"Witchcraft is present everywhere in the world. It is in the winds blowing in the hills, in the trees of the forests, in the waves of the lakes, in the first snow, and in the bare peaks of the fjells. The clergy of the Church of Light speak of the cleansing light of their elemental gods, which must burn away all false witchcraft. However, they deceive themselves. Witchcraft is witchcraft, even if their priests and philosophers would speak until their tongues fall from their mouths. We, the Gaesati, and the Eskarans, know better. Witchcraft is the soul of the world. Without witchcraft, there is no world. This is what the Templars must learn if they ever really want to belong to this land."
-Umur, the Gaesati shaman
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Three Paths of Spellcraft
- 3 Spellcraft of the Church of Elements
- 4 Witchcraft of the Wilders
- 5 Spellcraft of the Spirit Lands
- 6 The Path of Infecti Tyros
- 7 Spellcraft of the Goblins
All the people living in the valley of Icesus and beyond are constantly relying on the supernatural. When faced with difficulties, the Gaesati will summon animal spirits to help them, to trade with them, and then repay this in form of worship expenses to them. The Eskarans read out their powerful spell poems and wail out for help from their gloomy goddesses. Church of Light worshipers, on the other hand, pray for help either directly from their elemental god or from one of their saints who have served a god, and set their minds in a powerful trance.
Witchcraft is strongly present in people's everyday chores. As the Templar who believes in the Church of Light prepares for battle, he prays to his elemental god to direct his sword. When an Eskaran hunter hunts for deer, he recites a spell poem to find the animal's footprints. When a member of the Gaesati tribe sews a patch in her parka jacket, she asks the spirits to make the yarn durable. In the North, witchcraft and the supernatural are so mundane that it is impossible to say where witchcraft ends and where the "ordinary" world begins, because no ordinary world even exists.
Witchcraft usually does not cause explosions, energy discharges, or teleportation fields that glow blue. Instead, it typically works subtly and through natural phenomena. In witchcraft, with a powerful templar knight praying for help from his gods; his eyes begin to shine the light of faith, the sword appears shinier than before and sits in his hand like a cast. The Eskaran hunter, who uttered the spell poem, accidentally sees how the moonlight falls on the trail of a deer in his immediate vicinity, and the thread sewn by a member of the Gaesati people who asked for spirits' help, would seem to knot into place almost by itself.
Witchcraft is modest. Modesty does not mean that the observer would not be able to distinguish witchcraft when confronted with it. On the contrary, the power of the holy places can be felt and the presence of a strong priest, witch or a shaman can be felt dozens of meters away, unless one wants to cover up his own power. However, the presence of witchcraft can usually be specifically felt or sensed, not seen in any way. Witchcraft, then, in a certain way abstains from pomp. A really strong witchcraft can manifest itself, for example, as a scorching and intangible blue flame.
Witchcraft is not rational, reliable, or reproducible. It cannot be disassembled or cut away from the situation in which it is used. If a priest prays in front of his enemy in violent weather for help from his god and then his god sends him a gust of wind which throws the enemy down, the priest should not expect to be able to repeat the trick later. The whole essence of witchcraft denies the limits of reason and forces man to reach beyond them. For centuries, philosophers have tried in vain to put together some sort of all-encompassing theory on the nature of witchcraft.
To the south of Eskara and in the rest of the valley, witchcraft is called spellcraft. Therefore, the remaining text will address spellcraft as a greater entity with witchcraft being a subset of it.
Three Paths of Spellcraft
There are a finite number of main sources of spellcraft for a sentient being to use in the valley: the all-seeing Church of Elements, the Wilders of the forests, and the spirits of the afterlife. Most of the inhabitants of the north do not make any clear choice between these, but use a kind of spellcraft that they are able to learn and that helps them in their everyday life. However, mortals strong in spellcraft usually commit to one of these three sources of spellcraft, give up others, and in return achieve greater power in their own spellcraft. A mortal who has embarked on any specific path is known in the context of this text as a walker.
There are four paths of spellcraft; the path practiced by Church of Elements, the path of Wilders known as Witchcraft, the path of Spirits, and the path of Infecti, which will be described later. The follower of one path cannot use the spellcraft (even minor spellcraft) of others. Different paths also engage in certain types of worship. Worshipers of the Church of Elements attend sermons, followers of the Wilders sacrifice to their goddesses, and those on path of the spirits perform rites for their seita and pre-mothers. There is nothing, in principle, to prevent one person from participating in the worship of other paths, but since all paths require a great deal of dedication from their followers, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to keep the worship objects of their actual path happy if they openly court with other paths.
