Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
The Spirit World
The air is a tangle of scents.
Metal. Rust. Asphalt. Blood. Vomit. Ozone. All woven together by the smell of the Shadow—the scent unlike anything of the flesh. It is a low and subtle scent, almost like the bouquet of a wine made from unearthly fruits, somewhere between intoxicating and poisonous.
She hates it. The smell of the city’s Shadow sends its tendrils into her memory. Each time she draws in a breath, dreams and echoes of pain and blood turn over in the dark parts of her mind.
She wishes she could hold her breath. She wishes she could be flesh instead, surrounded by the stink of the physical city. She wishes she didn’t have to remember. She wishes the Shadow were a place where things like this didn’t have to keep happening.
But she hears it approaching. It does not know how to breathe, so its imitation of breath is part rattle and part burble. Phantom metal scrapes against itself. She feels its warmth growing near her, and then its scent drowns out the scent of the city—rotten flesh, boiled blood, infected wounds, stained iron and, again, the perfume of the Shadow.
She hates it. She hates it for what it has done, for making it necessary that she hunt it down. She hates it as a hideous thing, a repulsive parody that should not be. She hates it for drawing her here.
She feels her fury welling up within her. It is rooted in her bowels, wrapped around her heart, stretching through her limbs, curling in her brain.
She lets it flower.
Just as the Shadow Realm reflects the physical lands in form and substance, so too do the spirits. Each object, plant or place births its own spirit over time. As that thing comes into being, so too is there the germ of a spirit within it—a mote no larger (or more self-aware) than a gnat. As the object sees use, the plant or animal grows or the place endures, so too does its spirit grow in power until it’s fully formed, albeit as the least powerful of self-aware spirits: a lesser Gaffling. Such spirits remain dormant and effectively hidden from other spirits until they awake, or are forced into wakefulness.
These spirits are a strange dichotomy of individuality and sameness, shackled by drives more powerful than any animal’s instinct yet with the possibility to become inhuman gods. All tree spirits share a certain slowness of thought and action, but a pine-spirit is different from an oak-spirit, and each oak-spirit has its own character, depending on its level of power. While people’s personalities only sometimes reflect their jobs or heritage, such is always the case with a spirit. The spirit is the true nature of the object, given form in the Shadow. The appearance, form and function of a spirit’s host object all affect its personality. All gun spirits are innately vicious and prone to violence, yet emotionally cold—the spirit of a thing that has no purpose but killing. Yet the spirit of a gun used in a murder feels a greater bloodlust than the spirit of a rifle that has rarely left its display case above a fireplace. Just as a person’s personality develops throughout her life, so does a spirit’s personality develop as its birth object is used, or as it feeds and becomes stronger in other ways. Gradually, a spirit can take on additional aspects. The spirit of a murderer’s knife might become as much a spirit of fear and death as of sharp metal.
These aren’t the wise and knowing spirit guides of some beliefs, but strange entities as predatory and vicious as any beast in the physical world. They fight with, and prey upon, each other, just as creatures do in the wild. There are two significant twists to the food chains of the Shadow Realm, however:
• While one type of animal preys on another in the physical world, if a spirit wants to grow in power and status, the quickest route is to prey on weaker spirits of its own type.
• The spirits of inanimate objects and places are just as liable to prey on each other as those of natural creatures.
Spirits don’t need to eat or drink as we do. They have only a single source of sustenance: Essence. This spiritual energy fuels their being, and it can either regenerate over time or be boosted by consuming smaller creatures. Each act of consumption has a consequence, though. It can change the nature of the spirit that does the consuming, creating something that’s a mixture of both beings. For the most part, then, spirits prefer to feed upon prey that reinforces their own nature. For a dove-spirit to grow stronger while retaining its nature, it needs to feed upon other dove-spirits in a freakish parody of natural law. Some spirits can feed upon “prey spirits” of other, appropriate kinds, however, and increase their own nature. A fox-spirit that devours a hare-spirit will retain its vulpine self, as feeding upon hares is part of what it is to be a fox. Yet the spirit food chains aren’t limited to mimicking what science calls “ecology.” The spirit of a truck might “feed” by devouring not just other truck-spirits, but by feeding on the emotion released by a dying human—one struck by its physical form. In the symbolic logic of the spirit world, the truck is the predator and pedestrians are its prey.
The most urgent cause of predation is the knowledge that the end of a spirit’s existence draws near. If a deer-spirit knows that it’s weakening with age or illness, it might seek to consume another spirit in order to outlive the body that gave it existence. Spirits of the lesser-Jaggling Rank or lower are unable to regenerate Essence once their defining physical presence has gone. Some have been known to willingly give themselves up for consumption by stronger spirits to avoid their eventual dissolution.
