Ether is a dangerous element. It has a nasty tendency to corrupt physicality itself. Even small amounts can endager the lives of those around it, and with too much exposure, will inevitably kill or cripple those it haunts. Needless to say, in the interest of public health (and, of course the Circle of Masters, the Greatland Mage's Guild) there has been a long-time effort to find an effective way of detecting the presence of Ether.
Ether can be detected a number of ways - either by sprinkling some Arcanite Dust and seeing if it floats, or by using a Sorcerer's affinity for the Ether to "sniff" it out. There are a number of diagnostic spells that detect the potency of Ethereal winds, the categories of which can range from just a small "Etherbreeze" to an "Ethergale."
But for those of us who are not gifted in the Arcane, the most plausible way of ascertaining the level of Ether (or if there is any at all) is Ether Wards.
Ether wards are not complex devices, by any means. Indeed, someone, with the proper raw materials could make one in his or her own home. It does require some rather exotic components, notably Arcanite and Lysonine, two elements found on the physical plane that have some extraordinary capabilities.
Arcanite acts as an Ethereal inhibitor - that is to say, it's a metal that is effectively insulated to Ether. Ether passes through most materials like wind passes through a screen. But Arcanite insulates, and in some cases, acts as a barrier or even a channel for Ethereal energy. Arcanite armor, for example, is effectively an Ethereal Hazmat suit, whereas a regular suit of carapace armor, or even power armor, is rendered largely useless against even the most basic of Ethereal energies.
Lysonite, on the other hand, is an Ethereal magnet. It's a greenish-blue crystal, which actually sucks in Ether and cleanses it, releasing harmless water vapor, in a chemical reaction that is completely foreign and inexplicable to even the most talented minds. The secondary byproduct of this reaction is that the crystal emits a high pitched whine, as well as a reddish glow, which can reach a rather brilliant hue when the crystal is filled to capacity. It goes without saying, of course, is that larger crystals, such as the one found in a Wizard's Nexus can hold considerably more than a small one found in, say, an Ether Ward.
The ward is set up very simply, and works without fail in all but the more inclimate conditions.
A metal shaft plants the ward firmly into the ground. Atop the metal shaft are two small horizontal dowels, attached at 90 degrees, that form an "X" shape. From these dowels, there hangs a number of Arcanite "chimes" numbering anywhere between six and twelve. This is enclosed in a normal metal cylinder, usually bronze, to keep temporal winds from disturbing the Arcanite chimes. Once the enclosure has been made, a small Lysonite bead is attached to the apex of the ward. The last step is that the wards are of course labeled, usually with a "Do not disturb under pain of arrest or execution" sign. This alone keeps most troublemakers and hoodlums away.
As one might think, the winds do not rattle the Arcanite chimes, or not overly so. The bead of Lysonite acts as an indicator, which will show if trace amounts of Ether are found (and Ether in small amounts in the atmosphere is a fairly normal occurrence.) If high amounts of Ether passes through the area, however, the bead will glow more vibrantly, and the chimes will begin to rattle. The higher the "Wind" of Ether, the more brilliant the glow, and the more violent the rattle of the chimes. With a small breeze, the chimes might rattle only slightly - just audible enough to hear in the immediate vicinity. But with a good gust, they create an awesome din, perhaps not as melodious as one might expect from a normal wind chime, but not overtly harsh on the ears.
This Ether Ward is very useful, especially in the areas surrounding an Ethereal Rift. Every creature that emerges from a rift has an aura of Ether. Sorcerers often set these wards off, sometimes the Ether radiating off them so violently as to send the wards clattering to the ground. Powerful Ethereal entities emerging from rifts have similarly powerful auras, in some cases more so - some wide and powerful enough to set every ward off within miles.
Wards serve as the first defense for the Arbiters of the Scutarae Branch of the Ark, who have a vigilant guard stationed around each "Copse" of Wards. Major Ethereal disturbances may merit a visitation of the local Arbiter General, while minor or medial disturbances may be handled by local Arbiter forces.
Additional Ideas (2)
Kova Zidmarti is a well known traveling tinker. She is an older woman with gray streaked hair, and a wagon pulled by an onery pair of asses. Her main wares are herbs, trinkets, and jewelry, but she also usually has an ether ward or two for sale. Kova swears by her wards, and she will use one herself before selling it to the public. Most people can hear her coming from the chiming of her wards, since the tubes and chimes clang together as they trundle down the road. To keep people from equating her arrival with that of an etheral menace, she frequently plays a small handflute while driving her mules.
The skies were forebodingly overcast, the winds still as death itself. An uncomfortable heat lingered over the three sentinels; too warm for what should have been a brisk fall night.
The three Arbiters lingered just out of sight of the wooden palisade, the top of Circle Master Yoru's ziggurat just visible over the hill. Their patrol route was down a long path, dotted every hundred feet or so with Ether Wards haphazardly skewered into the ground, some at a rather sharp angle.
"Old Master Yoru is up to something fishy," mumbled Elusis, thrusting the butt of his halberd into the ground and stopping for a moment to wipe the thin sheet of sweat from his helmeted head. Maliki and Staephen stopped just in front of him and issued nods of acknowledgement.
"I agree," Maliki said, running her fingers idly across the trigger guard of her Zuudi style Archenbusse. "The air isn't right..."
"You're both being paranoid," interjected Staephen. "Circle Master Yoru is always up to something fishy - it's no different than usual. You just have stomach-butterflies from the Capparnian bar-be-que eel you ate earlier, Elusis. I told you you should have gone with the pork. And it's been a warm fall season... it happens from time to time. Weather's been like this for a while now. and besides..."
As if to interrupt him, a nearby Ether Ward began to give off a low hum, as the tinkling of chimes became just slightly audible. Stephen stopped, mid sentence, but only for a moment as Maliki and Elusis began to brandish their weapons.
"Probably just some spare Ethereal burnoff from the Nexus... sure it's not much to worry..."
The forest exploded into a sudden and abrupt clattering of metal, Lysonite gems burning molten red in every direction. It didn't take much more convincing to know that something had gone VERY wrong.
As if to reaffirm their suspicions, a terrible boom and a brilliant light manifested behind them, in the direction of the Nexus. The three Arbiters put gauntleted hands over their eyes to shield from the radiant display. It quickly faded, but the top of the Nexus had disappeared from the horizon, replaced by a thick, black pillar of smoke and ash.
"I need to report to the the Lord Arbiter General. Maliki, Staephen, go to the Nexus, see what happened, and get as many people as you can out." Elusis yanked a clattering Ether Ward from the ground, nearly blinded by the glimmering of the Lysonite jewel atop it. "When the Jewel bursts, get out of there."
"That's suicide!" stammered Stephen. "We'll be turned into walking aberrations! Who knows how much ether is floating around there. The place is probably a barren wasteland, filled with whatever has spewed forth from the Matrix."
"Well go and see. If it is, leave. If there are people who need help, it's our duty to save them from Ethereo-phenomenal crisis."
"It's our JOB," retorted Maliki, grabbing him by the shoulder plate of his carapace armor, and dashing the other way.
"It is crazy," mumbled Elusis. He gripped the haft of his Arcanite Halberd and dashed down the path, the frantic tinkling of the wards echoing in his brain for five miles.
CodexEther and Ethereal Magicks ( Systems ) Mystical - Defining
"Sorry?! There's nothing to be sorry about boy! That was a conflagration worthy of my applause, my commendation even. Now excuse me, I have to go don new robes. These are a bit...burnt."
-Circle Master Caius Aurelias, to his Apprentice Idimus