Sorcery in the Age of Dusk

(reblogged from a post on YDIS. I expand on the original post and the sample rituals given below in considerable detail).

Hello my lovelies and welcome to another exciting rant on the nature of wizardy in my make pretend-fantasy world. For now we shall leave aside the nuts and bolts of the actual Sorcerer class, which is likely to be an unholy hybrid of the Sorcerer Class in Carcosa and a spellcasting class not unlike the one found in Empire of the Petal Throne(and its parallel bollywood universe doppelganger Arrows of Indra). Perhaps I shall just use the wizard class. Whatever. Instead we shall focus on magic in the Age of Dusk.

While every Sorcerer will have the opportunity to gain myriad abilities via various grimoires, blasphemous runes or the unearthly visions produced by ultratellurian narcotics as they increase in might(that means levels for the slow kids), these are but parlour tricks compared to the powerful sorceries of yesteryear.

The Lands of Autumn are littered with the ruins of past civilisations, many of which were far more accomplished in the sorcerous arts then the barbaric, superstitious and ignorant men of the Age of Dusk. Scholars would garrote a man in his sleep for a single page of the grimoires of Mighty Tzyan, a charcoal sketch of the Tomb of the Wizard-Prince of Myadar or a single translated rune from the forbidden language of banished Ion.
Men were wise and skillfull in olden days, but Magic itself was weak, and would dance to the off-key tunes of humankind only grudgingly. Now Magic is a whore and will give herself to whomever beckons her at the slightest incentive.
The incantations of old, while far beyond the understanding of the bone-rattlers, cursemongers and petty necromancers of the Age of Dusk, would in distant antiquity require a council of archmages to perform, whereas in the Age of Dusk a single sorcerer of intermediate ability can muster enough raw power to unleash it. Controlling or manipulating it is another matter entirely, thus all but the most ancient and powerful sorcerers can do little more but trigger the ritual and pray for the correct outcome. So it is that men who would be considered little more then ignorant children or superstitious primitives can accomplish in this rotting age what the best and brightest of an age of reason could not.

Each Sorcerous Incantation requires certain components to perform and often carries with it a cost to the ritualist. No man who was born in the Age of Dusk is knowledgeable enough to create a new one. Learning a ritual takes considerable time and performing it often carries with it a terrible price. A sorcerer who has learned how to perform a ritual will not neccessarily be able to teach it to another sorcerer without access to the original source (an ancient grimoire, a rune-scribed tomb, possesion by the spectral dinosaur-men of the Resounding City, telepathically imparted by the N’kra in exchange for deeds of utterable vileness etc.).

The Prismatic Storm – A Sorcery meant to harness all the myriad hues of the visible spectrum and unleash them in a city-spanning tidal wave of magical obliteration. Created during the decadent pre-Sybarran Epoch of Sorcery, it was considered little more then a theoretical exercise because of the large number of powerful sorcerers required to unleash it. In the Age of Dusk it can be performed by a single sorcerer and it requires little more then an hour’s worth of chanting.  It is whispered that the mysterious regions known as the Bleached Lands came about because of just such a conjuration.

The Screaming Gyre – A devastating incantation wrought by the hated wizard’s cabal remembered only as the Spiral in forgotten ages, the Gyre has been lost and rediscovered throughout the long history of the world, causing the extinction of civilisations wherever it is deployed.
The summoner calls forth a sphere of bloated and sickly un-light, intially three-hundred feet in radius. Its shrieking can be heard for miles in all direction and all who come into contact with it are left mindless husks (perhaps mercifully, few survive the initial shock) and their voices will be added to the Gyre. Each life given to the Gyre fuels its growth, causing it to expand. After it has claimed sufficient victims, myriad Incantations from ages long gone erupt from the Gyre in all directions as the collective screams form the words of power required to bring them into being.
It takes intense concentration and formidable willpower to direct the Gyre for any amount of time, and its self-sustaining and even semi-sentient nature means that only the willpower of the summoner or a sorcerer of equal ability can send it back to whatever unearthly realm it came from.
Some apocryphal texts hypothesize that the Gyre is no mere weapon but a means of immortality for the hated Spiral. Regardless, the Gyre inevitably wreaks immense devastation whenever it breaks free of its tenuous bonds, its first target in these instances always the Sorcerer who brought it forth.