The consequence of this process is that the more powerful a spirit is, the more of an idealized version of itself it becomes. The more tree spirits that a tree spirit absorbs, the more it becomes an abstract, idealized image of that particular type of tree. The individual quirks of the individual plants are slowly buried under an accumulation of the common characteristics of the species. So, a polar-bear-spirit that has consumed only other polar-bear-spirits will steadily become an idealized version of a polar bear as it moves up the spirit ranks. If it also consumes the spirits of bears of other types, however, it instead becomes an idealized version of a bear. If it tears apart its prey with particular gusto, it might also develop aspects of a spirit of bloodlust or fury.
|Rank||Representative Spirits||Trait Limits||Attribute Dots||Maximum Essence|
|1||Minor spirit (Lesser Gaffling)||5 dots||5-8||10|
|2||Common spirit (Greater Gaffling)||7 dots||9-14||15|
|3||Greater spirit (Lesser Jaggling)||9 dots||15-25||20|
|4||Powerful spirit (Greater Jaggling)||12 dots||26-35||30|
|5||Demigod (Minor Incarnae)||15 dots||36-45||50|
|6||Lesser god (Lesser Incarnae)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|7||Greater god (Greater Incarnae)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|9||Greater Celestine (Gaia (?), Luna, Helios, avatars of the Triat)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|10||Beyond conception (Gaia (?), the Wyld, the Weaver, the Wyrm)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Spirits above Rank 5 don’t need traits. Their abilities so far outstrip even the most powerful player characters that rolling dice for them would be meaningless. They are, to all intents and purposes, godlike beings. If they appear in a chronicle at all, they do so as plot devices.
A notable exception to the rule of spirits only consuming their own does exist. This occurs when a location spirit merges with other spirits within the physical place the location spirit represents to create a more powerful location spirit. For example, a glade-spirit and an oak-spirit can merge to create a forest-spirit. A forest-spirit can then grow by consuming both tree spirits and location spirits. The forest-spirit is still classified as a location spirit, but it’s free to consume other spirits within its location. Occultists have noted that combinations of electrical, computer and data spirits seem to be able to merge in a similar way to create what they term virtual location spirits. Such spirits are new, though, having only been encountered with any regularity in the last decade.
Strangely, within the Shadow Realm, the multi-species spirits are accorded more respect. Single-species spirits rarely reach beyond the Rank of lesser Jaggling. Only spirits that transcend the limitations of a single species reach the heights of greater Jaggling or Incarna. Father Wolf, for instance, was clearly an embodiment of the hunt and of death, as well as part wolf-spirit. Some truly powerful place spirits, those of cities, great forests, oceans or mountain ranges, can reach greater Jaggling level, too.
Of course, some hybrid spirits are feared rather than respected. They have become the other, even by the standards of the spirit world, bizarre chimeras that owe their existence to no single choir of spirits. The spirits of predatory animals are best able to feed on the spirits of their prey and retain their true form, but even they can degenerate into strange hybrids if they lose track of their core. Spirits of different parts that have no real correlation are shunned and feared by other spirits as unpredictable and dangerous monstrosities. A spider-spirit can take on elements of cunning, patience and poison while still remaining true to the concept of “spider,” but a spider-spirit that becomes a spirit of glass and fire as well no longer has any kin in its choir. These illogical, patchwork spirits have come to be known as magath—those that are not, yet are.
The spirits of animals and plants look very much like the objects that spawned them. What, though, does a spirit of fear or of a place or a concept or a nation look like? Here, humanity lends it a measure of form. The imaginations of untold billions of people shape the form of such abstract spirits into the images of popular culture. A spirit of pain or fear today is as likely to look like a mass of hypodermic needles, broken glass and rusted saw blades as it is to resemble the more primeval fears of teeth or claws. A spirit of a city square might look like the most prominent statue in the place, a version of the city’s emblem or even a typical resident of that square. The embodiment of a locale in Wall Street might appear as a faceless broker, striding around and interacting with nothing but money spirits.
The more powerful a spirit is, the more forms it might possess, shifting from one to the next as it adapts to the expectations of those it meets. Take, for example, the old spirits of European cities. The spirit of London, a greater Jaggling like most city spirits, might exude a certain Victorian air: anthropomorphic, smartly dressed and of abstract and angular features, in suit and hat, carrying an umbrella and often heralded by the arrival of fog. However much the good people of London protest that such an image has nothing to do with the real city, it’s too firmly entrenched in the minds of the rest of the world to be an inappropriate façade for the city spirit. This is the form that the spirit of London might take when called, but it might also have a form made of ancient cobbles and modern metal, of glass and rope, a hulking gestalt of elements from St. Paul’s, Tyburn and the Underground all at once. Even spirits that draw a guise from the most human of concepts are not human, nor do they look on human emotion with anything resembling empathy.
