Quote from GM Kaikala (Part 2 of 2):
Like the trails of smoke the Igaesha leave, the art reading itself is fluid; it shapes itself to encompass new learning and insights. Some signs are quite old, while others are newly minted as the world changes around us. A newly discovered demon or a recently encountered race can quickly find its way into readings.
By their nature, smoke and mist are vague; so are many of the portents they offer, which is why the art of reading takes some time to develop. How can a reader know whether a vaporous curl represents the top of a crook, the head of a snake, or the curve of a pillar's volute? Typically, she notes other aspects of the sign and weaves them into a complete reading. After some experience, the seer becomes adept at seeing a narrative take place and not merely unconnected signs.
Some signs represent people and resemble them in general form. A dwarf, for example, is broader and more massively built than a gnome, while an aelotoi appears slender and with visible wings. These signs indicate either an individual of that race or some aspect of it – gnomish ingenuity, for example, or dwarven resilience. Rarely, a distinct image appears – a face, a particular home, a familial crest – and these direct signs are considered especially potent indicators of fate and harder to change.
While some signs are clearly related to what they resemble, others are murkier in their origins, their connections to their meanings seemingly tenuous. It is easy, for example, to see the Quill as an object related to academic study, communication, and messages; it is harder to see how the Pearls represent cooperation. Some of these meanings are lost in the mists of time while others are connected in webs of meaning so complex that only a devoted scholar of divination can trace them.
To further complicate matters, the variety of smoke and color -- both dependent on the specific Igaesha that is summoned -- in the pattern additionally add layers of meaning to each symbol. For example, a reading involving a pattern composed of pale turquoise brume can differ significantly from a pattern of silver mist or one of sky blue fog, even if the patterns are otherwise identical.
Note, too, that not every sign could possibly be listed; this document includes only the tiniest sample. Some signs may even be unique to a given reading. Letters and numbers may appear, and the symbols of the Arkati have been a part of some readings. A skilled reader can tell the difference between, say, the Crescent and the letter "C," but only after years of understanding contextual cues.
Banners unfurl when one is going to war or returning home in triumph. Which meaning the sign of the Banner holds depends on the signs surrounding it. This symbol's rippling form looks different from the River in its overall triangular shape, but novices can easily mistake one sign for the other. Seers are advised to look closely. When surrounded by good omens, the Banner represents a victory, although not always on the battlefield. Winning a debate, an argument, an appointed position, or an election also count.
If the Banner is ill-formed or surrounded by alarming symbols, it presages conflict. A low placement could mean a personal vendetta, but a high placement indicates a larger battle. The positive news is that even when surrounded by bad omens, the Banner suggests victory is more probable than not. Compare this sign to the Sword, which indicates a conflict but makes no statement on victory or defeat.
Sometimes called Flight, this sign's meaning depends on its position, size, and type but typically relates to travel. A bird of prey suggests a trip undertaken with purpose; a songbird, one for pleasure. Ravens represent journeys undertaken to deliver messages, while waterfowl suggest a seasonal trip. The size of the sign, its direction, and its proximity to other signs tells the smoke seer or Igaeshian reader more about where the questioner might be going and with whom.
Skilled seers may be able to look at the sign and divine how the traveler will feel about the trip, although others contend this could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hearing that one is due for an unpleasant and uncomfortable journey does little to make traveling seem more palatable, for example.
While other divinatory schools treat bones and skulls as indicators of misfortune, Igaeshian readers and smoke seers rarely view them this way. Depending on the shape, size, and type, the Bones can mean anything from an admirable firmness of resolve (think of a stiffened spine) to a fruitful conversation (perhaps a sidelong reference to getting every morsel of meat from a meal). When placed high, a jawbone is a particularly auspicious omen as it means praise from a superior.
Some symbols' meanings are obscure, but this one is as straightforward as can be: it means imprisonment of some sort. Rarely is this a literal imprisonment, although it certainly can be. More typically, it is enslavement to someone or something. When combined with imagery of a person, it could mean an immoderate affection. In conjunction with an otherwise good omen, the Chalice, it might represent a bibulous nature. Seers consider the Cage one of the most significant warning signs a reading can offer.
