30 Tales of Extraordinary Vis for November

Now I'm just breaking my own rules...

21: The Heart of the Matter
Vis: Mentem, 10
As recounted in Snorri Sturluson’s Edda, the hero Sigurd slew the dragon Fafnir and cut out their heart. He had planned on eating the dragon’s heart to gain its wisdom, but the heart was forgotten during another battle as it roasted over the fire, burning to ash by the time it was over. Fortunately, the one drop of dragon’s blood he tasted had saved his life already.

Faeries deep in the winding paths of Arcadia will often stop travelers by taking the form of Fafnir, knowing full well that their role is to die in battle. This is not a test of might, but a test of greed; a too-clever wanderer who believes he can keep the Heart for himself is likely to die in the next battle. For those who defy the script and survive, the Heart contains 10 pawns of Mentem vis and grants its wielder the Minor Virtue of Animal Ken (with an Ability score of 3) for a short time if they taste its blood.

No Enrichment or sacrifice of any kind is needed to gain the power of animal speech, because Fafnir’s Heart is in fact the Anchor of the faerie who plays Fafnir. Destroying the Heart by any mundane means completes the story and allows Fafnir to appear once more. Other faerie dragons are keen on prying Fafnir’s Heart away from the very much too-clever magi who might use it to fuel their magic. After all, draining the vis from the Heart will change Fafnir’s story forever…

Quirky historical fact: Snorri's Edda is just getting compiled in 1220. We think of those stories as unimaginably ancient, but to Mythic Europe they're just being widely told. Snorri was also the first to describe the dvergr as short, so the references to "dwarfs" as having reduced stature is actually anachronistic in the period.

The tale of Sigurd is of course vastly older, but the Edda version is the Ars equivalent to Neil Gaiman's recent retelling of Norse Myths. (Though as much as I love Gaiman, he probably won't still be remembered 800 years later.)

So faeries acting out Norse myths is the equivalent of that scene in American Gods where a god takes the form of an episode of I Love Lucy. Astonishing...

Anyhoo, I hit a bit of a snag in the running theme... one week of Minerals, one week of Vegetables, one week of Animals... there's hardly anything left but a load of thin air. So that's what we're working with now, insubstantial concepts that magi may capture regardless. I call them Ephemerals.

22: The Pilgrim’s Panacea
Vis: Corpus, 5
The town of Epsom was built around the healing spring feeding its pond. While the water may smell strange, washing in its mineral-tinged bath softens skin and eases pain. The spring is so beneficial that Chertsey Abbey was founded in part to protect it; ailing people from all over England travel to the Abbey to find some measure of relief.

Unsurprisingly, Epsom’s healing spring is a vis source. Any magi who dare to draw the essential salts of the spring extract 5 pawns of Corpus vis, which also retains a distilled, potent expression of its medicinal nature. Extracting the vis also depletes the spring’s healing power for one season’s time, which is likely to anger the town, the abbey and any wealthy patrons visiting at the moment.

The Spring’s Salts (Creo Corpus 25, Base 4, +1 Touch, +2 Moon, +2 Room, single use) When the salts are poured into a body of water (a shallow Roman-style bath works best), that water takes on the properties of the healing spring. Any people left soaking in the waters for the entire duration of this spell-like power gain a +9 bonus to all Recovery rolls to recover from injury or disease.


23: The Tears of the Needle
Vis: Intellego, 2
At the far west end of the Isle of Wight, the unforgiving ocean has pounded the stones into a line of tall, thin needles. On foggy days, the needle farthest from shore looks like a woman carved from stone, earning it the nickname “Lot’s Wife”. The sea spray hitting this monument has a very peculiar tone, almost like a woman crying.

Hermetic methods to preserve this note extract 2 points of Intellego vis from the crashing waves. More disturbingly, listening closely to this preserved sound reveals other, more human sounds. Among the noise is a warning that Lot’s Wife will one day collapse into the sea. Whether this is true is up to how much any given magus wishes to prevent it.

Whispers of the Sea (Intellego Mentem 25, Base 5, +2 Voice, Momentary, Individual, +10 Unlimited Uses) By holding the Tears in front of another person, the noise changes its tone and meaning to match the base emotion of whoever it focuses on. There are no conscious words, but the Tears can communicate how a person reacts to questions.