The rise of mass, worldwide media has had a profound effect on the Shadow Realm over the last few decades. Suddenly, the form of the less powerful abstract spirits can change in a matter of months rather than the decades it used to take. A hit movie seen by millions of people worldwide can affect whole choirs of spirits within weeks of its release. The appearance of computer and information spirits changes every few months, or so it seems.
One of the reasons that spirits that feed on negative emotions or events are so despised is that they seek to promote the suffering that spawns them to prevent their own decay. A pain mote quickly dissolves if the injury that birthed it is healed. Therefore, it’s in the interest of an awakened pain-spirit to keep promoting the existence of the pain for as long as it can. The longer it manages to survive, the more likely it is that other spirits of a similar nature will form, giving the original spirit the chance to consume them and grow in power.
The growth in power of such a spirit does nothing to give the physical world respite. After all, spirits who are talented at manipulating real-world events to propagate their own existence survive to consume other spirits. They continue to do so, even after it ceases to be a factor in their own survival, because they enjoy it, because they’re good at it and because it creates new spirits for them to feast upon. People sometimes say that a place has an evil reputation, and that bad things seem to happen there. That place is likely home to a powerful spirit, squatting in the Shadow and manipulating events in the physical world to its own advantage.
This is true of all spirits born of concepts rather than objects. A spirit of joy will also seek to prolong its own existence by promoting joy on the earthly side of the Gauntlet. This does not necessarily mean that a spirit of joy has a deep empathy for humanity—it might, for instance, gravitate to the ecstasy felt by narcotics users during the peak of their highs. Spirits don’t think like people, after all, or even like the Forsaken. This lack of understanding can also lead to changes in an unwary spirit’s nature. In time, the joy-spirit that was drawn to drug addicts during their highest emotional peak is exposed to so much despair and suffering during the addicts’ lows that it may even change its nature, becoming more a tainted thing of joy lost and despair gained.
GM’s Note: This portion bears special emphasis. Even spirits that embody positive concepts such as joy or love are fundamentally alien, predatory beings that will devour other spirits without pause and do whatever it takes to generate the Essence that sustains their existences. A spirit of joy, for example, will see no reason why funeral-goers should mourn a loved one’s death. At best, the spirit may prove a nuisance in its unwelcome attempts to inspire joy at an inappropriate time. At worst, the joy-spirit may attempt to eradicate the mourners’ Essence-dampening emotions by possessing or even killing them. This behavior isn’t malicious, any more than hurricanes or cancer cells are malicious. Spirits lack the moral capacity to distinguish between good and evil. Like animals, they are creatures of instinct and survival, driven to propagate themselves through generating Essence.
In short, a joy-spirit only cares about joy. It doesn’t care about the people who feel joy. It’s an important distinction that more than one occultist has overlooked.
All laws have exceptions. One exceptionally successful species has no apparent spiritual aspect: Humanity has no direct reflection in the Shadow Realm. There are no human-spirits as there are wolf-spirits, mongoose-spirits, rhino-spirits or adder-spirits, at least while the human lives. Humanity is barred from the spirit world, its spirits locked within the physical body of each individual, barred from the play of the spirit hierarchies. Ape spirits abound, from chimpanzee-spirits to gorilla-spirits and orangutanspirits, but not human-spirits. That particular branch of the mammalian tree has produced no spiritual fruit. Indeed, no sentient species has an analogous spirit choir. Although the spirits of the deceased might linger on, as human ghosts or werewolf ancestor-spirits, the intelligent races of the world simply don’t engender their own spirit reflections. Perhaps this is part of why the spirits seem to hold humans in such disregard.
There are many possible explanations for this, but none are truly provable. Perhaps the sentient races are simply too powerful. If humans were to give birth to spirits of humanity itself, they would quickly conquer the Shadow Realm, and the Celestines themselves have forbidden this. Perhaps it’s some sort of curse or punishment levied in the far distant past. Although no old legends speak of human-spirits, certainly that doesn’t preclude the lore from being forgotten over the aeons, like so much else. Or perhaps most frighteningly, humanity has no analogue because it’s somehow… impure. What if the hateful ravings of the many supernatural entities that despise humankind are right? The thought disturbs many a learned occultist.
Ultimately, though, the world has been alive longer than humans have been on it, and it will continue on after them. Others have reigned before humanity, and so too shall others reign after them. Perhaps then, and only then, might we see free human-spirits in the Shadow.
Spirits and the Physical World
The physical world is a source of great temptation to spirits. To weaker spirits, it offers a promise of safety, a place where fewer of their own kind might prey upon them. To stronger spirits, it offers the potential for self-gratification, the ability to pursue one’s goals unopposed by the weak and blind humans who aren’t even aware of their existence. To some, it offers the experience of the pleasures of the flesh, with access to sensations that simply aren’t the same in the spirit world. To others, it offers a sense of stability, a means of escaping the degenerating state of the Shadow Realm. Small wonder, then, that a spirit given the opportunity to escape to the physical world will probably take it.
