No change took place in the cave and the stone did not move. Yet the adept became aware at once of a presence within the stone. So formidable was the presence that she found herself barely able to speak. She spoke nonetheless, her years of training serving their purpose.
“Oh wise Etiki, I seek your counsel. The master of the cloister has died and the four days of mourning have been observed. Who among us should become the new master? We humbly ask your guidance, for we cannot see as you do.”
With outward patience the adept waited, but inside she was fearful. It was unlikely she would be chosen. There were surely better candidates. If she were, though, could she guide the cloister through these difficult times? It was said the unrest in the city was becoming worse and many of the people were hungry. If the harvest failed then…
“No new master must be chosen.”
The adept gaped in astonishment, her worries forgotten. The Etiki continued to speak.
“Three thousand men come from the South bearing arms. They will sack and burn the city and loot its treasures. The cloister will fall. Each of the six adepts must take one dozen initiates and travel with them along a different road. When you can travel no further, find a place to build a new cloister.”
It was not until that moment that the adept truly devoted herself to the service of the Etiki.
Behind its silent, stone eyes, the Cave Etiki was satisfied. Now whether or not the army did as it had been instructed, victory was assured. Strengthened in their loyalty by the certainty that they had been spared a terrible end, the six new masters would extend its influence to new lands. The great plan was proceeding well…
The Philosopher Kings of Altekal crafted the first Etiki forms long ago as representations of ancient gods which were worshipped at that time. That these forms came to be inhabited by beings who spoke to them did not seem strange to them. The guidance of the Etiki kept Altekal safe against many threats. By the time the kingdom finally disintegrated into city states the Etiki had spread far into the surrounding lands.
Centuries later, the demigod mage Dornade began to perceive the terrifying extent of the Etiki’s influence and thereafter dedicated himself to freeing mortals from their grip.
Not all Etiki are identical in nature. The simplest and oldest forms are openings through which spirit beings who do not inhabit the mortal world are able to converse with those who do. Typically each Etiki form is used by exactly one such being. Should that being ever depart or die, the Etiki form becomes an empty shell, although such shells may later be adopted by another spirit.
Less common are ‘created’ Etiki, in which a sorceror has bound a spirit which cannot leave it. These can be amongst the strongest and most dangerous, since they may contain spirits which would not otherwise involve themselves in mortal affairs and which are motivated to find ways to free themselves. Some such Etiki may even contain more than one spirit.
Rarest of all are groups of Etiki which stand very far apart in the mortal world and yet allow the spirits who use them to pass swiftly between them. Misleadingly called Doorway Etiki by some mortal scholars, they are of great importance since they allow the Etiki to pass along knowledge from distant lands.
Although Etiki may wield a wide range of supernatural powers, most of their influence arises from the cultural habit of consulting them on important matters combined with the capacity of many Etiki to converse with one another outside the mortal realm. By gathering information from a variety of sources and trading knowledge, then guiding mortals through their counsel, the Etiki can exert sufficient influence to enact their plans.