The exception to this is the walkers of Infecti, who specifically do not commit strongly to any of the three paths and thus do not have any kind of devil operating behind the scene, that could become angry of the mortal's behavior. Indeed, those who walk the path of Infecti often engage in a wide variety of worship, but they too are not always immune to the dissatisfaction of the church, of the wilder goddesses, or the spirits if they have performed acts that are morally questionable by that specific power.
All spellcraft can be divided into minor spellcraft, major spellcraft, and greater spellcraft. Minor spellcraft can be learned by almost anyone who walks any of the paths. Major spellcraft already requires the mortal to have a deeper understanding of his chosen path, and greater spellcraft can only be learned by the most dedicated of mortals.
At the beginning of the game, your game character has not chosen his path. This means that the minor spellcraft of any path is easy to learn to use. But major or greater spellcraft of any path cannot be learned until one commits to one of them. Most of the inhabitants of the valley will never commit to any one path but will remain uncommitted until the end of their lives. Most uncommitted witches also use the spellcraft offered by more than one path. A member of the common people can thus pray for help from the Church of Elements in the morning, read a spell poem to catch prey from the forest during the day, and offer it as a sacrifice to a nearby seita in the evening.
Spellcraft of the Church of Elements
This chapter will introduce you to the spellcraft practiced by the Church of Elements.
"Spirits of mothers, hear the vow
That I shall soon say:
And if I betray it, let your army
Come for me and slay."
All Children of Light can learn prayers in which they ask for help either directly from the gods or from one of his patron saints. Prayer is always associated with some virtue and helps to fight against sin. The prayer of chastity helps to combat the lusts of the flesh, the prayer of grace helps to show pity and ease the suffering of others, the prayer of modesty helps to combat personal gain and temptations and so on.
"My sisters, heed these words, these prods:
let these women walk and teach!
if it's of humans all they preach,
it dies without your intervention.
But if the words come from the gods
you have no power of prevention."
The walker knows how to perform the most sacred ordinance of a sect, a sermon. An ordinary sermon can be held very easily. However, if he wants someone to feel guilty or enchanted about following the sermon, a little investment in spell points is needed. He can then either speak for himself or let his god speak using his mouth. If the walker decides to speak for himself, he can choose which commandment or which prohibition from the teachings of the sect he makes central to the sermon. The downside is that the walker himself cannot be inspired by his own sermon. If, on the other hand, the walker lets his god speak using his mouth, the command or prohibition that comes forth in the sermon may be more random. In this case, the walker himself can also be inspired by his sermon. Usually sermons are held on Church of Element prayer poles. If desired, the sermon can be given elsewhere, but with lesser impact.
According to the teachings of the Church of Elements, the Children of Light are expected to follow the virtues prescribed by the church and also to attend regular cleansing rituals at the prayer poles, which include as an essential part the sermon given by the priest. If the listener has lived a virtuous life, he will feel the sermon liberating and empowering. If, on the other hand, he feels that he has lived wickedly or betrayed the church, the sermon will bring to the surface his anxiety and uncertainty.
In order for a walker to learn major spellcraft of the Church of Elements, he must sacrifice something of himself and of his own corporeality in exchange. For example, he may abstain completely from all liquids other than water, start wearing the always painfully itchy and tingling horsehair shirt, or refrain from intimate dealings with the opposite or the same sex.
Hearts can't think and heads cant feel
But hands can hurt and hands can heal
It is easier to hurt you say?
But healing is the better way.
The walker is able to summon the Light of the Church, making him appear more impressive in nature and even look a little brilliant in appearance. In this form, the conditions are in his favor while trying to convince other believers by speaking or intimidating the pagans and other heretics. In addition, the Light burns the Wilders and can even destroy them.
"My daughters, mercy will not fix
the pagans and the heretics.
Ruthlessness must be the guise
of gentleness worn by the wise."
The walker, knowing secret rites of exorcism can use them to banish wilders and evil undead. However, some enemies of the Church of Light (such as ghosts) cannot be defeated in direct conflict. Sometimes the exorcist sees just a vision sent by his god which tells him the right way to get rid of this specific enemy.
Exorcism can also be used to protect some specific room or area from wilders or ghosts. If a walker protects a small space, such as a small house or room, with this force, representatives of nether or the spirit world cannot enter it without first overcoming the walker's piety.