If not for the Gauntlet, the physical world might have been flooded by spirits long ago. As it is, most spirits can slip through only at a locus where the Gauntlet is weak (and even then they must be attuned to its resonance). These limitations keep the number of spirit invaders relatively low, but still they manage to emerge in sufficient numbers to be a grave worry to those who are sensitive to such things. A spirit cares little for the welfare of those in the physical world, only for what it can take and feed upon there. In this way, some cynics believe, they aren’t so different from humans.
A spirit in the physical world that has neither manifested nor taken a host body is ephemeral: invisible and intangible to creatures of flesh alone. Certain supernatural powers might allow a character to detect or affect a spirit in Twilight, however. Few spirits remain in this state for long. Their Essence soon bleeds from them, and they will waste away and vanish unless they find a potent wellspring of Essence or a host to maintain them. Beings that take a particular interest in spirits, such as werewolves and certain mages, quickly learn to recognize the signs of a spirit that has fled into the physical world. When the resonance of an area begins to sharply focus on one particular aspect, it may be due to a spirit taking a hand in the physical world. When reports of a person or animal behaving especially strangely begin to circulate, one of the Ridden may be present.
Spirits are divided into choirs of spirits of broadly similar types. Spirits are aware of these affiliations from the moment they first encounter another spirit from the same choir. They have a similar resonance, that allows them to feel comfortable in one another’s company. “Choir” is a word used by occultists to describe broad categories of spirits, such as tree spirits, weather spirits or vehicle spirits, but it’s almost never used by the spirits themselves, whose language predisposes them to more prosaic descriptions like “those of nightmare” or “the fiery ones.”
These relationships are sometimes more complex than they appear. A rain-spirit could belong to either the Water Choir or the Weather Choir. The exact taxonomy isn’t usually an issue, because most rain-spirits last no longer than the downpour that created them. For other, longer-lived spirits, however, the dual affiliation can be an issue. A spirit of a dry stone wall, for example, is clearly just a carefully ordered pile of rock, so could be part of either the Earth Choir or the Structure Choir. Sometimes two choir courts in an area will argue over a spirit, and sometimes the spirit itself will seek guidance when it’s torn between two choirs and unable to make a decision. Sometimes it may ask guidance from supernatural beings with a particular affinity for its kind (such as werewolves), making it all too easy for a non-spirit to get dragged into the petty and intricate dance of spirit politics, triggered by a single decision.
Within these choirs, there are descants of spirits, such the Car Descant within the Vehicle Choir. These are tighter classifications within the choirs, which also convey a certain degree of status within the spirit world. It’s unheard of for a Gaffling to be admitted into a descant, even if it exemplifies that descant’s focus. A rattlesnake Gaffling is never considered a formal member of the Rattlesnake Descant. It’s only once a spirit has reached the conceptual refinement of Jaggling rank that it becomes worthy of joining a descant.
In many ways the relationship between a choir and a descant is much like the relationship between a tribe and its lodge. The similarity is probably not coincidental.
Spirits are creatures of rank and status. Each spirit is aware of its place in the world, and serves in its anointed place until such a time as it’s able to better itself by consuming another spirit and growing more powerful. Even a newly awakened spirit is predisposed to obey higher-ranking spirits from its own choir. It is almost as if spirits are striving toward a perfected form of themselves. As they join with other spirits, they become more idealized versions of the concepts or acts behind their creation. The more idealized the spirit is, the more respect it garners from other spirits like itself and even significantly weaker spirits of other descants and choirs.
The various choirs within a region form mutually competitive power blocks, struggling with one another for dominance. Within these choirs, the descants struggle for their own superiority. Within a forested area, the Tree Choir is clearly in the ascendant, yet the various descants of deciduous and evergreen trees struggle to become the predominant species in the forest. The Plant Choir is split by its own struggles as its descants seek to make the most of the space the Tree Choir allows them. Meanwhile, the Structure and Vehicle Choirs make their subtle inroads, forming their own courts as human construction activity increases. Understanding the power blocs within the spirit courts is a deeply complex process, for spirits are capable of being just as devious and manipulative with each other, within the limits of respect for spirits of higher Rank, as humans can be.
The Essence Game
Spirits actively recruit for their courts. It’s possible to bring over a spirit from an entirely different choir or even category of spirit, by gifting it with Essence with a resonance appropriate to the recruiting choir. A court of the Artificial might temporarily recruit a fox-spirit by feeding it machine-tainted Essence.
