Harrowing and Esoteric Archaeology

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This is a lecture on using necromancy and possessing other entities to explore outer valences, which is an embellished concept but only a minor extrapolation from what exist or has been done in storylines. This was previously illustrated in "Through A Glass Darkly" recapping Wehnimer's Landing storyline plot elements. It was given on 7/21/5119 at the Faendryl Symposium held by the Faendryl Enclave.

[Alabaster Spire, Library]
The spacious room is crowned by a high, vaulted ceiling of lapis lazuli tiles traced with silver lines, its intricate patterns echoing those of the mosaic floor.  Towering bookcases and armaria line the walls, with champagne silk-covered divans positioned near each.  Four pillars, carved to resemble sturdy lor trees, stand guard over the large, rectangular table and velvet-padded chairs in the center of the room.  You also see a gilded manuscript page, a miniature encaustic portrait and an arboreal alabaster-set archway.
Also here: Alisaire, Cruxophim who is sitting, Lord Thrassus who is sitting, Gannorlac, Mistress Clefeldal who is sitting, Shinann who is sitting, Vice Chancellor Xorus, Xanthium who is sitting, Melikor, Ysharra, Mayor Lylia
Obvious exits: none

You see Vice Chancellor Xorus Kul'shin the Harrower.
He appears to be a Faendryl Dark Elf.
He is tall and has a gaunt frame.  He has scintillating Eye-of-Koar emeralds for eyes and dark skin.  He has shoulder length, flowing silver hair.  He has a black leather mask contorted into the visage of a vruul over his face and a spider-shaped birthmark on his wrist.
He is in good shape.
He is wearing a shadowy black hood, an ora-chained dark obelisk crystal embellished with an attractive Scalu symbol design, a high-collared black leather coat, a six-fingered dark glaes hand set with pale azure crystal talons, an incised ebon horn cloak pin, a veniom bound vruul skin weapon harness inlaid with urglaes fangs, a xenium-threaded backpack, some dark double leather, some blackened glaes vambraces, a reticulated silver bracelet, a pair of vaalin-runed black silk casting gloves, a deeply incised obsidian signet bound in silver, a bleakstone-set black faenor ring, a dark glaes band, a small abyran'ra skull, a carmine and jet spidersilk bag, a pair of loose stygian black leather trousers, a tiny xenium stitched ankle sheath attached with small razern-etched bells, and some onyx-hued leather riding boots with rounded ora buckles.

Xorus says, "The Ambassador is missing out."

Xorus says, "This seems like a sound starting point."

Xorus says, "For those of you who are unfamiliar with my work, I am Vice Chancellor Emeritus of the Hazalred Thaumaturgical Institute, and was once elder historian in matters of antiquities."

Xorus says, "This is imprecise to the point of being misleading. There is no translation for it in the human or elven tongues."

Xorus says, "It would be something to the effect of 'occult philology' out of Faendryl, or a peculiar inflection of 'harrowing' in Dark Elven."

Xorus says, "These words have no similarity in the human dialects, in spite of their provenance in our own etymology."

Xorus says, "'Harrow' in Common is, unsurprisingly, a farming implement. It is surely a thing of abject terror."

Ysharra grins slowly at Xorus.

Zolis chortles softly at some secret joke.

Xorus says, "One tills the soil with beasts of burden, and it is all a terribly harrowing ordeal."

Cruxophim wipes some blood off his face with his hand.

Xorus says, "Oxen. Mules. Children. Whatever it is humans do on their farms."

Xorus says, "Harrowing is thus a dead metaphor for loosening the veil with many punctures, but its figurative meaning in our language is more like triumph through descent."

Xorus says, "It is a mythical paean to the heart of the Faendryl soul. The descent into fallen Maelshyve. The rise from the chthonic. Victorious over the darkness."

Xorus says, "This inflection is distinct from the 'harrowers' of the Extrachthonic Cartographer's Guild. It is more inward. In-itself. Implicit."

Xorus says, "I will be briefly discussing tonight what this means, as the discipline is unknown beyond the southern wastes."

