As the thaumaturge Kaonan Seax began her final chant, the seven golden fonts surrounding the ritual diagram gleamed in the bright sunlight. One by one, her assistants joined her in the complex polyphonic chant of the Sallvian Purification Ritual. A massive heap of gleaming stone sat in the chamber’s center. If successful, their ritual would purify this "Demon Jade", eliminating its diabolical taint while retaining the stone’s eldritch power. As they chanted, they sensed the material’s evil influence waning. Soon, it would be ready: Reshaped and filled with eldritch might, freed of the demonic contamination that had cursed it.
Legacy of the Sorcerer-Priests
A collection of eight lengthy scrolls, these magical texts had their origin in the decadent final years of the ancient Sallvian Empire. Crumbling papyri rolled upon carven rods of yellowed hippopotamus bone, only the most skilful of sages can decipher their ancient script.
At least ten original copies of the Purification Rituals are believed to exist, hidden away in the libraries of wizards and sages. More often, those seeking this ancient knowledge must depend on untrustworthy translations and copies. Some of these secondary sources have helpful annotations, but many have dangerous misinterpretations and omissions, errors that endanger anyone who attempts the rituals.
Even given access to the originals, few modern scholars can decipher the esoteric hieroglyphics of the rituals’ text. Some mages have used their magical abilities to translate the scrolls, but rituals translated this way often fail to function. The magical lore of the Brotherhood of Shetam Kham does not translate well into more modern languages: Passages within the scrolls’ ancient hieroglyphics hold nuances of phrasing and intonation that cannot be understood in other tongues.
Ceremonies of exhausting length, the Purification Rituals can generally be performed only upon the summer solstice. They require a great deal of equipment: Substantial amounts of holy water, salt dried from seawater, fonts of solid gold, and candles of beeswax scented with fragrant myrrh must all be procured.
The History of the Purification Rituals
Little is known of the ancient Sallvian Empire’s Brotherhood of Shetam Kham. Many secrets of their esoteric lore were inscribed upon the sanity-warping Papyri of Ptesh Na-Khet, but much of the Brotherhood’s actual history has been lost in the millennium since their downfall. Many scholars believe that the Purification Rituals gave the eldritch brotherhood much of their legendary magical might.
Strangely, while the esoteric writings of the sorcerer-priest Ptesh Na-Khet make reference to the Rituals of Purification, he did not include the rituals themselves in his texts. Scholars disagree about the reasons for this omission.
Sorcerers of the Great Empire acquired this enchantment while their land’s rival, the Sallvian Empire, was in its death throes. The Rituals of Purification became common during the Great Empire’s heyday, but were then lost in the turmoil of its fall, only reappearing within the last century.
The Rituals’ Power
The Rituals of Purification theoretically allow a wizard to purge the taint of evil from a variety of magical materials while preserving the materials’ other magical properties. The complexity of these ceremonies can be daunting, and not all wizards can master them: Some who attempt them report no effect whatsoever, while others have cleansed materials and items of horrifying evil.
Once purged of their supernatural contamination, the items and materials are rendered extremely receptive to additional enchantment, often possessing qualities superior to regular materials. Despite the rituals’ challenging nature, they greatly enhance the magical power of items made with wizardly power, for the cleansed materials are very easily enspelled.
These rituals have been used to eliminate the diabolical influence from Demon Jade, which gains a richer, deeper color after it is purged. The purified Demon Jade retains some of the magical resonances and power of the original material, but lacks its grim side effects.
Purification alleviates the blood thirst invoked by Imuricum, leaving the metal able to absorb other magical influences. Those enchanting weapons of such material find that they often invoke powerful feelings of chauvinistic patriotism or religious enthusiasm.
Similarly, the baleful power of Vridian Gold can be alleviated. Jewelry crafted of such metal can be worked and cast even more easily than is normal for that malleable metal. The resulting jewelry is easily made into magical necklaces, circlets, and amulets.
The Amulets of Evil
As the ritual wound toward its conclusion, the jade in the circle seemed strangely transformed, its color deeper and more lustrous. Also within the circle, a tiny object sat, an amulet glittering blackly like a tiny insect, palpably radiating malevolence and perverted malice. The evil of the jade had been purified, but its twisted contamination was not wholly eliminated.
Unfortunately, the Rituals of Purification do not totally eliminate the evil influences of the treated materials. As a side effect of the ritual, a small, gleaming amulet or bead of concentrated supernatural evil is generated. These droplets of evil are very dangerous to touch, often releasing their evil power into those who contact them. Mages completing the Rituals of Purification will often seal these things in small boxes cast of lead, forming tiny phylacteries of pure, irredeemable evil. These containers are then buried in some isolated place, where the casters hope the things’ dark power can no longer trouble the world.
The Failure of the Rituals
Although the Sallvian Rituals of Purification have great power to purify and contain the evil power of cursed items and materials, they have another, hidden drawback: The rituals, when first performed perfectly, can last for centuries, but with each successive casting, their power wanes. It doesn’t matter who completes the rituals: The more they are used, the less effective they become. Repeated use of the rituals eventually causes them to fail: After a few years or even mere months, the purified material’s evil suddenly reasserts itself.
Because the rituals are so complex, ill-informed sages tend to first believe that those items that have developed resurgent curses were caused by errors in completion of the ritual, not because the ritual itself is limited in duration. Only when the failures become widespread do the sages realize the truth.
This is the secret that drove Ptesh Na-Khet to omit the ritual from his scrolls of blasphemous knowledge: He knew that as more sorcerers learned the spell, they would eventually cause it to utterly fail, unleashing untold amounts of vile magical power upon the world.
The Rituals of Purification allow enchanted items to be produced with significantly less effort and time involved, so in lands where they have become known, they soon become a significant part of the magical economy. This unfortunate decision leads to disaster, however, as widespread use of the rituals causes the eventual reversion of the magical materials involved. This unexpected failure was a major contribution to the eventual fall of the decadent Sallvian Empire as nearly all the noble and priestly castes of that land found themselves the unwitting owners of accursed magical items. The Great Empire similarly suffered, its decline aggravated by the widespread appearance of tainted magic.
The ritual over and the extracted essence of evil safely contained, Kaonan Seax changed out of her ritual robes. As she put back on her enchanted earrings and necklace of antique blue jade, she felt satisfied: Her task had been done well. An unexpected feeling of nausea made her shudder; apparently the lengthy ritual had taken more out of her than she realized.
She didn’t notice the creeping circles of necrotic tissue that spread slowly out from beneath her necklace and earrings.