It was long the custom of Pherissai traders, when abroad from the factories of their families, to carry a so-called trouble-stone — a charm carved from soft stone. Whenever the trader found himself troubled or afflicted by misfortune, he would touch the stone and expel his trouble unto it by means of a simple incantation. A trouble-stone became an essential piece of equipment for any Pherissai who had need to think with unclouded mind in the midst of chaos and peril, as any trader must.
Trouble-stones also became an effective defense against pickpockets, as an uninitiated
cutpurse who handled a trouble-stone would find themselves heir to all the trouble stored within. Vagabonds and thieves soon learnt that a Pherissai pocket promised as much danger as a fortified villa.
In time, the disposal of the indispensable trouble-stones became a problem. When a trouble-stone became full, a trader would bring it home and store it in their family’s factory, exchanging it for a new-carved stone. Over the decades, every Pherissai clan came to possess thousands of used trouble-stones, each pulsing with the ill fortune of a dozen
expeditions, and no use for them.
As a result, the invention of curse-shot was most convenient. An adept of particular
insight and cunning hit upon a process by which a filled trouble-stone might be cut into small pieces and, along with a few dozen of its fellows and a slab of clay, shaped into a hefty sphere of dry ceramic — a curse-shot, charged with a deadly load of misfortune.
Without curse-shot, the Pherissai Interregnum would have been impossible. With it, a company of men and a catapult could besiege a city. A brief barrage of curse-shot, and the assaulted city would find itself beset by disease, famine, treachery, and previous unimagined fatal flaws in their fortifications. The Pherissai company had merely to wait a few days before moving in to accept the surrender of a prostrate city.
Such a massive campaign of conquest could not be long sustained, of course, and in short order the Grand Exchange was riven with intrigues among families. The armies of Pherissa moved outward no longer, obliged as each brigade was to defend its patron family’s territorial claims. Worse, the once-inexhaustible reserves of trouble-stones began to run low.
In due time, of course, the curse-shot ran out entirely. At that point, the Pherissai had all
the trouble they could ever want.