"Fruit" produced by the Viscain Tree, and thus by the Viscain Emperor, for the express purpose of creating Shades. Artifacts usually undergo some transformation directed by the Emperor before being introduced into the host. For example, the Seeds of the Coffin Fruit were refined into the Kaiser Bones, the Block 2 prize offered at the 10,688 Artifact Competition.
Though similar varieties exist, this "fruit" is always unique and acts as an inexhaustible power source for the recipient Shade, making him or her effectively immortal. It also augments the Shade mentally and physically by a factor of its rank, enhances the senses, eliminates the need for food, drink, and respiration, and, further, provides the Shade with some additional, signature ability.
Artifact ranks and unique abilities vary widely. Ranks usually range from 18 to 25, but there are exceptions. The "signature" ability conferred on the host sometimes complements his or her innate abilities, and sometimes adds something altogether new.
A kind of pseudo-telepathic communication between Artifacts is possible up to a range of 2000 meters. This communication is non-invasive, requires consent from both parties, and transmits on some unknown wavelength exclusive to Shades. Perhaps more impressive, though, is the ability of all Artifacts to process spoken language. With sufficient input, any organized system of communication can be rendered intelligible by Artifacts, but aural input is most efficient for the human host and provides a template for reproducing any alien language relying on sounds that fall within sensory range.
After being introduced into their hosts, some Artifacts are still readily visible in their refined form, as an ornament or perhaps a weapon, but most are completely internalized. In either case, Artifacts are always inextricably connected to their hosts. They are very difficult to destroy, in some cases even more difficult to isolate, but the destruction of an Artifact means certain and painful death for its host.