The Chalice typically indicates hospitality and fellowship. Paired with personal imagery or familial crests, it means a happier or deeper relationship is likely. Placed high, it indicates earning favor through personal charm or a winning personality. If it is placed low, those of lower station than the questioner are eager to please and think well of the subject. Readers who use arcs of influence also ascribe special import to its location.
This is a sign that also has a specific and quite different meaning when reversed. The emptied Chalice means wastefulness and dissipation, someone who has literally "spilled" the good will he or she would otherwise have had. Some seers maintain that a reversed Chalice with a Pentacle on high is an omen of a coming execution if the questioner's path does not change.
Although wealth might be the first interpretation that leaps to mind when finding the flat, scattered disk shapes of this sign, most seers view it as a metaphor. When placed high or in harmonious conjunction with other positive symbols, the Coins represent one who speaks and acts judiciously – in other words, someone who spends the currency of his or her efforts wisely. If surrounded by less auspicious signs, it could indicate speaking too freely, particularly if underscored by the Serpent.
Of course, sometimes coins do simply mean wealth. Combined with symbols that relate to diligence and reward, such as the Haywain, the Coins could mean a querent has money on the way.
Comets are seen as harbingers of doom by many races, but to Faendryl seers, they represent a dramatic and positive change. This is the sign of a sudden windfall, an unexpected honor, a new demon to register with the Basilica. It may be helpful to think of this sign as an intensifier of those around it as its meaning is only clear in context. The seer can discern good fortune in love, politics, finance, magic, or other aspects of life by seeing where the Comet points and what surrounds it.
One of the oldest symbols in an Igaeshian seer's repertoire, this sign has multiple meanings. Placed auspiciously and with its horns up, it portends a good harvest, either literally or figuratively. The subject can reap a bounty from carefully sown seeds, whether grain or grist for the rumor mill. It may also represent communication with or patronage of the Arkati if other signs favor such an interpretation. With an inauspicious placement or a horns-down shape, it could mean secrets being leaked, a poor harvest, a loss in court, or a doomed affair. When placed low, it may indicate a servant who is spreading tales.
Strangely, this symbol most often associated with pastoral themes or magical knowledge in other traditions can portend sudden violence when ill-placed within an Igaeshian reading. A well-placed Crook suggests a gradual dawning of magical knowledge, particularly in spiritual circles. Ill-favored, it warns the questioner to be careful walking in dark alleys. When reversed, it may mean danger from the natural world rather than from the nefarious intentions of others.
As a discus can be both a weapon or a toy, so can its sign be either a portent of enmity or of playfulness. What separates this sign from the Coins is its size and quantity; instead of a scattering of small lenticular shapes, it is a single disc of vapor or smoke. A distance weapon, the Discus suggests hidden enemies if ill-favored. Well-positioned, it is an exhortation to rest, play, and enjoy one's life. Because the dual meanings of this sign are quite different, seers are advised to read surrounding signs carefully.
Awareness, vision, knowledge – these are the traditional interpretations of the Eye in other divinatory practices, and they are fairly similar here. Readings that include positional references indicate the type of knowledge; in the arc of mind, for example, it would imply self-awareness, while in the arc of scholarship, the knowledge would be more literal.
If placed near signs that represent people, it could also suggest the approbation of an enthusiastic audience. A slit-pupiled Eye placed high is, of course, a telling indication of Fash'lo'nae's interest or, depending on its context, of the subject's interest in that Arkati.
Aspiring summoners pay particularly close attention to readings involving the Fang as it relates closely to demon summonings – both successes and failures. A skilled reader is said to be able to discern the type of demon a sorcerer might encounter by the shape and placement of the Fang she sees. Paired Fangs could indicate a high risk of demonic attack.
One of the most common symbols, perhaps because it is a shape that naturally occurs in smoke and mist, the Flame also has one of the most varied interpretations. Well-placed, such as when joined with the Eye and the Staff, it symbolizes the flame of knowledge, either in the sense of a steady-burning passion for understanding or in the sense of a sudden blaze of insight. In conjunction with a person, it could reveal anything from love to the warmth of friendship, depending on the person and the nature of the Flame. Reversed, the Flame retains its meaning but is weakened – a guttering Flame, perhaps.
