Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Five, No Six, Weird Gem Phenomena

Follow up to the table ...

1. Looking at a particularly large piece of banded malachite that had been set as the centerpiece of a table, the land-baroness Xuvena pareidolically descried a more-or-less accurate topographic map of a tract of land she recognized as bordering between three nearby baronies. The treasure she buried there is marked on the map by a small, cross-shaped incision in the malachite.

2. The loose shell of a flail snail, irritated by a chip of crystal, dropped a pearl of like scintillating colors. Viewing it from close up does not lead to confusion, but rather a pleasant, subtly addictive disorientation. The value of this nonesuch is inestimable.

3. Gromstones and hellstones are autoluminescent green and red gems, respectively, that legend says, carry a terrible curse. Their wearer or bearer over months will grow ill, sometimes disfigured by tumors, sometimes by a suppurating rash, or else simply wasting and shriveling away. Only a lead casket, traditional remedy against magical emanations, can keep the stones safe.

4. A new aesthetic fashion in the capital, spread by itinerant philosophers of impermanence and fatalism, has got all the most novelty-crazed courtiers eagerly buying up gems with flaws. The flaws are supposed to represent the inherent imperfection of the universe. Actually, the philosophers are shill adventurers hired by the gem merchants' guild to help offload their faulty product at a premium price. Or so says the rival jewelers' guild, who hires another group of adventurers to discredit the new trend, whether by violence, unmasking, or more likely slander and mockery.

5. Dreading the denouement of a cliche, you nonetheless climb up the idol and pry out its gem eyes, two enormous citrines each worth a bishop's ransom. Your companions steel themselves, but the idol remains blissfully inert, in spite of your many backward glances on the long journey home. You wake up without eyes. The idol can see again.

6. A piece of amber, a trapped fly inside. If magical light shines through it onto a clean white wall, a tremendous shadow-fly is formed, and does its caller's will for a while before dissipating.


  1. I particularly like number 5. Very E.A.Poe.

  2. According to Pliny the Elder, the Emperor Nero used some type of eyeglass made of a green stone (smardadgus) when viewing the gladiatorial arena. It was possibly a type of sunglass to cut the haze rather than a magnifier. Popular writers depict him with a huge emerald set into a sort of “quizzing glass”. Certainly the magnifying properties of transparent gems were known to the ancients and optical grade quartz was available.

    The Arabic scientist Alhazen described lenses in his Book of Optics about 1000 CE, so it’s clearly in the purview of medieval. You add in magic gems and then magic gem lenses and you get a bit of fun. Then you take your magic gem lenses and put them in combination according to a grimore that you found and you have the end product of a campaign. Did the grimore mention that the exact day and time was important or terrible things would happen? Oh well, now it’s a second quest.

  3. These are fantastic! This post was what finally motivated me to subscribe to the RSS.

    #6 is how I will be replacing figurines of wondrous power in my home campaign.