Black Stump Books Reader's Club

Dorthund’s ‘On Magical Artefacts’


Translator’s Note: This text, though incomplete and containing many lacunae, is still of immense interest. From what remains, and the hints we can garner from what was vandalised, we are able to determine a great deal about the state of, and attitude towards, magical objects in Dorthund’s world, and thus a great deal about what should be possible in our own.

There are several distinct types of magical artefact, those common objects bespelled to perform specific functions, objects of power, and possessed objects. Many of you will already have assumptions about the nature, use, and construction of magical artefacts, but few, if any, of those assumptions will be accurate, and those that are, are of only limited validity.

[Unknown number of paragraphs, or even pages, missing.]2

A magical artefact is any object that has been bespelled or enchanted to perform a particular task, whatever the task, whatever the form. From this, we see that all Objects of Power, and all Possessed Objects, along with every form of common tool carrying a ‘never dull’ or ‘fly true’ enchantment, falls within the category of magical artefact. The extreme inclusiveness of this definition has caused many scholars to attempt the creation of subdivisions within it, the most common of which use the distinction between possessed artefacts and magical artefacts, that is, between those objects that contain a governing awareness and those that do not. This is disingenuous. There are objects that have awareness that are not possessed and possessed objects that have no awareness. A better distinction3 is that of magical tool, object of power, and possessed object; where an object of power is an object, whether made or natural, that contains a naturally formed awareness; and where a possessed object is an object, whether made or natural, that contains an awareness that was introduced to, and bound within, the object.

It is, of course, possible to create all three of these artefacts. Each contains its own challenges, its own dangers and benefits, and the creation of each is governed by its own set of laws, both magical and mundane. Each type, by its nature, generally serves a different purpose, and it is impossible to tell the nature of the artefact purely by its type, just as it is often impossible to tell the purpose of a magical tool purely by its form. That uncertainty is part of the challenge and the danger of dealing with any magical artefact.

[Unknown number of pages missing.]

There are, of course, conspicuous artefacts, such as the Colossi, the function and purpose of which remain largely mysterious, but which are, undoubtedly, objects of great power, and it is these that the majority of people point to when questioned on the topic. These are, despite being the most well-known, not the most common of objects. [several lines missing]

Ward-cubes are magical artefacts, true, but rarely are they objects of power. [several words missing] [M]agical artefacts, that is, all objects imbued with Y’grénê4 and used in the practice of magic, are objects of power, as are those items that are bespelled to perform a mundane function, like flying carpets or self-propelling [unknown number of lines missing].

[W]e can see that, while the Colossi are objects of great power, we do not, in fact, know if they are true Objects of Power or merely very powerful artefacts due to our lack of understanding of their function and purpose.

[At least one page missing.]

From this it is clear that the form of the object is immaterial to its classification, though it might be used as a general guide; form, after all, quite often denotes purpose. A broom is shaped as it is because generations of users have found it to be the form most conducive to its desired function, likewise the form of many objects of power are similarly constrained by the functions they are expected to perform. Do not make the mistake of taking “form equals purpose” as a rule, however, for this is merely a guideline, a base from which to launch an inquiry, as in all things magical, form is more often a matter of convenience than necessity. To see the reality of this, one need only cast one’s eyes to the skies and observe the forms of the great variety of objects that people have bespelled to carry themselves about.

This great diversity of which magic is capable is, in part, responsible for the dangers inherent in creating every type of artefact. When almost anything can hold a spell, and when the form of the object gives no hint as to the nature of the spell, then accidents are bound to occur. Thus it was that the High Council insisted on the legal codifications that ensure honest practitioners of the craft follow guidelines that more closely match form to use and provide some telltale on such objects that indicate their nature. It is also why every nation has, amongst their most ancient laws, precepts forbidding the creation and use of enchanted weapons. Given how dangerous non-weaponised tools are, only think how dangerous a true magical weapon would be, and what havoc it might cause. (For a more detailed discussion on this topic, s[ee] …)

[several lines missing]

The dangers inherent in magical objects don’t end with the confusion caused by the mismatching of form and purpose. This is only the most widely appreciated hazard, and one that is, in the majority of cases, lacking in malevolence. Other hazards can be far less benign in intent. Magical artefacts, by their nature, often survive far longer than their creators. The nature of Y’grénê ensures that the longer such an object survives, and the more frequently it is used, the more likely it is to develop self-awareness (see the chapt[er on Y’gré]nê for the disc[ussion on its natu]re). The more powerful the Object is, the quicker this will happen. The more powerful it is, the greater the likelihood that it will attract the attention of some malevolent influe[nce], or will itse[lf bec]ome malevolent, if it was not already created with such malevolence aforethought. Such Objects can [be w]ell-nigh impossible to destroy and almost as difficult to con[tai]n. The use [several words missing] problematical because a separate entity [several words missing] is able to influence [several words missing] in unpredictable ways. It also raises [several words missing] bonded servan[ts i]n magical workings, be[ca]use onc[e] the [several words missing] awa[ren]ess, it is no longer a tool, but either a serv[ant, a]n ally, or a mas[ter].

