29 thoughts on “[2.3 Spoilers] Spell Notes #2

  1. These descriptions of runic sigils and their effects are all being written down in one of the girls’ notebooks, right? It’s starting to look like it’s becoming a full-fledged grimoire. I wonder if she could use the bit of Glamour Maricicia gave her that lets her turn “like into like” to incorporate the Forest Ribbon Trail document into it, or turn it into a sturdier book. I could certainly see a grimoire working as an Instrument, especially for Verona.


  2. Oof, magic symbols are pretty sexist, “striking out” vs “struck or acted against”. I guess these things are affected by human belief, but that really sucks.


    • Better terms to describe it when considering spirits/energy might be ’emitting’ v.s ‘receiving’

      Gives me less of a nasty violence vibe.


      • Which makes me soooo curious as to how trans and non-binary practitioners exist in this world. Especially given the gender-bending illusion magic from the last chapter.


        • Gender-bending magic (that isn’t uncontrollable) always makes that kind of thing odd. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen voluntary gender-bending used in a work that explores gender themes like that.


        • Well, the defiance of gender norms has a rich history in the practice of magic. Think of Odin practicing seiðr for example, or the Hijra and their central role as religious ritual functionaries in the Indian subcontinent, or the shamans of Siberia taking on opposing gender roles at the whim of the spirits as part of their training, even getting married in those roles. By becoming a bit ‘other’, by stepping outside of ‘normal’ society, you can gain a kind of power.


  3. I love how the forest ribbon trail is… less obviously malicious, but clearly just as dangerous as the Hungry Choir (well… maybe not quiet that high, but still up there).

    Like, it is DEFINITELY very very very not safe…. and it is considered to be one of the “beginner” challenges for practitioners.

    …. I wonder if Miss is one of the Lost?

    Also: protecting and keeping the Boon companion is totally up Avery’s alley… and I can’t help but wonder if Miss gave her this challenge with the expectation that Avery would fight tooth and nail to protect a cute rabbit… in effect playing the challenge at the highest difficulty….

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Transcription:

    The Forest Ribbon Trail

    [Page 1]

    The Forest Ribbon Trail is a common first Finding for those practitioners who traverse the Paths, the far-flung realms that exist at the edge of all.

    If the Abyss is where the physical goes to be ground down into grim scraps, the Ruins where immaterial ghosts and incarnate things are reduced back down to spirit-stuff, the Warrens where the foulest mud of humanity settles into puddles, and the Courts where dreams go to die, then the Paths exist as the shores of all these realms, where Oblivion, not water, lap at the banks.

    Dear Avery, you told us you wished to travel to strange realms and places, and there are few as alien as the Paths. The Paths were once thought to be the dream realm, and some even hold to this delusions, but this is false. The Paths are where things lost to the Ruins, Court, Abyss, Warren and Spirit World go, drifting on the seas of Oblivion. Practitioners who travel these Paths do so by trial and error, learning the rules and mechanisms of a place and its denizens, a fact made doubly difficult by the reality that each person may perceive the Paths in different ways. Most will stick to the places where things are most consistent, linear and connected, and the Forest Ribbon Trail is often described as a beginner Path for new Practitioners.

    Simply traveling this road will make it easier to go to new places, and to find what is lost, but it is not easy and you must be both prepared and wary.

    [Bound rabbit at bottom right of first page]

    [Page 2]

    [Bound mouse at top right of page]


    Capture a wild prey animal that has not shed or tasted blood, taking it unharmed and without drugs, and bring it indoors. Bind it in an unbroken length of ribbon, in a gentle manner that does not agitate the beast. Affix it by no less than twelve points to nearby furniture or fixtures in the room, so that it may be near you when you walk the path. Secure all four limbs, so it may walk the path’s edges. Cover its eyes so it may clearly see the path and the things of the Path. Suspend it in the air, if you can, so it touches nothing but ribbon, so that it is wholly of the Path, with no connection to the world it was born to.

    The beast shall join you on the path as a boon guide and companion. The mouse would help you hide from the things on the path’s edges, should you deem that necessary, but will Lose you something trivial. The rabbit would foil the Wolf twice but foil you once. The squirrel can help you find things, but will bolt if you bleed, returning only at the finals steps of the journey. Trust the deer should you choose it, to guide away from certain danger, if not necessarily the way you should go.

    The true use of this boon companion, however, is to meet a certain end in your place. Should you become Lost, declare that the beast should assume your place. Should you reach the end of the Path, then it shall be your final resort against the Wolf.

    [Bound deer at bottom left of page]

    [Page 3]

    The Ritual

    Draw an empty circle beneath the beast. Around the perimeter, in unbroken cursive, write:

    Across bloodless stone and boneless thorn, twixt unspeaking tree and ribbons unseeing. Hand in paw, we walk the forest ribbon trail.

