Entry 31: Riloth the 19th the 26th
This morning, before operation minions but after collecting my winnings, I handed Simon a note I’d written, and made copies of, in your pages the night before.
Show me Bandit Report
There are four armed men ambushing caravans a three hours fast ride outside town, atop the butte the road is carved through. Their camp is on the west side of the road about three hundred feet out. They have one crossbow and each is armed with swords. Three are Barion deserters and the fourth, the apparent leader, is an ex-security officer of the Parlor.
I figured I could make a copy each morning, hand it to Simon and let the Parlor clean up its own messes.
When I did give him the note, he did something I had not expected; he called the proprietor of the Parlor over. Tilavo came and quietly conferred with Simon and then turned to me, "May I ask how you came by this information, Master Theral?"
I hadn’t expected to be interrogated by Tilavo, and became a bit flustered.
I stumbled through a poor explanation, "I ah, was speaking to some refugees, urchin child refugees, last night, and they, uh... mentioned it."
"Hmmm, “ he said, “I’m surprised this escaped my security team’s notice. They are quite good at keeping an ear to the ground. The best. I will take care of this personally. Let your child urchin refugee friends know the roads around Crossroads will always be safe."
Flood, I suck at lying. How does Trish do it so naturally? I need to ask her for lessons. One day my inability to lie convincingly is going to get me into trouble, or more likely fail to get me out of it.
Before heading out, Tilavo took my note from Simon’s hands and paused briefly upon touching it. Bringing it up to his nose, he gave the paper a brief sniff then looked at me raising his eyebrow. "If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to have a—" he paused as if considering the word, "—conversation with you upon my return."
Without waiting for my reply he walked out. I don’t know what he wanted to talk about or why he smelled that page, but I didn’t plan to be anywhere he could find me when he returned. After waiting a moment for Tilavo to leave, I left myself to continue with my day. Outside the Parlor, I could see Tilavo passing his way through the market towards the gate. When he said he would "personally" take care of the problem, I’d assumed he meant he would go send his security out instead of tasking the errand to Simon. It appeared that the man was going to take care of it himself.
Who is he? I really don't want to be here when he gets back. Luckily, unless he has an excellent horse, that shouldn't be until tomorrow.
I wrapped up my morning routine and headed back to the Parlor for a quick breakfast. The plan for the day was to do some research on ensouled items. I know I said I would focus on exploring, but I thought alternating explorations with study might help me stay focused. Or at least channel my distractions into something more productive.
I don’t know why I hadn't done this sooner. I’d read into them a little as a child, hoping to someday discover one and go on to be some hero out of legends, but I realized how rare they were and lost interest. I was a pragmatic child, but now I have two. There's probably a lesson in there about giving up on your dreams.
Walking into the Parlor’s library I was welcomed by Jarreth and his customary greeting, "Welcome back Mage Theral, what arcane wonders can I help you solve today?" He was enjoying the patronage of a wizard a little too much. I take it he didn’t get wizards in here often. The Tower boasts the greatest hoarded wealth of knowledge on the Continent. A Tower wizard visiting a lesser library would be like a court baker eating a hot pie from a vendor’s cart. As much as I hate the Tower, I'd love to see it. If the Parlor's library is not worthy of a Tower wizard, how great is their collection?
Look at me and my book envy. I haven't even scratched the surface of this library and I want to find another. The wealth of knowledge on this lower floor is so vast, I wonder what mysteries lie on the second. Masterfully curated, every topic I’ve thought to research has been covered with multiple sources, each with a unique point of view to balance the others. While there is a small fiction section, I have yet to find a book on these shelves that was not worthy of inclusion. Many libraries in my travels—like Pitsmark’s in Edgewater—had been stuffed with nonsense to appear more impressive than they were; with opinion pieces, law books, journals, commentaries, and abridged versions of books of actual worth filling their shelves. One library even had a whole section on pre-Flood tax law—though my father insisted we spend a few months going over those. Finding a book with useful information could feel like digging for treasure.
