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The conflict between witches and the people of Esshar dates back before recorded history, when Amalia Elaide was said to have formed an eternal pact with the Lord of Helheim - becoming his bride, and in exchange, gaining immeasurable power in the process. This connection to the Dark Lord extended well beyond herself, cursing her entire lineage to a life of service at the behest of the underworld. Most covens have been destroyed in past witch hunts, and the Elaide name is believed to be all but gone aside from a handful of fringe families that have been forced underground to survive and preserve, patiently waiting for the opportunity to strike and return to prominence once more. 

Path of Withcraft
If a prospect is a pureblood, then their affinity to Helheim will manifest at around puberty depending on the purity of their blood as well as their innate potential. It begins with spectral sight: they can see the lesser spirits that float as invisible wisps in the air, and feel their magical aptitude growing by the day as the supernatural takes ahold. The witch will also begin to find allies in creatures closely aligned with the night, able to charm and communicate with serpents, bats, rats, black cats, and arachnids.

An alternative path is to be taught the ways of black magic by a witch directly. While a person's connection to the underworld is weaker if they're not a relative of the ancient covens, they can still serve as an acolyte and flourish as any other.

To join a coven, the prospect must first prove that they're trustworthy and a suitable choice for the dark gift. A Book of Shadows is an ancient relic that serves as the gatekeeper between potential witches and the flow of Helheim's magic. After they sign their name on the page and swear to serve the Lord of Helheim in life and death, a surge of spectral magic enshrouds them and steals away the heat from the air, where they may even feel a connection to their new master in that moment, a whisper in the back of their mind or a lingering presence. A small, black pentragram appears somewhere on their body as proof of this bond (which can be cloaked with a spell).

Secrets are best kept guarded. The price for practising witchcraft is death by the stake, to be purged in flame - as ordained by Archbishop Cedany in 905AC. The spark of life brings us into this world, and it is the surest way to ensure a witch is gone for good and does not return to haunt its enemies as a banshee. Outside of the comfort of their coven, a witch will take to the hood and share false names, and they may go as far as to keep their identity a secret to fellow witches. If a witch shares their true name with you, it means they're willing to endanger themselves to do so.

Practicing Witchcraft

No matter the incantation or ritual, the following three fundamentals are required to perform witchcraft: 

  • A direct connection to Helheim, the underworld. This is established when a contract is forged through the Book of Shadows. The negative energy is harnessed and used to power the spell, something the witch is permitted to channel at the behest of the Dark Lord.
  • The raw, primordial Essence of life. This can be taken from others in battle or by force, siphoned away and stored within the witch's aura, or it can be taken from the land itself through a group ritual, the Coven's Sabbath.
  • An affinity for the Occult. Withcraft is ultimately an advancement of this by incorporating the magic of dark spirits and the mana of the netherworld.

Spectral Sight: While not exclusive to witches, the glowy blue astral eyes are a sign that a person is in harmony with the spirits of the land. They can see the invisible familiars that are hidden from others.

Essence Steal: Should combat occur with malicious intent, on victory a piece of the person's essence is siphoned and stored for future use. 

Coven's Sabbath: By signing the land with a Black Pentagram and the necessary supporting runes, the person heading the ritual opens a gateway to Helheim itself. It is not strong enough to allow travel (aside from temporary, lesser familiars) but the guttural voices of the underworld can be heard, and a spike of negative energy is channelled for roughly an hour. Sometimes this may be purposed and fashioned to contact with a particular dark spirit, but the more common use is for a group of witches to re-acquaint themselves with the netherworld as a coven.

Telepathy: While a more mundane ability, the art of communicating with the mind rather than the voice is well practiced and used among witches. It lets them plot and coordinate in public settings with fluidity and ease.

Hex: A hex is willing invisible, dark spirits to carry out a specific purpose. These familiars might slip into someone's mind and send them into a sudden fit of rage, or plant seeds of doubt in the back of their mind. The person won't even be aware of what's happening to them as it feels too natural to be anything else.

Dream Walk: Sleep brings dreams, and these are an act of magic in itself. While dreaming, a person's aura is actually stronger and more focused than it is when they're awake. They are far more visible on the radar of a witch when asleep. A witch may enter their dreams for a specific purpose, whether it's to turn it into a nightmare and leave lasting, mental damage, or to simply communicate with them.
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