    Attempt to write it so the words are even in size and the ending meets the beginning. There should be no break between words nor sentences.

    The words above are not important for the ritual itself, and there may indeed be better ones, but they should help serve as a lens through which to clarify the path. You may add your own words if there is a type of place you’re most comfortable, or a place you’re unesay traveling through. By default, the motif will feature trees with a ribbon tied to every branch. Ask me if you would like suggestions for wording.

    To actually carry out the ritual, kneel within the circle, and wrap yourself in ribbon. Feet first, then neck, then eyes, then hands. Cinch the ribbon tight with your teeth and without letting go of it, ask the wolf to bring you to the Forest Ribbon Trail so that it might eat you. Be careful to use ‘might’.

    [Front half of wolf]

    Again, wording matters. If there is a ‘wolf’ you are not comfortable facing, or a particular ‘wolf’ you would rather face, you could change the phrasing. ‘He’, ‘the old bitch’, ‘the beast’, etc.

    [Page 4]

    Walking the Path

    The Forest Ribbon Trail has three lengths. The Path may be bent or straight, but either way, the ground will not be visible. Unless stated otherwise, you must not step off the path. You must not look down. You must not step back. IF you do, you wil lbe Lost.

    On or near enough to the path to be seen, you will find five items that serve as landmarks. These items are the catskull, the timekeeping device, the axe, the coin, and the woven object. These may seem familiar. They appear in varying order, the form may change, and you must either pick up an item or follow the rule tied to it. In no particular order:

    You cannot walk past the cat’s skull, or you will find yourself stuck on the Path, and an Other by the wayside will find its way back instead of or through you. Instead, either pick it up and hold it in front of you, or turn around and go the way you came. This is the only time you can and should turn back.

    The axe brings about harm; a hazard, Other or trap will be free to bring about death or injury. Avoid the danger or take the axe.

    The woven object will ensnare the traveler. Unless taken, the traveler will find themselves back at the woven object time and again. They must, without using practice or trickery, walk to the next object blind. Trust your boon companion, your walking stick, and be on good terms with the locals.

    [Page 5]

    The timepiece mandates that one wait. After a time, they will be told by signal or word that they are free to progress. Should they rush forward, they or someone vulnerable in their custody will be Lost for a duration, and return incomplete. Both the wait and the penalty can be bypassed by taking the device.

    Finally, the coin must be exchanged. If the intent is to keep it, it should be given to the Wolf. If not, it should be given to an Other by the wayside. It is a hard object to find and easy to miss. Failing to acquire and trade the coin means that the traveler will lose something random when they return to reality, if they return to reality.

    The first league of the path will be dark, with two objects. The second league of the path is occupied by Others who dwell by the wayside, with two more objects in reach of the Path. Beware the Others. If the boon companion was agitated or scared when bound, the Others will be more dangerous. They cannot step onto the path or directly interfere if the practitioner minds the axe, but they will be tricky.

    The final leg is often ominous, though the nature of this depends on the shape the path takes for the traveler. The Wolf will wait in the middle of the Path with the final object, which modifies the encounter as appropriate to its rule.

    The standard conclusion to the path is to barter with the Wolf. This remains the final option, should you desire one of the five items.

    [Page 6]

    Dealing with the Wolf

    The form of the Wolf can vary, like anything on the Paths, but the rules remain fairly steady. Keep the item nearest the Wolf in mind and be aware it may attempt to harm you (axe), chase (skull), barter (coin), blind (woven object), or keep your in its company for a time (timepiece). Taking the final item circumvents this.

    The practitioner should exchange an item with the Wolf if it is their first visit to the Forest Ribbon Trail, and quietly discard it if not. Engage in negotiations with the Wolf about passage or the nuances of the gift you seek in exchange for the item. Be aware that the longer negotiations continue, the more intractable and unfair the Wolf is inclined to be.

    At the close of negotiations, the practitioner must be insistent and unmoving in stating they do not want to remember the events between the end of the negotiations and their return home. The Wolf should agree, but will state the practitioner cannot return home. Accept if you do not want to utilize the detour.

    Once the deal is sealed and the gift received, the prey animal should be instructed to suffer the fate of remaining at the Paths thereafter, in the traveler’s stead.

    The Wolf will act, the traveler will not remember what occurs next, and the traveler will arrive back where they began, unless it is not their first trip through, in which case they will arrive at any destination.

    [Page 7]

    Gifts of the Forest Ribbon Trail

    Trade the Cat Skull to the Wolf to free two Lost from the wayside of the Forest Ribbon Trail. The negotiation should dictate targets to attack or rules for the Lost to follow. Binding them to the Seal of Solomon is good practice.

