The Koriathain are an order of 180 enchantresses devoted to the betterment of mankind. They are led by a Prime Enchantress and a Prime Circle of senior enchantresses. The First Enchantress to the Prime is the second most powerful role in the order. Generally, the terms, "sorceress" and "enchantress" are used interchangeably to refer to members of the Order.
The order exists to steer the events of the world in mercy and compassion, to "alleviate those trends of daily suffering the Fellowship in its arrogance deemed unworthy of attention". They are results-oriented, rigidly set against change, independent though, and outside influence, and do not emphasize causation or peripheral though. The Koriathain believe that the Fellowship's elevation of inanimate objects (such as spell crystals) to the same level of compassion as humankind is a ruthless affectation. The order uses Lists of Service to prevent greed from corrupting their service. One of their original purposes was to preserve all records of human achievement.
The Order is entirely female, and originally relied on daughters dedicated by their parents to serve as new initiates. In its heyday, their magecraft was known to cure mortal wounds and reshape the earth. As the stature of the order declined, the Koriathain began relying more heavily on orphans (and established orphanages for the specific purpose of searching for new talent). Their role in world affairs lessened to nursing the sick and crafting iyat banes.
The author has provided information about why the order is entirely female:
|The Koriathain are women - but - in their intent to "nurture" they have taken an artifically imposed stance - a "belief" that certain things are overridingly important - human life and human growth takes precidence over nature, and to enact that "ideal" - their system runs by coercion...they use direct force to effect the changes that fall under their "creed" - therefore, their energies are chauvanistically distorted toward the masculine where heirarchy prevails, and will co-opts free choice and holistic cooperation.
|Spoiler warning: Contains plot elements from Traitor's Knot.
In Traitor's Knot, it is revealed that the Koriathain sometimes breed children in secret. They also attempted to gain access to Sulfin Evend's talented offspring when renewing the standing bargain between the sorceresses and the town of Hanshire.
|Spoiler warning: Contains plot elements from The Sundering Star.
The Order of the Koriathain were originally a secret society formed for the purpose of resistance of oppression. They arose at a time when various political and economical interests were destroying cultures wholesale for exploitation or convenient expansion. Founded upon the principles of aid and compassion, they fought entrenched corruption and sent aid to the oppressed. At first they worked under cover to send aid, then to shelter refugees, then, as they grew, they took on the task of saving cultural archives and preserving the scope of threatened human knowledge. Their powers were limited to the ability to project illusion and deceive. This era of their existence is described in the short story, The Sundering Star.
As a resistance group working under the radar and facing enormously powerful odds, increasingly, they resorted to using tactics of desperation; and also, in the course of saving the eradication of at risk cultural knowledge, they encountered their first awareness of arcane power. They found it useful, used that influence to further their ends, and began to seek out ways to incorporate such power into their order. A split occurred, with the lower initiates still acting as compassionate healers while the administrative levels took on the deeper knowledge and steered the greater picture.
|Spoiler warning: Contains plot elements from Initiate's Trial.
Following the events of The Sundering Star, the Koriathain adopted a policy of acquisition to obtain magic by any means possible. In the case of the Biedar, the Order entrapped innocents and used drugs to extort the tribe's ancestral lore. Because of this, the Biedar are the Koriathain's ancient enemy.
|Spoiler warning: Contains plot elements from Curse of the Mistwraith.
The Koriathain predate the Compact, and arrived upon Athera with mankind at the beginning of the Third Age. They did not have an active role in the formation of the Compact, and often feel frustrated or constrained by the Fellowship's restrictions. Past matriarchs have begged the Fellowship for help and been summarily refused. However, they remain on Athera because their magic is much more potent here than on the splinter worlds, and because their crystals would be cleared by travelling through the gates. By agreeing to the Compact, much of their stored knowledge became proscribed.
Before induction, candidates are evaluated through one of the major focus crystals to determine their potential for creativity and growth. Some candidates are sent directly to charitable service while others have the chance to be schooled for rank.
All initiates make their vows of obedience through one of major focus crystals of the order. This vow allows the Prime Enchantress complete control over the initiate where desired. Although there are only 180 enchantresses, there are thousands of initiates.
The author has also provided the following supporting information about the initiates' last names:
|Before refuge on Athera, since the order's founding, initiates to what is now the Koriathain give up their past and their families when they come to the order. Originally, they actually gave up their former names, for new ones given them by the Order. These became the names they went by, with the order considered their only tie - their only loyalty, in relationship. Therefore, they only had one name for their individuality. If this were so, today, and they had to sign legally, the signature would be: Prime Matriarch, Morriel Koriathain. Or First Senior Lirenda Koriathain. Initiate Elaira Koriathain. Legal "family" status was acknowledge as Koriathain.
When the Order arrived on Athera, this practice of completely giving up the birth name was forced out of practice by the compact. Paravian Law held that the soul named the child, and that facet of life should not be dropped. The birth name must therefore remain an inviolate part of identity. So the practice on Athera had to be amended to compromise - the surname was dropped, and only the given name from birth retained in use within the order.
There is an induction ceremony held, before the formal oathswearing, wherein the surname and the past ties to family are "ritually forgotten" - and no surname is ever pronounced after that. It is effectively renounced and eradicated.
The order focuses their magic through spell crystals. Because these crystals originated from another planet, they do not fall under the Compact, and are often referred to as captive or enslaved. Every initiate has a personal spell crystal, and the Prime Enchantress also makes use of more powerful crystals such as the Great Waystone or the Skyron Focus.
