If you were sent a lightning mephit as a gift, should you be flattered, angry or terrified?
Mephits are often sent by Lower Planar spellcasters, fiends and powermongers of Sigil to their enemies to convey messages. The variety and quantity of mephits sent relays the message in the form of an ancient code, the dark of which is laid bare below. The recipients of such mephit messages are free to do what they will with the elemental creatures; keep them, enslave them, release them, or destroy them; the meaning’s the same. Mephits are never sent to friends or allies, as anyone who’s ever met a mephit will certainly understand.
A warning to beware, for the giver intends to surprise the recipient with an ambush or political treachery. This gift is usually timed to arrive when it’s already too late to prevent the inevitable. Lower Planar diplomats fear the sudden breezes in their rooms caused when an air mephit appears.
A rude message that the giver doesn’t even think the recipient is worth corresponding with any more.
This gift represents a subtle threat, with the connotation that shows that the sender has recognised some plot of the recipient against him.
A sign that the giver will not concede to demands; a stubborn answer of ‘No!’ to a request.
Displeasure at an enemy’s actions, ranging from disapproval to downright fury depending upon how many mephits are sent.
The recipient is forbidden to enter the giver’s home. This can include Realm, Layer or even Plane, at the giver’s digression.
A warning to the recipient to reconsider tactics, as the giver has a hidden ally who can swing matters. This often turns out to be a hollow threat, so the sender is either sure of himself and his ally, or bluffing.
A gift of gloating, when the giver has bested the recipient at some intellectual challenge.
Signifies a willingness to compromise on some point and a corresponding exchange of power or lands. A request for more direct communication.
A mysterious warning that someone close to the recipient is an assassin. This message is used to encourage paranoia and insecurity between the recipient and his allies.
A sarcastic gift, sent by a spellcaster who is sure the recipient is far weaker than he. Often this gift is insulting enough to goad the recipient into making a mistake.
Request for a truce; in effect the ‘white flag’ of mephit messages.
A blatant declaration of open warfare.
An enemy of the recipient has discovered his plans, has subverted and is now manipulating them to his own ends. For a fiend, it’s one of the most feared messages, because they never can tell which of their many enemies, and which of their many plans and schemes this concerns. This make a lot of recipients nervous, paranoid, and generally makes them change plans or make mistakes. The shadow mephit can, of course, be used for bluffing, but it’s seldom done, for the senders fear that if this rare mephit is used too often, it will be taken for bluffs too much, and then won’t be useful as bluffs.
A gesture of insolence and contempt that amounts to a declaration of a vendetta.
A message of agreement; the opposite of the earth mephit message, except there’s the connotation of a gloating ‘I told you so’ to the acceptance.
A sarcastic message sent when the spellcaster has evaded a trap or plot of the recipient’s. Formally the answer to an air mephit, if the giver survives the ambush.
A mephit swarm can mean anything the sender wishes. The more mephits sent, the stronger the message should be taken. Anyone who’s met a mephit will know a swarm of ’em is seldom a good omen.
A message which never turns up (seeing as there’s no such thing as a Void Mephit). The expression: “Got a Void Mephit” means to receive no response.
Source: Jon Winter-Holt, with thanks to the Planescape Monstrous Compendium and Zak Arntson for the inspiration.