    Trade the Coin to get back one thing that is Lost to you, be it physical or abstract. If it is physical but possible to acquire in the span of a waking day, the gift will instead be a simple coin of no special value.

    Trade the Woven Object to have the ability to freely return to the Forest Ribbon Trail. Boon companions will be dead but still useful, the traveler will be halfway down the path at the start, and less landmarks will rest on the path. The damage the Wolf inflicts will be minor. A good choice for one who wishes to use the Forest Ribbon Trail as a means to get to distant places with any regularity.

    Trade the axe for a weapon of great power that is not to the traveler’s skillset or nature to use. It may not be given away.

    Trade the timekeeping device for a trinket. The trinket will be a strong and curious item, with unpredictable results.

    Done right, you will find yourself at the edge of losing your life, with the chosen gift in hand.

    Done wrong, you will be lost.

    [Page 8]

    A Detour

    Should you feel brave, there is one branch near the Wolf that has no ribbon tied to it. At an opportune moment, you may flee the conversation with the Wolf, provided you have not picked up an item.

    Travel past the branch and into Oblivion. The Wolf will chase and if it gets you, will hold you fast. Should this occur, you may have the boon companion stand in for you and be devoured in your stead.

    Should you carry forward, you may find hints of the familiar. Others or uncomfortable thoughts may plague you, and you may find yourself treading close to other realms. Carry on and through.

    On the way, there are more items with rules. The branch without a ribbon is one; cast it down if not desired. Taking it back will impart unusual skill in a craft or talent. Whisper to it to ask what you wish for, as hard as it is to whisper while fleeing.

    The rope will catch you. Take it and bring it with you, to claim the gift of an unusual but familiar means of transportation.

    The final prize is to keep the boon companion. It will be somewhat Lost but forever loyal, for it is Prey’s fate to be transient, its ending a devouring, either by predator or scavenger.

    You will bypass the Wolf’s end, but trying this detour bars one thereafter from the Forest Ribbon Trail.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Typo Thread:

    Page 4
    timekeeping device (referred to as timepiece after this)
    traveller > traveler (occurs twice)

    Page 5
    given to the wolf (uncapitalised)

    Page 6
    negotations > negotiations

    Page 7
    cat skull, coin and woven object are only capitalised here

    Page 8

    Carry on and through (extra space)


  6. When a language has two color words, they are “dark” and “pale” (or “black” and “white” if you prefer). When it gets a third, it is “red”. Unsurprising that these are the three degrees of emphasis.
    Though it’s interesting that “black,” “red,” and “white” apparently have secondary meanings of “empty,” “rubedo,” and “blank”. “Empty” and “blank” are synonyms, after all, and “rubedo” is just “red” in… [Googles] Latin.


    • So a few more things to add to this:

      Empty and blank aren’t exactly synonyms. A decorated vessel may still be empty. An unadorned one may still be filled.

      “Blank” isn’t exactly a secondary meaning of “white” — in some ways, they are the same word: consider French “blanc” / Spanish “blanco”.

      On the flip side, though, blank also means black: both words have an etymology rooted in fire, describing what is left of the wood after it burns. “Blanc” as white also comes from the same root used to describe the light of the flames.

      “Rubedo” is more than just “red.” It’s a state of “redness” such as the rising of blood. It connects to life and vigor and power. In medieval alchemy, it was also used to describe the final phase of the great transmutation — after “nigredo” (“blackness”) and “albedo” (“whiteness”).

      On the flip side: If we presume that the ancient tradition of associating magical formulae with Latin holds in this world, and the alchemical reference is more than just coincidence, then perhaps associating white with the Germanic “blanc” is the wrong approach, and it should be compared to Latin “albus” instead, which is the dull whiteness associated with clouds and eggshells instead of the shining whiteness of purity and flames (“candidus”)… though I suppose that actually would be more “blank” than shining whiteness.

      And the “nigredo” of alchemy is founded in the Latin word for shining blackness, such as the glossy sheen of burnt wood or coal, instead of dull blackness like soot (which would be “ater”) — or the night sky (“night” has a closely related root to “niger”) which is black and empty, but also shining with stars.

      In other words, there are a lot of possible interpretations and associations that have some pretty strong attestations in traditional writings about magic — and we know that the spirits are all about the old ways. There’s a lot of different ways we could think about this.

      Liked by 2 people

      • “Blank” and “empty” aren’t synonyms, but to me their connotations in a color context are more comparable than contrasting. Crazy. (Okay, I’ll stop.)
        The points about rubedo are interesting. I had heard of that alchemy stuff (thanks to a really interesting post on the RWBY subreddit), but I didn’t make the connection.