If the fox-spirit continues to receive such Essence it will become a permanent member of that court in a number of weeks equal to its Resistance, giving its allegiance to the artificial spirits rather than the natural spirits. Once the conversion is complete, the spirit will seek out urbanresonance Essence rather than Essence with the flavor of the rural landscape. The growing number of urban foxes hints at just how good some artificial spirits are at this game, just as the rusting cars and other bits of machinery found deep in a forest hint at a successful seduction of an artificial by a natural.
Lunes, Helions, and Other Celestials
Lunes, Helions and other spirits of the other planets in the solar system are the wildcards in the games of the spirits. Their concerns aren’t just of this world, but of their home celestial bodies. The differences Forsaken can see between different Lunes and Helions almost certainly mark the different spiritual choirs of their respective native areas of the Shadow, but these divisions are all but incomprehensible from an earthly perspective. Perhaps the most learned occultists know the secrets of the Lunar and Helion choirs, but they don’t share such knowledge easily. The same reasoning suggests that the other bodies in the solar system have their own choirs of spirits. Perhaps the stranger spirits found wandering the Shadow are spirits from those choirs, exploring other areas, or even exiled for some incomprehensible crime.
Sometimes the spirits go to war. Legends tell of great wars between spirits that coincided with the deaths of entire species in the physical world whose spiritual descant was wiped out in the spirit world. The Shadow Realm was a Darwinian place long before Darwin entered the world. Battles between descants and choirs can be terrible events, laying waste to whole swathes of the Shadow and causing wholesale damage in the physical world too (including earthquakes, extinction, explosions and fires). Sometimes these wars are no more than local struggles between spirit courts, as the natural choirs struggle with the artificial ones or two descants of animal spirits compete to dominate the spiritual landscape. Regardless, spirits go to war with one another with surprising ease. Many spirits don’t fear death as humans and animals do.
As long as their earthly counterpart endures, the spirit will eventually re-form from the shreds of its ephemera that survive its dissolution. Spiritual battles don’t end with corpses littering the battlefield. Instead, the slain combatants dissolve in manners appropriate to their choir. Spirits of murder and pain dissolve into showers of blood or bone that litter the landscape, before slowly fading into ephemera. Elements explode into points of light, while spirits from the animal choirs disappear in clouds of fur or feathers. The artificial choirs scatter the landscape with cogs, gears, wheels and chips on their dissolution. Only ghosts leave bodies, and then only briefly as they sink six feet under the perceptual ground level in the Shadow.
Slowly, the ephemera that made up the spirit’s corpus finds its way back to the spirit’s physical counterpart, or to the domain within the Shadow it calls home if it no longer has a physical counterpart. Once the spirit re-forms and starts to associate with other members of its choir or descant, the old rivalries soon resurface, and war breaks out once more. As a result, spiritual battles rarely solve anything.
Spirits can, however, make a conscious decision to destroy an enemy spirit once and for all, not just discorporate it. This act taints the murderer with a powerful stain of negative resonance. Such a spirit might have set foot, talon or wheel on the path to becoming a bane.
A brood is a gathering of spirits from different choirs or descants based on politics. For example, Fenris Wolf, the great destroyer wolf-spirit totem of the Get of Fenris, calls on certain spirits to assist him and his children. Spirits of war and metal, wolf-spirits and raven-spirits, spirits of blood and anger and strength are all part of Fenris’ brood. All of these spirits share a certain common ground, although their natures vary. The wolf-spirits follow out of blood loyalty, while his raven-spirits follow from desire to feast on the corpses left in his wake. Even then, only a fraction of all wolf-spirits associate themselves with Destroyer Wolf. Others might associate themselves with the broods of other totems, while still others eschew broods entirely.
Obviously, a spirit brood is rarely well organized, as there are so few rules governing which spirits may be part of it. In this, it appears, the spirit world reflects the shifting politics that humans and many other supernatural beings know so well.
While the spirits of most birds, animals and fish are awake from the moment of their birth, most spirits of objects and plants sleep. They exist, and they have the potential to become intelligent, but they lie dormant until something happens to bring them to life. These sleeping or dormant spirits are visible in the spirit world as faint shadows of the object they represent, which move around along with their material world analogue. A number of things can bring them to life, however, with some serious consequences for the object that spawned the spirit.
Just as the object affects the spirit, so too does the spirit affect the object. An awake spirit can make decisions that affect the functioning of the objects, and possibly even the people using or near it. From an occultist’s point of view, the aware spirit can influence its environment, which makes it a potential problem, but it can also be negotiated with, or commanded, which makes it a potentially useful tool.
The spirits of man-made objects can be awakened in the following ways:
• Werewolves can bring spirits to life using the Wake the Spirit rite.