Fire illuminates, but it can also consume. Ill-favored with the Cage or the Sword, it suggests an illicit passion of some sort. With the Serpent, it indicates suspicion where there is no need for it. If it is both placed high and in a poor aspect, it portends catastrophe.
Portals have long had mystical significance. They are where change takes place, and like the Comet, the Gate represents change. It, however, is not a rapid change from outside but a signal of change from within. Unlettered sorts interpret it as a sign of death because of its connection to Lorminstra and her sphere of influence, but unless there are other indicators of misfortune or a connection with that Arkati, the Gate rarely portends a fatal event. A more likely interpretation in most cases is that it signals a need to move on or past some challenge.
Depending on its aspect, this sign could be either a sign of petty squabbling and minor strife or emblematic of the economic virtues of diligent work. While such a divergent set of meanings may seem strange to those who do not know Grik behavior, anyone who is familiar with them will see the parallels. The Grik themselves are in a constant state of conflict, but they are also useful for small household tasks and carrying coin.
Sometimes called the Wagon, this sign means not travel but its opposite. It is a sign of hard work and gradual rewards that will only be realized if the questioner is willing to remain steadfast. For farmers, spicers, and others who work with the land, it is an auspicious and quite literal sign; it shows their efforts will pay off.
The Horn's meanings are many, but each is quite specific. A twisted horn indicates a difficult choice; think of the phrase "on the horns of a dilemma" to gain insight into this meaning. When curved, it suggests being at an impasse of some sort. Curiously, the curved Horn can also indicate a lively party, either because of its connotations with music or its associations with drinking. It is more commonly seen in smoke seeing than in Igaeshian reading.
One of the more straightforward symbols, this one means just what it appears to mean: time. When well-favored, the Hourglass suggests having ample time in which to make a discovery or enjoy the accolades of others. If in a negative aspect, it could mean either that time is short or that suffering will last long.
This symbol is not so much a single symbol as a family of them, each with its own shades of meaning. In general, leaves represent some connection to the natural world, but it is the specific type of Leaf that suggests how a reader should interpret the sign. For example, an acantha Leaf represents either a need for healing – metaphorical or physical – or having recently healed. Fel Leaves suggest plainness of feature or form, a bad sign for a subject seeking a mate but a good one for one who wishes to know more of a rival. The lor Leaf represents insight, though the form such insight takes depends on what surrounds the sign.
While other races might see this swirling tempest as a catastrophe, the Faendryl interpretation is one of power. The subject is the center of the storm and shapes destiny around himself or herself. A large, well-formed, and centrally placed Maelstrom is a very rare sign, one that has been attributed to future Patriarchs and Magistrates.
A scattering of small, thin shapes, the Needles represent envy, possibly because enviousness pricks at the nerves. Whether this sign represents the querent's envy of another or a rival's envy of him or her depends on the symbols surrounding it.
As its habit of consuming voids suggests, the Oculoth is an auspicious sign of taking misfortune or malice and wielding it as a weapon. Someone with an Oculoth placed high stands a good chance of benefiting from a well-positioned rival's downfall – and when combined with other symbols, it could mean the subject is the cause of that downfall as well. Readings such as these are why Igaeshian readers and smoke seers must maintain absolute discretion for their clients.
The long strands of bubble-like or spherical wisps of smoke that comprise the Pearls signify cooperation when well-favored; ill-favored, they could indicate collusion among enemies. If this sign appears in one of the social arcs, it usually accompanies some indication of the subject's collaborators. In one of the self-oriented arcs, the sign suggests being in harmony with oneself, sometimes with a connotation of beauty and poise.
The symbol of the Faendryl people itself could have no clearer meaning, and it is never ill-favored no matter where and how it appears; even in the grimmest readings, it represents a wellspring of strength or an untapped ability to see one's way through any adversity. When placed high and in a social arc, it could mean some connection with the Patriarch himself. Such signs are exceedingly rare in smoke seeing and are almost as rare within Igaeshian readings.
