Quaerentes in Extremis
The Gruagachan (Hedge Tradition)
The gruagachan are a Pictish tradition, descending from the ancient priests of the god Gruagach. The Picti were native to what is now Scotland, but their people have been forgotten outside of the gruagachan. They are Gruagach’s judges, granting blessings and curses, shapeshifters and illusionists of great skill. There is a heavy price, though – eventually, all gruagachan become trolls. The gruagachan are found in Scotland most of the time, and sometimes Britain, Wales or Ireland. They have a long history with the Order – they were bitter rivals of the druids who became House Diedne both before and after they joined the Order, and because of that hatred they joined with Damhan-Allaidh against the Order. After the Schism War and the destruction of Diedne, relations have warmed some, and some gruagachan have even joined the Order, though most have not.
The Gruagachan maintain Pictish tradition despite the fact that they are the only Picti left, working as priests of Gruagach even now. They typically gather in small groups, and most are unGifted. Perhaps three Gifted gruagachan might exist in a single area, and the entire tradition is strictly geographically limited. There are, however, a few very similar traditions out there. The Norse have the Trollsynir, who have the same magic but do not use enchanted tattoos. The trollsynir are in fact the descendants of jotnar, who learn magic from their giant grandparents or parents. Many are Gifted, and those that are not are still able to practice some of their magic, which they call trollskap. Because they are strictly family-oriented, their Gift tends to cause less problems – their families have years to get used to it. Trollsynar use the Jotnar language rather than Pictish but otherwise use identical magic.
There are both Gifted and unGifted gruagachan, though only the Gifted tend to be trained from childhood. The unGifted are chosen later, and usually are either blessed with Giant’s Blood, great size or shapechanging powers. The Gruagachan are the only known speakers of the Pictish language left alive, and it is by their knowledge of the language that they do their magic. Some gruagachan are even able to externalize their souls, preventing their bodies from dying of wounds unless the soul is hurt – but if the soul is even scratched, they die. Gruagach are also aided by fetches, invisible and incorporeal magical beasts, who are especially skilled at watching over things, though they aren’t very bright. They are also skilled in the art of creating magical tattoos, which grant powers to those who have them based on gruagach spells.
Like a Hermetic, a gruagach learns spells that mix a Technique and a Form. The techniques are Give, which protects against changes of the body and allows the gruagach to grant things, and Take, which protects against changes of the mind and allows the gruagach to remove things. What is more important are their Forms.
Blessings are always conditional – they last until the target does a specific action, which can be a sweeping prohibition, a general one or a specific one. A spell which takes a blessing may also serve as a geas, only taking affect if the target meets the specific condition. Geasa are always best when they are poetic justice – that makes the spell easier.
Give Blessing provides bonuses to skills or grants Virtues. You can never cast a Give Blessing spell on yourself. Sweeping prohibitions are easy to fulfill and limit the blessing to relatively few situations – for example, toughness that lasts only until you attack someone. General prohibitions are easy to fulfill, such as toughness until you take a medium wound. Specific prohibitions barely limit the blessing at all – toughness that lasts until harmed by fire, say. The more you bless and the harder the prohibition is to meet, the harder the spell is to cast.
Take Blessing nullifies abilities, Virtues and skills. Major virtues are hardest, followed by skills. Natural abilities and minor virtues are easiest. Sweeping prohibitions end the curse easily, such as a stealing of strength that ends when you do something that requires both strength and skill. General prohibitions are not terribly hard to fulfill, such as a stealing of strength that ends when you beat someone else in a contest of strength. Specific prohibitions are very hard to meet, such as a stealing of strength that lasts until you botch a strength roll. If the stolen blessing’s terms are particularly poetic, they are harder to resist.
Curses, likewise, are always conditional.
Give Curse reduces abilities and skills, cripples people, disables senses, causes disease or grants Flaws. Sweeping prohibitions are easy to fulfill – muteness until someone says your name. General prohibitions are a bit harder – muteness until someone says the caster’s name. Specific prohibitions are hardest – muteness until someone expresses extreme gratitude for your selfless action, say. Curses can be lead as geasa, only taking effect once a condition is met. Poetic justice, again, makes it easier.
Take Curse spells are very dangerous for a gruagach – if you mess up, you suffer the curse you were trying to remove. These spells can determine the nature of a curse and remove curses.
Shape spells alter physical shapes.
Give Shape can only work on the willing, ever, and the target gets a vague idea of what changes are being made. It can give animal abilities by changing your eyes, say, into a cat’s, increase body size, turn people into animals, plants or inanimate objects, or even turn people insubstantial.
Take Shape can force victims into foreign shapes or allow the caster to take on the shapes of others. It can turn people into animals, plants, objects or even the insubstantial, cause them to return to their true form, and can allow the caster to take on the physical appearance of someone nearby. It can also turn one animal into another. It’s harder to change someone into an unsuitable animal – a brave person is hard to turn into a rabbit, say.
Vision spells control perceptions, the fetch and illusions.
Give Vision can only affect sight and sound, creating illusions. The more complex, the harder it is. However, it can also grant visions of the future or even danger sense.
Take Vision can detect illusions, dispel illusions, detect vis, uses senses at a distance by sending the fetch out to investigate or turn something invisible or inaudible.