[Unknown number of pages missing.]

[one or two words missing] [A]rtefacts can, as is evident by the numerous tools in com[mo]n use, be used by the unGifted, but, generally, the risk of [several words missing] increases in such cases. There are, however, some artefacts that, while capable of being used by the Gifted, should only be used by the unGifted or the Blocked5, due to the targeted form of the danger they pose. Such are the [several words missing] a Gifted’s powers, or [several words missing] due to the history of abuse that was uncovered by Tuben6. From this it i[s clear to se]e that creating artefacts unconstrained by focused use and limited [unreadable word] is a marker either of a [several words missing] or one wit[hou]t ethical training.

[Unknown number of pages missing.]

[Several words missing] was Adiron the Maker, creator of the Masks of Wonder, and, many claim, the Colossi, amongst many other legendary artefacts the purpose and understanding of which are lost to us.

[unknown number of lines missing]

We have texts that claim either to have been written by Adiron, or at his direction. Most, if not all, of these claims are patently false. In the Age of Sh[adow]7, when the authorship of such texts was an invitation to assassination, many texts were spuriously attributed to ancient authors, Adiron being one of the most popular. Many of these texts are trite and full of dangerous errors, but some few contain material that has provided the basis for meaningful research, especially in the field of Artificy. Some few are worth ten times their weight in gold for the insight they provide into some of the artefacts that we take for granted today. Tuben’s text, for example, on the creation of magical wards and shields, provides the best treatise on this topic today, even though it was written two thousand years ago.

[The text from this point on was vandalised to such an extent that nothing on the rest of the page could be made out, and there were no further pages, though the index indicates that there should have been at least two, rather long sections following this one on the history of magical artefacts, which itself was supposed to take up at least another hundred pages. Those sections are labelled ‘Legal Issues’ and ‘Practicum’ in the index.]



1 This is one of the few sections where we have something that could be labelled a table of contents and thus are able to see what is missing. It is also perhaps the only chapter that appears in more than one version. The discrepancies between the two versions suggest that one was either from a much earlier edition, or was, perhaps, even an early, unpublished, draft. While we have the table of contents, and thus the list of section or chapter headings, none of them exist in the text we have, damaged as it is, and so putting the pieces together has often been a matter of guesswork.

2 All notes in square brackets […] are by the translator. In many instances, the exact number of missing words, lines, paragraphs, or pages is unknowable. In the instances where a number is given, there remains at least enough of the text to be able to tell how much is missing, if not enough to actually make out what is said. The state of extreme damage to this portion of the text, in my opinion, bespeaks something more than merely the ravages of time. Many parts seem to have been wilfully damaged, even erased, as though someone didn’t want this knowledge to get out. In many cases, however, it is impossible to distinguish those parts of the text where the damage is the result of time and rodents from those parts where the damage was the result of wilful, or accidental, vandalism.

3 Dorthund’s own, and the one he uses throughout the entirety of his series.

4 Dorthund uses this word to mean magical power or energy. As noted later in the text, he has devoted a whole chapter to a discussion of its nature.

5 This is the first use of this term. It’s meaning is not clear. It might mean that a person has a gift that is naturally blocked, or that a person has had their gift removed or blocked, whether temporarily or permanently, as a punishment. What would appear to be clear is that Dorthund is making a distinction between not only those who are Gifted and unGifted, but also between those who have a Gift, but, for whatever reason, cannot use it. The fact that he had a name for this that required no explanation indicates that it was either a common enough condition that it was well known, or that it was a term in ready use amongst the academics.

6 This is one of only two references to this author that I have found, the other being a little below this one in the same chapter. From Dorthund’s reference, it appears that the author was, perhaps, a magical investigator, or at least a student of the magical sciences who did extensive research into the Objects of Power. It is strange, therefore, that in a chapter dedicated to this topic, there should be only two such references, but perhaps there were more in the section missing from the end of this chapter, a section that was, surely, of much greater length than that which survives.

7 I derived this word from his use of the same term elsewhere. The Age of Shadow, apparently, was similar to our own Dark Ages, a period of decline between an ancient age of learning and a modern renaissance. One assumes that the ancient age of learning was the age previously alluded to as that in which the Oelein ruled.

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