This one was a toughie for me, but I'm posting it anyways. How could something so fair be so cruel?

24: The Black Sun
Vis: Ignem, 4 (tainted)
Pliny the Elder wrote of an Egyptian city he knew as Alabastron, founded by the heretical Pharaoh Akhenaten. This city was built in a flat desert plain, supposedly closer to the sun god Akhenaten worshipped. The exact chain of events is unknown to the historical authorities, but the whole city was abandoned shortly after the Pharaoh’s death; hardly any evidence of Alabastron remains other than the boundary stones surrounding it.

It is not unusual for laborers to be injured or die even in the Year of Our Lord 1220, but the sheer waste of human effort and human life evident in Alabastron resulted in an Infernal aura on that forsaken city. When standing in the spot where the sun god’s temple once stood, the sun appears jet-black and paradoxically cold, inflicting one level of Fatigue per round of exposure. If captured by magi, this Black Sunlight tempts them with 4 pawns of Ignem aligned vis sordida tainted by Pride. Alabastron is so obscure that most magi genuinely wouldn’t know the city is haunted, but rumors abound of members of House Flambeau travelling to Egypt on vague pretenses.

Where is Your God Now (Incantation/Effusion 33, Base 4, Personal, Momentary, +4 Spectacle, +10 Unlimited Uses, +3 Environmental Trigger) The Black Sun is dangerous even when captured. This horribly Exceptional vis radiates in all directions, inflicting one level of Fatigue per round as it saps all heat from any person or animal which can perceive it. Bottled Black Sunlight is metaphysical hazardous waste whose very existence is an existential threat. It is also blatantly disobeying the known boundaries of Hermetic theory but conducting further research into why is a bad idea. The Devil is a known cheater.

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It's the 25th. Time for another!

25: The Hole in the World
Vis: Vim, 1
Tolerabundus of House Criamon claimed to have learned the exact day of his death and accepted its inevitability, not that it stopped his sodales from putting him under guards and wards the day before. Not only had he managed to slip out of a regio, past two magical alarms and four armed grogs, he became opaque to scrying entirely. It is assumed that Tolerabundus fell into Final Twilight, but only because of the magus-shaped patch of darkness he left in a barley field near the covenant.

Though the other magi of Tolerabundus’ covenant were rightfully afraid to touch it, the razor-thin panel of darkness may be tapped for 1 pawn of Vim vis. Any vessel prepared for this unusual vis takes on a shade of black which seems to absorb light around it. The first grog to press their ear up to that vessel learned that seeing isn’t everything…

Horn of the Enigma (Intellego Vim 28, Base 3, +1 Touch, Momentary, +3 Hearing, +10 Unlimited Uses, +3 Environmental Trigger) Listening to the vis vessel reveals the presence of Magic aligned regio boundaries. It provides no information on how to cross the boundary, but it does judge how close the boundary is by how loud its noise is. Ever since this effect was discovered, the covenant has agreed to store Tolerabundus’ shadowy vis in a small seashell.

26: The Deus Non Grata
Vis: Terram, 4
In the Stonehenge Tribunal, the county of Norfolk hosts a field of pits the locals call Grime’s Graves. The name comes from an old euphemism for the one-eyed faerie god Odin, and true to that name, a hidden shaft leads to a Magic regio in a cavern beneath the earth. These pits play host to the ghosts of eternally toiling miners, hacking at phantom stone with primitive tools and carrying it away to parts unknown.

What few magi know is that there is a second layer to Grime’s Graves, found by following the one ghostly miner who is not digging. The deepest layer is nothing more than a short tunnel leading to an antediluvian altar; nothing more than a stone bowl with offerings of deer antler tools left nearby, with no name for whatever god attended it. If undisturbed, the ghostly guide leaves another phantom pick behind and exits. This pagan offering to an absent god is infused with 4 pawns of Terram vis, but an explorer might still use the offering for its intended use.