The Incantation of Obsidian Splendour – Invoked but once by the insane wizard prince of lost Myadar, the Incantation was used to turn the entirety of Myadar’s population, including the prince himself, into obsidian statues. The prince was obsessed with art and sought to preserve forever the glories of his city-state in ageless obsidean, and for the most part, he succeeded. For centuries it lingered, causing all who passed beyond the city limits to join the population in their eternal repose. It is only now that the Incantation is finally fading, prompting some brave souls to travel to old Myadar, there to search for the secret of the incantation rumoured to be inscribed upon the prince’s tomb.
But not all souls who lived in Myadar were entirely transformed, and it is whispered some still exist within the sewers under Myadar, feeding on themselves and living in fear of the Guardian, a creation of the mad prince.

The Invocation of Ion the Horrible – None know from whence Ion came, but what is known is that it is a city of horrors, wrought with fell sorceries mercifully incomprehensible to the minds of modern men. None know what artifice or sorcery banished it to the lightless abyss beyond, or what madman would want to bring it forth once more. Apparently, at least one person felt it was a great idea.
The Invocation brings forth Ion the Horrible, a nightmare floating city of black glass and non-euclidean geometry, inhabited by cruel and incomprehensible alien sorcerers. Its vaults overflow with riches and magic unimaginable. Its spawning pits contain a thousand horrors the world has forgotten. If there is a way to banish Ion back to the formless nether realms once it has been invoked, it has long been lost.

The Betrothal to the King of Final Night – The Sorcerer ritually dedicates himself to Final Night by severing a finger, removing an ear or gauging out an eye to signify the consumation of his marriage with the Enigmatic Monarch of the Final Night.
In exchange for his devotion, the sorcerer is given the ability
 to call forth the Wolves of Final Night and lord over them from sunset to sunrise. This ritual can be performed as often as the Sorcerer desires, but each time he must pay the price anew. If the sorcerer has no more limbs to give, he may perform it one last time. At Sunrise, the Sorcerer is dragged off by the Wolves to a fate best not dwelled upon.

The Proclamation of Majestic Clemency: A tool of the unspeakable Harrow Kings that arose from the ashes of the Calamity to usher in the Age of Dusk with a reign so frought with atrocities it would surpass all the prior ages in horror and bloodshed, the proclamation was reserved for those civilisations that were unwilling to bend the knee without a fight. While the less lenient of the Harrow Kings would litter the sands with their bones at the slightest hint of resistance, some were not entirely without mercy.
All who stand within earshot of the Proclamation are afflicted with a rotting disease that claims the right hand over the course of 14 days. Victims suffer agonizing pains as the hand slowly shrivels until nothing is left but a blackened stump. Any children sired by those under the effect of the proclamation will be born without their right hand, as will their progeny, and so on.

The Proclamation of Regal Disrelish: Another tool of the Harrow-kings, the Proclamation is a terrible punishment for all who incur their disfavor. Anyone within earshot of the proclamation is struck deaf, dumb, blind and sterile. This incantation, like many others developed by the Harrow Kings, is known to place a great strain on the mind of the Sorcerer, and frequent use invites sociopathy, suicide and murderous insanity.

The Fifteen Decrees of Resplendent Chastisement: Reserved for the direst of enemies that are now lost to time, the decrees were the most dreadful weapon of the Harrow-kings(but records from the reign of the Harrow Kings are rare if not nonexistant and the Harrow-kings were renowned for their almost limitless inventiveness pertaining to all matters tortuous and sorcerous, making the existance of even more dreadful armaments certainly possible).
The decrees form an Incantation that spreads through the fabric of sorcery itself like a terrible pestilence. The very air becomes like a slow poison, flickering with witch-light as the fabric itself recoils from the blasphemous designs wrought upon it. All life within the area convulses and heaves under a constant onslaught of mutation. Eventually, all but a few of the most resilient creatures collapse under the strain. This spell can last for many decades, and those areas under the auspices of the Resplendent Chastisement will often give birth to an entire ecosystem of malformed and unnatural life.

The Liturgy of the Promised Land: Sought after by all who know of its existence in the mostly barren lands of the Age of Dusk, the litany will affect an area of over 16 square miles. All the land within it becomes bountiful and verdant, natural predators become docile and food becomes abundant. The liturgy has as its key component a follower who will voluntarily submit to death so that the promised land may be realised. This may be the sorcerer himself.

The Enchantment of Escaping the Fetters of Imperfection: Unlike many of the great sorceries, this Enchantment is nearly impossible to complete even for a veteran Sorcerer, and the conditions under which it can be performed are extremely specific. Its author is unknown, and many of the copies of the work are known to contain omissions or fatal flaws.  It is unrecorded whether it was ever successfully performed, but for untold ages, Sorcerors have sought in vain to accumulate copies and to successfully complete the Enchantment, which is said to be a means of attaining divinity and thus true immortality. Though no records of a successful casting exist, it is known that at least two Arch-mages managed to survive an imperfect transfiguration. One of them was eventually killed, though the conflict blackened the sky and wounded the earth for generations to come.