• Spirits sometimes awaken spontaneously when the objects they’re bound to are destroyed. This can be a traumatic experience for the spirit if the object’s destruction is violent and unexpected, while if it’s the result of natural deterioration, it can be a peaceful process. For example, a car that’s destroyed in a pile-up might leave an angry, violent car-spirit, scarred by the violence of its birth.
• Major spiritual crises in the spirit reflection of the object’s location can awaken all the object spirits in the vicinity. The spirits of artificial objects are less accustomed to the ways of the spirit world, and any major change from their normal spiritual environment can wake them. For instance, a major clash between groups of spirits or between a group of non-spirits and a powerful spirit can shock all the local spirits into wakefulness. The same holds true for areas that have been spiritually tainted in some manner. An object spirit that awakens in such an area is tainted by the resonance of the events that tainted the area. For example, the owner drives a car through an accident black spot. The pain and death in the place has tainted its reflection in the Shadow, attracting pain-spirits, fear-spirits and some lingering car-spirits, the legacy of vehicles written off in accidents. Passing through this area can shock a car-spirit into wakefulness and taint it with the pain and destruction of the area. Suddenly, the car becomes more prone to break down, possibly adding to the area’s accident-count.
The spirits of plants can be awakened in the following ways:
• Werewolves can bring spirits to life using the Wake the Spirit rite.
• Spirits can be awakened by more powerful spirits of the same general type. For example, a poplar-spirit could be awoken by any tree spirit, from a pine-spirit to a oakspirit. It couldn’t be awoken, however, by a fern-spirit or an ivy-spirit.
• Plant-spirits are only rarely woken by major spiritual activity in their vicinity. This occurs only when the activity directly threatens the spirit or its physical reflection. For example, a battle with a pain-spirit would not awaken the spirit of the pine tree at the site of the conflict. If the battle took place between the pack and someone Ridden by the pain-spirit, however, and a member of the pack is thrown into the tree’s trunk by the Ridden, the spirit of the tree might be shocked into wakefulness.
Negotiation and diplomacy with spirits always takes place in the First Tongue. There is one constant to all dealings with spirits: Nobody gets something for nothing out of them. Even the lowliest Gaffling requires something in return for its aid, even if it’s the gift of a single point of Essence. The more powerful the spirit is, the more demanding its price for aid is.
Spirits often request Essence. Spirits draw their Essence from the physical world, either through proximity to their physical reflection or through consuming it as it’s generated by actions or emotions with the right resonance. Doing so is time-consuming and unpredictable, when the same Essence can be earned through a deal with a werewolf (or a more powerful spirit).
Some spirits request a service instead. The service will be for one of two purposes: either to generate Essence for the spirit by performing an act or to generate emotions that will give the spirit a generous supply of Essence with the right resonance. Alternatively, it might involve weakening an enemy of the spirit’s court by destroying its physical reflection or depriving it of Essence by preventing emotions with the right resonance being generated. For example, a request to sabotage a tenement’s wiring and break the street lamps outside might generate more Essence over time for the darkness-spirit that lives there than a simple donation.
A Spirit’s Price
These listed prices for a spirit’s aid are just guidelines. The actual nature of the request varies by the type of spirit, the political situation between courts and the spirit’s own character. Spirits aren’t bound to follow this table—they can ask for more or less as they see fit. This table just marks what both parties would consider fair.
Prices are likely to rise as the level of the spirit increases. Gafflings would ask for the listed price, while Jagglings would ask for at least twice as much. Spirits of greater power than that will most likely ask their entreater to undertake an errand of significant danger (destroy a powerful pack of Pure who have offended the spirit, escort a favored spirit across the continent), or a physical task of considerable difficulty (reshape an area within the pack’s territory so it generates more spirits of a type specified in the bargain, create an appropriate locus for the spirit).
|Simple information||A small gift of Essence (1 or 2 points) or a minor task (discorporate a Gaffling, small physical changes to the material world)|
|Secret information||A large gift of Essence (3 to 5 points) or a major task (create a specific emotion or act in the physical world, discorporating several of the spirit’s enemies)|
A small gift of Essence, or a minor favor to be repaid on the character’s return.
Guiding to a nearby destination
A small gift of Essence and a minor act of the spirit’s choice
Guiding to a distant destination
|A major act of benefit to the spirit and a regular gift of 2 or 3 Essence per day during the journey|
Asking the spirit to relocate
Major reshaping of the physical world or regular work to generate appropriate Essence for the spirit for a period of not less than one month per level of the spirit’s Rank.
Asking the spirit to join in an attack
A major gift of Essence (at least 2 points per Rank of the spirit to be attacked). Sworn promise of a service of the spirit’s choice after the fight, to be carried out at a time of the spirit’s choosing.