I returned the slightly theatrical greeting, "Good morning Jarreth, I'm looking to do a little research on ensouled items. Could you help me with that?"
His face lit up at request.
"Oh, I most certainly can. Are you looking to identify one you found by chance in your grand adventures? We have an original pre-Flood illustrated edition of Deckard's Compendium of Ensouled Artifacts. Let's start with that."
He walked away searching for books, not waiting for my agreement. If given a topic to research the man takes off, listing names off the top of his head and finding them without referencing the catalog. He’s a wonder, but he renders much of my research experience redundant. My father loved a good librarian who knew his collection. They would have gotten along well.
I sat at a table and waited as Jarreth brought books to me, one at a time. This library had a very early edition of Deckard's: a massive tome with thick pages of parchment that produced a loud thud when placed on a desk. I had read Deckard’s during my childhood "research" but had only focused on the sections that described what the weapons could do and their chronicled uses throughout history. The book had a first section full of theory and speculation I’d skipped entirely.
I read through the more educational section of Deckard’s and skimmed some of the books Jarreth brought, including Eaton’s Lost Magics and surprisingly a dwarven text imaginatively titled On Weapons by Dagbit Understone. I’ll provide you with a summary of my findings as I would if my father had asked me to research something for him.
Ensouled Artifacts, known colloquially as soul-bound items, ensouled items, bound items, or relics, are the rarest type of magical item known to Kaltis—save those created by the gods themselves. The art of making ensouled artifacts was once widely known during the Age of Heroes, but the knowledge was contained and controlled during the expansion of the Grand Midlothian Empire. The secret was lost completely during the Flood Wars.
Though the art is lost, the general requirements of the process are still known. The first and most important component of creating an ensouled artifact is a soul stone. The exact nature of a soul stone is heavily debated. As with all discoveries that arose after the departure of the gods, there is no consensus on the greater ethical or spiritual implications of the practice. The soul stone was discovered near the end of the Age of Heroes after the gods had departed, but before the world descended into war. Oas, The Enlightened Master of the Order of the Resounding Silence, discovered the practice in its original form. Through decades of study of his inner self, he found that he could invest his soul into the world, which manifested as a stone an inch in diameter. His soul stone was a perfectly round white sphere that seemed to glow, yet emitted no light. Exactly what he was manifesting was—and still is—up for great debate. Some speculate it was the spark of life the gods used to create the races of men, others believe it was the container of his Will. Whatever it was, the transfer of it from inside him to a stone had no apparent adverse effects and Oas lived another hundred and fifty years after the feat. No mean accomplishment for a human who was already two hundred at the time. This longevity was typical to his order and not likely related to the creation of the soul stone.
Oas did not use his stone for anything, but at his discovery others sought to replicate the novel feat. Others still began reporting success at replicating the process through different means. They mostly cheated through the use of magic. Experiments were run by those who manifested their souls, and no loss in magical, cognitive, or physical ability was discovered. Some experiments were run to determine if distance from the stone had any adverse effects, but the researchers were loath to part from their stones so study in this area was limited. Much later, less ethical and willing experiments were performed by the Empire after they developed a method to capture the soul of an unwilling individual. They discovered that there were no adverse effects from separation, though the "participants" grew agitated when they knew their soul stones were distant from themselves.
Each soul stone appears unique and is a reflection of its originator's personality. The first by Oas was a pure white sphere, but they can take any form, from a cut diamond to a dull gray rock. All stones are of comparable material strength and take great works of magic to destroy. Once destroyed, a soul stone could be remade, but subsequent stones were more difficult to create and appeared different. Diamond souls come back smaller, with fewer facets. Plain river stone souls come back rougher and less round. Each time the soul comes back further from the ideal until they are unable to be recreated. These experiments showed no impact on the subjects.
A person, able to create their own soul stone and with one already existing in the world, could repeat the process of creating a soul stone. When this was done, a new soul stone would appear, and after a short time the original would dissolve into a black cloud which in turn disappeared completely.
