Crystal of the Ebon Flame

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Greyhawk magic item
Crystal of the Ebon Flame
Crystal of the Ebon Flame01.jpg
The Crystal of the Ebon Flame, as depicted in the Spellfire game.
Type Artifact
Price
Body slot N/A
Caster level
Weight
First appearance Eldritch Wizardry (1976)

The Crystal of the Ebon Flame is a powerful artifact of the World of Greyhawk setting.

Description

The Crystal of the Ebon Flame is diamond-like, crystalline stone variously described as the size of a woman's hand or slightly smaller than a human skull, cut in a faceted shape that suggests a flickering candle flame. Deep in its center, a small ebon flame flickers and darts. Eldritch Wizardry reports that the crystal constantly emits waves of brilliant light that cause all to behold it to flee in terror. The Plane Below describes it as a black, fist-sized, flame-shaped crystal that whispers menacingly when grasped, the discordant, clashing whispers simultaneously offering power and warning of corruption.

Powers

Various powers are attributed to the Crystal in various sources, including the ability to detect invisible objects, fire rays of cold, time stop, and warnings that the item drains the user's ability scores and makes the user unable to touch metal. There's also a warning that those who venture too near the crystal risk being charmed by the artifact and suggested to become devout members of a cult dedicated to it. The stone's sinister intelligence wishes to increase its power by adding more mind-controlled worshipers and slaying the followers of other gods.

In Reverse Dungeon, the artifact grants several powers related to flame (such as fireball, burning hands, light, chromatic orb, and immunity to heat and flame, and faerie fire), while filling its users with greed and an unwillingness to let the artifact out of their sight. It also drains power from other magic items in the wielders' possession.

Powers attributed to the crystal in 4th edition include blasts of fire and necrotic damage, the ability to destroy enemies beyond even the reach of raise dead rituals, and even the power to resurrect the crystal's owner, if the Crystal is sufficiently pleased.

Suggested means of destruction include being melted in the core of the world, shattered on the Paraelemental Plane of Ice, or crushed beneath the hammer of Thor. "Artifacts of Oerth" in Dragon #294 claims that the Crystal can only be crushed beneath Golbi, the hammer of Fortubo.

History

The Crystal of the Ebon Flame, as depicted in the Book of Artifacts (1993).

As with so many artifacts, the origin of the Crystal of the Ebon Flame are unclear. The dwarves swear that only a dwarf could carve a gem so perfectly. Some scholars suggest that such a stone could have come from nowhere on Oerth, but must have been mined from the heart of a burned-out star. The Plane Below claims this artifact is a tear shed by Tharizdun, or a seed of evil he planted that works in secret to win its master's escape. It is said that the gods tried and failed to destroy the Crystal, and instead they placed a powerful curse on it, forcing the artifact to move from owner to owner. The Crystal of the Ebon Flame is thus a dual-natured item with two separate groups of goals. The artifact seeks always to free the Chained God, corrupt its wielders to evil and destruction, and empower those who revere the dark god or one of his aspects. The curse, on the other hand, seeks always to constrain the artifact's power and to find a just and righteous hero to serve as its custodian, keeping it from the cultists of Tharizdun.

The Crystal of the Ebon Flame was already of extraordinary antiquity when it was brought to the Flanaess by the migrating Oeridians. The timing in which they employed it, and their use of planar travel and teleportation magic in bringing it from battlefield to battlefield, made it devastating and crucial to the Oeridians' success during the Great Migrations.

At some point, the crystal became a holy relic of an obscure cult of fire worshipers, possibly the Cult of the Black Flame. Once powerful and influential, this cult was largely wiped out when its vile practices led to its persecution (again, this fits the description of the Cult of the Black Flame, although it also fits the description of Tharizdun's cult; then again, little enough is known of the Cult of the Black Flame that they could be a cult of Tharizdun, or of the Elder Elemental Eye). The few devout members of the cult continue to practice their faith in secrecy.

In the adventure Reverse Dungeon, the Crystal of the Ebon Flame appears in the custody of a group of cloakers in the Vault Level of the dungeon, having placed there by the wizard Blaise some time within the last 600 years after it fulfilled whatever purpose he had for it. The cloakers are too alien in spirit and mind to access the Crystal's powers, but occasionally they engage in weird dances around the Crystal's glow, accompanied by the moans of their fellows. Any would die to keep the beauty of the crystalline artifact from being taken from them.

Bibliography

  • Cook, David. Book of Artifacts. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1993.
  • Gygax, Gary. Dungeon Master's Guide. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1979.
  • Henson, Dale, and Doug Stewart, eds. Encyclopedia Magica Vol 1. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994.
  • Ratecliff, John D., and Bruce R. Cordell. Reverse Dungeon. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2000.