Xorus says, "It is a methodology of esoteric archaeology involving the sorcerous arts of high necromancy."

Xorus asks, "But what, pray tell, does this all mean?"

Xorus says, "The essence of it is immediately understanding the hidden meaning or secrets of something through various means of revelation."

Xorus says, "Harrowers reconstruct its history in an occult fashion, through insight and vast correlation of esoteric knowledge."

Xorus says, "It is in this way that 'harrowing' and 'philology' become consonant as matters of history."

Xorus says, "This symposium is more concerned with the demonic than linguistic esoterica, so I will focus on 'harrowing' the outer realms."

Xorus says, "What I must first disabuse is the false dichotomy of 'necromancy' and 'demonology' as expressed in the outlands."

Xorus says, "These are intimately related, with demonic necromancy, and necromancy with demons."

Xorus says, "Think of the vathor making necleriines out of the dead of this world, or the 'epochxin' venom blood of the ebon-swirled primal, fashioned by witchcraft into cursed diseases and transformative afflictions with demonic hybrids of the living."

Xorus says, "The primal is a primitive cousin of the oculoth that haunts the Southron Wastes. Its blood is frozen in time and has been adapted into many weapons."

Xorus says, "Most infamous is the blackblood curse that gave birth to the Bleaklands, a wasteland of undeath and foul abominations of the shadows."

Xorus says, "It is not that there is no distinction between the demonic and undead. It is more that it is incidental and missing the point."

Xorus says, "It is more correct to speak of the intrinsic and extrinsic, the intensive and extensive, the immediate and the mediated."

Xorus says, "The esoteric and exoteric, if you will, or the implicit and explicit."

Xorus says, "Sorcery 'as Korthyr knew it' is much narrower than what is practiced today, for the ancient Faendryl were masters of both 'elemental' and 'spiritual' magic."

Xorus says, "What they found is that the unnatural fusion of these kinds of power was inherently destructive of inanimate and animate matter."

Xorus says, "The reason for this is trivial. The essence is the inherent fabric of all matter, with utter annihilation when violated."

Xorus says, "Thus, 'sorcery' in this most narrow, classical sense is the 'immediate' and 'specific' destruction of matter."

Xorus says, "The sorcerous spell is 'immediate' in that it is an effect without mediation, and 'specific' in that it only works upon a special medium."

Xorus says, "It is the act of turning the essence of a thing against itself, but only when the thing possesses those qualities."

Xorus says, "Imagine blowing the limb off a rock or inflicting pain on water. It is incoherent and meaningless."

Xorus says, "There is no such difficulty imagining a mage hurling flames at a rock or water."

Xorus says, "Nor is it a matter of assaulting the things themselves. It is the essence inhering in the limb that is disrupted rather than the limb itself."

Xorus says, "The immediate destruction of life force that inflicts the throes of agony."

Xorus says, "These are 'side effects' delighting in their own purposes, much as the vacuation of air when the fabric of reality is torn, or the elemental onslaught from a dark catalyst."

Xorus says, "The intimate association of sorcery with cruelty and acts of violence is thus deeply intertwined with its practice. It is inherently a weapon in a way other magic is not."

Xorus says, "It is impossible to practice limb disruption on a statue, after all. It must first be animated as a golem with an imprisoned spirit."

Xorus says, "Over the ages 'sorcery' widened, but its essence remained unchanged. The unnatural violation of nature itself."

Xorus says, "Mind you, this is expressing sorcery with the prejudice of the dualist dogma of magical spheres, but the monists would tell you it is all backwards."

Xorus says, "That 'hybrid' magic is closer to the primordial 'arcane' magic, and that 'pure' spheres arose later, because it was easier for mortals to wield."

Xorus says, "Regardless. What matters is the fusion of powers; and there are foreign powers, to the extent that the worlds are separated."

Xorus says, "The 'shadows' are the most familiar example in this region. They are bleeding into the Bleaklands in vast volumes."

