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100 Secrets

Nope, despite appearances the project isn't actually dead, I've just been painting a cover for it. Having now finished it, here it is:


I've also been thinking about what to do with the written bits in terms of which direction I want to take the project in. More of that in a future post.


Waiting impatiently for the return of her husband, Lady Joy took his visitor for a walk around the South wing to admire some of the art. She was nervous and Lord Joven, her husband’s guest, was clearly bored and impatient. She provided what commentary she could concerning the pieces they stopped by, hoping that he at least did not know any of them well enough to contradict her.

They paused for a moment by a wooden sculpture of a boy holding a dog. Then a movement caught Joy’s eye. Lord Joven’s reflection in the hall mirror was beckoning to her even though he himself stood motionless. She almost ran in fear, but if she did then she would have to explain herself later, to her husband and maybe also to her guest. The reflection held up a piece of paper and moved it towards her. Pretending to adjust her hair, Joy moved to the mirror and took it.

Once her husband - Lord Villefontaine - had returned, Lady Joy excused herself for a moment and went to her chamber, where she opened the note. It read: “Return to this mirror after nightfall and be sure you are alone.”

Joy was more afraid than ever, but when night fell she could not resist returning. And this time she was not surprised to see Lord Joven’s reflection there without him. How was it possible, she asked, for a man’s reflection to be there without him? He replied that what was a reflection depended on which side of the mirror one was on. Then he held out his hand. She hesitated, so he asked: Do you dance?

Joy stepped through the mirror and they danced.


The mirror secret spread to Urthauld from the far West, early in the age of exploration. It cannot be learned; either one is born with access to it or not. The reason for this is simple: most people’s reflections copy their actions precisely, with never the slightest difference between them. To harness the mirror secret, that symmetry must be broken.

Although the most common route to possession of this secret is to inherit it, there are masters who can manipulate the reflections of others in such a way as to bestow the potential for the secret upon them.

As for what can be accomplished with mirrors, the range of feats is almost as numerous as the practitioners themselves. The root of all of it is the ability to separate one’s reflection from one’s own position. From there it can be sent to explore or spy on others unseen. Next comes an affinity with one’s own reflection enabling a sharing of emotions or even thoughts. In an environment with many mirrors this is almost like being in two places at one time.

More difficult to learn is the art of passing through mirrors into the mirror realm. Once mastered, this technique can be used to hide and can smuggle the secret wielder into otherwise inaccessible buildings. It is possible to create pairs of mirrors each of which shows the reflection from the other.

There are places in the world where the mirror world itself differs entirely. Whole buildings stand there which would be invisible without the aid of a mirror and an innocent traveller might pass right through one, aware of only a faint unease as their reflection was forced to take a more difficult route.

The Maze of Tapestries

“Please do not withdraw, you are welcome here. I assume you have come to look upon the tapestries? They are the finest collection of such anywhere in this world or any other. In the many stories woven upon them you will find the lives of the gods themselves, the rise and fall of kingdoms, the tales of the secrets and depictions of beasts so fearsome you may never sleep again.

There is a room to leave your travel belongings. It is here, to the left. We get more visitors than you might suppose. Refreshments are available along the corridor. Should you need to sleep, arrangements can be made. When the master is dining no guest may enter the dining hall, but at all other times food can be prepared for you if you wish it. There is no charge. Should you have any questions concerning other matters, you need only ask.

One final thing. From time to time it pleases the bards to tell tales of how the souls of the dead can be recovered from the maze and returned to our world. This is not permitted. If you attempt it, you will not succeed and the consequences will be very serious for you. I hope that is clear. Of course, not likely to be relevant to one such as you who is only here to study. Or so I assume?”


More than a day’s journey from the North road past Ulanquin lies a remote estate. At first sight it appears to be a vineyard, albeit oddly situated far from any towns. Closer inspection will reveal a small community lives here. There is no livery on display and none of the symbols of any religious order.

At the centre of the estate stands Foremost House, an old and unusual building the origins of which are lost to history. Each master of the place has been chosen by the previous master for as long as records have existed. All have seemed to have access to considerable wealth, said by some to be a gift that accompanies the acceptance of the role.