The Axe, Perfected (Muto Terram 30, Base 5, +1 Touch, +3 Moon, +1 Part, One Use per Day) Touching the ghostly offering to a stone tool causes that tool to transform into roughly worked iron until the next cycle of the moon. To a pre-Flood civilization, even the concept of shaping iron would be a kind of magic.

27: The Suspicious Absence of a Minotaur
Vis: Muto Corpus, 5
Any scholar of Roman literature can recall the tragedy of King Minos. Neptune granted the king a snow-white bull to sacrifice in his name, but Minos was so astonished by its perfection that he kept the bull for himself. In retaliation, Neptune punished the king by cursing his wife, after which she gave birth to the Minotaur; half man, half bull, and incurably berserk. The hero Theseus eventually slayed the Minotaur, but traces of its legacy still remain.

Minos’ palace at Knossos still exists, ruined and forgotten yet standing still. Explorers who wander into its labyrinth may find evidence of a spectacular battle; walls shattered and gouged, imprints of bronze blades embedded in grooves, and dried blood untouched by vermin or rot. The Minotaur is long dead and buried, leaving no ghost, not even a faerie impostor. Despite all this, following the scuffed hoof-prints backwards to the center of the labyrinth leads to a spot where the air is still heavy with musk. This spot contains 5 pawns of Dedicated Muto Corpus vis, the remains of Neptune’s revenge. Knossos might even make a fine foundation for a covenant, though the suspicious absence of a minotaur may be more foreboding than a monster which may be hunted and slain.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks. Don't worry, I've been writing this way ahead of time, like Emeril Lagasse.

28: The Hyperborean Impression
Vis: Imaginem, 1
The Order of Hermes knows of the Hyperborean cult very well; those followers of Apollo refused to join the Order and died to the very last man for their independence. Almost all of their secrets followed them to the hereafter, though memories last in the strangest of places. Hyperborean musicians were known for their talent, so great that wild swans would gather to sing along with them. Against all odds, those swans hold a secret.

A scant few immortal Swans of Virtue remain alive to this day and remember very well what the Order of Hermes did. On a good day the swans will merely flee from a Hermetic magus; further investigation will lead to a very awkward combat with angry Magical waterfowl. If the approaching person appears innocent and honest, the swans will instead sing their lament for a lost civilization. This song is an echo of a Hyperborean hymn which contains 1 pawn of Imaginem vis if it is somehow captured.

Though it may be an ephemeral concept, this memory of a lost song may still be Enriched by singing along with the Swans of Virtue for an entire season, then making a sacrifice of wine to Apollo on the very last morning of that season. The Enriched Swan Song of Virtue grants those who memorized it the Minor Virtue of Enchanting Music (with an Ability score of 3) for as long as they remember the notes. A singer working with a covenant may very well learn the Art of Memory first, so the song will never be forgotten.

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29: The Rainbow Vale
Vis: Aquam, 6
Amazonia is a not-so-mythical land whose volcanic interior is largely uncharted except by Amazon sorceresses who speak in riddles. The water trickling down from the peaks is fresh yet sparse, except for one seemingly endless waterfall which flows even in the dry season. Following the falls downstream leads to a vale with a potent Magic aura. This vale’s pond shows all the colors of the rainbow on its rippling surface and is said to heal the wounds of all who bathe there. More prosaically, magi may attempt to extract 6 pawns of Aquam vis from the pond; Amazonian sorcery can only use animal sacrifice for vis, so these resources would be free real estate.

…They would be, except that the pond is alive. Amazonia’s nearly pristine wilds are a breeding ground for elementals of all kinds. The Rainbow Vale not only attracts water elementals, it is a very large water elemental itself. This Undine spirit is animalistic yet mostly benign, obsessively collecting living things it finds and healing them with its sparkling waters only to whisk them downstream to fates unknown. The Amazons consider the spirit of the Rainbow Vale a pest, but neither their magic nor their military might are suited for more than battering a water elemental into torpor for a few days.