Xorus says, "Violence upon the very fabric of reality allowed exotic forms of essence into our world, and from this came all manners of 'corruption' upon inanimate and animate matter, including curses and the undead or the transmogrification of the living."

Cruxophim taps his cloak causing the shadows to ripple and reform around his finger.  Pulling his hand away, the shadows withdraw from his finger and meld back into the cloak.

Xorus says, "When understood more deeply, notions of 'necromancy' and 'demonology' thus dissolve into mere epiphenomena, as there is no sanctity of kinds."

Xorus says, "Now, bringing us back to the matter at hand, there is the question of investigating other worlds."

Xorus says, "The traditional conceit is a summoner bringing a material thing from another 'valence' into our world through a rift, or a harrower traveling to the 'valence' by walking through the rift to the other world."

Xorus says, "Valences were first conceived as writhing layers of surface tensions around our world, formed by cosmic forces, with the more powerful demonic situated further 'out' from ourselves."

Xorus says, "These 'naturalists' catalog their extensive properties, whether the terrain, or the indigenous sentients, or whatever is 'natural' to that world."

Xorus says, "This is an impoverished and limited approach. Its weaknesses masked by the infinity of outer valences."

Xorus asks, "What of the worlds where we cannot survive? The incomprehensibly foreign or utterly hostile? Those that do not support 'matter' as such, or the flows of magic, the means for allowing us to travel back and forth?"

Xorus says, "The cartographer's guild will tell you the imp and the shien must be distantly related, that oculoths of various kinds are on this and that valence, but they give no insight into the why of it or how things are related."

Xorus says, "Their knowledge is exoteric, not esoteric; natural, not preternatural."

Xorus says, "Summoners are of far more immediate interest to the military, but they hardly exhaust the horrors of the abyss. One does not summon Marlu, as they say."

Xorus says, "It is only with more 'immediate' methods that we harrow such depths, not in the way such things are conceived by the archivists."

Xorus says, "These ways are ultimately complementary, one not more useful than the other."

Xorus says, "The blind need not be made the third eye of the impotent."

Xorus says, "In our world there are 'near realms' which overlap our own, effortlessly traversed without sorcery. The 'realm of dreams' is slipped into by dream walkers. The ethereal plane by unbound spirits and souls of the dead."

Xorus says, "For the outer realms of the abyss, there are more violent necromantic methods for immediate apprehension, similar to the 'mind jolt' spells of which you are all familiar."

Xorus says, "When afflicted the 'mind' is briefly opened to an unspeakable valence of being, so utterly alien and incomprehensible it paralyzes the soul."

Xorus says, "It will spread immediately to others nearby, 'possessing' them as well, with deep similarities to demonic possession itself."

Xorus says, "This has the superficial semblance of 'mentalism', but it is inherently violent, and otherworldly in its violation."

Xorus says, "Harrowing in the esoteric way is thus a kind of sorcerous 'astral projection' in general. It is a black art of divination through the spirit."

Xorus says, "The warlock might even possess otherworldly horrors or incarnate according to the intrinsic rules of other worlds."

Xorus says, "It is beyond our scope to address these methods in depth. I will only touch upon some of the most basic elements of a single method."

Xorus says, "What I speak of now is instead an extreme form of harrowing known as 'dread seeing' by demonic cultists."

Xorus says, "The first consideration is that one must 'possess' a vessel harmonious with the cosmic horrors in all their discord, or else especially suited to slipping between the pales."

Xorus says, "This conduit is usually a foul construct, something 'unholy' to cloak the soul in darkness, concealing the harrower from that which hungers."

Xorus says, "The vruul slumbering in their urns, or undead vesperti in the modern fashion, often make fine choices."

Xorus says, "Vesperti as you know are elf-bat things. They were made for breaching the veil."

Xorus says, "It is best to work this violence where the barriers between worlds are weakened or damaged. Summoning chambers are ideal, or other wounds in reality."

Xorus says, "The projection itself makes use of powerful hallucinogens and soporifics, such as writhing dreamvine mixed with oblivion quartz."