  7. Extra typo: “unredictable results” (third from the last paragraph of the second to last page; missing a “p”).

    By the way, I notice WB uses “less” with a countable referrent a lot. (For instance, “less landmarks” in the text above.) My understanding is that “fewer” is the right word in those cases, and “less” should be used only with uncountable things (e.g., “less water”).

    Is this a Canadian thing? A WB quirk? Or have I just learned a prescriptive rule that isn’t really used by native English speakers?


    • You are right about the usage of less and fewer but most people (from my online experience) don’t care about or even know of it. As a non-native English speaker, I was never taught that less was only used for uncountable nouns; I probably learnt it because someone mentioned it online.


  8. Does “arrive at any destination” mean any destination of the traveler’s choice, or the Wolf’s choice? The ability to go literally anywhere would be tremendously powerful, if you have control over it. Not so much, if it’s random.

    I suspect Lucy is going to get the powerful weapon, Avery will trade the woven object for easier access to the Paths, and Verona will trade for the unpredictable powerful trinket.


    • My bet is on two girls getting Lost on the trail, and the third having to do a run just to get them back.
      But hey, maybe nice things will happen instead.


  9. The description of this ritual has a similar feel to this awesome little Indie game called “Cultist Simulator”. There are not a lot of actual similarities, but the atmosphere and feeling it evokes feels similar to me.


    • I thought more about “heroquests” from runequest/heroquest tRPG series (and king of dragon pass/six ages video games). “Heroquests” were travels to the mythic Otherworld(s), where hero would contact Gods or other characters from the myths. Each one worked by specific rules, corresponding to myths in question, and depending on choices the hero would be able to claim some secret knowledge and/or divine treasures. They also required careful preparation of place of ritual and the ritualist(s) and were very dangerous.

      Still, pact/pale universe is quite different from runequest, indeed much closer to “cultist simulator” in terms of, say, atmosphere. It’ll be very interesting to read chapters related to this Forrest Ribbon Trail adventure


  10. Was hoping for a handy reference of the fae gifts but might be a good idea to save that till we got them all. The forest trail is freaking awesome. Can’t wait.


  11. Guh. I haven’t been keeping up with this serial diligently, so I always miss the opportunity to comment. And I have so much to comment!

    Anyway, I see no one has brought it up so I will. The five items mentioned in the Forest Ribbon Trail are the five items used in the Awakening ritual: “Knife, skull, coin, timepiece, thread.”

    For example, during the ritual, Miss entered and left through the thread. This could determine her relationship to the girls, or simply her nature as an other. She binds others to herself, or allows herself to be bound to others, in a manner of speaking. She makes use of them, even if they die. She has an easy time getting away from trouble. And, perhaps, this symbolises how she intends to be loyal to the girls, up until the point at which she decides to throw them under the bus or use them as scapegoats.

    None of this is super deep, and certainly we could figure it out without this extra content. But the clarification of the meaning of the symbols helps make more sense of the characters and the ritual.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And, as a thought I had just after commenting… If the items Others used in the ritual shape their relationship to the Practitioner, then it should also shape the relationship the Practitioner has with the Other. The girls are prone to be loyal and trusting of Miss, but they may end up ditching her at their convenience.


    • I know it is a bit late but I am finally “catching up” to Pale and thank you for this, I thought in my mind that yes, it felt a bit like the Awakening ritual (especially the coin and the skull, I wasn’t sure about the rest which is a bit shameful when the Pactverse is my favourite “Magic hidden IRL”).

      With that in mind, I checked the first (or second if the map is the first) bonus content and yes, it is marked where the Others came and left from.

      On that note, I would like to point out that the Ravenous Chorale entered by the chase and left by the barter, taking meat on the way, that Miss came and went by the entanglement, that our representative of Summer Above entered through the wait and left by the entanglement and that the member of the court of Dark Fall/Autumn entered by the entanglement and left by the barter.

      Finally, it may be worth noting that or trio’s predecessor did not participate, which might imply some things, either beneficial or deleterious, as Maricica might say, especially if the Others are somewhat bound in their relationship by the ritual.




      That said, sorry for hijacking your comment for so long a digression, I just wanted to write something down with the added bonus that future readers might find it interesting.


  12. I love this detailed description of the Forest Ribbon Trail. It almost sounds like a video game, e.g. a roguelike. This text is walkthrough (as much as can be given), it details the potential rewards and how to get each of them, it clarifies all sorts of exceptions, there’s very strict structure to a lot of it, and there’s even a hidden level at the end.

    Choosing to pick the Woven Object basically gives you a shortcut to replay this stage, starting from the middle, on lower difficulty – for the players who want to use it as a quick warp between places in the world.


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