Knowledge stored in the two powerful crystals is cumulative and irreplaceable. Because the Prime Enchantress must be able to dominate them, the trials of succession becomes more difficult to accomplish with each passing year. At the start of Curse of the Mistwraith, the Great Waystone has been lost since the rebellion, and the order has used the Skyron Focus as their main crystal for five hundred years.
Koriani scryings are mechanical, an inception of energies, amplified in crystal, then turned to sight outcome. This creates blind spots -- the amplification is not an aware process, and the reproduction of an event is never as clear as the actual event, subject to gaps and distortions. All works of Koriani spellcraft hold predictable structure, and rely on sigils stamped into submission by seals.
There are 28 primary seals used by the sorceresses:
- Rune of Relationship
- Rune of Holding
When a ranking sorceress dies, the seals which contain any spellcraft tying them to their personal spell crystals (such as longevity bindings) are breached. The Senior Circle must ritually disperse these energies to prevent them from entropically leaking into the environment. Eight levels of cleansing are enacted before a final level that nullifies the patterned resonance of the spell crystal.
- The Koriathain are served by young boy pages who are chosen by the Prime Enchantress to serve. They are released from service at puberty, and provided with a trade apprenticeship for their good service.
- Unranked members perform low-service menial work and are not likely to progress further, due to their innate limitations or character flaws.
- The first three ranks (Rank 1 - 3) denote charitable service, with each rank showing an increased depth of talent and knowledge. There are many powerful enchantresses at the 3rd rank -- those who are gifted healers or seers, but not considered worthy (for character reasons) of administrative rank.
- The next six ranks (Rank 4 - 9) are administrative ranks. Enchantresses in this echelon are privy to some, if not many, of the secret intents. They carry out orders with some degree of awareness. Not all enchantresses would fit here -- the Koriathain believe that the means justifies the end and sorceresses with too much conscience would never rise beyond the 3rd Rank. The 9th Rank is reserved exclusively for the Prime Enchantress.
While the Koriathain do not have strict uniforms, there is a symbolic or direct tag on their garb to designate rank and position within the Order. Sorceresses generally wear their hair netted, braided, or pinned up, and rarely loose. Beyond their personal spell crystals, sorceresses might also wear amethysts or moonstones. Low ranked members might wear garnets, while administrative ranks might wear rubies, pearls, and diamonds.
- Male pages wear amethyst silk uniforms.
- Unranked low-service initiates wear a gray shift.
- Sorceresses in charitable service (Rank 1 - 3) wear silver ribbons made of silver gray satin. The number of ribbons correlates to the number of ranks they have risen. Lower ranks wear the ribbons against gray robes, while 3rd Rank sorceresses wear a pale shade of lavender. 1st Rank sorceresses also have a white ribbon at their cuffs.
- Sorceresses in administrative ranks (Rank 4 - 9) wear scarlet ribbons against a deep lavender robe. The number of ribbons also correlates to the number of ranks. Higher ranks are rare -- there is a 7th Rank sorceress in Whitehold.
- Lirenda, as First Senior and the only 8th Rank sorceress, wears a pleated robe with a high initiate's cowl that has a silver-wired band. The version worn by seniors is less elaborate, with fewer jewels, and fewer bands of rank.
- Morriel, as the Prime Enchantress, wears a lavender-and-purple mantle. Her robe of office has nine red bands of rank at the sleeves and (if she's going out) a hood of her over-mantle. Her blouse was silver or white, with full sleeves and probably jewels or seed pearls. Her girdle has threadwork, sewn in wardings, and she carries a purse tied or clipped to her waist, padded, and with pockets for various crystals. Large stones would be carried and brought to her by attendants.
- The standard of the Koriathain is a swan on an amethyst field with gold fringe. The symbol of the Prime Enchantress is a crested crane.
- The Koriani send daily messages to other Sorceresses at midnight, when the lane tides are least disturbed by static thrown off by the sun.
- A "grand circle" is composed of 108 enchantresses.
- Even the most potent ward of Koriani protection cannot prevent eavesdropping by a member of the Fellowship. At best, a ward that would reveal their listening presence is all that the Prime can muster.
- The Prime maintains ultimate control over all enchantresses. In Warhost of Vastmark, it is revealed that Lirenda as First Senior has knowledge of these sigils.
- The Koriani code forbids murder, which Morriel Prime sees as an "inconvenience" which she can circumvent.
- Koriani sisterhouses contain permanent formal wards, generally in a tower, where magecraft can safely be performed.
- The Lord Mayor of Hanshire retains the services of scryers to report on inbound ships in the harbor.
- In the field, the Prime's entourage is protected by a set of matched tourmalines that predate Atheran inhabitance.
- The charitable ranks of the Koriathain once treated humans experiencing backlash from Paravian interaction. However, their infirmaries were sited in the towns, and the bigger portion of the problem afflicted clan folk in the free wilds. The White Brotherhood was formed to redress this with their hostels sited in quiet, remote places.
|Spoiler warning: Contains plot elements from Initiate's Trial.
- The Koriathain run a secretive carrier pigeon network in various cities on Athera, such as Whitehold, Barish, East Bransing, Backwater, Ostermere, and Deal.
- © Janny Wurts, Ships of Merior, p. 374 (US-Hardback)
- Forum Post, September 30, 2005
- Forum Post, August 2, 2012
- Author's FAQ
- © Janny Wurts, Grand Conspiracy, p. 422 (US-Hardback)
- Forum Post, October 6, 2005
- Author's FAQ
- Forum Post, March 13, 2014
- Forum Post, October 22, 2008
- © Janny Wurts, Curse of the Mistwraith, p. 503 (US-Hardback)
- Email with Janny Wurts, March 22, 2021