2nd level evocation
Casting time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: Verbal, Material (bat fur and a drop of pitch or piece of coal)
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes
Rare is the occasion on which I am approached by a member of a faith, as my expertise is more in the history of the arcane rather than the divine (and since I hold no particular faith of my own). But recently a letter from one Mara Brightwood made its way to my desk in the college at Oldhaven, and which has further been forwarded to me at my temporary post in Baymor.
Miss Brightwood, a young cleric of Monad and apparently a keen researcher into the history of divine magics, requests my assistance and corroboration in matters relating to her inquiries into the origin of the Darkness spell. Normally I dismiss such requests, but found myself curious that Miss Brightwood should be so interested in this spell, which is typically unused by clerical folk.
My contact writes of a recently-unearthed chamber beneath one of the old archive buildings at Whitechapel. While the room was worn by age and partially flooded with lakewater, the carvings on the stone walls were nevertheless very well preserved, the gold leaf even still intact on some. The rubbings she sent to me indicate something quite remarkable: they show various images, some of crowds of folk of all races and creeds prostrating themselves before shining beings adorned with radiant energy. Some show similar crowds instead contorted in agony before horned beings wreathed in flames. A final set show a procession of robed figures solemnly carrying a litter or bier with a corpse (possibly a statue?) and an orb. In the next panel the orb, emanating some kind of power, is interred with the figure in a decorated casket.
The reason Miss Brightwood inquires about my knowledge of the Darkness spell is because beneath the panels is a graven text in “Old High Imperial”, which, she tells me, dates the images from sometime towards the end of the second era. The text reads:
When the year too dies, when the ageless King returns to reign anew, when Darkest skies obscure the fading stars and moon, release this ward and breathe the silent truth.
The fact that some glyphs of the text are marked did not escape either of our attentions, nor that the marked letters read angwestal, the verbal component of the Darkness spell. Nor most importantly that, if this text is as old as Miss Brightwood claims, this is at least three centuries earlier than the oldest recorded instance of the Darkness spell appearing in any arcane caster’s writing (that I have been able to find). I replied to the young cleric saying as much, attaching whatever notes I possessed on the spell, and apologising for not being of more use. I quote a relevant section of that letter:
As for Holmgrem, who produced many writings on the arcane manipulation of light and is canonically considered to be the first arcane scholar to write on the negation of light (through the Darkness spell), I must say that some facts of his life may, in view of what you have told me, be extremely pertinent. He is known to have traveled in his youth through the region which now contains Whitechapel, a fact not previously considered to be of much import. We also know that he was expelled from his college post and involved in a bitter rivalry with a former colleague. I don’t want to cast undue aspersions, or put any unfounded ideas in your head, but accusations of demonic influence were involved in the split. I urge you to exercise extreme caution if you continue to pursue this line of research. I myself will now seek deeper information, sending and details I uncover in further letters.
For you, dear reader, I now enclose my written notes on Darkness.
Learning and Casting Darkness
If you have read my notes on the Faerie Fire spell, you will know that the two are closely related. Darkness comes from a reversal of one’s intent when attempting to place light on an object. It is a subtle thing, though – one must proceed as if one were trying to evoke a source of light, but, at the last moment, pull the intent suddenly inwards as if one were cracking a whip. The backlash of the sudden reversal will create a source of negative light.
Angwestal, the verbal component, is what is known as soft Draconic. Also called a “pre-word”, it does not actually convey any meaning of its own, but does contribute to various concepts. My grasp of the language is incomplete, of course, but I gather it has connotations of subtlety, softness, concealment – et cetera. The “Unearthing Legend” for this pre-word, as told by the dragons, is that a nameless dragon in the time before names dug to the roots of a mountain and unearthed a giant smoky diamond. When the dragon bit into the gem, it cracked, and the smoky colour poured out, releasing angwestal into the world.
Say or whisper it, but do not shout. There is no somatic component to the spell, an in fact too much exertion can weaken the effects if you are not experienced with it.
I have heard it said that some types of pitch are more effective than others for casting spell, with birch-tar being the best. Bat fur can be difficult to acquire, with some larger colleges even keeping chiropteries for this purpose. If coal is used, the edge of the darkened region is sometimes tinged with a purplish hue.
Magical darkness spreads the target point to fill a 15 foot radius sphere, spreading around corners. Even those who can see in non-magical darkness will be unable to see through it, and nonmagical light can’t illuminate it. If you cast it on an object, the darkness spreads from it, but covering it with a cloth or some other opaque item blocks the darkness. The darkness of the spell is powerful enough that if any of this spell’s area overlaps with an area of light created by a a weaker spell, the spell that created the light is dispelled.
Failure and Success
The most common failure, particularly from nervous students during evocations examinations, is to reverse one’s intent too late. Then one is just left with a source of Light. If done too early instead, the light has not fully attained material form, existing only in the caster’s mind. In this case, with a lapse of concentration, one can be overcome. The caster’s eyes are clouded with black, and they are blinded for a short time.
Darkness is relatively useful, yet unremarkable, so appears in many minor capacities in the daily lives of those with the means to cast it (or pay someone else to). My own personal experience is with the written apprentice exams at Oldhaven, where barriers of Darkness are used to prevent cheating. Thieves and spies use it routinely to do secure package drops – I am told. You might also be familiar with the stories about the Count of Shade (an absurd moniker, to be sure) and his legendary masquerade balls conducted entirely in Darkness. Rumours abound, of course, each one more salacious than the last. One can only imagine what acts necessitate complete anonymity in such a manner.
– from The Writings of Marcos Tijdwijl, Arcano-Historian, Visiting Scholar at Baymor.