Within Foremost House is a large hall which contains only tapestries. The room is a maze, with anyone wishing to view the tapestries forced to explore it and risk getting lost. It might seem like a simple matter to navigate such a relatively small maze, but those who have entered it and returned tell tales of miles of twisting routes and even stairways stretching far belong what the hall could reasonably hold.

According to legend it is possible to retrieve the souls of the dead from within the maze. Indeed, this is technically true, but the strange properties of the depths of the maze extend beyond even this. Events from the past, including deaths, are all recorded on tapestries somewhere in the maze. If you can find the relevant tapestry and unravel it then those events can be undone. Or at least, you will emerge from the maze into a world in which they never happened… whether it’s the same place you set out from is another matter.


“If you give me the key, girl, I shan’t harm you.”

She looked at him with angry eyes, the key clenched tightly in one fist. As she walked back pace by pace he could see her casting glances around the hollow for possible routes of escape. Chances were she could climb the bank behind her, so with no other ways out he readied himself to spring forward and catch her foot if she tried it. Instead, she stopped.

“I know the name of the old secret. Come no closer or I speak it.”

It seemed unlikely that this dirty child had such strength, but it gave him pause. The grisly remains of their captain were as yet unexplained and he was in no hurry to meet the same end.

“Maybe you know it, maybe you don’t, but the knowing’s not the mastering of a thing, is it girl? Give me the key.”

“Ah, but if I haven’t the way of it that’s all the same to you sir. If it slip its leash it will make an end of you just the same. I see in your eyes as you knows it.”

And it was the truth, too. Swearing under his breath he turned and made back for the ship. They had most of what they came for and the contents of the mayor’s lockroom would do him no good if he wasn’t alive to spend it.


The folk tales of the fen peoples Southeast of Baratheen frequently warn against the dangers of entering the caves that border the region. There are wild bears who make their dens there, some are home to barbarians who gnaw animal bones and still others lead down into the fiery depths of the Earth. Most feared of all, though, is to discover an empty cave containing, food, water and a candle. If you should happen to find it, your only chance for survival is to eat the food, drink the water, say “thankyou” aloud to the empty cave and then leave at once. As you leave you will hear footsteps approaching from the cave, but you must not turn back, not even a glance.

This folk tale tells of an ancient power which was once wielded by the fen people. It turned upon them when their greatest sage, Orgor, drew too much of the power into themselves. Now it is forbidden to name the power in case it hears and comes. It is therefore known by the name of the one it took.

The wariness of the fen folk is justified, since if its true name is spoken Orgor is indeed called. It then attempts to seize control of the one who called it. If the summoner is victorious then they may control Orgor. If not, then Orgor controls them in perpetuity unless they are somehow freed from its grip.

The secret, when wielded, allows the wielder to call the beasts of the dark water to their aid and to take on some of their aspects. The more knowledgeable and experienced the wielder is, the greater the range of such beasts that can be commanded. Rats and spiders are simple enough, eels not much harder and the black fen dogs within the skills of most who dare the secret. Harder are the serpents, the boars and the wolves. More elusive still are the greater beasts who do not approach human villages and so have no names. And beyond even them is whatever the sage Orgor called, a feat only the foolish would seek to repeat.

Warp Crafting

Having left her master in his study with a bottle of damson liqueur and the curtains drawn, Marise descended the steps to the basement with some trepidation to clear up the results of the experiment. The previous day she had acquired a large, grey rabbit for use in the experiment. It was a pretty thing with a white mark like a teardrop on its nose and she had felt a little rueful handing it over in case some harm came to it. After the experiment, her master in a state of some agitation had been wailing that he couldn’t believe what had happened to the rabbit. She was expecting to find its body, maybe badly mutilated.

Marise put down her bucket of water and held up her lantern, pushing the door open cautiously. Then she leapt back with a shout, entirely unprepared for what she saw.