“Whatever is in creation, has a spirit.” That saying is the first thing a Ithaeur mentor teaches a young charge. It seems to be a statement of the obvious, but like so many such statements, it’s a signpost on the road to wisdom. The spirit world is a complete reflection of the material world, and everything in the physical world has the potential to cast its own spirit reflection. For convenience and educational purposes, occultists use broad categories of spirits to describe groups of choirs with common characteristics.
Some of these groupings are recognized by the spirits themselves, such as the elementals, while others are simply useful terminology.
By far the most well-known spirits are the nature spirits. The untold descants of nature-spirits are the oldest and most directly reflected denizens of Shadow. From the least insect-spirit to the mythical Celestine said to represent the earth itself, they are the ephemeral embodiments of a Nature red in tooth and claw.
|Animals||Mice, Dogs, Horses|
|Fish||Salmon, Mako, Stickleback|
|Birds||Falcons, Wrens, Seagulls|
|Trees||Oaks, Pines, Silver Birches|
|Plants||Roses, Ivy, Heather|
|Fungi||Molds, Toadstools, Yeasts|
|Insects||Flies, Ants, Cockroaches|
If a werewolf pack has an urban territory, it’s likely to spend much of its time dealing with artificial spirits, the reflections of the creations of man. Opinion among occultists is divided over whether such spirits are brand new, created with the object, or the amalgamation of the spirits of the ingredients. In truth, though, they’re accepted as a spirit court in their own right, and they engage in the same political games as the other choirs.
|Vehicles||Cars, Bicycles, Trains, Boats|
|Structures||Houses, Offices, Walls, Garages, Sheds|
|Tools||Knives, Blenders, Shovels, Drills, Hammers|
|Weapons||Pistols, Knives, Swords, Clubs, Rifles, Missiles|
|Information||Books, Records, CDs, Flash Drives, Computers, Radios, Televisions|
|Objects||Lanterns, Windows, Statues, Clothes, Toys|
Elementals hold themselves aloof from the struggles of lesser, newer spirits. The spirits of the air, the water, fire and the earth hold themselves to be the oldest choir of spirits, formed in the earliest days and the body on which all other choirs are nothing but parasites and transitory beings. Some Ithaeur claim that the very oldest and most powerful of these spirits remember a time before humanity, before the world was as it is now. Such spirits are dismissive of visitors, claiming, “You will all be gone when the world wakes once more.”
|Air||Wind, Pressure, Oxygen, Cold|
|Fire||Sparks, Flames, Conflagrations, Explosions|
|Earth||Basalt, Granite, Limestone, Lava|
|Water||Rain, Lakes, Rivers, Clouds|
The servants of Mother Luna are among werewolves’ greatest allies, yet they’re also some of the least knowable. For one thing, the five principal choirs constantly change status based on the face that their mother is showing the world. When her face is full and her light fills the spirit world, they’re at their most aggressive, demanding and dangerous. When she hides her face, they’re sneaky and subtle. Legends tell that this is the true form of the gift of auspices she gave to her prodigal werewolf children, one they’re only partially able to use in the form of auspices. Perhaps this is for the best. If the Forsaken were as tied to her cycles as their Lune cousins, their territories would be truly frightening places to live. The Lune choirs are well known to the Tribes of the Moon. The descants, should there be any, remain a mystery.
Example Choirs: Glimmerings (lesser Lunes, who act as her representative to other spirit courts, and to werewolves), Secrets (lesser Lunes who gather information, and hear ev erything that is whispered under the moon), Ralunim (the Full Moon Choir), Cahalunim (the Gibbous Moon Choir), Elunim (the Half Moon Choir), Ithalunim (the Crescent Moon Choir), Irralunim (the New Moon Choir).
The servants of Helios aren’t often seen in the skies of the Shadow Realm. Those not familiar with Helions often mistake them for fire-spirits, though unusually powerful ones. It could be that that mistake isn’t as far from the truth as it seems. Great Helios’ brood might be spirits of fire, but ones born in the nuclear inferno of the sun, rather than in the lesser fires of the Earth. Like the Lunes, it’s almost impossible to understand Helions well enough to identify their descants. A few of Helios’ choirs are known, however.
Example Choirs: Warmlings (spirits of heat and nurturing), Firelings (very similar to fire spirits), Searings (aggressive shafts of sunlight, often found in conflict with conceptual spirits of darkness and night), Illuminators (spirits that appear to clarify vision and dispel darkness from areas; very hostile to banes).
The conceptual spirits are some of the most dangerous and difficult spirits that can be encountered. They’re born not from a particular thing within the material world, but from a reaction or an act, something that has no physical presence, but which is very real to those who experience it, like love, pain, joy and fear. Most of these spirits are very short-lived, existing for as long as the concept is held in the mind of its originator, and then gone. Humans, however, have a way of holding onto such concepts, or creating them in the minds of others, that the conceptuals have grown strong enough to merge with each other and start forming their own courts.
