Based on Rune-Slivers by Siren No Orakio
The Rite of Runecalling
The protective circles and diagrams had been drawn carefully, painted on the marble floor with the precious crimson pigments of Lem. Within the outermost circle, the Runes’ Master stood, his bony frame sky-clad. As he gestured with his silver athame, the silvery rune shards embedded in his flesh glittered in the light from the golden braziers.
Earlier in the day, Prentiss Tamford had seemed nervous about the agonizing trial he was to endure. Shaking and sweating, he had babbled of his discomfort to his fellow aspirants. It was clear that the ritual fast and purification had preyed heavily upon the young man.
Now, within the purified chamber, the youth seemed composed and calm. As the ritual began, no one realized that he had secretly broken his fast; no one knew of the dose of laudanum that had settled his nerves or the vintage bottle of malmsey that had bolstered his courage.
No one knew how badly things were about to go wrong
Many see only the power of the Magus. Awed by the incredible magicks wielded by the mighty wizards of legend, they have no idea of the costs involved, the mental and spiritual risks that every wizard must overcome before he comes into his power. They have never heard of the mages destroyed or dominated by the powers that they had hoped to wield, or those even more unfortunate, the ones whose sanity was not strong enough to survive the touch of magic.
The Price of the Rune-Slivers
As any experienced wielder of Rune-Sliver Magick could tell you, the ritual that implants the runic shards into the flesh is extremely painful. The aspirant must master their body’s reaction to pain; he must focus his thoughts as the ability to control the runes’ power is summoned. As his thoughts frame the right patterns, the metal rune-slivers that will bind the channels of power are mystically melded with the mage’s tissues. The burning pain of the slivers’ implantation is actually the lesser agony; the true suffering is the sensation of pure magical power filling and reshaping the mage’s nerves and magickal meridians, altering his system so that it develops the ability to manipulate powers far greater that the mage could ever affect on his own.
The Thrall of the Runes
For the Ritual of Runecalling to succeed, the mind must be clear and the body well rested. Young Tamford had hidden his regular use of laudanum from his teachers and even his fellow students, but he could not hide it from the magic itself. The magic chose the channels that were open to it, the paths opened by the liquor and drugs coursing through young Tamford’s system. Where he should have had control, he was now dominated by the runes’ power; where clear runes of prophecy should have glittered, now the twisted runes of thwarted fate gleamed darkly. If he had been lucky, Tamford would have been unable to access the magick he craved; unfortunately, his natural gifts were such that the runes’ power was all too apparent. He became a pawn of the runes’ wild power, deranged and in unrelenting pain.
The only moments of peace felt by Tamford are when he has exactly the right doses of alcohol and laudanum in his system. Only then does the power of the runes come into balance and his pain ease, only then is his mind able to fully control the magick coursing within him. Those moments of strange balance are the only times when wielding the runes’ magick gives him the ecstasy enjoyed by other mages; at other times any attempt to channel the power burns through him like agonizing fire in his veins.
Power of the Runes
Three runes were implanted in Tamford’s flesh before the magnitude of his folly became apparent to the others in the ritual: The name rune of his magickal self; Tahl, the Rune of Prophecy; and Saea, the Rune of Pursuit. He was fortunate that they had not yet begun on the next rune, Foor, the rune of Flame.
When controlled properly, the Rune of Prophecy allows brief, enigmatic glimpses of the future. Gazing at a crystal or using other tools of prophecy, the rune’s wielder gains a sense of what is fated to come. Without control, this rune baffles and bewilders poor Tamford with unexpected and uncontrolled visions of the past and future. One moment, he will be talking to someone; the next moment, hell be lost in a vision of the past or future. He even sees alternative realities that would have resulted if other choices had been made; he cannot tell reality from these chaotic visions.
Saea, the Rune of Pursuit, normally allows the wielder to magically sense location and directions. He cannot get lost, can find objects by dowsing or meditation, and has an intuitive sense of how to accomplish his goals. Enslaved by the rune’s magic, Tamford is constantly distracted by the goals of those who brush by him, becomes obsessed about finding trivial objects or people he doesn’t even know, and writes out detailed plans for goals that no sane man would ever plan, such as how to arrange corks for greatest mystic resonance or sorting housecats.
The Gutter Mage
The ragged man reached out from the shadows, his trembling hand grasping at the wealthy merchant’s sleeve. "Unhand me, you disgusting…" the aged merchant began, but his shout was cut short as he caught sight of the man’s mad, haunted eyes.
The bedlamite began to speak, his voice eerie and hollow, "Travel not in the rain! The rain’s children will steal you away, and your widow will cry at the window!"
"Fie upon you, trying to strike me afeard! I’ll not give a farthing to you, madman! Now, begone!" the indignant merchant cried out. No sooner had he spoken, than the madman lunged forward, grasping either side of his head with his hands!
Bizarre visions instantly filled the elderly man’s mind, visions of his wife striking at an elaborate tomb with impotent fists, visions of the madman before him dying in a sewage-filled gutter, visions of men in strange attire pulling his walking stick from the peat of a bog, visions of his favorite hat tumbling in a rain-swollen stream. With strength the old man didn’t realize he still had, he pulled free and fled from the madman and his visions. As he hastily retreated, he could hear the man’s forlorn voice calling out.
"But, sir! I have a plan for your coats and cloaks! You can place them in order! Please, sir! Let me show you!"
Prentiss Tamford has become known as "Tamford Turleygood", the "Bedlamite Prophet". He randomly wanders the streets of the Market Quarter, begging and uttering prophecy. Befuddled by his nightmarish visions, his begging is often interrupted for discussions with imaginary figures he sees, visions from the past or the future. Turleygood’s robes, once finely embroidered with mystic symbols, are now torn and filthy rags. Lines of suffering have inscribed themselves upon his face despite his youth. Haunted eyes look out from under his matted growth of grimy, tangled hair; his patchy beard is visibly infested with vermin. His rank odor strikes those near him with almost physical force.
Able to impress his uncanny visions on those he touches, Tamford can bring others into the world of his tortured foresight, a power that he often unleashes on those who scoff at him or threaten him. The visions he shares may be helpful visions of prophecy or dire images of doom; he has no idea what he will share before it happens. Accustomed to his own visions, he can use the disorientation caused by the shared nightmare to elude those who would threaten him.
Once in a while, Tamford is able to get the laudanum and fortified wine that he needs to regain his equilibrium. Sedated by these drugs, the magick that rages through him briefly returns to his control. At these times, the outcast mage can be a potent force of divination, able to control the power of the rune shards that torture him. Despite his insanity, he still retains much of the magical lore that he was taught. In these occasional lucid moments, he is also capable of the other minor magical effects common to novice magicians.
A handful of the beggars and impoverished folk of the city know of Tamford’s uncanny power. He is kept as an advisor by the beggars’ leadership, who gladly acquire the drugs he needs in exchange for the information and prophecy that he can give them. Desperate for the drugs that briefly give him peace, Turleygood will agree to almost anything, for no suffering can compare to the hell of his daily existence.