by Julian Kay
As penned by Viriel Pyrolea, formerly an esteemed seer of Lightwood, recently appointed as Imperial Astrologer. His appointment is rumored to be penance service for promoting piracy along the Spray.
The capricious register consists of constellations held as neither strictly opposed to Imperial fortunes, nor loyal. Use in Imperial heraldry isn’t unknown, usually as a statement of power and control, as if to say, “I do not fear opposition.” An Imperial guard bearing the Manticore upon their shield bears it as a warning against transgressors. The Road, of course, is frequently associated with messengers, particularly skilled messengers.
For context and understanding of what has gone before—in this case that is to say, before my appointment and the adjustments to charts based on my gathered observations—there had been only two registers of constellations held by the imperial throne: favorable and disfavored. Previously, the Imperial throne deemed the Couatl, Road, and Manticore as favorable, while considering the Horns and Wolf as disfavored. While you need not account for these less subtle understandings in your equations, bear in mind there are traditionalists who cling to the original blinkered view of the sky.
The Couatl: In Axis or Horizon, you would know it as the Couatl; a symbol of magic and potential wisdom. Diabolic cults call it the Serpent, a symbol of magic and insight. No doubt, if the Archmage’s Superiors and the Diabolist’s followers were on speaking terms, there could be a fierce debate whether the Fetherstar is the 10th star in this constellation.
But from my outside view on these petty distinctions, the meaning of the symbol is the same to both parties: a marker of importance to ritual casting. The flight of the Couatl’s stars align it with other celestial markers, with each being vital to empowering a different ritual. But it’s a fickle constellation, and I would not rely on the blessing of its position overmuch—particularly when it makes it painfully clear to foes when your circle of casters will attempt a exceedingly important task.
The Horns: The power of the woods, things stirring on claw and hoof, sometimes known as the Stag. Far from the concerns of Horizon, but this constellation always sits in the corner of a farmer’s eye. But it’s more than just beasts, it also can help predict storms and stranger weather. Peasants and merchants alike take care to avoid the two times of year when the Horns cross the Road. “Stag in the road, take to your abode.”
The Manticore: Ancient symbol of imperial justice or a symbol of violent rebellion? The Manticore stands in whenever both matters cross. It is a lesson for novice astrologers: there are no contradictions, only complications. The Manticore may mark unrest in a city, or it could mark an imperial crackdown. Its head may seem loyal, but always pay attention to the tail.
Note that present-day manticores hold to the constellation as part of their claim to past imperial agreements. In such cases, abandon neutrality and take up sincere agreement, at least within earshot. Note that their earshot is further than one might presume.
The Road: The first constellation any child can glean, the Road serves as a simple means of wayfinding. Though the positions of the stars have shifted over the years, they have not drifted so much as to be unrecognizable, and all still lead towards the Warden Star far to the north of the Empire itself. While other stars whip around the sky, the Road shifts so slowly as to be reliable even between ages.
There are some that claim an ancient highway once stretched along the path laid out by the stars, but such claims would seem absurd with the Midland Sea barring any such passage. Still, I am accustomed to absurdities; perhaps such a road might exist in the underworld, overworld, or other realms betwixt our own.
The Wolf: A craven, cruel beast nipping at the edges of the empire like, or to the faithful, the canine “Shepherd” gathering the vulnerable flock. As with the Manticore, it can be both, both the guiding light and the terrifying darkness, the thin line between safety and being swallowed. Orcish raiders and sheltering temples.
One can see it as the lesser danger that keeps us prepared for greater troubles. But do not dismiss or underestimate it. A lesser danger is still dangerous, and often lethal.
[Part 1 of Viriel’s lecture can be found here]