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Matrices are blue crystals which have the peculiar power of harmonizing with the human mind to amplify psychic abilities. They are also called star-stones.

They allow Marion Zimmer Bradley to offer a partial explanation for the existence of laran among Darkovans.

Physical Description

Matrices are blue stones of various size. They seem "alive": small luminous points or bands move inside them, endlessly. These points emit light which is more or less bright according to the harmony of the matrix with its owner.

It is difficult to gauge the size of a typical matrix. The Sharra matrix described in The Heritage of Hastur is considered to be enormous; however, it is mounted in the hilt of a ceremonial sword (The Heritage of Hastur, p. 218). Therefore one might suppose that it measures at most about twenty centimetres in length and about five in diameter.

Matrices are naturally-occurring stones but they may also be fabricated, and it was common for enormous matrices to be constructed during the Ages of Chaos (op. cit., p. 200 and 239). The Comyn Council eventually forbade the fabrication of new matrices (op. cit., p. 200).

Certain matrices may be special forms of life. Desideria Storn speaks of the Sharra matrix as a goddess or an elemental force (op. cit., p. 210) and Lew Alton hesitates to say that the Sharra matrix is not actually alive (op. cit., p. 245). A point which leads one to believe that they are living things is the danger connected with their use, a danger which does not seem directly connected to their amplifying powers but more to their true nature. For instance, if a matrix has been used as a weapon (like Sharra), a kind of matrix "memory" makes it difficult for it to be used for peaceful purposes (op. cit., p. 302), and likewise after a matrix "tasted blood" it cannot do without more.

Amplification of psi power

In The Heritage of Hastur, Lew Alton describes matrices in the following way (page 30):

a jewel stone that amplifies the resonances of the brain and transmutes psi power into energy.

The theoretical explanation of this phenomenon is based on the concept of resonance, found in classical physics. If one excites an object at a frequency which is close to its characteristic frequencies (its resonance frequencies), the excitation is auto-amplified, rapidly attaining an enormous amplitude which usually causes the destruction of the object. For example, it is possible to destroy a bridge by having a regiment of foot-soldiers march beneath it, provided the rhythm of their steps is correctly chosen.

The brain emits psychic waves called energons, which have a different characteristic frequency in each person. Once a matrix is attuned, or keyed, to a telepath, it has a frequency similar to that of the brain; the flow of energons is then amplified by passing though the matrix (op. cit., p. 239). The telepath controls this flow as it exits the stone, following amplication. The trick is that energy is created out from nothing: indeed the telepath can bring about phenomena which require an enormous energy.

Personal Matrices

Keying a matrix

When a Comyn child is tested and found to possess laran, he is entrusted with a matrix. Even if the young telepath is not trained, the presence of his telepathic potential will tune, or "key", the matrix to his psychic vibrations. When the matrix is properly keyed, the luminous points which move within it become very bright (op. cit., p. 32). Conversely, a matrix which is bad or not keyed to a human mind does not emit much light. In fact, the amount of light emitted from the stone is closely tied to the telepathic potential of its owner. When the matrix is perfectly keyed, the light is even stronger for an owner who is a powerful telepath (op. cit., p. 202).

The link between a matrix and its owner

Once a matrix has been keyed to a telepath's mind, it is extremely dangerous for another person to touch it. In fact, a person who touches a matrix keyed to another telepath can be sent into a state of shock (op. cit., p. 32).

The mere separation of a telepath from his matrix can kill him (op. cit., p. 308). If a telepath survives the separation, he suffers both physically and mentally, and in particular feels a sense of emptiness. He suffers from a buzzing in the ears, trouble with his vision, and has problems concentrating (op. cit., p. 308 and 309). In fact, if a telepath remains separated from his matrix for too long and the matrix is not held by a Keeper, he will die (op. cit., p. 310). We find elsewhere that handling a matrix which is keyed to someone else is dangerous (op. cit., p. 310).

However, under certain exceptional conditions it can be beneficial to touch the matrix of another telepath. For instance, if the telepath is in a critical situation, when he is trapped inside his own mind (such as during the onset of threshold sickness). In such a case, brutal methods must be employed as a last resort - namely, touching the telepath's matrix (op. cit., p. 330).

The preservation of matrices

When they are not in use, matrices must be protected, for three reasons:
  • If a matrix is not keyed to anyone in particular, it can become keyed to the first person who is around it for a long enough time
  • If a matrix is keyed, the simple act of touching it can injure its owner.
  • Lastly, a matrix which is not protected can accidentally come into resonance with a telepath's energons and amplify them uncontrollably (op. cit., p. 202).
The usual method of protecting a matrix is to wrap it in silk. In general, a telepath keeps his matrix in a leather pouch lined with silk which is hung around the neck (op. cit., p. 30). Silk will shield and isolate telepathic objects. It is even used to isolate huge matrices, like the Sharra matrix. In The Heritage of Hastur, Thyra keeps her matrix in a copper coffer, which Lew Alton considered a very dangerous practice (page 202).

"Collective" matrices

Certain matrices which are larger and more powerful than others cannot be used like personal matrices; they must be manipulated by a Tower circle. In such a case, the energons emitted by the telepaths in the circle are harmonized (taking into consideration their different frequencies) and concentrated by the Keeper. Then she (or he) channels this flow through the large matrix and manipulates the resultant energy after amplication.

Powerful matrices are classified according to level. Thus a matrix is associated with a number (generally less than 10) which is a measure of its power. This number indicates the number of telepaths necessary to use the matrix properly and safely (op. cit., p. 238). Lew Alton points out that the Sharra matrix is extremely powerful and gives it a level of 9. In his day, the circles at Arilinn rarely manipulate matrices greater than 4th or 5th level (op. cit., p. 220).

The power of a large, ninth- or tenth-level matrix is simply gigantic. The Sharra matrix could be used to alter the orbit of one of Darkover's moons! (op. cit., p. 241).

Monitoring of matrices

The law of the Comyn dictates that all matrices must be monitored. A monitored matrix is recorded in the nets of the Towers of Darkover. This means that the matrix appears in the monitoring screens (large matrices which serve to control psi activity) and that a monitor can more or less take control of it, particularly if the matrix has escaped from the circle which manipulates it (op. cit., p. 219). The monitoring of matrices is an important security issue.

There are some unmonitored matrices, such as the Sharra matrix (op. cit.,p. 220). They are very dangerous, and usually they are weapons dating back to the Ages of Chaos.

copyright 96-99 Fabrice Rossi (
Translated by Michael J. Haas, from

source file (Last modification: Wed Apr 21 17:21:45 1999)