Necromancy and the Soul
[A treatise on the interaction of necromantic effects and the soul.]
"Of the Dark Arts, much is left to be discovered on the interactions between the soul and the necromantic forces at work. It is here that I, a humble disciple to this most insidious craft, shall bestow the findings of my life's, and unlife's, work; I have dwelled under the faith for Vecna for what has become three centuries by the time I put quill to this parchment. My intention is to inform the lesser of our glorious ranks on the true nature of the deeds they partake in. And perhaps, as such things happen, a servant of the order of light and all that is good shall come across a copy of this manifesto in some forlorn shrine to our lich god Vecna. To make my discussion universal, I shall hereafter refer to the magical rites and spells of our Profession by their common names with which I hope all fledgling magisters are schooled in.
Let me my discourse with the most basic interactions of the soul and the afterlife with our Craft. When a creature who bears a soul dies, one not yet given over to undeath or born of the forge, that soul departs as an invisible, imperceivable energy capable of transcending the limits of our physical world in order to become one with whatever place it holds in divine esteems. We are Intruders upon this sacred process. We are Shepherds to those who have fallen, most typically to those who have fallen under our considerable power over the matter of life and death. We can even rip this soul energy directly from the intended victim, with the proper rites. However, the common neophyte finds it easiest to tap this source after its death. The soul does not depart all at once, but in ebbs and flows as it seeks the path to its finality. Certain spells and incantations only work while this energy is still fresh as it becomes harder and harder to siphon that power. Thus, in some cases a ritual may only be effective up to a number of hours prior to the demise. Some spells of the highest order have no limit to this precious window of time and can effectively 'follow' the trail of the soul when it departs through the Astral Plane and reaches its final resting place, perhaps as the petitioner of its deity. A soul will always leave just the slightest trace of its path even after an eternity, though the trail disperses to an infinitesimal level at such a point. Even our 'holy' enemies are limited in their magics which achieve many of the same ends yet under a 'holy' moniker. Their magics can only pierce the veils of time for so long before their opportunity to meddle with death is closed.
Even in its greatest abundance, a soul may be hard to coerce by our magics. Black onyx, a material most precious to those of our Faith, acts as a lens through which some of our magics may more effectively be tuned. There is an innate harmony, an affinity, between black onyx and souls. Black sapphires also share this bond, though it is most commonly used to contain a soul than to actually manipulate it.
The only time a soul truly disperses from a corpse is upon the destruction of an animate creature formed through that body. This act destroys the already weakened connection between former vessel and the bulk of the soul in its distant plane. Only powerful restorative magics can bring back the soul, and for our purposes the remains are inert and useless as the soul's tether and its traces have been abolished upon destruction.
A few incantations in our Dark Repertoire can directly snatch up one's soul within a proper object, usually a soulgem of the finest quality. Without a soul, a living creature cannot live, and thus dies. A lich bound in such a way 'dies' in a similar manner as it is trapped in the soulgem rather than stored in its phylactery. Destroying the soulgem or vessel will restore the normal flow to a soul, though during the ordeal it may have further eroded with the passage of time. The soul is not automatically reintegrated into a living creature, which means that it has, in effect, been killed. An odd curiosity, 'magic jar' is effectively switches the souls and minds of two creatures, imbuing the bodies with the opposing pair of soul and mind. There is no disruption and no magic seems to function as if anything were amiss. The only thing that could happen is when one soul is left without a proper receptacle, in which case the creature dies as it cannot live without a soul.