The most dedicated members of the Church sects can ascend into a state of active trance, in which the performer concentrates all his will, power, and intelligence on a single goal, excluding everything else from his mind. The trance of mercy, for example, causes the walker to focus his whole being on helping the suffering, where the trance of perfect perception helps him to notice the signs of black spellcraft and other forms of paganism.
The primary form of Church of Light greater spellcraft is known as a miracle. In order for a walker to learn and use miracles, he must first have the power of sermon. To learn a miracle, a walker must make some extremely significant sacrifice for himself for his faith, e.g. the walker gives up the love of his life, lets all his possessions be distributed to the poor, or voluntarily steps into a scorching fire for his faith.
A miracle is a force that allows a walker to perform such works according to the will of the Church of Light that he would not otherwise be able to perform. Turning wine into water, destroying a superstitious village's crop with a flock of locusts, and healing a crippled are all miracles. However, there are some hard limits to this power that the stories do not tell.
Witchcraft of the Wilders
"My house is a dark house, hidden from your sight
My house is a cold house, its windows face the night.
Within the metal grate burns the icy fire of despair
I sit by the fireside and find my comfort there
Should a friend to visit, I have no doors at all
Neither for a stranger, if he should come to call
But you are my puppy and I will welcome you
And if you look for doors, you will find but two
One leads to light sleep, a sleep from which you rise,
the other to a deep sleep, death in its fine disguise."
-Mother of Darkness
Rites of sacrifice
A walker with this ability of wilder witchcraft can arrange sacrificial rites in honor of his wilder mistress. Unlike Church of Light sermons, these are usually the delivery of a very small groups and may not be easy to attend at all by unbelievers or large crowds as they often anger the goddess. The sacrificial expenses of the wilders are usually bloody, with the animal sacrifice being more the rule than the exception and the human sacrifice being naturally more valuable than the animal. A walker with this ability can perform basic rites of sacrifice without spending a fortune, thus allowing those present the opportunity to seek strength from their wilder mistress.
When someone makes sacrificial expenses, nearby wilders will feel it. Rites of sacrifice attract wilders like honey attracts flies, and also others to some extent, who are operating under their target aspect. Thus, when one arranges sacrificial rites for the Mother of Darkness, the goblins quickly begin to swarm around the premises, whereas the sacrificial rites arranged in honor of the Salamander Queen have a bad way of getting out of control into destructive fires, which is, of course, the best gift to the Queen of Fire herself.
"Gloomy and cold is a winter's night
Carrying with it the chill blight
Of slave labor's chains and scars
Witnessed only by the cold stars."
The walker knows a spell poem that helps him accomplish a task in some specific profession. The walker can thus know the spell poem of survival in the forest (typical for hunters), the spell poem of a sharp sword (for warriors), or the spell poem of command (for regents). The spell poem is activated by mere recitation, or possibly by just whispering.
Pagans are those who have not yet been touched by the light of the Church of Elements. Among the Church, the most hated and feared of the pagans are those known as the wilders. Most of the Eskarans belong into this category.
The walkers of the Wilder path draw their witchcraft from the supernatural beings found in nature, each representing some natural phenomenon. Wilder mistresses are often cruel and selfish, but worshipers of their path see through their true nature. The wilder mistresses are part of northern nature, seemingly gloomy and frightening, but in reality they are sources of all life.
Any walker must face and negotiate with strong wilder mistresses in order to acquire powerful witchcraft.
"Our grey mothers rise from their tombs
Each with bear spear in hand
They ride their ghostly mounts of white
Into the border land."
Birth words are a stronger version of lesser spell poems. Their speaker knows the innermost mysteries of some force of nature, or an animal species, and thus has some power over this complete phenomenon. Because of this, an expert speaker of the birth words of fire can easily withstand immensely high temperatures, and an expert speaker of the birth words of cold does not need thick clothes even in winter, and an expert speaker of the birth words of wolves is not persecuted by wolves. This protection is always automatic and complete.
The walker can also attempt to force the object of his birth words to bend to his will. The fire will rise at his command, the iron begins to vibrate, possibly even break, and water begins to rise in waves, and can rise even to dry land. It is also possible to use the birth words in such a way that, for example, the birth words of wolves can be used to curse a village by persuading a herd of wolves to persecute it. The birth words of fire can bless the furnace of a blacksmith so that it will never extinguish.
