time of his ascension to the throne, and so the Osyrean seat is currently a member of the provisional council, in spite of his brother taking his place.  King Vharen has neither recognized or refuted the sitting representative.

As a rule the active inclusion of many of these seats is determined based on the question of the Prime Council’s view if they are both in alignment with the charter of the Treaty, and if they truly represent those they stand for.  Three times an entire Provisional seat has been dissolved, and reformed.

The Mid Council:

The junior entourage, circle of support, and heirs apparent to the seats of the Provisional and Prime seats of the council.  Mid Council members do sometimes stand for the sitting member if they are ill, by order of precedence of their understood position within the group.  Beyond this Mid Council members often make up committees, rather than deposing a Prime or Provisional member with the details of legislation.

The Lower Council:

A somewhat erratic list of guilds, aristocrats, and other intellectual circles.  They tend to grow in number, rather than shrink, as the council has proven more apt to add lower seats than rescind them.  This council has limited power or influence on the far reaching affairs of the council, but significant power over governance of Mordove itself.

The enchanted wares and textiles of Mordove are second only to those of Osyrae, but cheeper, and more plentiful.  All other rivalries aside the crafters of these two nations are locked in ageless war of refinement on their arts.  Osyrean silks and fine wools, satins and delicate dense threaded cotton from Mordove.

One of the more exotic wares from Mordove however are the work of an isolated druidic circle who have grown a small forest within a corner of the city.  These master shapers create practical, and aesthetic works of living wood, and are the last great school of shaper magic in the world.  The rise of this sub-group of the druid circle created the modern Shaper seat on the provisional council.

The Knights of the Empire:

The Knights of the Empire are recognized, and sanctioned under Council law, and only two of the Imperial Knighthoods have been stripped since the founding of the council.  One was stripped, but restored.  Three more have died out.  There are twenty three recognized Knights of the Empire, of which three are practicing mages of note, the rest primarily martial in training.  As most (Lord) Knighthoods through the former empire the title is heritable, but easily stripped for miss deeds.

The Knights of the Empire directly serve not the council, but treaty law, often with much wiggle room around the expanded volumes that have been written since the signing.  The distinction on this is often lost, particularly since the Knights were given their own seat, but it is filled less than half of the time.

Officially Knights of the Empire cary a rank slightly below that of a Duke or equivalent in any given Council land, but rarely exert this authority, and rarely would such flexing work.  Leading only to complicated political ramifications.  Though the Knights do not directly serve the council the Council does have enumerated powers to “call” the Knights to any given land to serve as they see fit.

A City by Any Other Name:

A great deal of confusion exists about the name Mordove, and competing theories swirl around possible origins.  Mor, not to be confused with the western moor, was a rather specific Anderhale word for a common rocky terrain type that is hard to cultivate, develop, or traverse.  However in old Palentien mor was simply more.  Dov in old Palentian is white, where as e was often added to Anderhale nouns to imply whiteness, and duv was their word for pidgins which are a common bird in the land.  This pattern is known to be the origin of the modern dove.

What this leads to is a bit of a miss match.  In straight old Palentien Mordov would be more white, the sense of which is not understood, and the origin of the e would be mysterious save to form the rather redundant more-white-white.  Mor of Doves is suggested as an Anderhale origin, which while not completely implausible does rub up against a general belief that Palentians first made the settlement there before fortifying it, and later being conquered by their kin.  White Mor is suggested by other scholars, as the rocky outcroppings in the area are mostly pale to white granite.  This is a plausible transitional dialect option.

Most popular amongst common residents however is the inverse suggestion of simply More Doves.  This translation gained notoriety due to joking about the overpopulation of pidgins and doves through the city.  The absurd suggestion is rejected by most, but not all scholars.  The only strong linguistic argument against it is that it is silly, but it is none the less as valid a transitional dialect solution as White Mor.

The Resolve of the Council:

In over three centuries, and baring the initial decades of marginal chaos for which records get spotty, there have been four recognized rebellions, five coups, two civil wars, three royal assassinations, and fifteen border skirmishes that have been deemed to warrant Council intervention.  The result of every single one has been controversial, and re-litigated to stalemates, upsets, or upheld only on technicalities.  In spite of this the actual force that the Council has occasionally brought to bare maintains enough fear to keep most nations on the straight and narrow.

All of this of course also ignores acts that occur outside the bounds of the Treaty of Mordove.  From internal struggles in Osyrae, to abuses of the peoples of the northern wastes, or wars between them.  Their seats on the Provisional council have proven ineffective at best, and superficial more realistically.  Given these regions are fractious the representation has been spotty if the sitting member is not of an effected tribe.  More so the two seats do not show any common interest, and in recent decades the Eastern seat is more closely aligned with the Clarion Ascension.

The single most controversial case was the assassination of the King of Thebes in 523 E.R.  This assassination was blamed on the heir apparent, shown later to be the work of his younger brother who got Council favor to take the throne.  He was then deposed, and the rightful heir freed, only to be killed in a Clarion backed coup.  This finally resulted in the installation of Queen Regent Margarite, the consort of the slain King who reigned for fifteen years till her son was of age to take the throne.  The boy however in the meantime proved to be a mage prodigy, and Margarite was left on the throne for another twelve years while the Council bickered over succession.  They finally picked the young Duke Astair, who rather than simply taking the throne instead married the aging Margarite, and deferring to her as the proper ruler till her death in 590 E.R.  He then stepped aside, naming his bastard son by his well known mistress to the throne.  The Council relented to this rather than destabilize the nation again.

This particularly egregious series of failures, and lacking leadership has left the clout of the Council in question for decades, and is considered endemic of a larger problem shown through other historic examples.