Lost Celestial Branches
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The Eight Great Ways
It is well known that the Solar branch of the Celestial college is relatively new. What people forget is that the Celestial sphere of knowledge was never limited to the Stars, the Shadow, and the Dark. In the time before the Great Sundering, when the People were as one with the world and their spirits sang in harmony with the natural cycles, they studied the ever changing, but constant patterns and cycles of nature, basing their lifestyles and philosophies on these modes of change, destruction and rebirth. Scholars say that there were Eight Great Ways, or perhaps Nine; it may be more accurate to say that there were as many Ways as the People needed to be complete.
The Celestial Way
One of the manifold paths of Ouroboros that the People walked was that of the heavens, which rose and fell nightly as a seemingly constant inhalation and exhalation of light. Within this lies the climatic changes forming the seasonal Year, the five intertwined cycles of the Moon forming the Long Year, and the myriad of months and lesser years used to track the destinies of those standing under the light of the heavens. The wanderers also move, each in their own good time, from Ariel’s quarterly dance with the sun and triannual perbutations of the stars, to the stately waltz of Hela. Behind all is the slow slide of the Sun against the stars every Long Year, completing its stealthy shuffle once every Great Year. The great dance of the celestial bodies, set against that music known as the Harmony of the Spheres, was the inspiration for and constant guide to the Celestial Way.
The Four-Fold Path
Initially, the People of Arcadia lived by the intricate patterns of the Moon, and the longer movements of the Stars. Some scholars gained their insights from the abstruse epicycles of the Wanderers, but these were always a select and obscure minority. And many drew attracted to the vastness between the stars, the velvet void of the Uttermost Darkness. These formed the early four-fold path. The later, lesser, People of the forests have considered themselves to have always been people of the Stars, and to a lesser degree, the Sun and Moon. The Fallen know no other history than that of the Blood Moon, the Moon under Shadow. The fanatic Erelhei cling to their fragments of lost lore as to rocks on a jagged reef. Only we Teleri read the waters below and heavens above, and understand that we, like the tides, rise and fall with the breaths of Saros.
The Way is Lost in Shadow
After Lothiliar, when much of the Light of the world was lost forever, a great Shadow lay on the land, and the hearts of the People. In their terror and suffering, some reached out to this Shadow as a protection from the harsh reality shown by the Light and embraced its power, the power of the Eclipse and of riding the edge between the Light and the Darkness. The seductive call of Shadow magics found willing listeners, and their power soon grew to rival those still following the Four-fold Path. The Shadow wrapped Alusia in a shroud, overlaying and interweaving with the Celestial patterns of Light and Darkness. The Stars no longer shone with a constant pure light, but twinkled through the penumbra, as they still do today. The Uttermost Darkness was reduced to the merely Dark. The Wanderers, always the most subtle of influences, while still reliable in their arcane movements, could no longer be relied upon for constancy and clarity of expression through the Shadow, and this path died with the Sundering.
Unlike the other paths, the Moon was not strongly affected by the Shadow, as it provides the strongest and most direct path for the Celestial; its problems lay in a different direction. Many of those who Ascended through the Kinslayer rituals had strong links, not to the subtle caress of Utter Dark as is often claimed, but to the Moon, it being both the easiest path to master, and the one providing the most raw power with the least constraints on its usage. The Greater Summoners are perhaps the last of those who know this secret truth, for they can only call upon the Ascended in certain hours, and on certain days of the waxing moon. The taint of Blood thus lay heaviest and longest on those who walked the path of the Moon. Many were influenced by the newly-risen powers, turned to dark worship, and were lost to the People. More were hunted by the fearful survivors, and killed for their Moon-worship, whether they had fallen to the Ascended or no. The wise renounced the path of corruption and sought new ways of understanding. The remainder kept to the path of the Moon, and were tainted by its eclipses, and by the Blood Moon which is the Moon in Shadow. It is said that a precious few clung to the traditions that had served them well, and maintained their practise of the old ways, even though they did not serve their adherents for thousands of years, until the shadows had cleared enough that the path was safe enough for the careful and astute to walk.
The Lost Branches
Little is known for certain about the powers and abilities of followers of the lost Branches of the Celestial Way, but much has been speculated, particularly about the darker paths. It is assumed that the core of their powers lies in a similar vein to the present Celestial college, so only differences and additional spells have been listed below.
- Masters of obscure and recondite knowledge. Have the ability to predict the future, from the movement and alignment of the wanderers. Sometimes depicted as smarmy know-it-alls or deliberately obfusticators for their own amusement, but generaly well respected. Little specific is known.
The lost branch of Celestial Mariner has recently been rediscovered. It is a variant of the Star branch, with more emphasis on sailing across the stars.
- Stellar Affinity. Knows where all the celestial bodies lie in the Zodiac at any time. Can predict star rise/set for any star. Can always find their way at night. Sees under stars as if at day.
- Brilliant Navigators - the most famous Elven Explorers were Star mages.
- Can capture and store starlight, as protective amulets against evil and undead.
- Can activate/animate individual constellations; effects unclear, but earth-shattering.
- Unlike modern Star Mages, require Stars to be visible to gain most of their powers, rather than just low levels of Light.
- No Falling Star / Meteor Shower (damaging the firmament for personal gain is a sign of the Shadow on the Star branch).
- Old-style Whitefire
- Closely linked to worship of Elbereth (lit. Star-Queen), and the major powers of the famous star mages may have been personal "pact" gifts of the goddess.
- Lunar Affinity. Knows location and phase of the moon at all times. Predict eclipses. Can see in any moonlight as if at day.
- Ritual that relocates the moon for everything within miles for some hours. Can cause/prevent eclipses, change the tides, affect moonrise/set times. Can appear to "rip the moon from the skies".
- Bolt of moonlight.
- Travel via Moonbeam. Limited to times and places when the Moon is high in the sky.
- Can inflict or cure some madness.
- Old-style Whitefire
- Can weave moonlight to create beautiful objects that are unbreakable under moonlight, but fragile otherwise. Pre War of Tears, Moon Adepts were linked to the God of Crafts and material Beauty, who is sometimes known as Aule.
- Some control of shapeshift, or possibly lycanthropy, both their own and that of wild beasts.
- All Lunar Celestials have pale grey eyes - if they don't start off grey, they turn grey over time.
- Requires Moon to be up to gain most of their powers.
- Moon Phase affects Adepts differently - some grow in power during New Moon, some during Full Moon, some are indifferent.
- Most tales of Moon Adepts are from the later battles of the War of Tears, and it appears that at that time there were two main strands of Moon Adepts; those working with the light of the Moon, and those working with the Dark. These probably matched the Full/New Moon split, and the split between those curing and inflicting madness, healing and destroying and so forth. In these ancient, very personal accounts, it is very easy to read each narrator as a tragic hero, and their enemies as corrupt followers of the Dark Path, and perhaps this split is fictional.
- Darkness from the Void, which other adepts could not see through.
- Utterdark elementals
- Blots out the Stars, consumes the Moon, send the Wanderers from their paths in the firmament.
- Fear, Despair, Catatonic insanity
- Mind Wipe, including of small aspects of memories.
- Obliteration and destruction of any kind, included controlled, useful destruction.
- Hunger and consumption.
- No matter how noble the utterdark mages started off (and they always had good intentions), the mindless hunger and consuming nature of their power eventually led them to stare into the Darkness too long, and turn bad. Many Adepts accomplished wonderful things before having to be put down by their apprentices, though.
- It is possible that the accounts of the Utterdark are biassed