All over the basement were rabbits! They perched on the cupboards, they lolloped across the floor and they sniffed at the apparatus. Some of them had got into the bag of cauliflower leaves and were happily feasting. Each one was grey, with a white mark in the shape of a teardrop on its nose.


The ultimate goal of the study of natural philosophy is to develop a complete understanding of the mechanisms underlying every aspect of the world. No scholar, mortal or otherwise, has ever come close to this goal in any meaningful sense. However, there have been certain revelations which have so widened understanding that the many of the mysteries of the world are thereby unlocked.

During the age of exploration, the geometer Neddra Kallis devoted much of her life to the understanding of the geometric long gates constructed during the mythic epoch. The eventual solution to the mystery asked more questions than it resolved. The long gates were knitted together by strange, spindly creatures living in a void beyond the boundaries of the world. The students of Kallis continued her work and, almost a century later, the true underlying mechanism of the gates was uncovered, far removed conceptually from the functioning of shorter distance portals.

The mechanism uncovered was the primordial warp, a scaffold of invisible energies underlying not only everything within the world but some realms outside it as well. The difficulty was that no geometrical technique was able to usefully interact with this scaffold. A great effort therefore began to devise ways in which other secrets could be harnessed to manipulate it.

In due course there were finally a number of successful efforts to control the warp, but the fruits of these labours were not quite as anticipated. The power of warp crafting was everything the scholars had hoped, but the effects were terrifying and strange and it was unclear that any mortal could ever hope to safely wield this power. The knowledge was carefully recorded, but then locked away in deep archives and never referenced.

In the centuries that followed, warp crafting was occasionally used - and not always disastrously - but each time those who had done so concluded it had been an error to attempt it and they did not do so again.


Six pennies paid and Utho set out across the swamps with his mysterious companion. Why anyone wanted to travel North of Owl’s Crossing was no business of his and if his companion gave no name and chose not to speak on their journey then so much the better.

The nomads, Utho knew, were a wary folk and would not approach them. The war in the West was too far away to trouble them and so he had every expectation of six pennies easily earned. Matters became better still when his customer seemed to think it fell to him to feed his guide and so shared a rich vegetable bread and a round of cheese he had purchased at the market. Utho was a supertitious boy, though, and he knew such bounty must come at a price.

The price of the good bread and cheese become clear the next morning at sunrise. They were followed by at least half a dozen ill-looking vagrants with cudgels of black wood. At first Utho thought his companion unreasonably calm, but then finally realised the man was somehow unaware of their slinking pursuers. He pointed them out and at once a terrible stillness came over the man. He turned and glared back along the road.

The vagabonds took this as their cue to emerge, grinning and puffing their chests. They pulled mean faces, the better to scare their victims. They tapped their cudgels in their palms. Utho’s companion then swept both of his arms about him in a circle as though about to begin a dance. With a sound like a thunderclap a mighty wind sprang up, swirling with a strength more than enough to knock the thugs from their feet. Utho and the traveller somehow stood in the eye of it, their hair whipping in the wind but otherwise unharmed.

Nothing was said, but the vagrants understood the meaning well enough. Gathering their scattered weapons they made off back Southwards, leaving Utho and his new friend to their journey.


Windcraft is the secret wielded by the guardians of Aeros, a gift given to them by the elemental lord Suradijn.

Adepts of the secret can call wind into the sails of the ship, cool the Summer halls of Aeros and knock their foes to the ground with blasts of wind. However, the true masters of windcraft are more fearsome by far, able to lift themselves into the air with winds, topple buildings and gather mighty sandstorms.

Though its mastery takes many years of study, windcraft is not a skill alone. To command the wind requires an elemental soul. Some of the children of Aeros are born with this gift and others are given such a soul by Suradijn himself. In particular, if a child of Aeros is struck by some misfortune such as s sickness or injury which threatens their life then on occasion Suradijn will appear at the moment of death and, sweeping away their faded soul with a mighty wind, replace it with another of his own making and thereby restore the child to vitality.

For nearly two centuries during the age of wars the art of windcraft gradually died out in the world beyond Aeros and even declined sharply in Aeros itself. This was due primarily to Suradijn’s long captivity. When he was freed, the importance of the wind adepts increased once more and their numbers with it.