Xorus says, "What is most appropriate when breaking the seals of unfamiliar gateways is a complicated alchemical art."

Xorus says, "It is through trial and error, or tribulation, that one finds the right words. So to speak."

Xorus says, "The fourth consideration is the need for 'anchor' artifacts, with a scrying crystal for orientation that shifts in form with the abysmal seething, in turn serving as the key for traversing the gateways."

Xorus taps an ora-chained dark obelisk crystal embellished with an attractive Scalu symbol design that he is wearing.

Xorus says, "These visions are often highly surreal, and one must not become lost, forcing the doorways however disturbing they appear."

Xorus says, "The trouble is that the way back to the interplanar void is not necessarily the same as the way forward. It is important to have a deep understanding of extrachthonic languages, which is why this style of harrowing involves 'occult philology.'."

Xorus says, "Flow magic in a realm is in some sense a matter of will, but inhabited worlds become rigid with the grooves of spells. These become matters of arcane languages through which supernal effects are invoked."

Xorus says, "The magical forces of the reality are shaped into rote patterns by those wielding power within it, which gives rise to languages and runes with special resonances on the powers that be, such that one becomes ineffectual without special knowledge of spellcraft."

Xorus says, "For those realms close or parallel enough to our own there is simply our own magic, but in the abyss one must know how to wield power as would the natives."

Shadows distort oddly underfoot, lengthening and creeping in disjointed angles to pool beneath Alisaire's dusky leather boots.

Xorus darkly jokes, "You would not want to be rescued by the summoners. They would keep you in a jar and enter you in the Enchiridion Valentia."

Cruxophim nods grimly at Xorus.

Ysharra glances uneasily at Xorus.

Melikor snickers.

Shinann fidgets.

Xorus says, "It would be forgivable to have imagined traveling the infernal realms with a caravan of worm-ridden books, whole libraries on dead languages and other wild impracticalities."

Xorus says, "It is more subtle, involving immediate apprehension of languages through the possessed, or other unnatural knowledge; such as acquiring foreign memories, or 'reading' the patterns imprinted in the flows, much as we do the runes for planar shifts."

Xorus says, "In this very room I am sensing those runes at this very moment.. so, aq... qom jil... eda... they are broken and twilight grey, deep in the flows of this place."

Xorus says, "This is highly dangerous and must only be attempted by those with true mastery of the black arts."

Xorus says, "Our asylums are rife with careless dabblers who were bitten off by more than they could chew."

Cruxophim casually runs the tip of his tongue over the point of one of his sharply filed fangs, somehow managing to appear both threatening and seductive at the same time.  His eyes suddenly glow with a shadow-infused sanguine hue.

Xorus says, "More broadly one might be interested in the forbidden knowledge of the demonic, or the imprint of akashic records in the world itself, or the hidden threads of meaning forming invisible tapestries of history."

Xorus says, "There may even be occasion, from time to time, to harrow the world in more provincial ways."

Xorus says, "Unlocking the 'doors' of a red orc, for instance, or a certain purple wizard."

Xorus smirks.

Xorus says, "These methods when applied to our own world find use in the archaeology of dark and terrible ruins, treating with malevolent presences, warding the soul from black omens, and the search for baleful curios of power from the Sphere of Sorrow to the Book of Tormtor."

Xorus says, "The kind of ancient crypts Marlu is rumored to delve into and plunder, or other haunts riddled with eldritch mysteries and unworldly secrets."

Xorus says, "It is a paradox - and a symmetry - that occult philology is useful for understanding the esoteric and prehistorical, as 'philology' itself is limited to the historical record of written sources in known languages."

Xorus says, "The Palestra are all fine and well for keeping the rogue summoner under heel. Those of us who practice the black arts have a similar responsibility."

Xorus says, "There are untold relics from the Age of Darkness, dangerous artifacts of tremendous power, or dormant threats waiting to be awoken."

Xorus wryly concludes, "When you come across such desiderata - whether it be the Talon of Toullaire, the Eye of Ta'Ashrim, or Erythro Island - I suggest you bring me to them immediately."

See Also