Third Eye of the Spirit
The walker has learned to look directly into the world of wilders and sees them clearly, as for others drowned in the confusing veil of the corporeal world most of them are not seen. A walker with this power understands the wilders and knows their habits. Also those with this power tend to tattoo the symbol of an eye in the middle of the forehead as a sign of the gift they have received. The Eskarans generally consider this tattoo as a way to tell real witches apart from mere berry pickers.
Spellcraft of the Spirit Lands
"If you look there, you see there not here
But if you look far, you see far not near
Your eyes see only what you say.
If you look in you will see in not out
And if you look out? It’s turn about
This is not the way.
Look to the hills and the ground
And the forest all around
This is the Wilder’s way
Children of light look up to the sky
They never seem to question why
Content to close their eyes and pray.
The wise man looks to the past
and questions the future only to ask
How do I best live this day?
Which path do you take to seek out truth?
When will you start - in age or in youth?
Will knowledge or wisdom or understanding best show you the way?"
Wherein worshipers of the Church of Light reach upward toward heavens, and Wilders to the nature around them, those who have embarked on the path of Spirit lands reach inward and beyond time and place. Of all the world's inhabitants, the Gaesati and Templars have the most followers of the Spirit Path. Those who walk the path of spirits know that this corporeal world of ours is, in fact, just a vanishing delusion. Through dreams, visions, and ultimately death, one can instead enter the real world of spirits.
The Gaesati seeks contact with the spirits of animals living in this real land of visions and dreams. According to them, these animal spirits have in their time given birth to man, and, on the other hand, all people will eventually return to them. Templars, in turn, elevate their own ancestors as targets for their worship. These are great heroines in the history of the templar family who have been able to maintain their individuality and power in the halls of the dead.
"Howling wind blows
The heavy snows,
The drifts pile all around.
And through the night
All wrapped in white
My family sleeps sound."
The walker is able to perform a rite of worship for the local spirit or seita at its sacred stone, tree, or other landmark. They are usually happy with very few gifts (bread, berries or pieces of meat are typically sufficient). If the seita is satisfied with the walker's actions, i.e. he has not violated the laws of the seita, for example by hunting or fishing too much, and has otherwise acted respecting both nature and the seita, the walker learns the seita's special ability temporarily. Seita's ability is usually related to hunting, fishing, or moving about in the province of the seita. With this power of spellcraft, some are known to have dreamed themselves into the spirit lands (or "to befall" as the Gaesati calls it).
"Our grey mothers rise from their tombs
Each with bear spear in hand
They ride their ghostly mounts of white
Into the border land."
The worship ceremony of the ancestral pre-mothers are very similar to the worship expenses of the seita. The worship ceremonies of the ancestral pre-mothers are usually performed on small altars reserved for them, and these ancestral spirits favor as worshipers those who are members of the pre-mother's own family lineage. Some worshipers also carry with them some part of their ancestral pre-mother's body, such as a small part of her ashes or, for example, a carefully preserved and engraved piece of femur. The bearer of such an object can carry out the worship ceremonies of his ancestral spirit anywhere.
The ancestral spirit expects her offspring to nurture the customs and traditions of her family lineage and to defend her family in the best possible way in both words and deeds. If the ancestral spirit is pleased with her worshiper, she gives him some of her abilities in exchange for spell points. The ability given by the ancestral spirit is one of those that she became known for while living. With this power of spellcraft, some are known to have dreamed themselves into the halls of the dead, wherein the ancestral spirits await for this eventuality.
The walker has an animal spirit that advises and helps him in difficult places. The walker can also take on the essence of his spirit animal making him become more like his spirit animal for a while. The walker summoning the spirit of the wolf gets a better sense of smell and at the same time quite a lust for the flesh, while the one asking for help from the spirit of the hare is able to sneak away at a wild pace while being very afraid of the smell of the fox.
A walker can only have the essence of one spirit animal on him at any time.
The major spellcraft provided by spirits can only be learned from the great spirits and they usually put the walker into some kind of grueling test before granting the knowledge.
Shapeshifting is not only being able to recall one of his spirit animals but it is also about summoning its physical form in a process called shapeshifting. The shapeshifter is thus able to physically transform into the form of a a spirit animal while retaining his own memory and soul.
This power otherwise works exactly like the shapeshifting, but the spirit that the shapeshifter summons is not an animal but one of his ancestral pre-mothers, and a mask of that specific ancestral spirit is used in preparation instead of raw feral force. The shapeshifter does not physically turn into his ancestral spirit, but he typically gets some of its traits. If, for example, the shapeshifter's ancestral spirit had scars across her face, these very same scars could also appear on the shapeshifter's face when his ancestral spirit has reincarnated into his corporeal body.