The Empire discovered that the souls of the unwilling started less ideal than those created willingly. They also found that soul stones could be created shortly after a person’s death, and they were larger than those created from the unwilling but again, further from the ideal. All in all the Empire employed some less than scrupulous researchers, but they advanced the relatively new art of soul stones further than it would have ever gone without them.
The art of creating ensouled items was also discovered near the end of the Age of Heroes and further developed by the Empire. The first known ensouled item was created by a human wizard by the name of Endalkin. Endalkin, a wizard of little renown, was a jeweler by trade. He manifested his soul stone as a curiosity—as many did in that time—and not wanting to be parted from it, set it in gold which he wore around his neck.
Throughout his life, the simple gold setting grew in ornateness until upon his death it was an enormous fist sized talisman. According to reports, we know it served as a focus-enhancing device. In the years after crafting his talisman, Endalkin’s jewelry grew to be the best in the world. It was reported that he could work without sleeping or eating. He could also work without the need for a loupe or other magnifying device. At the time these were thought to be fanciful myths to describe the improved mastery of his craftsmanship, but once the reality of ensouled artifacts was discovered, this was traced back to be the first one. The abilities an ensouled item would develop depend on two things, the life and interests of the originator of the soul, and the mundane item it is crafted into. Weapons gain offensive capabilities; armor and shields defensive ones; jewelry passive ones. Spellbooks, it seems, gain some magical utilities.
The Empire performed experiments and discovered the destruction of an ensouled artifact resulted in further degradation in the recreated soul stone. Soul stones recreated and put into new items exhibited abilities in line with their original items. A soul that in an amulet would grant improved senses would in a sword or armor grant the bearer an uncanny awareness of their surroundings, allowing them to sense through their equipment.
Eventually, Endalkin was murdered for his talisman, and it was lost to history. From what was later learned about ensouled items, it is likely the talisman was useless to his murderer. Ensouled items revert to their original crafted form upon their bearer’s death. To unlock the powers of an ensouled item, its bearer must use it and grow a connection with it. If the item accepts its bearer, they slowly unlock its abilities and the item grows in appearance. When wielding a weapon crafted from your own soul its full potential is quickly unlocked. When wielding a weapon crafted from another’s soul the rate the abilities are made available to you, and the extent of its full potential you are able to unlock is based on your affinity to the stone.
Affinity is a nebulous concept at best. Familial relation with the stone’s originator seems to be a major contributing factor, but close friends have been known to unlock a stone’s potential as rapidly and fully as children of the originator. Conversely, items taken through murder rarely bestow any abilities to the murderer, barring some notable exceptions where the stone’s originator was of particularly unsavory character. Some famous items revealed that powerful affinity could be achieved if the new bearer has a similar purpose or personality to that of the originator. The most famous example of this is the Sword of Igan, crafted from the soul stone of one of Waas’ Chosen. It has been passed through Waas’ followers for hundreds of years, and its potential is fully and quickly unlocked by any of Waas’ faithful who wield it.
Many ensouled items are carefully guarded treasures, passed down through families, organizations, or governments. Countless more are lost to time. Because they return to the state of their original crafting upon the bearer’s death, they are often indistinguishable from mundane items. Most of the legends and tales surrounding them that I read growing up started with a child finding a mundane looking sword in a tinker’s cart and discovering through adventure that it was a weapon out of legend.
So Spellbook, the question is, whose soul are you? Were you some wizard? A spymaster? A researcher? Where is your soul stone anyway?
I think I found it. On your cover, there are three overlapping rings with a circle in the center. The rings are each a different metal, but the center one looks to be a disk of ruby covered in some coating. The coating is cracked with spider-webbed lines and the ruby shines through it. I never noticed the ruby in the cracks before, it's hidden unless the light strikes it perfectly. Let me just draw it.
Oh no, Tilavo is here, I see him through the stacks talking to Jarreth. I need to see if I can sneak out of the back.