The Arcanum of Reflective Entanglement This mighty enchantment will forge a permanent telepathic link between up to 8 creatures. It is rumoured that the first of the Empty Men were created in this fashion, though this is hard to verify. (i am aware something like this exists in DnD 3.5. I just think its neat).

The Conjuration of the Immaculate Host: This conjuration calls forth the spirits of the thousand hero-deities that guarded the Sybaran Emperors. Each requires a ritually prepared corpse to possess, as well as a hand carved death mask bearing its personal heraldry in the language of old Sybara, to walk the world once more. If but a single corpse is incorrectly prepared, the Host will pour molten lead in the eyes and throat of the offending Sorcerer.
The Host is a dreadful thing to behold, garbed in armour of magically shaped stone and bearing the crystal duplicates of the weapons that made them legends in life. Each warrior is an unstoppable combatant, capable of besting a hundred normal men in battle. The Host obeys anyone who bears a ritually prepared imitation of the Scepter of Sybara, and they will not rest until each of the thousand has fallen.

The Litany of Memetic Erosion – A Sorcery of unquestionable potency, the Litany of Memetic Erosion affects everyone upon the world where it is cast. A single name, concept or notion is completely erased from history. All mention of it is removed from books, inscriptions and memory. Powerful creatures get a saving throw. This spell is not without limit. It cannot be used to remove say, the concept of mountains, for everyone would observe mountains and know they existed nonetheless. If it is used to erase a certain event from history which has consequences that continue on to this day, it only removes knowledge of the actual event, not knowledge of the consequences. The Litany requires a very complex orrey of rare alloys to perform.

The Calling of Gok: A ritual carved in crude pictograms on primordial granite buried beneath the earth when man was little more then half-ape, the Calling brings forth Gok from the murky realms of the collective subconscious. A primordial nightmare from the dawn of time, Gok desires only to hunt and feed. Gok can be unleashed without commands or sent to hunt a particular individual, though the death toll will inevitably accumulate as time goes on. Gok will hunt a single individual until either it or its quarry is slain. If it is simply unleashed, it will rampage through the countryside for a month or until it has devoured one-thousand and one humans, whichever comes first.
Gok requires the meat of human infants to lure him into reality.

The Enchantment of Arcane Investment: A potent weapon for anyone desperate or mad enough to employ it, the Enchantment turns the body of the sorcerer into what amounts to a living container of Sorcerous Energy. Blazing with untapped potential, the Sorcerer’s eyes emit a blinding light as the very air crackles around him. Even an apprentice wizard becomes a formidable adept with the power of an archmage. Unfortunately, the massive influx of arcane energy quickly consumes the wielder, and few can survive for the entire duration of the spell. Nevertheless, woe be unto those that face a wizard under the effects of the Enchantment of Arcane Investment, for he will not be the only one to die that day.

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2 thoughts on “Sorcery in the Age of Dusk

  1. Now this is one of the most “Vancian” descriptions of magic that anyone in the blogosphere has written.

    From the “Dying Earth” story Mazirian the Magician:

    At one time a thousand or more runes, spells, incantations, curses, and sorceries had been known. The reach of grand Motholam– Ascolais, the Idle of Kauchique, Almery to the South, the Land of the Falling Wall to the East– swarmed with sorcerers of every description, of whom the chief was the Arch-Necromancer Phandaal. A hundred spells Phandaal personally had formulated– though rumor said that demons whispered at his ear when he wrought magic. Pontecilla the Pious, then ruler of Grand Motholam, put Phandaal to torment, and after a terrible night, he killed Phandaal and outlawed sorcery throughout the land. The wizards of Grand Motholam fled like beetles under a strong light; the lore was dispersed and forgotten, until now, at this dim time, with the sun dark, wilderness obscuring Ascolais, and the white city Kaiin half in ruins, only a few more than a hundred spells remained to the knowledge of man. Of these, Mazirian had access to seventy-three, and gradually, by strategem and negotiation, was securing the others.

    Even your spell titles have a Vancian ring to them. Well played, good prince!

    Like

    1. I thank you for your kind words.

      I must have read the Dying Earth several years ago and even today i consider it one of the greatest fantasy works i have ever read. Vance’s whimsical prose, inventiveness and boundless imagination knows few equals.

      Like

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