Late in the rule of Queen Prudence Villefontaine there was a movement within the Lossanbrant to integrate windcraft into the system of alchemy taught there. This was partly successful, but led to the formation of a body of knowledge concerning windcraft written primarily by non-practitioners of the art, since the requirement for an elemental soul was never circumvented.


The doors opened and a woman entered. Her storm cloak she dropped to the floor and with two motions of her hand the guards on each side stepped away to let her pass. As she strode across the dance floor her oilskin trousers fanned out into a skirt of blue silk and her tunic became a blouse of lace and satin. As though by chance each couple’s dance took them aside from her path a moment before her arrival and a corridor was thereby made to the high table.

The young viceroy looked as the woman approaching and saw her hair unknot itself and fall in waves across her shoulders. One eye looked straight at him with a keen intensity. In the other, he saw the spinning stars of the night sky. His bodyguard stepped back and bowed to her and if she chose it she could slay him with a single blow as she had a hundred before him.

Happy chance, then, that it did not please her to do so. Her black gloved hand held out toward him she said “We will dance!” and she smiled.

It was not a question.


In the later years of the age of exploration many of the great trading nations found themselves with the wealth and time to invest in the study of such hitherto neglected fields as history, philosophy and theology. This process led for the first time to a basic understanding of the relationship between all the various peoples of the long ocean and their cultures.

As a result of this gathering of knowledge, scholars began to think of many of the great powers as falling into two broad categories: those that came into the world from outside it and those which had persisted since the mythic epoch. Due to this classification, a great deal of attention was drawn to a previously obscure divine being of the far North, known there as Catoweya.

Catoweya appears as a human woman and regularly mixes with and speaks to humans without revealing her identity. Indeed, in many respects she lives like a human too, aside from never needing to eat or sleep. This appearance is profoundly deceptive, however. Catoweya is the incarnate form of the star of the same name, created through a feat of Moon puppetry by a sect of image sorcerors. She wields secrets of extraordinary power and is immortal in every sense of the word.

Catoweya is permanently at war with many if not all of the other great powers. Those who know of the ritual which created her speculate that this may have been her purpose, but that seems unlikely given that she fights also with the images. Her aims in doing so are twofold. First, to eliminate or contain those who could act against her. Second, to gather as much power to herself as possible.

Although Catoweya often works alongside mortals and even aids them from time to time, her underlying attide towards mortal races is by no means respectful. Indeed, she frequently employs persuasive secrets to enslave mortals in the pursuit of her various plans. More frequently still she manipulates their destinies with a lighter touch, but the results for her victims are ultimately no better.

All of her various activities serve a terrifyingly complex long term plan which Catoweya calls the “tapestry of the future”. She never reveals its full scope to anyone, but it seems she believes herself taking control of the fundamental machinery underlying the universe, effectively achieving boundless control. Whatever her plan for achieving this it is evidently no simple matter, since when drawn into conversation on the subject she has made clear this goal will take millennia to achieve.

Byath, Avatar of the Oceans

The shock of an impact again shook the ship, but this time more forcefully and even the crew who were braced against the walls were thrown to the floor. Nobody was foolish enough to be on deck in the storm, but that absence came at a price and now none knew with what they had collided. It didn’t matter. The ship began to take on water rapidly.

At once the captain gave the order to abandon ship. Water swirled around their ankles, and yet still the crew were slow to move. They were far from land and no doubt they knew in their hearts that there was little chance of reaching safety in the lifeboat, assuming they could even make use of it in the storm’s high waves.

Sephane watched the chaos unfolding around her with growing horror. These people were going to die. But more awful still was the realisation that they knew it and were spending their last minutes not trying to save their own lives, but simply in doing something - anything - to avoid focussing on the reality of their situation. From beneath her tunic she drew out the soapstone amulet her father had given her, then gathered her courage and ran up onto the deck. Mere seconds later a wave carried her over the side and she was hurled, tumbling, into the waves.