As the most human-formed of spirits, the conceptuals are the most likely to take on a mockery of human form, and the most prone to wearing changing human cultural context as their skin. One hundred years ago, a spirit of murder might well have looked like Jack the Ripper. Now, it might be reminiscent of a slasher-flick villain or a recently executed serial killer.
Conceptual spirits are rarer than those with physical analogues, but their nature makes them influential all the same. Their interactions with other spirits are frequently random and almost mad, even more so than the usual skewed politics of the Shadow Realm. It is rare that they prey on anything but other conceptuals—or that they are devoured in turn—but when it happens, it creates some of the more bizarre magath to stalk the spirit world. Conceptuals often come into conflict with Lunes and Helions, with the latter spirits often attacking on sight. Quite why this should be, no one knows—or at least no one who’s telling.
Some conceptuals attuned to negative emotions or suffering are simple creatures who lash out blindly in their suffering, trying to spread their misery to those around them. All too many, though, are subtle, thoughtful creatures, given to hiding in areas and slowly growing their power on both sides of the Gauntlet under the noses of both werewolves and spirit courts. Yet, as loathsome as they are, these spirits aren’t unnatural entities. The horrible truth is that the pain, misery and degradation that feeds them isn’t alien to the world.
|Emotionals||Fears, Loves, Greeds, Joys|
|Ideologicals||Nights, Murders, Worklings, Obligations, Responsibilities, Revolutionaries|
|Reactionaries||Pains, Lusts, Hungers, Thirsts|
The bizarre and shunned magath are the outcasts of the spirit world. While they aren’t hated and feared, they have no place within the mainstream of the spirit courts. Their crime? Defying the natural order of things. Odd crossbreeds might be the stuff of children’s fantasy for humanity, but in the spirit world, a poorly chosen consumption of one spirit by another can produce a car-spirit with aspects of a holly-spirit. This crossbreed is shunned by natural and artificial choirs and is on its own from the moment it comes into being.
This isolation leads many magath to seek power by forcibly consuming other spirits that it encounters, heed less of choir or descant. The more powerful the magath is, the less likely it is to resemble anything found on Earth.
This move is itself counter-productive, however, as it draws attention to the outcast, from both werewolves and the spirit courts, both of whom will seek to hunt it down and destroy it. Many magath in that position seek to flee across the Gauntlet, becoming one of the Spirit-Ridden.
By their very nature, magath defy categorization, so no choirs or descants exist for them. Sometimes groups of magath form their own, temporary descants, for survival’s sake. Their confused, distorted natures mean that such alliances rarely last long, but they’re capable of creating significant problems in the short term. The gathering of such bizarre, unnatural creature starts to distort the physical world in their locality, creating hybrid plants, animals and people. Mankind tends to attribute such things to mutation caused by radiation leaks, but those aware of spirits know the truth. Some occultists suspect that these descants are really the gullible shock troops of the Beshilu, who use the spiritually warping presence of these mockeries to start to gnaw at the structure of reality prior to a full-scale invasion of the Rat Hosts.
Banes (Wyrm Spirits)
Banes are foul spirits tainted by a primal force of entropy and corruption known as the Wyrm. They reflect the world’s seeming desire to turn on itself, the mad impulses that turn brother against brother or mother against child. Some Banes are personifications of principles like hate, disease, or murder; others are simply random destructive entities. They lurk throughout the Umbral Realms in any locale they can survive, but they are most attracted to dark, destructive impulses and emotions, and they gather in the Shadow where such emotions dominate the mortal world, attracted to the negativity despite the Gauntlet that separates them from it. It is in their best interests to prolong the world’s agony, that they can remain fat and strong until time itself ends.
The presence of Banes distills and reinforces negative feelings, but they are often not the sole cause of them. Instead, Banes are attracted by already-existing negative emotion, gathering around the person manifesting them like sharks drawn to blood. They feed on these destructive emotions and use the energy to strengthen them, spawning even more negativity in their target. Thus sorrow becomes depression and depression, desperation. Frustration becomes anger, which erupts into a homicidal rage. Titillation grows to obsession, and the boundaries between emotional ups-and-downs and true sociopathy are quickly crossed. Unless something intervenes, interaction with Banes is typically fatal for the humans they attract.
Banes are technically not a class of spirits themselves, but corrupted versions of other spirits. Their forms are legion, each reflecting something of the particular aspect of the Wyrm that they represent. Most are foul of form, embodying the Wyrm’s taint, but even this is no certainty. Destruction, deception, and corruption take many forms throughout the world, and if inhuman beauty and seemingly sweet seduction serves their needs, some bane will surely reflect those “virtues.”