On the Dead

Why do the dead walk the earth in Perdition?

Surely the devils tell you that your soul is theirs. You have seen them deal in soulstuff. Yet you have seen the dead walk and know their words for a stretching of the truth.

What happens once you die? 

The truth is, no one knows.

Yes, there are the trolls. The Empyreal grants arcanists knowledge. Devils walk among us using the residue of the living as power. We command great sorcery. Yet this still remains hidden from us.

Let us begin with our knowledge.


Ancient books tell us a story before the Devils came and blotted out all the stars from the sky. Magic was easier. Mages mastered dozens of different types of spells and magic, drawing their energy from something they called the 'inner planes'. Whatever sources of great power existed—there are cut off from us now. Legends tell of walking among gods and traversing the multiverse. Those doors are closed to us now. All attempts at such magic fail. Animation of the dead was once performed by utilizing the flow from the radiant to the necrotic, as energy flows along a wire. Those ways are now lost.

All students of the arcane are familiar with the Hexad. These are the realms from which we bind living spells. Amecetere the vortex, Metallion the lattice, Cruori of blood and growth, Mintis of thought and mindfire, Skadus of darkness and suffering, and Specere of reflection and reversal. Our theorists believe that these are fundamental and base energies present in the universe. Commanding these fickle and virulent powers is far more difficult then the ease with which the ancients mastered magic.

Trolls are said to have returned from the dead, hence their solid eyes, ashen skin, and dark hair. Rarely do they speak to outsiders, preferring their craft be practiced in secrecy, deep in their halls. Few trolls ever wish to speak of their experiences, though those that do tell us of a lost and shifting maze, and the screams and agony of the dead. They claim that they escaped this dark realm into their bodies. Perhaps this is so.

Their description leads one to theorize perhaps their souls were trapped in some labyrinth on Skadus. Few have ever seen the Skadus, and none has seen a labyrinth. Those that have experienced the Skadus speak of a tempest whipped darkness, surrounded by fugue and shadow, minds lashed with despair, and time and distance floating erratically with only the most tenuous connection to our physical realm. Indeed practitioners of Skadus magic can confirm its malign influence upon the living.

What we are told

The devils say, when we die our souls are sent to the river Lethe, where they are cleansed. They say that great power comes from those who serve the devils; promises abound to mortal servants that they will be powerful masters if they serve loyally. Yet this is likely not the case. There are no records of any living being being 'raised up' by their infernal masters. This hope of future wealth turns the world into a mess of temporarily inconvenienced arch-devil nobles. No man becomes a devil that remembers he was a man. We have seen the soul stuff they trade in, and are told it is the remains of our mortal life. Yet I have held it, and it was as spider web wisps and feathers in my hand. It did contain great power, but it was nothing more than an empty shell. What of the soul?

Those who have been to other hells or have heard dark whispers say that it indeed is what remains of the soul. They say infinite realms are devoted to extracting such power by torturing neigh uncountable souls in a task of unfathomable enormity. It seems too extreme to be true, but watch our masters long enough and you will know how they value life. There is truth to this. 

But all souls? Hardly. Why would the trolls lie? What of the living dead? What of our ability to even raise the dead-how could such a soul reach a person if it were no longer the person? Perhaps it is a simulacra. There is no way to know.

What the Dead Know

So we return again to speak of the dead. They clearly exist, even though the devils say they should not. How is this possible?

The most common type of undead is a phantom soldier. You will often see regiments of the dead seeking work or employ in the army of some powerful human or devil. These skeletal creatures are animate and can speak as well as follow orders. But they maintain only the most base impression of their former selves. Their function as a unit installs some mystical tether that leads them to pantomime their former task. There is no intelligence, soul, or spirit contained within. Examination of such in the Empyreal shows only the influence of Metallion, making it nothing more than a clockwork.

The second most common type are the dead raised by the influence of powerful Devil lords such as Dauthaz or other demons or devils. These too have no natural intelligence. A cursory examination upon the empyreal will show that these bodies are nothing more than corrupted puppets manipulated at a distance by the fiend lord, though the machinations of her servants.

Thirdly, there are the dread lords, death lords, liches, vampires, wraiths, and various other "intelligent" dead. Some of these members are even rumored to reside among our order. These creatures all have special circumstances around their creation, and the commonality among them all is that their souls remain tethered to their body, even though the body no longer lives. Often there are quite arduous tasks that must be accomplished to maintain this tether; Vampires for example must consume Cruori energy by most commonly drinking the blood of the living.

Then, there are rituals that raise the dead. The dead returned are, in this case, nothing more than skeletal goblins. They are animated with evil energies and intend malice to all, including their masters. The ritual simply formalizes the procedure in which inanimate matter becomes animate due to acts of wickedness. This is significantly less useful than fire, being that fire can be controlled and does not seek murder its summoner as a matter of its innate nature.

Those who are raised often remember very little. Darkness, confusion, pain, light, and perhaps waking up once the spell is cast.

It it possible to bind actual souls to corpses? Some necromancers claim to have such power, though I have never seen it. Perhaps you will ask a necromancer yourself; a task not recommended. 

The truth remains unknown to all of us. Theories abound. A leading theory is that the souls traverse a labyrinth somewhere on Skadus, hunted by reapers who send the souls to the appropriate place. Indeed, those knowledgeable in arcana can in fact see the marks on our souls from such higher beings. Perhaps we wander in this realm until found. 

We will all know the answer to the journey in due time.
Muthram Rask, Arch-Magus
Transcript of lecture to The Exalted Servants

Hack & Slash 

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