When Sephane awoke she was on the shore. Carzena was visible in the distance, its dock thick with tall masts. Around her on the sand were the crew and even the captain. Some were waking as she was, but even the others, cut and bruised as they were, still lived. She looked down at the amulet. It bore the symbol of Byath, the Avatar of the Ocean. She had grasped it with no expectation of being saved, doing so only because she had no better recourse. And yet, here she was.

The shrine to Byath in Carzena had not been tended since the month of her father’s death. That day it was swept and dusted, new mats were laid and new varnish applied to the polished wood. And from that day on Sephane never took off her father’s amulet.


When recorded history began in Urthauld, some of the first records were of old tales handed down orally for generations. In many of these folk legends every part of the natural world was a living being in its own right. Seen later as deities, in the oldest tales these personifications were the everyday characters in many of the dramas of the mythic epoch. They fought one another, fell in love, stole, created, travelled and slept.

The sages of the Six Castles called them “avatars”, taking the view that they were merely projections of the self and no more than fractional parts of the powers they seemed to represent.

Most of these beings were gone from the world by the time of the age of wars. Byath, the avatar of the oceans, was one of the few exceptions. As the power of the mortal races waxed, so they retreated into ever deeper waters, but they never left.

Whilst the power of the avatars is considerable, they are beings of very little ambition and are both sympathetic to mortals and surprisingly similar to them in their outlook. They are hostile to most other great powers, particularly those with the potential to harm whatever natural force they embody. In the case of Byath, it is not uncommon for them to make efforts to assist mortals who are endangered during sea voyages and they frequently battle against aquatic beasts whenever they are not native to the oceans.

Although Byath is often worshipped by mortals, this worship means nothing to them and they do not encourage or respond to it.

According to the elders amongst the images, all the avatars are gradually fading from the world. In the case of Byath, there have been no confirmed sightings since the end of the age of wars, but many sailors claim that deep within the ocean Byath still waits. For what, nobody can say.


First, you must stop thinking of this place as the world. It is not. It is a prison. Knowing this, you can escape it.

Second, you must be nobody and nothing. If the eyes that see all are watching as you try to escape they will frustrate you. They will twist your path and send their agents against you and raise such rivers, mountains and storms in your path that you will turn aside or turn back and become lost.

Third, you must understand how to wield the power that is your birthright. If you leave it will be because you were always going to leave. Your story must lie beyond the Encirclement and because it does your escape will become inevitable.

Finally, this is the path you must follow: Walk through the winding backstreets of Prime until you see plants underfoot. Then walk into the woods and through them until the ground slopes upward. Then walk through the hills until the mountains rise above you and you walk a narrow path hidden between rocky crags. At last you will come to a place where the path divides. There are six ways and you must take the seventh.

Do all this correctly and you will escape Monde. That is all I can tell you. I wish you luck.


Towards the beginning of the Age of Wars the Elders of Llaewar, who were all that remained of the disciples of the Sorceror of Llaewar, became fearful of the spread of image blood through the peoples of North Llaewar. For many years they could see no hope, then gradually they conceived an ambitious plan. Drawing upon the formless chaos at the heart of all things, they shaped a great power from nothingness. They then wove a story around this power, drawing in those with image blood from all the lands around. The aim was to wait until all the images had been drawn to a single place and then sever it from the world. This place they called Monde.

The plan was partly successful, but when the great power was formed it drew attention from the Pool of Godah, concerned that it represented an unaligned form. They sent a cross to destroy it - four demonic emissaries - who would surely have succeeded were not the Elders themselves still observing the progress of their project. They formed their creation into a great stone impervious to harm and drew protections around it in the form of an impassable wall. The cross saw too late that they had walked into danger. They slew the Elders, but lacked the strength to defeat the walled stone. Three of them fell and the fourth hid itself in order to plan the later destruction of the stone.

Centuries passed, with the city of Prime being constructed in Monde around the walled stone. Monde was never severed from the world as intended, but the walled stone itself constructed an all but impassable shield called the Encirclement to prevent it from being found again until it was ready. Although it came under attack again from within Monde, the walled stone never fell. The peoples of Monde eventually found ways through the Encirclement, but since the images had never been wholly contained in the first place it is unclear that this had significant consequences for the future of Llaewar.