A sign of authority and tradition, the Pillar is usually an auspicious one in readings. What the Pillar supports tells the reader much about how to interpret it; for example, a Pillar surmounted by a Fang could indicate the discovery of a new demon that will then be enshrined in the Basilica's records. A Pillar topped with an acantha Leaf might mean special recognition for a healer or cleric. Like the Comet, this sign is an intensifier and clarifier of other signs.
Correspondence, knowledge, and wisdom are all associated with the Quill. Surrounded by signs indicating other people and in a social arc, it suggests a letter will be arriving soon; how high it is placed can pinpoint the sender more precisely. Readers who perform divinations using arcs of influence also define the origin or destination of the message – for example, a Quill in the third arc means a letter to or from a family member, while one in the fifth suggests love letters.
One of the most straightforward signs to interpret, a single Ring typically suggests marriage or something to do with marital life. A pair of intertwined Rings is a joyous omen for a wedding as this sign means an everlasting match with a partner worthy of the subject. A broken Ring, conversely, could mean strife. Multiple Rings joined to a single one or to one another are a good omen for additional wives or husbands. Seers can purportedly tell from inspecting the Rings which wives will get along well, and some grooms and brides have been known to plan their sleeping arrangements accordingly.
In smoke seeing traditions, rings have additional nuances of meaning. Rings within rings often refer to children, and a questioner who wishes to know the sex of a child will look at the nature of the inner ring. A thicker ring is said to mean a boy will be born, and a slim ring represents a girl. A rotating ring could mean a string of dalliances, or it could mean marital discord – or, if ill-aspected, both.
Shaped like a pair of parallel jagged lines, the River suggests a journey, but only rarely is it a physical one. Instead, it refers to inner journeys, possibly accompanied by new insights. For readers who divide a divination into arcs, the direction the River points will suggest where this change takes place. A portent of personal change, the River may also signify a longing to return to one's origins, perhaps an allusion to the adage that no one sets foot in the same river twice. This sign has no reversed meaning.
The furled petals of the Rose suggest hidden depths and a sweetness yet to be revealed, at least to Igaeshian readers and smoke seers. This symbol often appears in readings when the subject is being encouraged to look more closely at a person or situation that had previously been overlooked in some way. An ill-favored Rose, particularly one that is in the past, suggests a relationship that was once sweet and has since become withered, whether romantic or otherwise.
Roses are particularly interesting signs in positional readings that rely on arcs of influence to lend meaning to the visions. In the work and scholarship arc, a poorly favored Rose could place work in jeopardy. A rose placed high in the arcs of rule or comprehension of magic could indicate some connection with Oleani.
Some symbols are direct, and this sign is among them. The Scales, sometimes called the Balance by those with alchemical backgrounds, indicate either a need for balance or, if ill-aspected, stagnation and stalemate. When this sign is reversed, so is its meaning; a reversed set of Scales indicates some part of the querent's life that is wildly off-kilter and chaotic; if well-placed, upside-down Scales could suggest an event that will upset one's life in a beneficial way, usually read as a new love.
The sign of the Serpent is often difficult to tell apart from other symbols for the novice as its shape can resemble the Crook, the Wave, or even the Staff. It appears as a series of gentle curves that resemble a serpent winding through grass. A talented smoke seer or Igaeshian reader will also recognize its sinuous form by the other signs surrounding it. This symbol is hard to sum up in few words, but most of its connections are with silence. Well-aspected, it shows admirable caution and measured speech; poorly matched, it suggests angry or cold silences. In some combinations, it could also suggest duplicity, one who speaks with a forked tongue. As with other symbols shared with certain Arkati, it could indicate communication with Luukos.
It is no coincidence that this indicator of magical knowledge is one of the most common signs. The direction the staff is pointing reveals useful avenues of inquiry; a Staff with a Fang, for example, points the subject toward learning more of demon summoning. Staves are equally common in Igaeshian reading and smoke seeing, but typically, Igaeshian readers pay particular attention to them.
Representing either purity of thought or connections with others (possibly because of the way stars are seen to form constellations), the Star's meaning is heavily dependent on its location and context. In positional readings, it takes on particular meaning in certain arcs. In the arc of family, the points of the star are variously said to be the number of children a family will have or the number of wives or husbands a subject will have. These numbers are not always accurate, however, and this interpretation fails to account for couples.
