Interlude: True Magic
Sigils and Sketching have long been accepted as the only kinds of “magic” in the world.
In fact, they are so common and well-understood, that they are more a science or an art than magic. Sigils, Sigilians, and the Sketching process are all easily studied, easily qualified and quantified.
Sketching makes sense, the only unclear part being the reasons for the limits on only one active Sigil, and why only one house may have a given Sigil in their Sigilian.
But, asides from that, Sketching is too logical and understood to be considered magic.
However, before the Sigils, there did exist a kind of magic, now known as “True Magic” among its supporters.
Those who revered the Eldritch, ancient beings said to have slumbered since the dawn of time, gained the ability to alter reality in tangible ways. The Stormcallers of the Seven Seas were one such cult of “magicians” of such ancient times. Other notable cults were the Doomhounds, the Sun Scorchers, the Terrans, the Life Wardens, and the Wind Walkers.
The existence of these cults, and of this magic is now questioned. There exists no proof that such things ever existed.
However, there will always be support for such beliefs. For example, the argument that there is no proof, that if they could change the world, these magicians would have left their mark, is often countered by the point that even had they left such a mark, the passage of time would have erased it. As well, several key documents in well-respected libraries do mention the six notable cults. There are in fact no other known cults; those six may have been the extent of the magicians, or they may have been a minor group chosen for the treatise for an unknown reason.
In modern times, “True Magic” does not exist. If it ever did, it has long since been replaced (somehow) by Sigils. The leading theory is that someone bound “True Magic” into the many Sigils in response to some world event.
However, some do say that “True Magic” does still exist in this world, just in a reduced form. These crazed theorists have no real proof, yet point to the Stormcallers of Faron Rek as proof.
The Stormcallers are a cult of torturers and rodent tamers who have inhabited the catacombs beneath Faron Rek since before the time of Lady Tasha Destria. They practice their strange ways, forcing the survivors of shipwrecks, and those sold to them, to participate in their initiation rites, the so called “Deep Trials”. These Deep Trials often leave the participants as maddened and crazed as the rest of the Stormcallers. The most rational of individuals can become a fervent cultist, forever lost to the realm of the sane, within mere weeks, sometimes days.
These Stormcallers are supposedly to blame for the massive hurricanes that occasionally spring up around Faron Rek, as well as the massive Cave Rats, beasts the size of small dogs that wail constantly when not trying to eat anything that moves.
There is little truly known about the Stormcallers. The Blood Red King will occasionally use them as tools, taking advantage of their skills to get stubborn prisoners to break and spill their secrets. As the prisoners are usually useless afterwards, the Stormcallers usually gain a new cultist out of the deal, which is why they agree to help.
As they don’t ask for sustenance from the inhabitants of Faron Rek, and are rarely seen out of their catacombs (except when in prayer; see below) it is unknown as to what they eat, asides from perhaps the rats that they are known to breed.
The reason that they are credited with the hurricanes is because of the Stormcaller’s prayers to their “god”, one of the so-called Eldritch.
These prayers are often wailing, in a foul language that hurts the ears to listen to. They march to their chosen places of prayer, and then adopt the chosen pose; balanced on their left leg, right leg folded in half, arms stretched high over their heads, heads thrown back to expose and elongate the neck.
They then maintain this position with an unnerving stillness, the only movement being of their mouth, tongue, and throat as they chant.
These prayers usually last between half an hour and half a day, with no more precise measurement than that known.
The cultists do have several other strange behaviours or descriptors that fuel these rumours.
They always smell of sea brine, no matter how long they have been away from their catacombs. In a similar manner to the smell, their robes are always, at the least, damp (which is not saying much on Faron Rek), but are often dripping wet for hours at a time. Finally, they never remove their robes, and their hoods seem to cast more shadows on their faces than they should.
However, most of this information is gleaned from the tales of pirates, and so is, by its very definition, unreliable.
There is no other evidence of “True Magic” to be found in modern times. Two hundred years ago a woman claiming to be the avatar of the Eldritch of Fire was repeatedly burned at the stake, without dying, upon her own insistence. After this time, and when she repeatedly refused that she had a Sigilian, she was beaten unconscious, and drowned as an abomination. However, it is assumed that she was the missing daughter of the House that, at the time, held the Sigil of Fire, and was trying to impress the populace.