At its height, Monde contained three cities: Prime, Esselring and Tointier. The first of these was built around the walled stone and it was from there that the Parliament ruled. This rule was opaque, unaccountable and for the most part quite unpopular. Sianlocke’s attempt to overthrow the Parliament of Prime was, however, entirely unsuccessful due to the power of the walled stone defending them.

For the most part, day-to-day life within Monde was organised around the Ties. These were loose alliances consisting of a combination of families, guilds and other individuals with broadly shared interests. Although they had a great deal of influence over day to day life in the cities they never sought to challenge the power of the Parliament, nor to escape Monde entirely.

When Monde was rediscovered, empty, during the Age of Exploration, the walled stone was gone.

The Llaewar Collars

And at last there were only two of them and they turned from each other and walked away. According to later accounts, so ended the Knights of Pharenis. Yet it was not truly so. Neither had abandoned their purpose. Malijae, the younger of the two, was not yet ready to abandon hope of success. In the ruins of old towns and in the wilds of the Northwest and across the Mezzochaine to the South she sought the legacy of the Sorceror of Llaewar.

The Knight Malijae was many things: a scholar, a warrior, a physician. Still when she found the second of the collars she was unprepared. As the child who has drunk only water is burned by brandy, so her vulnerable spirit was seized by the gnarled and ancient secrets of the collar. Her mind was borne away by dark currents and the wordless roar of the collar’s power consumed her senses.

It was her own dreams, hammered into twisted forms which guided her footsteps. And then for a brief moment before her death she awoke and knew that she had failed. She heard the whispers of those who had defeated her, telling her of the trail of devastation she had wrought. She knew then that she had become nothing more than another leaf, spinning in the swirling waters of Llaewar’s fate. And so she died. But the knights did not die with her.

The end of the Knights of Pharenis came when the news of Malijae’s end reached the last of their order. He was alone and saw no wisdom in building everything again from nothing when he and all his fellows had found only failure. Was their purpose noble or was it folly? If he did not even know himself, how could he teach it? Taking the sigil of the knights from his pocket, he threw it as far from him as he could, turned his back and walked away.


The Llaewar Collars were three artifacts of extraordinary power, crafted by the Sorceror of Llaewar late in the Mythic Epoch. Even he was unable to control them, but he believed this to be due to a failure on his part rather than a flaw in the collars themselves. Whether he was correct or not, no mortal ever managed to employ any of the three safely before they were eventually destroyed by the alchemist Carlo Mendez during the Age of Exploration.

Early in the Age of Wars the collars were stolen and the three became separated as the use of their secrets divided their new owners and led them to a variety of unpleasant ends.

The three collars each had different original purposes and were not made to the same design.

The first, sometimes called The Black Collar or The Serpentine Collar, was made to bestow immortality. When touched it gives strange visions of distorted faces watching from the shadows. If worn, dead beings close to the wearer will rise again, although not restored to life. These risen beings will enact the will of the wearer, although it is not their conscious commands which direct the dead, but rather the shifting whims of the subconscious.

The second, known as the Royal Collar, was intended for scrying and for the enhancement of the senses. When merely touched it dramatically distorts the perceptions, stretching and bending images of the surrounding world and combining fragments of imagery from all directions and from near and far. It is a disorienting experience, but takes only a few moments to recover from. If the collar is worn, this effect extends to a considerable range, affecting everyone nearby. The wearer themselves, however, will for the most part be able to make sense of these jumbled images and sounds and with practice can control the experience of others - although it is easier to inflict chaos than bring clarity.

The third, named the Ceremonial Collar, was intended for command. When touched it instills a sense of danger lurking nearby and a paranoia which lingers for some minutes afterwards. When worn it empowers the words of the wearer such that all who hear them will feel compelled to obey. This compulsion comes with no sense of loyalty or desire to assist; it is a strange and frightening thing to experience. The wearer will also be reluctant to remove the collar and will, over time, experience an increasing desire to employ its powers.