Think of a duel against an opponent or of a two-edged sword, and it becomes clear why the Sword is often a symbol of duality and division. When it appears in conjunction with more beneficial signs, its meaning is one of a challenging choice to be made – deciding which direction to take research, for example, or choosing between two rivals for one's affection. An ill-starred Sword, on the other hand, has a grimmer meaning that draws from a sword's main function: to sever and kill. In this configuration, the Sword presages a permanent or at least long-term departure from a person or place.
Despite the bizarre nature of the creature itself, the sign of the Verlok is usually a positive one and almost always linked with hope. None can say precisely why, but its associations with feathers, airiness, and lightness could suggest being rid of an onerous burden or grief.
Sometimes, where the smoke is not tells as much of a story as where it is. The Void appears as a clean-edged, hollow space within the smoke. It is a sign of great power and great ambiguity. Because it is typically formless itself, the Void draws its meaning from what surrounds it. On occasion, it can be taken literally as an empty place in want of filling, particularly in arcs related to the self and family. Whether it is a good omen or a bad one in relation to the self depends on other signs around it.
Meaning either turmoil or travel, depending on its aspect, the Wave is one of the older signs in the vast store of symbolic knowledge an Igaeshian reader or a smoke seer must have. Like a row of cresting waves, the pointed ripples of this symbol distinguish it from others that would otherwise superficially resemble it, such as the Serpent with its sinuous curves or the River with its doubled row of serrated shapes. In recent centuries, the Wave has increasingly become a sign of duplicity or strife, perhaps because of the fall of the Ashrim and their close association with the sea.
Historical Readings and Examples
Two cases from history, one distant and one quite recent, illustrate Igaeshian readings in action. Both are anomalous in their way, but each illustrates the need for great caution when performing readings, particularly for clients who take them very much to heart.
Qwhinn Laurentiu Faendryl – Most Faendryl are no doubt aware of his fate, but few know of the divination records found at his estate after the assassination of Phorien Endric Faendryl, Patriarch XXI. The Igaeshian reader who transcribed the reading, in this case Qwhinn's aunt Firhrisya Laurentiu Faendryl, recorded three symbols resting between the arcs of Family and Rule. The first, the Oculoth, was interpreted as benefiting from a rival's downfall as it was combined with the Gate, symbolizing change and a need for action, and the Chalice, which was interpreted as gaining favor.
Historians believe the portents described in this reading may have encouraged Qwhinn to proceed with the assassination. Unfortunately for the Laurentiu family, a later review of the divination records revealed that the Chalice had clearly been reversed. Given its location in the lower portion of the vial, this reading should have been interpreted as an omen of a possible execution the near future for the querent. The likelihood is that the Laurentiu desire for power influenced the interpretation of the reading by Firhrisya and ultimately led to their downfall.
The Laurentiu family's ill-fated grab for power resulted in death not only for Phorien Endric Faendryl, but for the Laurentiu name and honor as they were put to the sword.
Aralyte Halanori Faendryl – The Palestra Blade is one of the most celebrated Faendryl of modern times and certainly the most renowned outside of New Ta'Faendryl. The records of her most recent divination, shortly before she led a group of adventurers across the valence into the shadow realm of Althedeus, are a curious anomaly. According to the official notes of the Palestra Blade's most recent reading, the seer noted that she was delayed in returning to her study to record the findings from the vial pertaining to Aralyte due to a mishap with an uncontained Igaesha. Historians and readers note that even this small delay could have been enough to introduce ambiguity into the reading.
Although the reading's indications of travel to distant lands was manifestly true – Aralyte spent her last days in this realm near Wehnimer's Landing – and the presence of the Cage indicated great personal danger, though other signs were not as clear. A shadowed mark remained, one final symbol that was already beginning to fade from the vial's glassy walls when the reader encountered it. Try as she might, she could not interpret this final sign. Whether it could have changed the outcome of the final battle and allowed Aralyte to return is not known. It is even possible the vanishing symbol or symbols indicate a possibility of release.
It is important to note that although the portents were dire, the Palestra Blade ventured into the shadows at great risk to herself for the sake of the Faendryl nation and the Patriarch.
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