Our most basic spell is one commonly referred to as 'animate dead'. This simple rite will reanimate those who have fallen for almost any stretch of time. Black onyx is especially in need here as this spell was hastily developed by our ancestors in the time of the Necromancer's War for the mass production of undead warriors. Through the years, we have refined it but the 'diamond' of our Profession is still a vital necessity. In this ritual, the dark artist, truly an artist of a most grim canvas, focuses his magics in reversing the process of death to some degree. While under this effect, the corpse's soul ebbs back into its prior vessel in order to create a vague sort of intellect in the creature. Without access to its past soul, the thing would stay as inert as a corpse, which is useless to those of us who demand the most out of our faithful servants. This process replaces the mind within the Trinity of Mind, Body, and Soul with the soul as we cannot create such a mind, even a primitive one as exhibited in this common ritual. For the remainder of the rite, we draw upon the Negative Energy Plane, our inhospitable dreamland of sorts, to provide mobilization to the corpse. This energy is the force as work in holding a skeleton together, though it is an invisible force in such trace amounts. The proportion of soul used to negative energy is low in basic creatures who dwell in the life that is not.
For the more powerful 'bone creatures' and 'corpse creatures', the soul plays a much larger role which allows a relived creature more of an intellect, one far superior to those of the other fate within the 'animate dead' ritual. More soul energy is used in place of negative energy, which is actually a stronger force that the black energy we shape with such practiced ease. This is the exact effect of a spell known as 'awaken undead'. It redistributes the balance of spirit energy to negative energy, which thereby allows for greater efficiency though some capabilities are inevitably lost in the process. We have yet to truly perfect a simple ritual capable of bringing forth more competent varieties of our lifeless yet animate kin.
A more complicated process dwells in the rituals of 'create undead' and its elder-spell, 'create greater undead'. Here, negative energy takes hold first. It transforms the very body of the corpse into that of a naturally occurring undead creature. The transmutative properties of negative energy are unfathomable in the high concentrations wielded in this spell, though only for a brief burst of power. The second part of the spell consumes part of the soul to bestow the kiss of life, so to speak, upon the reformed vessel. That which remains is used to power the cognitive functions, usually at a higher level than with the 'animate dead' ritual. The soul is used in a rather consummate process here and is hard to recover while it dwells, trapped, within its new vessel. The negative energy is used to quell even the brightest of souls into the bleakness of its new existence; though this is not enough to create an initial attachment to its creator.
Undoing the effects of our Dark Arts is usually within the scope of our enemies. Twp spells known as 'raise dead' and 'reincarnate' are ineffective, as they are too weak to tear the soul away from its vessel or even rekindle the scattered soul from the destructive of its vessel. They must instead turn to 'resurrection' or its elder-spell 'true resurrection', but only to rekindle a soul freed via the destruction of its marrow or flesh prison. As far as our expansive knowledge in the matters of life and death can perceive, the enemy has failed to develop a spell capable of
breaking the bond between a captive soul and its undead vessel. If they were to do so, it would effectively undo the processes that created our most eternal servants. Zombies would drop, skeletons would fall to pieces, and the converted corpses of far more powerful spells would revert to their past form and crumble to dust as a new body is recreated and the soul is returned to its renewed original form.
Now for the apprentice who fails to see the light in our Dark Arts, our Art may seem to be a perversion of sorts in comparison to life. However, we see unlife as the next phase after death. Death is not the end, but merely a beginning to something far grander in the service to the most wise Vecna, our skeletal overlord who in undeath looks upon our kin with half his eyes and hands yet bestows us with twice the power and skill of our greatest foes. Our opponents see undeath as a weakness when it is in life that imperfection dwells. As the living, we are ephemeral, futile, and subject to mortal needs. Yet in the life beyond, those weaknesses are nullified in the embrace of death. To surmount the greatest obstacle in the pursuit of power, death itself, is to become one step closer to greatness. We lack that innate fear, and it allows us to strive into eternity. We merely seek to liberate those who still live among us. They do not yet see the error of their ways; they are blind, as we once were. They were weak, as we once were. Even in what may be called the lowest of undead forms are they superior to the living. We are anguished by those who reside within the forms of simple servants under the mantle of undeath. We wish for them to join our greater ranks, and in time they shall, and so shall those who so vehemently defy our goals.
-In the next life and eternity...