"From afar comes an ominous warning
A ghost blood-covered, dead,
A spirit showing that in the morning
The ground will run red."
The walker is granted visions that can warn him of the dangers to come and give precious hints about future events in a way no one else can. The events do not always correspond exactly to the walker's proxy, and things might unfold with a lot of variance, and sometimes manifest only on a purely symbolic level.
To learn greater spellcraft of the spirits, the follower of the spirit path must have visited the spirit world or the halls of the dead.
Gates of time and space
The walker has finally learned that time and place are illusions. Through the world of spirits, he is able to reach out into new times and places. To do this, the walker must first enter the world of spirits through rites dedicated to either his ancestral spirit or his seita. After this, the walker can try and reach out to either the past or the future and step into a different time and place.
It is worth noting that the walker cannot change history with this power. All the times and places the walker can move are far from the time and place where the walker lives. So this power takes the walker into midst of strange and wonderful creatures in strange and wonderful worlds.
It is worth noting that traveling in time is to the shaman as an experience much closer to a hallucination trip with the help of fly agarics, than a scientific experiment testing the laws of physics. For example, the transition into another time or place can happen with the help of a mole spirit; the walker digs himself deep into the tunnels of the spirit world, so deep, that once he clears out from them, he finds himself in a different place. A walker specializing in wolf spirits can follow their secret trails in deep boreal forest, into a new era. Also, returning back from a foreign time requires similar knowledge as the walker now has to find his way back in reverse direction.
If a walker drifts into the stream of dreams, he will drift into some undetermined time and place he didn't want to end up. This time and place is very likely hostile and dangerous to the walker.
The Path of Infecti Tyros
"Do you know what you know? You think you do
And what you don't know? You think that too
This riddle says it isn't so.
You don't know what you don't know."
-An old Infecti mind riddle
The Path of Infection, also known as Infecti Tyros, also known as the Fourth Path, is the way of no path. It is followed by those who consciously refuse to commit into any of the aforementioned three paths of spellcraft, but are still seeking greatness and power. What sets them apart from ordinary people, and from those who are not committed, is that they have explicitly decided that none of the existing paths are suitable for them. Followers of the path of Infection can be found in all peoples, but they are relatively rare.
The Infecti draw some of their knowledge and power from the three other paths. The strongest of them also develop their own form of spellcraft. They can learn lesser spellcraft of the other three paths under the same conditions as those who are actually walking on those paths. However, they can never learn major or greater spellcraft.
Spellcraft of the Goblins
"Outsiders will never take
the fruits of our culture's toil;
Though their vast legions make
the flat plains roil and boil,
Their attacks are a mistake--
We put them under the soil."
Goblins stand out as a people very significantly different from the rest of the world. They can learn the spellcraft used by humans, but primarily use their own. In theory, goblins can follow any of the three paths, but this rarely happens. In spellcraft, strong goblins follow the path of Infecti almost without exception and can learn minor spellcraft of all other paths. Similarly, people learning spellcraft of the Goblins can do so, but this requires years of living among the goblins as a committed member of their bands and is thus quite rare. The spellcraft of goblins is thus minor, but it is very difficult for non-goblins to learn even this much.
The goblins' own spellcraft is very simple, very close to nature and rough. At the same time, it is also downright unrestrainedly wild and powerful. Goblins know how to put themselves completely under the power of their primitive emotions and act as their incarnations. The fearful goblin flees like lightning and hides anywhere, the goblin in heat will make love to whomever he wants and the furious goblin should not be confronted eye to eye with even a ten-headed crowd. Goblins are also able to evoke feelings they want in other people through their strong smell.
The goblin knows how to focus his feelings into an explosive eruption that is almost impossible for anyone to control. It is generally easy for a goblin to act guided by his emotions. Thus, a goblin who has learned a the feeling of fury can turn the conditions in his favor by acting furiously more easily than usual. In return, the goblin, on the other hand, finds it quite difficult to act against his feelings.
A goblin with this ability is able to emit an odor into the air that drives everyone who smells it into the power of a certain feeling. It is easy for those around the goblin to act on the impulse given by this smell and hard to counter it. Those in the vicinity of the goblin are likely to have the winning hand when acting in accordance to the odor and losing hand when acting against the odor. The same goes for the odor-emitting goblin.