The L'une I
of winter and spirits
Normally the countries of Holm bustle with life and there is a constant coming and going. However, during the four-month of winter, the general population seems to fall into a lull. Darkness, similar to polar nights, falls on the lands and makes people stay in their warm cosy homes. Towns are empty and everything seems to sleep under a nice white blanket of snow. However even if the world appears to be sleeping peacefully, there is a danger lurking in the dark that you better avoid. Now, these hunters feel their hour has come. During the rest of the year, these creatures lie low, avoiding daylight as best as they can. In wintertime, though only a light spirit can keep them at bay, and of those, there are few to be found in the wilds. Natural light spirits are hard to find and harder still to tame. Yet should you be lucky and manage the feat, don't assume help will come easily as they enjoy playing games with and tricks on people. Forcing them to lend aid will only achieve them becoming distant and shy. Instead of taking this hard route, people stay at home during the dark time of the year, stocking up on food and supplies beforehand. These tactics have proven mediocre at best even with the help of the merchant guild, who tries their hardest to reach every village and town at least once. They need numbers to keep the caravans safe and so it falls to each region themself to find an alternate, more effective solution. Some were successful in bartering and gained help from one of the elusive light spirits. Others weren't as lucky and have since begun to explore yet another pathway; the means of summoning a spirit of a different kind...
A seal of runes, a container, an element's essence and of course a little bit of talent for magic – creating a new type of spirit is not very complicated in theory but for several reasons still a rather uncommon occurrence. The major ones are the last two ingredients. The latter is a rare gift, but it is the first that was puzzling for science and philosophy for a long time.
What exactly is the essence of light?
The one to find a possible answer was the youngest child of a merchants family. The family trade was not his cup of tea but still, the boy did all he could to help. Maybe no one cared or maybe no one had noticed but either way, the boy was quite talented in another craft - a rare gift. Not that he had summoned anything big or fancy but he still enjoyed toying around with spells. He hoped to one day create something that could help his family with their work. Especially so once it was time for the winter's journey. He was aware of the danger hidden in the darkness of eternal night, however, the silent beauty that was also present during this time never failed to fascinate him.
In the end, it was more of an accident, a failed experiment that moved his goal within reach. According to an old superstition, the light of a lantern in combination with a fire ignited by herbs would keep the creatures of darkness at bay. It was better than nothing but there was room for improvement. So he tried to add a small enchantment to the lanterns. Inspired by the will-o'-wisp ghost light's dance they should float and swirl around the caravan, to trick the dangerous creatures and keep them away.
That fateful day it was already getting late. A little frustrated and running out of ingredients, the boys' eyes wandered through the room, searching for inspiration. Anything to keep him going, really. His gaze fell upon a small object. A pendant made from a piece of a fallen star in a small box. Chipping of just a small piece should have been enough. With hindsight, it sure was a foolish careless idea of one how's beyond overtired. And sure the young mage cursed himself while throwing away the knife and pendant in shock. Followed by a discouraged sigh. The papercut wasn't serious, but painful indeed. Disheartened by once more failing to receive a noteworthy result he was about to call it a day when he finally noticed the pair of eyes observing him from the table covered in mist. A small creature covered in a black coat was hovering within a seal of runes where a lantern, herbs and splinters of a shooting star should have been.
A shooting star which got offered a small piece of life once again - is that what the essence of light could be?
spirits of fallen stars
Despite his initial success of summoning Spirit of the Fallen Stars, as he had dubbed the spirit, Emil had a hard time working with the Raunen. Fallen was tent to be short-tempered and moody only deigning to follow what the human said when it suited him. Emil in turn often was irate, feeling as if his discovery of the Raun had caused more difficulties than it solved. Not that he would have been able to recall how the ritual had worked anyway. It seemed like the unruly spirit could know, but Fallen wasn’t very forthcoming.
Emil's family had wares and trinkets from all over Nehre and one day his family was testing an old teapot they had bargained from an old woman in exchange for some linen and thread. The pot would chime softly whenever the tea inside was at perfect drinking temperature. The chiming would get louder when the pot needed to be set back onto the stove to warm up again. In the end, it was this very object that helped them fo find their first footing on common ground. This strange and yet useful artefact tickled Fallen's curiosity. The Raun was still not speaking to Emil and kept his distance but he began looking at all the items the caravan used and traded with. Many of them were things he had never seen or even dreamt of. And so he decided to follow. The merchants soon learned that a direct request, let alone an order would still be ignored or even scoffed at but let Fallen watch when they had a new curiosity and he just might grant them a favour in return, leading them through a terrain they previously thought to be unpassable for their caravan or even just bringing them resources or serving as a light during the night.
Emil eventually started inviting Fallen to join around the campfire, slowly having learnt that if he wanted the Raun to help out, he would need to treat him like a member of the caravan and not a tool to be used whenever the need arose and then to be cast aside. Listening to the stories the merchants told and the way they bantered with each other. Fallen in turn began to feel sympathy for them. Not that he’d ever admitted. There was something about the way the other one’s eyes began to sparkle whenever speaking of the lands they’ve wanted to visit, wares to trade, languages to learn or simply sample a new cuisine’s to try. It was something that didn’t stop at the merchants, even the spirits they’ve met all seemed to have something making their eye’s spark like the light of a shooting star - a calling pushing them forward. Fallen began to muse what his calling might be. During that time his light became dim, almost sombre. For when the Raunen looked into himself he found no well of happiness like he saw in those around. Almost like something missing.
Sure it didn’t take long until Emil took notice of the Raun’s strange behaviour, fruitlessly circling the caravan all day. When finally making Fallen spitting it out the boy offered his help, stating that Fallen was as much a part of their family now as he was and family helped each other. Fallen thought for a while, before agreeing to the offer. Adding that he’d might be able to help the young merchant as a mediator, so they could speak with the other spirits return. Maybe he’d even give away a hint about this ritual. A promise sealed by a handshake, of two how might weren’t aware of a magical contract working. And as well the start of a journey to lasting for decades to come.
It’s often assumed that a contract’s terms would be set and clear, no matter if written or verbal. This applies even to those which remain unspoken. at least in most cases. A contract sealed with magic is another story entirely. It’s easy to miss even for those who know what to look for, a wispy, lightly glowing bobbin lace of magic woven around those who entered the contract. Each knot resembling a term, or other condition was added either intentionally or not. Both merchants and spirit were fares too inexperienced to be aware of the exact workings of such a contract not the consequences of just a small worry or distraction. Magic is a fine network spinning around all and everything that exists in this realm. Once a term is to add it applies to all until the contract is fulfilled.
So it happened that summoning of the whispering lantern spirits “Raunen” was bound to the merchants family until this very day. The guild might have grown over time, becoming famous for their knowledge of herbs and medicine, but also for their research on spirits of all kinds. So that one day the L’une guild will be able to fulfil their promise, to find the whispering lantern spirits’ calling, but until then we should enjoy the journey with our dear friends, right?