The Rainbow Vale (‘s Spirit)
Might 25
Characteristics: Intelligence +-0, Per +1, Pre +2, Com -7, Str -6, Sta +-0, Dex +6, Qik +2
Confidence: 1 (3)
Size: +6
Season: Summer
Personality: Healing Spring +3, Curious +3, Jealous +1
Reputations: Meddlesome Spirit +3
Virtues: Magic Thing, Ways of the Vale
Flaws: Poor Memory, Short Attention Span, Simple Minded
Qualities: Greater Power (Drown), Focus Power (Crafter of Water), Ritual PowerX2 (Healing), Tough
Inferiorities: Limited Movement (Cannot leave the vale without magical assistance)
Bludgeon (Initiative +2, Attack +10 (6+0), Defense +6 (2+0), Damage -6 (fatigue damage only))
Soak (heh): +3
Wound Penalties: Light 1-11, Medium 12-22, Heavy 23-33, Incapacitating 34-44, Dead at 35+
Fatigue Levels: N/A; it is a POND.
Abilities: Amazonia Area Lore 5 (spec. Native Animals), Animal Handling 3 (spec. Fish), Awareness 3 (spec. vs. Amazons), Brawl 4 (spec. Bludgeon), Chiurgy 4 (spec. diagnosis), Concentration 2 (spec. Elemental Powers), Survival 4 (spec. Amazonia), Swim 4 (spec. Refusing to be Moved)
Drown (0 pts, Init +-0, Aquam) Not so much a power as a fact of being a Water Elemental. After a successful melee attack, the elemental can engulf a target whose Size is smaller than its own and attempt to drown them, necessitating a roll to avoid deprivation. The victim can attempt to escape each turn using the Grappling rules… quite easily, because violence is anathema to the Rainbow Vale.
Crafter of Water (1-5 pts, Init -3-(might cost), Aquam; Duplicate any Creo Aquam or Rego Aquam spell of level 25, at a cost of 1 Might per magnitude of the spell. This is the only way the Rainbow Vale could plausibly relocate itself or attack.
Healing (3 pts, Init -7, Corpus or Animal, Ritual) Heals a human or animal- the worst of the target’s wounds improves by one level when they bathe in the Rainbow Vale. This reduces the Rainbow Vale’s Might score by 3 points but living on top of a vis source makes this less of a concern.
Equipment: Lily pads, some ducks, skiprocks thrown by daughters of Amazons
Vis: 6, an improbably deep pond
Appearance: When it chooses to move unnaturally, The Rainbow Vale is a roving, symmetrical cluster of macroscopic icosahedrons with a characteristic rainbow shimmer.
Elementals in general are not suitable as player characters.

The monster is pretty rough... elementals are full of exceptions to rules. If anyone has any revisions they'd want to make, go ahead.

And that's the end of November. Thank you, soldales.

30: Catharsis
Vis: Mentem, 5 (imaginary)
The Volshebnii Mechtateli- those dream witches who are rightly shunned for meddling with men’s minds- wished to learn what men dream of when they die in their sleep. These normally reclusive magi have begun to seek out the old and infirm, supposedly to comfort them or ease their pain, while carefully forging Arcane Connections to dream-walk right into their thoughts. The first maga to investigate found herself ejected back into the waking world with no memory of what happened, not that it sopped her sodales from trying once more.

In a dying man’s last dream, they are visited by the Ophanim. These angels of Revelation take the form of infinitely shifting eyes within burning wheels, with which they grant the doomed and dying a moment of clarity before departing. Dream-witches foolhardy enough to intrude on the Ophanim cannot hide from a being literally created to Reveal, nor will they learn any of Heaven’s secrets; every dying dream is awesome, humbling and meant only to put that particular soul to rest. The fabric of a final dream is still worth searching, for they inevitably contain some small memento holding 5 pawns of Mentem vis. This vis is imaginary and cannot enter the waking world, but rumor has it a disturbingly large stockpile of lives flashing before eyes have been stored in the Vermillion Temple of Wistful Sighs.

A Mire for Hedonists (Muto Mentem 35, base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, Individual, +, +15 Penetration, single use) Dream-walkers who interact with the memento of the deceased’s final dream will suddenly “remember” all the details of that person’s life as they take on their memories and behaviors until sunrise. This peculiar effect allows the dream-witches to learn and copy information magi have no business knowing, but it also serves as a trap for gluttonous lucid dreamers who are only out for personal gain. Getting lost in other people’s dreams is no substitute for having dreams of your own.

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