The Cabinet of Curiosities Item in Etrea | World Anvil

The Cabinet of Curiosities

February 2024

The archives of the Royal Arcanum in Kaien are stuffed full of treasures, antiquities, and ill-gotten cultural artefacts. Some goods were legitimately acquired, others robbed from tombs, and still more snatched from under their owners' noses.   This article covers just a small sample of the wonders hidden away in the archives.  


Mother is the mummified remains of an allkin, the theorised ancestor species of all sapient life on Etrea. She was discovered beneath the ice near a Kaienese research base on the Barren, remarkably well-preserved despite being estimated to be more than half a million years old. Once she was removed from the ice, she began to deteriorate rapidly. What is left of her is now stored in a magically sealed box in the archives.

Shapeshifter Egg

A large lump of rock with a smooth ovoid protruberance, this object has been labelled as a fossilised shapeshifter egg for hundreds of years. Despite it being general knowledge that shapeshifters do not, in fact, lay eggs, scholars have been reluctant to change this. Other theories as to the identity of the object are that it is the fossilised egg of some - probably extinct - creature, or it is just some rock with an oddly coincidental shape.

Egg Shells

In a forgotten corner of the archives sits a pile of wooden boxes stuffed with straw. Nestled within the straw are hundreds of different kinds of bird eggs, drained of their contents until only the fragile shells remain. Some of these eggs come from now-extinct birds, notable examples being the bearded coot and the rime-necked albatross. Whilst there are some duplicates in the collection, the majority of specimens are unique.

The Marden Banner

A long length of pale gold fabric, emblazoned with three black feathers and stained dark with blood. It was retrieved after the assassination of the last Marden emperor, the act that sparked the bloody takeover of the Kaienese throne. The majority of the emblems of the old regime were destroyed during and after the war, so this banner is one of the last remaining artefacts of that line.

The Faceless Woman

A rolled up painting sits in a corner behind some boxes, long relieved from its frame. It depicts a woman in old-fashioned yet upper class clothing, her blonde hair piled elegantly on top of her head. Someone has painted over her face, leaving her features smooth and blank. The woman's identity is not known, and neither is it known why and when someone (literally) defaced her portrait.


More than a third of the archive's collection are kept in glass display cases, many of them covered in a thick layer of dust. Florence, a doll, sits in a display case of its own. Her head, hands, and feet are made from porcelain, and the body is made from linen stuffed with wool. She belonged to the daughter of one of the head academics at the arcanum, who died as a young child.

Kaienese Arrows

A dusty display case sits in the corner of the archive, half-hidden under teetering stacks of paper. Arranged under the glass are a range of different arrows, their construction and materials differing. Dates are scrawled under each arrow, the first stating 'before 500 EA' and the last '5300 EA'.

Box of Keys

A carved walnut wood chest, about six foot in length and waist high. It is kept shut and locked by a pair of ornate silver clasps. Inside are a variety of keys, some large, some small, but the purpose of all are unknown. It is added to year by year, whenever a mysterious key is discovered, and is about a third full. Sometimes important keys are mixed in as a prank.

The Wisteria Urn

Said to contain the ashes of an unknown queen, the wisteria urn is a small, squat vessel made from bronze. It has intricate details of wisteria flowers, bulrushes, and long-legged birds that most scholars agree are some kind of heron. It is rumoured to be cursed, particularly due to its rather shady provenance.

Cover image: by Beth Macdonald


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Feb 15, 2024 22:36 by Mochi

I love these so much!! Etrea items are the best :D

I hope you have a great day!   Explore the endless planets brimming with life of the Yonderverse! Go after creatures, discover new places, and learn about the people you find along the way.   Consider voting for me in the Worldbuilding Awards!
Feb 15, 2024 22:40 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Thank you, Mochi <3

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Feb 16, 2024 02:01 by E. Christopher Clark

These are great. I think it's a three-way-tie for my favorite between "Mother," as I always like a good ancestor of us all story; the emptied "Egg Shells" which seem mesmerizing in their fragility; and "The Faceless Woman" because I love the use of in-universe art in stories.

Check out my progress on the Cabinet of Curiosities
Feb 16, 2024 11:01 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Thank you! :) I kind of love the mystery of "The Faceless Woman", so I think I'll have to dive into it more in the future.

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Feb 16, 2024 19:01

Lovely selection. The Wisteria Urn and Mother are my favs.

Feb 18, 2024 11:15 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Thank you so much! :D

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Feb 17, 2024 08:55 by Elspeth

This is such a great list! I love the box of keys because I have draws like that. :D

Feb 18, 2024 11:15 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Hahaha, I love that. Thank you! :)

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Feb 18, 2024 03:11 by Melissa

What a fun collection you've put together. I especially love your box of keys! It reminds me of my drawer of electronic cords and adapters. Always afraid to throw one out, only to discover I might need it later. Excited to read more about The Royal Arcanum.

Feb 18, 2024 11:16 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

I definitely have a box full of mystery cables and plugs. XD Thank you so much!

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Feb 22, 2024 16:19

Thank you for the really inspiring selection - I love it.

Stay imaginative and discover Blue´s Worlds, Elaqitan and Naharin.
Feb 22, 2024 18:46 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Thank you <3

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
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