Ritual Pacts

It's a truism of sorcery that no ritualist can work without his books. Whether the ritual tome takes the form of a physical codex or a stack of braided cords, a ritual is too complex and contingent for a caster to keep it all in memory while channeling the powers that make up the spell. It is held equally true that no ritual can function without certain magical components that lose their special virtue in the process of the casting, becoming worthless. The great majority of ritualists deal with these limits without complaint, but there are means to bypass both of these limits for those familiar with certain techniques and traditions.

The ancient magi of the Ninefold Celestial Empire pioneered the creation of "ritual pacts". These complex thaumaturgic constructs allowed for the embedding of a complicated ritual into the matrix of their own arcane natures. More sophisticated techniques allowed for the actual modification of a caster's spiritual substance to act as proxy for costly magical components. In a way, these magi became living ingredients in their own magic. While other cultures occasionally possessed similar capacities, the Imperial methods were vastly easier and more efficient than the oftimes-clumsy or spiritually dangerous methods embraced by other races, such as the ancestor-binding known to the dwarves, or the soulgraving of the elves. The ability of powerful Imperial ritualists to summon their abilities with comparatively little material expenditure was a major factor in the late glory of the Empire.

Ritual pacting first requires the selection of one of the myriad, individually trivial spirits that can be found in almost any locale. Costly and time-consuming rituals of purification and propitiation lure the spirit into close proximity with the ritualist, where a final rite binds the spirit to the caster. While these spirits have no individual intelligence to speak of, their substance can serve to hold a complex arcane matrix representing the ritual to be preserved. Once the spirit is fully imbued, the caster can call the details of the ritual to mind at any time and no longer requires the physical tome to cast it. The process of matrix induction is complicated by the spirit's tendency to "digest" the information into a format more compatible with its own nature. In consequence, it is not possible to copy a ritual out of a pact spirit or otherwise teach it to another, nor is it possible to scribe a ritual scroll with the pact alone. A ritualist still needs a physical tome to copy.

Essence alchemy is a further process of transformation by which the ritualist alters his spiritual substance to generate the necessary thaumic patterns to trigger a particular ritual without the need for physical components. Essence alchemy can only be performed for rituals bound through a ritual pact. Once the transformation is complete, the ritualist can expend a measure of personal energy to activate a ritual rather than use costly material components, though components can still be used if desired. Casting a ritual with essence alchemy costs one healing surge instead of the component costs.

Ritual pacting and essence alchemy do not change the amount of time necessary to cast a ritual. Creating a ritual pact requires ingredients costing as much as the ritual tome itself, and requires destroying a ritual tome as part of the process of imprinting, along with one day of preparations per level of the ritual. Performing essence alchemy for a particular pacted ritual requires ingredients costing as much as twenty castings of the ritual. Note that some rituals have variable casting costs based on circumstances, such as Linked Portal. The ritualist can alchemize either the full- or partial-cost versions of the ritual. Some rituals require foci, such as Eye of Warning. These foci are still required even with essence alchemy.

Despite centuries of effort, no means has been discovered to successfully and efficiently alchemize rituals that create permanent objects or effects, such as the Enchant Item ritual or the rite of forming a new portal circle. The curative rituals are the closest anyone has been able to come, and those rites revolve around the destruction of a sickness or affliction rather than the creation of permanent health. The arcanists of the Empire strove in vain for hundreds of years to overcome this limit, but all the methods they discovered required preparations and ingredients so burdensome as to make "mundane" crafting or enchanting far more practical.

Example: The daifu Pang Lung is a powerful sorcerer who does not care to be caught helpless by his enemies. He wishes to ritually bind the Linked Portal ritual and essence-alchemize a bond with it. First he buys a ritual tome of the spell, costing 680 gold koku. Then he buys the necessary ingredients for the pact, which also cost 680 gold. He then performs the necessary rites, which use up the ingredients and result in the destruction of the ritual tome. The Linked Portal spell is now ritually pacted to him, and he can cast it even without a ritual tome. He cannot copy the spell into a new tome simply out of his memory, however, and he still needs material components for the casting.

Thus, he further decides to perform essence alchemy on himself to allow him to generate his own energy for the ritual. He can only do this for rituals he has pacted, so Linked Portal qualifies. He then considers the spell- it costs 50 gold to cast if he casts it from a portal circle, or 135 gold if cast elsewhere. Essence alchemy requires components costing 20 times the casting cost. He could spend 1000 gold to alchemize, but then he'd need a portal circle to use the power, or else he'd have to supply his own physical components. He instead decides to spend 2700 gold, allowing him to use the Linked Portal ritual at any time, provided he can spend the ten minutes required to cast the spell and has a healing surge free to trigger it.

All told, he's spent 4,060 gold koku to bind and alchemize the ritual. It is fortunate that Pang Lung is exceptionally wealthy, even by the standards of Xianese nobility.

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