To Arcane Treatises
Imagine if you will, many centuries past, when the MorDuraan wars were being fought for the rulership of the Masallan Isles. Picture the battlefield, in an area where the fighting had passed, with strewn bodies of men, broken and bleeding, lying upon the muddied ground. And witness the lone figure walking out to an armoured warrior, fallen an hour ago and now quite dead. The figure bends, and the sound of strange incantations emerges. The air stirs. And then the body does as well. What rises is a warrior of boundless potency, unfettered by the weaknesses of flesh, imbued with a necromantic life. The ultimate fighter, tireless, immune to pain, unfazed by even mortal wounds. And loyal without question.
It was from the quest to create such undead warriors that the necromantic arts first arose – the magic of death. In those early years, corpses were brought to the founders of the art, and incantations and herbs were utilized in an attempt to bring something of life back into the mortal shell from which the spirit had fled.
Since that time, necromancy has evolved into a sophisticated art, but never has it escaped the ill reputation upon which it was founded. Let us gaze upon the necromantic magics, however, and learn something not only of what the practitioners do, but of what life really is.
Those early studies succeeded in invoking a pseudo-life, a force capable of animating a fallen corpse and making it appear, at least, as if it were alive once again. But in the quest for animation, the necromancers delved into the forces which govern life and death, and their discoveries have given us not only a powerful system of magic, but helped to evolve our healing arts, as well.
What they discovered is this –our bodies house a spirit, and our spirit is constantly attempting to form the body to its inner image. Necromancy focuses on two primary aspects of life – first of all, on the connection between the body and the spirit, and second, on forging an ‘artificial spirit’ that can animate the dead.
This connection was observed early on. It came to be understood that the spirit was the mold around which the body formed. (It must be recalled that I am referring not only to the body’s physical appearance, but aspects of the mind as well, such as emotions and attitudes.) When a person cuts their finger, for instance, the spirit is untouched. Thus, the ‘spirit-finger’ is not cut, and the body does all in its power to return to its ‘natural’ form, or the form of the spirit, which is to have an uncut finger. Thus the finger heals. All healing is the body attempting to return to the form of the spirit – which is usually a state of health and wholeness. The same is true for emotions. The spirit of most people dwells in a state of peace. When outside influences make the person angry or jealous, their mind contrives to return, as soon as possible, to its natural, peaceful state. That is why powerful emotions tend to be fleeting.
Furthermore, the first necromancers found that there was a magically tangible connection between the body and the spirit. Some wounds and some emotions puncture so ‘deeply’ that they actually damage this connection. This connection, it was discovered, is not so ethereal that it can not be wounded with steel or sharp words, and a powerful enough influence will damage the connection so that the body can no longer ‘feel’ its connection with a certain aspect of its spirit. With no mold left to return to, the body can only hope to return to the state of the damaged connection.
Imagine a person stabbed deeply in the knee. The blow will damage the flesh terribly, and also damage the connection to a lesser extent. Thus, the knee will heal, but the person may never walk without a limp again. Similarly, powerful emotions can damage the connection so that a person may become permanently angry or depressed.
All throughout our lives, our connection to our spirit gradually takes more and more damage from the outer world, becoming, eventually, a tattered image of what it once was. The body and mind, in turn, become less and less whole, resulting in what we call ‘age’.
This connection, when finally severed, results in the death of the body, and the spirit, now free, flies forth to parts unknown.
This connection is of primary interest to the necromancers, for by manipulating this connection, they can directly affect the body. Death can be caused, life can be returned, wounds can be healed, and body parts can be regenerated, simply by re-connecting the severance between the body and spirit. No matter how damaged, the body will then return to the state of the spirit.
For some, the goal of the quest became the eradication of aging. But the deeper the first necromancers delved, the more they discovered that the connection between body and spirit was not a simple bridge, but a complex web involving many intricacies and subtle levels. Their powers never became complete enough to reach such subtle levels, so although they could bring back a person’s severed arm (a matter of reuniting a few appropriate ‘threads’ of connection), they could never stop aging, which seemed to affect the connection so broadly that they had little to focus on. As is the way of the world, damaging something proved easier than fixing it, so the necromancers did find ways to cause aging. But never the reverse. (This is not to say that practitioners of other arts did not discover a way past this boundary.)
By manipulating the connection between the pure spirit and the molded body, today’s necromancer gains almost complete control over the processes of healing, disease, life, and death. If the founders of necromancy had delved deeper along such paths, the art may have covered much of the territory held by the enchantment magics today, for they were not far from gaining entrance to the connections which governed emotions and thoughts. But as it went, they strayed from that path in favor of the military applications of their art, which lay primarily in creating a substitute ‘spirit’ which could reside within a body, and forging a connection between the magically created ‘spirit’ and the corpse.
It was not long in coming. They formed a simple connection first, and then set the raw ‘spirit force’ on the other side. This raw spirit force then took its image from the body and solidified into a pure form. The body then had a spirit once again. This is why a freshly dead corpse (still imbued with much of the ‘pattern’ of its original spirit) will retain much of the look and personality that it had in life. In fact, some of these freshly animated corpses are so similar to the living person that they are mistaken for the dead person by loved ones. Make no mistake, however, that the person’s true spirit has fled. All that is left are the patterns of behavior and emotion that the person developed during their lives. Similarly, if a long-dead corpse is used, most of the pattern is lost, and all that is left is a mindless zombie.
Intentional or not, the artificial connection created by a necromancer is raw and rough compared to the elegant, subtle beauty of the natural connection of a spirit to a body. This allows the spirit to ‘force’ its actions on the body, allowing the undead body to function without a heart, food, or rest. The body derives its energy from the artificial spirit, which feeds the body through the steady stream of the artificial connection. The undead are thus immensely powerful warriors. The lack of subtle connection, however, does not allow the body to re-form itself to the shape of the necromantic spirit, and the undead thus lose the ability to heal. Though this limits them in some sense, a necromancer can easily re-forge any broken elements of the connection between the corpse and the necromantic spirit, and heal the undead creature magically. The key to destroying an undead warrior, then, is to make sure that it is separated from any necromancers, and then chop it to bits. The undead, then, serve primarily as battlefield juggernauts, and are not used for long-term missions where they can be slowly destroyed over time, and have no capacity to heal.
Today, you might encounter a necromancer at the healers. You can tell them from natural healers because the healing they bestow takes place very rapidly – sometimes instantly. It is an unsubtle and rather graphic display, but very effective nevertheless. The necromancers have also given us confirmation that we do possess a spirit that leaves the body after death – a spirit which seems to have more of an immortal aspect than our flesh. When the priests and priestesses talk of an afterlife in Kaelum, it becomes easier to believe that this might very well be true because of this knowledge.
But necromancers have also given us many horrors, and it would be a lie to say that some practitioners have not used their magics for wrongful ends. But then, the same could be said for any branch of the magical arts.
In considering the necromancers, then, let us recall that the art holds as much good as it does ill, and that we should respect a person not for what they practice, but how they practice it. In an age when strange new diseases (such as lycanthropy) are emerging to affect civilized people, and we are becoming more and more influenced by the presence of Fae, it is good to know that there are magics striving to battle the world’s tendency to slowly make us back into soil and water once again.
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